I’m betting a lot of us here are over the age of eighteen. I’m betting, too, that a lot of us are beginning to forget what we felt like then, what formed us, what made us feel good about ourselves, what mattered at the core of our being. I’m also betting that, for a lot of us, it had a great deal to do with the sign and house of the South Node.
Of the three walloping main nodal returns, the first is the most confusing. The nodal cycle is 18.6 years, so the first time the Nodes really hit us we are about 18 years and 7 months old. To understand this particular nodal crisis we must learn what came before it. We begin at birth.
The first 18.6 year cycle of life, (we will call it 19 for convenience) from birth, is associated with the North Node. The North Node is created when the Moon crosses the ecliptic of the Sun (the apparent path of the Sun around the Earth) from South (of the ecliptic) to the North. We are launched in a northerly direction. The Moon, representing the culmination of the past, is breaking into new territory. It travels north of the ecliptic for half its daily journey, plunging Southward at the halfway point.
If you note the charts of children, you will see that they have an easier time of presenting both Nodes during this first cycle. They aren’t quite in balance, but the influence of both nodes is clearly present. (The Sun can express itself in a very pure way when we are children. ) It’s more of a seesaw effect. We can see the child bounce from one Node to the other. If a child has a Gemini South Node in the 9th, it will, most likely be very verbal, adore reading and possibly grow up in a dual-language, dual-culture or religious home. However, the third house North Node in Sag will cause this child to also show independence and a sense of adventure, and he or she may become famous in the family for saying whatever is on his or her mind.
It seems that we are not so locked in to the nodal opposition in our early years, unless we have planets at either end of the Nodes pulling us in a particular direction. If we are locked in to one end or the other, it can be because the ruler of that particular Node is prominent in the chart. If both nodal rulers are prominent, it will be more of the seesawing effect. But still, we have a kind of access to both Nodes that we can lose over the years, and particular during this first, untried nodal orbit. We may not embrace the North Node during these early years, but we understand it as a part of us unless the bias for the South Node is very strong.
What happens during the first 19 years that swings us towards the South Node? Firstly, I have to say here that the South Node is always more familiar than the North Node, but there are charts which favour the North Node so strongly that the North Node is not a question of discovery, but of refinement, understanding, and balance. I have seen a number of charts where the emphasis has been on a need to re-think and re-direct the North Node, which has been developed before this lifetime but not fully enough–it has a few kinks in it, most likely due to the misdirection and misuse of the nodal ruler. But on the whole, without undue natal planetary influence, there will be an inclination to lean on the South Node.
We hide behind what is familiar, and the South Node is familiar. During times of stress, the retreat may become exaggerated. The stresses for the Nodes will come at the ‘crosses’ and the ‘flops.’ We will have our first nodal square just before the age of 5 (ever wonder why going to kindergarten is such a trauma for some children?). We have our first ‘flop’ a couple of months after we hit 9. Another ‘cross’, this time a closing one, just before age 15—adding an enormous amount of stress to the already over-the-top hand in hand progression/transit at age 14 of the progressed Moon opposing itself (in a full Moon phase to itself) and transiting Saturn opposing itself for the first time. (Frankly, with all going on plus the nodal cross, I think it’s a miracle we make it from 13 to 15 and we should all pat ourselves on the back for getting across that threshold. Those of you who have teenagers, try to sympathize.) And then, at 19, we come to the return. We’ve made it over the first hurdle.
But where are we going? It’s important to remember that the Nodes move backwards in the chart—at least, in relation to the direction of the angles and planets. The North Node is hurtling forward in a clockwise direction, while the planets are moving counter-clockwise. In an odd way, it’s like those sci-fi films where the ship goes straight into the oncoming meteors, or meanies. The Nodes are in direct confrontation with the planetary line-up. They meet one another head on. The first Nodal return indicates the first complete circle of the nodal confrontation with the planetary line-up at birth. What this cycle does is teach us about our natural reactions to confrontation and growth.
So when we arrive at 19, we are heady with our instinctive being. We have defined ourselves by our confrontation with the circumstances of our lives. More than likely, this has caused us to shore up in the South Node because the South Node is where we come from at this young age, it’s how we define and react to the world. We can’t really grow into who we need to be until we discover who we are, and this first return is all about us defining and discovering our attitudes about life in general and our beliefs about the way the world operates. It also teaches us about the latent talents we may possess—the South Node by sign and house may have as much to say about this as the second house does. (Like a gift someone may have tucked away in our luggage before our journey into this current life.) We depend on the South Node and its ruler at this point, we rely on it for comfort and familiarity. (The exceptions are those who have very strong planets on the North Node—they may hurtle themselves forward instead of bothering about what is already known, only to find they need to catch up on self-knowledge later on.) The South Node is where we shore up against all the difficulties of breaking through to some kind of maturity at this time. Whether we are feeling our way through the maze of higher education or are working to provide an independent life for ourselves, our first question is always ‘who am I’ and the second, ‘where do I need to go?’ The second question is the contribution of the North Node at this time, but it doesn’t have as strong a voice as the South Node with its more lunar influence.
We can display the South Node very strongly at this time. South Node in Leo in the fifth may declare itself an artist; South Node in Gemini in the 9th an academic. South Node in the first house, no matter what sign on the cusp, will feel itself to be a unique force that spurns compromise. A fourth house South Node may be reluctant to join the parade to the outside world and work that is required of this time. A seventh house South Node would rather get involved in a relationship than confront the self-development that is crucial for growth. All of these patterns may be ‘fall back’ patterns that we may repeat again and again throughout our lives. Astrology can be a particularly useful tool at this time, because it can teach us to recognize when we are retreating. Not that there is anything wrong with that—sometimes we need to retreat to gather reinforcements.
The main ‘work’ of the first nodal Return is to understand the South Node (and its ruler) in terms of our habits, patterns and assumed world view. Because it is associated with our past, it is more concerned with our Moon than our Sun. And while it may describe patterns and behaviors that need to go out the window, it is also a treasure trove of gifts and strength–ways to sustain ourselves in difficult circumstances. There is a tendency in astrology to pronounce ‘South Node bad, North Node good.’ Anyone who works with the Nodes will see right away that this is silly—how can we throw out the past, all that we have been until now? If we try to work on the North Node without incorporating the gifts of the South Node and the Moon, we won’t get very far. One of the challenges of the first nodal return is to discover our gifts and begin to use them, particularly in ways indicated by the North Node. The North Node during this first nodal return may not be very active. It may be just a nagging feeling or an urgent whisper in the ear in the middle of the night that tells us we need to be someone or somewhere else.
When the natal Nodes are influenced by planets conjunct either end or squaring it, all nodal returns will come as some kind of crisis. The Nodes tend us towards extreme behavior. If Saturn is conjunct the North Node and Jupiter or Neptune conjunct the South, our guilt over not working hard enough on the North Node whisperings may lead us to substance abuse. If Mars is square the Nodes and difficult in the natal chart, we might turn to violence against ourselves or others. Again, this first return is particularly fraught, due to our inexperience. The nodal returns always remind us that the world is not what we expected it to be; alternately, we may seem strangers to ourselves, feeling the push of the Sun. The difficulty in expression between the Moon and the Sun may be evident now—my Leo Moon wants to be an actress, but my Virgo Sun is telling me to be reasonable and study harder. My Pisces Moon wants to dream and drift but my Aries Sun wants me to achieve something big. My Sag Moon wants to explore the world on an extended road trip, but my Taurus Sun tells me to stay put and get a better summer job.
During this nodal return, we first get the inkling that being the best of ourselves is not enough—there is greater growth, and change, to be achieved. The North Node may come to us like a vision in the distance, a beloved and impossible dream. “How can I possibly get there from here?” is something we may ask ourselves. This sets up a tension that carries us forward, through the squares and oppositions of the Node to itself and to our next return—where we will see that we have, indeed, the potential to achieve the vision, but still may have no clue how. And along the way, the nodal cycle may have unearthed problems, limitations and blockages that we have yet to understand and confront.
But we have another 19 years to get there…