The Moon’s Nodes
Myths and Ancient Symbols
Stories and Chart Interpretation Tips
Although this series is called Myths and Ancient Stories, and I promised to talk about the nodes, there isn’t a lot of mythology related to the nodes. I could stretch a point–and I will, because it’s January and it’s just too convenient–and say that Janus can be looked on as an image for the nodal axis. You remember Janus–He’s the god with two heads (sometimes four) who can see both forward and backward in time. It’s an image often connected with January, for obvious reasons… But Janus is really considered the god of New Beginnings, and the little told of him bears only a contrived resemblance to the meaning of the Moon’s nodes in a birthchart.
The Nodes are usually associated with the Serpent or Dragon. In 19th century astrology, they were referred to as the “Dragon’s Head” and the “Dragon’s Tail”. The Moon’s nodes are a calculated position, associated with solar and lunar eclipses. When the sun and moon are conjunct the north or south node, we have a solar eclipse. When the sun and moon are opposite each other along the lines of the nodes, we have a lunar eclipse. This is obviously connected to the ancient Egyptian story of Isis and Ra.
In this story, Isis wanted to have the secret of Ra, the Sun-god. The Sun was giver of life, but could also be cruel and destroy life, and Ra was considered the most important god in the Egyptian hierarchy. So what could Isis do to gain his powers? She put a snake in his path. The snake took a bite out of Ra, poisoning him, and he began to grow dim. Isis said she could reverse the poison if Ra spoke his secret name (and source of his power). He refused and refused, and the sun became darker and darker as the snake (the nodes) ate it. Finally, at the last minute, Ra whispered his name to Isis, and she took his power—but she left the snake in the sky to remind him of her supremacy.
Another myth associated with the nodes is the Hindu story of the snake Naga. In the beginning of this world age, the gods and demons got together to churn the ocean of milk and bring out the lands and seas, the gemstones, and the nectar of immortality. They agreed that they would share the lands and seas, that the demons would get the gemstones, and the gods would get the nectar of immortality.
Naga, the snake, observed all this, and realized that in order to use the sacred Mt. Meru to churn the oceans of milk, they would need a cord—so he volunteered his body as the cord that would wrap around the mountain and be pulled back and forth to create the churning action. This was pretty exhausting work, and when the job was done, Naga figured he was due for a reward, too. So when the gods were all lined up to drink the elixir of immortality— Naga sneaked into the line and grabbed the cup, intending to cash in on his hard work. When Vishnu discovered him, he took his disc of the Sun, and cut the snake in half. But Naga had already drunk the nectar of the immortals. Now there were two immortal halves of Naga so both halves, forever separated, survived and forever after chase the Sun and Moon around the skies. The Moon’s North Node, Rahu, is associated with the Dragon’s Head, and the South Node, Ketu is associated with the Dragon’s Tail. Metaphorically, the North Node is where we take in new experience (the mouth, “input”), and the South Node represents experiences that have already been digested and are ready for release (the “tail” of the dragon, “output”).
Astronomically, the nodes aren’t any “thing” at all–they are points in space where the moon crosses the ecliptic every 13 days. It takes just over 19 years for the Moon’s Nodes to complete the 360 degree zodiacal cycle.
In the first article of this series I spoke of Pluto, and said that we have no choice about where Pluto wants to take us in this life. Well, the Moon’s nodes are an area of choice. It’s like that old “Mission Impossible” preface: “Your mission, if you choose to accept it…..” is represented by the sign and house of the Moon’s North Node. In my work with clients, I consider Pluto, the Moon’s Nodes and Chiron as the three most important planets addressing a person’s life challenges and reason-for-being. (Of course, patterns of other planets often speak to the same issues, but I consider outer planets and the nodes to address “soul-level” issues and inner planets to address how the immediate personality handles these issues.) However, there are two distinct, and sometimes contradictory ways of looking at the nodes, and for a solid interpretation of the nodes in a birthchart, not only must both be considered, but the interpretations must be blended.
Vedic (Hindu) astrology sees the North Node (Rahu) of the Moon as representing the material world. It represents consuming desires that keep us entrapped in the world of matter. It represents compulsions, and sensuality. Someone strongly under the influence of Rahu tends to be blind to their deeper, spiritual self. On the other hand, Vedic astrology sees the South Node (Ketu) as more spiritual. It also represents the unconscious, darkness, fears, and in its higher form, spirituality itself. This is very different from the western view of the nodes and I suspect there is a link between the Indian caste system, where one’s worldly destiny is more-or-less “fixed” and their differing interpretation of the nodes. In a society where growth and changed are predetermined, one has little choice about moving toward a different mode of being. In western society, where material world success is sometimes the only measure of success, the North Node (material world) would have a higher value. However, if we confine our interpretation to either of these extremes, we’ll be missing a lot of the picture. As with all astrology, a blending–in this case of the Indian predetermined system and the western valuing of the material world–is necessary to gain a proper perspective on the nodal axis.
Western astrologers see the nodal axis as a pointer toward growth and change. The south node is what we have already attained–either through inheritance or from former lives, or even both. Yes, the south node, somewhat like the moon, represents habits, unconscious needs, and spirituality, but it also shows where we can become “stuck”. It is easy to do what is familiar to us. We tend to stay with the familiar and avoid changing our approaches to life. Change represents venturing into the unknown, and as such can be frightening. If our habitual approach to life is, for example, fomenting revolution at every step, “change” for us might be settling down and honoring the past. So in western astrological interpretation, one would look at the North Node as skills that one is trying to acquire in this life. I see the South Node as the attitudes, behaviors, or psychological “place” one goes to when under stress. When you are stressed out, what do You do? Chances are, your response can be described by the placement of the South Node (and any planets conjuncting it) in your chart. With my South Node conjunct Neptune in the eighth, you can find me recuperating with astrological or metaphysical study (Neptune and eighth house), hiding out (eighth house–secretive), or simply spaced out (Neptune). But I’ll do these things in attractive surroundings (Neptune/South Node in Libra).
So, how does the nodal axis give you a guide to your “mission” in this life? Well, each of the twelve signs of the zodiac is part of a polarity. Aries is the “me” end and Libra is the “you” end of the self-relating-to-others axis, the “I-Thou” axis. Gemini is the “narrow focus” end and Sagittarius is the “wide focus” end of the knowledge/information axis. The axis of our nodes shows us some of the major issues we can choose to work on in this life, and the South Node shows us what we have already mastered. So the North Node is what we must learn if we are to reach an understanding of the entire polarity. It is possible to spend an entire life in the arena of the South Node–but life tends not to work as well when you do so. Things are unbalanced. You get stuck in a rut, and the same things keep happening over and over. If you find yourself saying “why does this keep happening to me” about anything in your life, take a look at your North and South Nodes, and see if you aren’t “stuck” in South Node behavior patterns.
It’s not easy to “act” on your North Node. Usually, you know perfectly well HOW to act in the manner of your North Node. It’s just that you REALLY DON’T WANT TO!!. If your South Node is Sagittarius, and you love traveling to distant places and looking at the broad, general view of knowledge, what you need to do is pay attention to the details–turn the telescope into a microscope. And you know HOW to do it, but you Don’t Want To!! If there is a “fear” associated with the nodal axis, it is fear of leaving the safety of the South Node and fear of acting in a manner consistent with the North Node. However, the western rule of thumb is, if you act on your North Node, you can’t go wrong. Things will work out for you in ways you never expected. The effort of overcoming your fear of acting with North Node behaviors won’t get easier, but you can build a history of successes based on that kind of behavior, so the motivations to act in a North Node manner will increase with practice. In order to balance life, it is necessary to balance Both ends of the nodal axis. The South Node won’t work well for you until you have learned to act on your North Node. The North Node won’t work well until you discover the Strengths (not just the habitual behaviors) of the South Node.
The Indians consider the north node too worldly to be “good”. The hungry mouth wants more and more and more, but can never be satisfied. It’s interesting to notice that many Oscar winner have strong Rahu activations at the time of the honor. Could it be that winning an Oscar doesn’t give lasting satisfaction? Would it be fair to say it causes one to crave even more success? There needs to be a balance between new experiences and understanding and digesting what you already know.
The Indians say the south node, Ketu, is the more spiritual node, and therefore is better than Rahu. It takes a certain reflectiveness and spirituality to examine one’s life experiences. And it requires wisdom to learn what one must let go of, and what needs further digestion. These are the energies of the south node. It doesn’t progress one in the physical world, but can greatly enhance spirituality and wisdom.
There are a few other issues related to the nodal axis that are important to remember. What if you have planets conjunct one of the nodes, or square to the nodes? Well, if you have a planet conjunct the North Node, you are reaching for that energy, but unable to see it. In the Vedic System, the North Node is linked to the Sun, and planets there, even in western astrology, are simply overpowered by the figurative light of the Sun. It’s a case of being “blinded by the light”. Planets conjunct the South Node, on the other hand, represent something you know well, and tend to overdo to a great extent. They take on the unconscious, habitual nature represented by the Moon. Planets square to the nodal axis, according to Jeff Green, represent “skipped steps” in our evolutionary journey through lives. They are something we haven’t done in recent past lives, and are determined to “catch up on” in this life. As a result, we compulsively act in a manner consistent with that planet and its placement, but we are very awkward in its expression. Mohan Koparkar says, of planets square to the nodal axis, that one of the ways this works is that when we DO things represented by that planet, sign, and house, something comes along and stops us. (Probably because we’re doing it in an awkward, inexperienced manner.) And when we Don’t do those things, something gives us a push and makes us start, (since this is something we came into life to work on)!
As with any single element in a birthchart, the exact interpretations will be augmented by a study of the remainder of the chart. So far we’ve looked at Pluto, as what you WILL learn to do, Uranus as where we fear loss of freedom and must learn to be our own arbitrar of freedom (the Saturnian corulership is evident here), Neptune as where we are idealistic and apt to be disillusioned, and now the Nodal Axis as the axis of familiar/unfamiliar and the guidepost to personal growth. So what does it all Mean??? Well, we can look to Chiron for the answer to that question…