Nodes, Maps and the Horoscope: The Intentional and the Unintentional. A exploration of the original use and meaning of the nodes of the moon and a suggestion for a more contemporary meaning.


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Nodes, Maps and the Horoscope
The Intentional and the Unintentional

Bernadette Brady M.A.

Old Map

One of the features of astrology is the horoscope itself, and although astrologies may vary greatly from one culture to another and from one historical period to another, the horoscope or map of the heavens for a time and place, is one of the defining features of what we know today as astrology. Maps tell us where we are and sometimes when we are, for maps are not just about space.

We have private maps filled with our own topography of people, special places and events. Maps can contain the personal sacred places of one's joys or sorrows and we measure our orientation to these events in time, how much time has passed since an event or how much time is needed to reach an event. Maps and all their variations are central to how we move through our lives.

Within astrology the horoscope is our map. It locates us in a time and place and provides us with an orientation to the rest of our universe. However, its brief extends far beyond simply showing us time and space. It also informs us of our relationship to that time and space and for many of us it suggests ways of behaviour, ethics, and even our responsibilities to our personal link with the cosmos.

In this way our horoscope provides us with a philosophical, ethical, and even spiritual dimension, and gives us an outline of the order of our lives in both time and space.

In short, our horoscope offers us a map of the meaning of our life and in this regard it is a map of our personal cosmology.


A feature of all maps, private, philosophical or even spiritual and cosmological, is to define the limits of the known world, the edges and the boundaries, the place where our world ends and another may begin. If we do think of a chart as a map of our personal cosmology, an interesting question arises as to what in the astrologer's horoscope represents the edges, the limits of the defined world?

To answer this question it is best to return to the origins of astrology. In its beginnings astrology did not actually include the concept of a horoscope, for the subject was born in a culture of sky watchers and sky readers. Indeed the role of the Mesopotamian astrologer-priest was akin to a sentry standing guard, watching for signs of a return to chaos in the heavens and thus, by reflection, chaos in the terrestrial realm. The duties of these sentries were to help protect the hard-won order gained by Marduk, the great hero, when he slaughtered the dragon of chaos, Tiamat.  Unlike the later Greek cosmic myth of the Olympians overcoming the Titans, the slaughtering of Tiamat was not the end of the matter. It was an ongoing battle as there were times, such as at an eclipse, when the Sun would once again wrestle with this celestial dragon and chaos threatened to return.


The Battle with Tiamat

A Babylonian cylinder seal showing the battle of
Marduk and Tiamat.

These times of "order fighting chaos" were of great concern to the astrologer-priest and for this reason by the reign of King Ammisaduqa (1702-1682 B.C.E.) the forecasting of eclipses was a large part of their focus.[1] By the Neo-Assyrian period (912 - 612 BCE) astrologers had identified the nodal axis, with its retrograde movement along the path of the Sun, as well as the concept of the Saros series of eclipses.[2] The nodal axis with its twin places in the sky drifting slowly retrograde, was the place where chaos could occur. Either end signified points in the sky, 'edges' or gateways, through which Tiamat could leap into the world of order. Indeed the Moon's nodal axis still bears the names of the dragon's head, Caput Draconis (North Node) and the dragon's tail, Cauda Draconis (South Node) reflecting its origins.

As the horoscope developed into a cosmological map rather than a sky narrative, the important nodal axis was maintained by the Greeks and placed into their new idea of the horoscope. However, of all the changes in the use of horoscopes, the nodes have probably undergone more variation in their delineation than any other astrological point.  For example, the Greek astrologer Vettius Valens (120 -175 C.E.) considered that the North Node acted as an amplifier of the nature of any planet near it, good if the planet was a benefic and bad if a malefic, and the South Node acted as a reducer of the nature of such a planet, good or bad.[3]  Seventeen hundred years later, astrologer Dane Rudhyar (1895-1985) saw the South Node as a negative place regardless of what planets were near it and the North Node as positive.[4] In comparison with these two ideas, in Jyotish astrology where the nodes are called Rahu (North node) and Ketu (South node), both are considered demons and thus both have a negative influence.[5]  Through the work of Alice Bailey (1880 -1949) and esoteric astrology, the nodes in contemporary Western astrology have morphed into either a concept of karma where the North Node is seen as one's future life, or a dimension of seeking one's spiritual fulfilment, and the South Node is seen as that of the past, one's past lives or one's family history.


Whichever way you wish to delineate the nodes in your natal chart it is however, useful to consider them in their original light as "the edges" of the ordered world, the place where cosmos meets chaos. The nodes, for the astrologer-priest of Mesopotamia were the location within the map of the heavens which represented a place where the known ended and the unknown began.

Within our own maps of the heavens therefore the nodes can show us the edges of our world, the place where it ends and other worlds begin.

Thus seeing the horoscope as a complex map of our place in time, space and also the very meaning of our life, in other words a map of our personal cosmology, then the nodes become the only real contender for our map's 'edges'.


Tiamat, the harbinger of chaos

Taking this view of the nodes as the edges of our own personal cosmology, I see them like two gates in the personal 'walled garden of paradise'[6] or the world that we know, with each gate leading to different paths beyond it to the world unknown. One such gate could be the place where we encounter the new, where we feel the need to explore, and the place we seek in order to colonize new territory in our bid to move forward with our life. This is the gateway to the land reached by our intent, our planned excursion, desires and adventures. This gate is conscious, in front of us and with a large sign reading 'Go this way!


The North Node

The North Node is the gate that beckons us...

The desire to colonize and move forward is a strong compulsion within the human condition and this gate, which we call the North Node, is the place on the edge of our cosmology which calls to us in an irresistible manner. We are all drawn forward in our lives to expand our world and this node informs us of what and how we seek to do that. This is the intentional way we bring new things into our world.

The other gate also opens to a path that leads outside our personal cosmology. However, this gate does not call us forward in a quest for adventure but rather sits quietly in a dark forest, a gateway which is the opening into our world of that which is not planned, that which is unintended. We come across this place either by accident or when we are forced to deal with it. This is the world of the unplanned.

South Node

The South Node is the gate to a world of the unintended, stumbled upon by accident not design.

It is a place where we do not feel comfortable because we do not control it. It is the gate through which things can crash into our world, unplanned, uncontrolled, unscheduled and definitely unintentional. So the achievement or gains made in this place are by accident rather than design. It is a gateway to a territory which offers us confusion rather than adventure.  Yet within those woods lie unused resources that are ours for the collecting if we are prepared to accept the unscheduled chaos that has just crashed into our world and learn skills we may not have intended to learn.

We often see the South Node as our past and sometimes as our family history, as these can be often blamed for the unscheduled, unplanned disruption to our ordered lives. However, I think it is more interesting to consider it in a neutral fashion - where the order of our world can be disturbed, altered or even threatened in an unscheduled manner. Only discovered by accident, this gate can be left neglected, ignored or abandoned. Yet unforeseen events occur and we find ourselves having to deal with things not of our making and definitely not in our plans and the only effective way forward is to let go of focused intent and allow the winds of life to pilot our ship. Yet much can be gained when we find ourselves standing at this gate. The South Node gate is the way that things can enter your world which are beyond your imagination, beyond your ability to conceive of what you want in your life. It is the gateway that gives us the unexpected.

Therefore in keeping with the original use and meanings of the Moon's nodes, as assumed by the Babylonian mythology, both nodes can bring chaos into our lives but also both nodes are the way that our world can expand with new ideas, skills and concepts. One node offers us expansion of our world by focused intent and the other by accident, one by the call to adventure and the hero's quest and the other by disruption through unintentional events.

Hence the North Node is discovery by intent; the South Node is discovery by the accident.


Personalising astrological cosmology

Here are two examples illustrating this way of looking at the nodes. Firstly, let us consider the location of the nodes in the sky map of Barack Obama. At the time of his birth on 4 August, 1961, the North Node was moving over the star Regulus in the constellation Leo. The place he wishes to influence, to colonize and bring into his cosmology is represented by the star Regulus, the place of the king.[7] So his intention is to bring a new process to the idea of kingship and he actively seeks leadership at all levels of his life. This is the place where he battles, where he rises or falls, the place where he brings order, or where chaos crashes into his world. The star Regulus in the constellation Leo is the gateway to how he moves forward in his life - he pursues leadership!


His South Node is located amongst the stars of the Urn of Aquarius - the urn of plenty. What he relied upon as he sought the presidency was the wealth of his nation. However, just as he engages in this battle for leadership on a grand scale, he discovers that the source of wealth is not as it should be and thus he is forced to revisit this great Urn of Aquarius and find a new way of restoring its balance. This was not his dream, his desire but has happened to him by 'accident'.

In his position he has great power but this power is not what will heal his nation's economy, the Urn of Aquarius. If he is to achieve anything in this area he has to learn skills and deal with issues which are out of his comfort zone and not of his intent.

My second example is across the other side of the Atlantic and is Queen Elizabeth II, born 21 April 1926. She came to the throne at the time of the fading of the British Empire, where the sovereign was an individual above taxation and whose privacy was strictly guarded. Her North Node lies amongst the stars of Gemini. Hence the place she wishes to influence, to colonize and bring into her cosmology is represented by the concept of polarities (Gemini). From seeing the monarchy as separate, a situation of 'Us' versus 'Them', she has moved the entire concept of the British Monarchy into the modern age of communication, newspapers, internet and mobile phones and thus reduced the difference between her family and that of the British people. At times this struggle with the dragon of Chaos has almost undone the monarchy, with scandals of leaked phone calls, heightened media attention and a hunger by the press for all things royal. However, somehow the Queen has managed to bridge the gap between herself and the general population by working with and understanding modern communication. This has been her focused intent.


Her South Node, however, sits amongst the stars of the Cape of Sagittarius, the great warrior of the heavens.

England had conquered a large area of the globe through its military might. However, by the time she was crowned this empire had been weakened and was morphing into the Commonwealth of Nations. She has continued this work of deconstructing Great Britain's colonial power within the globe not by planned intent but rather by responding to the needs of England's former colonies as they arose.

This is the area where she has had to find a different solution by having to revisit the events of British Imperial history and reshape her role and that of her nation's future beyond the outdated world of Empire.

[NOTE: If you own Starlight, have a look at where your nodes are in the sky. You can do this easily by opening your natal sky map and finding the degree of your node on the ecliptic. Or, you can open your chart and run it forward or backwards in time to place the nodal axis on the ascendant/descendant of your chart. Then look at the sky map focusing on the horizon line. Where it cuts the ecliptic will show you the stars and constellations around your North Node and your South Node.]

If you know the stars around your nodal axis look at your own North Node and think about what those stars represent. See the star myths of this part of the sky as describing how you seek to move forward in your life, what is it that provides the drive and the quest to your life. Look at your South Node and think about those stars as they will be describing what you avoid, or feel uncomfortable around, where you feel you have little or no power or control - where the unintentional happens, good or bad. Both sets of star myths will show you how things enter your world, one by intent and planning, the other by the unplanned, the unintentional.


Transiting Nodal Axis

Apart from the personal natal delineation of nodes, there is also the concept of the transiting node. This axis highlights a place in the sky that suggests the nature of the current struggle in the world, the theme that is filling the newspapers, that which is taking our focus and where we reach out to add to our world view, with potential success or potential chaos.

In recent years the transiting North Node was moving through the stars of the Urn of Aquarius, just as the South Node was at the time of Barack Obama's birth. This began the issues with the need to bring order into our financial systems, the money matters or the wealth of the communities. This is our intent.

What occurs by accident is represented by the South Node. This was then completing its journey through the stars of Cancer, the concept of family, of the small units within the larger system. Thus the transiting axis was showing us the collapse of the sub-prime lending system within the USA which lead to the banking collapse, the unplanned and unscheduled event. However, the South Node also suggested that by accepting this, rather than blaming or disregarding, and considering the wellbeing of the small units within the social system, the whole structure can move forward. In reforming the world's financial systems the world leaders are forced to consider the wellbeing of the smaller human units in the equation, rather than solely focusing on the large corporate organisations. This will be interesting to watch.

As the transiting nodal axis retrogrades back through the constellations completing a cycle every 18.6 years, its moving point will reflect the shifts and changes within the world's news events, providing us with the large background themes to the emerging events on this small blue planet. In future editions of the Visual Astrology Newsletter we will explore this axis further.

The aim of this article, however, was to revisit the meanings of the Moon's nodes and suggest that by returning to their original meanings of the battle ground between order and chaos, the edges of what is known and not known, we can gain deeper insights which are free of ideologies or spiritual overlays. We can, in fact, view them in a cosmological manner.



1. Christopher Walker, ed. Astronomy before the Telescope (London: British Museum Press,1996), p.42.
2. Francesca Rochberg, The Heavenly Writing, Divination, Horoscopy, and Astronomy in Mesopotamian Culture (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 138.
3. See the First Book of Vettius Valens. The Anthology Book I. Trans Robert Schmidt. Golden Hind Press, Berkely Springs, USA 1993.
4. Dane Rudhyar, "The astrological study of psychological complexes."
http://www.khaldea.com/rudhyar/aspc/aspc_c13.shtml 5 Feb, 2008
5. James. T. Braha, Ancient Hindu Astrology for the Modern Western Astrologer (Miami, Florida Hermetician Press, 1986), p. 33.
6. see Bernadette Brady, Astrology a Place in Chaos (Bournemouth, UK: The Wessex Astrologer, 2006) for more on this concept.
7. Brady, Bernadette, Star and Planet Combinations (Bournemouth, UK: The Wessex Astrologer, 2008).