The Nodes.By Nexus.

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The Lunar Nodes

After having written about the Sun and the Moon, further thinking has made me question more and more the function of the lunar nodes in the horoscope, particularly as nowadays the nodes appear to be assuming more and more importance in interpreting charts.

For the sake of any beginners here, the lunar nodes are those small horseshoe-shaped objects that adorn the chart in addition to the planets – sometimes, only the ’upright’ one is shown – symbolising the North Node. The point directly opposite, the South Node, looks like an upside-down-horseshoe. They are mathematical points, not planets, and show where the moon crosses the ecliptic – the path of the sun.

Where they are close to either the sun or the moon when these are either full or new, they show that an eclipse has taken place – and straight away, this suggests something of an ’irrational’ theme in their symbolism, the ’lights’ of consciousness being blocked. In Vedic astrology, each node practically enjoys ’planetary’ status in significance. The North Node is called Rahu, or The Dragon’s Head, whilst the South Node is called Ketu, the Dragon’s Tail. In Vedic astrology, both are considered malefic.

I am very aware that there are many so-called ’karmic’ astrologers who consider the nodes to be as important in astrological readings as Sun, Moon and Ascendant – if not more so. If you believe in reincarnation, the nodes do not just refer to this one lifetime, but to the soul’s journey through several lifetimes. Other astrologers might be more inclined to replace the word ’karma’ with ’genetic heritage’ or ’genes,’ which also still outlive us.

Still others prefer to see them as providing information about our goals just within this lifetime – but the fact remains, that the Nodes have recently ended up become rather more major players in the shaping of character than hitherto suspected - if the hype is to be believed. Until recently, however, there has been little material on the nodes available.

In Western astrology, the North Node is generally considered to be benefic, though a spiritual goal difficult to attain. The South Node is said to be, from that point of view, what holds us back, being the ’baggage’ of our karmic past.

I personally am not entirely comfortable with the idea of reincarnation, though do not actually rule it out as a possibility. I would define myself here as having an agnostic approach to the subject. I did once, however, come across a book by Penelope Thornton in which she discusses the case studies of two or three individuals who claim to have been able to remember specific past lives. The birthdates of these past lives were also conveniently remembered. I was gratified to see one myth about reincarnation and astrology being exploded – here, anyway – that the moon position of this lifetime corresponds to the sun position of the last lifetime. I do not, unfortunately, remember what the findings were in relation to the lunar nodes, or more specifically to the south node, which is where reincarnationalists will attempt to divine how the native spent their previous incarnations.

What does make me uncomfortable is the tendency of some spiritual astrologers to polarise the significance of the nodes so much that the one becomes almost entirely ’bad,’ the other entirely ’good.’ Most polarities in the chart – Sun and Moon, Ascendant and Descendant, MC and IC are simply treated, in the main, as being ’equal.’ It is only where discussing the North and South Node polarities that the idea is definitely introduced that here are two polarities that are definitely unequal, one defininitely being desirable, the other most definitely undesirable (though the same idea is expressed with Sun and Moon too, according to some astrological thought). The problem then is that character delineations based on these, whilst very perceptive in some recent publications, may also tend towards negative labelling of some tendecies to a point that may become just short of destructive.

This perhaps is the trouble with oppositions of any kind – the possible trap of defining one in terms of the other in mutually exclusive polarities: it is not long before ’black and white’ become ’good and bad.’ The consequences of this seem to be that on the one hand, the North Node potentials can offer a tantalising vision of higher levels of integration ’butterfly effects’ as opposed to downward spirals and tipping points. On the other hand, the forces that keep us comfortably mired in detrimental South Node patterns are painted in ever more negative colours, in ways that perhaps may ultimately less than therapeutic – and certainly make excellent ammunition for those with a taste for character assassination! As what little experience or feel I have for the nodes to date has suggested to me that these areas may be sensitive points (as in areas of life where there may be some degree of vulnerability) in more ways than one, I have doubts about the wisdom of meting out heavy character assassinations for our South Node shortcomings, whilst painting North Node visions that may seem more and more unattainable in comparison.

Perhaps, enlightening humanistic approaches aside, there is always going to be the need for a ’bad guy’ in the chart, on which all our shortcomings can be blamed. Once Saturn and Mars, the two great malefics were rehabilitated – then maybe the gap had to be filled. Well, the natal Moon made a good candidate. In Western culture, where being an Individual, we are ready to cut roots from family, past, background in order to function more and more autonomously, without the need to fall back on ’the line of least resistance’ of redundant habits or cultural biases.

In my piece on Sun and Moon symbolism, I observed that for most intents and purposes, the natal Moon could just as easily be a larger version of the South Node according to this kind of interpretation, whilst the North Node had a more ’solar’ significance – and there is some truth to this astronomically, if the nodes are seen as a type of sun/moon midpoint.

It could, however, also denote fuzzy thinking.

The Nodes may be related to the natal moon, but they are surely distinct, each node with a recognisably different signature in its symbolism and distinct again from either purely lunar – or for that matter, solar – symbolism. At the moment, however, a whole spiritual philosophy and outlook seems to be embedded in the way these two points are interpreted in chart reading nowadays.

I recently came across an interesting article in a blog that did manage to get right to the crux for the the resistence I have felt towards examining the nodes in any great detail. Acceptance or non-acceptance of reincarnation and karma aside, what was identified as a real issue in interpreting the nodes is what was called the ’overcoming mindset.’ That is, that evolving, becoming more spiritual or whatever, must necessarily mean killing off lower or more ’primitive’ aspects of our being.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the South Node does seem to indicate an area where we may seem to be less than well-adjusted and where we might easily attract criticism, and the North Node often seeming relatively underdeveloped, a cautious attitude is expressed towards the idea that any factor in the chart has to be overcome, even if it appears to go ’against the grain’ of that persons’s nature. (I will be happy to provide a link to the blog where these ideas were put forward if able to contact the individual concerned.)

This ’overcoming mindset’ does all tend to come across as some kind of home/grown brew of eclectic spirituality combined with a tough work ethic. Nothing Is Meant to Come Easily. There is not the space here to explore the lofty ideas that inform this kind of wisdom, however diluted, but it may well be interesting at a later date to explore these along with how they might marry with any general popular New Age Calvinism.

It was suggested in this source that personal experience did not seem to support the idea that expressing North Node qualities necessarily makes us any happier or spiritually fulfilled, but did come up with another, very interesting idea. It was suggested instead that those who can express their North Node tend to be more ’socially appropriate’ in their behaviour. That does seem to be more in keeping with the claims of the Hamburg and cosmo-biological schools,where the North Node is interpreted as having great significance for our social success and ’meetings with other people.’

Whilst I do not doubt that we all have qualities that may need overcoming at times, I would question whether ot not the whole issue can be simplified that easily. I have certainly come across other individuals within the astrological community expressing concern about the possible unhelpfulness of interpreting the nodes with quite such an extreme mantra: ’South Node Bad, North Node Good.’ One such was Garry Phillipson, the interviewer of astrologers and what they believe in his book ’Astrology in the Year Zero.’ In his own interview with Darelyn Gunzburg, he states that ’You can become too one-sided with the nodes….although we often need to develop the North Node and restrain the South Node, it is possible to to go too far with that process and and up denying the South Node altogether.’

In many cases, the South Node placement is said to show areas of great natural talent.

Take Mozart. He had the South Node in Pisces on his descendant, conjunct Uranus, the planet of genius. Amadeus might well have realised as a struggling ageing artiste that his genius, which came so flowingly to him, was not going to continue to be a meal ticket once he was no longer a chubby-cheeked prodigy. His Sun-Saturn-Mercury stellium in the 5th House certainly hinted at that. Yet, had he decided whilst still a boy that 'he had to grow up and grow beyond his karmic heritage,' we might have lost much of what his genius had to offer. But Mozart was still only 37 when he died, therefore maybe still had little chance to develop the emotional maturity to be anything less than the obnoxious spoilt brat of the Salieri myth (he had been an excellent asset for his father too, as a child celebrity). Perhaps he just did not have the chance to balance his formidable natural South Node talents with any Virgoan North Node ability to deal with the little people who could have given him more work.

There may be many other factors in Mozart’s chart to account for his prodigal gifts and I know that not everyone with Uranus on the South Node is necessarily a genius, but it does suggest that somehow Mozart had hit the jackpot in bringing with him into his life huge accumulated talents that were totally innate. Perhaps this was indeed the flowering of several lifetimes of toil at the piano. Or the gift was in his genes, passed on by his ancestors. It does, just come across as South Node gifts in action.

The Salieri myth also hints at why South Node gifts can also be such a downfall. A huge gift such as this, innate and not toiled at through blood, sweat and tears, is bound to create jealousy in those who may suspect that their talents are mediocre at best and who have to really work to reach any reasonable standard of excellence. Possibly, again, this could be galling for those again with a spiritual or creative work ethic. I have actually come across websites that compare the genius of artists such as Van Gogh, whose North Node was strongly emphasised in the chart and that of Picasso, whose South Node was more emphasised, and which might hint at the more ‘evolved’ kind of genius.

I shall leave any further possible judgements on any of the artists mentioned here to the reader. Personally I think that ideally, the best work should express an innate talent, but one honed through dedication and new applications of old ideas.

Dane Rudhyar is another who explored this South Node/genius connection much more comprehensively in his essays on the nodes, accessible at the Rudhyar Archival project. His own research intro the way the nodes work made him question why it is that the South Node, whilst traditionally unlucky in the way Saturn is, can sometime apparently bestow so much. He was thinking especially of artists such as Wagner, who had his South Node in the 10th and who enjoyed universal acclaim for his operas. In the above example, though, Rudhyar felt that this success was also Wagner’s downfall, pointing out that as a human being he appeared to be somewhat ‘unregenerate’. He was, it is suggested, rather ‘too enthralled with his own genius.’

He concludes that in order to better understand why the nodes work the way they do, it is important to re-examine the basic symbolism of Dragon’s Head and Dragon’s Tail.

Rudhyar did not believe in over-polarising with the dragon either, thereby losing sight of the fact that head and tail belong to the same animal. He suggests that whereas at the North Node we most need to ingest new experiences and to have access to the right kind of spiritual nourishment, the tail shows the end result of such ingestion. This – and here, Rudhyar almost seems to relish in the sheer biological nature of it all – this end result can be seen to be symbolic excreting through the anus – the ‘letting go’ that the Descending Node is already famous for – or in the creative artist’s impulse to ‘impregnate’ their audience with sperm (he did not consider the possibility that a female artist might instead let loose a new egg, so there still seems to be that curious contempt for the Feminine that has come across, to me at any rate, in Rudhyar before).

In focussing more on the South Node’s function in releasing waste, however symbolic, Rudhyar further suggests that it may be easy to miss the more creative role it may have to play. It may therefore be less than helpful to tell certain individuals within a reading that what may be perceived by them as being some kind of a calling may, in fact, represent some kind of a spiritual dead end. That may not necessarily do justice to certain kinds of creative individual who may not necessarily of Mozart’s stature, but who may certainly feel the pressure that Rudhyar has described to ‘release’ their memes to the world at large.

At the same time it is possible to be mindful of the admonitions of Tracy Marks, for example, to look for spiritual nourishment through the Dragons’s Head rather than the Dragon’s Tail. In view of Rudhyar’s comments on the biology of the Tail, then this would indeed seem to be a rather strange place to go for ingesting new experiences and areas of new growth……

It also draws attention to something else which may simply a function of what this sensitive point may play. Take an example of an individual with North Node Scorpio in the 10th, South Node Taurus in the 4th. Throw in one or two aspects to the nodal axis from, say, Moon, Saturn or Mercury. The individual presents as a hoarder, someone with a cluttered home who cannot throw anything away (Recently I did, indirectly, come across a real-life story from someone born with this nodal axis and who did seem to be faced with this kind of challenge.)

The obvious astrological advice would be to be ruthlessly Scorpionic about it all and bin all the hoarded possessions away for good. Yet even without any understanding of the symbolism of Scorpio, the South Node in Taurus could already be symbolising that process, the need to let go of old attachments and it would be resistance to that which would be the cause of the pain.

The Vedic perspective on the Nodes, as has been noted before, is a little different: both tend to be somewhat malefic. The North Node, or Rahu, tends to be somewhat obsessive in its attachments and desires for new experience, whilst the South Node, Ketu, is said to be good for spiritual development, as it seeks to sever away from over-attachment towards material things. There would therefore be no need for an ‘overcoming mentality’ if the need to ‘let go’ or to foster detachment, as the Vedics might possibly have it, is already an innate function of the South Node.
As the area shown by the North Node is said to be relatively undeveloped or – as the Vedics would have it, ‘immature,’ then it is perhaps little wonder that there is a sense of destiny and expansion involved in developing it – hence the well-known wisdom according to which the need to strive to develop the North Node is paramount for personal fulfilment in life. That which is incomplete would then need to be sought in order for each individual to find completion. So according to the Vedics, the North Node is already greedy and intemperate for new experiences in this area. The problem then would be, as Dane Rudhyer suggests, of finding this already-quoted 'right' kind of spiritual nourishment, as we shall see again later.
Anyway now, as opposed to ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ the challenge represented by the nodal axis becomes a question of synthesising the new with the old. Obviously, then the temptation could indeed be to remain and stagnate with the tried and tested – even if this ties us to possibly maladaptive or self-sabotaging behaviour. But should that still mean doing away with the tried and the tested altogether? The question wil be returned to a little later.

Meanwhile, writers like Maritha Pottenger return to the polarity theme of the nodes. She suggests that sometimes it is in the arena or relationships where the need to balance nodal issues becomes most paramount.

Whilst never claiming to be an expert in this area, the nodal positions in some charts do seem to make themselves felt in ways that cannot be explained by any other factors in the chart.

For example, an individual known to me has frequently become involved with strongly Libran women. There women always seem to want more commitment from this acquaintance of mine than my acquaintance perhaps has sometimes wanted to give. But I did wonder – why Libra specifically? He did not have any personal planets in Libra.

Then, the penny dropped. I happen to know that my acquaintance has an Aries South Node, Libra North Node. So, in the absence of any knowledge about the angles in the chart, this may explain a few things. My friend somehow ‘looks’ for Libra-type partners who can live out his North Node for him – in this instance, fulfilling the Libran need for a relationships, the ‘we’ as opposed to ‘me.’ The Libran women concerned do seem determined sometimes to bring the message home, tending to pull my acquaintance in line for his more outrageous or inconsiderate Aries South-Node ways, with stern lectures about how to behave in polite society. (Many writers go on about the uniting Venus-Jupiter side of North Node directives, but at times, these do seem to have a more Saturnine side, about the need to Grow Up socially. This does seem to run in line with the ‘socially appropriate’ model discussed earlier. I would be interested to hear of more unbiased personal experience in this connection).

But what about taking the already accepted symbolism ascribed the Nodes and applying these interpretations as they stand? The North Node is about potential futures, the South about past patterns which may be potentially redundant, both polarities stretching over more than one individual life time. I thought about writers who might have expressed themes like these in their writings and then checked to see what was happening with the nodal axis in their charts, and came up with one particularly interesting example.

Arthur C Clarke was the inspiration behind the film 2001, where human destiny is shown to extend beyond even the limitations of our own species. First - the obelisk, showing the apish proto-humans how to fend better for themselves foodwise, so that their brains and general capacities would develop better over time. Finally, the image of an embryo of a New Human, right at the end of the Odyssey. Stirring stuff. But there is more.

In Childhood’s End, humanity is saved from itself at the brink of nuclear war by vastly intelligent aliens who take over human affairs and create a contented and prosperous Utopian society – but at the expense of human creativity and scientific endeavour, both of which are forbidden. The aliens look like Devils, complete with horns and tails, and it is suggested by them to one that his image somehow came from a precognitive recognition that they somehow spelt the end of human potential.

As it happens, this race of devils is at an evolutionary dead end, but they still serve what are called the mysterious Overlords in helping to midwife a new species of superhumans on earth from existing humanity. But once these superhumans start to mature, they consume earth totally in order to nourish themselves for their next god-like leap into the Unknown.

So there are themes of huge and irretrievable loss in Arthur C Clarke’s stories, along with extraordinary visions of unimaginable potential, coupled with a certain preoccupation with evolutionary dead ends. It therefore came as no surprise to find that Clarke has North Node in Capricorn conjunct a Sagittarius Sun, opposing a South Node in Cancer conjunct Pluto.

These themes also appear in another book he published, called The City and the Stars, set in the distant future, where human society now functions in a Utopian and eternal city, called Diaspar. Its inhabitants are actually closer to androids than humans as there is no death, just reincarnated humans recreated from memory banks.

This society is contrasted with another that did not ban birth in the interests of vanquishing death, old age and disease – and not everyone is model-looks beautiful, either. However, this latter society of pagan country-dwellers is depicted as being infinitely more dynamic than the cowardly and agoraphobic citizens of Diaspar.

The North Node solar hero emerges as a young Diaspar boy who has no previous past etched in his memory banks and is therefore a completely new template. His role proves to be to take humanity back to the stars, no matter how much trauma and readjustment this may cause the two deviating branches of humanity in the short term.

New examination of other charts in the light of what new clues the nodes have to offer in terms of motivation of specific individuals does seem to be telling.

Three examples in individual charts of well-known people with North Node in Aquarius, South Node in Leo, come to mind. Elvis Presley the ‘King’ has already been noted not to have strayed too far from Leo South Node patterns of finding ways to be glorified, whilst remaining to the end of life personally unfulfilled, because he was not able to find new sustenance through his Aquarius North Node. Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the UK, appears on first sight to have realised the long-term idealism of his Aquarius North Node a little better in his support for more enlightened EU aims and in creating a world of more ‘equal opportunities’ for all in the UK. A more despotic side to all this is not difficult to discern in his achievements to date, most notably over the Iraq affair. It has been suggested to me that this tendency to fall short of various laudable ideals could be seen in a tendency to slip back into more atavistic Leo South Node ways of leading. Albert Einstein has been quoted as seemingly realising still further his Aquarius North Node potentials with his enlightening insights into the physical world. Yet it must be questioned whether there have not been more Promethean consequences to his contributions, perhaps only recognising too late the destructive consequences knowledge of splitting the atom would bequeath future generations.

So the question remains – what exactly are the real pitfalls in working with and integrating the nodal axis?

It is time to turn to an excellent piece of writing on the Nodes by Kevin Burk, who has also extended his ideas into a book. He, whilst recognising that there is little mileage in becoming entrenched in self-defeating South Node modes of being, cautions jettisoning these qualities altogether in the interests of embracing all the bright new potentials that the North Node has to offer, pointing out that being too headstrong about following North Node directives has its own special dangers – a certain amount of ‘future shock’ and a certain amount of alienation if some of the earlier cases looked at here are anything to go by – the Vedic link with obsession has already been noted. Rudhyar on the other hand, expresses concern that in the North-Node search for new arenas of spiritual nourishment and development, the individual may simply ‘feed’ on the wrong kinds of experience, in the same ways that more traditional spiritual pastors may worry about what young people are listening to on their walkmans or playing with on their computers. Others may talk bravely of becoming more evolved by walking along the North Node path, only to give up in the absence of any supports to fall back on. This, he suggests, may lead to a strong sense of ‘spiritual failure’ if the path proves to be too threatening without the opportunity to use existing South Node supports. In so doing, he raises the important question of why there might be any genetic/karmic memory at all.

If we have incarnated many times already, then it would seem strange if somehow, part of our ‘soul’ was not able to remember some of the wisdom of all this experience. If genes cannot be passed on, then surely it would not be a very intelligent arrangement if later generations could not benefit from these – as Rudhyar also noted, then surely, a creative individual must surely feel the impulse to pass these on, also. That is not to say that these old ideas should not be revised, worked through for old flaws, or updated – and certainly not excluding the precious opportunity for new tricks to be learnt through the agencies of the new areas for growth and potentials suggested through the North Node. Burk therefore suggests that ideally then, that ’The true process of the North Node is not about turning our back on the past. The North Node is about taking stock of the past, honoring it, working with it, building on it, and learning how to use it in a new way.’

How can this be actually done?

An excellent example of how this could be achieved is cited by Anita Doyle, who write about Morihei Ueshiba, the mastermind behind aikido. I do hope that Doyle will not mind me referring to her ideas in this piece and the address for the web page where the original article can be found is included at the end of this page.

Doyle gives a farily detailed biography of this man and his achievements, finally stating how ’thrilling’ it was for her to find that in his path in life, Ueshiba did not leave behind his Aries South Node for his Libra North Node, as he continued in path as a martial artist. In fact, what he did was to take both Aries and Libra a step further in creating new syntheses and methods to resolve conflict and build peace within the world.

This is just one example of how each nodal axis can be creatively synthesised and Doyle also discusses the cases of Ghandi and Nelson Mandela in great detail.

Here also, then, is a model that suggests at ways to resolve what may be a highly problematical area in each an every birthchart. This may perhaps be an antidote to any tendency to polarise in looking at the functions of the nodes, thereby creating any sense of spiritual one-upmanship on the one hand, or of any sense of shame on the other. In order to work creatively with the nodal axis and each of its components, even where problematical, the North Node may ’need’ the accumulated wisdom of the South Node in order for its potentials to be better realised, whilst the South Node should still, never simply be left to thrash pointlessly around like – well, a headless dragon.

Links to other sites

Dane Rudhyar Archival Project

Here is acknowledgement of the ideas of his I have used here.

Kevin Burk

Thanks, Kevin, for giving me permission to quote you.

Lunar Living, Martha Pottenger

I have not used Martha’s ideas much here, but she has some interesting things to say about projecting either one of the nodes on another in relationships, seesawing between them and resolving these issues. There are some helpful delineations of conjunctions of all the major planets to each node.

Garry Phillipson

Here is his interview with Darrelyn Gunzberg on Skyscript, in which he discusses the Nodes, amongst other things. Thank you, too, Garry, for letting me quote you fully on your views on the Nodes.

Anita Doyle

Here is the link to her take on the Nodal axis, along with her comments not just about Ueshiba, but about Mandela and Gandhi also. Well worth checking out.
2007 Lynda Stevens
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