Moon's Nodes

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The moon's nodes as seen from the earth[1]

A36_153.gif (north node/ Rahu), A37_153.gif (south node/ Ketu)

The moon's nodes are not physical planetary bodies but the points of intersection between the sun's apparent orbital path around the earth, the ecliptic, and the moon's orbital path around the earth.


There are two points of intersection which are situated directly opposite each other, forming the nodal axis. These points of intersection occur because the plane of the moon's orbital path is inclined to the sun's (in reality the earth's)orbit at an angle of 5 degrees and 9 minutes. The moon can be located either north or south of the plane of the ecliptic.

The point at which the moon crosses the plane of the ecliptic when moving in a northerly direction is called ascending moon's node or north node. Two weeks later the moon intersects the ecliptic plane going in a southerly direction and this point of intersection is called the moon's south node.

The series of moon's nodes move in a clockwise (i.e. retrograde) direction around the zodiac and take 18 years, 7 months and 9 days to make one complete revolution. Eclipses occur when either the new or full moon occurs close to the nodal axis.

Ephemerides often give two different values for the moon's node: for the so-called mean moon's node and the true moon's node. The former is an average value and is always retrograde. The true moon's node, on the other hand, continually changes direction, although it also usually moves in retrograde motion through the zodiac. The true moon's node, contrary to its name, is not always an accurate value because the moon does not follow an exact ecliptic path around the earth.

Some astrologers prefer to work with the true moon's nodes, while others use the mean value. In any case, the two are never separated by more than 1.5 degrees of arc.

In some horoscopes only the ascending node is shown, although the descending node is always situated opposite.

Dragon's head and tail[2]


Astrologers of the past envisioned the earth as surrounded by a cosmic dragon who swallowed the sun or the moon during an eclipse. This idea gave rise to the terms Dragon's Head (Caput Draconis, or ascending moon's node) and Dragon's Tail (Cauda Draconis, or descending moon's node.)This imagery also appears in Indian astrology with Rahu, the dragon's head; and Ketu, the dragon's tail. The Hindu god Vishnu is credited with beheading a serpent demon, called Rahu. Both parts of the serpent are immortal, however, and capable of concealing the light of the sun and moon.


The moon's nodes, as the points at which the paths of the sun and the moon cross, represent a symbolic merger of the sun and the moon, or the meeting of two (masculine and feminine) poles.

The descending or south node is associated with the past, whether in the karmic sense of things brought over from past lives into the present one, or in the sense of the influence of the past in the present life, such as one's inherited traits and childhood. The south node may also show an area of life where the person is proficient, but yet where little further growth will occur: the person's "comfort zone." It is not necessary to believe in karma and reincarnation to work with the moon's nodes.

The ascending or north node stands for the future or direction in which the person should develop. This direction may be similar to the rest of the chart, or it may suggest new and unfamiliar territory. The challenge is not to leave behind the south node but to achieve a balance between the two, whereby the experience gained at the south node can be used to further the development of themes represented by the north node.

The ascending node is sometimes associated with Jupiter and the descending node with Saturn. Saturn may be related to the south node in the sense that it is often associated with the past, difficult topics (Shadow), and compulsive patterns of behaviour, whereas the ascending node is associated with opportunities to grow, after facing up to the themes associated with the south node. Another planetary comparison is that the north node equates to the solar principle and the south node to the lunar one.

The moon's nodal axis symbolizes an overriding central theme in the horoscope. For an individual person the house positions of the two nodes indicate important areas of life or domains of activity, whereas the signs indicate their styles or modes of activity.

The descending node reflects childhood experiences, particularly those present from an early age. Because they are so taken for granted, the individual may be tempted to fall back into familiar and at times obsessive behaviour patterns when confronted with new challenges. This behaviour may also lead to negative experiences which can leave the child - or later adult - with feelings of inadequacy. When this happens the behaviour pattern can have addictive traits while offering only apparent but not real security.

At the same time the themes symbolised by the north node may appear to be a shining ideal which, however, requires great effort to achieve. With increasing age the individual usually becomes more aware of the calling to reach this goal, particularly between the ages of 18 1/2 and 37 when the transiting moon's nodes return to their positions in the natal chart. An individual remains largely unconscious of the themes associated with the south node while (ideally) striving to achieve the themes associated with the north node. However, this goal can only be reached if a balance is achieved between the two poles.

Planets which are conjunct the descending node or in square aspect to the nodal axis are generally difficult to cope with and are often experienced as deficits. The challenge is to find new and creative ways to express them. The Swiss astrologer Claude Weiss stated that: "The person who is able to let go of the past is the one most able to find constructive ways of expressing planets conjunct the descending moon's node, and with this he transcends the apparent contradiction between the descending and ascending moon's nodes. He/She then experiences planets conjunct the descending node as if they were conjunct the north one because he/she has managed to free him/herself from a linear understanding of time."

Planets which are conjunct the ascending moon's node or in harmonious aspect to the nodal axis can help an individual to rise to the challenge represented by the south node and costructively explore those new aspects of life symbolised by it.

See also


Moon's nodes = points at which the moon's orbit intercepts the earth's orbit


  • Melanie Reinhart: 1997; 2004, Incarnation. CPA Press, vol 8. ISBN 978-1900869256
On the four angles and the Moon's Nodes
Includes chapters on Vocation, The Moon's Nodes, and The Astrology of the Helper
  • Martin Schulman: Karmic Astrology
    • Volume 1: The Moon's Nodes and Reincarnation, Weiser Books, 1975, ISBN 0-87728-288-9
    • Volume 2: Retrogrades and Reincarnation, Samuel Weiser Inc., 1977, ISBN 0-87728-345-1

Notes and References

  1. The arrows show the direction of the moon's movement
  2. Coloured medieval illustration