The nodes are the points where the orbital path of a heavenly body intersects with the ecliptic. The ecliptic is the apparent path of the Sun in the sky, a phenomenon caused by the obliquity of the Earth’s axis and the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. This means that nodes of any kind are always about the relationship of a heavenly body with our conscious experience.
They consist of two points, the ascending and the descending nodes. It’s a bit like the setting and rising of a heavenly body. The union of these points is also called the Nodal Axis. The ascending node is also called North Node or Dragon’s Head, and the descending node is also called South Node or Dragon’s Tail. In the zodiac, these points are always in exact opposition to each other. That means if, for example, the South Node is at 13 degrees, 4 minutes Scorpio, then the North Node will be at 13 degrees, 4 minutes Taurus. We cannot actually see these points as we can see most planets, but they are located in the visible sky.
The Moon’s nodes
The most popular heavenly body from which nodes are derived is the Moon. The Moon’s nodes spend about 1.5 years in a sign, moving backwards in the zodiac. That means they enter a sign at the very end and leave it at the beginning. It takes the Moon’s nodes roughly 18.6 years to traverse the whole zodiac. The Moon conjoins each Node once every 28 days. If a new moon or a full moon happens near the nodes, eclipses result. Eclipses are immensely powerful events that play a large role in bringing about our experiences, further underlining the importance of the Moon’s nodes.
Astrologically, these points denote directions in the spiritual evolution of a being. The South Node resonates with the past and finished lessons, whereas the North Node points us toward new lessons. The South Node marks comfortable territory, a warm bed that we are often loathe to leave. We are magnetically drawn towards the North Node at the same time, but we humans, due to our nature, often have a hard time accepting and working with transformation. We have ample opportunity for exploration in the North Node, and a wealth of talents to share with others in the South Node.
Vedic astrology calls the nodes Rahu and Ketu, and Vedic astrologers are generally very firm on seeing Ketu, the South Node, as a malefic point, and Rahu as a benefic. In Western astrology, opinions among practitioners differ, with some taking a more traditional benefic/malefic view and others going for a more faceted view of the nodes. I learned that the gifts of the South Node are precious, but that they are meant to be given to others and not indulged in for our own pleasure and comfort. I also learned that thinking up the worst possible scenario for a certain South Node placement can be a technique that works pretty well. In practice my view of the Nodes changes on a case-by-case basis.
In the astrological tradition, the best placement of the South Node is supposed to be in Sagittarius, denoting gifts of philosophy, wisdom and knowledge about the big world, while the best placement of the North Node is in Gemini, encouraging experience of new things, getting upclose with events, and being open and communicating. It’s a bit like sitting in an armchair, reading an old tome (Sagittarius), versus getting up, opening the door and going out in the world for experimenting and learning through witnessing of actual events (Gemini).
Speaking in terms of Western astrological charts of any kind, the North Node tells us where the whole chart is heading. This makes it an immensely important point in any chart, delivering its quintessence in one point. Just by looking at the beings of the zodiac that are associated with that degree, we can often, especially at new and full Moons or at the sensitive points of the Sun, get a very good view of what spiritual lessons are currently active behind mundane events.
There seems to be a large consensus among modern astrologers that the Moon’s nodes only receive aspects from other bodies but cannot on their own make aspects. So if you have transiting Mars conjoining your North Node, that is supposed to work. But the transiting North Node conjoining your Mars is supposed to not have any effect. I do not wish to discount or discredit the experiences of others, but in my experience, this is simply not true. The spirits at the North Node will exert their influence perceptibly on our world, and if their energy is at odds or in tune with a point in your chart (which is bound to express itself in you in some way), then you will feel this. For example, if the lessons of the North Node in Leo are about shining your Light, but you’re naturally a person that tends towards privacy and a self-content life, as symbolized by the zodiac signs of Scorpio and Taurus, then these lessons have a good chance of bringing disharmony into your experience, at least in the beginning.
Other types of nodes
Nodes derived from the crossing points of other heavenly bodies with the ecliptic are not widely used in astrology at this time, but they exist nevertheless and have significance.
The Sun is special. By definition it is always aligned with the ecliptic, so it does not produce nodes. Or it could be said that it produces an infinite number of nodes, always intersecting with itself. I could muse more on this, but I’ll be content to say that it is an excellent subject to meditate upon, shining much light on the significance of the Sun and the Nodes.
It is similarly fruitful to contemplate the meaning of the other types of nodes. I will leave you with two links pertaining to the subject:
- Pamela Rowe: The Planetary Nodes
- Maurice Fernandez: Planetary Nodes, From Saturn to Pluto
Please share your experiences with nodes of any type with us!
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