Understanding Your Lunar South Node (AKA Karma)

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By Alla Kazovsky –


The stars are aligned in a particular way the moment we’re born. As we take our first breath, the map of the sky reflects our personal birth chart. Miraculously, that exact configuration translates into a lifetime of learning. It gives clues to our purpose, suggests possibilities, and identifies unlimited potential for growth. It also alludes to the familiar territories where we linger on autopilot. In astrology, the things we do out of habit, practically with our eyes closed, symbolize what’s called the south node (SN) of the Moon. The south node shows us our weaknesses. It can also be referred to as karma.


It’s important to understand this part of a birth chart: We can’t let karma have a grip on us, as we would be in danger of leading a life of stagnation. We have to act in order to heal.


Picasso's zodiac birth chart


I just took a webinar with Steven Forrest, the author of Yesterday’s Sky: Astrology and Reincarnationtitled “Speed Reading the Karmic Signature,” in which Steven outlined a step-by-step approach to deciphering the meaning of the south node. To illustrate how it works, he used the example of Pablo Picasso.

Pablo Picasso’s SN is at ten degrees of Gemini (curiosity) in the 11th house of groups. Yielding to peer pressure in order to belong is Picasso’s karma. His rebellion is acted out in the 5th house of love affairs. Picasso has countless women — partners, muses, and lovers. 


Dooz zodiac birth chart


That same behavioral territory, the 5th house of pleasure, is where my karma resides. It’s in seven degrees of Aquarius (non-conformity). In my case, the opposite of Picasso’s, it’s not about creative self-expression, but rather a sense of unworthiness and alienation. Do you see the difference?

I am working on this blog post for Dooz to make sense of it by applying the procedure described by Steven to my own birth chart as a way of providing an instruction manual of sorts for The Scope readers. Let’s get started. 


Step #1:

Assess a matrix of qualities that distinguish the planet, which rules the sign of the south node. Assign its PLANETARY TYPE.

For someone who is interested in human psychology, it’s very exciting to realize that planets — channels for the expression of signs — symbolize a spectrum of human personality types. 

Mercury, the CURIOUS TYPE, rules Picasso’s Gemini south node. Saturn, the HERMIT, rules my Aquarius south node. In my chart, Saturn happens to be in its own sign, which represents a dominant feature of the personality. In addition, Aquarius has two planetary rulers; the second one is Uranus, the REBEL.


Step #2:

Look for the house position of the south node. Define biographical context.

Picasso’s south node lies in the 11th house of groups. As previously discussed, this is where we define long-term goals and form alliances to support them. Picasso’s karma, therefore, is rooted in being restricted by the group with its own plan for him. My south node is the 5th house of pleasure and fun. Thus, my karma has to do with inability to enjoy my own individuality.


Step #3: 

Look for the sign of the south node. Distinguish its goals and methods for attaining them.

Signs always want something; they represent priorities or values, which support and motivate planets. 

Picasso’s south node is in Gemini. Gemini seeks information and attains it through curiosity of a young person — edgy and charged. My south node is in Aquarius, who questions authority. Her strategy is getting past the need for social approval and indifference to public acceptance.


Step #4:

Link the ruler of the south node to the house position it is in.

Picasso’s Mercury, IMAGERY-IN-THE-MIND TYPE, is in the 4th house of family. This implies external influences (again!!). His intense desire to understand is stifled by the clan. Both 11th (the house of the south node) and 4th (the house of the ruling planet) suggest that Picasso is overwhelmed by the tribe.

In my case, Saturn, the LONER, appreciates the icy mental clarity and self-sufficiency of Aquarius, but is unable to connect with others in the 5th house of fun. Moreover, Uranus, the SEPARATIST, has a hard time relating to the group (11th house).


Step #5:

Examine the sign of the planetary ruler.

Picasso’s Mercury, STRETCHING-INTO-UNPRECEDENTED-NEW-MODELS TYPE, is in Scorpio. That implies fascination with taboos, everything we’re not supposed to talk about. Again, my Saturn, the RECLUSE, is in Aquarius who is at odds with values and motivations of her community. My Uranus, the FREE SPIRIT, is in Virgo who requires perfection.


Step #6:

Put it all together. Look at aspects; try to create a narrative. What happened?

What defeated you?

What or who was longed for and never attained?

What or who afflicted, blocked you?

What was left unresolved, unsaid, or undone?

Joie de Vivre (Antipolis), Pablo Picasso, 1946

Joie de Vivre (Antipolis), Pablo Picasso, 1946


Picasso’s 10th house (society) stellium comprised of five planets in Taurus (conservative, traditional) forms a massive opposition to his 4th house (inner world) Mercury (mental circuitry). The big world around him is not comfortable with the questions he is asking inwardly. The Moon (dependency on others for positive feedback until developing a sense of self-worth), ruler of the 4th house (a place where we hide all the inner “ugliness”) is in ostentatious Sagittarius (variety is the spice of life) in his 5th house of sexuality. The image of someone deluged by external restrictions emerges; his curiosity is confined by unbearable constraints. And that’s what Picasso rebelled against.


Spiral Staircase, Alla Kazovsky
Spiral Staircase, Alla Kazovsky


On the other hand, what did I fight to overcome? This is very complicated, but I would venture to say that my karma or south node predicament is lack of self-confidence. Hmm… As I am deducing this, I am realizing how much it is about a sense of powerlessness. And how much it resonates with the memory of my childhood in the Soviet Union. I am an architect thanks to a chance conversation with a stranger upon my arrival to the United States as a political refugee. He suggested that I apply to an architecture school. An extremely shy sixteen-year-old, entering senior year of high school, I exclaimed: “Me???? I don’t even know how to draw!” It was unthinkable (south node self-doubt), but in a subconscious quest for self-expression, I forged ahead defying my karma.


– Alla Kazovsky


Astrology is an empowering tool that can help us live up to our highest potentials. We can study our charts to learn where we’ve been and where we ought to go. If you want to learn about your own south node and what it means for you, click here.


Got any astrology-related questions or topics you’d like us to cover? Wanna discuss what you’ve learned on The Scope? Let’s chat in the comments below!

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