A Precis of My Lecture on the Nodes for SFAS
by Hank Friedman
(Note: for the purpose of this article, all charts are calculated with the Lahiri ayanamsa, i.e. they are Sidereal charts)
In Medieval Horary astrology, North Node was considered good, the South Node bad. It was this simplistic good/bad notion about the nodes that has carried into modern Western astrology.
In 1936, Dane Rudhyar in "The Astrology of Personality" gave nodes the meanings that have been used by most Western astrologers from then on. In a nutshell, he said that the North Node represented the direction the person was supposed to move towards, and the South Node the direction they came from, in past lives. This is an interesting, albeit not very elaborated, extension of the earlier Horary uses of the nodes. In 1970, Isabel Hickey reiterated this perspective in her bestselling -- and excellent -- book, "Astrology, A Cosmic Science". Finally, Martin Schulman echoed Hickey's ideas in his popular first book, "Karmic Astrology Volume 1: The Moon's Nodes & Reincarnation" and from then on, Western astrologers began using the nodes in the way that Rudhyar introduced.
What is largely ignored in delineation of the nodes in Western astrology is that the central meaning of the Moon's nodes is that they are "The Eclipsers". That is the reason why they were calculated in the first place, to predict eclipses. When either or both nodes conjunct the Sun and the Moon, there is a Solar or Lunar eclipse. The meaning of being eclipsed is clear: overshadowed, invisible, attacked, gobbled up, negated, etc. And astrologers who have studied their history of astrology know that eclipses have always been considered to be negative events and to indicate very unpredictable times. Therefore, neither the North Node nor the South Node has historically had an inherent positive meaning.
In Vedic astrology, where the nodes have been treated as planets for several thousand years, a much more complex and thorough understanding of the nodes exists. The nodes are even mentioned many times in the ancient Vedas.
The Legend of Rahu and Ketu
In the Vedas, the story goes that the nectar of immortality -- called Amrita -- was churned up from the depths of the ocean by an alliance of the Gods and the Demons. There was not enough Amrita -- which was placed in a bowl -- for everyone, and one demon grabbed the bowl and was prepared share it with all of the other demons, thereby making the forces of evil immortal at the expense of the forces of good. The god Vishnu prevented this catastrophe by changing shape into the beautiful seductress Mohini, who asked the demon for the bowl. Dazzled by her beauty, he gave it to her.
She then directed the Gods and Demons to sit in separate rows, and asked the Gods to line up to each drink their share of the nectar. One Demon, Rahu, disguised himself as a God and joined the line. Just as Rahu started drinking the Amrita, the Moon and Sun saw through Rahu's disguise and told Vishnu, who threw a discus and severed the head off of the Demon. But Rahu had already had a sip, and was now immortal, and lived forever in two halves: Rahu & Ketu.
He and his other half Ketu, hated the Sun and Moon for revealing his deception, and vowed to destroy them. And so Rahu and Ketu pursue the Sun and Moon and periodially try to swallow them. But because both of the nodes are only half of a whole being, the Sun and Moon inevitably escape. This legend reveals many of the meanings of the nodes, including disguise, deception, obsession, etc.
The Qualities of the Nodes
People Born on an Eclipse:
Jane Roberts (the medium who channelled Seth and other psychic entities) illustrates many nodal/eclipsed qualities with her constant smoking, her drinking, her bizarre idiosyncracies, her eating habits, her physical problems, her disdain of rich people, her maniacal work ethics, and her infamous sailor's mouth. The very fact that she became one of the most famous psychic channels in history is directly attributable to the nodes, i.e. her willingness to be eclipsed! (And perhaps her familiarity with being overshadowed.)
Karl Marx, the founder of Marxism, was exiled and was a rebel, and lived in poverty, hunger, suffering, alienation, and in relative obscurity during his life. These are excellent significations of an eclipse birth, but so is his unparalleled commitment to succeed at championing his new ideology
The South Node Ketu and nobody-hood
In particular, it is the South Node of the Moon, called Ketu in Vedic astrology, that represents invisibility, self-effacement, transparency, being overlooked, relinquishment, loss of control, and such. Being nobody has two poles: the apologetic or hiding person who over-accomodates and doesn't ask for -- or expect to receive -- what they need, and the evolved soul who has learned how to be gentle, clear, and without bias, and is able to commune with and express Divine love and wisdom.
Janis Joplin was labeled "eccentric" by all who came in contact with her. She was a pimply wallflower, overweight, unhappy kid, who was socially outcast, took on a self-imposed rigid schedule, and towards her peak developed a style of incendiary singing, and broke with her local social traditions by standing up for the rights of African American. She had the South Node closely conjunct her Ascendant.
The North Node Rahu and narcissism
The North Node, on the other hand, represents unbridled materialism, the insatiable drive towards success, exaggeratedly high self-esteem, the inability to respond to others, and being "spoiled". If in a balanced position in a chart and supported by benefic planets, it can represent true success, great riches, a disciplined drive towards one's goals, and the qualities of a champion.
Jack Nicholson egocentrically demanded that he be in the majority of scenes in the movie Batman, no matter how it affected the quality of the movie. He was a cute little boy surrounded by women and their adoration, and now is known for being smug, sexist to the core, and charismatic. In a typical Rahu-vian twist of fate, the woman he grew up with who he thought was his sister was actually his mother! He has the North Node Rahu conjunct Mars in Scorpio in the 5th house.
A Nodal Joke
Three devout Rabbis were sitting together, and sharing their experiences. The first said, "I have done so much surrender, I've become nobody". The second countered, "Well I've done more work than you, and I'm really nobody". The third said, "I have been doing this work longer than both of you. I'm completely nobody."
This is an example of Rahu masquerading as Ketu.
Rahu and the Masses, Collective, Mob
Rahu can create, in individuals, a deep connection to the collective. This can manifest as a person who reaches the masses with their message or creations, or a person who is easily influenced by mass opinion.
Charles Manson was the 5' 2" ritual cult leader, a true psychopath who mesmerized his gang with liberal sex and drugs. By the age of 11, he developed into a delinquent, shuffling from foster parent to foster parent. Manson spent his youth and adulthood in and out of prison. found to be mentally deteriorating & transferred to Vacaville. 19 of his first 32 years were behind bars. Manson has Rahu exactly conjunct the Moon in the 10th house with Saturn, a combination that indicates a definite biochemical cause of his insanity. His charisma and ability to influence others may have indeed come from what might be called "astral influences", as these factors in his chart show incredibly weak psychic boundaries.
On the positive side of reaching the masses, we can look at the life of Dr. Ruth Westheimer: Famous sex expert, who was sent away at age 10 from Germany to save her life, became orphaned when the Nazis killed all of her relations, and worked in a boarding school as a maid (and was looked down upon by the "upper crust" snooty girls). She too was always small for her age. She lived in poverty for years. She is also born on the day of an eclipse, but Rahu is conjunct the Ascendant and Venus which is a strong benefic in her own sign, and so she became an expert on sex (Venus!) and reached great success as Rahu magnified the benefic qualities of Venus.
A Second Nodal Joke
A Zen master went up to the hot dog seller and said, "make me one with everything." A Hindu master went up to the hot dog seller and said, "make me one with nothing." The Zen master represents Rahu, and the Hindu master Ketu.
The Rahu Dasa
In Vedic astrology, the main system of prediction is called Vimshottari Dasa, which means "120 year period". In this system, a person is born into the period (dasa) of one planet -- determined by the lord of the Lunar Mansion (Nakshatra) at birth -- and then is under the influence of subsequent planets in a fixed planetary sequence.
The Rahu dasa (i.e. the period of the North Node) has been called by Vedic astrologer Dennis Harness, "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" because this 18 year period is often marked by a wide variety of life experiences, travels to foreign countries or interactions with foreigners, unexpected ups and downs, and more. It can also be a period during which a person meets with great success.
A great example of both the malefic and benefic effects of Rahu is found in the life of Henry Ford. Henry Ford, who was the creator of the first automobile, had his "moment of destiny" at the beginnng of his Rahu dasa (with Rahu exalted in the sign of Scorpio in the 4th house, and strengthened by the aspect of its dispositor Mars in the First House of Leo) when, at age of 13, his mother died, and he saw his first steam engine, inspiring him to design the first motorcar. (N.B. The Fourth House is both the house of Mother and the house of automobiles!)
George Foreman had his first knockout fight during Rahu/Rahu (the beginning of the Rahu dasa) with Rahu in Aries with the aspect of dispositor Mars exalted in Capricorn and with the aspect of Jupiter in Sagittarius (a strong benefic in it's own sign).
These two examples show how positive the cycle of Rahu can be, especially when Rahu is strengthened by either strong benefics, or its dispositor, or both.
Mickey Rooney was a teenage star, again meeting success in Rahu dasa. (With Rahu in its own Lunar Mansion/Nakshatra.), and Johnny Cash knew by age 4 he was going to be a singer (born during Rahu, with Rahu conjunct both the Ascendant and an exalted Venus).
(Important Note: Because dasas (planetary periods) can be up to 20 years in length, they are subdivided into planetary subperiods called bhuktis. If a person is running, for example, the period of Rahu and the subperiod of the Moon, we would notate that as being in Rahu/Moon.)
Lest one think that the Rahu dasa is always positive, the story of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is illustrative. Jackie O, as she was called, had Rahu conjunct the Moon in her natal chart in the 7th house of marriage, with Ketu within a degree of her Ascendant. When she was in the period of Moon/Rahu, her husband President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated. Later, when she was in the period of Rahu/Moon, she herself died.
This illustrates, and reinforces, the point that the nodes are the enemies of the Sun and Moon, and therefore if either node is in the same sign as the Sun or Moon, problems arise.
The Ketu Dasa
The Ketu dasa is much shorter, only 7 years in length, but it can represent both worldly and other-worldly breakthroughs, too.
Take Bill Gates, who built his first computer during Ketu/Ketu (in Taurus, but with its dispositor Venus in 4th in Libra!), thus leading the way to the microcomputer, aka PC, revolution.
Stevie Wonder was a child prodigy and was given a long-term music contract at the age of 10, during Ketu's dasa. His blindness may also be reflected by his Ketu conjunct the Ascendant, but he has an exalted Venus in the 7th house opposite to this Ketu, hence his incredible creativity and musical talent and philanthropy.
Tiger Woods received his first golf club at the age of three, during his Ketu dasa. His father taught him concentration by trying mightily to distract him while Tiger was playing. Ketu also can represent deep internal focus.
Note that none of these people achieved fame during their Ketu dasa, but just began their journey on their life path.
The Nodes in the Charts of Famous People
Famous Rahu people:
The daughter of the Reagans, Patti Davis, has Rahu exactly conjunct her the Ascendant in Capricorn. She stated that she hated her parents, and that mother beat her and her dad was distant. Her famous parents overshadowed her (Rahu rising).
Arsenio Hall with Rahu exactly conjunct the Ascendant with Mars & Saturn in Scorpio had an abusive father, rats and roaches in home, and was lonely, and to this day is still a loner.
Van Morrison also has Rahu conjunct the Ascendant, and he too is very solitary, and also plagued by stage fright, and has had mystical experiences with music.
Martin Scorsese with Rahu conjunct the Ascendant was sickly as child.
Often, Rahu rising gives a difficult childhood, because the child feels overshadowed and/or abandoned by others.
Famous Ketu People:
Dick Clark, considered "the man who never aged" had Ketu conjunct both the Ascendant and Venus in its own sign, hence the exaggeratedly enduring good looks.
Christopher Reeve is an example of Ketu ruling paralysis. He has Ketu exactly conjunct the Ascendant in Cancer, with the Moon -- the node's dispositor -- debilitated in the 5th house. (For those wondering what represents his remarkable recovery achievements, his Mars is also in the 5th house in its own sign, causing a powerful "amelioration of the debilitation", i.e. the Neecha Bhanga yoga.)
Finally, one of my favorite actresses, Julia Roberts, has Ketu conjunct a debilitated Sun in Libra, and is thus the indicator of her neurotic, tempermental. and insecure nature. In fact, when I first looked at Julia's chart for my talk, I immediately noticed the Ketu/Sun conjunction and the fact that the Moon would, in about four days, join them to create a Solar Eclipse. I knew, therefore, that she would suffer a major tragedy around age four. I looked up her biography and found out that indeed, at that age her parents divorced, and she lost the regular contact with her closest parent, her father. Her mother remarried a man who didn't like the girls, and worse yet, her father died 5 years later.
The Moon's nodes are powerful forces for good or harm. They teach us that we are not always in control, that changes can be sudden, and that too much attachment creates problems. They transform us, Rahu by helping us see that "we can't take it with us" and that only our enduring achievements are worthwhile, and that we shouldn't glorify anything or anyone on Earth, and Ketu by helping us learn to let go, to listen to the inner voice, and to actualize our Essential selves.
I wish to thank Mark McDonough for giving me his permission to use both the birth data and biographical material from his ultimate astrological research tool, AstroDatabank.
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