The personal nature of the nodal axis
Although the signs describe our collective, inherited nodal axis imbalance, it is the houses in which the Nodes are found, and the planetary rulers of the Nodes, which describe our personal relationship to this axis and our personal experience of the liminal realms. This will, of course, be different for each of us. In addition to the collective dimension of the otherworlds, there is also a long tradition that each one of us is attached at birth to an individual daemon which is uniquely interested in our personal destiny. In our own charts, we could even imagine that the nodal axis is our individual threshold between this and other worlds, presided over by our own personal guides, mentors, teachers, ancestors, messengers, guardian angels, and daemons.
Audience: This reminds me of the Philip Pullman trilogy, His Dark Materials, in which everyone is attached to their own personal daemon.
Clare: Exactly, and this is by no means a new idea. You can find this
in the Myth of Er in Plato's Republic. In this myth, Plato describes how
the soul of each of us is given a unique daemon before we are born, which
selects the image and pattern which we are to live on the earth. This sounds
exactly like the birth chart, doesn't it? Our soul's companion guides us
toward birth, but in the process of our arrival we forget all that, and
believe instead that we are alone in the world. It is said that our daemon
remembers our image and our pattern and is therefore the carrier of our
I am approaching the nodal axis as a threshold between the worlds, populated by a host of intermediaries from the anima mundi which remember, when we forget, what on earth we are doing here. This explains why the nodal axis is so strongly associated with significant meetings with people who may challenge us, appear to thwart us, or who function as messengers, guides or teachers, helping us, and sometimes forcing us, to cross thresholds which would otherwise never occur to us, or which we are afraid to cross without some kind of help, guidance or encouragement. Reinhold Ebertin also found that there are often strong nodal links between partners and in families. It is perhaps not surprising that people with whom we are in close relationship are also the agents of our personal destiny.
Why is it so difficult to imagine that I am cared about, that something takes an interest in what I do, that I am perhaps protected, maybe even kept alive not altogether by my own will and doing? Once upon a time what took such good care of me was a guardian spirit and I knew how to pay it appropriate attention. Why not keep within psychology proper what once was called providence - being invisibly watched and watched over?
The influences from the otherworlds remain shadowy, but they are experienced in our intuitions, in our imagination, and in fleeting glimpses. No doubt we have all had the feeling, at different times in our lives, that we are being blocked from taking a particular decision or line of action. We wonder, for example, why we can't get that job or sell our house. No matter how hard we try to make things happen in a particular way, they just refuse to oblige. At times like this, it seems that 'life is what happens while we are busy making other plans', as John Lennon so accurately said. Conversely, we will all have had experiences when everything just seems to fall into place quite naturally. A series of events will occur which don't apparently need much effort from us, and we will find ourselves, often in spite of ourselves, on a new path. At these times it is likely that our nodal axis is particularly active, either because it is receiving transits or because the transiting node is making significant aspects with our natal chart. The interesting thing about this is that, whether or not we have other ideas for ourselves, and whether or not we know anything about astrology, it seems that we are invariably forced into our pattern and our birth chart comes to life.
Audience: Is there an inevitability about the Nodes, like Chiron? It sounds as if there is not much choice involved.
Clare: Yes, that certainly seems to be the case, and it may well be that our task, as far as the nodal axis is concerned, is to keep our eyes and ears open for clues, listening for messages and for messengers whose function may well be to help us across thresholds or to give us a kick when we refuse to wake up. In my experience, the application of heroic efforts and the use of our willpower are neither relevant nor appropriate where the nodal axis is concerned, because we don't necessarily get what we think we want, do we?
Audience: No way!
Clare: The nodal axis seems to describe the threshold between different realities or perceptions, between the literal and the imaginative, and ultimately it is possible to develop the ability to stand on this threshold, identifying with neither side exclusively, but holding the opposites. Ultimately, this is exactly our function and role as astrologers and it is, of course, a very delicate and difficult place to stand. Let's see if we can make all this a bit more real by getting down to the natal chart and looking at some examples. Both Nodes appear to personify in the form of people who have significant influences in our lives. These people are often teachers, guides or mentors who inspire us and give us the confidence and support to do things that we wouldn't otherwise do.
Audience: Would you say that our ancestors are there on the Nodes?
Clare: Yes I would, because we know that in indigenous cultures which
have not lost their roots, the ancestors, as well as the descendents who
have yet to be born, are considered to be living forces, actively involved
in the continuing life of the clan or tribe, functioning as teachers, guides
and mentors. So they would certainly be included in these realms.
In our natal charts, it is the houses across which the nodal axis falls that describe particularly highly charged areas of our lives and particularly significant relationships. The planetary rulers of the Nodes should be taken into account, since they will provide more specific and detailed information. But tonight I want to focus on the relationship of the planets to the nodal axis, particularly those planets which are conjunct or square to the nodal axis, by which I mean any planets within 8° or 90° of the nodal axis, on the Moon's 'bendings'. These planets seem to demand expression in our lives, regardless of our conscious intentions. There is something ruthless and compulsive about them - they appear to function with absolute certainty and conviction, driving us to fulfil our destiny.
Audience: I can understand that a planet on the nodal axis will be significant, but can you explain what the Moon's 'bendings' are?
Clare: Have another look at the diagram of the nodal axis. You can see that the Moon crosses the ecliptic twice every month, once moving upwards at the north Node and once moving downwards at the south Node. But there is a point between the nodal crossings when the Moon has reached its maximum latitude north or south, and at this point, which is 90° from the nodal axis, the Moon changes direction. When a planet is on this 'bending' point, then it seems to make a particularly challenging connection to the nodal axis itself.
The angles and the nodal axis
If the nodal axis is conjunct or square to either of the angles
(the MC/IC or Ascendant/Descendant axis), then it seems that we find ourselves
compelled to make some kind of personal contribution to the world. However,
our motivation in these cases has nothing to do with ego-gratification
or our drive for recognition or fame. It is usually quite the opposite.
We tend to find ourselves acting as agents of forces that drive us to engage
with the world, no matter what the personal cost may be.
One example is that of Nelson Mandela, who has his north Node conjunct the Ascendant in Sagittarius and his south Node conjunct the Descendant in Gemini. The collective challenge of the Gemini-Sagittarius axis is to speak out and act on our beliefs, something Mandela did with great effectiveness, eventually changing the face of African politics. Mandela qualified as a lawyer and joined the African National Congress, leading the resistance to the ruling National Party's apartheid policies. After the banning of the ANC in 1960, he advocated the use of violent tactics, and in 1963 he was tried for plotting to overthrow the government and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mandela's nodal axis is in the 12th and 6th houses, on the axis of service, personal sacrifice, and devotion to a cause. The 12th house is associated with incarceration and imprisonment, and the 6th house is associated with hard labour. During Mandela's twenty-nine years of imprisonment, his reputation grew steadily, and he became a potent symbol of resistance as the anti-apartheid movement gathered strength, consistently refusing to compromise his political position in order to obtain his release. His autobiography, published in 1994, is very appropriately named The Long Walk to Freedom, a perfect Gemini/ Sagittarius title.
The Sun and the nodal axis
The Sun aspecting the nodal axis, particularly by conjunction or square, is often found in the charts of those who have a strong inner sense of their unique destiny and purpose, often from a very young age, which they feel compelled to achieve in the world. This is not necessarily something which can be explained rationally, since it is just a fierce inner conviction.
Audience: My father had his north Node conjunct the Sun on the MC. He was born in a small town in Spain, but when he was fifteen years old he wanted to go to America. His mother said he was too young, he could not go alone, and anyway he was needed to work on the family farm. But he cried for three months until eventually he got permission, and then he went to live with some distant relatives in Argentina. He became very successful. One day I asked him why he had done that, and he said, very simply: 'Because it was my destiny'.
The Moon and the nodal axis
Clare: When the Moon aspects the Nodes, we are connected on a very deep
instinctual level to the feelings, to memories, and to the past. There
is also a strong connection to the earth, to nature, and also to the feminine.
Audience: I have the Moon conjunct the south Node, and when I discovered Gaia theory, I thought, 'That's me!' And from that moment on, I have tried to find out everything about Gaia.
Clare: I would imagine that this discovery would have felt like a revelation - something which gripped you strongly, like a door opening.
Audience: Absolutely, just like a door opening. I knew at once that I had found my connection. And I am still there - I am always connected with Gaia, and trying to respect the Gaia equilibrium.
Audience: Well I have that same connection, the Moon conjunct my south Node. And I have written a book, actually, which is all about women.
Clare: It is clear from what you are saying that this connection between the nodal axis and the Moon is very meaningful to both of you, and you are drawing great support from this lunar connection. If we were working from the perspective of leaving the south Node behind, then you would be cutting off your living connection to the support which the Moon gives you. Rather, it seems as if this configuration provides an important clue about what you are here to do. Incidentally, it is interesting that Bob Geldof has Moon square his nodal axis, and his life long mission has been to 'feed the world'.
Mercury and the nodal axis
As the messenger of the gods, Mercury's function is to carry messages from one world to another. Hermes was the only god in Greek mythology who could visit all the worlds, and if you have Mercury conjunct or square to the nodal axis, then you may be challenged to mediate and navigate between different dimensions, perceptions, realities and languages. This placement also indicates that our ideas can change radically during our lives. Carl Jung, for example, had both Mercury and Venus square his nodal axis, and in his personal life and work with patients, he was constantly listening for messages from the otherworlds, communicated in the form of symbols or as actual events occurring in nature. His personal daemon, Philemon, was a living reality to him. He lived within its grip, as it drove him ruthlessly to complete his life's work.
Audience: My partner has his Mercury square my Nodes, and I think that without him I wouldn't have got in touch with astrology.
Clare: So he is like a teacher and a guide?
Audience: Yes, he has taught me a different way of thinking and seeing.
Venus and the nodal axis
When Venus is involved with the nodal axis, there can be a strong appreciation of beauty and form, and an intense desire to give shape to some kind of poetic or artistic expression. The writer, Marcel Proust, had Venus and Mercury in Virgo in a tight square to the nodal axis, and his writing is carefully shaped and crafted. Not only did his life change dramatically from that of a social dilettante to that of a recluse by the end of his life, but his monumental work, In Search of Lost Time (A la recherché du temps perdu), consisting of seven volumes which he worked on almost continuously for over fourteen years, gradually became substantially different from his original conception, as he drew increasingly upon his inner world, his imagination, and personal memories.
Mars and the nodal axis
With Mars aspecting the nodal axis, there is a powerful compulsion to act. We feel forced to take action. It seems to be our destiny to fight for something, to find an effective channel for the use of our energy and determination. Princess Diana, who publicly challenged the general ignorance and prejudice toward people with AIDS, and took up the cause to eliminate land mines, had Mars, Uranus and Pluto on her north Node in Leo, and Moon and Chiron on her south Node in Aquarius, so there is a very significant nodal story here.
Jupiter and the nodal axis
Jupiter can describe someone who has access to deep faith and a feeling of being protected, of being specially favoured by the gods, or of having a guardian angel who protects them throughout their lives. This may drive them to achieve more than they ever thought possible, and which they would certainly not have attempted unless they felt they were acting as agents of divine providence. Although this contact brings faith, it is not necessarily easy to live with, particularly if Jupiter is conjunct or square the axis, because then it will have us in its grip - driving us to fulfil our destiny, however hard this may be on a personal level. Martin Luther, whose passionate conviction that human beings have direct access to God, led directly to the Reformation, had Jupiter and Mars on his south Node. On a personal level, Luther's journey caused him immense suffering and hardship, but eventually he felt he had no choice but to act and challenge the established Catholic Church with his doctrine of 'justification by faith alone'.
Saturn and the nodal axis
When Saturn is connected to the Nodes, there can be very strong
barriers and boundaries between the worlds, and a fear of trusting or opening
up these thresholds. Saturn is a hard taskmaster, throwing obstacles in
our way, teaching us lessons, and insisting that we learn to stand on our
own feet and develop self-discipline, responsibility and mastery. We may
well turn back from this threshold because it is so hard, and decide, because
it is safer, to confine our activities solely to this world. Alternatively,
we may continue to meet teachers who force us to undertake long and difficult
periods of apprenticeship, hard work and discipline, which eventually lead
us to becoming 'gatekeepers' ourselves, guarding the thresholds between
the worlds on behalf of others. One example is Tina Turner, who has Saturn
conjunct the south Node in Aries. Her task has been to learn to stand up
for and defend herself and to become her own authority, and it has been
an extraordinary journey, although extremely difficult, with the kind of
life-and-death struggle which is indicated by the fact Pluto is also square
to her nodal axis.
W.B. Yeats is also an interesting example, with Saturn conjunct the north Node and the nodal axis square to his Ascendant/Descendant axis. Yeats and his wife consciously collaborated with the daemonic realms via the medium of automatic writing. However, it is not surprising that, with Saturn aspecting the nodal axis, this work was disrupted by beings which Yeats called the 'Frustrators', who communicated meaningless information until the 'real' daemons returned.
When I think of life as a struggle with the Daemon who would ever set us to the hardest work among those not impossible, I understand why there is a deep enmity between a man and his destiny.I am persuaded that the Daemon delivers and deceives us, and that he wove the netting from the stars and threw the net from his shoulder.
Chiron and the nodal axis
In relation to the nodal axis, Chiron appears to have a doubly daemonic function, as teacher and healer. If Chiron is connected to our nodal axis, that can indicate shamanic illnesses, crises, suffering, and unwilling initiation into our true vocation or calling - which is never chosen by the ego, but which is both our gift and our curse, since it leaves us with the unmistakable stamp of the outsider. It is interesting that Princess Diana had a strong Chiron-Node connection. Healers, teachers and astrologers often have such a strong Chiron emphasis in their charts. When Chiron is connected to the nodal axis, our function and purpose is to be guides, helping people to understand and accept their own inner wisdom and truth, which they are never likely to find reflected or supported or even recognised by the outside world at large.
The outer planets and the nodal axis
When the outer planets are connected to the nodal axis, we are subject to, and in the grip of, powerful collective forces. With Uranus here, for example, there can be a brilliance and a blinding clarity and absolute conviction which enables the individual to break through the normal patterns and see the whole picture, all at once. It is an evolutionary and Promethean force that can feel like a revelation. Those with Uranus connected to the nodal axis can, like Charles Darwin, be at the forefront of scientific innovation and breakthrough. The definition of the word revelation is 'the act of revealing or disclosing, a dramatic disclosure of something not previously known or realised'. In the theological sense, revelation is the manifestation of divine will or truth, and this is what it can feel like with a nodal connection to Uranus.
In Mozart's chart, the nodal axis is in Virgo and Pisces across
the 12th and 6th houses, picking up his Ascendant/Descendant axis, which
indicates that his sense of personal destiny was clear to him and to all
who came in contact with him. His nodal task is to find a container or
a vessel (6th house) for the expression of the divine (12th house), and
his music is a clear expression of this. But Uranus is also there, and
he was writing full concertos by the age of three. It is also said that
he could hold entire symphonies in his head and write them down without
any errors or hesitation. It is as if they were given to him whole, and
his music was astonishing, new and unexpected. Although his genius is unquestioned,
Pluto and the Moon are also square to his nodal axis, and it was out of
his emotional pain and loss in his family (4th house) that the intense
depth of feeling present in his greatest music emerged. It is very difficult
to be born with such a powerful destiny, because it is a driving force
which has us in its grip and it is never easy or comfortable. James Hillman
explores this subject in The Soul's Code, which I would highly recommend
if you are interested in finding out more about the subject of destiny,
and the role of daemons, guides and mentors in our lives.
One way of working in more detail is to consider the positions of Jupiter and Mercury, which rule Mozart's nodal axis. This will give us more information about the specific expression that this particular nodal axis might take. Jupiter in Libra in the 2nd house indicates that he will seek to find a physical expression for balance and harmony and the creation of beauty. Mercury is closely conjunct Saturn and the Sun in the 5th house in Aquarius, which indicates that Mozart's creativity will be expressed in a clear and structured way, and it also describes his father's role as a stern mentor and teacher. I think you can see how helpful the planetary rulers can be when we are working to make the nodal story more precise and personal.
Audience: Would you use Neptune as well, since it is the transpersonal ruler of Pisces, or would you just stay with Jupiter?
Clare: I would certainly include Neptune, and in this case it is in the 11th house in Leo, opposite the Saturn-Mercury-Sun conjunction. Once again, we can read this opposition as the personal creative struggle to give structured shape and form to the magical, mythical and beautiful realms which opened up to Mozart from the collective. And because he was also only human, we can see how this opposition polarised at difficult times in his life. When his work became too much, or his sense of duty and responsibility to his father or his sensitivity to criticism were particularly strong, he would escape to the Neptune end of the spectrum, and go drinking with his friends. On the other hand, when he was open to the Neptunian realms of the imagination, he would work hard to give this structure by writing them down in the form of music. Neptune is such a sensitive planet, and so in touch with other dimensions of reality, that it tends to go one of two ways when it picks up the nodal axis. The individual may surrender completely and give over their own will, such as, for example, in the case of mediums or healers. Alternatively, the individual may feel that the demands of the other realms are so overwhelming that they seek to push them away and turn their back on them.
Audience: That is interesting, because I have Neptune squaring my Nodes, and in fact I used to work as a medium.
Clare: With Neptune aspecting the nodal axis, the veil between the worlds is particularly thin and permeable, and it is likely that if we ignore them, the daemons will continue to knock on the door or start to create chaos. Dante Gabriel Rossetti had Neptune on the MC square the nodal axis, and Chiron and the Moon on the south Node. His destiny was to create a more beautiful and romantic world, and his life was consumed by his imagination and by the dreams, fantasies and visions which informed his paintings and the paintings of the other artists who joined his Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He was immensely sensitive and attracted to beautiful, wounded, and unobtainable women, and succumbed to a drug addiction which eventually killed him. So we could say that, although his personal life was full of tragedy, nevertheless the world would be a much poorer and less magical place without the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites.
Audience: I have Neptune square my nodal axis, and there are lots of spirits and other entities in my house. I am always trying to get rid of them because they are very disruptive.
Clare: If the nodal axis represents a threshold through which we have access to all of human emotion and experience, it may be that our task, with Neptune here, is to listen to these spirits and to find out what they want.
Audience: I spend most of my life doing that.
Clare: Well, in that case, it may well be that that is your nodal task.
Audience: But it's very exhausting. I have a friend who is a medium, who helps me to get rid of them, and I asked him once why they continue to plague me. He said that I should imagine standing in the middle of Wembley Stadium, which would be crammed with souls that can't move on. That image really helped me not to take it so personally.
Clare: With Neptune aspecting the nodal axis, we are likely to be very
sensitive to, and possibly overwhelmed by, the other realms, because there
is an enormous amount of grief and unresolved pain, brutality, cruelty,
poverty and starvation in our collective inheritance. As individuals we
seem to get our little piece of that inheritance, and there is work for
us to do. This brings us back again to Chiron, because we are not born
into a perfect world where everything is resolved. There is a balancing
and healing which needs to be done on behalf of the collective, an integration
of the sign opposites across which our nodal axis falls.
Finally, with Pluto connected to the nodal axis, somehow the individual has to live on the threshold between intense destructiveness and creativity, travelling into the psychic underworld on a regular basis, connecting to the life-force which resides there, and re-emerging before going down again. This is a very compulsive picture, and the issues can revolve around power and the surrender of power, as in the case of Tina Turner.
Audience: Are these interpretations similar when someone else's planets aspect your nodal axis?
Clare: Yes, particularly in relationships which feel fated or inevitable in some way. For example, I have a friend whose ex-husband's Saturn is on her north Node, and that was immensely difficult for her because, in order to stay in that relationship, she had to deal with Saturn, to feel very alone in the marriage, and to learn some hard lessons. In the end she couldn't stand it any longer and bailed out, partly because she also has Venus in Sagittarius. But she is well aware that the marriage was part of her destiny, and the responsibilities continue because they have three children. The only way she could have stayed in the marriage would have been to change her relationship to Saturn, and in fact this nodal connection has forced her to become much more adult and self-sufficient.
Audience: I have that connection with my partner. Is there any hope?
Clare: It indicates that you have work to do together, building lasting structures, and it can also feel very safe.
Audience: What if your nodal axis makes an aspect to your partner's nodal axis?
Clare: Then I would imagine that your respective daemons have chosen
to engage, whether you like it or not. There is a meeting of souls. Now
that we live in such a rational, secular age, the daemons are having a
hard time communicating with us because, as a general rule, we no longer
believe they exist. This could be one reason why they appear to us as ordinary
people - as guides, teachers, mentors and messengers - people who help
us remember our soul's purpose.
Audience: But everything I have read about the Nodes is that they are directional, and that we are meant to leave behind what we are born into because it can hold us back.
Clare: I am not sure why we would want to cut ourselves off from that which supports and sustains us, unless we are deeply alienated from ourselves and invested in a heroic vision of personal progress and spiritual development or, equally possible, that we are victims of the 'tyranny of perfection' which is so prevalent in our culture. But you are right that this is a very common interpretation of the south Node, although every time we fall into the either/or trap - which is very easy to do, of course - then we have effectively got out a knife and chopped our psyches in half. This is exactly how the analytical mind works. My question is, 'Who or what says we are meant to do this?' There are no moral imperatives in astrology. But it is all too easy for us to take a judgemental stance which has nothing to do with astrology, but everything to do with our personal opinions, which are so easily affected by fear or by a kind of rigid adherence to what we believe to be the rules, whether we assume that these rules are temporal or spiritual. This is why I think it can be helpful to focus on the planetary rulers of the Nodes, their function in the chart, and their relationship with each other. This releases us from approaching the nodal axis as if it were primarily an axis of time.
As astrologers, it is particularly easy to fall into judgements. For example, we might think that Mars in Aries ought to be more considerate. Well, actually, no. Mars in Aries is Mars in Aries, and it is what it is. In its essence, astrology is descriptive, not critical. So we need to ask, instead, what does this Mars want? How does it act? Give it some space to be what it is. Let it off the leash; it can be a tremendously positive and powerful force in our lives. If we deny the liminal realms that are the meeting place of spirit, soul and earth as symbolised by the Nodes, then we lose the connection between opposites. If you are interested in this subject, then I recommend that you read Patrick Harpur's book, Daimonic Reality, which is an absolutely splendid exploration of this subject. If our world-view is purely scientific or mechanical, a living relationship with an enchanted, living and densely inhabited universe is impossible because it does not exist for us. Our astrology becomes mechanical, and there will be no surprises to be found, just rules to be mastered. If our planets are not living gods assisted, each one of them, by a host of messengers and intermediaries, then we are no longer in dialogue with the anima mundi, with the intermediary realms. We are just very clever mechanics.
If we can accommodate the presence of the anima mundi in our astrology, then we can find a place for a magical dialogue, and many of the so-called afflictions of the mind, such as delusions, complexes, neuroses, depressions or paranoia, to name just a few, may not after all need to be pathologised or medicalised as they have tended to be in mainstream psychology. This is why Jung wrote, 'The Gods have become diseases'. As his work developed, he realised that the psyche was not just subjective, projecting all kinds of images onto the world, but that it was also objective - out there in the world as well. And synchronicity was his proof. When we are working with astrology, it is clear that the planets manifest both within us and outside in the world in the form of concrete facts and events. So it seems to me that astrology belongs absolutely to the daemonic realm and that, as astrologers, we have a daemonic function, as intermediaries and messengers standing on the threshold between the heavens and the earth. Ultimately, it is our function to help our clients to remember their pattern, their soul's purpose. For this reason it is always worth checking our client's nodal axis in relation to our own charts, to see how we might have a role to play in their lives.