Riding the Tail of the Celestial Dragon / Pluto, saturn + the south node
This month, we have been experiencing a powerful transit of Pluto and Saturn crossing the lunar south node. While this aspect suggests powerful changes both internally and externally, it will also be reflected in the health of those whose charts it activates. Before we get into what this transit spells out, let’s spend some time covering the lunar nodes themselves—what they are and what they represent in a health reading…
What are the lunar nodes?
The orbit of the moon is tilted by about 5 degrees when compared to the path of the sun, otherwise known as the ecliptic. This creates two points where the paths of the orbits meet in the heavens—when the moon crosses north of the sun’s ecliptic, the point where the two orbits meet is called the north node and vice versa for the south node.
In ancient European astrological tradition, the lunar nodal axis was referred to as a celestial dragon wherein the north node represents the head—hungry, leading and dominant, and the south node represents the tail—releasing, letting go and following. There are tons of interesting theories on the lunar nodes, however for our purposes, I like to think of them as parts of a tree growing inside of each of us. While the other planets in our natal charts act as environmental factors or influencing energies, our south nodes indicate root growth while the north nodes represent the growth of your branches, flowers and fruits.
In other words, our south node placements can show us how we seek balance and nourishment, what qualities we lean on in order to orient ourselves in the chaos of the world. This is why we tend to show qualities reflective of our south node placements when we are young, eventually growing out them as we age. As we mature, our energy tends to shift gradually towards the qualities represented by our north node placements. In this way we often end up manifesting characteristics of both, one perhaps more internally or “yin” in nature, one more external or “yang” in nature. Our north nodes often indicate what type of fruit or flower we will have to offer our larger communities, much like the flora and fauna each have roles to play within the balance of the larger ecosystem.
the Lunar Nodes
in Medical Astrology
In medical astrology, the nodes are often presented as the north node being a placement of excess growth or exposure while the south node reflects weakness, laxity or deficiency. If we compare this to the tree analogy, the north node then symbolizes the aspect of growth of the above ground part of a plant, where it is taking in the energy of the sun and air and transmuting it to increase growth and fruiting. It is also interacting with the world—developing secondary compounds and unique adaptations.
The roots, the south node, symbolize where the plant is vulnerable. It is the source of the plant’s life and in most cases, if the root is disturbed or damaged, the plant will not grow back. Therefore it is easy to see why the south node tends to be more problematic in a health reading, because it means that the individual has experienced agitating forces early in life or womb development that produces subconscious emotional dynamics that later manifest in health issues.
This is important to remember when we start looking at Pluto’s recent involvement with the south node, as it suggests that we are collectively experiencing a “transplanting” of sorts, a process that is quite uncomfortable and even painful, dislodging emotions that may have been repressed for our entire lives. This same process also promises a flowering of a new life if we are able to tune into and honor our true soul needs.
Since the lunar nodes are connected to the archetype of the moon, often times health issues that are reflected by nodal activity in one’s chart is an inherited, genetic or epigenetic in origin. They are also likely woven into emotional dynamics or patterns, as this falls under the dominion of the moon. Therefore, reading the nodes’ involvement can give us huge insights as to how our emotional health is impacting our physical. This is even more telling in the case of the south node, which is often linked to hard to break habit patterns that may have been inherited.
Just for fun, I recommend studying the charts of those who have natal south node afflictions, especially planetary conjunctions, to see how this has manifested for them in their lives. My family is quite a south node bunch--just within my own circle I have observed Mars on the south node in Aries producing high blood pressure due to anger from early life that was imprinted from the mother, Chiron/south node in Cancer manifesting as chronic mucous congestion connected to fears of self-expression within the family and Mars/south node in Leo manifesting as the early onset of heart problems due to self-medicating with various substances to manage a life-long anxiety problem. Interesting, no? In each example we can clearly see the effect of the planet, whether Mars or Chiron, inhibiting the south node’s natural function of release and regulation.
The nodes are currently in the Cancer (north node)/Capricorn axis (south node), which on a global scale means that we are refocusing our energies on our families, homes, our past / ancestral lineage and our creative ventures. We are being called to release structures of ambition, ego, and an achievement-oriented or hierarchical mentality, perhaps rethinking our notions of career in lieu of finding a life path that truly nourishes our souls. On a physical level, the south node in Capricorn is triggering chronic pain or muscular issues, fatigue, weakness of the bones leading to growths or inflammation such as osteoarthritis, knee problems or systemic growth of tumors/cysts/fibroids that may manifest as cancer. All of these will most likely have a digestive component reflected by the north node in Cancer.
So now that we have an understanding of the lunar nodes and how they tend to act in health readings, let’s switch gears to talk about the big baddies of the astrological family—Pluto, the ruler of death, destruction, corruption and power and Saturn, ruler of time, karma, limitations and consequences. Both are currently rolling over the south node, triggering ailments and health imbalances of a south node flavor—and Saturn is due for two more conjunctions thanks to her retrograde period. Because Pluto’s conjunction was first, I will start with her.
in a Medical Reading
As I mentioned in an earlier article, I consider the transpersonal planets (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) to represent external forces rather than the personal energetic influences that the inner planets produce. Pluto is often associated with the physical urge to release, whether it be waste products through natural excretion or sexual fluids through our reproductive systems. Rather than a quick and easy release, Plutonian energy seems to build up to a certain fever pitch before exploding as a volcano does. Transits of Pluto throughout history have been linked to plagues, infection, STDs, near death health crises, surgeries/amputations, radiation and, most recently, cancers. Interesting to note that antibiotic use, what we may consider to be a “plutonian” or radical treatment is historically tied to Pluto—discovered in 1930 just two years after the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming who himself had a loose conjunction of Mars, Pluto and Jupiter natally!
What is important to realize about Pluto is that it’s out past Neptune, the ruler of the immune system, in the solar system. This means that Plutonian illnesses rely on the fact that the immune system has been compromised in some way, most likely over the course of several generations. It’s not fair, but people with hard Pluto aspects in their charts are often predisposed to inherited or genetic conditions that have been percolating for more than one lifetime. In the sign of Capricorn, these conditions may reflect the Cancer/Capricorn body system and have their origins in malnutrition/eating irradiated or chemically altered foods, which is a situation that, unfortunately, most of the world’s population can attest to at this point.
So if we combine the dual meanings of Pluto, the south node and Capricorn we get a reading that goes something like, the spontaneous and uncontrolled release of systemic toxins into the structure or bones of our bodies, creating an imbalance that overloads our normal pathways of excretion, perhaps having emotional connections to our early family life, development or diet. This rough translation will of course depend on what house Capricorn rules in your chart, as well as natal planets you may have in Capricorn.
It is important to note that because Pluto and the south node are considered to be transpersonal, or larger than the self, their effects will most seek projection onto an aspecting personal planet. For example, this transit is occurring in my mother’s 3rd house, however, instead of manifesting in her lungs or nervous system (as the 3rd house rules), it trines her Taurus 7th house moon, manifesting in her current diagnosis of hormone-dependent (7th house) breast cancer (supported by Chiron in the 4th). Remember that medical astrologers look for at least three supporting pieces of evidence before anticipating a health issue--just because the Pluto/south node is activating something in your chart it doesn’t mean that you are doomed to get cancer! Other factors, such as the progressed chart, must also be taken into account.
Before moving on to Saturn, let’s briefly touch on the involvement of the immune system and its’ links to digestion and cancer. With our current agro-industrial model where we are able to eat out of locality and season, our bodies have become confused and have lost their connection to the natural cycles, falling out of sync, with multiple health consequences. We have become disconnected with the ways of eating practiced by our ancestors (Cancer), not realizing that the evolution of our digestive systems lags greatly behind that of the rest of our bodies. I believe that this is a huge underlying factor in all of the cancers and autoimmune issues we are seeing today, coupled with increased toxin exposure via pesticides and preservatives needed to fuel this machine. One of the strongest measures we can take in reclaiming control of our health again is simply to eat locally and seasonally. Get familiar with farmers in your area, and if there are none, look into community gardens or programs that connect you with sources of fresh food, or grow your own if you have the space! This is the strongest and most impassioned suggestion I can make for not only this transit, but this time period as well.
the Earth Element + the Stomach/Spleen Organ System
This is a convenient segway into Saturn, who will also meet up with the south node today at 20 degrees Capricorn, hovering there for the next week before stationing retrograde on April 30th. Saturn is associated with the earth energy of transformation in 5 element theory, as well as the stomach/spleen organ pair. This organ system is represented by late summer, when the harvest is collected and preparations are made for less fruitful times ahead.
The stomach/spleen system resonates with our feeling of nourishment, abundance and transformation of internal wealth into forms of energy that we can use to act in the world. When balanced, the stomach is able to receive nutrients from what we ingest, break things down efficiently and sending them out for processing. The spleen filters pure from impure in what we eat, reflecting a resilient immune system. Similarly, we feel content or satisfied with what we have in life, are able to discern what is good for us and what is not, and experience confidence in making decisions. Our body is able to sustain and repair itself when needed, and strong cravings are not felt as we feel complete and whole in ourselves.
When the stomach/spleen system is out of balance, digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, or dyspepsia can become chronic. Emotionally, we become low in self-esteem and look to others to make decisions for us due to internal feelings of lack, as if we do not have enough to be a whole person. We may confuse sympathy for worry, becoming unable to care for others without taking on the monkey on their back—their stress—and blurring the lines between self and other, setting us up for immune dysregulation.
Chronic weakness in this system may originate from a poor relationship with the mother, and as a result, the person may feel as if they are unable to “mother” themselves, or take care of their own needs. This contributes to the primary emotion attributed to this system—worry—where the individual gets bogged down by their own belief that they are not enough and begin to grow concerned as to where they will reap sustenance in their lives. Similarly, chronic worry can negatively affect this system, slowing down digestion and eventually affecting the immune system through the spleen.
So with Saturn’s dance around the south node this year, many of us may experience challenges to our stomach and spleen organ systems manifesting in immune dysregulation, autoimmune conditions, increasing food sensitivities/allergies and tumor or cyst growth. The involvement of Pluto also triggers the involvement of inherited conditions or gene mutations. On the other hand, these two planets together offer us the unique opportunity to restructure in ways that will affect the future of our species—with Cancer’s emphasis, we may find that a restructuring of the way we eat may be in order. We are awakening to a global consciousness which knows that we cannot live separated from the earth’s natural cycles for too long without reaping some serious consequences, if not in our lifetime then in those of our children or theirs. So now let’s talk herbs that help support the stomach/spleen organ system as well as mitigate the challenging effects of Saturn, Pluto and the south node. Our first is kudzu...
Pueraria Montana / Pueraria Lobata
The root of Kudzu has a long-established history of use in Chinese medicine for ailments that arise from an excess of internal heat, such as headaches (of all kinds including migraines, cluster headaches and tension headaches), diarrhea, dysentery, intestinal obstruction, stomach flu, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases by way of stimulating blood flow back to the heart. It is also used as a digestive aid, fever reducer, and is thought to lower alcohol consumption and lower blood sugar.
With the current constellation of Pluto, the south node and Saturn, addictions may be majorly triggered as the south node deals with ingrained habit patterns and Pluto often acts as an impulse trigger. One of the signatures which right away tells us something important about this plant is that it’s invasive, which speaks to the way we can be invaded by our addictions. Kudzu’s exact mechanisms on alcohol processing are unknown, but studies have shown that it lowers the amount of alcohol consumed, with people using it tending to drink less. Kudzu seems to lessen the desire for alcohol while it also stimulates regeneration of liver tissue while protecting against liver toxins. While there have been studies performed on the root, the flower is also used as a traditional Chinese remedy for hangover, suggesting a similar function between the roots and the flowers, but I am not able to find any supporting documentation.
Kudzu root is a strong antiviral, and when taken daily can help keep outbreaks of herpes, shingles or cold sores at bay. It is also a remedy for cold and flu as it can bring down a fever and has a protective effect on mucous membranes, soothing inflamed tissue and relieving sore muscles. As a vasodilator it can be used as part of a high blood pressure treatment protocol, especially as it can help reduce many of the symptoms associated with blood pressure irregularities as well such as headache, vertigo/dizziness and tinnitus.
Kudzu root can also be cooked with—in fact you can find it now in the Asian section of many grocery stores. The flavor is sweet and acrid, but not really strong enough to change the taste of what you’re cooking. I like to throw it in soups, as it usually thickens it up a little. Kudzu root is high in complex carbohydrates and starches, and is a great substitute for other thickening agents like cornstarch or arrowroot powder. It also contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and vitamin B2. It balances out acidity in foods and protects the stomach, producing a soothing and cooling effect internally. If cooking with kudzu is not your thing, a decoction can be made as well, the recommended dose ranging from 9 to 15 g daily.
The traditional therapeutic actions of kudzu root include: antispasmodic, anti-pyretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-cancer, antiviral, diaphoretic, muscle relaxant, vasodilator, antihypertensive, antioxidant, liver protective, circulatory support for conditions such as raynauds.
The second herb I would like to talk about has many names, my favorite being Ghost pipe. Ghost Pipe has a spectral appearance in nature—it does not photosynthesize and therefore is not green, rather it has a ghost-like whitish color that appears translucent, hence the otherworldly nickname. It’s roots contain a mycorrhizal fungus whose mycelium extends outward to nearby trees, bringing it nutrients through the relationships between roots and soil fungi. This gives ghost pipe a deeply spiritual role as one who can access the invisible web of life beyond this veil. An herbalist friend with whom I attended school, Sam Perry, talked about the flower essence as connecting to our ancestral lineages. I introduce it today because of its’ ability to target womb or past life trauma, epigenetic conditions associated with chronic pain and pain that has emotional origins.
Because of the way in which mycorrihizal networks are used for communication, ghost pipe can be used to address repatterning of the nervous system. Sean Donahue notes how ghost pipe looks like a brain with a brain stem, a doctrine of signatures which suggests that ghost pipe may have an effect on our sensory input abilities, perhaps why it is used for so many different types of pain. Its’ use as a rinse for inflamed eyes also speaks to an ability to clear vision not only physically but emotionally and mentally as well, helping us reset on multiple levels.
Ghost pipe is a nervine of a different flavor. It can be used for pain—physical, emotional and mental—by distancing the individual from the sensation of their own pain. In fact the King’s American Dispensatory notes that the powdered root of Ghost Pipe could be used “as a substitute for opium, without any deleterious influences.” Because of its’ profound effect on emotional pain and PTSD, it has become a trusted remedy for panic attacks, overwhelming anxiety and other similar manifestations that have their roots in trauma. Ghost pipe is an amazing ally for those doing deep, emotional healing or shadow work, as it can help us moderate the intensity of our own experience of our painful memories. It can also be used in work with entheogens if one is having a bad trip or otherwise overwhelming experience, ghost pipe can be taken to calm yourself down. Other uses include seizures, convulsions, bladder infections, insomnia, PTSD or mental health disorders, chronic muscle spasms, fevers and inflamed eyes as a rinse.
Once you start looking for ghost pipe, you will realize quickly that it has a magical presence. It is selective about where it grows, and moves around from year to year. Because it doesn’t’ need sunlight it is often found in moist, shaded woody areas. Sometimes you find huge stands of it, other times light sprinklings here and there. This is partially because ghost pipe is only able to feed on one group of mycorrhizal fungi called Russula which attach to a wide variety of tree species including Oaks and Beech. However because of its dependence on these relationships, it does not tolerate cultivation nor transplanting, making it a gem of a find in nature. It is important to pay attention to how much you are harvesting in relation to the total amount of the plant there is, I try to never harvest more than 30% of what I can see. Herbalists differ on whether the whole plant tincture is more effective than a tincture of just the aerial parts, but keep in mind that if the roots are taken it won’t grow back, so be mindful of that if you decide to make your own tincture. If making a flower essence, you may lean the drooping heads of the flowers into your bowl of water so that you don’t have to rip up the plant.
The tincture of ghost pipe is a beautiful purple color, and can be taken in low drop doses. Especially if you are working with ghost pipe for emotional release or internal pain, 3 drops may be taken as an effective dose. If a higher dose is needed, 1 mil may be taken but if there is still no effect a different herb or combination should be tried. Teas are discouraged as no herbivores eat ghost pipe and herbalist Ryan Drum talks about eating some once and becoming nauseated.
Next month we will be talking about retrograde planets in a health reading, as we have Pluto, Saturn AND Jupiter stationing retrograde for the summer. Retrograde planets alter the functioning of our physical organ systems, find out how as well as how we can mitigate some their effects by tuning in next month! Until then, be well and go in love. Happy Spring!