Introduction to Lunar Nodes
– Written by Philip Graves – 23 Jan 2004
– Reformatted for WordPress, June 8th, 2016
What are Lunar Nodes?
Lunar Nodes, also called the Moon’s Nodes, are the points where the Moon’s orbit of the Earth intersects the celestial ecliptic – the narrow band of space described by the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. The points in the Moon’s orbital cycle where it crosses the ecliptic are of particular astrological importance, bringing the Earth-Moon system into line with the solar system, and so relating individual will to the will of the wider cosmos, and conferring a sense of fatedness and externally chosen destiny to whatever contacts the nodal axis in the nativity.
Where the orbit of the Moon around Earth crosses the ecliptic in a northward direction is known as the North Node, the Ascending Node, the Dragon’s Head, Caput Draconis, or Rahu. Where it crosses the ecliptic in a southward direction is known as the South Node, the Descending Node, the Dragon’s Tail, Cauda Draconis, or Ketu. The South Node is always exactly opposite the North Node, and as a result only the position of the North Node is shown in ephemerides.
The Moon’s Nodes move in retrograde motion through a complete cycle of the zodiac lasting about 18 years and seven months. During that time, they very frequently station and turn briefly direct. In ephemerides, where the position of the North Node has been calculated exactly to show all these variations, it is called the True Node. Where it has been ironed out based a constant, averaged rate of motion, it is called the Mean Node. The Mean Node is easier for ephemeris-programmers to calculate, but accurate to within only a degree or two of the True Node, which means that where it is used no decimal point precision of nodal longitude can be pretended.
This article presents the varied theories of the general astrological influence of the Moon’s Nodes, with the earliest first.
1. Malefic vs. Benefic
Until the mid-20th century, the prevailing view of the lunar nodal influence was that of an axis of benefic / malefic influence, with the South Node partaking of the malefic nature of Saturn or Uranus and the North Node partaking of the benefic nature of Jupiter.
Thus, the North Node casts a favorable, fortunate, cheerful, affectionate, expansive, optimistic and popular influence over the affairs of the house in which it falls, brings out the more positive potentials of the sign in which it is placed, and favours the functions and energies signified by any planets or points to which it forms a conjunction or harmonious aspect (with the Moon especially bringing benefit and gains). The South Node, meanwhile, casts a malefic, harmful influence upon, or brings binding, delaying or impeding restrictions or obligations in relation to the affairs of the house it occupies; brings out the more negative potentials of the sign in which it is posited; and disfavours planets in conjunction or inharmonious aspect with it (the Moon particularly bringing losses and troubles).
The predominant influence is judged to be either benefic or malefic depending on the strength of the placement of each Node assessed by dignity and aspects. Afflictions to the Nodal axis bring general harm. The North Node is strongly placed in its exaltation (Gemini) and the corresponding natural house (3rd), in its harmony (Libra), in the Moon’s domicile (Cancer), and, according to some 20th century sources who have nominated Virgo as domicile of the North Node, in Virgo and its corresponding natural house (6th). It is weakly placed its fall (Sagittarius), inharmony (Aries), and its supposed detriment (Pisces).
2. Subconscious Attachment vs. Conscious Growth
The Moon’s Nodes are related to the subconscious, the domain of the Moon. Thus, the South Node represents subconscious motivations that stem from the past and to which there is an inner inclination to cling although they may no longer be relevant or appropriate to the individual’s situation and prospects, while the North Node represents conscious motivations relevant to the present and future, characterised by a desire for the unfoldment of appropriate changes in personal psychology.
On this basis, excessive attachment to the manner and domain of functioning of the South Node is seen as stagnating the individual and delaying and setting back personal growth. The South Node is familiar and easy territory, habitually tried and tested, inclining the individual naturally to sacrificially resist self-development into the areas of growth potential shown by the placement of the North Node, often rationalising this resitence with excuses for the choice not to grow, as indicated by the South Node sign, and manifesting in areas of life shown by the South Node house. The individual is challenged to overcome and discard this conditioned habit through conscious will and integrate the North Node. To pursue the North Node direction (shown by its sign placement, and manifesting in areas of life indicated by its house placement), is a frightening prospect to the shy, security-conscious subconscious, but it is necessary in order for fulfilment to be attained from the development of new faculties through conscious choice.
Two variations on this theory are (a) the general idea that the South Node shows areas in which the individual is out of touch with the environment, while the North Node shows ones in which he or she is more fully in tune with it; and (b) the idea that the South Node shows the subjectively perceived personal reality while the North Node shows the ideally envisaged personal reality.
3. Past Life Provenance vs. This Life Direction
An optional extension (depending on personal beliefs) to the clinging vs. growth theory is the notion that the South Node indicates capabilities and faculties inherited from former incarnations or ‘past lives’, while the North Node shows the ideal direction for self-development in the current incarnation in order to attain ultimate spiritual fulfilment and the successful realisation of one’s pre-chosen evolutionary goals from this lifetime.
Sometimes the past life inheritance shown by the South Node is looked on as showing incoming karma, while the North Node house and those that trine it are regarded as showing channels for its redistribution by the individual in the current lifetime, generating future dharma; and these three houses are thus significant to karmic growth.
Other times this theory is looked on in terms of the North Node showing qualities the individual has neglected to develop in previous incarnations while the South Node shows ones that have been more fully developed.
These concepts have won wide public popularity in recent decades; and whether or not the notion of reincarnation is literally accurate, it serves at the very least as a powerful symbolic guide to the personal sense of reward and fulfilment that can be attained via the development of areas of life suggested by the house placement of the North Node in a manner indicated by its sign placement and in relation to functions shown by planets in aspect to it. In other words, this theory can be viewed even by nonbelievers in reincarnation as a helpful image by which to fully register the personal worth of following and integrating the North Node direction.
4. Moon’s Nodes as Points of Mutual Imbalance
An evolution of the second theory above holds that the South Node principles are not to be completely overthrown and discarded, but rather kept in harmonious balance with those of the North Node.
With this in mind, the South Node is seen in a more positive light as an area of personal safety and security, without the inhibitive connotations attached. The South Node area is, however, prone to constant change beyond the individual’s control, and the danger of being destroyed by circumstances; but in contrast to theory 2. above its destruction is not advised as a goal for the individual to consciously seek or encourage, although a gradual, sustainable evolution towards the North Node over the course of life is recommended. It still represents an area of instinct and familiarity, and one to whose issues the individual is energised to respond actively, often as a prelude to duties and responsibilities in this area.
It has been observed also that the sign occupied by the South Node will bring to the individual qualities of general personality and health implications that are typically associated with the sign concerned.
The North Node is regarded in this model as a goal of new growth the reach for which is a dimly illuminated struggle. Harmonious aspects and benefic conjunctions to the North Node will indicate relatively easy progress along the journey towards this goal, while inharmonious aspects and malefic conjunctions will indicate difficulties. The individual will frequently, on encountering obstacles, be consciously inclined to give up and return to the safety of the South Node, through weakness of resolve rather than through absolute force or obligation. But as always with stressful aspects, the ultimate rewards of achievement can be greater and more spiritually satisfying than would be attained by an easy passage. In consideration of the North Node goals, the sign on the cusp of the house it tenants must be taken alongside the sign in which it itself is placed.
Since the North Node indicates the ultimate spiritually fulfilling direction, it is suggested that one should work on resolving conflicts within the nativity before focusing one’s attention on the pursuit of that main life goal, so as to ease the path there. With this in mind, the difficulties inherent in squares particularly, but also in quincunxes, oppositions and malefic conjunctions, should be consciously worked out and reconciled. Until such inner energetic reconciliation is attained, the individual will repeatedly be forced to gravitate back to the security of the South Node in the face of difficulties that are likely to be encountered in the approach to personal growth.
The need for balance arises from either lunar nodal principle being accentuated to the detriment of the other. Both destined progress and the maintenance of secure ground are valid and valuable goals, although it is more common for the imbalance to be weighted in the South Node’s favour. A luminary conjunct either Node will tend to accentuate this nodal direction at the expense of the opposing one. One key to rebalancing the nodal principles can be found in the sign and house placements of the dispositors of the Moon’s Nodes.
Nodal balance and a singular approach to life is naturally favoured in those for whom the natural houses (those numerically corresponding to the sign position in the zodiac) of their nodal sign placements oppose the houses in which their corresponding nodes are natally placed, a condition known as the nodes being ‘locked in’.
5. Sharing vs. Seeking Orientation
Bernice Grebner puts forward the suggestion that personal knowledge indicated by the placement of the South Node should be shared with and taught to many people and in many areas, while the North Node indicates a direction from which the individual must absorb, and seek knowledge thus far personally unknown. The South Node sharing imperative registers subjectively as though a karmic debt to pay, obliging one to give and help others, and thus has Saturnian resonances, but not in an unpleasantly restrictive or malefic vein. The qualities represented by the sign and house placement of the South Node are ones that the individual has instinctively mastered, and which therefore serve as a strong pooled resource of understanding to be graciously distributed to all those who would benefit from learning.
Once this debt has been paid through sustained discipline over a duration of time, the way is opened to the adoption of an absorptive, receiving orientation with regard to the lessons of the North Node. Finally, when the individual has mastered these lessons, it becomes possible and philanthropically desirable to give and share them too.
Aspects to Moon’s Nodes
Aspects to the nodal axis, both natally and by transit and progression, show the manner in which the development towards the North Node goals will be worked out. Conjunctions to the North Node induce forced growth; while those to the South Node encourage conditioned responses. Squares accentuate the conflict of interest between the nodes, and pull the individual towards the sign and house placement of the squared planet. Quincunxes to the North Node show a misperceieved notion of the means to attain growth. Semisextiles bring pressure to grow, while semisquares and sesquisquares show tension in relation to growth. Sextiles bring opportunities for constructive growth, while trines bring easy growth.
Moon’s Nodes in Synastry
Where the nodal axis in one nativity is in aspect to a planet or angle in the other, the strongest bonding connection is usually experienced at the South Node, with the nodal axis person being empowered over and magnetically drawing in the other, while the North Node contact evokes a mere potential for joint direction that will be brought out more if the nodal axis person has strongly integrated his or her North Node principles.
Conjunctions of the Ascendant, luminaries or personal planets to either Node, but especially the South, are the most powerfully tying synastric contacts. Trines and sextiles favour joint growth; while squares may be experienced as challenges to it with a karmic ring, and a risk of separation.
Synastric aspects between the nodal axes of two nativities will be experienced by each individual as an extension to his / her natal nodal configuration, which may be supportive of (if the aspect is harmonious) or conflicting with (if inharmonious) the personal life direction.
The house placement of one person’s Nodes in the other’s horoscope show (North Node) an area in which the first person will learn from the other, who will in turn be inspired in that area by the first; and (South Node) an area in which the first person will teach the other.
An equal-house figure cast with the North Node serving as an ascendant is called the Moon-Node Horoscope, and indicates, by the house placement of the planets therein, the areas of subjective, subconscious, emotional manifestation of energies in the individual life.
Conversely, an equal-house figure cast with the South Node as ascendant is known as the Nodal Chart and serves as a tool for medical astrology, indicating by its houses areas of the body, with the first six houses describing the right side of the body from head to foot, and the latter six the left side from foot to head, while bodily influences are judged by the planets tenanting each nodal house. This topic will be covered in depth in a future article on Medical Astrology.