The Moon’s Nodes, What Do They Mean?

There are some topics in Western Astrology in which there is a widespread consensus. The meaning of the Moon’s Nodes is not one of them. This article will talk about what the Nodes are and discuss various approaches taken by Modern, Classical, and Indian Astrology. Finally, I will talk about the approach that I have developed in my own practice.

What are the Moon’s Nodes?

From the Earth, it looks like the Sun travels through the sky in a circular path which is the same every year. This path is known as the ecliptic. The other planets, including the Moon, all have orbits that vary somewhat from the ecliptic. The Moon’s path varies about 5°. Because the path of the other planets varies from the ecliptic, they all cross the ecliptic twice along their orbit. The places where they cross are known as the planet’s nodes.

Ecliptic

Of the planetary nodes, it is the nodes of the Moon that are of the greatest significance. This is because, from the perspective of the Earth, the apparent size of the Moon is the same as the apparent size of the Sun. Thus, whenever there is a New Moon near one of the Nodes, there is a Solar Eclipse, and whenever there is a Full Moon near one of the Nodes, there is a Lunar Eclipse.

Modern Karmic Interpretation

In recent years, the most commonly used interpretation of the Moon’s Nodes is that they relate to personal karma. In this interpretation, the South Node relates to one’s past lives and the North Node relates to one’s future. A complex version of this method of interpretation is put forth by Steven Forrest in his book, Yesterday’s Sky.  In this method of interpretation, Steven Forrest explains how he uses the South Node’s sign, house position, and ruler as well as the planets that aspect the South Node to tell a story about a person’s past life. He makes no claim that this story represents a factual past life. Instead, he claims that the themes of the story are what is important and that by understanding these themes, one can heal from one’s karma. From this idea, he has developed an entire branch of astrology, known as Evolutionary Astrology.

Not all Modern astrologers go this far, but the use of the South Node to indicate past lives and the North Node to determine one’s future direction has become widespread.

Other Modern Interpretations

While the karmic interpretation of the Nodes seems to be extremely popular in the present day and age, it seems to be a relatively recent one. For example, in an astrology textbook from 1971, The Compleat Astrologer, by Derek and Julia Parker, there was no mention of the karmic interpretation. In this book, the North Node was described as beneficial and having characteristics similar to Jupiter, and the South Node was described as adverse and having characteristics similar to Saturn.

In her book, Classical Astrology for Modern Living, by J. Lee Lehman, Ph.D., Dr. Lehman discusses a Nodal Cycle that seems to have been derived from Dane Rudhyar. This cycle traces the Moon’s path along the ecliptic as it travels across the North Node, reaches her Northernmost point, travels South, crosses the South Node, keeps going until she reaches her Southernmost point, and then travels North again. Dr. Lehman gives complete delineations for each of these stages when they are found in a Nativity Chart.

Classical/Traditional Western Interpretation

There seems to be a fair about of confusion and ambiguity about the meaning of the Nodes in the Western Tradition. In Book 1 of Christian Astrology, William Lilly reports that “the Ancients” considered the North Node, or the Head of the Dragon, to be of the nature of Jupiter and Venus and a Fortune. According to him, the Ancients taught that the North Node was good when conjunct good planets and evil when conjunct evil planets. In contrast, the South Node, or the Tail of the Dragon, is evil when joined with good planets and good when joined with evil planets.

After this description, William Lilly disputes with this interpretation, saying “upon what reason grounded I know not.” He says that he as always found the North Node to be the equivalent of the Fortunes and that:

when joined with the evil Planets to lesson their malevolent signification; when joined with the good to increase the good promised by them. For the Tail of the Dragon, I always in my practise found when he was jointed with the evil Planets; their their malice or the evil intended thereby was doubled and trebled, or extremely augmented.

He then wrote that when the good planets were joined with the South Node the good that was promised by them was disrupted and often came to nothing.

In his book, Hellenistic Astrology, Chris Brennan discusses a variety of approaches to the Nodes taken by astrologers in the Hellenistic Tradition. Some viewed both of them as negative because they were the places that eclipses formed. This was particularly true when either of the luminaries was found with them. The approach of “the Ancients” that William Lilly described seems to have been recorded as far back as Rhetortius of Egypt in the early Sixth or Seventh Century.

Rahu and Ketu in Vedic Astrology

In Vedic Astrology, the North Node is named Rahu and the South Node is named Ketu. Rahu and Ketu are considered planets in their own right. According to myth, the Devas and the Asuras worked together to churn to the ocean to create a substance called Amrit, which was a nectar that would grant immortality.  The Asura stole the Amrit for themselves, but Lord Vishnu took an incarnation as a beautiful woman, Mohini, to distract the Asura and take back the Amrit.

 

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Rahu

Mohini then went to the Devas to distribute it. One of the Asura, named Svarbhanu changed his appearance to obtain some of the Amrit. He sat between the Sun (Surya) and the Moon (Chandra), but they recognized him and exposed him to Lord Vishnu, who severed Svarbhanu’s head. Svarbhanu had already received a drop of the Amrit, and thus, did not die, but remained forever split in two. The head is Rahu and the tail is Ketu. Since that time, they have taken revenge against the Sun and the Moon by swallowing them, but as the Sun and Moon are also immortal, they always emerge intact.

 

 

Ketu_graha
Ketu

 

Rahu is the head and has a mouth with no stomach. This means that Rahu can never be satisfied. Rahu is what we desire but can’t get enough of. In contrast, Ketu represents the things that we have no interest in and that bring us no pleasure.

How I Use the Nodes

Given the diversity of opinions on the Nodes and what they do, as a practicing astrologer, if one is to use them, one must work out what to do with them. For myself, the one thing that is clear about the Nodes is that they are the places where eclipses form.

Metaphysically, eclipses are the temporary triumph of Darkness over Light. As such, I view both of the Nodes as malefic influences. In a birth chart, if a person’s Sun is within 16° of either Node, that person was born during an Eclipse Season. The person is also likely to experience one or more eclipses by secondary progression in their lifetime.

In my own research, I have noticed that people who were born into eclipse seasons tend to be heavily impacted by larger social events or movements on a personal level. This impact is not always traumatic, but it often is. If they were born between eclipses, this impact will influence their entire life, but its power will dissipate somewhat when they progress into an un-eclipsed Lunation (New or Full Moon). The direct effect will largely subside at the first uneclipsed New Moon, although they will still bear the scars. If a person progresses into an Eclipse season, the impact will begin at that time rather than at birth.

For those who were not born during or progress into an Eclipse season, I treat the Nodes as collective karma rather than as individual karma. I look at their position in the chart and their interaction with other planets to determine where and how collective karma impacts the native.

In addition, I have considered integrating the principles of Rahu and Ketu, and I have seen some positive results in my initial research. On the other hand, I am a little dubious of “mixing and matching” principles in this way.

Can Eclipses Bring Good Things?

When reading the article on my astrology site regarding the Lunar Eclipse of January 21, 2019, a friend of mine noticed that I suggested that the launching of the modern Olympic Games was related to the Saros Series that this past Lunar Eclipse belongs to. In response to that, my friend asked me whether eclipses could bring good things?

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That is a really interesting question, I think. In my research, many inventions seem to have been related to eclipses, as was Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the Americas. This would seem to be problematic to my assertion that eclipses represent periodic, temporary triumphs of Dark over Light. Or is it?

It would take a wiser person than I to have anything that resembles a full and complete answer to this question, but I do have some thoughts on the matter. To start with, I think that it is undeniable that eclipses can bring things that are beneficial to some people. For example, I live in the United States, and I would not be living here if the discovery of the Americas did not happen. On the other hand, this discovery was not beneficial for everyone, and indeed, it was quite harmful to the original inhabitants of this continent.

In order to unravel this mystery, it may be helpful to look at the Symbol of the Cross and our nature as Axial Beings.

The Symbol of the Cross

The CrossI have discussed the Symbol of the Cross before, but here is a brief overview. The Cross relates to the material world. It has two axes, the horizontal and vertical. The horizontal axis relates to pure materiality, and the vertical axis relates to spirituality. Even though they cross in the middle, these two axes are independent of each other. One can do very well on the material axis while falling into Darkness on the spiritual axis. In the Christian written tradition, Jesus is reported to say, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24, NRSV. Likewise, it is possible for someone to do poorly on the material axis while rising towards the Light on the spiritual axis. Indeed, in the same Christian tradition, this was the fate of the saints and martyrs.

Inventions and discoveries often give us a more comfortable life on the material level. In this sense, they are good and beneficial. On the other hand, they are usually neutral and can even be harmful to us on a spiritual level. In many cases, inventions are necessary due to the fact that we have declined on both a material and a spiritual level. See also The Bugbear of Literacy by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy.

So, in effect, there is no reason why there should not be things that are beneficial on a material level associated with eclipses. I would say that even so, there is a good chance for there to be an element of Darkness involved as well. That is certainly the case with the discovery of the Americas, and it could be argued that there has been some Darkness surrounding the Olympics from time to time in its history. I will address the Olympics in more detail later, but before I do, I would like to discuss another element of discoveries related to eclipses.

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Eclipses and the Modern Scientific Worldview

Not only have there been many discoveries that have been astrologically associated with eclipses, but eclipses themselves have led to direct discoveries about the Universe, or at least the mechanical workings of it. While these discoveries are interesting and even useful, they have also prompted the current belief system of the modern Western scientific community. This belief system appears to be that the Cosmos is merely a mechanical place governed by chance and random events. In this belief system, an eclipse is merely a shadow.

Yet, in spite of this, or perhaps because of it, there is almost a religious fervor to encourage people to go out and watch eclipses. In a sense, viewing an eclipse seems to be almost of the nature of a religious test to prove that one is not bound by the “superstitions” of the past. In this respect, I do believe that the modern embrace of eclipses is an intentional movement into Darkness, even though there have been technological advancements associated with it.

Our Nature As Axial Beings

This being said, I think there something different going on in the case of the Olympics. Yes, there have been negative things associated with the Olympics including violence and countries using them for political purposes in terms of boycotts and the like. On the other hand, I do believe that the modern Olympics is a positive development not just on the material level, but a movement towards the Light on a spiritual level. Indeed, even the negative things that have happened may have prevented wars and more serious problems as countries could take their aggression out on the Olympics instead.

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Yet, it does appear that they are related to eclipses. There was a Total Lunar Eclipse that occurred on November 4, 1892. Later that month, on November 23, 1892, Pierre de Coubertin launched the plans for the modern Olympic Games. This eclipse was 44 minutes long, and if you count a month for every minute of totality, this would mean that the full impact of this eclipse would not be felt for another three years and four months. This would be the end of March and early April 1896. This was the beginning of the first modern Olympics in Athens.

So, what is going on?

I think this has to do with our nature as Axial Beings. Humans are the ones with the power to choose. Even if Darkness is present, we have the choice to embrace it or reject it. From my research, one of the features of eclipses is that they seem to be times when our Axial nature is tested. There are many repentance stories surrounding eclipses. One of them was the Eclipse of Thales that stopped a war according to Herodotus. There was a long-standing war between the Medes and the Lydians. There was a Solar Eclipse that occurred during the battle, which caused the parties to stop fighting and negotiate a peace.

Perhaps the launching of the modern Olympic Games is of this nature.

Implications

So, what does this mean?

In Modern Astrology, often eclipses are presented as times of opportunity and spiritual growth. It would seem that this might be the case from what I have said.

Yet, I think this goes too far.

Of course, whenever we have a crisis, there is an opportunity for growth. When there is a death in the family, when we have a tragedy, or when we face a serious illness, it is common for people to view these as turning points in their lives. They can even be the catalyst for deep spiritual awakening. Does that mean we should embrace these times? There is the old saying, “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”

This leads to the deeper question of what is the point of suffering, which is a subject that has confounded spiritual leaders and theologians for millennia.

I cannot claim to have the answer to this question; however, I think that the best practice is still to avoid eclipses as much as possible. Yes, it seems like it is possible that good things can come from eclipses, but it is not something to expect or hope for. Just as we might experience spiritual growth from a tragedy, we would not willingly embrace such a tragedy to obtain this growth. In the same way, it seems like a bad idea to embrace eclipses.

About Eclipses

As we are in the middle of eclipse season, it seemed to be a good time to talk about eclipses.  Eclipse seasons are the 36-day periods of time in which eclipses can occur.  Generally, each year has two eclipse seasons, with at least one solar and one lunar eclipse within a few weeks of each other.  Physically, these are the new and full moons which occur near the North and South Nodes, or the head and tail of the dragon.  Metaphysically, the lunar light blocks the solar, and as the lunar is dependent upon the solar, her own light becomes blocked as well.

With this understanding, it is easy to see why eclipses have been traditionally seen as evil omens.  Modern Western rationalist scholarship teaches that this view is based on a naive superstition that the sun (or moon) would never return.  Given the incredible detail in which the Ancients charted the heavens, including the timing of eclipses, this view strains credulity.

In addition to coming in pairs (or trios), each eclipse is part of a larger family of eclipses, known as a Saros Series.  Saros Series are 12 to 15 centuries long, with an eclipse from the Series touching down approximately every 18 years.  While Solar and Lunar Eclipses each have their own Saros Series, they come in pairs (or trios) that touch down together.

The most recent Solar Eclipse which occurred shortly before the Vernal Equinox is from Saros Series 120, which was born on May 27, 933 AD, and which will have its last eclipse on July 7, 2195.  The paired Lunar Eclipse, which will occur on April 4, 2015, is from Saros Series 132, which was born on May 12, 1492, and which will have its last eclipse on June 26, 2754.  As you can see, the Solar Saros Series is older than the Lunar Saros Series.  Prior the birth of the younger Lunar 132, Solar Saros 120 was paired with Lunar Saros 94, which was born on May 9, 320 and had its last eclipse on June 6, 1582.

When one Saros Series is in its last eclipses, a new Saros Series is born to replace it.  When there are three eclipses in a season, one of the Saros Series is elderly, the Saros Series of the other luminary is in its prime, and the third Saros Series is in its infancy.

Queen-Isabella-and-Christopher-ColumbusFor astrologers who study Mundane Astrology, or the astrology of world events, each Saros Series can be linked to historical themes with long pedigrees.  Those familiar with U.S. history will likely recognize the year of the birth of the current Lunar Saros Series, 1492.  Interestingly enough, it was during the eclipse season that Christopher Columbus signed the contract with Spain and was given the commission to equip his fleet.  This was the expedition that led him to “discover” the Americas.  That season began with an eclipse from Lunar Saros 94 on April 12, 1492.  Next, on April 26, 1492, there was a Solar Eclipse from Saros 120.  The season ended with the first eclipse from Lunar Saros 132 on May 12, 1492.

On April 17, 1492, Christopher Columbus signed the contract with Spain to search for the Indies, and on April 30, 1492, he is given his commission to equip the royal fleet.  Also on April 30, Spain announced that it was expelling all Jewish people from the country.

The second eclipse season from that same year occurred between October 5, 1492, with Lunar Saros 99 and October 21, 1492 with Solar Saros 125.  It was during this period of time, Mr. Columbus “discovered” several places in the Americas.

A detailed analysis of the meaning of these events is beyond the scope of this article, but I think that it is safe to say that despite apparent material benefits, there was also Darkness surrounding these events.  One can not scratch the surface of historical records of subsequent events without uncovering horrors and cruelty.  On the other hand, I think that it is a good illustration of the effect of eclipses in general.  On a material level, what will actually happen during an Eclipse season can be complicated, and might even seem fortunate.  On the other hand, it will be laced with Darkness and poison, which may or may not be immediately apparent.

The good news is that from eclipse lore throughout the world, the effects of an eclipse can be avoided if proper precautions are taken.  Indeed, one of traditional duties of astrologers was to predict the timing of eclipses so that these precautions could be taken.  These precautions included staying indoors, fasting, covering wells, and most of all, avoiding viewing eclipses.  Today, eclipses are announced and filmed for people to watch over the Internet.  This seems particularly risky on a soul level.

The current eclipse season in quite interesting in its timing.  The Solar Eclipse occurred just before the Spring Equinox.  For Filianists, it occurred on the day in which Hiatus is observed.  A detailed article about the Solar Eclipse and Hiatus observance can be found here.  In short, for Filianists, Hiatus the day (or days) that ritually do not exist, and which has the same ritual symbolism as an Eclipse.

Physically, the Solar Eclipse occurred at 29 degrees of Pisces, rather than 0 degrees of Aries.  This is very important.  A Solar Eclipse at 0 degrees Aries, which is the beginning of the astrological new year, would have been particularly ominous, I think.  At 29 degrees, it still occurred during the old astrological year, and at the very end of the year at that, giving it much less impact.

Also interesting is that the paired Lunar Eclipse will occur on April 4, 2015, which for Western Christians is Holy Saturday, the day in between Good Friday and Easter, which also has the same ritual symbolism of an Eclipse.

In the modern world, it may seem difficult to protect ourselves from the effects of eclipses.  World events intrude upon our lives whether we want them or not.  Still, I think it is possible to take some basic precautions.  First and foremost, it is wise to avoid viewing eclipses at all, whether physically or on the internet.  Ritual warding and expelling of evil according to one’s tradition is also a good idea.  Also, it is good to be careful of any “opportunities” that present themselves during an eclipse season.  Even if they seem fortunate, they may be quite costly on a soul level.  Additionally, it is wise to back off from any conflict during this time, as it may be being fueled by the storm of eclipse season.  In general, it seems best to avoid anything during this season that can wait until the season is over.

See also:

Eclipses – What Are They?

Lunar Eclipse of 7/27/2018

Eclipse Seasons and Saros Cycles, The Solar Eclipse of August 11, 2018