Mental health issues -whether something we were born with a propensity for or aquired through our lives- come in a wide variety of flavors, each with different root causes and paths to healing. Mental health in astrology is equally varied, and can be attributed to many different combinations of planetary aspects, transits, and so on. Astrology is a fairly reliable tool in getting to the source of the problem and pointing out the deeper philosophical and spiritual reasons for why one is going through such an experience. It’s been interesting to me throughout my years of astrological observation that the relationship between the 3rd house and mental health, specifically depression, doesn’t seem to be as common knowledge as some of the other astrological influences. So, I thought I’d make a brief overview of the 3rd house, depression, and some of the different ways this plays out in real life.
First off, let’s do a quick back-to-basics review of the third house. This house is the first cadent house in a horoscope, the first house to show a fluid functionality, the need for regular adaptation to one’s surroundings. Ruled by Mercury, winged messenger planet of all things communication, the third house has a sympathetic relationship to Gemini. (Though, not exactly the same. The planets show the what, the signs show the how, the houses show the where.) Traditionally, on the neutral level, the third house shows all things in our immediate environment and all things that are first met with our mental functions. The third house shows our neighbors and neighborhood, as they are in our immediate environment and make a psychological impact without always making a deep emotional one. The third house is the house of siblings for this reason as well (also because of the sympathetic relationship to Gemini, sign of the Twins), we feel attached to siblings the majority of the time but there is rarely such intense intimate connection with siblings as with parents or grandparents (the 4th house).
Our immediate environment first integrates with our mental processes during the very early years of schooling. While the 9th house (house of Jupiter and Sagittarius) shows higher education and big beliefs about ourselves and the world, the third house shows the process of integrating or eliminating data to arrive at those conclusions. The third house shows our early intelligence; how we learn or fail to learn. Whether we indeed are average or above average or have a learning disability or some other impediment to taking in useful information at the same rate or in the same manner as our peers. Language issues and speech impediments are also something shown by the third house (though, this is more typical of Mercury in the chart).
The third house represents these things even if you have no planets there. The sign on the cusp of the third house and the condition of that planet that rules the sign on the cusp will tell you a lot about your relationship with neighbors and siblings, your speech and learning styles, the way you think and how you process immediate external stimuli. If you do have planets in the 3rd, then it obviously goes without saying that such things play a prominent role in your life.
If you think of the third house as being directly tied in to mental integration of information and stimuli, then it isn’t hard to see that if there is difficulty in the 3rd then there is a greater likelihood of mental health issues arising. Third house depression is a different flavor of depression/anxiety and such than other astrological sources; this is a break in the mental process, not emotional. Emotional pain comes from other sources and is felt; with mental anguish, oftentimes nothing is felt. It’s all about what one is thinking, whats going through their mind. And humans in a bad place in their lives can let their thoughts go to unhealthy places.
Have you ever known someone who suffered a death of a loved one or experienced some other deep trauma, who said that they went through the motions of coping in the aftermath but that once they actually sat down and thought about what happened, then they lost it? That’s the difference between visceral reactions and emotional reactions and mental reactions. Their Mars may have powered them through, fighting off the emotional tide from the emotional parts of their charts that were threatening to overtake them. But, once those feelings are brought up to the logical side of the brain, seen as detailed information and given names? That’s when the mind itself shows signs of slipping.
That’s an extreme example, but one that hopefully illustrates how the third house works in regards to mental wellbeing and why it can lead to things going askew. Anytime I see a third house emphasis in a client’s transits or solar return, I like to make sure they are in touch with their changing mental outlook and are doing something to keep their minds occupied in healthy ways. A mind overstimulated is asking for trouble, but providing no mental stimulation at all during a depression or funk caused by the third house is no answer either. It’s necessary to look at what is going on in the third house at the time and work with those potentials to steer the mind into constructive and healthy pursuits.
Some quick and random observations of the 3rd house and depression and/or other mental quirks:
– The Sun travels through a persons natal 3rd house approximately one month per year each year and generally isn’t problematic except in other typical 3rd house ways, e.g. automotive issues or travel snags, increased chattiness and the like. Likewise, Venus passing through the 3rd generally does not cause problems. Mercury also passes through the 3rd house approximately one month per year (sometimes slower or quicker, depending on retrogrades) and while Mercury rules the 3rd, it can cause a frantic mental pace that some find hard to cope with. Mercury running through the 3rd can lead to temporarily increased stress and short fuses.
– A New or Full Moon in the 3rd is generally a time when one is forced to think deeper about how they feel; the emotions need to be learned about, talked about, written about…
– A Moon in the 3rd house of a person’s birth chart tends to show someone with a vivid pictorial memory and/or someone who has abnormally clear memories stemming from very early youth; their memories start recording earlier than most others.
– While the Sun transiting the 3rd house usually isn’t much of an issue, the Sun in the 3rd house of a solar return chart is usually a pretty big indicator that depression or something else leading to funky thinking is on the menu for that year. The entire solar return needs to be looked at, of course, as well as the overall wellbeing of the individual. Some people find this incredibly hard to deal with, while others may feel “bluesy” and sometimes not themselves but not to any extreme level.
– Saturn and/or Pluto in the solar return 3rd house is usually a solar return year where some sort of therapy is sought or needed. Self rumitation and dwelling on negative thoughts can become almost habitual. It can seem they’ve gotten to a place they cannot get out of. Again, this varies depending on the individual and their preexisting condition. A completely happy person will not suddenly become overwhelmed. Therapy can range anywhere from intervention to simple meditation.
Any solar return emphasis on the 3rd house is a year when one must be proactive in keeping the mind focused on balanced mental exercise that keeps the mind engaged in a learning or growing experience.
– Jupiter and Venus in a natal 3rd house tend towards good relations with siblings, if there are any. Saturn, Pluto or Chiron here shows more serious issues with siblings. Perhaps the person measures themselves against the sibling and feels inferior or that their sibling(s) are given preferential treatment by the parents. Pluto can show severing ties with siblings. Mars in the 3rd house can show bullying in childhood, whether as the victim or the perpetrator. Sometimes bullying here is perpetrated as a result of the child feeling inadequate to defend themselves and overcompensates with aggression, typically verbal.
– Saturn, Neptune and/or Chiron in the 3rd house of a birth chart are more likely indicators of learning disabilities, which are more often than not a simple need for a different way of learning which the child may not get and therefore feels “stupid” compared to their siblings or schoolmates who do not show similar signs of learning struggles. There can be other impediments to finishing school, such as discouragement from unsupportive teachers and/or parents, changing of schools or language barriers in the school. It isn’t uncommon to see drop outs with this placement, but just as often you see people who graduated with high scores by showing more discipline and applying themselves more than is either necessary or typical.
– Uranus in the 3rd house of the natal chart tends towards rather high intelligence and original thinking, yet there’s just as many drop outs with this placement too, typically because the person finds school tedious and boring and feels their mind is better used elsewhere in life. Certain oncepts come to them so easily they can wonder what there even is to “learn”.
– Saturn transiting the 3rd house can cause depression, but just as often it shows intellectual withdrawal. A person going through this transit is experiencing a major shift in the way they communicate themselves to the world around them, and the lack of confidence in the new approach tends to discourage speaking their minds as openly as they would like. Thus, what needs to be said often isn’t, and things can stay bottled up.
– Uranus transiting the 3rd isn’t as prone to depression as much as it is anxiety. Uranus is actually pretty compatible with the 3rd house, from my experience; people who are on the intellectual side naturally tend to really enjoy the electric mental stimulus. The tempo of life itself seems to zip by at a quickened speed. Those who, by nature, need down time or quiet time to reflect tend to find this transit a little more difficult. A racy mind can lead to nervous strain for some. With Uranus, it’s always a matter of whether you like this type of energy or not.
– Neptune transiting the house of communication obviously can result in frequent miscommunication and misunderstandings. There’s a need to be mentally open, aware, and flexible as the thought processes now pass through psychic filters. Imagination is definitely at a peak during the transit, which is great as long as you know you’re imagining. It can be hard to always tell the difference. Depression seen here is more typically frustration with feeling confused and doubtful of the way the world now seems to work.
– Pluto in transit nearly always shows an element of psychological crisis or power struggles wherever it is passing through. It takes a long time for Pluto to transit a house -much like Neptune- and so one will not necessarily feel this transit every day. It is a longer pattern of change. This, of course, depends on everything else going on. Pluto passing through the 3rd is a mental purge, a mental purification process. Ugly, dark thoughts can arise and scare a person when really the thoughts are trying to find release. This is a major learning phase, when one is on the hunt for vital information that will help make sense of themselves and their world. The pursuit of information can uncover ugly information, of course; things that a person would rather have not known, can’t unsee. Obviously, this flavor of information overload can lead to a dark outlook. But, this transit also can make a person intellectually stronger than they thought possible -knowledge is power- though it won’t always feel like this is the case when going through the process.
That is not a complete list of everything to do with the 3rd house. These are generalizations; everyone handles their birth chart potential in their own way, and everyone handles life cycles in their own way. But, a good general understanding of the way the third house works in regards to our minds and the health of our minds -something I find is often overlooked- can go a long way towards preventing us from falling into bad mental spaces.