The Fourth House in Astrology: Family Shadows

Karina Lafayette – November 2021

My great-grandparents wedding

Last night, I had a dream where I was sitting with my mom and my grandmother. My mom was touching my arms in a way that made me uncomfortable. When I asked her to stop, my grandmother was looking on, and something inside me realized that she left when she did because she knew I would be okay. My grandmother knew that I would be safe.

In honor of October being the time for Samhain, Dia de Los Muertos, and so many celebrations surrounding ancestry and those who’ve passed away, I thought it was time to look at the fourth house. Throughout autumn, we get the opportunity to reflect on what already came, before we can move onto the next chapter. I’ve wanted to do an article on the fourth house for awhile, but as someone who often struggled with this area, it just didn’t feel right. For a society that’s so concerned with outcomes, image, and how you’ll be remembered, rarely do we think about where we came from, and how that shaped who we are today. When Carl Jung spoke about the unconscious influencing most of our actions, a lot of the theory was related to experiences in childhood. In a natal chart, this is known as the fourth house, where sits the IC (the nadir), or Imum Coeli, which is Latin for “bottom of the sky”.

The IC is one of four angles in a chart, opposite the MC (Midheaven). Whereas the MC represents all things public, as well as who you want to be when you grow up, the IC is your roots, foundation, ancestry, and who you are in the comfort of your own home. Similar to your moon sign, which has to do with your internal world, the IC, or the sign on the cusp of your fourth house, is the side of you that’s most obvious to anyone who gets to live with you. This is also why most abusers tend to only abuse people they live with: home is where we get to be ourselves. It’s our safe space from the world, where we can be the most authentic. So if we grew up surrounded by yelling and hitting, this may be reenacted in some way. Because the moon is how we express our emotions, we can display this side of us to anyone we have an intimate connection with, even friends. However, the fourth house is sometimes much deeper.

Before continuing, I should mention that depending on whether you use whole houses or placidus, your fourth might be on the cusp of two signs, making your IC different than the rest of that area. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll only be writing about the house itself.

Similar to the other water houses (the eighth and twelfth), the fourth is ruled by emotions, intuition, and instincts. When we’re at home, it’s easy to be our most primal self. However, since the fourth is ruled by the sign of Cancer, the mother, if your moon sign is conjunct/square/opposite or quincunx the following planets, this area of life can lack stability:

  • Moon conjunct/square/opposite/quincunx Chiron
  • Moon conjunct/square/opposite/quincunx Pluto
  • Moon conjunct/square/opposite/quincunx Saturn
  • Moon conjunct/square/opposite/quincunx Neptune
  • Moon conjunct/square/opposite/quincunx Uranus

A person with moon conjunct Neptune will find that their childhood home may have experienced alcoholism, addiction, or even emotional abuse, but there’s a certain level of denial as to just how bad it was. So typically where most people would find comfort in their fourth house, this person would run away from it without knowing why. Moon aspecting Chiron may resent anything that ultimately reminds them of their childhood, since this area brings up great pain. It’s also important to look at the sign in this house. For example, if the fourth house is on the cusp of Libra, and the person has moon opposite Chiron, it’s likely one of their parents left when they were a young age, causing them to sabotage relationships out of fear of abandonment.

It’s just as important to look at the dispositor, a.k.a. the planet that rules over your fourth. So if your fourth house is ruled by Aquarius, and you have Uranus in the third, your family has a huge influence on your community and how you express yourself. If you have Taurus in the fourth with Venus on the ascendant, then family shapes your identity and how you do relationships.

When the moon is in the fourth house, then the mother and maternal figures had a strong influence in early home life. She may have been more traditional, or even a stay-at-home mom. If the moon is here in the sign of Scorpio, then often it was her way or the highway, and home felt like a place of entrapment instead of solace, or it can simply show her as being a very private person. With Saturn in the fourth house, the mother was a hard worker or came across as very cold and disciplined. The family could come from old money, or have an inheritance from relatives. When Venus is here, this makes for someone who wants to support their family financially, and since Venus rules the arts, it’s not uncommon to see this aspect with childstars or children of stagemoms. Britney Spears herself has Venus conjunct the South Node in her fourth house, and look how her family turned out.Britney Spears as a child performer

For people who’ve had difficulties in childhood, there can be a tendency to attract relationships with partners who have planets in their fourth house. I’m not proud to admit it, but my ex-husband has his Mars, Venus and Jupiter all in my fourth, and his sun near my IC. When we first met, I remember a feeling of familiarity, like I knew him my whole life. And in a way I did, because he represented everything I grew up with. He knew how to cook like my family, he was affectionate, loud and a jokester like them, and he was all about spending money, just like my family. And of course, the shadow side was there, too. Like my mother, he was controlling, entitled, and wanted to be head of the household at all costs. The relationship was very routine and we rarely went out for dates, which makes sense with his Venus. Soon after we got married, I saw parrarels between us and my grandparents.

I remembered how my grandmother would say that my grandfather often came home late, only to complain about dinner being cold or overcooked. My ex would work twelve hour shifts and used to criticize my cooking. And because he worked in a restaurant, he felt that he could do everything better. My grandmother spoke about feeling angry and resentful. I began feeling angry and resentful. My grandparents got married after knowing each other for only three months. My ex and I got married after knowing each other for six months. Where my grandmother married my grandfather so she could leave her parents (women didn’t have many options back then); I married my ex so he could stay in the country. Then something else echoed. My grandmother always spoke about how much happier she was living on her own, and that’s when I knew, I had to leave that relationship. I couldn’t allow history to repeat itself.

Except leaving wasn’t that easy.

Since the fourth house is a place of solace, we can also be comfortable with what shouldn’t even be accepted. One thing I was comfortable with for the longest time, was trauma bonding. One way trauma bonding happens is between two people with similar experiences, who instead of working on healing together, continue to reennact the roles they were taught growing up. So what happened? The first time I tried to break up with my ex, he threatened self-harm. That night, I remember walking my dog, nervous about going back inside because I thought he would do something to me or to himself. And yet, despite the humiliation, being mocked and isolated, I empathized with him. I knew that behind the abuser was a little boy afraid of being abandoned just like his father did after his parents’ divorce. Ironically, around the same time my ex and I finally did break up, that’s when I started climbing toward my career goals, which of course is usually found in the sign opposite the fourth, the tenth house.

One key that is found in the fourth is your ancestry. Depending on the sign and planets here (if any), we can get an idea about their values, their personality, and even their influence on the person you become. Someone with their fourth house in Aquarius likely has an ancestor who worked as a doctor, scientist, or inventor, and their family life often included sleepovers with friends, and people coming and going. Aries (Mars) in the fourth, can indicate family affiliated with the military, law enforcement, or even coming from a country that experienced war. If on the other hand, Libra rules the fourth (Venus), the home life was very pleasant, but there could’ve been tension due to family members not speaking their minds. One of the ancestors may have been an artist, politician or lawyer. With Sagittarius or Jupiter in the fourth, either the family moved around a lot, or the cultural background is quite ecclectic. There’s also a huge need for freedom at home. And when I refer to ancestors, I mean any family members born before your grandparents, not just hundreds of years ago.

Another important thing to understand about the fourth house, is that just like the eighth and twelfth, it’s very necessary for shadow work. The eighth is what we keep secret, the twelfth is what’s secret to us, and the fourth is the side we only show at home. When you have constant instability, be it moving from one place to the next, living with abusers, or even a general sense of anxiety about home, the fourth house that needs attention. This area of my chart is on the cusp of Scorpio and Sag, with Pluto conjunct the IC. Growing up there were were lot of open secrets in my family, things that people knew but wouldn’t talk about. I was often criticized for being the whistleblower or for asking too many questions. My grandmother’s father was an immigrant and his sun sign was unsurprisingly… Sagittarius. He didn’t make a lot of money, so her and her brothers grew up with little but a lot to be grateful for. And while that mindset worked well in the 1930s and ‘40s, it was a bit traumatic for a 90s kid like myself, who still felt like I needed to continue that struggle even though things were easier in contrast.

A Good Man – A short film I directed inspired by my great-grandfather’s journey to Canada

For years, my home life was constantly in turmoil, so I would make up for it by always going on walks or to the movies. On the surface, it looked like I needed adventure, but really, I was just trying to escape a pattern. The interesting thing about Pluto is that he won’t let you escape your fears until you conquer them. And I did. I moved to Toronto. I lived with my ex. I had bad experiences with roommates. Heck, I even lived in a shelter for awhile. Then last year, I decided that shit would stop with me. That home would be my happy place, and not a place of trauma. Once I finally got my own apartment, I started staying in more and appreciating my private space. I learned to feel safe. My grandmother often told me about the importance of solitude, and how to enjoy the moment, but I never really understood it. Now I know, if my home isn’t in order, neither is anything else. Even doing housework makes me improve how I do my career.

One great way to have stability in this area of your chart, is by working with the sign that’s on the cusp. So if the fourth has Sagittarius, then reading books, learning about different cultures, travel, religion, and philosophy, are all good tools to heal our sense of home. With Scorpio, meditation, sex, psychology, and deep conversations, are healing. If your fourth is ruled by Leo, being creative is a way to heal.

Just like the foundation of a house, your fourth will be the precursor to everything else. This is often apparent in famous people who came from rags to riches, or who found success after rising from the ashes of abuse and poverty. One great example is Tina Turner, who amazingly, has IC in Scorpio with Sagittarius on the cusp, just like me. She also experienced instability growing up, and was sent to live with her maternal grandmother at age 11. Her first husband, Ike Turner, offered to provide for her and take care of her, but at the cost of building a relationship filled with abuse and control. Ike’s sun is conjunct Tina’s IC by 2 degrees, which explains why they were so drawn to each other. Funny enough, my ex shares a birthday with Ike. Tina described their early relationship as being like “a brother and sister from another lifetime”. He represented her past and everything that caused her pain, and when you’re a child, pain is sometimes the only thing you know. Luckily, Tina was able to overcome that through not only her singing career (tenth house in Taurus), but by being a dedicated mother to four sons, two of whom were adopted from Ike’s first marriage, and also by practicing Buddhism.

Whatever you have going on with the fourth house, it affects your sense of self, your accomplishments, even your relationships. And if for whatever reason, your idea of home is still a struggle, it doesn’t make it your fault, and it doesn’t mean you’re not doing enough. Some wounds are deeper and require more patience than others. If there’s one blessing we’ve experienced during the pandemic, it’s the chance to heal our private lives, since most of us have been spending more time there then we’re used to. When someone has a regular 9 to 5 job, home is seen as just a place where you eat and sleep. It’s so easy to forget that home is really meant to be where we get away from responsibilities. Like the moon, it needs to be about comfort and protection. And regardless of how much value you place on the home, there’s no doubt the role it plays in carrying the world. The fourth house is the thread that connects the past to the future, what you were given and what you have to give, but most of all, if it isn’t learned from, you will ultimately repeat it. Like the saying goes, “as above, so below. As within, so without.” Healing on the inside, heals the world.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also want to check out The Eighth House in Astrology: Enter at Your Own Risk

and The Twelfth House in Astrology: Where Dreams and Nightmares Live. Both can be found here.


To check out my books, social media and more, scroll to the main menu above, where you can also get a reading. Also be sure to watch my new short documentary series on the Saturn Return!

*This article was originally published on Medium.

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