Interpreting the celestial dragon.
When we embark on our astrological journey one of the first things we learn are the zodiac signs and the planets. Once we get comfortable with those, we start seeing that there are other placements that add depth to the insight our chart can give us. One of those placements is the lunar nodes.
You might know the lunar nodes better as the North Node (NN) and South Node (SN) in your natal chart. Each of the nodes indicates a point on the ecliptic where the Sun and the Moon intersect as they move through the sky. So while the nodes aren't an asteroid or a planet, they still hold significance as the point where the Sun and Moon occasionally meet up. But what is the significance?
If you ask modern astrologers, and even some traditional ones, what the nodes signify, they'll likely say something that has to do with "karma" or "past experiences and past lives". I'm not here to tell you that's wrong, but I am here to give a clearer picture of what the nodes mean through a traditional Hellenistic lens. Because there's no evidence in Hellenistic astrology that the nodes hold any karmic ties. In fact, we don't have a whole lot of information to go off of when we look to the traditional Hellenistic teachings for guidance on this. It's actually in the Vedic teachings that we see a heavier importance placed on the nodes.
You may have heard the nodes referred to in terms of a dragon or a snake. In Vedic astrology the nodes are referred to as Rahu and Ketu. The mythology states that Rahu and Ketu used to be one being; a demon. Long story short, this demon managed to take a sip of an immortality drink and was immediately beheaded for drinking something that belonged solely to the Gods. Since the demon already drank the immortality juice, the separation of its head from its body didn't kill it. Instead, it went on living as two separate beings: Rahu and Ketu. The two parts of the demon were placed at two specific points between the Sun and the Moon (the nodal points), and would bring certain chaos and upheavals to anything that dared to cross their paths. Rahu is associated with the NN and Ketu with the SN.
Even though we'll be using Hellenistic and Medieval information to inform our understanding of the lunar nodes, I always like to include mythology when it's available. The imagery of a dragon rather suits the nodes, as we will see when we talk about what each of them signify. Before we dive into significations, here's a list of the popular names for the nodes. Each school of astrology has their own way of referring to them and I'll likely switch between names throughout this post because I'm chaotic like that.
North Node (NN)
South Node (SN)
North Node - Rahu - The Dragon's Head
Rahu is the head of the dragon and is considered to be insatiable. It can eat and eat and eat without feeling fulfilled because there is no stomach to fill. Since it's the head of the dragon it also contains the brain or the mind. Rahu is governed by the mental world. There is no feeling involved with Rahu, as the heart is not present. Not only is it guided by the mind, but it's also sensory driven, making it very physical. It has the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Rahu is constantly taking, engulfing, consuming, seeing, hearing, tasting, but none of it is ever enough.
Being that Rahu acts as sort of an endless pit of sensory information, it should be no surprise that one of the main significations of the NN in Hellenistic astrology is that it points towards desire or increase. The house that contains the NN in the native's chart is going to be one where there's a desire for more, almost insatiably so. This is very different from the main signification of modern astrology, where the NN acts as what we're moving towards in this lifetime.
South Node - Ketu - The Dragon's Tail
Ketu is the tail of the dragon, and it's actually everything from the shoulder region down. This means Ketu contains the heart, and will be guided by a more emotional force. Ketu cannot take anything in, as it has no mouth or sensory organs. This means Ketu relies on feelings to understand the world, making it not as physical as Rahu. Instead of ravenously consuming, Ketu excretes. Ketu is loss and lessening. It gives and gives to the point of total emptiness. It can almost be thought of as a bleeding heart that doesn't know when to stop because there's no logic attached to Ketu.
Wherever the SN is located in the native's chart there is a sense of decrease or subtraction. There is a giving away, losing, or falling away from quality to the SN. Whereas in modern astrology the SN indicates the place we're coming from and past karmic lessons.
Significations and Planetary Associations
A Medieval Arabic astrologer named Abu Ma'shar gave us some great insights about the lunar nodes and how they work in relation to the planets. Remember that we're only going to be dealing with the malefic and benefic planets when doing delineations. This is because the outer planets hadn't even been discovered yet when these ancient astrologers were doing their work.
Abu Ma'shar describes the the nodes in the following fashion: