by Mark Jones
Originally published in The Mountain Astrologer
The fact that the Moon has nodes is commonly taken into account by astrologers. What is not always known or understood is that all the planets have nodes. The essence of astrology is found within the ecliptic, since the circle of the zodiac itself is formed around it. Because the apparent motion of the Sun forms the ecliptic, it is the only body in the solar system that does not have a nodal axis.
It is important to emphasize that there is no thing found at the north or south node of a planetary body; it is instead an abstract point in space that marks the intersection of the motion of the planet as it crosses the ecliptic. When the planet rises above the ecliptic, this forms the ascending or north node, and when the planet falls below the ecliptic, this forms the descending or south node. (See Figure, at left.)
During the Uranus–Pluto conjunction of the mid-to-late 1960s and very early ‘70s, Theodor Landscheidt initially presented a paper (1965) and then a workshop (1971) on the nature of the planetary nodes. In 1971, Dane Rudhyar published a pamphlet in the Humanistic Astrology Series: The Planetary and Lunar Nodes (CSA Press). During 1973, Dr. Zipporah Dobbins, who had attended Landscheidt’s workshop, published The Node Book (TIA Publications), which included her reflections on the planetary nodes.
Now, during the waxing First Quarter square of Uranus and Pluto, it seems an opportune moment to assess the importance of the revolutionary idea of the planetary nodes as originally presented at the onset of the current Uranus–Pluto synodic cycle. In the intervening decades, the recognition of the nodes’ importance — with some exceptions, such as the teachings of Jeffrey Wolf Green — seems to have slipped from collective awareness. I believe that the significance of the planetary nodes is worth our while to acknowledge at this time.
Dane Rudhyar was clear that, because the planetary nodes refer to the point at which a planet’s orbit intersects the ecliptic, and since the ecliptic is the apparent path of the Sun’s movement from the perspective of the Earth, they symbolize a critical factor in the meaning of the planet as it impacts the nature of life on Earth:
This intersection and the nodes it produces symbolize the fundamental relationship between a planet and the Earth considered as two components in the solar system. The relationship has significance in terms of this solar system as a vast cosmic field of dynamic existence. When, therefore, we apply it to the chart of an individual human being it should be evident that what this relationship — and therefore the planetary north and south nodes — mean in that chart should be referred to the most basic factors in that individual person, i.e., factors that are inherent in the essential destiny of the individual. They are factors which reach deeper than the natural bio-psychic functions which planets normally represent in a birth-chart — just because the planet as a moving small disc of light in the sky is something that the personal consciousness can normally perceive while the entire orbit of that planet is a cosmic fact which transcends sense-perception.1
What Rudhyar is alluding to is that the planetary node symbolizes the entire orbital motion of the planet as it relates to the Earth. In that sense, the planetary nodes are in some ways more significant than the position of the planets in the horoscope, since these nodes refer to the complete evolutionary arc of that planet and the archetype that it represents. The planetary nodes, then, refer to the meaning of the entire orbital cycle of that planet. This can include the whole history of that archetype as it operates on an individual and collective level — just as it refers to the very idea of the planetary archetypes themselves evolving within a dynamic system or cosmos.
We will limit ourselves to an introduction to the position and meaning of the planetary nodes of Jupiter and beyond; this is partially because of space limitations (my upcoming book, The Planetary Node Handbook, will allow more exploration) and partly because of the question of using geocentric or heliocentric nodal positions. With the nodes of Jupiter outwards, there is less difference between the geocentric and heliocentric positions of the nodes. While Rudhyar used the heliocentric nodes, I employ the geocentric nodes (after Landscheidt and Jeffrey Green). My intention is to re-introduce the idea of the planetary nodes at this prescient moment in the synodic cycle of Uranus and Pluto without such technical questions proving divisive, or getting entangled in articulating the distinctions between heliocentric and geocentric.
The particular approach I use to the nodal axis of the Moon was presented in my book, Healing the Soul: Pluto, Uranus and the Lunar Nodes (2011, Raven Dreams Press). As described therein, the South Node of the Moon can be viewed as the past history of the Moon’s archetype (the person’s ego, the early home life and formation of the personality), and the North Node of the Moon is representative of the intended evolutionary direction of that archetype — in this case, the development of the personality towards its most fulfilling goals.
The south node of a planet represents its past, either in the form of what has been assimilated (e.g., a gift or a previously developed capacity) or what remains unassimilated: a restriction or unresolved aspect of the planetary archetype. Whereas the north node of a planet represents that which is ready to be absorbed and expressed: the intended evolutionary direction or goal of development.
So, to apply this approach to the planetary archetypes of Jupiter and outwards, we gain a threefold understanding of each planetary archetype: The past, or what has been already assimilated or has failed to assimilate, is revealed via the south node. The present functioning of the planet is shown by its present placement within the horoscope. Then, the north node of the planet would reveal the intended evolution of the archetype embodied by that planet. I will now give examples of this trinity method with the archetypes we are considering.
The positions of both the geocentric and heliocentric planetary nodes can be found in Astrolabe’s software, Solar Fire. When you open a chart, you simply click on Reports and scroll down to the Planetary Nodes. Note: The term “Ascending Node” refers to the north node, and “Descending Node” refers to the south node. To switch between geocentric and heliocentric positions, you use the Edit feature to open a new chart and then use the arrow by Coordinate System to switch between them.
The Outer Planets and Their Nodes
The geocentric and heliocentric south node of Neptune is in Aquarius and the north node is in Leo, just as the south node of Uranus is in Sagittarius and the north node in Gemini for everyone born within the last few centuries. (See Table, below.)
The south nodes of Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto for all people are currently in Capricorn, with the north nodes in Cancer. “It is difficult to be sure what such a bunching of Planetary Nodes means, but it must be significant …,” wrote Rudhyar, inconclusively.2 We can see that the collective beliefs (Jupiter), primary conditioning (Saturn), and deepest psychological attachments (Pluto) of present humanity lie in the history of civilization (Capricorn) and its attempts to structure consciousness through the rise and fall of empires, patriarchy, and the dominance of nature as the foundations for the ascendancy of human civilization (Capricorn).
Let’s recap the qualities of the natal planets and their nodes, from Jupiter on out.
Natal Jupiter symbolizes the nature of an individual’s beliefs, faith, or vision of life. The south node of Jupiter represents the prior nature of that individual’s beliefs and vision, the history of those beliefs, and the systems of thought that generated them. The north node of Jupiter represents the most progressive vision on an individual and collective level.
Natal Saturn denotes the nature of how we structure our consciousness, the conditioning factors, how we psychologically mature (or fail to). The south node of Saturn represents our prior individual attempts to structure our life and mature; it also represents the history of our conditioning and the factors that structure society as a whole. The north node of Saturn represents the potential for maturation of the individual and society itself.
Natal Uranus symbolizes the nonlinear mind, the far memory in which traumatic experiences can be held, the capacity of the individual to liberate and become truly independent of conditioning factors, the power of science and technology to impact human life. The south node of Uranus represents the collective origins of trauma as well as the history of the individual’s attempts to individuate. The north node of Uranus represents the greatest potential of the individual and the collective to liberate from trauma and restrictive conditioning factors.
Natal Pluto signifies the core focus of emotional/psychological security within the individual. The south node of Pluto represents the history of what the individual or collective experience has compulsively gravitated towards to gratify a deep, often unconscious need for security. The north node of Pluto represents the greatest possible psychological transformation for the individual or the collective.
Natal Neptune reflects the deepest dreams or aspirations of the individual or the collective, their relationship to the divine or ultimate truth, the nature of the collective unconscious. The south node of Neptune represents the history of the individual and the collective’s relationship to their greatest aspirational dreams or their vision of the divine. The north node of Neptune represents the deepest vision of healing on an individual and collective level.
Planetary Nodes in Action
That Pluto itself is sensitive to its own nodal axis is reflected in its discovery chart (not shown), where Pluto is at 17°45^ Cancer conjunct its own north node at 18°27^ Cancer and the north node of Saturn at 18°58^ Cancer. Pluto’s conjunction with its north node seems to offer a prominence or visibility allied to its emergence from the detailed analysis of Clyde Tombaugh who, night after night, tracked the tiny moving speck that identified the planetary body. Many have noted the powerful Plutonic forces that accompanied the discovery of this body, leading to the rise of National Socialism in post-Depression Europe and sowing the seeds of the Second World War.
If the planetary nodes represent the symbolic meaning of the entire orbital motion of the planetary archetypes, then we would expect to see them active in charts referring to events of profound collective significance. The astrology of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki shows us the considerable and precise involvement of the planetary nodes.
In the summer of 1945, Pluto was transiting in Leo and conjoining Neptune’s north node. The discovery of the true extent of the Holocaust by Russian, British, and American soldiers going into the death camps and the first aggressive use of atomic weaponry occurred during this time. The Holocaust revealed the scale of the potential of man’s inhumanity to man — a misuse of power so saturated with hatred and darkness and on such an industrialized scale that it is still hard to comprehend, many decades on. The dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima is the first time the world recognized the power of the nuclear world. Both events disclosed a dark power (Pluto) emerging from the collective unconscious (Neptune’s north node).
The Midheaven (MC) of the chart for the moment the bomb struck Hiroshima was 16°44^ Gemini, exactly conjunct Uranus at 16°29^, which is conjunct its own north node in the same degree. (See Chart 1, **.) Falling from the sky above was the terrible culmination of the revolution in physics created by splitting the atom. Here, with Uranus conjoining its own north node conjunct the MC and squaring the Ascendant, we see one of the most public traumatic actions ever witnessed.
Just as Pluto was discovered on its own north node and its influence spread over the decade of its discovery, so with Uranus on its own north node, a huge scientific breakthrough occurred in the splitting of the atom and the Manhattan Project’s creation of a weapon that was first successfully tested (July 16, 1945; 12:29 p.m.; Alamogordo, New Mexico) and used under the exact conjunction.
The fact that Pluto conjoins the north node of Neptune in the test chart and the charts of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki events indicates the spiritual insight (Neptune’s north node) as humankind came to the understanding that, in their technological advancement, they had reached the point where they could destroy not just their enemies, nor just themselves, but the great majority of life on Earth, endangering the entire planet in the process. This was an event of profound significance for our future as underlined by the heightened planetary nodal activity at this crucial juncture. Specifically, our psychological attachment to power (Pluto) is found within our creative expression (Neptune’s north node in Leo), a power that can turn our ultimate gift (Neptune’s north node) of creativity (Leo) into mass destruction.
Interestingly, the placement of the planetary nodes on the MC of these event charts describes their impact very specifically. The Hiroshima bombing (Chart above) shows the shock through the MC conjunct Uranus and Uranus’s north node. In the chart (not shown) for the Nagasaki bombing, three days after Hiroshima, the MC was at 25°38^ Cancer, exactly conjunct Saturn’s north node at 25°26^ Cancer. At this event, the significance of what had occurred finally sank in, and the Japanese emperor and his generals (Saturn) finally voted to end the war. Even then it was a tie, until the emperor himself cast the final vote to cease fire.
The Elevation of the Personal
Just as the planetary nodes may illustrate the significance of collective events, so may they also indicate within the natal chart where areas of personal concern (natal planets/the Moon’s nodes) are elevated to the status of collective import. So, when personal planets are conjunct the planetary nodes of Jupiter outwards, within an orb of 3°, I have found that there is a tendency for the personal issue represented by the natal planet to rise to a level of collective significance symbolized by the nature of the planetary node it conjoins. Following are some examples that can be used to briefly illustrate this principle.
Sigmund Freud had the natal Moon at 14°40^ Gemini conjunct the north node of Uranus (11°57^) right on the cusp of the 8th house. (See Chart, at above.) Here, we see one man’s courageous struggle to follow his insight and break through (Uranus) the restrictive moral codes of his era to expose the taboo of sexuality (8th house) and its role within infancy (Moon). Furthermore, it is clear that Freud’s isolated attempts to understand his early family environment and the development of his ego structure in infancy (Moon) were elevated to the status of a major breakthrough (north node of Uranus) and became the foundations of the depth psychology movement — an event among the most significant in its impact upon the culture of the 20th century.
From another point of view, we can see that Sigmund Freud’s mother complex (Moon) — originating in his older father marrying a much younger, attractive woman who doted on her “Ziggy” and believed in his special destiny — is elevated through myth to become a blueprint for every man. Thus, the fascinating but problematic Oedipus complex was born. The planetary nodes appear to raise personal issues towards a greater significance.
Carl Jung’s Venus at 17°30^ Cancer conjoined the north node of Pluto at 18°58^ Cancer. Jung is famous in part for seeing that inside every man there is an inner woman: his anima. This term, which Jung adapted from one of Aristotle’s meditations on the nature of Soul, became the crucial inner teacher to the hidden depths of the psyche (north node of Pluto). And inside every woman there is the animus. This understanding was the basis for the inner side of Venus (Taurus) animating relationship (Libra) from the depths of the self (Pluto) through uniting the opposites within.
Roberto Assagioli, a teenage student of Freud and a friend and colleague of Jung, had the natal North Lunar Node at 9°31^ Leo exactly conjunct the north node of Neptune at 9°38^ Leo (charts not shown). Assagioli was the first person within the depth psychology movement to create a system that was explicitly transpersonal; he was the creator of the first spiritual psychology.
A Special Case Study
The excellent biography of Alan Turing by Andrew Hodges makes clear in its title, The Enigma,3 that much of Turing’s life was shrouded in secrecy, due to both the nature of his work for the British Secret Service in World War II and the nature of his personal life. Ironically, this enigmatic quality has also shrouded his renown, for although he was listed as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential figures of the 20th century, he is far from well known in the current public imagination. This case study will seek to illuminate some of his life and work, and serve to illustrate the quality of personal planets when they are combined with planetary nodes in the natal chart and their capacity to symbolize the elevation of the individual life onto the plane of collective significance.
For the purposes of simplicity, I am going to focus on only one placement, that of Turing’s Mercury at 8°00^ Cancer closely conjunct the north node of Jupiter at 8°11^ Cancer, to show how understanding the planetary nodes can transform the horoscope. (See Chart 3, **.) At only 11 minutes of orb, this is a very close contact. As an aspect that speaks of the enlargement of the personal horizons of the mind into an arena of collective impact, it seems a critical feature of “the most important figure in breaking German ciphers during the Second World War, in particular the naval signals vital in the battle of the Atlantic.” Turing’s biographer also emphasizes the “conception … of the electronic computer … and his founding of artificial intelligence.”
Turing’s Pluto placement in Gemini underscores the importance of the development of the intellect, of curiosity, and the desire to expand; Pluto’s applying conjunction with Venus and their placement in the 2nd house indicate a stubborn mind — literally stuck on one idea. Yet, without wishing to slander the Cancer archetype or its potential, Mercury in Cancer in and of itself is rarely seen as a particularly visionary placement. However, I present the thesis that there could be no more coherent symbolism of the personal mind breaking through to a vision of collective significance than that of natal Mercury conjunct Jupiter’s north node.
In fact, Turing’s work had even more than “just” a collective significance. It could be argued that, by adapting the breakthrough of a team of Polish mathematicians to create the Enigma Code breaker that would tilt the balance of power in the Atlantic from the Axis powers to the Allies, Turing answered the collective need of humanity — the individual expression (Mercury) of a new and needed (north node) faith (Jupiter) during a desperate time. For whilst Germany had spent the 1930s gearing up its industrial war machine, the United Kingdom, initially a lonely barricade against the forces of National Socialism in Europe, had no such preparation, and the Atlantic was a critical avenue for supplies and eventually reinforcements. Few people can claim to have singlehandedly shifted the outcome of the war so fiercely towards the Allies!
If my thesis of the role of the planetary nodes in elevating individual qualities and lives to that of collective importance is to stand up, it must provide examples of significant individual close contact, both natally (Turing’s Mercury conjunct the north node of Jupiter within 11 minutes of orb) and through transit activity at significant times within that individual’s development. Following are several events of significance in the life of Alan Turing, to explore thoroughly the nature and meaning of any contact with the Mercury conjunct the north node of Jupiter at 8° Cancer.
On February 13, 1930, Christopher Morcom, Turing’s best friend at school, was taken ill and died from complications of a life-long health condition that Alan did not know about. The two had not been friends for very long, but they shared a love of science and the stars. In his last letter to Turing, Morcom wrote of a satellite near Jupiter (!) that he had witnessed on a clear night with his telescope, and he commiserated with Turing for failing to get the scholarship that he himself had received.
Hodges quotes the letter of a school friend: “poor old Turing is nearly knocked out by the shock,” and indeed Alan would continue to be haunted by Christopher’s being “called away” for years to come. In many ways, this was the trigger for a profound loss of faith; yet, amid the grief and loss, Turing worked hard at the mathematics of codes and ciphers to vie for the prize the school set up in his dead friend’s name. In his loss, he also used discipline to gain first-hand knowledge of the field in which he would eventually become a world authority.
On the day that Christopher died, transiting Saturn was at 8°27^ Capricorn in Turing’s 8th house and in close opposition to his Mercury conjunction with Jupiter’s north node. Saturn would not fully move away from that point until the following year, marking the young mathematician with his first grief, the dilemma of his homosexual feelings, and a renewed discipline in his chosen field.
Also, on the day of his friend’s death, transiting Uranus was at 8°50^ Aries, squaring (within less than a 1° orb) the Mercury–Jupiter north node conjunction: This was the most sudden, shocking, and traumatic event that had befallen Alan, and it marked him in many ways for life. It triggered a detachment from others and a lonely dedication that, as Uranus came closer to Alan’s North Lunar Node in the following year, created a period of inspirational work that would become the foundation for his later discoveries.
On September 4, 1938, Turing started work for the Government Code and Cypher School, which he would go on to revolutionise; the resulting fame proved to be problematic for his personal life. On that day, transiting Chiron was at 8°36^ Cancer, conjoining the Mercury–Jupiter north node conjunction. The institution to which he brought its greatest success was the very force that would both make and destroy his personal reputation — and play a critical role in his future suicide at the age of only 42.
For on March 31, 1952 at the crown court in Wilmslow, U.K. (his home town), Turing was prosecuted as a homosexual after his impoverished young lover, to whom Alan had repeatedly offered money, had told a petty criminal friend about this rich and famous homosexual, so the friend had robbed Turing’s home. When Turing reported the incident to the police, in his naivety he named the person who was responsible and thus inadvertently alerted the authorities to the nature of his personal life.
On that fateful day, transiting Uranus was at 9°58^ Cancer within a 2° orb of the Mercury–Jupiter north node conjunction in the 2nd house (it had been even more exact in orb during the actual robbery): Again, a sudden loss would break Turing. After the court case, whilst he still had standing in some quarters, Turing was put on a forced program of hormone therapy, which engendered powerful mood swings in a man who struggled anyway with excessive public exposure. This led to a lonely suicide by consuming a cyanide-laced apple only a few years later.
On September 10, 2009, then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologised for the dreadful treatment of Turing by the establishment and called him a real war hero. That day, transiting Mars was at — you guessed it — 9° Cancer, conjunct Turing’s Mercury–Jupiter north node conjunction! Finally, the value of his work, known by many through the campaigning of gay rights activists, was publically acknowledged at the highest level.
Currently, Pluto is transiting Capricorn. By 2018, it will complete a long on/off conjunction with the south node of Jupiter and begin to conjoin its own south node — an event that we have seen, through the discovery chart, that Pluto is sensitive to. Pluto will stay within a 1° orb of this conjunction to its own south node in 2019, by which time it will also enter into a conjunction with Saturn’s south node. This whole series of nodal conjunctions coincides with the start of a new synodic cycle of Pluto and Saturn at their conjunction in 2020. Hopefully, even this briefest of introductions to this deep subject conveys a sense of how meaningful these events are in the collective life of contemporary civilization.
What can we expect? The symbolism is clear. Our collective psychological process (Pluto) involves a profound re-examination of our collective vision (Jupiter’s south node), our deepest attachments to power and security (Pluto’s south node), and the way we structure our society and civilization as a whole (Saturn’s south node). The fact that this occurs at the start of a new Saturn–Pluto cycle in January 2020 suggests that we will be dealing with the implications of this encounter with our collective past and its assumptions for decades to come. We may have to recognize that civilization as a whole has health issues:
… there is one question which I can hardly evade. If the development of civilization has such … similarity to the development of the individual … may we not be justified in reaching the diagnosis that … some epochs of civilizations — possibly the whole of mankind — have become neurotic? An analytic dissection of such neuroses might lead to therapeutic recommendations which could lay claim to great practical interest.4
We can see that environmental issues (deforestation, pollution of the oceans, chemical dumping), alongside the depletion of oil and gas reserves (the fuel of civilization), will transcend political positioning as they become bottom-line material realities. We can also see that the fundamental model of civilization, with its emphasis on the dominance of mankind, will be called into question as we are challenged to explore more deeply what it means to be human and live on the Earth.
The north nodes of Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto are all in Cancer: We are being asked to adopt a more feminine mode of consciousness in which we envision the Earth as a living home where the human family can find its right position. That the north node of Uranus is in Gemini shows how much inspiration can be found just by bringing this to our conscious awareness, studying it, and talking with our friends and communities about it, in order to overcome the south node of Uranus in Sagittarius shadow of fundamentalism — to share the realization that there are many faces of truth as it expresses through the multitude of peoples on Earth.
Neptune’s north node is in Leo, and every one of us is being asked what the nature of our creativity will bring to the collective table. Do we just take from life? Are we simply neutral and passive observers? Or can we find our most profound and beautiful healing vision (north node of Neptune) and create (Leo) our lives from that place?
Author’s Note: I would like to thank Jeffrey Wolf Green for first introducing me to the idea of the planetary nodes; Keith Hackwood (M.A. Psych. Synth. Dip.) for spending a week with me in a cottage in Wales in the summer of 2009, exploring whether the concept had “escape velocity,” which we quickly concluded it did, so an intense period of research followed; and Patrick Graham for technical and software support in expressing that vision. The culmination of this work, The Planetary Node Handbook, will be published in 2014.
Chart Data and Sources
(in alphabetical order)
Roberto Assagioli, February 27, 1888; 12:03 p.m. LMT; Venice, Italy; AA: birth certificate in hand from Bordoni.
Sigmund Freud, May 6, 1856; 6:30 p.m. LMT; Freiberg/Mähren, Czech Republic; AA: Philip Lucas quotes father’s diary.
Hiroshima bombing, August 6, 1945; 8:16 a.m. JST; Hiroshima, Japan; Nicholas Campion, The Book of World Horoscopes (BWH), The Wessex Astrologer, 2004, Chart 442.
Carl Jung, July 26, 1875; 7:29 p.m. LMT; Kesswil, Switzerland; C: rectified from approximate time, to place the Sun on the Descendant.
Nagasaki bombing, August 9, 1945; 11:02 a.m. JST; Nagasaki, Japan; BWH, p. 449.
Pluto discovery, February 18, 1930; 4:00 p.m. MST; Flagstaff, AZ, USA; BWH, Chart 470.
Alan Turing, June 23, 1912; 2:15 a.m. GMT; London, England; A: from memory; Charles Harvey quotes Turing’s mother.
1. Dane Rudhyar, The Planetary and Lunar Nodes, CSA Press, 1971, p. 9.
2. Ibid., p. 14.
3. Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: The Enigma, Vintage, 1992. The events in Alan Turing’s life and the quotes in this segment are taken from this book.
4. Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, cited in James Hillman, The Thought of the Heart and the Soul of the World, Spring Publications, 2002, p. 98.
© 2013 Mark Jones – all rights reserved