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.

 

Rahu_graha
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.

Evolutionary Astrology, Thoughts and Musings

Evolutionary Astrology is a relatively new branch of astrology. This branch seems to claim to be able to trace the soul’s journey from incarnation to incarnation and to determine what a soul is trying to accomplish in this lifetime. This branch also claims to be an astrology about freedom and choice. As a caveat to this article, I have not studied Evolutionary Astrology in depth. My knowledge is based on the introductory materials that can be found on the internet. For this reason, I might be misunderstanding key concepts. My musings are from the perspective of an outside observer only.

Even though I use mostly Classical Western methods, there are things I do find interesting about Evolutionary Astrology, and in many ways, I want to like it. One of the main schools in this branch is led by Steven Forrest. When I was studying astrology in my teens, Steven Forrest’s books, The Inner Sky and The Changing Sky, were some of the mainstays of my self-education. I really like his approach to astrology and his gentle wisdom and humor.

I also like the use of astrology as a tool to aid one’s spiritual journey in this life. I disagree with the methodology of Evolutionary Astrology to the extent that I understand it, but I largely agree with many (but not all) of the core perceptions as outlined on Steven Forrest’s site. While I do really want to like it, there are some things I just can not get past.

Stairway

Is Evolutionary Astrology Just Another Astrological Language?

Before I continue, there is the question of whether Evolutionary Astrology is simply a new astrological language. If that is the case, as a non-speaker of that language, I really do not have any business commenting at all. It is tempting to go that route. After all, it seems best when we can all just get along.

I think, though, that Evolutionary Astrology really is more than just a different language. By its very nature, it is not just talking about the physical world or people’s inner psychological workings. It is talking about the soul and matters that touch upon Fundamental Truth.

One of the other main founders of Evolutionary Astrology, Jeff Wolf Green, says that he received the basic tenets of this branch from a dream. This is an example of revealed knowledge, further evidence that we are looking at claims concerning Fundamental Truth. This means that this is not just a new astrological language, but a philosophy, and perhaps a religion.

I accept as a given that as beings in an unEnlightened state, our ability to understand Fundamental Truth is limited. Different religions tell different narratives to describe Truth, but none of these narratives are Truth itself. This does not mean that knowledge of these matters is merely a matter of perception and opinion, though. When looking at matters of Fundamental Truth, there are ideas that are in error. Thus, I am examining the philosophy behind Evolutionary Astrology, as I understand it, from a Traditional perspective.

The Name, Evolutionary Astrology

The first difficulty I have is the name itself. From a Traditional perspective, the direction of manifestation is decline, not progress. The word, evolution, means moving away from the Center. The main philosophy behind Evolutionary Astrology is that our souls incarnate from lifetime to lifetime and that the birthchart can tell the “evolutionary condition” at the state of birth.

I do believe in reincarnation, or transmigration of souls, but my belief is closer to the Vedic and Buddhist traditions, in which this transmigration is part of the Wheel of Samsara. The ultimate goal of our souls is not to “evolve” on this wheel, but to escape it. Now, of course, it could be that the name of this branch of astrology does not really encompass a belief that our souls are progressing through evolution, but merely addresses why we are still on the Wheel of Samsara. I do not know enough about it to be sure. On the other hand, the Vedic tradition of astrology, which does address matters of Samsara, has been around a long time and is deeply rooted in an unbroken line between guru and student. Is a modern, Western branch of astrology that does the same thing necessary?  That is really a question, by the way. I do not know the answer.

Pluto

pluto-2677026_640My biggest fundamental difficulty with Evolutionary Astrology comes from the heavy use of the dwarf planet, Pluto. Evolutionary Astrology claims that the sign and house position of Pluto is fundamental to understanding the soul’s purpose in this life.

This claim is going beyond saying the Pluto has an impact on our lives, which I think is possible. It is even going beyond giving Pluto rulership of the sign, Scorpio, which I think is false and a disruption of the entire system. This seems to be going so far as to elevate Pluto above the level of the Traditional planets on a spiritual level.  Indeed, one of the current schools of Evolutionary Astrology is called “The Pluto School.”

This elevation is not just a matter of technique by which reasonable astrologers might disagree. This is stating something about the nature of Fundamental Truth, and as such, needs to be carefully examined. I have come to see Pluto as representative of the poison of deformation or inversion of right and wrong, so this elevation of Pluto seems particularly troublesome to me.

Another difficulty is that Pluto was not discovered until 1930. Does that mean that we did not have access to information about the state of our souls until that time? This, more than anything, would seem to be a fatal flaw in the system.

On the other hand, according to Platonic and Eastern Traditions, we are currently in the late Iron Age, or Kali Yuga. This is the end of a larger cycle, and our souls could very well be using this lifetime to clean up old werde or karma before the next Golden Age begins. As such, we may need to deal with unsavory elements from our past lives, I do not know. If that were the case, perhaps we did not need to look at Plutonian issues until recently.

Still, from what I have seen, Evolutionary Astrology goes into areas of much complexity, and I wonder how useful and necessary this really is. Indeed, my own feeling is that being in the late Iron Age is all the more reason not to delve into such deep and dark complex matters.

In my own spiritual tradition, we are taught to turn away from these sorts of complexities as much as we can. In the Cry Marya, from the Gospel of Our Mother God, it is written, “All the complexities of the world are but the turnings of a labyrinth, and at the centre is the fiery rose-heart of our Mother, burning with perfect love.” We are taught that in this late Age, all that is required of us is to turn to Our Mother like humble, small children. We are assured that She will make up for any deficiencies in our devotion.

Tangled Tree

Fate and Free Will

Another difficulty I have with Evolutionary Astrology is what seems to be a rather extreme position on the question of fate and free will. One of the core perceptions of Evolutionary Astrology as outlined on Steven Forrest’s site is: “An acceptance of the fact that human beings are responsible for the realities they experience, both internally and externally.”

I am a strong believer in Free Will, and I have a lot of difficulty with Traditional/Classical Astrologers who take a mechanical and fatalistic approach to our craft. On the other hand, I do not believe that Free Will necessarily means the freedom of agency with respect to our material existence. If that were the case, it would seem to lead to some rather harsh results.

For example, what about children who are born into horribly abusive households or into extreme poverty? Are they responsible for their plight? In some traditions, including the Vedic one, the answer might be yes, because of misdeeds from a previous life. In the Buddhist tradition, all of life is suffering, and these situations just represent more obvious forms.

The problem of human suffering is particularly difficult for monotheistic faiths. Indeed, there is the old monotheistic paradox that if God were all-powerful, God can not be good, and if God were good, God can not be all-powerful. The issue of suffering is directly addressed in the Judeo-Christian written tradition in the Book of Job. There is also the famous question in the Christian tradition from the Gospel According to John, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:2 NRSV

In the Filianic tradition, suffering is part of the necessary imperfection of manifestation, and it is beyond our power to fully comprehend from an unEnlightened state. We do not always have freedom of action or agency on the material plane. We do, however, have absolute Free Will in whether to turn to the Light or to the Dark, regardless of our material circumstances. This may or may not change anything in the physical world, but our choices will have a direct and clear impact on our souls.

On a material level, there are areas we have choice and areas we do not. I think it unnecessarily harsh to say that we are responsible for everything we experience.

The Moon’s Nodes

In Evolutionary Astrology, the Moon’s Nodes represent the life path of the native. The South Node represents where we are coming from and the North Node represents where we are going.

In Classical/Traditional Astrology, there is no consensus as to the meaning of the Nodes. In Vedic Astrology, the Nodes are the Head and Tail of the Dragon, Rahu and Ketu, respectively. Both are considered malefic.

In my own practice, I have not seen an appreciable difference between the North and South Nodes, and I tend to view both as malefic. They are the places that eclipses form. I see eclipses as waves of darkness over the world soul. I do believe they have a karmic influence, but not necessarily on the level of individual souls. I think they represent collective karma, and the place they touch our charts is where our individual souls connect with or are impacted by the world soul. I think this is particularly true for those born during or whose charts progress into eclipse seasons. This is not a Traditional approach, but one that I developed in my own experience and practice.

Conclusion

There are things that I like about Evolutionary Astrology, in particular, the practice of using astrology to assist with the development of the soul. It seems to be a popular branch of astrology in this day and age, and I can see how it can be helpful to people. On the other hand, I find some of the techniques and practices problematic, especially the elevation of Pluto and what seems to be an extreme position on the question of Fate and Free Will. These techniques and practices raise important issues with respect to the philosophy of astrology and delve into matters that relate to Fundamental Truth.