The term draconic comes from the Latin names for the Lunar Nodes: Caput Draconis, the dragon's head or Moon's North Node, and Cauda Draconis, the dragon's tail or South Node. The Moon's North Node is the point where the Moon crosses the ecliptic from south to north; this intersection is used as the starting point, or 0° of Aries, of the draconic zodiac. In this article, I will refer to the principles involved and give examples of how draconic astrology works and can be used to enhance one’s practice as an astrologer.
The North Node as a Starting Point
The nodes are the result of the relationship between the Moon, the Earth and the Sun. The Earth represents our material reality, our body; the Moon is the link that joins that concrete reality to the spiritual realm that is represented by the Sun. The Moon, as the rest of the planets (except for the Sun that always has 0 degrees of latitude), travels either north or south of the ecliptic. The point in the ecliptic where it crosses it from a southern latitude to a northern latitude is the North Node. The point in the ecliptic where the Moon crosses from a northern latitude towards a southern latitude is the South Node. When the Moon crosses the ecliptic, it has 0 latitude, as does the Sun. It marks a beginning, a new start, and therefore the North Node is considered the 0 degrees of Aries in the draconic zodiac. The reason for choosing the North Node over the South Node as a starting point will become clear as the meaning of the nodes is explained.
Differences Between the North Node and the South Node
The tropical zodiac is of solar origin, and therefore represents psychological traits. The draconic zodiac responds to lunar symbolism and therefore expresses unconscious motivations that affect our daily life.¹ The South and North Nodes are placed 180° from each other and form the nodal axis. The South Node, or Dragon’s Tail, refers to emotional responses and inner impulses that we feel are beyond our control. It describes those qualities that we are already familiar with and express unconsciously, it is referred to as “the path of least resistance.”
The North Node, or Dragon’s Head, represents where we are going, it pinpoints the traits we strive to conquer in order to counterbalance these unconscious tendencies. In his article How to Interpret the Lunar Nodes, French astrologer Dane Rudhyar states: “...From a more strictly biological and functional point of view, the North Lunar Node refers to the mouth of an animal and the South Lunar Node to the organs of evacuation, which means both the anus and the procreative organs from which the seed goes forth.”
He emphasizes that the South Node is not necessarily negative, but a point of automatic release of materials that the organism needs to get rid of. In the same article, he exemplifies this concept by quoting French composer Saint-Saens (1835-1921) who used to say: “I compose just like an apple tree produces apples.”² It can be productive in an unconscious way, entailing no discernment or awareness. In other words, the automatic impulses described by the South Node need to be outgrown and countervailed by incorporating the North’s attributes. This is why many astrologers refer to this axis as the soul’s path.³
For instance, a person with the North Node in Sagittarius is born with a natural inclination towards learning and communication; but can also be superficial and changing opinions (South Node in Gemini). At an internal level he feels the need to seek his own philosophy of life, to contend with higher truths and expand his consciousness through fields such as philosophy, teaching, religion and traveling. He knows he has already become accomplished in Gemini and that to follow this path of least resistance prevents his growth (let us say by becoming an eternal student), and therefore strives to grow by developing Sagittarius.
Or someone with the North Node in the 10th is innately drawn towards nesting, feels attached to her past and family (South Node in the 4th). The North Node in the 10th suggests that she should struggle to establish her social and professional position, but without losing her ability to take care and nurture her family in doing so. Both Nodes need each other to maintain a balance.
In my experience as an astrologer, I find it helps the clients enormously to acknowledge those tendencies described by the South Node and to emphasize the importance of developing the qualities of the North Node (and its ruler). It gives the client a sense of purpose and direction.
How to Calculate a Draconic chart
Many sites such as astro.com or Astro-Seek calculate draconic charts. It can also be done very simply by using the position of the tropical North Node as 0 Aries. The North Node can be determined in two ways: Mean or True, the main difference being that while Mean is always retrograde, True is direct a few days each month. To figure out Mean, the Node’s rate of motion is averaged out, while True takes uses the position of the Node after correction for the alterations that the gravitational forces of Sun and Moon cause in its path. The result is very similar in both cases and they are never more than a few degrees away from each other. There is no agreement among astrologers as to which is better to use in chart analysis. For example, in the article that has already been mentioned, Rudhyar advocates the use of the Mean Node. In his own words: “…as the nodes are not actual, concrete entities but refer to the interaction of two cycles – the lunar month and the solar year – the mean position of the nodes seems to be more significant than their slightly different actual position.”⁴
However, in my personal experience, the True Node is more accurate. I have consulted astrologer Reverend Pamela Crane, a great expert on draconic, and she also prefers True to Mean.
To calculate the draconic chart, the position of the North Node is subtracted from the location of each planet and house cusp.
Example of calculation of the position of the North Draconic Sun:
North Node= 05° 32’ Leo (125° 32’)
Tropical Sun: 21° 48’ Taurus (51° 48’)
Draconic Sun 51° 48’ – 125° 32’ = (360° + 51° 48’= 411 48) – 125° 32’= 286° 16’ = 16° 16’ Capricorn.
This same procedure is used for the rest of the planets and house cusps. In the resulting chart the shape of the chart does not change because tropical house placements and aspects remain the same. These will have different signs and degrees but the same house positions as in the tropical. A Moon emplaced in the tropical 8th square Saturn will still be in the same position and aspect in the draconic.
Let’s illustrate this point by using Rami Malek’s tropical and draconic charts: the draconic planets and cusps are in different signs but all planets are in the same house placements.
The draconic chart coexists with the tropical one, complementing it, so it’s better to approach them together. It’s a good idea to use a by-wheel with the tropical chart inside and the draconic as an outer wheel.
How to Interpret a Draconic Chart
Pay special attention to conjunctions and oppositions between tropical and draconic planets (using an orb of 5°). These links make available more subliminal aspects of our personality which come up by means of the conscious traits represented by the tropical planets and angles. To help make a clear distinction between the functioning of both charts, Argentinian astrologer Néstor Echarte recommends interpreting the draconic houses and planets as if they were conjunct the Moon.⁵
On combining both charts, the houses overlap. A way of reading this would be by considering the draconic house as the internal, emotional layer. Special attention should be paid to the draconic house that coincides with the tropical 12th or vice versa, this is an area that will involve hardship that presents itself through fated events. For instance, if the draconic 12th overlaps the tropical ascendant, unconscious unresolved issues (draconic 12th) will come up in his sense of self, the relationship with his body and the way he appears to others. Or if the draconic 12th concurs with the tropical 7th, destiny seems to test the person through personal relationships and social interactions.
Princess Diana illustrates this point: her draconic 12th falls on her tropical 7th and the cusp is significantly conjunct tropical Mercury, ruler of her 7th natal house. In addition, Saturn, ruler of her draconic 7th, is in a partile conjunction with tropical Mars.
Another crucial point is the draconic ascendant in relation to the tropical house it coincides with. If the draconic ascendant overlaps with the tropical 3rd, the person expresses his deeper motivations and gets in touch with his most intimate self through studying, learning, writing…In combination with the tropical 4th, one comes into deep contact with oneself through experiences related to family, the past, home. With the 6th, a clearer sense of identity is reached through every-day tasks, or illness, or the kind of service one provides.
For instance, famous astrologer Liz Greene has the draconic ascendant almost conjunct her tropical Midheaven, showing a deep motivation related to her profession and her need to express her inner drive through her career. In addition, the cusp of the draconic ascendant is conjunct the tropical Sun, ruler of the 9th of astrology.
Liz Greene specializes in psychological astrology and is well known for her interest in symbols, archetypes, etc. Surprisingly, Neptune isn’t too emphasized in her natal chart. However, on comparing the tropical to the draconic, one can see her draconic Moon conjunct tropical Neptune, which explains her emotional interest in the unconscious.
In some cases, the draconic chart can be more accurate or descriptive than the tropical chart. A good example is American actor Rami Malek, who first became successful in his role as a reclusive programmer who suffered from social anxiety in the hit show Mr. Robot.
His tropical ascendant is Cancer, and the ruler of the ascendant, the Moon, is peregrine in Virgo. Jupiter, ruler of the MC, has no strength in Libra and is damaged by Saturn, so one doesn’t expect professional notoriety in this person’s life. However, this is a person who won a Oscar for best actor.
The draconic chart, on the other hand, has Aquarius rising. This sign is associated with technology, robots and social anxiety. The draconic MC is in the 5th house of entertainment, linking both areas. Mars, the traditional ruler of the 10th, is exalted, suggesting the possibility of success in terms of career. Pluto, the other ruler of the draconic MC, is placed in the 5th house of entertainment and in Gemini. Before working as an actor, he had voice roles in video games, which is consistent with an Aquarius ascendant and Pluto, ruler of the MC, in Gemini.
Another example is Hollywood actor, model, entrepreneur and venture capitalist Ashton Kutcher. His tropical natal chart has many angular planets, but both Jupiter in the 1st and the Sun in the 10th are in their signs of detriment. Saturn, traditional ruler of the 10th, is also in detriment and retrograde. Uranus, the modern ruler of his MC, is cadent in the 6th house, a position that suggests a career related to service.
His draconic chart tells the opposite story: Sagittarius rises with Jupiter, ruler of the draconic ascendant, strong in its sign of domicile. Jupiter also rules the 2nd of money, and its strength supports Ashton’s success as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. The Sun rules the MC and is in Leo, a position befitting a successful actor. Both draconic Saturn and Mars have essential dignity.
To conclude one could say that astrology is a path consisting of various ramifications. All of them lead towards the gift of self knowledge, and here lies astrology’s importance. Draconic analysis is one of its more valuable branches in that it provides incredibly detailed information, and that enlightens the way to growth and awareness.