Nodal Returns, Squares, and Reverse Returns

In evolutionary astrology (EA), the natal nodes of the moon represent an arc of development. The South Node (SN) indicates many lifetimes of conditioning and how the chart holder has been trained to see the world again and again. The North Node (NN) represents what he or she has not been taught or modeled in healthy ways but must learn to explore and integrate now in order to grow.

Habit, preferences, and comfort zones are associated with that SN conditioning while avoidance, aversion, cluelessness, and sometimes panic and dread are associated with the NN. Emotionally, energetically, and karmically, the weight is typically 100% on the SN. The NN is usually foreign territory we don’t want to have to explore, let alone live with and integrate.

The nodes of the Moon move in transit, too, setting up a cycle of squares, oppositions, and conjunctions that happen several times throughout a person’s life. The cycle is about 18.6 years, so at that age and around age 37 you’ll have a nodal return, and about 9 years between those ages you’ll have a reverse nodal return (when the transiting SN conjuncts your natal NN and vice versa).

Nodal Returns
Approximate Ages: around 18 1/2, 37, 56, 74 1/2
Nodal returns are turning points that can inspire confidence. You might feel that you know what you’re doing, where you’re going, and what it will take to make things happen. Something that you’re good at in many lifetimes can, if you rely on it, lead to a kind of success.

But just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you should always do it! This is a time to evaluate your attachments to the past, your assumptions about what the world is like, and what it should be about and offer you.

A few things (or many) during this time can fall into place, seeming to support you along your path. You might realize now that you’re good at something new that you like doing, or that you can reach out for help with what you’re building and get it. Allies, supporters, and teachers might line up to remind you who you are, but be aware that this is really about who you’ve always been. What they’re seeing and reinforcing in you might belong to an old version of who you were or, even, who your family and community when growing up in this life told you you are.

This can be a time to gain clarity about what you want to do with your time and energy, but it can just as likely be instead a stepping stone to a kind of personal growth wherein you make some important decisions about what from your past you’re willing to carry forward and what you can afford to leave behind.

Nodal Squares
Approximate Ages: 4 1/2, 14, 23, 32 1/2. 42, 51, 60 1/2, 70, 79
These times can bring tension. You may become aware that you need to do things you don’t really yet understand how to do, or you might feel circumstance nudging you toward a need to compromise in how, why, and when you do certain things. You might find yourself on any and every timeline but the one that works for you.

This can be challenging as you find yourself needing to branch out and learn new ways of doing things. It can also be uncomfortable as you realize you can’t just go through the motions of doing new things, but you need to actually learn them — it’s time to pay attention and learn some things that take you out of your comfort zone.

Some during these times can feel tired or a bit worn down from a feeling of pressure, as if not much of what they’re doing seems to work that well; their tools just aren’t ever seeming the right ones. It’s a time of adjusting to new surroundings, behaviors, or calls for self-care, and most of us tend to wallow in resistance to change.

These transits are for learning more about your assumptions about what the world is and should be like through seeing in real time that you only have part of the picture. If you’re open to learning new tricks, you have the opportunity to add to your tool box, make new kinds of connections, and learn more about the world around you as it actually is while moving away from a conditioned fantasy about what the world should be like.

Reverse Nodal Returns
Approximate Ages: a bit over 9, 28, 46 1/2, 65, 83 1/2
These are times when you see your habits, preferences, and assumptions about life and the world confronted and blocked by how the world actually is. It’s a time of seeing your conditioning revealed for what it is: ideas and beliefs about how things should be that you’ve learned over time are supposed to be correct.

While with the transiting nodal axis squares to your natal nodes you might find minor adjustments to how and why you’re doing things necessary to move things along, with the reverse return it might be more that you’re finding there’s no place in your modern life for your old preferences and beliefs. As you’re a human, you’re going to rely on your habits, preferences, and assumptions about life, but you’re now finding that, at least in some things, you’ve been wrong all along.

Something you might benefit from doing in the moment (the transiting NN) is activating your comfort zone (natal SN), but it’s not going to feel right if you rely on old ways of doing things. You need to sort through a variety of approaches and embrace new ones, ideally those you haven’t lived with for years.

Simultaneously, things are coming up now (the transiting SN) that call for you to stretch into new territory (your natal NN). This can be a repeated type of scenario you’ve been trying to avoid lately but just won’t stop, or perhaps something people or situations keep bringing you that is something you would normally opt not to respond to or engage with.

This is a time for leaving behind what you might be good at but no longer works (or for the first time you can see it doesn’t work) and for being open to new challenges you’d usually try to edit out of your view.

Your entire life as a human is a series of learning opportunities. Your soul, after all, has you here so it can observe what it feels and seems like to live as a human. Transits of the nodal axis are just one part of a vast tapestry of transits that will nudge (or push) you along your evolutionary path. The trick in navigating them in healthy ways rests in recognizing two things:

  1. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean that’s all there is or that you should always do it.
  2. Just because you haven’t tried something before doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t.

For more on understanding the natal nodal axis in evolutionary astrology, read The Soul’s Journey trilogy of books, become a member of the Soul’s Journey Soundbite Database, and study evolutionary astrology with me.