To most people, the abundance of information beyond basic Sun-Sign astrology is overwhelming. It’s hard enough to understand the symbolic language necessary to interpret a chart, but it’s another task entirely to create coherent, accessible stories with all of that data. ‘My Moon is here, my Mercury is there, and Pluto’s making an unpronounceable aspect to my Ascendant.’ You may understand what these phrases suggest, individually, but what does all of it mean, together?
If you’re still learning the fundamentals of this language, I suggest you check out my Astrology 101 and Sweet Astrology Resources pages. If you’re ready to move onto the next step, it’s time to start thinking about what sort of stories you want to be writing with the language of astrology.
Using astrology to its fullest, we need to ask good questions. Astrology is used in lots of different ways—somebody might go to a traditional Indian Astrologer to calculate a couple’s marriage compatibility, medical astrologers might cast a chart to diagnose the root of a patient’s disease, and financial astrologers might use it to predict the movement of a stock.
An average psychologically-oriented astrologer might look at your Sun, Moon, and Ascendant to tell a story about a vibrant, central character, an inner, emotional self, and a mask that is presented to the world. This is enlivening stuff, but the real, transformative substance of astrology comes when we ask better questions. We start weaving a story that can really guide and organize our life.
I start most of my readings by using Evolutionary Astrology, which is a school of thought that asks some really profound questions: What karmic momentum am I riding? Where do I get stuck? What is my mission here on earth, and how can I live it out? While Evolutionary Astrology doesn’t spell out rigid, deterministic answers to these questions, it’s incredibly useful in focusing our attention on the core themes of our soul’s story. Understanding the archetypal framework we incarnated into, we get to co-create the rest of the story with the cosmos.
This story is woven around the Nodes of the Moon, which are the points at which eclipses occur. Astrologically, they are thought to represent a past to the soul and it’s future direction. The South Node describes our heritage—all the junk and gems continuing from our upbringing, our family legacy, and past lives. It’s our Karma. The North Node describes a point of focus that leads us forward, into a new sense of self and novel experiences. It’s thought to hold our Dharma, our unique Truth and path towards excellence. You can think of your heroes and role models as good representations of this energy.
Evolutionary Astrology emphasizes a developmental or evolutionary nature of this story. Life is a gradual game of growth, leaving the known, represented by the South Node and becoming something greater and more whole—the North Node. At the same time, the story definitely isn’t so one-directional. In the Vedic tradition, the North Node, which they call Rahu (or the Head of the Dragon), is thought to be insatiably hungry. Likewise, the South Node, which they call Ketu, or the Tail of the Dragon, is thought to contain the Siddhis, the magical powers that we’ve developed over potentially thousands of past lives. Thus, this process of growth becomes one of integration. Past and future take focus and blend together. Our soul’s legacy gets distilled and redeemed, and our ambitious side smooths out and condenses around the specific desires that can be satisfied.
The specific flavors of this past to be clarified and future to extend into are described by the placement of the Nodes. As they are always in opposing positions, we can gain an appreciation of one of the central beauties of the language of astrology—the weaving together of polarities. For instance, nodes placed across the first and seventh houses emphasize themes of independence and relationship, self and other, individuation and union. Looking at the contours of a life, we might see dramatic dances back and forth between these two poles—solitary adventures of self discovery, joyful communion with another person, the painful tension of growing in different directions, and the difficult search for deep and lasting partnership. This story becomes more and more nuanced as we add layers of complexity–the nodes’ constellations, aspects to the nodes, and the position of the planetary rulers.
Although the backbone of these two nodes often naturally organizes the rest of the chart, rolling into other planets and their interplay, the nodes provide a structure upon which we can understand the other planets. Traditionally, Pluto is focused on to integrate a deep, soulful power. Mythologically, Pluto is the God of the Underworld, the domain of that which has been pushed out of daytime awareness. This is the realm of the shadow, where strong and unruly forces lurk on the edges of consciousness. People with Pluto strongly emphasized in their chart have a natural draw towards these dimensions of life—desiring the dark, sniffing out the invisible and unsaid, exploring the taboo. They might hold a sort of intimidating or sexual presence, or use their power inappropriately.
When not respected and appropriately expressed, these underworld energies are distorted and expressed in potentially violent or disruptive manners. The planet was discovered in 1931, during the rise of fascism and the development of nuclear energy and weaponry. Consciously integrated, this Plutonian energy holds deep, rejuvenating wellsprings of power, which often tastes a little sexual, magical, or edgy. Evolutionary Astrology as taught by Jeffery Wolf Green understands it to hold the specific desires of the soul that pulls it into incarnation. Caroline Casey refers to it as ‘our Soul’s mission.’
Integrating Pluto with the Nodes, we come to a complete and empowering story for the soul. We can recognize when we’ve swung to one pole or the other in our lives and understand what integration looks like. We have language for the difficult dimensions of our experience, as well as an understanding of how to work with and transmute those energies. Placing our incarnation within a broader context, our lives become more meaningful—we are tied to stories larger than ourselves, healing the legacy of our ancestors and laying down a foundation for our descendants. Understanding the specific archetypal dynamics we are working with, our life’s focus becomes more consolidated and powerful. Articulating our unique gifts and place in the world, we appreciate the diversity of experiences around us and our interconnectedness with them.