It wasn’t until Alan Leo combined esotericism with astrology that we began to think of the houses as places for potential evolutionary paths to emerge, which is partially how we arrive at the idea that the Moon’s Nodes have spiritual potential—so appropriate for an analysis of the 6/12 axis, don’t you think?
These days, though, astrologers tend to speak of the chart in relationship to the ‘lessons’ we’re all supposed to be learning.
I’ve noticed astrologers sound too much like the Puritans of yore when we over-rely on a quasi-religious moralistic rhetoric designed to make you wish you’d been a better person, if only to avoid your bad karma. As a group, modern astrologers seem obsessed with quantifying how much we’ve learned, are learning, or should learn from upcoming transits.
My concern is that, as a species, we haven’t become sufficiently distanced from the punitive characteristics of our Judeo-Christian past to entirely avoid that overtone of judgementalism too often heard from the School of Perpetual Judgement, in which someone apparently more ‘evolved’ gets to tell you that you’re just not ‘there’ yet.
I believe it’s important to keep an open mind to the concepts of karma, ‘personal evolution,’ and its concomitant, the spiritual path. Soul-centered astrology, with its focus on delving into the self and its ability (or lack of same) to ascend to ‘higher’, esoteric wisdom, gives us ‘evolved’ behaviors and beliefs to aspire to.
For esoteric astrologers, the inner realm of the self (presumably representing the microcosm) influences the outer world (the macrocosm), but is also always involved in a struggle between lower-case ‘s’ self and upper-case ‘S’ Self. The idea is that we have a “lower” self engaged in constant, most likely unconscious, battle with our “higher” or more evolved Self.
To try to let yourself off this wheel of pain, keep in mind that the requirements of mundane reality constantly pull us away from our connection to an unseen, vaguely-felt spiritual world.
In a nutshell, then, this is the dichotomy of the 6/12 nodal axis: you have to find a way to live in the everyday world and, at the same time, keep the issues confronting your ‘immortal soul’ on the front burner.
It is possible to do both, though; from the perspective of esoteric astrology, this house is where the concept of service to others comes in. In no other way is it possible to cleanse your karma so efficiently, because once you accept the limitations that come with the 6th house, you start to realize that the only way out of your 12th house South Node karma is to do something nice for someone else on a consistent basis.
Which we should all be doing anyway, no matter which houses are involved.
The sixth house has long been associated with health, illness, workers, employment situations, servants, slavery, and, due to the fact that we used to live in a primarily agrarian society, agricultural matters (including farming animals like cattle and other random small animals, like gerbils, for reasons that continue to baffle me, no matter how much research I do—although marmots are a plague vector, so maybe small animals have an association with health).
Negative sixth house issues haven’t gone away; for example, whether we like it or not, slavery is still a major social issue. The sixth house is also where we look to see relationships between employer and employee (even though we no longer work as serfs on feudal farms in thrall to our liege lord, the issue of performing a service, paid or not, belongs to this house). This includes the kind of service that monarchs and royalty owe as their due to their people, but it can also include those in the 6th house health and wellness industry.
Although society is no longer primarily agrarian, health-related issues of the sixth house have become even more predominant, particularly now that society has become increasingly concerned about how to keep our bodies clean (and healthy) with real food that isn’t genetically modified or in some way altered from its original source.
With the rise of modern psychology, mental health (and illness) has become not just a predominant metaphor we use to explain how the individual ‘fits’ into the larger whole of society, but is also, on its own, a tremendously important area of concern as we seek to find ways to understand the mentally ill, and to find new ways of promoting mental health.
Postmodern concerns of this axis exist on a continuum from quotidian material reality—the boring, everyday mundane stuff that must get done, the extremely important underpinnings of what we think of as ‘real life’—to ethereal supraconscious spirituality, which is probably not a place anyone is going to dwell for long. Maybe in your dreams, at night, or while meditating. Or taking shrooms. It’s that place your brain reaches only under certain circumstances, not all of which are entirely legal.
It’s not an overstatement to say that, if you intend to live out a spiritual life, you pretty much have to distance yourself, almost completely, from quotidian banalities like earning money. Otherwise it’s far too difficult to carve out the space and time to wipe your slate clean.
Most people find they have to get distance from the otherwise ‘negative’ part of themselves, including their bad habits, compulsions, unwise choices, and toxic friends and family, if they are to cleanse themselves of the gunk that prevents their movement towards the abilities of the North Node in the 6th.
So, the relevant psychological/spiritual goal of North Node here is to transform the nature of the individual ego, turning the native into someone who is not merely responsible in the mundane world to him- or herself, but to others as well. What do we mean when we say ‘ego,’ though?
The 6/12 axis is not-so-surprisingly psychological in orientation, given the mind/body connection and issues of health, both physical and mental, in this axis, so let’s define our terms, particularly since we’re trying to transform the reality the previous axis—the 5th and 11th houses—worked so hard to create: an ego-based reflection of self.
Keep this need for transformation in mind as we wander through the rooms of this house, because the 6th is responsible for a collection of odd, often unpleasant, but necessary, facets of life. In the 6/12 axis, we’re dealing with an earth/air house (Mercury, current and to some extent, disputed ruler of Virgo—I suspect we’ll see Virgo aligned with Ceres eventually—in the second of the three earth houses) responding to the double water of the 12th (Neptune, ruler of Pisces, influencing this ‘water’ house).
The two houses are Cadent, making them changeable in nature (and therefore more or less unpredictable, depending on signs/planets falling in or otherwise aspecting these houses). Each house has a pretty horrible reputation, but let’s see if we can find ways to redeem them.
A house exists to explain life conditions, not the characteristics of the person living that life. It functions as an area of life, rather than a description of the person living that life.
To understand why the 6th house is traditionally considered a weak, unlucky house, one has to go back in time and re-read some of the earlier astrologers. In the 4th century A.D., Firmicus Maternus gave a precis of the way in which the 6th was thought to function—primarily as an indicator of ill-health (or health, if you were lucky and any planet or point therein was otherwise well-aspected, particularly to anything in the 10th house, since the Medium Coeli, after the Ascendent, is considered the strongest part of one’s chart).
As a Cadent house, the 6th does not aspect (or, in the parlance of Maternus’ day ‘see’) the ascendent—this is what accounts for the overall weakness or passivity of Cadent houses, which are culminating (or, ending; dying; weakened; pick a descriptor) houses prior to the next Cardinal house (or angular point in the chart; i.e., 1-4-7-10 houses and their cusps).
Further, Hellenistic-era astrologers gave rulership of this house to Mars. Eventually the house was called Mala Fortuna, Latin for ‘bad luck.’ Basically, Maternus thought this house entirely sucked, but you could be redeemed if other pieces of your chart outweighed the misfortune of finding yourself saddled with planets or points in the 6th.
Al-Biruni, writing in the 11th century A.D., continued in this vein, describing the 6th house as the place of
Sickness, defects of body, overwork, if unfortunate; accident to legs, loss of property, disease of internal organs, slaves, maids, cattle.
By the time we get to William Lilly’s 1647 Christian Astrology, the 6th house has long been aligned with Virgo, since Virgo is the 6th sign in the tropical zodiac. Lilly breaks each house into separate degrees, and therefore the 6th house begins with a “judgement of sickness” to ascertain which part of the body is afflicted. As you can see, Lilly continued in Maternus’ tradition.
All in all, we’ve inherited a rather interesting set of characteristics from traditional astrology, but it’s up to us to decide who the postmodern Virgo-type actually is, although automatically aligning this sign with the 6th house is not a good idea, in that conflating the two leads to serious misunderstandings.
I will take this opportunity to pull out my pernickety Virgo planets and tell you that the two are not identical, and follow this link to a site which explains why it’s bad astrology to think the meaning of a sign is equivalent to a house.
I am ambivalent about the simplicity of ‘natural’ house rulers, although integrating the symbolism of a sign with a house gives me more information than I would have without it; and it has to be said, there are some overlaps of meaning in sign and house, although it’s an interesting question how much of that meaning we create for ourselves so as to have a coherent, unified sense of ‘identity.’
Virgo became the symbol for the activities of the time of year in which the Sun transited through her constellation, but there are ancient myths associated with this particular constellation that reveal deeper truths about this sign.
To begin with, one has to understand that the constellations are not discrete—they do not stand alone, in other words—they blend and merge with one another, as we can see up above in de Vechi’s celestial ceiling fresco. It is, of course, an act of will to see a constellation “as” something. Society has to decide, okay, that group of stars up there “means” or equals a picture, a symbol, of something here on Earth.
In the case of Virgo, what you have is a very large constellation made up of star groups that were eventually separated into two signs, Virgo and Libra.
Before Libra formed the ‘bridge’ between Virgo and Scorpio, Virgo and Scorpio merged into each other, but the stars of the constellation Virgo had long symbolized certain conflicting myths we have inherited, and are the reason, I believe, we are so confused about what this particular sign “means.” One piece of evidence for this confusion, as I will show further on, lies in associating the sign of Virgo with Persephone, Demeter’s daughter, but there are many other misconceptions about Virgo, not all of which can be adequately addressed here.
The earliest associations between stars of this constellation and agriculture are to be found with the Mesopotamians, who called this large group of stars “The Furrow,” and imagined stars to the east in this constellation as a sheaf of grain, and stars to the west as a cluster of date palm flowers (Time and the Calendars, W. M. O’Neil, Manchester UP, 1975; p. 57). The Denderah ceiling in Egypt depicts this constellation in the form of a winged goddess holding a sheaf of wheat in one hand. Further, the star Spica, found in this constellation, is Latin for ‘ear of grain.’
The Ancient Greeks associated this grouping of stars with stories of justice and injustice against women. One tale says that Zeus placed Astraia, a virgin goddess of justice who lived on Earth during the Bronze Age but was driven away by ‘lawlessness’, into the heavens, where she eventually became known as the constellation Virgo (and held the scales we have come to associate with Libra, but originally belonged to Virgo).
Even though we have come to associate justice with the sign of Libra, in fact, I think we’ve lost an important piece of information about Virgo when we forget her early associations with meting out justice, particularly since we don’t always understand this very complicated conflation of myths and ideas about ‘the virgin’ constellation.
On the one hand, we have an earth/fertility goddess, holding her sheaf of wheat, overseeing late summer’s harvest, one of the most fruitful times in the agricultural year; on the other, we have an avenging goddess, looking for a fair deal, dispensing order and making sure everyone plays by the rules.
The Greeks (and later, the Romans) associated this constellation with Dike, goddess of ‘fair judgements’; Tyche, one of the Moirae, who guided the fate of mortals, a bringer of ‘unsteadiness of fortune’; and Nemesis, goddess of ‘retributive distribution of justice’, or divine punishment for wrongdoing or hubris.
Demeter (Ceres for the Romans) is also associated with Virgo, but her daughter, Persephone, although linked with agriculture, is a late-Winter, early-Spring goddess. When depicted with a sheaf of wheat, it is the young shoot, not Demeter’s ripe grain, we see.
Astrology is very much about timing, and Persephone has little to do with the time of year represented by Virgo; nor was Persephone ever associated, throughout history, with the constellation of Virgo. For the Greeks, Persephone existed as a powerful goddess associated with death, and her story more properly belongs to the 8th house, as I will discuss when we get to that North Node.
Aries North Node in the 6th House: The 6th house North Node asks the individual to relinquish self-serving hubris and work for the greater good. If Aries North Node can pull off humility and push his individual needs aside, it will be because the self-sacrifice is a noble, lofty, or worthy endeavor that will ultimately transform him into a ‘better’ person.
It will help if another person pursuing a healthy path comes along and their Sun in synastry conjuncts the Aries North Node. This will motivate the Aries node person to rise to the challenge posed by the more self-assured Solar person, helping him relinquish self-serving behaviors, working instead for the good of others.
The 12th house South Node in Libra, ruled by Venus, lies dormant and is lazy (or relies on her charm, her looks, her ability to seduce) but does it almost completely unconsciously. Generally speaking, the Aries node will have to be goaded by someone outside of himself, some higher purpose or calling, before he works as hard for others as he would have done for himself.
Aries’ natural urge toward self-motivation can be put to work here, but he has to ultimately see that his efforts not only benefit himself, but can also help make the world a better place. There is always a lot of energy with an Aries North Node, but it’s often misdirected, rebelling against superiors, employers, parents, adults in general, until the native grows up and sees that ‘service’ is not a dirty word.
In a supportive chart, North Node in Aries in this house makes for an extremely hard worker, one who is probably multi-talented, capable of juggling two or more careers at once. I never underestimate the talents of this North Node, particularly when it’s supported by an overall strong chart.
Taurus North Node in the 6th House: The first chart I came upon seems to embody everything this North Node can accomplish when the rest of the chart is supportive, since the native in question was a psychic healer who used the ‘laying on of hands’ as her method of healing. The ability to be a psychic healer seems a natural outcome of the gifts given by a Scorpio South Node in the 12th, and the urge to heal an act of humility in the 6th house (she did not charge her clients for this service).
Scorpio South Nodes in general can often draw on knowledge from another realm; this ability will be strengthened in a water house, but it might be blocked or impeded in air or earth (or there will be more of a struggle to access the potential wisdom inherent in Scorpio South Nodes).
The 12th house is, for those who can access it, a place where the individual can dive deep into a kind of psychic awareness of all things only possible, I suspect, for 12th house-related water signs, who might not be able to translate this knowledge into words, but instead use whatever means they have to convey what it is they know. What we’ve come to call the ‘collective unconscious’ exists for some people as a kind of sea in which they function like a whale, scooping up emotional ‘plankton’.
Thoughts, ideas, brainwaves, etc., are all accessible to some people, who make good psychics. If you’re looking for a psychic healer, I’d definitely look for someone with a strong 12/6 axis combination (but be careful, because some people have so much trouble existing in this realm that they can’t translate the energy/information and their mental health suffers as a result of taking in too much emotional data).
Gemini North Node in the 6th House: An example of the effects of planets in conjunction with the nodes on the course and expression of how one lives one’s path can be seen in the chart of mystic and philosopher Simone Weil, whose North Node in Gemini was conjunct Pluto in the 6th, opposing 12th house Mars in Sagittarius conjunct South Node.
Considered to be “exceptionally compassionate,” as a child, Weil identified so strongly with the soldiers fighting WWI, she refused to eat sugar when she learned soldiers weren’t receiving any. Later in life, at age 34, sick with tuberculosis, she exacerbated her illness by refusing to eat more than the minimal amount of food WWII soldiers were given.
I have to wonder if her identification with, and compassion for, soldiers stemmed from the South Node conjunction to natal Mars, which might symbolize a past life spent as a soldier. That her compassion expressed itself in a 6th house manner, by rejecting sustenance, compromising her already frail health, was an act of self-sacrifice augmented by Pluto’s propensity for self-immolation.
Pluto contacts make one unafraid of death; in fact, with Pluto conjunct the North Node, one is more likely to desire that kind of ultimate sacrifice, or at the very least not shy away from it, particularly with Pluto in aspect to Mars (typically a violent aspect, unless the planets involved fall in cadent houses, since the cadent houses express energy passively, in this case by rejecting nourishment).
That her death was ruled a suicide speaks to the uncompromising nature of Pluto conjunct the North Node; she literally starved herself to death, taking typical Plutonian control of the manner of her death, as a means of expressing her passionately-held beliefs and spiritual principles.
Her interest in philosophy and mysticism would be tied to her nodal axis as well, since Gemini and Sagittarius are both renowned for their affiliation with philosophy, and mysticism is a facet of 12th house spirituality.
Cancer North Node in the 6th House: I know that most people think monarchs and royalty have a free ride, but one of the sacrifices they make when they’re sincere about their job is that they relinquish living anything like a normal life, so they can fulfill their role as caretaker of their people.
This is kind of like having a distant Mother or Father who looks out for you and honestly gives a damn about your welfare, even if she or he doesn’t come around to visit all that often and barely knows your name.
I think this is the secret reason some countries do not abolish the monarchy; they are fond of their rulers, in the way you would be of a distant relative who sends you a nice card once a year.
And so it should come as no surprise to find that Queen Elizabeth II, who took a vow when she was crowned to work tirelessly for her people, has North Node in Cancer in the 6th (within one degree of the Descendent, making it an even more prominent energy in her life).
Were this a nodal combination appearing in the chart of anyone else, I would tell you that the South Node in Capricorn, particularly in the 12th, indicates a family legacy of Capricorn qualities; hard work, self-sacrifice, but also, that Capricornian inability to express its emotions in public, the self-consciousness and even coldness that makes it so hard for children to feel comfortable in a repressive home environment.
Capricorn’s sense of duty combined with the unconscious, buried qualities of the 12th house holds these people back. Ideally, North Node in Cancer in the 6th is a caretaker, is nurturing, is essentially a ‘mother’ or ‘father’ to whoever needs that energy. The highest service the 6th house can offer is to take care of others; with Cancer there, the caring ‘should’ be more personal and heartfelt.
Now, consider the obvious. #1) Queen Elizabeth has had some trouble with this Cancer energy, as evidenced by the public’s negative response to her apparent coldness after Princess Diana died. #2) It is not humanly possible for one person, no matter their societal position or role, to provide endless nurturing service to the unwashed masses, particularly if the rest of that person’s chart makes the task harder, rather than easier.
In the case of Queen Elizabeth, her 2nd house Sun in Taurus and Capricorn Ascendent make the North Node Cancer instinctive emotional expression particularly difficult. Given all the earthiness in her chart, including the 6th house’s association with earth, it would take a great deal to break down the walls of reserve.
As far as I understand it, it was her public’s response to the lack of emotion shown after Diana’s death that prodded the Queen to express sadness. Hers was a very Saturnian type of response, and very unlike her daughter-in-law’s emotional outpourings. Diana’s Sun at 9˚ Cancer widely conjuncts her mother-in-law’s North Node at 20˚ (these wide orbs are allowable with Sun or Moon contacts).
It frequently takes the power of someone’s Sun contacting your North Node through synastry for the North Node to be forced to respond in a new way, rather than continuing to repeat South Node behaviors. Obviously, the South Node is easier to live out, even if it’s detrimental to your evolution as a human being.
In the Queen’s natal chart, Saturn in Scorpio is one degree away from the Midheaven. Saturn in Scorpio often has to learn how to express feelings (if their emotions are even known to them); Saturn in Scorpio on the Midheaven speaks of a persona that appears to the public as secretive, if not severe and forbidding.
An alternative Cancer in the 6th North Node person who lived out a very different version of the 6/12 axis, was author, seer, mystic, and anthropologist Carlos Casteñeda, whose Jupiter conjuncted the South Node in the 12th. He was once thought of as the “father of the New Age movement,” largely because his writings about spirituality, magic, and alternate realities were so accessible.
I find it particularly interesting, given the complexities of the 12th house, that Casteñeda attempted to explain how perception of the unknown can be achieved by human beings, usually through a combination of shamanistic practices, such as ritual ceremonies combined with the use of psychoactive substances.
Casteñeda was famously reclusive, and was once described by an interviewer as an “enigma wrapped in a mystery.” Scorpio on his Midheaven speaks to his public persona of mystery man, shaman, and sorcerer, and his North Node in Cancer in the 6th helped him maintain his privacy, as the South Node/Jupiter conjunction clearly gave him access to 12th house material.
Leo North Node in the 6th House: This particular combination, Leo and the 6th house, seems to incline the native to be attracted to a path that combines technical skills with an interest in theatre, movies, or drama.
I know that these kinds of combinations sounds obvious, but I keep finding film editors and documentarians with this position, as well as actors who ultimately branch out into jobs requiring them to assume some position of authority, like being president of some organization or other.
Now, as we’ve seen, planets conjunct either of the nodes definitely transform the nodes’ outcome. You can call that outcome ‘fate’, or your path, or whatever works; the nodes do seem to represent one’s fate, I’ve decided, but the reason why ‘fate’ coincides with the work you do is a little more elusive, particularly when you start looking at really specific kinds of jobs.
It should come as no surprise that when you combine Neptune and Moon with the North Node, any job you gravitate to might just involve secrecy and deception. The native in this case was a spy, which I personally think is a tad more interesting than working in the movie industry. Spy-craft is actually a highly technical job, with the need to remember an alarming amount of detail, as well as being highly adaptable to changing circumstances (something mutable signs would excel at).
With Pisces on the Ascendent, the ruler of the chart, Neptune, is conjunct the North Node. In every case, the ruler of the chart conjunct the North Node augments the abilities inherent in the node. In this case, it also meant the native was able to deceive the politicians he was investigating into thinking he was as inebriated as they were, while all the while he was listening carefully as they unburdened themselves of important political and strategic information.
Virgo North Node in the 6th House: There are some people whose lives seem to sum up all the various potentials of both the house and the sign of a nodal axis. It’s not unreasonable to think that this is probably most likely when the north node falls in its ‘own’ house.
One such person was poet John Clare, whose North Node in Virgo was joined in the sixth house by Neptune, Moon, and Uranus (I am using the Campanus house system, for anyone looking at his chart on Astrodienst, though; if you want to know why, which is a bit complicated, just let me know and I’ll explain).
Clare was a humble farmworker whose subject matter was nature, rural life, and the loss of that simple life during the early stages of industrialism. He dealt with themes of childhood and innocent romance; but also alienation, isolation, and mental illness. After Clare’s poetry began to go out of favor, he started to exhibit signs that he’d lost track of his identity, believing instead that he was Lord Byron or Shakespeare.
Clare represents an interesting case study of what can go wrong with the 6th house, although the North Node does not usually seem to be the sole ‘culprit’. It is in fact more common to see mental illness represented by oppositions from the 6th to the 12th, but Clare did not have any such oppositions.
The loose stellium of planets in the (very wide, using Campanus) 6th, particularly Neptune (in the anaretic degree in Libra) and Moon in Virgo, might very well be the place to look for variabilities of sense of self in this case. This would be augmented by the ruler, Mercury, conjunct Chiron and in square to Saturn.
To sum up Clare’s interest for me, the ruler of his North Node, Mercury, is in Leo in the 5th; his primary subject matter was comprised of romance, childhood, and the loveliness of the unspoiled, rural countryside. Oh, and Ceres also fell in his 6th house—that should come as no surprise, surely?
I picked Clare’s chart because he began life as a farmworker, which fits with Virgo’s agricultural time of year, but lived out Mercury’s rulership by becoming a writer/poet. Later, he expressed the inherently negative potential of the mutable nature of Mercury as a ruler of the 6th house North Node.
His confused mental state is made all the more poignant because his poetry became recognized as the work of an important, and unique, voice of his time. His Mercury in Leo would have been pleased about that, I suspect.
On a side note, another poet born with North Node in Virgo in the 6th house was Percy Bysshe Shelley (like Lord Byron, a subject too complex to deal with here). Shelley’s Moon in Pisces fell in the 12th, in wide conjunction to his South Node. I find it interesting that both Shelley and Byron had North Node in the 6th house; this implies that the mystical 12th house gives energy to the South Node and perhaps symbolizes a necessary component in some way for poets and writers.
Libra North Node in the 6th House: There are times when I really do believe the nodes are harbingers of what can only be described as inescapable fate, particularly when the traditionally malefic 6th house is involved.
In the case of John Lennon, who was born with North Node in Libra in the 6th, transiting South Node was within 2 degrees of his natal Arabic Part of Death at 15˚59′ Aquarius (12˚ from his natal Moon at 3˚ Aquarius) on December 8, 1980, the night he was murdered by Mark Chapman.
Saturn and Jupiter, both transiting at 7-8˚ Libra, conjuncted Lennon’s Sun/North Node conjunction. Transiting Moon and Neptune, conjunct in Sagittarius, conjuncted Chapman’s North Node. Chapman’s North Node was within 8˚of conjunction to Lennon’s Arabic Part of Assassination at 19˚26′ Sagittarius at the tail end of the 8th house, within 1˚ of the 9th house cusp.
Now, Mark Chapman, diagnosed schizophrenic, has an opposition from the 6th to the 12th houses (in his case, Sun in the 6th in opposition to Saturn in the 12th). He also has Moon conjunct North Node, and Mars widely conjunct South Node in the 8th. In the synastry, Chapman’s Neptune at 26˚ Libra fell within 9˚ of Lennon’s 6th house Sun, in Lennon’s 7th house (indicating that Chapman both identified with Lennon, and also projected parts of his own distorted personality onto him).
Scorpio North Node in the 6th House: Evidence of someone whose natal oppositions between the 6th and 12th houses did not manifest in mental illness can be found in the chart of the brilliant mathematician and theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg. Ruler of the North Node in Scorpio, Pluto, is posited in the 12th house, in opposition to natal Sun/Uranus conjunct in Sagittarius.
The North Node in Heisenberg’s chart speaks to the power of Scorpio to go beyond what others can see in its search for transmutation of all kinds (the intellectual equivalent of alchemy’s ability to transmute lead into gold), but also in his favor is that his Arabic Part of Genius is conjunct Mercury, ruler of the chart with Gemini on the Ascendent, falling in the 6th house.
When a chart fulfills its promise, the rulers of the chart as well as the rulers of the Nodes, particularly the North Node, must be aspected in such a way that their strength is accessible to the native. The South Node in Heisenberg’s chart is supported from trines to Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, but I think Pluto in the 12th (the house of secrets ordinarily hard to fathom), as the ruler of the North Node, is at least partially the key to Heisenberg’s ability to grasp and explain fundamental principles of nature.
Even if we’re not accustomed to associating scientific or mathematical ability with the 12th house, it’s my belief that many mysteries reside there, and only some of us are able to explain them in ways that can be understood. As a physicist once told me, my understanding of metaphysics begins where physics leaves off, meaning, that which is explainable by science or mathematics isn’t all there is to be known.
In general, Scorpio on the North Node is usually seeking some form of transformation of one way of being into another; depending on the rest of the chart, this transformation might be intellectual, as it was for Heisenberg, whose chart is otherwise dominated by air and fire (Uranus conjunct Sun in Sagittarius would be an intellectually restless energy on a slow day, let alone when he was working out the principles of quantum mechanics).
Sagittarius North Node in the 6th House: Sagittarius North Node is usually seeking a path to either some form of higher learning, or to a life philosophy that makes sense to him, one he can use to explain reality. The methods used will be different for each person, but the idea is to find a rationale to make sense of everything he’s learned, the meaning of life, and whether or not there’s a (higher) purpose to being alive.
In some ways, of course, we all do this; we all have Sagittarius in our chart, as well as a 9th house cusp that gives us some version of this urge, but when you find Sagittarius combined with the 6th house, the rationale that’s being quested for is one based on 6th house principles of creating order from chaos, working hard for a living, and doing the job right the first time. Depending on the sign on the cusp of the 6th house and its ruler, then, we look to see how that ruler is aspected to determine how this quest is lived.
What are the fundamental beliefs underlying the person’s lived philosophy? It’s one thing to form a philosophy or live by a set of principles, but there are reasons why we do what we do, and that’s where the aspects between Nodes and rulers of nodes (plus sign on the cusp of the house) can tell us a lot about whether or not the search for a higher purpose brings the native to a spiritually aware version of ‘truth’.
However, the native is prone to excesses of behavior on this path, due to Jupiter’s rulership of the North Node. Look to see how both Jupiter and Mercury, ruler of the South Node, are aspected. Lord Byron, an extremely complex subject who would be difficult to summarize here, had the North Node in Sagittarius in the 6th house, and was notorious for his emotional excesses (not to mention his many love affairs with members of each sex). But then, the ruler of his North Node was 7˚ from conjunction with the South Node in the 12th house, so I suspect his South Node was overwhelmed by his Jupiterian urges.
Here are two further examples of this Node, one ‘light’, one ‘dark.’ The first chart is that of Jorge Luis Borges. Born with North Node in Sagittarius in the 6th in exact opposition to Neptune in the 12th, over the course of his writing career Borges became famous for writing surrealistic, symbolic, and philosophical prose (which I attribute to the combination of Sagittarius in relationship to the 12th house). Sagittarius North Node, no matter the house, often manifests as a writer, but Borges managed to cover a lot of literary ground during his life, working as a translator, a lecturer, and a professor of literature.
His writing style is considered by critics to be transformational, opening new windows into previously un-glimpsed landscapes of literary possibility. He lost his eyesight by the time he was 55 (planets in opposition in the 6/12 axis frequently seem to indicate some form of chronic ill-health, either physical or mental).
The second chart is of someone so obscure I didn’t know he existed, that’s how much he’d been forgotten, in spite of his pivotal role in the Nazi euthanasia program of the 1940s. Philipp Bouhler rose through the ranks of the early Nazi party to become the chief functionary who oversaw a truly horrendous program intended to eliminate the mentally ill through a systematic program of gassing, which was eventually stopped (but grew into the program of mass murders in concentration camps; in other words, they tested this system out on the mentally ill).
Bouhler and Borges were born in the same year; they have the same rising sign, the same Neptune/Node opposition in the 6/12 axis. Neptune therefore falls on each man’s South Node. There are a few other similarities between the charts; a glaringly obvious difference is Bouhler’s Moon, which fell in Scorpio and widely conjuncted Uranus in the 5th house (out-of-sign in Sagittarius), while Borges’ Moon was in Aries in the 9th.
Aspects in the charts show how Borges might have had difficulties (one example is that oppositions show challenges he would have had to deal with), but his Sun and Moon are each strongly aspected. He has a lot of trines. But turning to Bouhler, we can see how many squares he has. His Sun and Moon are really under siege; the squares to Moon and Venus show a lack of compassion, particularly the square of Saturn to Venus.
I’m cutting corners here and oversimplifying complicated material in the interests of time and space, but I wanted to illustrate the wide differences in the outcomes of the same Nodal axis for two such very different lives. Everyone has their own path to walk, and the choices people make are shaped by everything outside their chart; the chart cannot literally tell us everything about a person’s life, such as their socioeconomic bracket or how well (or poorly) educated they are.
The most important thing you don’t see that influences the outcome of someone’s life are their social beliefs and prejudices; these would have made all the difference for Bouhler, who presumably shared the experiences, beliefs, and prejudices of the time and place he emerged from.
Capricorn North Node in the 6th House: This is unlikely to be a lazy person. The drive of this combination will be slow but sure. It’s entirely likely that they will have a very pragmatic goal, one that can be obtained in their lifetime, and will work harder than they really have to to obtain the status Capricorn North Nodes crave.
If not attaining status through their hard work, they might simply be working hard for others, since there is an innate humility for most North Nodes in the 6th; no matter what the rest of the chart says, North Node in the 6th, particularly in an Earth sign, makes a good social worker, doctor, health care provider, or teacher. The point is, this North Node is, by virtue of its association with the 6/12 axis, forced to learn how to take care of others. This path is only made more obvious with Cancer on one of the nodes.
I always say “but” after the idea that Capricorn North Node’s goals are lofty and filled with nights burning the midnight oil. The “but” comes from the Cancer South Node, in this case in the 12th house, which we haven’t really explored sufficiently as the Land of Hidden Depths.
Cancer is a useful sign with which to explore the things that lurk in the 12th house, though, particularly because the 12th is a repository, a kind of Mary Poppins’ bag filled with thoughts, impressions, feelings, urges, and perhaps a line or two of poetry the person collects throughout the course of life. Call it the subconscious; I think of it as Fibber McGee’s closet, with piles of disordered junk overflowing every time the door is opened.
With Cancer in this house, there’s plenty of possibility for sentiment and remembrances of days past. Famous Cancerian writer Marcel Proust could explain why memories matter. Cancer is also rather famous for holding on to otherwise useless things, although I prefer to call it ‘collecting.’ The Cancer South Node, therefore, has the potential to hold its North Node counterpart back through a combination of not letting go of past memories, but most importantly, being unaware of his or her own 12th house issues.
The kind of material lurking in the 12th that causes the most trouble, and is arguably most easily seen in the sign of Cancer, is made up of prejudices, beliefs, and things learned so young you cannot consciously remember how you know or believe a thing is true; it’s as though you’ve “always” known it. You’re not born with prejudice, though; you’re socialized by those around you and those too-often unquestioned beliefs influence your conscious decisions later in life.
If, however, Cancer on the South Node in this house isn’t acting like a baby, holding the mature Capricornian North Node back with its endless demands for something just out of reach he can’t understand or explain, consider the likelihood that the native will just simply like exploring the past, and since it’s the 12th house, will often prefer imagining himself living in that past.
Cancer and Capricorn are the signs associated with old age and the distant past, history and dusty tales about the days of yore this combination would be happy to relive. Some of these people seem uniquely qualified to explain past civilizations, their habits and philosophies.
This is their forte, largely due to Cancer South Node in the 12th’s ability to identify with someone they’ve never met who died a very long time ago. The power of the 12th house gives you the ability to empathize with someone, no matter how different they are from you, and Cancer excels at that kind of empathy.
One such example of this latter kind of Capricorn North Node person was Georges Dumézil, a comparative philologist who analyzed proto-Indo-European religion and society. Perhaps it will come as no surprise that this prominent Capricorn North Node was later criticized by younger scholars as being too authoritarian and a proponent of traditional hierarchy. With Moon in the 12th conjunct South Node Cancer, he was seen as too attached to the authoritarian structures of the past contemporary French scholars were highly critical of during the 1960s.
Aquarius North Node in the 6th House: In general, the influence of the 6th house on the path the native takes in life virtually assures the person will be a hard worker, but with Aquarius on the North Node, the work you’re drawn to is often a unique talent, more than just a job, which might represent a true calling. In some fundamental way, the path here is to express your unique abilities, either with or without family approval.
Depending on the rest of the chart, you might have tremendous worldly success once you’ve found a market or audience for your work. These people often work for themselves; they won’t work ‘alone’ in any real sense, but they might be the one everyone relies on to produce a final product, and the business empire some of them build will rely heavily on their name for success.
If the individual is not working towards the goal of developing his unique talents, it’s going to be because South Node in Leo was unable to get his needs for attention met. If the child’s unique self is ignored or made to feel unimportant, this axis produces adults who constantly vie for attention from strangers (which is part of why it’s so common to see Leo/Aquarius Nodes in entertainers, actors, and anyone looking for attention as part of their job).
Self-esteem is a major issue for anyone, but if North Node in Aquarius has damaged self-esteem or narcissistic wounding from the parents, she won’t have the confidence to develop and work on (key 6th house terms) the talents that are uniquely hers. Not everyone is encouraged from an early age to become whatever it is they are capable of developing into. If the South Node is badly aspected, my concern is that parts of this person’s identity simply won’t be allowed out into the light of day.
Through denial or even something as drastic as “splitting,” which refers to the kind of black and white thinking fixed signs are too often capable of, the repressed 12th house Leo node will never offer its talents to the world, but instead will only develop the skills that are most socially acceptable or least threatening to the self or immediate family. In this case, any children the person has will possibly be required to fulfill the un-lived out dreams of the 12th house South Node.
Preserving unity of the group mind is very important in the 12th house, and if the Leo South Node cannot risk alienating his family, or being ostracized, I don’t know that he’d find the strength and courage he would need to go out on a limb and be the rebellious maverick the Aquarius North Node beckons him to become. All it comes down to, really, is just being different; being unafraid to express and live out whatever it is that makes him one-of-a-kind.
No matter the house, though, South Node in Leo either comes from fame or remembers fame (even though for many this is going to result in a lot of wishful thinking, since not everyone can be famous). The key to Leo South Node in the 12th is that the 12th is a “group” house, in the sense that it means some kind of institution (and even the monarchy is an institution, which is part of why you find so many family members of royalty or aristocracy with planets and occasionally a node in this house).
Two examples of Aquarius North Node people who best illustrate 6th house demands on the individual are Garry Marshall, brother of the director and actress Penny Marshall; and fashion designer Giorgio Armani.
Garry Marshall was born into a show business family (Leo South Node) but, as is fairly typical with the kinds of questioning that happens for people with planets (and nodes) in the 12th, he went off on a different life direction until it became clear to him that he’d make more money in the world of entertainment.
Leo/Aquarius nodes are determined to be themselves; doing what everyone else is doing goes against the nature of the Aquarius North Node, just as it offends Leo’s often over-large ego—they hate being compared to others, even when the 6/12 axis demands humility. This doesn’t mean you can’t reinterpret skills you’ve ‘inherited’ from your family and do it your own way, though. As a side note, Frank Sinatra’s North Node in Aquarius (conjunct Uranus, but in the 4th house) expressed the truth of this nodal axis in “My Way,” the song he became famous for.
Then there’s Giorgio Armani, who started on a 12th house path early in life (Sun, Moon, and Mercury all conjunct his South Node in the 12th), determined to be a doctor. (If you look at doctors and nurses as a group, they frequently have 12th house North Nodes and/or other planets in the 12th, indicating that their purpose is fulfilled in a health-related environment.)
After actually working in a hospital, however, and spending time in the army, Armani decided he needed to find a new path. It can change everything when 12th house imagination becomes 6th house reality, because working in the real world often brings home to the individual the distance between what are possibly ego-fueled dreams and reality. Nonetheless, he seems to have stumbled into fashion by starting out as a window-dresser, and built an enormous worldwide fashion empire with his elegant, simple styles.
I attribute the stumbling to the ruler of his North Node, Uranus, in the 9th house conjunct the Midheaven, trine Neptune in the 2nd. Uranus behaves erratically, and, based on interviews, it sounds quite likely Armani just got the notion one day to design his own clothing, based on what he was seeing in windows in Milan, a city that must have inspired some sort of latent talent for design. If there’s one thing you can expect with Aquarius on the North Node, it’s sudden changes of fortune, as well as sudden changes of one’s path in life.
Pisces North Node in the 6th House: There’s a lot of poetic, romantic charm in the Pisces North Node; more charm than the worker-bee 6th house can wash clean. There’s also a fair amount of sadness and world weariness, because these people can easily wear themselves out with disillusionment pretty early in life, and then have to find a way to keep going.
There’s another side to this nodal axis, though. The combination of Virgo with the 12th means that it’s entirely possible the child was raised with that Virgo regimen we’re all so afraid of, the attention to detail that ends up being a shrill critique of everything you did wrong. If that’s the case, the Pisces North Node ends up walking a twisted path, since the 12th house won’t allow you to talk about what happened to you later in life. You just live with the damage, and it tends to come out in terribly painful ways. Self-sabotage becomes a way of life.
So let’s say you weren’t horribly scarred, and you’re not living out the mute 12th house South Node, where your nightmares are dark, and you live like a walking zombie during the day. The 12th house is also a house of imagination, ‘let’s pretend’, and fairy tales. Although Virgo South Node in general isn’t renowned for its sensitivity, being in the 12th house softens up this otherwise brittle workaholic energy, allowing the native to dream a little bit.
If the Virgo South Node loosens up sufficiently over time, the North Node in Pisces in the 6th can become an actor, an artist, a singer, a dancer—someone who can express everything he’s feeling in the typically indirect way of this combination. The 12th house is not renowned for its verbal skills, even though with Virgo here, the mind might be over-developed (particularly if its ruler, Mercury, aspects this node).
As with other mutable nodal placements, the strength of this axis is supported or undermined by the rest of the chart. A fixed sun energy can give fortitude and endurance to this nodal combination, whereas a weakened sun (weakened by placement or troublesome aspects) will pull this nodal axis towards the various crutches Virgo and Pisces over-rely on when stressed: alcohol, drugs, overwork, illness, addictions, etc.
I’d say the real danger with this combination, though, is that all this mutable energy can lead to a person who simply has no idea who he is. This can, ironically, lead to the conditions that make a memorable actor; Pisces-type actors often take on someone else’s persona, since theirs isn’t terribly well defined.
The good news here is that someone inclined to become spiritual has some real gifts given to her with these nodes. Virgo is a sign inclined to fulfill its duty, to work hard, and to serve others selflessly. There is a truly lovely humility possible in the sign of Virgo, the quiet poetry-of-simply-being that some are capable of—it doesn’t matter which part of the chart, if Virgo expresses like this, they are very sweet people.
Now, take positive Virgo energy and aim it towards the North Node in Pisces, and you’ve got someone with the potential to be taken seriously as a spiritual leader—someone who is not afraid of work as a form of self-sacrifice. This kind of selfless behavior has real meaning in a spiritual leader. The image in my mind is that of Jesus washing the feet of the sick.
This kind of North Node in Pisces in the 6th is a noble human, trying to ground her spirituality in order to manifest the highest principles of the 6th house, that of humble, but practical, service to people in need. Some philanthropists are born with this position, and it’s nice they make the effort to help others when they themselves have so much.