We come now to the eleventh house, of boons, honors, communities, and friends.
First, some self-disclosure: of all this houses in the birth chart this is one of the houses that is most important to me, but it’s also one of the most difficult houses for me. This is where my natal Moon is, as well as my natal Saturn, in a very tight conjunction right on the cusp. The ruler of my eleventh house, Jupiter, is in his detriment in Gemini, highly active but at a loss for how to handle his circumstances.
What does all that mean? It means this: friends are vital for me. Not only are they vital for me to feel emotionally at ease and safe, they’re vital for me to feel like I’m able to continue growing and expanding in my self-knowledge. But I don’t make them easily. I don’t find groups of people to call “my people” easily.
When I do find them, I treasure them.
In the modern world, the word “friend” has lost its punchiness from overuse. Jaded bloggers have written more than enough screeds about Facebook’s devaluation of the term, so I won’t add to the noise (on that point, at least).
Friendship in the ancient world (remember astrology’s roots!) was a bigger deal than our modern concept of a pleasant acquaintance. Now, they certainly had “friendly acquantances” along the lines of Facebook-level “friends,” but they placed infinitely more value on true friendship. A true friend was akin to a guardian spirit, one with whom your soul might knit. One who would be an ally through feast and famine. One whom you might come to love.
Sometimes we say to our friends, “I love you,” with all the sincerity of a partner. (The hunky Christian boys at my college were especially guilty of this, throwing out “I love you, bro!” with impunity—twisting my little closeted gay heart into knots all the while!)
Of course, in English we only have one word for “love,” a word that has to do yeoman’s work for all of its different meanings. We say “love” when we mean “appreciate,” we say “love” when we mean “enjoy,” we say “love” when we mean “I like the content you’re putting out on social media because it’s delightful but tbh I don’t know if I’d really want to spend much time with you otherwise.” It’s a word that, like “friend,” overuse dilutes.
But the Greek and Latin world had different words to describe the different flavors of love.
(Can you believe I just made a Flavor Flav reference in 2019?)
When we think “love” as in romantic love, we’re probably thinking of, eros, erotic love such as between lovers. But there was also storgē, the love of a parent for their child, or between siblings, or between relatives. A third love was called philia, such as we see in the word philadelphia, what we render in English as “brotherly love.” The Greek word philon means “friend” in the general sense, too.
But the crown of all love was agapē, the love of people who have no reason to be with one another but for the fact that their souls are knit.
The four loves—erōs, storgē, philia, and agapē—aren’t mutually exclusive, and they blend and shift, creating harmony and discord. But agapē, being the purest form of love, was considered the goal of all relationships. It is the love that unbinds and unchains people from isolation. It levels social distinctions. And the ancients believed that agapē was especially present in the noble friendships of legend.
But why in the love of friends, like Achilles and Patroclus, and not lovers, like Orpheus and Eurydice? It’s hard to say. Regardless, a true friend is a boon beyond measure.
The Roman orator Cicero writes the following on friendship:
“…Friendship offers advantages almost beyond any power to describe. In the first place, how can life be what Ennius calls “the life worth living,” if it does not repose on the mutual goodwill of a friend? What is sweeter than to have someone with whom you may dare discuss anything as if you were communing with yourself? How could your enjoyment in times of prosperity be so great if you did not have someone whose joy in them would be equal to your own?
“Adversity would indeed be hard to bear, without him to whom the burden would be heavier even than to yourself. In short, all other objects of desire are each, for the most part, adapted to a single end — riches, for spending; influence, for honour; public office, for reputation; pleasures, for sensual enjoyment; and health, for freedom from pain and full use of the bodily functions; but friendship embraces innumerable ends; turn where you will it is ever at your side; no barrier shuts it out; it is never untimely and never in the way.
“…I am not now speaking of the ordinary and commonplace friendship — delightful and profitable as it is — but of that pure and faultless kind, such as was that of the few whose friendships are known to fame. For friendship adds a brighter radiance to prosperity and lessens the burden of adversity by dividing and sharing it.” (De amicitia, VI.22-23, trans. Falconer)
When we arrive at the eleventh house in astrology, we’re talking about friends specifically because true friendship was one of the most important boons that a person could gain throughout their life. A life with amicitia, with agapē, was a life truly worth living, regardless of one’s fate or fortune. But where does the idea of “boon” come from?
Where do the meanings of the eleventh house come from?
The eleventh house in astrology gets its meaning from the fact that this is where Jupiter delights to be. Jupiter tends towards warmth, moisture, and uplift; planets in this part of the sky are sailing upward to their heights, to the tenth house, where they will culminate.
Planets in the eleventh house have escaped the visual obscurity of the twelfth house, and if they rise before the sun, they’ve escaped the burning beams and rise bright as morning stars over the horizon. As they rise higher in the night sky, planets in the eleventh house cause us to swell with delight, with expectation, with hope—all naturally Jupiterian interests.
All of Jupiter’s natural significations wind up here: good fortune, good times, affinities, and communities of people that gather around shared interest, rather than shared geography.
And here’s the rule in the ancient world: the more friends you have, the more fortunate you are. Even though life might be falling apart around you, having people with whom you can share the load makes it possible to enjoy what goodness life still has. Moreover, to enjoy success, you need a team. You need groups of people who support your work, on whom you can depend: groups who come together around shared affinity and purpose. You need people who pull for you even when circumstance gets rough.
I’m thinking of the line the Jets sing in chorus near the beginning of West Side Story:
“You’re never alone,
you’re never disconnected!
You’re home with your own—
when company’s expected,
The eleventh house is also known as the “house of the Good Daimōn.” If you remember Philip Pullman’s book series His Dark Materials, the Daimōn serves as a guardian spirit that is a projection of its human’s soul in physical form.
This is not unlike the way the ancients conceived of the Good Daimon. The philosopher Socrates spoke of it in terms we might call “conscience.” And you might know the sound of the Good Daimon’s voice, too: the still, small voice who speaks to you in quiet moments. It whispers, “hey, maybe there’s a better way to handle this problem” as you raise a sixth Krispy Kreme donut to your lips following a rough breakup.
We can think of the Good Daimon as part of us, a facet of our soul. Remember that this is the house of friendship, too: the truest friends we can have are those people—friends!—who act like Good Daimons to us. These Good Daimons come to our lives through affinity, and often more powerfully through shared experiences of crisis (remember that planets in the eleventh rise out of the twelfth house of suffering).
A true friend feels almost fated, in a way, as though there’s someone pulling the strings of the universe to cause your paths to cross. It might just be the Good Daimon at work.
How to interpret the eleventh house in your natal chart
When you begin to interpret the eleventh house in your natal chart, what you’re dealing with are these questions:
- What are the types of people you have natural affinity with?
- What are the situations of people you might find friends among?
- How important are groups and communities to your overall success?
- How easy or difficult is it for you to find true friends?
Of course, if you’ve followed the houses series to this point, you know what the next steps are.
Look at the sign where the eleventh house cusp falls, and its nature, and the nature of its ruler, and the placement of its ruler by house. Remember that the ruler of the eleventh exercises its agenda through the topics of the house where it’s placed, and according to the nature of the sign it’s placed in.
Saturn-ruled signs point towards affinity with older people, people who experience some form of marginalization, communities of older or more conservative tendencies. People who are steadfast, loyal, unchanging, principled. It also signifies a tendency toward isolation in general.
Jupiter-ruled signs point towards affinity with religious or spiritual people, lawyers, scholars, teachers; belonging in a community of shared faith or ritual practice also becomes an important theme. People you can dream with. (I have Sagittarius as my 11th sign, and most of my best friends are clergy or religion-adjacent.)
Mars-ruled signs point towards affinity with people who fall into the category of “athlete,” “soldier,” or “surgeon,” other such children of Mars. This isn’t literal, of course. But expect there to be fire and heat when you’re with your people.
Leo on the eleventh house cusp signifies affinity with people in authority, well-known individuals, influencers, brand ambassadors, people with big hair.
Venus-ruled signs point towards affinity with beautiful women, entertainers, hospitalliers, folks who love a good time and who have an eye for beauty. Cultivating social connections around ideas (Libra) and around shared embodied practice—and food too—(Taurus) is also a factor here.
Mercury-ruled signs point toward an affinity with people who are younger than you, as well as with writers, scribes, salespeople, travelers, all those naturally ruled by Mercury.
Cancer on the eleventh house cusp signifies affinity with women (broadly speaking), and ordinary, salt-of-the earth people, the kind of folk we call in Kentucky “good ol’ boys.” This is amplified if the third ruler is involved with the eleventh in some way.
The condition of planets in, and the planet ruling, the eleventh house also impacts its expression. A planet placed in the eleventh house while ruling another house means that planet carries out its agenda in the field of friends, groups, and communities.
For example, say someone’s eleventh house falls in Aquarius. That makes Saturn the ruler of the eleventh house, and with Aquarian Saturn’s principled stand undergirding this person’s experience of community this will be a person for whom solidarity with a group will be extremely important.
If, in this case, Saturn is in his fall in Aries in the first house, this person’s social networks will be burdensome to him, but the kind of burden that gives them a deep sense of who they are and who they are meant to be. Since he’s the eleventh ruler, Saturn is still representative of boons, even though he won’t be able to bring them about as effectively in this placement, and so a person’s experience of good friends might run a little dim.
Meanwhile if Saturn instead is in Libra, in his exaltation, in the seventh house, this signifies boons coming from partnership, and perhaps a partner who is like a true friend to the individual, and likely older.
Another example: say someone’s eleventh house falls in Leo. This person will have a natural affinity for people who are in positions of authority, and furthermore, their solar purpose will be tied to matters of friendship (for the Sun always represents vitality and the hidden core of a person’s desires). Since this person would have Libra rising most likely, imagine their Sun is in Scorpio in the second house: this person’s friends are a source of firm support to him, perhaps without saying very much, and able to keep the strictest confidences (Scorpio being mute and secret) as well as providing financial support to him.
If, however, the Sun were instead in Aquarius in the fifth house, boons come to the native through sensory pleasure and aesthetics with people of status who aren’t in “socially acceptable” positions. This might be, perhaps, someone who has many friends who are drag queens (maybe Venus is involved with this Sun?), or someone who has deep affinity with a group of people who enjoy marginalized activities involving old topics as fun, like (and I’m being florid here) LARPing in the local park.
So, y’all—who are your people? Who are your friends? Who are the people you choose to keep company with? Who are your Good Daimons?
Photo by Phil Coffman via Unsplash