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Beltane: The Tree of Life

When in the springtime of the year
When the trees are crowned with leaves
When the ash and oak, and the birch and yew
Are dressed in ribbons fair...

Loreena McKennitt

Dear Readers:

Iíve noticed an unusual level of discussion about Beltane this year. What a relief. Any traces of a return to honoring the Old Religion are welcome developments on our planet, because we need all the contact with nature we can get. I remember when I was a kid, the calendar had these arbitrary dates for the beginnings of the seasons. This seemed really silly. Now, even the modern media world seems to grok that the seasons begin when the Sun reaches an equinox or solstice. But this week, itís exactly half way between the two.

Beltane, traditionally celebrated the first week of May, is one of the four High Sabbats (days of worship) of the Pagan calendar, a calendar closely intertwined with astrology. This is the pre-Christian cycle of the seasons that is based on what some call the Natural Religion or Earth-based practice. In some places Beltane is referred to as The May, and historically in many locales, the celebration lasted an entire month. Also known as the Midspring holiday, Beltane is traditionally celebrated at the time the Sun reaches the middle degrees of Taurus, the first Earth sign of the horoscope, in early May.

It is the celebration of renewed life after the long winter, as well as a celebration of sexuality, abundance and community. This is the traditional time to 'fertilize the fields'.

Beltane is one of the 'cross-quarter days', the four central holidays that make up the cycle of the seasons. There are also the 'quarter days', which are the beginnings of the seasons -- the equinoxes and the solstices. The cross-quarter days fall exactly six weeks after the quarter days. They always occur when the Sun is at the midpoint of a fixed sign: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, or Aquarius. For example, Beltane falls exactly between spring equinox and summer solstice, with the Sun in Taurus.

Readers down under, please note that these holidays are based on the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere. There are different theories as to how the seasonal changes may be applied to the Southern Hemisphere, where the seasons run opposite than the north. But the initial story and the placement of the holidays is based on the European climates.

Each spring, the Earth's life is renewed, and we are given a fresh chance to live. This is the simplest meaning of Beltane. While we may view this metaphorically today, in earlier times there were no guarantees of surviving winter. Harsh climates throughout Europe and elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, and many unchecked diseases, compounded by lack of supplies and medicine, provided long and challenging months. Emerging with one's life intact in the warmth and renewal of spring was something to celebrate.

Many forms of Paganism, which is an Earth-based, natural religion that predates Christianity by thousands of years, involved tree worship. Trees grow in and from the Earth, and provide us with fruit, as well as wood to build our homes, and to warm them. They are the 'cow' of the Earth -- providing all the basic needs of humanity. In honor of spring, trees were dressed in garlands, wreaths, and ribbons.

There is an element of tree worship associated with Beltane, symbolized in the May Pole dance. There is also a not so subtle phallic symbol alluded to in the May Pole. The May Pole, an ancient symbol of fertility, was celebrated in a dance involving the interweaving of ribbons, symbolic of the entwined fabric of the human family. Today this kind of woven intertwining is known to exist in the genetic codes contained in DNA.

It is interesting that Christian tradition has taken over the holiday as Holy Cross Day (May 3, right in the heart of Beltane season) and that in political tradition it's a holiday about labor and productivity (May Day, celebrated across Europe earlier this week) rather than of sexuality and procreation. There is a relationship between productivity and procreation, of course, but it's a generation abstracted.

Traditionally, both phallic symbols and their opposite, yonic symbols, have been part of Beltane. When I visited Avebury Henge last year in England, a 5,000 year old stone circle just outside of London, the Keeper of the Stones explained that at one time there was an obelisk (shaped kind of like the Washington Monument) at the center of one of the circles, which at Beltane cast a shadow on something called the 'vulva stone'. The male and female polarities would make contact, via a shadow. Since sex is the basis of reproduction and thus all life and all abundance, this is a time of year when sexual symbolism (and reality) are acknowledged openly.

In other words, the most basic property of nature was given a space in the mind and in human affairs. Beltane is the acknowledgement of this.

"Marriage vows were temporarily forgotten during this honey month," writes Donna Henes in her revered, positively beautiful book, Celestially Auspicious Occasions. "People coupled freely in the woods and fields, fertilizing the soil and each other, sharing a fervent participation in the regenerative magic of the Earth."

This is confirmed by other scholars. "In pre-Christian Europe, sexual activity was considered sacred, and Beltane was literally a night of love," comments Marion Weinstein in The Ancient Modern Witch. "Women and men met in the dark, and paired off under groves of tress, or lay on the newly-sown fields. This was believed to create healthy babies, and simultaneously provide a blessing for the crops. Any child conceived on Beltane Eve was considered a child of The Goddess and The God."

Beltane is the Taurus holiday, so by studying its themes, we can find out something about this particular sign of the zodiac.

Like Beltane, each of the cross-quarter days has a different theme. I will go over them briefly, for context. The first Sabbat each year occurs in February, and is called Imbolc or Midwinter holiday, which means 'in the belly' or 'in the milk', depending on who you ask. This is the Aquarius holiday of the four.

It celebrates gestation before birth, and the life contained within apparent stillness and darkness. This occurs when it's still dark and cold outside and we are contained deep within the night-world of the cosmos. It's traditionally a celebration of light, with candles lit in each window. Hence, the Christian version of the holiday is called Candlemas. Each of these holidays has a Christianized version, much like every cathedral in the UK and Europe is placed on a former Pagan place of worship -- which many of their tourist guides openly acknowledge.

Next comes Beltane or Midspring holiday, which, as explained above, is about birth and rebirth, when plants are coming out of the ground, and young animals are being born.

Then in early August, Lammas or Midsummer holiday is known as the 'first harvest'. This is the Leo holiday. Sometimes called 'second planting', Lammas is obviously a holiday of abundance and of celebrating the successful fruition of the Earth. The earlier name is Lughnasadh, which is difficult to spell and more difficult to pronounce, so the Christianized name seems to have stuck. Of the four, this is the one that has faded into the deepest obscurity, though the word 'Midsummer' is preserved in the name of a Shakespeare play, so it's familiar to us.

Last is Samhain (usually pronounced sa-wen), known to us as Halloween. Whereas Beltane is the celebration of birth, rebirth, fertility and passion, Samhain is, throughout much of the world, a time when death is acknowledged. Apparently, the imagery of skeletons so commonly seen at this time of year in the United States, England and Europe, goes back as far as ancient Egypt and as far south as Mexico and Central America, where people celebrate Days of the Dead and prepare feasts in cemeteries. Samhain is considered by some scholars to be the longest continually celebrated holiday in existence.

Now, however, it's time for Midspring holiday, when Old Man Winter finally goes away for good, when the trees are lined with leaves, and when the ash and oak, the birch and yew, are dressed in ribbons faire.

Happy Beltane to ye.

This week, I am on holiday, so we have researched some of the favorite questions from the Astrology Secrets Revealed column. The research was done by two people who work behind the scenes of this column, who I have not introduced: Michele Perin, who actually reads your questions before I do, and Rachael Stillman, who is the proofreader and archivist for the project. Looking over the selection, itís a small astrology text covering many basic subjects that Iím curious about myself.

Please keep your comments and questions coming, and don't forget to visit Planet Waves and Planet Waves Weekly.

Newspapers Horoscopes and Accuracy

Dear Eric

I have a question: Sometimes I feel incredibly 'in touch' with my horoscope, other times much less so. Why is this?


Dear Ross

Both people and planets run on natural cycles. It could be that your favourite astrologer is emphasising different things than you are experiencing, and it could be that something is happening in your personal chart that is "over-riding" the more generalised readings that you find in the newspaper. It sounds like you have an interest in astrology that might go beyond the daily horoscope. If so, a very big world of adventure is awaiting you. The way to start is by having your chart done by an astrologer or chart service, or going to an astrology bookshop and getting a book for beginners. But watch out -- you may be hooked.


Hi Eric,

Fascinating to connect with you via the net via Jonathan Cainer's site. My question for you is: I have five planets in the 5th house... in Aquarius. A stellium in Aquarius...what do you make of it? Am I a future leader in the Aquarian age? Am I here to do incredible work in the area of love and communication? I've been told the 5th house represents kids and creativity. So far I don't have any kids, and I've been around the sun 42 times and my creativity isn't at all what I would like it to be. What do you see that might help me be more connected to my soul? Most of my work this last 15 years has been spiritual and inner focused. Do you see me coming out and shining my light? I'd love to hear from you. Your responses are profound and joyful. Thank you. All the best,



Dear LeeAnn:

Rummaging around the back room of astrology a few years ago, I found the prototypes for your chart. That is, searching through the years around your birth, I noticed the most stunning Aquarius alignment in recent history, and you were born during that moment. I happened to be in that neighborhood because I have a fetish for 1960s astrology, and this seemed to be one of the obvious root charts of that era, a chart that contained the keys or secret codes for what was to come. We could probably still use it with excellent effectiveness as an historical bellwether. That's an interesting metaphor because the bellwether is the sheep who wears a bell and leads the whole flock, and you're asking if this (loosely speaking) is your role.

Before we go into what your natal chart signifies -- which should be fairly obvious from the course of your life, except for one factor that might obscure things a bit -- let's go over the basic features. At the time of your birth, six of the seven of the seven traditional planets of antiquity are located in one sign, Aquarius; all that's missing is the Moon, and when it arrived one week after your birth, each of the other six will still be in Aquarius. Hence we had a truly rare condition of all seven planets of antiquity being in one sign. That, however, is the missing factor, and with the Moon conjunct Neptune I would like to have a good one-page biography of your mother available before reading your chart.

The Aquarius alignment tells me that you were born into a rare, exemplary and outstanding moment of history: in the middle of the brief presidency of John F. Kennedy, when an exactly divided nation (election of 1960 was nearly tied between Nixon and Kennedy) gathered with all its heart behind one leader during truly momentous times. Martin Luther King was very much alive; the Civil Rights movement was happening; but this was the Sixties Part One -- before the Beatles came to the United States -- in an era known as Camelot. I suggest you study this era, if you want to know something about yourself and your mission. The New York Times microfiche (for the week of your birth, an exercise I highly recommend to anyone curious about their natal astrology) is a good place to start, as are innumerable books written about this era.

When the Moon showed up in Aquarius seven days after your birth, there was be a total solar eclipse. It was an extremely rare eclipse -- one of the great eclipses of the 20th century.

Let me explain to everyone how I can see this -- it's extremely obvious if you know what to look for. Notice that the Sun (orange circle with dot, with the number 8 next to it) is near the South Node of the Moon (dark upside-down horse shoe with the number 18 next to it). When the Sun and either of the Moon's nodes are together, there is an eclipse in the neighborhood. Either it just happened or it's about to happen. You can make a good guess by the position of the Moon relative to the Sun; in this case, a New Moon is approaching and the Sun will still be very close to the node at the lunation. That is an eclipse. To be sure, check an ephemeris, or use the eclipse finder feature in an astrology program.

That eclipse was the first major checkpoint of your life. We are not conversing now (astrology is best done as a conversation), but if we were, I would have begun this whole discussion with an inquiry about the condition of your family at the time of your birth. There was, I imagine, something highly unusual. Nobody is born into average-normal situation with all that Aquarius gathering like a bolt of Thor's home-made lightening.

I would make a second inquiry about the condition of your life and family at the age of seven: all factors, including siblings, parents, health, pets, location, school, everything. Why seven years? You are born with the Moon square the Sun. It took the Moon seven days to get from Scorpio (your natal placement) to Aquarius, where that eclipse happened. This is a clear case for checking your progressions. Progressions go on a day-per-year formula; seven days translates to that eclipse having its real manifestation in your life seven years later, i.e., at the age of seven.

That was around 1969. Everything was different. Kennedy was dead. So was his brother, Robert. So was Dr. King. In fact, 1968, as your progressed solar eclipse was approaching, society was in complete turmoil. By 1968, Richard Nixon was president. The Vietnam War, barely spoken of at the time of your birth, was the biggest issue on the national radar, it was going horribly, and the protests were raging. The idealism of the early 1960s was basically shattered, but something else had emerged: social movements where young people began to have faith in their own ability to hold an agenda and shape society. Now, you may ask what this had to do with you; you were seven, after all. I assure you, because you are who you are, it had everything to do with you.

I would say this were there far fewer indicators of a link between you and the collective in your chart; but because of your birth in the days before this eclipse, and the powerful emphasis on Aquarius in your chart, you are drawn in to the consciousness and the experience of society -- which was truly unparalleled in the first seven years of your life. The world had seen nothing like it and would never see it again. There was so much change people could not keep track of it. And as an impressionable young child, you lived through this. And the events of the "larger world" influenced your family. Your parents were somehow deeply touched by what occurred (Sun conjunct Moon).

Whatever the specifics, the age of seven was a profoundly important and formative time. And if you ware asking if you're supposed to be a leader of the Aquarian movement, that suggests on its face that you have a connection to society. Instead of looking for ways to hook into that mission, I am with this discussion taking you through a process where might see, in a clear way, what that mission is at its most organic and functional.

Do you experience yourself as part of the world, in tangible fact? Aquarius is a pretty no-bullshit sign. Its first ruling planet is Saturn, as tangible as astrology gets.

There were several other crucial checkpoints, which I would like to go through before we attempt to make any judgments of what this chart says your purpose is. Besides having a good understanding of your Saturn return at 29 (very important because Saturn came back to Aquarius and transited each of your planets there), your Uranian opposition at 40 (also vital because Uranus is associated with Aquarius), and your major Chiron transits, I would want to have a good sense of the early part of 1997, when, once again, there was a great alignment in Aquarius -- at the time of Comet Hale Bopp. That was the enormous, double-tailed comet that appeared around your birthday that year: here is a visual cue:


Next turning point, or point of unfoldment, was May of 2000. This was the time of a grouping in Taurus very similar to what occurred in your sign at the time of your birth, and it squared all of your natal Aquarius planets. This was the first collection of all seven planets of antiquity in Taurus (that is, the traditional, visible planets, before the discovery of new planets began in 1781 with Uranus). Searching back some 7,000 years, no such alignments were found in Taurus.

Natal charts are not static. Planets are particles, but they are also wave patterns. So charts unfold. They unfold at important points where progressions and transits aspect the chart. Age seven (progressed solar eclipse in Aqurius), Saturn return in 1992, plus the events of 1997, plus the events of 2000, plus the Uranian opposition in 2002: what are they about individually, and what is the story they tell? What is the direction this whole plot known as your life is moving?

Please go over these dates thoughtfully. Take a few weeks. See if you can summarize them in a form I can publish here easily, linking back to your question and this introductory essay. Write the long version, then get it down to 100 words per event, so our readers can get snapshots of your life at these important times and see how the process of a chart unfolding works.

Birthtime Unknown

Hello Eric:

I really enjoy reading your writing. The responses you send people are so filled with compassion and awareness. I don't have my time of birth. My mother doesn't remember nor does anyone else. My hospital closed but even before it did the county did not keep records of the time of birth. I want to have an accurate chart done. My birthday is April 17, 1961. I have heard it can be done, or that it can't, depending on who I ask. What advise would you give me.

Thanks, Sat Nam,

Dear Kate

It's fairly common for people not to know the time of their birth, and astrology has many techniques for addressing this situation.

Because Earth is spinning once every 24 hours, the time of birth determines a person's perspective on the cosmos -- literally, their view on the larger universe around them. Part of this view includes determining the ascendant or rising sign. When an astrologer works to discover your birth time, one of the main things they do is figure out your rising sign. Then, they can tune that to determine exactly the degree of the rising sign. This process is called rectification.

The date of birth, as well as a variety of important dates from your life, are used to do this, basically using a mix of logic and intuition.

There are other methods to creating a chart without doing formal rectification, including using the sunrise chart (a chart cast for your date and place of birth, at sunrise) which woks pretty good, using the degree rising at the time of your first reading (that works pretty good) or by casting horary. Some astrologers use pendulums.

The important thing is that the astrologer get a chart that works for them, and that they feel comfortable with.

I will set up a birth chart using one of these techniques for any client I work with who happens to not have their time. To truly rectify the chart would take working more than one session -- usually two is enough, so that I have a clear enough sense of the timing of life events to make sure that the ascendant that emerges from the work really feels right.

It's not so hard; it just takes a bit of technique, practice, intuition and trust.

Empty houses


I have a question about general chart interpretation. I was looking at my chart wheel and noticed that I have several houses that don't have any planets in them (4,5,7,8,11,12). How does an empty house affect a person's chart and what does it mean for those houses in general?


Dear Nan

This is a really common question. Charts come in many 'standard patterns' and I believe that Marc Edmund Jones has written quite a bit about some of the more common ones.

Now, you're saying you have empty houses, but really what you could say is that you have concentrations in certain houses.

In general, in my own experience, charts where there are concentrations of planets in specific houses make for interesting people with strong focal points of interest and activity. The drawback is that when a transit comes along, you can get a lot of very concentrated action, even over a long period of time. Let's say you have five planets in Virgo; Pluto in Sagittarius would do a lot with those planets over a period of years and life would be pretty intense. Look for how this might work in your chart.

Now, in terms of how to work with an empty house. Remember that while a house may be empty, there is always a sign on the cusp. The longer I practice astrology, the more important I see these house cusps as being, setting the theme for the house. Someone with Aries on the 5th house cusp is going to live quite differently than someone with Capricorn on the 5th, they will have distinctly different experiences from childhood, and so on. This is regardless of what planet may fall IN the house, which will modify the story.

Let's say you're trying to interpret your 7th house, which you describe as empty. The first thing to do is to look at what sign is on the cusp of the 7th (the descendent) and find out what the planetary rulers are. For the sake of discussion, let's say it's Pisces. Pisces has two planets associated with it: Jupiter and Neptune. Those planets exist somewhere in the chart, and wherever they fall, they will tell you something about how you process your 7th house (partnerships and relationships).

The house, sign and aspects of Jupiter will fill in this story, as will the house, sign and aspects of Neptune. This is actual chart interpretation, taken another layer deeper than just looking at what planet is in a house or sign.

It is well worth considering the relationship between the planet or planets that rules your rising sign, and the planet or planets that rule your descendent. What kind of aspects are they making? This will give you some clues about how you tend to seek and experience relationships.

One last point. When you begin to add planets to the chart, you will find that no house is really empty. By add planets, I mean getting your chart cast with extra points such as asteroids, centaur planets and what are called TNOs -- planets beyond Neptune or transneptunian objects. Yes, these planets take some time to understand, there are few decent books, and few astrologers who are capable of reading them creatively. However, I feel that it is both worth the effort, as well as one of the privileges of being a modern astrologer.

I suggest you start with the four major asteroids, and Chiron. Adding five points to the chart, all of which are very well developed by astrology and should be easy to suss out the basic meaning of, will provide you with much food for thought. If those turn you on, you can go further.

I recommend two books for exploring minor planets, which most astrology programs will calculate, and which you can find free at The first book is Mechanics of the Future by Martha Lang Wescott, which covers asteroids, as well as Saturn, Chiron and the Centaurs: To the Edge and Beyond by Melanie Reinhart. Both are fairly easy to get from any bookseller that specializes in astrology books.

Part of Fortune

Dear Eric,

I've had my chart done by Jonathon and on another on-line website. That second website also gives you a day-by-day chart with your planets/the current status of the transit planets. I'm writing this letter because it looks to me that Sun/Moon/Mercury were all conjunct at the recent New Moon on 17 June 2004 with something in my personal chart -- called the PF. What is the PF and what could this mean?


Dear Kathleen

The PF is the Part of Fortune. It is not a planet but rather a calculated point, which combines the Sun, the Moon and the ascendant into one location, using a mathematical formula. There are many ways to use the Part of Fortune; as the name suggests, it is generally a helpful point. Aspects to the Fortune suggest how good fortune can manifest for you; in other words, if it's in aspect to Saturn, by consistent, devoted work; if in aspect to the Moon, in regular cycles; if in aspect to Jupiter, by luck, travel or learning; if in aspect to Uranus, spontaneously. Martin Schulman wrote a good little book about it; click here for the Amazon link.

The Part of Fortune is a relic of a much older system of Arabic astrology that used many such calculated points. I have seen programs that (using resurrected ancient knowledge) calculate up to 70 such points, including things like the parts of Mother, Father, Children, and so on, all of which use various formulas to determine the point.

The interesting thing I learned one year at a conference on ancient astrology is that these Arabic parts were used as an artificial ascendant in reference to matters involving the parts. So let's say your Part of Fortune is at 23 Aries. You would use the degree of 23 Aries as a "false ascendant" and work with the chart from that angle in all matters where you were seeking information about your fortunes. The Part of Fortune would be the beginning of your "first house of fortune" and you would then count around the chart for the additional houses.

In the event (in your case) of a New Moon conjunct Mercury on your Part of Fortune, this is occurring on your first house of fortune! It is very personal! I would propose that you're in a major renewal cycle and that, given the signification of both Mercury and Gemini, that your fortunes depend largely on your devotion to communication and may involve a communication field.

Or, you could say, if you play it smart and feel which way the wind is blowing, good things are coming to you.

Lunar nodes

Dear Eric,

What are the lunar nodes?

Regards from San Pedro

Dear San Pedro

The Lunar Nodes are very mysterious.

No discussion can ever cover them entirely, but I'll try to get you started. First of all, you can find them because they look like little horse shoes in the chart. They are designated North and South, for reasons I'll get into in a moment; some charts only give the North Node; the South Node has the same degree in the opposite sign. The North Node is the horse shoe with the opening on the bottom; the South Node is the once with the opening pointing up.

The North Node is also called the Dragon's Head or in Vedic (Indian) astrology, Rahu. The South Node is also called the Dragon's Tail or in Vedic astrology, Ketu. They activate a polarity; they are always exactly opposite one another, so they remind us how important it is to remember that opposite signs always work together in some way.

First let's go to the Fred Gettings Arkana Dictionary of Astrology for a technical definition. The nodes "are the points in which the orbit of the planet [or the Moon] intersects the ecliptic." The ecliptic is the apparent path of the Sun around the Earth. Most people know the Earth goes round the Sun (research indicates that many people are still confused about this!) But it looks like it works the other way around. So the apparent path of the Sun is called the ecliptic. At the degree where a planet such as the Moon (or recently, Venus) crosses this path, we have the node. When the Sun is standing right there when the Moon (or a planet, such as Venus) crosses this path, we have an eclipse (or in the case of Venus, a transit).

The Moon is not exactly on the ecliptic. The Moon's orbits - and all the planets - intersect with the ecliptic at an angle.

Where the Moon crosses one of its nodes to the northern latitudes, we have the North Node. Where the Moon crosses the ecliptic to the southern latitudes, we have the South Node.

Are you with me so far? This is a three-dimensional situation. The chart is two-dimensional. The Sun is making an orbital path on one plane; the Moon on another; where they meet are the two points called the Nodes.

Whenever you're looking at a chart of any kind and you see the Sun near one of the Moon's nodes, that tells you that an eclipse is in the vicinity - really, two eclipses, one of the Sun and one of the Moon. So eclipses and the Nodes are intimately linked. What the nodes give you is a permanent stand in for eclipses even when the Sun and Moon are somewhere entirely different. They kind of tell you, "This is the approximate location of the next eclipse." Approximate, not exact. As I write, this, the North Node is at 3 Taurus and 20 minutes and the South is in the same degree of Scorpio. The next eclipse is a solar eclipse on Oct. 14 at 21 degrees of Libra and 5 minutes. On that day, the nodes will be at 2 degrees and 6 minutes of Taurus/Scorpio. The nodes and the position of the eclipse are about 10 degrees apart, which is fairly typical.

I don't know enough about astronomy to account for this difference, but I live with the mystery.

Now, none of this tells you what to do with the nodes.

If you look them up in an astrology textbook or two, you're going to find out that the South Node is about your past karma, the past, where you're coming from, where you get stuck in life, or where you draw your power based on past experience. That's a reasonable explanation. The North Node is usually said to be a place where we struggle to become something, to learn something, or to express ourselves. True enough.

The Sound Node feels like Karma - the total effect of our past actions. The North Node feels like Dharma - right action, or 'acting as if to hold the world together'. They are very important in terms of their house position; their sign position tells you a lot because the sign where the node is placed gives you a ruling planet or two to search for, and that placement tells you a lot about the influence of the particular node in question.

If a planet is conjunct one of the nodes, then that planet (and the house it rules) are associated with the whole story of the node. If a planet is square the nodes, then one will not be able to deal with the nodes until they first address the concerns, issues or themes of that planet. If a planet is trine or sextile the nodes, then it will tend to be greatly amplified and broadcast widely into our reality and even the world around us. The nodes say a LOT about where our private world intersects with the greater world, the culture, society, and so on. Often famous people have prominent lunar nodes, or have learned to work effectively with the planets that aspect the nodes.

Some Western astrologers say the North Node is 'good' and the South Node is 'bad'. This is entirely oversimplified and not so helpful if youíre trying to get a sense of a person from their chart.

The Nodes are important tools in Vedic astrology and are only beginning to be vaguely understood by modern Western astrologers. Last year I had the chance to speak for a while with Presanan, the official astrologer to Ammachi, when Amma's road show was in Seattle. I asked him about the nodes. He said that from the standpoint of the Vedics, both nodes are considered troublesome because they bind us to the Earthly plane of existence. One says what we must work out from the past; the other says what we must work out for the future. Thus, they attach us to our lives. I considered that and, never being one who is afraid to edit, I would put it this way.

The nodes tell us about what we get to do here on the Earth, and they help us do it. Since we are on the Earth, we would do well to consider the value of doing what we came here to do. As a result, they keep us grounded, which is where we belong. If we ever get too far from the true path of life (as we define it) the nodes will somehow keep us on track, or eventually bring us back on track. I consider the Nodes to be something of a first priority in order of what really matters in the chart.

Now, one past point. In terms of what they are, the nodes are directions in space. They are nothing physical; they are points that hint at where an event in the future (an eclipse or two) will occur. But they act with power that should make most planets envious. They are among the very most compelling points in the chart, on par with Pluto, Saturn or Chiron, but really much more immediate, even urgent. They feel like a strong current moving us through the water. They are alive. They are completely cosmic and yet totally mundane.

The fact that no-thing can have this kind of effect tells you that astrology is not about things, it is about energies and ideas. People who have difficulty interpreting the nodes may be responding to this intangibility, this no-thingness. Tune in; check for aspects, pull a few tarot cards, take a deep breath, or wait for the next eclipse.

The Lunar Nodes speak. If youíd like a good book that can help you decode the nodes, have a look at Incarnation by Melanie Reinhart.

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