Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Head and Tail of the Dragon in Traditional Astrology
The North Node of the Moon is known as the Caput Draconis, the Head of the Dragon and the South Node as the Cauda Draconis, the Tail of the Dragon. The Nodes are not material objects, but rather the points where the orbit of the Moon intersects the Ecliptic, the orbit of the Sun. (Uh, oh, where's the rays and beams?)
Here's Lilly's 17th century take on the Nodes,
The Head of the Dragon is Masculine, of the nature of Jupiter and Venus, and of himself a Fortune; yet the Ancients doe say, that being in Conjunction with the good he is good, and in conjunction with the evil Planets they account him evil.
The Tayle of the Dragon is Feminine by Nature, and clean contrary to the Head; for he is evil when joyned with good Planets, and good when in conjunction with the malignant Planets. This is the constant opinion of all the Ancients, but upon what reason grounded I know not; I ever found the North Node equivalent to either of the Fortunes, and when joyned with the evil Planets to lessen their malevolent signification; when joyned with the good to increase the good promised by them:
For the Tayle of the Dragon, I always in my practise found when he was joyned with the evil Planets; their malice or the evil intended thereby was doubled and trebled, or extreamly augmented, &c. and when he chanced to be conjunction with any of the Fortunes who were significators in the question, though the matter by the principal significator was fairely promised, and likely to be perfected in a smal time; yet did there ever fal out many rubs and disturbances, much wrangling and great controversie, that the businesse was many times given over for desperate ere a perfect conclusion could be had; and unlesse the principal significators were Angular and wel fortified with essential dignities, many times unexpectedly the whole matter came to nothing.
Christian Astrology page 83.
Lilly doesn't really explain the approach of the 8th-10th century Arabic astrologers. Al-Qabisi, aka Alcabitius, the 10th century astrologer says,
The Head of the Dragon is a benefic. Its nature is composed of the nature of Jupiter and Venus. It indicates rulership, good fortune and property. Some say its nature is to increase. If it is with the benefics it increases their good fortune; if it is with the malefics it increases their bad fortune...The Tail of the Dragon is a malefic. Its nature is composed from the nature of Saturn and Mars. It indicates lowness, falling and poverty. Some said its nature is decrease. If it is with the benefics it decreases their good fortune; if it is with the malefics it decreases their bad fortune. Thus it is said that the Head is a benefic with the benefics and a malefic with the malefics; the Tail is a malefic with the benefics and the benefic with the malefics.
Sections 45-8, Chapter 2, The Introduction to Astrology, tr. Burnett, Yamamoto (Warburg, 2004) pages 88-9.
Very interesting! Even Al-Qabisi was using the Head = good, Tail = bad that the 17th century astrologers use, but he explains the alternate division of growth and decrease. This is another example of how much more nuanced traditional astrology is, particularly the early Arabic variety.
Finally we even have talismans of the North and South Node from The great Renaissance mage Cornelius Agrippa,
Chap. xlv. Of the Images of the head and Tayle of the Dragon of the Moon.
They made also the Image of the head and taile of the Dragon of the Moon, namely betwixt an Aeriall and fiery circle, the likeness of a Serpent, with the head of an Hawke tyed about them, after the manner of the great letter Theta, & they made it when Jupiter with the head obtain'd the midst of Heaven:
Which Image they affirm to availe much for the success of Petitions, and would signifie by this Image a good and fortunate Genius, which they would represent by this Image of the Serpent; for the Egyptians and Phenicians do extoll this creature above all others, and say it is a divine creature and hath a divine nature; for in this is a more acute spirit, and a greater fire than in any other, which thing is manifested both by his swift motion without feet, hands or any other instruments; and also that it often reneweth his age with his skin, and becometh young again:
But they made the Image of the taile like as when the Moon Ecclipsed, in the Taile, or ill affected by Saturn or Mars, and they made it to introduce, anguish, infirmity and misfortune; and they called it the evill Genius; such an Image a certain Hebrew had included in a golden Belt full of Jewels, which Blanch the daughter of the Duke of Borbon (either willingly or ignorantly) bestowed on her husband Peter King of Spain, the first of that name, with which when he was girt, he seemed to himself to be compassed about with a Serpent; and afterwards finding the Magicall virtue fixed in the girdle, for this cause he forsook his wife.
Three Books of Occult Philosophy Bk II, ch 45.