Pisces in House of Leaves

It is safe to reason that the use of “pisces” in the context of “pieces” is intentional and points towards a more significant meaning. It is not a device to distinguish characteristics or styles between the work’s several narrators, as the ‘typo’ occurs several times: in a Zampano-authored passage about the myth of Echo from a fabricated reference (41), in Appendix II in a letter from Johnny’s mother (599), and handwritten on a piece of scrap paper, visible in a photograph (552) and on the collage following the front cover. The usage of “pisces” is also inconsistent—the word “pieces” is used properly in many other places, even in the titles of section C in the first Appendix (548). It is used exclusively as part of a ‘torn to pisces’ phrase, where Pan “tears [Echo] to pisces,” and Johnny’s mother writes that some unexplained bad news “tore [her] to pisces” (599), but the handwritten “pisces” appears, possibly as a note on “infanticide” in a section written in Johnny’s font, reading “the derivates seem to point to primary sense “to wound, tear…to pisces” (552).

Upon sorting through a good amount of horoscope nonsense available on the Internet to find the astronomically-based origins of the Zodiac in astrology, reoccurring attributions to Pisces began to surface. Pisces, as a constellation, has since been displaced from its position in the Zodiac due to the Earth’s movement, but Western astrology still designates it as the current reigning sign from around mid-February to mid-March. The constellation’s displacement alone makes any astrological prediction for this sign suspect (if you even believe in that sort of thing to begin with), not to mention the fact that the dates attributed to the sign must change in accordance to the western calendar—meaning that its astrological navigation and interpretation is now incredibly difficult, or possibly nonexistent.

According to Babylonian astrology (the first known instance of astrology on which Western astrology is based), Pisces is known as the Twelfth House, or last of the Twelve Houses, that “represent different spheres of life, described in terms of physical surroundings as well as personal life experiences” [1] The Twelfth House—called Carcer in Latin—translates as “prison,” or “The Domain of Secrets:

The Twelfth House symbolizes painful secrets and sorrows of all kinds. It is also the symbol of solitary places such as hospitals and prisons where criminals are held. By analogy, there are also the prisons into which we retreat when we feel lonely and abandoned.” [2]

In this same sense, the idea of being ‘torn to pisces’ can translate to House of Leaves as the state of being controlling everything. We are all in the Twelfth House. Whether submerged in the work as a reader, or in the situations any of the characters and narrators are in, any effort to navigate can lead to a dead end, the sensation of being trapped, or loneliness.

[1] Wikipedia, “Houses (astrology)” entry

[2] “The Twelfth House and Its Secrets” Rachel and Benedict Elie, 2008. http://www.astrosoftware.com/12thHouse.htm

Amelia Wagner


~ by ameliabwagner on March 15, 2010.

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