The Lunar Nodes and the Moon

Part One

15 April 2024

In our modern era, many astrologers emphasize the Moon’s nodes to depict personal growth and inertia or decline. The North Node is said to represent future possibilities or paths of greater psychological or spiritual development. The South Node represents the enduring power of past lifetimes or habits or areas where we become stuck.  I would like to look at an alternative.  I wonder whether our current use of the Moon’s nodes don’t have enough of the Moon’s symbolism in it.  Also, how might the Lunar Nodes affect the seven visible planets when one or more are conjunct the North or South Node or in square to them?

Let’s go back in time. By noting how our distant ancestors saw the sky around them and the earth beneath their feet, and by looking at formulations by astrologers from past eras, we can preserve the continuity of tradition while allowing new developments to emerge.

Intersecting two loops to form an opposition. At their extremes to each other is another opposition.

Your astrology textbooks say that the North and South Nodes are formed from the intersection of two circles: the ecliptic (depicting the Sun’s position relative to the Earth, i.e., the Earth’s tilted orbit around the Sun) and that of the Moon’s tilted orbit around the Earth. These intersections form opposing nodal points.

Lunar nodes were first developed to predict eclipses: when the Sun and Moon are aligned by zodiacal longitude and the Moon is also on the ecliptic, both luminaries are upon the nodal axis, the opposition formed by the two points. When the two luminaries are together on either the South or North Node, this New Moon is an eclipse.  When the luminaries are opposed, this Full Moon is also a lunar eclipse.

Our ancestors marked segments on the eastern and western horizons to note where luminaries and other celestial bodies rose and set. If we are facing east, north is to our left and south is to our right.  If we are facing west, north is to our right and south is to our left.  When the Sun is at our first degree of Aries or Libra in a tropical zodiac, it is due east, and from there the Sun spans left and right, the northward or southward paths of the Sun.  Its greatest distance from the center, north and south, corresponds to the Sun at the last degrees of Gemini or Sagittarius, or the first degrees of Cancer and Capricorn. This is what is meant by maximum northern and southern declination.  The Sun’s pattern is straightforward and invariable for a certain location.[1]

When the luminaries rise and set in the same place on the horizon at a New or Full Moon, you get an eclipse season: lunar and solar eclipses occur about two weeks apart.  To our early ancestors, eclipses were unexplained marvels of cosmic nature, indicative of disorder. The use of the Lunar Nodes to predict eclipses created a sense of underlying order underneath the apparent randomness of the heavens.  However, eclipses did portend difficulties, even when their occurrences could be predicted.

When at the New Moon and Full Moon the luminaries are farthest apart from each other on the horizon, you’re likely to have a square to the Nodes. These are called “bendings” and denote the Moon’s maximum southern or northern latitude or distance from the line of the Sun’s path, the ecliptic. (This would be about six degrees north or south.)  Both are square to the nodal axis.

These four points, the Lunar Nodes and their squares, are pivots of the Moon’s latitude cycle that mirrors the Sun’s declination cycle.

  • When the Moon is conjunct the North Node it is on the ecliptic moving north, like the Sun being on the celestial equator at the spring equinox, the first degree of Aries on the tropical zodiac.
  • When the Moon is ninety degrees forward and squaring the North Node, it is at its maximum north latitude, like the Sun at its maximum north declination at the summer solstice, our first degree of Cancer. This is called the Northern Bendings.
  • When the Moon is at the South Node it is again on the ecliptic but moving south, like the Sun at the celestial equator at the autumn equinox, our first degree of Libra.
  • When ninety degrees ahead of the South Node, the Moon is at its maximum south latitude, like the Sun when it is overhead the Tropic of Capricorn at the winter solstice. This is called the Southern Bendings.

A question often comes up at this time: “This sounds like the climate of the Northern Hemisphere.  For the Southern Hemisphere, does everything get reversed?”  Here we introduce the qualities of (increasing) wet — warm-dry-cold and the better analogy is our human life development, not climate.  If the latter, then we’re falling into the trap of looking for external physical causation for astrological

Here’s a sample natal chart: The North Node is in Aquarius and the South Node in Leo at ten degrees each.  No planets are conjunct the nodes, but Venus is at 9 Scorpio and in a close square.  Proceeding in zodiacal order from her South Node in Leo, Venus in Scorpio is close to the Moon’s southernmost latitude (not the planetary node of Venus!). Venus is at the Moon’s Southern Bendings.  A planet at the opposite degree, around ten Taurus, would be at the Northern Bendings. (For conjunctions and squares to the nodes, an orb of four or five degrees is probably best.)

How did ancient Western astrologers use the Lunar Nodes?  Like eclipses the Nodes could be malefic. Planets accompanying “Ascending” (North) and “Descending” (South) Nodes could make for exiles and injuries (Rhetorius).  Vettius Valens discourages beginning anything – sailing, marrying, building – when the Moon is at the Ascending Node [North Node] or its squares [both Bendings] and oppositions [South Node].  In his discussion of injuries and handicaps, Ptolemy cites either luminary coming to these positions or being in that “blame-worthy zoidia” that are five out of the twelve.

Ptolemy tells us something different in the third book of Tetrabiblos in his chapter “Qualities of the Soul” where he mentions the Moon’s contribution to character and behavior. “Upon the nodes, [the Moon] cooperates toward the keener and more active and readily changeable.”  When the Moon is square the Nodes, at either the Northern or Southern Bendings, the native is “more versatile and resourceful and the more changeable.”  (The word translated as “versatile” is the Greek “polytropos”, “many turns”, that you may recognize as the quality attributed to Odysseus in the first line of the Odyssey.)  Here the Moon at the nodes or square the nodes have important positive qualities.

From the end of the Hellenistic era into the Medieval era, we see the Lunar Nodes depicted differently: Venus and Jupiter are enhanced at or are the nature of the North Node, Mars and Saturn are enhanced or are the nature of the South Node.  Of course, Venus and Jupiter are benefics and Mars and Saturn are malefics, in line with the North Node being preferable to the South Node.  But there is another possibility – from the Moon’s latitude cycle, similar in structure to the Sun’s declination cycle.

In Hellenistic and Medieval astrology, the four elements of the signs were less important than planets’ four qualities of hot, cold, wet, and dry.  Venus is warm or cold but certainly wet; Jupiter is warm and wet.  Mars is hot and dry; Saturn is cold and dry.   Consider the nodal points along a wet/dry axis: the North Node would contribute by bringing together; the South Node the dry activities of taking apart, in parallel with the Sun’s nodes of declination at the spring and autumn equinoxes respectively.

One may ask: bringing together or taking apart what? There are two possibilities and probably more.  If the Sun’s declination cycle is solar and the Moon’s latitude cycle is lunar, what are the differences?

  • The astrological Sun’s purpose is identity and personal meaning; the Moon’s purpose is adaptation along lines that are physical, social, or cultural – our surrounding world in its many dimensions. If the twelve signs of the zodiac, based on the Sun’s pattern of declination, are twelve instances of personal identification and expression, then the four turnings of the Moon’s latitude, the Lunar Nodes and the Bendings, tell us about styles of adaptation.  This is not the draconic zodiac that renders the North Node at the first degree of Aries for everybody, but something much simpler.
  • Consequently, astrology’s Sun is about achievement: personal, interpersonal, or cultural. (This may occur through personal accomplishment or outside identification.) The Moon, literally and symbolically closer to home, has care at its center – caring for others or for oneself, for one’s body or our planet.
  • The Sun’s shadow side is narcissism or all the kinds of self-absorption. The Moon’s shadow side is bigotry in its many forms: anything unfamiliar is seen as potentially dangerous and one responds defensively or with hostility.

A planet conjunct the (wet) North Node brings things together to promote adaptation and survival, and, of course, connection.  This may range from a creative street hustle or more sophisticated con job to emotionally maintaining a family or community.  A planet conjunct the (dry) South Node would bracket off what cannot be changed and focus narrowly, excluding to what is outside this focus. This would be a more detached and calculating approach that may hide an otherwise sympathetic nature.  I have several clients with Saturn conjunct the South Node: both have strong discipline and perseverance – along their lines of preference.

How about the Northern and Southern Bendings that, when the Moon is there, inclines the native toward being more versatile and resourceful and changeable?  I’ve not seen these positions used between Ptolemy of the second century and Dane Rudhyar of the twentieth.

The bendings correspond nicely to the Sun’s summer and winter solstices, as the Lunar Node positions correspond to the spring and autumn equinoxes.  The summer solstice is hot, the place of the Mercury of Gemini and the luminaries, and the winter solstice is cold and more saturnian – even Jupiter shivers a bit in Sagittarius.  If at the opposing Nodes we encounter the wet-dry polarity, the Bendings, square the Nodes but opposed to each other, we have a hot/cold polarity.

How would this manifest?  A planet at the (hot) Northern Bendings – ahead in the zodiac from the North Node – would adapt to challenges and changing circumstances actively and vigorously or be ardent in their protectiveness.  One may react impulsively without noting all the different possibilities.  Vladimir Putin has North Node in Aquarius and, ahead in the zodiac, Jupiter in Taurus in a tight square. Adding to his strong protectiveness, Putin’s Jupiter resentfully dreams of empire and pursues it actively.  On the more positive side, my client with Jupiter in Capricorn at the Northern Bendings is not only adaptable to changing circumstances but willing to take risks in pursuit of his goals – more than how we might interpret his Jupiter in Capricorn that is the ruler of his Ascendant and is in trine to Sun in Virgo.

A planet at the (cold) Southern Bendings adopts a deliberate and hesitant approach, perhaps with a tendency to catastrophize. This may range from “circling with wagons” and withdrawing, to finding a way to slowly dig oneself out of difficulties, to plotting elaborate schemes of revenge. OR they may work patiently and methodically to solve problems and not to lose their priorities.  During a lifetime all these features can manifest.

How would this work with the chart illustrated above, my client with Venus in Scorpio at the Southern Bendings?   (Moon is nearby, also in Scorpio at about five degrees south latitude.)  Venus here can add artistic or romantic expressions along with same lines.  Venus at the Southern Bendings, being colder and more Saturnian by nature, would have a guarded encounter with the vicissitudes of life, perhaps using personal charm (Venus) to adjust to changing conditions, maybe with a dollop of cynicism to go along.  She patiently takes on long-term artistic projects that create items of use to those around her.

In this chart Venus is also the ruler of the Seventh House: this person may attempt, from a sense of obligation, to rescue romantic partners from their limitations and faults.  A cold saturnine sense of obligation may also lead to a sober but constructive role in close relationships.

Since the early medieval period into the present day, our understanding of the Lunar Nodes has been strongly influenced by the east and the influence of Jyotish: Rahu and Ketu, the North and South Nodes respectively: Rahu is more worldly and more prosperous than Ketu that is more aligned with spiritual renunciation.  Interestingly, the formulation of the Northern and Southern Bendings along a hot/cold axis comes closer to the traditional depiction of Rahu and Ketu than conjunctions to the nodes.

This preliminary approach has some advantages over the standard modern presentation of the Lunar Nodes. It preserves the lunar quality of the entire Lunar Nodal cycle and our consistent need to maintain ourselves in this fragile body and uncertain world.  It also gives greater representation to that range of emotions and endeavors that are lunar.  A planet’s placement on or in square to the Lunar Nodes may help us better understand way how a planet contributes to lunar activities and concerns.

Instead of advocating paths of growth for which there may be no support from the planets in their charts, I prefer that clients understand how to get the best from their planets. By focusing on the planetary placements clients already have, we can stay closer to their actual needs, strengths, and potential.


PS You can read more about this book and purchase a copy on the author’s website.





[1] The Lunar Nodes have another fascinating feature for the tropical zodiac. Our distant ancestors also noted lunar standstills when the Moon’s maximum declination is widest and is narrowest.  If, during this year 2024, when the Moon’s declination is furthest North (Gemini, Cancer) or furthest South (Sagittarius, Capricorn), the Moon is always “out of bounds” – beyond the Sun’s maximum north or south declination.  During this year the North Node is in tropical Aries; when the Moon is at maximum standstill, its widest, the North Node is the first degree of Aries. When it is at minimum or most narrow standstill, the North Node is the first degree of Libra.