Revisiting the Lunar Nodes

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Jim Eshelman
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Revisiting the Lunar Nodes

Post by Jim Eshelman » Sun Mar 24, 2019 1:31 pm

I had an insight this week that led me to reconsider more or less everything about Moon's nodes. Please understand that most of this is a thought exercise at the moment, and that everything I write below is speculative unless I specifically state that there is observation to back it.

First, a review of where I see things thus far: For decades I've had an ambivalent relationship with Moon's nodes (hereafter, "the nodes"). I've seen enough to suggest that they are significant, and little enough that I've left them out of charts most of the time because they seem at best weak, inconsistent, rarely if ever giving me any new information that isn't already present in the chart. At worst, their effect might be illusory, given how faint it seems, although I'm inclined to think there is at least a mild relevance. Of all the perspectives suggested on it, I've had the greatest confidence in the German schools' treatment of it as "association" or "connection." The word node literally means "knot," so its simplest homonym is "ties." (Witte interpreted it s "unions, connection, junction, communication; limit, boundary, or border relations." Ebertin gave it's principle as "association or alliance.")

Such "ties" are, per se, utterly neutral. There seems no emotion in it. For example, they should not be interpreted as affection unless with Venus, etc. Such is the "past" (the persistent principles) with which I'm starting this inquiry.


Here is the seed of the new inquiry or way of seeing the nodes: Moon's nodes aren't planets. (That's not new.) As we've always known, they are the points where Moon's orbital plane (orbit around Earth) intersects the ecliptic (the plane of Earth's orbit about Sun). In other words, they are the points on the celestial sphere marking the intersection of two great circles, Moon's orbital and the ecliptic. Why have these historically been treated as if they are planets? We have familiar examples of other known-valid astrological factors that also are the intersections of the ecliptic with some other great circle - specifically, the angles of the horoscope - we don't treat these as planets (though the typical Tropical astrologer usually does). On theoretical consideration, the nodes are akin to Ascendant-Descendant (points where the ecliptic intersects the horizon), the MC-IC (points where the ecliptic intersects the meridian) and Vertex-Antivertex (points where the ecliptic intersects the prime vertical).

By this, I do not mean that the nodes are another set of angles, merely that their behavior likely follows the same mathematical model. The most important (theoretical) consequence of this would be that the nodes neither make nor receive aspects.

That's huge! Primarily (given our practice) it would mean that trines and sextiles to the nodes don't exist. I've been comfortable accepting that my partile Saturn sextile to the North Node means I lean more toward loner than connector, and my slightly wider Mercury sextile to mean that I have primarily intellectual associations; but neither of these is needed to support those traits in my chart. There are plenty of "loner" indicators and, as a Virgo-Aquarius, it's natural for me to have primarily intellectual associations.

With the angles, the conjunction and opposition to Asc, MC, and Vertex are the intersections of their respective planes with the ecliptic. Squares to these are other angles, e.g., the ecliptical squares to Asc are the longitudes of Zenith and Nadir. Similarly, while the always-opposed North and South Nodes are the conjunction and opposition (and the points where Moon's orbit crosses the ecliptic), the squares to the nodes are the places where Moon is at her greatest latitude off the ecliptic; that is, they are significant astronomical points on their own, the equivalent of the solstices where Moon is "turning" (literally, "standing") in its orbit. (I suppose we would call the lunstices instead of "solstices.")

German (Uranian & Cosmobiologist) astrologers, who rely almost entirely on hard aspects, might not have noticed this distinction, although they use semi-squares and sesqui-squares as well. Most Sidereal astrologers have probably relied so strongly on conjunctions, oppositions, and squares that they wouldn't have encountered the anomaly of trines and sextiles.

If this perspective is true and relevant, then it significantly simplifies practical use of the nodes while changing the way of thinking about them. If it rules out inconsequential aspects that are of no value, then it eliminates "statistical noise" that contributes to observations sometimes seeming more impressive than others. This makes way for looking at all the data on these nodes anew, with fresh eyes.

Also, as with the angles, this makes allowances for the nodal axis (both ends) to have a single meaning (in the same way that the whole meridian is identity and the whole horizon relationship) and yet for the opposite ends to have (less important but still distinctive) distinguished meanings (as MC and IC split identity etc. into public and private, or Asc and Dsc split relationship into self and other components). Regarding the nodal axis as aspectable has made it seem less likely that North vs. South distinctions exist, but most astrological skills give the two nodes separate meanings. This new perspective resets the question of whether such North vs. South distinctions actually exist, even if (like Asc vs. Dsc) they are lesser distinctions that are minor compared to the basic relationship to the axis alone.


It still leaves open the question of what they mean astrologically. I was quite happy to start with the idea of "ties" and run with it but, being an evidence-based astrologer, of course I wanted to go look at examples. So far, the examples aren't too helpful or encouraging, and, in particular, are not encouraging me in the idea of "ties" (or even the more common modern Eastern and Western (Tropical) distinctions of destiny elements). In the next post I'll summarize the brief looking I've done so far.
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Re: Revisiting the Lunar Nodes

Post by Jim Eshelman » Sun Mar 24, 2019 2:29 pm

Since I started looking at this afresh over the last couple of days, if I start with the idea that I don't know what the nodes mean, the data does not itself give me any clear idea. If I start with the idea that they mean "connection, association, ties," the evidence I've seen so far doesn't particularly support it.

I started by looking at people I personally know who have a particular planet conjunct one or the other node (looking at them separately). No matter what planet I tried, there wasn't an obvious commonality (even in very general terms) among the people with the contact. I mean things like look at people with Saturn conjunct NN vs. Saturn conjunct SN vs. Jupiter conjunct NN vs. Jupiter conjunct SN; repeat for Venus and Mars, repeat for the luminaries, repeat for the three outer planets. None of the groups disclosed an obvious commonality among the people listed. This is unusual in an aspect study of people I know well. For instance, if I pull up everyone I know with close hard aspects between Mercury-Uranus, or Moon-Mars, or Venus-Jupiter commonalities leap off the list of names. Not so with any of these node links.

The most likely meaning of this is (1) there is no meaning to nodes conjunct planets or (2) the meaning of these contacts is not in any category presently in my mind, so I'm missing it altogether. There could be other explanations, but these seem the most likely.

For example, the people I know personally with Sun conjunct North Node are neither more nor less "connectors" than the average group of people I know. A few are... and a few are virtually loaners. Same with Sun on South Node. Jupiter-Node contacts are no better relaters or socially connected than Saturn-Node contacts. Furthermore, none of these groups has other traits in common (within the group) that I can discern. This is discouraging.

There might be a tendency (similar to the way most Western astrologers characterize the nodes) for North Node contacts to be healthier and easier than South Node contacts. This might be present, or I might be over-reading the data, though it seemed to be there for several planets' contacts with the nodes. Even then, most of the North Node lists, aside from whatever "easier, better adjusted" was there, would have a streak of a few people pointedly social outsiders. This could, of course, be a bias in the people I know best.

So, one possibility is that there really is nothing here at all. However, I'm holding off on that conclusion pending the opportunity to look harder.


Another area I checked was in synastry. Especially with the "ties" interpretation (and even with the Eastern-favored "karmic" interpretations), one would expect the nodes to be very active in synastry. On theory, I've always accepted this was probably so and an area where they should be used more consistently. However, comparing my chart to the charts of every significant woman with whom I've had an emotionally or physically intimate relationship, I couldn't find it. I was shocked how few had close conjunctions, oppositions, or squares to my nodes. When they were there, they were distributed pretty evenly between the more important and less important relationships. Almost none were partile, and most tended to fall on the outskirts of the 3° orb I allowed and to not be particularly descriptive of the relationship. Similarly, their nodes rarely hit my planets, and the two who had the nodes on my Venus-Pluto were one utterly minor contact and one relationship that came and went in a few months. (Sure, the Pluto could have been involved in that; but so should the Venus. It's not unusual for me to find other planets interchanging with my Venus-Pluto in the same group of women.)

So that was a discouraging surprise.


Finally, I checked transits to my chart. This one was quite interesting as well, though it didn't produce anything that seemed useful.

First, I checked transiting conjunctions or oppositions to my nodes. All three outer planets have crossed my North Node in my life, and Saturn has made several crossings of both nodes.

If I were to give any affirmative meaning to the nodes from this it would be that they marked times when something hidden, not yet ready to emerge was cooking. This might, of course, be an excuse my brain is generating in response to "nothing happened at the time" but, just to play with it for a moment, I should at least describe some of the examples.

Transiting Pluto crossed my North Node in 2013. I spent that year writing my last published work to date, Pearls of Wisdom, which synthesized about 20 years of work. That would have been a fine event to center on if any of the other transits to the nodes had any similar themes, but they didn't. On the issue of relationships and (a factor deemed important in most Eastern and Western treatments of the nodes) its position in my 4th house, this would have been an extraordinary hit if it occurred a year and a half later, when my long-term companion's children interrupted our decades-long relationship and sold the house (that had been my primary adult home), permanently displacing me. That would have fit Pluto conjunct "ties" North Node, especially in the 4th house, quite nicely! But that was still a fair bit in the future when Pluto actually crossed my node. However, the crossing was during the time they were making legal arrangements to take control of her property and decisions, which eventually resulted in the above events, hence the "behind the scenes" theme. Just thinking aloud...

There were several like this, with something happening unknown to me at the time that eventuated, some time later, in an appropriate event. As already mentioned, this might be a legitimate them or might be an excuse for, "No, nothing happened."

Here is a really strange one - totally ill-fitting. Neptune crossed my North Node five times between spring 1988 and fall 1989. During this time, Anna-Kria and I were creating and launching the largest continuing venture of my life, Temple of Thelema, publicly launched in March 1989. Right in the middle of this, transiting Saturn conjoined my North node, too - exact in February and July. This means that when launching the largest and arguably most important venture of my life - and, at that, an association or group-training system - Saturn and Neptune were conjoined on my North Node. If the nodes mean "ties," one would expect benefics or luminaries to trigger them, or anything at all except a pair of alembics. There might be other explanations or points of view but, looked at most simply, it's surely the worst imaginable combination to call a successful hit. (If I stretch it, I can suggest that others - in another group in which I had high office at the time - might have considered I was betraying them, though I was maintaining integrity on all relationships. I can certainly say that it wasn't true of any objective event at the time or the feeling at the time.)

The Saturn transits to my nodes had some interesting "departure" points. In summer of 1974 when it crossed my South Node, Janee and I decided I wasn't going back to school in the fall and we started planning (notice planning: not acting while the aspect was there) to move to Indianapolis for different work opportunities. A couple more are like that.

Then I looked at transiting Node conjunctions with my natal planets. (I didn't notice until I ran the list that today is the exact day that transiting South Node conjoins my Mars.) The main thing to report is that not only did none of these transits hit any major life events (for the nodes' speed, it would have been fine if they'd been within a month of a major event, usually). In fact, reading down the list and thinking about the next big life event coming up chronologically, it was as if the node "jumped over" all the big events, leaving generous room of several months on either side. It was so consistent that if one were trying to find a common denominator of Node transits, it might have been "suppresses big events from happening."

There was one hit, actually: transiting Saturn crossed my 10th house South Node within a few days of my intentionally losing an important election to a significant office.

In any case, that's where this has taken me to date. I consider this the start of a new inquiry, not any sort of final conclusion.
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Re: Revisiting the Lunar Nodes

Post by Jupiter Sets at Dawn » Sun Mar 24, 2019 3:10 pm

A node is an intersection, not a "knot" or a "tie." It's a place on a stretched vibrating string that divides the string into parts, each vibrating at it's own, but related rate. As part of the "music of the spheres" the places where the Moon crosses the ecliptic were designated "nodes." It's a crossing, not a knot. A cross roads. With all the meaning that can convey, but it's not astrological.

The places where the Moon is at it's greatest declination are called Standstills. They are exactly analog to Solstices (Sol=Sun and stitium = stop) and feature in ancient scared places in the same way the solstices do.

The Moon's nodes have the same kind of meaning as the Sun's equinoxes, because they are the same kind of thing. So, if the Equinoxes mean something special so do the nodes. If not, then nope.

This to me shows how Seasonal, AKA Tropical (from the Tropics or places where the Sun turns in it's declination to the earth) has a relationship to the earth, but is not astrological, but it's really easy to think it must.

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Re: Revisiting the Lunar Nodes

Post by Jim Eshelman » Sun Mar 24, 2019 3:20 pm

Jupiter Sets at Dawn wrote:
Sun Mar 24, 2019 3:10 pm
A node is an intersection, not a "knot" or a "tie."
In practice, yes. I meant that node (the Latin nodus) literally means "knot.' it's where the word comes from.
The places where the Moon is at it's greatest declination are called Standstills.
Hadn't heard that term. The squares to the nodes are highest latitude, not highest declination, and I stole "solstices" (literally "sun-standing") to coin the bastardized lunstices (which then would mean "moon-standing"), presumably the same word idea.

[quoe]The Moon's nodes have the same kind of meaning as the Sun's equinoxes, because they are the same kind of thing. So, if the Equinoxes mean something special so do the nodes. If not, then nope. [/quote]
Agreed in principle. Uranian astrologers take the vernal point (the equinoxes) to mean "the world," since they mark the intersection of the plane of Earth's equator with the ecliptic in the same way Moon's nodes are the intersections of Moon's orbital plane with the ecliptic.
This to me shows how Seasonal, AKA Tropical (from the Tropics or places where the Sun turns in it's declination to the earth) has a relationship to the earth, but is not astrological, but it's really easy to think it must.
I take the equinoxes and solstices as valid astrological maps, because they are legitimate astrological phenomena. Elbert Benjamin's principle that "all crossings are significant" probably is true, but probably vary according to relative importance (I'm guessing).
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Re: Revisiting the Lunar Nodes

Post by Jim Eshelman » Mon Mar 25, 2019 5:21 pm

I was reminded yesterday that Charles Carter in The Principles of Astrology wrote that only conjunctions to the nodes (either end of the axis) were valid. He also considered them minor factors best ignored at first (and then supported the then-popular Western view that the North Node resembles Jupiter and the South Node Saturn, with which I do not agree). Here is his full quote in a section titled "Minor Considerations":
The Nodes
The Nodes of the Moon are the points in the ecliptic where Moon passes from south to north latitude, and the reverse. The Ascending node is called the Dragon's Head... and the Descending node the Dragon's Tail... and they are said to be of the natures, respectively of Jupiter and Saturn, conferring honour and success or downfall and ruin. They are held to operate only by conjunction. Some writer deny or question their value. Others attach much importance to them, and also recommend using the planetary nodes.

Beginners are advised to defer such investigations to a later stage.
BTW, this is the book, so far as I can recall, where Carter spoke most encouragingly about Sidereal astrology. Duncan and Bradley both told me that Carter became a great friend of Sidereal astrology, much as Llewellyn George had been. Many will recall that it was his thoughtful challenge that send Bradley on the inquiry that uncovered Sidereal ingresses and allowed him to fine-tune the boundaries of the zodiac.
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Re: Revisiting the Lunar Nodes

Post by Beanies+Bad habits » Wed Apr 03, 2019 10:23 pm

Curious of what will come of the nodal axis. I would definitely agree that is an axis (and I wasn't actually aware that any sidereal astrologer approached it differently). I don't know if a secondary angle would exist at a point square to this axis or if this axis even has much significance.

I will say that if something is found (if this axis has strength or gives strength similar to an angle) it would most definitely change how I've learned to view my own natal chart <no matter what time is correct of the few we have tested>.

I understand that this is all in theory and you are watching these knots closely. I don't know if my chart can be of help in this situation or not (Neptune sits on my nodal axis). Perhaps the link that I have to being a psychic sponge may stem from here rather than Pluto-Moon. I'll be watching transits and taking notes as well.

I'd love to be kept in the loop on your findings in this topic Jim. :)

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