You might assume, now that we know where we’re coming from, via the Moon, its dispositor, the South Node and its ruler (via sign, house position and aspects for all), we might know where we’re going. But we don’t. Not often, anyway.
The North Node is a mysterious thing. We are impelled towards it, but not compelled. We can try to ignore it (at our peril). Or it can beat us over the head on a daily basis, depending on aspects and the condition of the rest of the chart. The South Node is part of our definition of who we are, part of our conscious awareness. We are aware of our lives and ourselves through the focal lens of the South Node. Our interplay with life itself is determined by it. Our perceptions of the world are filtered through it. It’s so deeply integrated into our being that we have a hard time of conceiving another way of being. It’s amazing to me that we ever get to the North Node at all.
Fortunately, the Nodes work as an axis, and what stimulates one end of the Node will have repercussions on the other. Eventually, we become tired of what is familiar. We long for new experiences, new directions, a new perception. We make mistakes. We know that something is missing. When the South Node is stimulated by a transit or progression, a situation will come up, but what arises is born of our old awareness and old behaviours—and we soon learn that we need an adjustment. Sometimes our contacts with our South Node stimuli are helpful—others come in to our lives to support us, we become aware of talents or knowledge we have forgotten, we are given gifts. But sometimes, it brings us more of the same, and we simply say, ‘enough.’
And a great deal of the time, it’s our relations with others that get us to the other side of the axis. As we’ve said before, the Nodes are about the soli-lunar dynamic, and therefore reflect our relationship dynamics, even if they aren’t in relationship houses. Our Nodes are about the way our internal dynamic reflects in our external relationship to the world. Or, in simple terms, how our inside world is reflected in our outside world.
A lot of romantic wooze is written about contacts to the South Node. People with contacts to our South Node were former lovers, partners, teachers, friends and occasionally enemies. But no matter their role, our relations with them will reflect, reinforce and strengthen our South Node stance. This, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad. If someone’s Venus is conjunct our South Node, our interactions with them will be coloured by Venus’s rosy glasses. We will likely think they are just heavenly, and be able to forgive them all their faults (what faults?) because our entire encompassing awareness is wrapped up in their Venusian energy. They will see, appreciate and encourage the talents in us—talents we may only have been vaguely aware of. They will coax out the better parts of ourselves, effortlessly, through love, harmony and all things Venusian. But whether or not they further entrench us in the South Node, or whether we are motivated to use our newly-found talents and appreciation to reach towards the North Node—well, that’s up to us. Challenges will come into this relationship (as they come into all relationships) that will prick our North Nodes while they enhance our South Node. We are free to take up the challenge or not. It’s interesting that this nodal stimulation doesn’t need to happen with an actual person in our actual lives. It can happen with an author or performer or an historical figure, or even an event.
Contacts to the North Node from another’s chart are equally intense, but very different. The feeling of familiarity is not there to comfort us. In fact, that particular planetary energy from that particular person may seem quite alien. Contacts to the North Node will often be accompanied by adjustments and difficulties, and it usually isn’t an easy ride. But it often will bring something very new into our lives. To continue with the Venus example, another’s Venus on our North Node may show us ways of loving that never occurred to us before. They may appreciate us for things that seem completely strange to us. They may bring new things into our lives that we learn to love, things that expand our previously limited horizon. They may inspire us, through loving us, to be a completely different person, someone who has different reactions, different habits, different values. They will take us out of what we were. The North Node, once tapped, has that kind of power. We can become utterly changed.
As I’ve said before, we don’t so much need to leave our South Nodes as we need to open ourselves up to the opposite orientation of the North Node. It has been said that the two must be balanced, but ‘balance’ is one of those words that astrologers throw around far too glibly. (One day I intend to write a piece on astrological clichés.) As any Libra will tell you, the scales aren’t always stable. A little thing, a breeze, can tilt them this way or that. And often, especially in the beginning and when we’re young, we desperately cling to the South Node, because that’s where our safety lies. In fact, it’s rare to see people approach their North Nodes with any confidence before the second nodal return at age 37 and a bit. We spend the first Nodal cycle consolidating the South Node and the next refining, refurbishing and practicing with it. By the time we reach 37, we sense we need something new.
However, that something new is often fraught with difficulties. The second Nodal return can be a dangerous threshold. Many, many people have crises then—serious, destabilizing crises that force them to pull strength up from some unknown quarter of themselves. This is where life can take a turnabout, for better or worse. An uncle of mine developed schizophrenia at age 37—my mother only recently told me something interesting that my uncle’s psychiatrist revealed to her. He told her that age 37 was a kind of turning point in the psyche; if you make it past 37, you’re unlikely to develop this kind of serious mental trauma. He had noticed, merely from his own observation of his patients, that age 37 was a particularly intense crisis hour for the consciousness.
I have seen wonderful things happen at the nodal return, too—but they’re the kind of things that turn life around and force us to re-examine the way we relate to the world. I’ve seen people I know become famous at 37; it makes perfect sense, considering the way fame, real fame, makes you do everything differently and relate to the world in new ways, no matter how grounded you are. If something happens at a Nodal return, I always know that whatever it is will penetrate deeply into the psyche and cause a real opening in awareness, whether it’s a marriage or divorce, or success or failure in business or the arts. It will never be as simple as it seems, the way it often is with Saturn. If we move to a new town or have a child at our second nodal return, that event will affect us more deeply than we realize at the time. (Talk to people who have had a child at the Saturn return and another at the Nodal return, and you’ll see what I mean.) Events at the Saturn return and events at the Nodal return are two entirely different things, and hold different lessons for us. Saturn is about grabbing hold of life in a mature way. The Nodal crisis is about needing to alter the very fundamentals of the way we create our life through our conscious awareness.
After the second Nodal return, which comes fast on the heels of the third Jupiter return (the harbinger of our spiritual adulthood), we are often impelled to cope with issues that are not only new and (relatively) unfamiliar, but that we fear we aren’t really ready for. We want to move forward and often feel as if we must, but events may cluster around that Nodal return that leave us feeling frazzled and unsteady on our feet. Much like a toddler learning to walk, we stumble, and sometimes fall directly on our behinds.
The events that cluster around our Nodal returns are often deeply internalized—we can feel very strongly that we need to adjust our lives, our mindset, and we aren’t able. Sometimes we go scurrying off in new directions, sometimes rather desperately, and they don’t work out for us and we don’t know why. There is a lot of fear involved, the fear that we just may not cut it. This fear is often highly diffused and non-specific. We often feel that something is ‘wrong’ with our way of being, of our way of relating to the world, but we don’t know what or why. This is quite different from the Saturn return. The Saturn return can also bring fear, but the Saturn return’s emphasis is on responsibility and doing the right thing (‘doing’ being the operative word). Saturn insists that we take up the reins of our lives in a practical way, and there are often clear cut decisions to make and a clear way forward (though we might not want to take it). The Saturn return won’t allow retreat. Whereas the Nodal return is slippery. It’s often about feeling as if we aren’t living up to our own expectations; that we aren’t committed enough to our own growth. We may feel that we might as well give up, because that new orientation that’s nagging at us probably isn’t really who we are anyway (or so we tell ourselves). Our reaction to our North Node direction at this time depends a great deal on aspects to our North Node and its ruler.
A North Node ruler will always have the capacity to give us a hand and help us reach out towards what we must become, but when the North Node ruler is not so well aspected, our lessons may be much more harsh, and we may be more unwilling–we may even turn away from our own progress and process. We may choose to retreat, but the Nodal lessons will still come knocking at our door via transits and progressions, and each knock we ignore will become more fierce and more insistent the next time. The most difficult thing about the North Node direction, even if we see it, is that we often don’t understand why our way forward seems to be blocked. Often the North Node ruler operates in a way that can be completely unconscious (this can also be true for planets that conjunct the North Node, or square the Nodes). The North Node has a bit of a built-in haze around it. Our North Node rulers often point the way to our greatest blind spots and self-deceptions, as well as to the place we can best access our spiritual growth. If we have a cluster of planets on the North Node that force us into awareness, accessing our North Node will be easier, but it may not necessarily be more conscious (ask anyone with Pluto on the North Node). For most of us, our North Node energy can only be tapped into through awareness, instinct, and trial and error. The more conscious we are of where we need to be, the easier it is to get there. (The phasal relationship of the Sun and Moon has a lot to say about how we process our nodal experience). The ruler of the North Node can be a kind of guiding star, as long as we keep our eyes open and don’t get led into a ditch along the way. And always, we need to remember that there is no ‘end’ to integrating the Nodes, any more than there is an ‘end’ to spiritual discovery. The Nodes are a lifelong project.
The rewards for the struggle are many. The North Node, once accessed, holds our greatest gift—a spiritual strength and an integration of consciousness that can’t be altered or destroyed by anything in the external world. We build an indestructible bridge between our inner consciousness and our external reality, so that our mind/soul and the life we live is fully integrated. We become one with the world, no longer under the illusion of separation. In doing so, we become fully ourselves.