I practice astrology with the operative belief that the soul travels through many incarnations, and that its unfinished business is the substrate upon which the life story grows, develops and takes shape. But to find spiritual wholeness, that old framework needs to be healed, corrected, balanced or moved beyond. We have no memory, or even awareness, of this need on a conscious level, but the unconscious remembers. And it continues to operate behind the scenes unless we take steps to understand it. This story is embedded archetypally in the natal chart, woven into all of your unique planetary configurations. But it is transmitted primarily through the mystical dance between the Sun and the Moon in the year of your birth, represented in the chart by two points that are not planets or stars, but that tell more about your karmic lessons than almost anything else: the lunar nodes.
The north and south nodes of the moon are astronomical points that tell us when solar and lunar eclipses will take place in a given year. Eclipses are another story for another day, but they have long been associated mythologically with dragons, the north node also being known as the Dragon’s Head, and the south node, the Dragon’s Tail. The nodes always fall within an axis of a pair of signs, and every 1.5 years (plus some change), they move backward through the zodiac, taking 18.6 years to complete a full cycle. In the chart, the north node is symbolized by a horseshoe-shaped glyph with loops on both ends. The south node is the same, but points downward.
Astrological opinions differ widely on the interpretation of the nodes, but the evolutionary model is the one I use and is as follows. The sign and house placement of the south node in your birth chart are the starting points for painting the karmic picture. Your south node describes a habitual circumstance, mindset or pattern that informs your perception and expectations of life. It has either gone wrong before, or become worn out. It can keep us stuck or get us into trouble. The north node, then, is the spiritual antidote, the experience that is needed, to break out of the old mode, though it may feel unfamiliar and take more conscious work to integrate. Getting to know your nodal story means getting to know your particular dragon: finding it, facing it, and, for some, slaying it; for others, learning to coexist peacefully with it. Dragon work requires deep introspection, self-awareness, non-judgment, patience, guidance, and readiness.
The nodes have been traveling through Cancer and Capricorn since November 2018, and will move into Gemini and Sagittarius on May 5, ushering in a whole new set of lessons for us to integrate on both a personal and collective level. I’ll take a closer look at what those themes might look like in my next post. If, after reading this, you are interested in uncovering the nodal story in your birth chart, send me a message to set up a consultation. While the world waits in limbo, there is rich and fertile psychic soil to be tilled.
Today is May Day, or the cross-quarter holiday of Beltane, marking the halfway point between the Spring equinox and the Summer solstice. Beltane is a lusty celebration of life force and fertility, symbolized by fire, flowers and sex. The May Queen is betrothed to the Oak King, as they enact the age-old relationship of man to the sacred land. First, we cleanse and purify; then, we join together and unite.
There will be no bonfires or Maypole dances or woodland trysts taking place this year, sadly, but the space weather still conjures up a fitting image for our imagination. The first quarter moon is in fiery Leo, soon to be waxing gibbous. Opposite is Mars in trine to Venus: I see flower children and free love, the crown and the sword, the wreath and the maypole…you get the picture. The Sun in Taurus is running the cattle through the smoke. The Oak King (Jupiter) usurps the Holly King (Saturn) and wins the hand of the May Queen (Venus + Vesta) across the skies in Gemini. Fire, earth and air all represented.
In the natal chart, Beltane corresponds to the waxing gibbous moon phase. People born under this moon embody the Lover and the Helper archetypes. They are here to here to learn compromise, co-creation, the social life and the intimate relationship.
Each of us holds a ribbon, as we dance around the axis mundi. We begin in separation but soon, we are united in a beautiful inter-woven pattern of life and human connection. In the spirit of May Day, what can you pledge yourself to at this time? How can you unite in mind and heart, if not body, with another? What idea can be created or consummated? And in what direction is your life force pointing you?
What feeds you? What nourishes both your body and your spirit? The placement of the Moon in your birth chart will tell you the story. Observation of the actual Moon itself can help us feel into its astrological symbolism. If the Sun in the chart represents our eternal self, then the Moon is our human self. As the Earth’s own personal satellite, it is the thing that describes our experience of being bound to the worldly plane, with a body and a family and a lineage, a relationship to the land and a need for survival. Though we call it a luminary, the Moon has no light of its own, only reflecting the light of the Sun. Thus, the Moon tells us of the experiential nature of our lives, and how our environment shapes who we are. Because of its relationship to the Sun, from our point of view, the Moon is constantly in flux, waxing and waning as it goes through its cycle. We, too, are subject to the fluctuations of moods and emotions, as we can’t help but react and respond to the cycles, events and people in our lives.
In modern Western astrology, the natal moon sign describes our inner landscape, which is really how we perceive the world outside ourselves. It describes our emotional nature, our instinctual self. It is our subjectivity and our sensitivity. Also what we need to feel safe and protected. Moon in Sagittarius? Maybe that’s freedom. A sense of meaning and purpose to everything. Moon in Capricorn? Looks more like structure, material possessions and clear boundaries. The Moon feels most at home in Cancer and Taurus. Were you born at night? You may identify with your Moon sign more than your Sun sign. What phase of the Moon were you born under? That informs the personality as well.
The Moon also symbolizes the Mother archetype in your life. How do you perceive your own mother? What is the story of motherhood that runs through your blood and your psyche, apart from the woman that gave birth to you? These can be very complex questions to answer, and understanding the Moon in your chart means recognizing the ways in which our mothers carry our projections. As our very first mirrors and containers in life, we imprint ourselves on them as they do on us. We don’t really know what causes labor to begin, but we do know it is instigated by the baby. In some mystical sense, we “know” when it is time to be born. The Moon in your birth chart not only describes your experience of Mother, but also your mother’s experience of childbirth. The same is true for her mother, and her mother before her. There is an umbilical link and an ancient reverberation at work in our Moons.
The Moon, like childbirth, is both mysterious and mundane. It is as predictable and familiar as it is awe-inspiring and powerful. Astrologically, it is a reminder that we are part of the terrestrial story; that we are a part of nature, made of the same matter as everything else and subject to the same forces. But it also contains the story of the divine mystery of life on earth, encoded and remembered in our matrilineal DNA going back to our ur-mothers in the beginning of time. She goes by many names—Artemis, Selene, Hecate are some—but she is universally revered: the goddess that mirrors our cycles and presides over our lives, from birth until death.