Nodes of the Moon

The Nodes of the Moon are the two points where the moon’s path crosses the ecliptic. They are often treated as special points of significance by astrologers, and ascribed different names and qualities.

The North Node (or ascending node) is where the moon crosses the ecliptic into the Northern Hemisphere (from south to north), and conversely, the South Node (or descending node) is where the moon’s path crosses into the Southern Hemisphere. Eclipses occur when the sun is within 15 degrees of the nodes. Their association with eclipses has led to varied astrological interpretation, with a general trend toward both nodes being considered somewhat ominous in older forms of astrology, notwithstanding the North Node being considered more benefic and the South Node more malefic.

In Indian astrology, the nodes are considered shadow planets, constituting two of the nine Navagrahas, or heavenly bodies that influence life on earth (Fouw & Svoboda, 11). The mythology of the nodes arises from a mythic tale contained in ancient Sanskrit texts, where the nodes are portrayed as the severed head and tail of a great dragon, called Rahu and Ketu, respectively (Fouw & Svoboda, 303). Medieval western astrologers also utilized this dragon imagery, and referred to the nodes as the head and tail of the dragon—one which increases good or bad, another which drains and empties out good or bad.

Hellenistic astrologer Vettius Valens warned against inceptions with the Moon in the quadruplicities of the Nodes, as well as against profection years containing one’s natal nodes, treating them as unstable, erratic, and prone to difficult outcomes (Valens, Anthology, 5, 3).

In modern western and especially Evolutionary astrology, the nodes became associated with karma and past lives. The South Node is often considered to represent those traits and characteristics which have been have mastered in past lives, and are over-developed or over-represented in one’s character and psyche. The North Node is representative of that which one is called to move towards in furtherance of their soul’s evolution—and is a point of challenge and positive growth.

Some late Medieval astrological traditions maintain the exaltation of the North Node is in Gemini and the South Node in Sagittarius.

Astrologers differ in their calculation of the Nodes—some utilize the True Node, while others use the Mean Node. The True Node represents the actual position of the moon at a particular point in time. The mean node, on the other hand, is a mathematical calculation which utilizes a formula to correct for minor variances in the moon’s path in order to produce an average position. The True Node emphasizes precision, the Mean Node emphasizes simplicity. There can be as much as 1°45’ difference between the True Node and the Mean Node, and is a continuing matter of difference as to which one should rightly be used.

The Nodes, which are always opposite each other, travel in a retrograde direction around the natal chart, though if using the True Node, they can occasionally travel direct. The Nodes make one full cycle backward through the zodiac approximately every 18.6 years, which is very close to the Sun and Moon’s 19-year metonic cycle.

Bibliography & Further Study:

De Fouw, Hart & Svoboda, Robert, Light on Life: An Introduction to the Astrology of India, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, WI, 1996.

The Astrology Podcast, Episode 127, Unexpected Lunar Nodes Discussion with Adam Sommer, Adam Sommer & Chris Brennan, October 5, 2017.

Vettius Valens, Anthology, edited in: Pingree, David, Vettii Valentis Antiocheni anthologiarum libri novem, B.G. Teubner, Leipzig, 1986.

Article Information

  • Author(s): Claire Rootjes
  • Editing or additional contributions: Chris Brennan
  • Originally published: September 24, 2020
  • Last updated: September 24, 2020
  • Cite this article: Claire Rootjes & Chris Brennan, “Nodes of the Moon,” The Astrology Dictionary, September 24, 2020, ‎