In this episode, Catherine Pawasarat Sensei and Doug ‘Qapel’ Duncan explore parts of our natal charts that are particularly connected to spiritual and personal transformation, including Chiron, Saturn, and North and South Nodes. They explain how these lenses can help us get unstuck, transform challenges into tools, and take things in our lives less personally. This includes how to use astrology to integrate our shadow and realize our fullest potential.

Today’s recording is a continuation of a talk from Season 3 (Episode 11) entitled “Astrology + Buddhism: Introducing AstroDharma”.

Interested in developing a working understanding of astrology as a system of personal and spiritual transformation? Looking to explore the material from today’s talk and look at how it applies to your own life? Catherine Sensei’s self-study course Intro to AstroDharma goes step-by-step through everything you need to know, and includes fun, meaningful and engaging exercises, including analyzing the Dalai Lama’s chart and guided activities to deepen your understanding of your own natal chart. Visit to learn more about the course and to access some free resources.

Podcast Transcription:

Welcome to Dharma If You Dare. I’m Christopher Lawley,  Planet Dharma team member and producer of the podcast. Today’s recording is a continuation of a talk introducing AstroDharma that Catherine Pawasarat Sensei and Doug Qapel Duncan gave during their online course entitled Crazy Wisdom. Part one of this talk can be found in season 3 in the podcast feed episode 11 entitled ‘Astrology and Buddhism: Introducing AstroDharma’. If you are not familiar with this approach to astrology, I recommend you hit pause now and go and listen to that earlier episode.  As someone who started as a skeptic and has come to truly value astrology, I have always been impressed by how committed Sensei and Qapel are to using AstroDharma as a tool for transformation. I’ve never seen them use it as an idle pastime or to explain away someone’s behavior. It is always used as a lever for getting underneath patterns and struggle to expose the opportunity for growth or the missing piece in someone’s mandala or view.  In today’s talk Sensei and Qapel explore parts of our natal charts that are particularly connected to spiritual and personal transformation including Chiron, Saturn and North and South Nodes.


They explain how these lenses can help us get unstuck, transform challenges into tools and take things in our lives less personally. This includes how to use astrology to integrate our shadow and realize our fullest potential.  You will hear them use the term ‘houses’ during the talk –  if you don’t know that part of astrology, don’t worry about it. If you want to learn about the houses or any other foundational parts of astrology like ‘aspects’, Catherine Sensei does have a self-study course that covers all 12 signs, along with all the other parts that make up a strong foundational understanding of astrology.  You can find some free resources and learn more about that course at  and now here’s today’s recording. 


Catherine Sensei:  So Qapel’s favorite and one of my favorites too. 


Qapel: Well, there are two favorites actually. The Nodes are one of my favorites, my other favorite is Chiron. Chiron is the wounded healer, so it’s where the wound is. So we’re back to the Shadow. So for me, the Chiron, the wounded healer, (where your wound is and how you heal it) and then the two Nodes (which we’re going to talk about now), are for me, key aspects to meeting the Shadow.  Along with the 12th house and Pluto (and the other planets, which I don’t think we’re going to get to either).


CS:  So just briefly about Chiron, because this I think is really helpful: Chiron’s an asteroid next to Saturn and he was a centaur. He was a great teacher: He taught Apollo and Artemis and Hercules and he was immortal and he taught many of the gods and the great Greek warriors and he was wounded in an accident. Just a pure accident: It was an arrow dipped in the blood of the Hydra. So it was like the worst poison there was and he accidentally got wounded with this arrow, but because he was immortal, he could not die. So he just had this terrible, terrible mortal wound for eternity. And so he tried everything he could to heal that wound, but it was basically unhealable. But through that process, he became a great healer.


Q:  And everybody is a Chiron. Being born into this world, you are wounded.  It doesn’t matter how good it was or how wonderful it was, you come into the world wounded. And part of your journey is to heal that wound back to the Shadow, back to dharma, back to astrology. 


CS: One of the neat things about Chiron is that it is really nobody’s fault. There are other things in our chart that are painful and we can usually trace them to something else or somebody else or to an experience. But Chiron not, it’s just a terrible pain that we just have and it’s through that experience that we have to heal ourselves and then we can offer that healing to other people.


Q: So this is huge when it comes to genealogy and planetary healing and transcendence:  Everybody’s been wounded and it is really nobody’s fault. Because whoever wounded you was wounded by somebody else and whoever wounded them wounded somebody before them. So, the nature of the wound and the struggle that you’re working with is that if you spend too much time in an ego way focusing on the person who did that to them, then in a sense you’re missing your liberation, even though yes, it might have been a wound, it might have been a hurt and it wasn’t good. Nevertheless, everybody in some fashion or other has been wounded.  So the ego wants to concentrate on where to assign the blame or where to assign the credit. In Astro dharma you’re moving past that, you’re saying, oh here are the patterns, here’s the structure, here’s how this family or tribe or culture or condition got built and this is how you transcend it.


CS: Let’s talk about the Moon’s Nodes, let’s start with the South Node.


Q: South Node, karma.


CS:  So the Moon’s nodes are determined also by the time of birth and it’s basically where the orbit of the moon crosses over the orbit of the Earth around the sun. So it’s a little bit techy so we won’t get hung up on that.  But there’s a South Node and directly opposite it is the North Node.


Q: Always 180° from your South is your North (CS: directly opposite).  It’s your karma, it’s your family, it’s your conditioning, it’s your culture, it’s everything from where you came from.  It’s where you get stuck.


CS: That’s right. So it represents what we’re born into and that’s usually by family and by tribe and by culture and therefore by conditioning and because we get stuck here usually manifests as… well you’re kind of stuck in your –  I mean it is a blessing,  but we do feel kind of stuck in our tribes, right? We don’t know, we’re in it unless we leave it, so in that sense, we are quite stuck.


Q:  And especially in whatever house it’s in, which house will tell you which part of your life tends to get stuck. I think it’s obvious, but we need to say it. So somebody’s South Node might be in Libra meaning they get kind of stuck in the status quo or something.  Somebody else’s North Node might be in Libra which means learning to embrace beauty and balance and culture and harmony and such things. 


CS: That’s right so Libra is the balancer and so every sign, every planet has its upsides and its downsides. So where our South Node is, we tend to be aware of the downsides or experience the downsides. And our spiritual path then is about going for our North Node, which when we first learned about that, it usually seems kind of impossible or just outrageous like “Who me?”  You know, “I’m gonna manifest that? Really?”  because it’s the opposite of how we were raised, conditioned. 


Q: So my South Node is in Libra, my mother was a Libra. My guru was a Libra, I got married in Libra, I got divorced at the time of Libra, so that’s all that.  The North Node is in Aries.  The Aries is that going forward, reaching out… So I never really saw myself as a teacher initially. I kind of felt more that my role was in kind of a community or in or in the family of it all. But my nature just kept going for the reach, for the extension, the reach. So it’s kind of an example. 


CS: That’s right. And we have the same Nodes. My South Node is also in Libra.  So similarly, out of a family of six, four people are Librans, in my family. 


Q: So Catherine and I are not super good on the status quo. We’ve both got South Node status quo, we both have South Node conventionality, we both have South Nodes: Nice house, pleasant environment, take care of all that harmony. That’s how we were raised and for both of us until really, relatively recently, none of that was very important to us. We were going north, she went to Japan for 20 years, she went to Brazil for a year, Ayahuasca, and so on. I traveled the world.  So it’s that kind of North Node reach.


CS: So Libra is all about balance, it’s about relationships, it’s about like.. is everybody feeling okay? And the opposite of it is Aries and Aries doesn’t really give a shit what everybody else thinks because it’s just blazing its own trail. It’s not in a mean way, but it’s just like “What, other people? What other people?” Because it really knows where it wants and needs to go and goes for it. And so to someone who’s raised in a Libra environment to say like “Oh it’s your destiny to just go for what YOU want to do and not pay attention to what other people thinking”  – That’s a really outrageous thing for someone who’s raised in a Libran, you know, ’you got to check in with everybody first’ kind of environment. So the North Node, we have to really make an effort to manifest those qualities, it’ll feel really unnatural and we have to make that very intentional.


Q: Right.  And the nice thing about it is that once you make your North Node intentional, your South Node comes back as a bonus, all the positive elements come back into it. So Catherine I have accumulated fabrics and stones and pottery from around the world and art bringing that back in. 


QS: Libra’s about aesthetics.


Q: So it’s not that you’re ever going to lose anything, you don’t lose anything by leaving the South Node.  You just have to manifest the North Node in order to bring it around where it belongs. Now, let’s flip it because if your South Node is Aries, what would you say about that? 


CS: Let’s see if the South Node was in Aries, it was probably very fiery, maybe.  Aries is ruled by Mars so  maybe kind of an aggressive home environment, might have been a lot of fighting, you know, like different wills not really getting along possibly in the home environment. And remember the South Node, we experienced the downside of it.  And so then the North Node would be about learning to be very harmonious,  learning to get along with people, learning to express concern for other people’s feelings, to find balance. These are all Liberan strengths.  And then once somebody cultivates those qualities, then they get the upside of The South Node, all those qualities become available to us. We realize like, “Oh well actually there may have been a lot of fighting in my home growing up, but I am really comfortable expressing my opinion and I don’t mind if I have to go it alone, I was raised with that talent” and we get an appreciation for those positive qualities.


Q:  Thus the integration and thus the transcendence part. 


Should we go to the shadow aspect?  Let’s talk about the Shadow, since that’s Saturn, Saturn, Saturn, Saturn, Saturn, and more Saturn. Tell us about Saturn, Catherine.


CS: Okay, so the planet Saturn is the teacher archetype.  Really, we could say maybe the authority and what sign does that rule?  It rules Capricorn.  So Saturn is called the ‘lord of karma’ and it’s also known as the gateway to the outer planets. That’s Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.


Q:  Psychological problems, neurosis, anxiety, worry, they’re all pushing you back into the inner planets, it’s self-orientated.  Saturn also speaks to discipline and training, discipline and training, discipline and training, training and discipline!  Thus it’s the door to the outer planets because the outer planets are where the transformation happens or where the process of transformation happens and you can’t get to the outer planets if you don’t have a very strong Saturn. So in order to get to the outer planets for true transformation to take place, you’ve got to meet this training-discipline-study-teacher motif and our culture and our society has put that Saturn principle a bit in the garbage can, as patriarchal and authoritarian.


So we’re shooting ourselves in the foot by not being able to embrace the positive sides of the patriarchy, and the positive sides of authority and discipline. We’re keeping ourselves in a self-circling victimization and neurotic involvement with overconsumption and over self-indulgence. It’s narcissistic because we need Saturn to get out of it.


CS: That’s right So Saturn, I would say pretty much universally, as younger people, we experience it as oppressive.  It’s like an authority that isn’t letting us grow up.  It’s often a parent or it can be represented by another authority figure and really it’s about becoming an authority ourselves through discipline and training and in order to do that, we need to be trained by an authority, right? We only get good at something if we learn from a master and that master is represented by Saturn.


Q:  Whether it’s ballet or law or medicine or any subject, carpentry or dharma, it’s the same principle, it’s the apprenticeship model, Saturn is about the apprenticeship model. Other planets are about maybe study and learning.


So the problem with our university careers and measuring society in terms of just university learning, it’s just knowledge.  But for mastery, you need the application side and that’s where the Saturn part, actual experience, (CS:  Actual experience) and Saturn is about meeting that actual experience on the ground. Not just knowledge in the head. 


CS: So, we have a lot of experience with this transition from experiencing the authority as oppressive to becoming that authority ourselves, because I’d say one place where that shows up really in spades is in dharma training (Q: Karma yoga), because it’s just it’s a very, very challenging kind of scenario where we feel like we’re being controlled and held back and oppressed by our teacher our trainer, when actually what their motivation is to help us become a master. 


Q: Yes, so in the sense that you might say that karma yoga is actually the higher discipline.  If you look at a monk in say, Tibet, or nun, the young woman goes into a monastery and she learns the prayers and she learns the ritual and she studies and then she learns how to do her job whatever that job in the monastery might be, and then she goes into retreat, right? So at that point, she has enough foundation to meet the relationship between Saturn and the teacher, the guru and the disciple.  And this is where the deeper training takes place.  So in a sense, the highest practice isn’t meditation. The highest practice is actually karma yoga because meditation is just about you alone. Karma yoga is you with others. And so if you’re going to teach or you’re going to share the teaching, you have to know how to meet those things and you meet those things through the training and the discipline of karma yoga. 


CS: So Saturn often is one indicator of the shadow in our charts because often where it’s located by sign and by the house, those are often areas where we feel like there are obstacles or where we feel held back, and then it takes conscious effort. With conscious effort, we can lean into that, it’s not easy, but with the help of teachers and trainers we can lean into that and attain mastery in that area and then we become teachers and of course, the parts of our life that have been the most challenging for us are the parts of our life where we’re the best teachers.


Q: So you don’t get to dharma unless you rebel – that takes you to the gates of Saturn. But in order to go forward, you’ve got to meet the discipline of Saturn. So you got to rebel against your own rebellion and in the process of rebelling against your own rebellion you then go to the outer planets – Uranus Neptune and Pluto to meet the transformations of revolution, dissolution and destruction, which we just briefly mention here. 


CS: Right. So Saturn’s the gateway. So these outer planets Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto, move much more slowly, so they affect entire generations. The inner planets up to Saturn move pretty fast, so they’re changing all the time. So they kind of account for all our different personalities. But the outer planets are moving slowly, affecting generations, all at a time.  So it’ll be, like, the millennials will all have the outer planets in the same place. The baby boomers all have the outer planets in the same location . Gen X all has those outer planets in the same location but different from each other. Right? This is why the generations are different. 


So as Qapel said, those are shadow indicators too, those outer planets, where they are in our charts are going to be areas where we’re going to be prone to:  Big things happening to us –  seem to be happening to or kind of befalling us.  Neptune is ‘transformation through dissolution’.  So that often has to do with, let’s see, altered states,  it can be fantasy, it can be disillusionment, it can be substances. So if you’re going through a struggle with substances, it’s probably a Neptune issue going on and it’s through mastering Saturn that we can work with these energies skillfully and access the higher vibration of these energies, which is the transcendental.


Q: Uranus is the revolution probably revolting against your family, conditioning your cultural conditioning or you’re programming your revolting against what you’ve been sold by the marketplace.


Pluto’s through destruction.  So if you’re actually going to make a spiritual breakthrough, you’ve got to take it apart and get down to the brass tacks.  But there is a flipside positive, which I think I’ll mention briefly, which is:  If these three come together… So, through the Saturn, through your discipline, you’ve gone through revolution, dissolution and destruction. That doesn’t sound very appealing. But when these three come together, you’ve completely unraveled the knot or the matrix of the ‘me’.  And as soon as that happens they flip.  So revolution becomes the ability to work in community and carry on a stable and cooperative and healthy environment.  Dissolution becomes creativity. You actually touch into the tap stone of your own creativity and you’re instantly self-creative in the moment,  or cosmic creativity.  And now Pluto’s destruction becomes the great ability to build and create things and monasteries or temples or retreat centers or performances – whatever happens to be your particular thing, right?


CS: Because Shiva, for example, is the great destroyer, we know that it’s a very necessary force in order for new things to be creative.  


Q: And just to repeat. You can’t get to the other planets and real transformational change unless you meet the discipline of standing alone by yourself in your own world as your own person. Astrologically not putting it off on someone else, not getting someone else to carry it, not figuring out the community will carry you or take care of you. This is a personal private journey that you must make for yourself. And when you go through the transformational process, you actually become capable of being useful to others and working with others in a way that isn’t the blind leading the blind.  So this is why astrology is so powerful.


CS:  And AstroDharma, our horoscope, is a map for how we can do this.  A lot of it is universal and, depending on our individual horoscope, of when we are born, is the personalized. You know: “ This is why I’m here on the planet for this lifetime.” 


Q: There’s another aspect of the Shadow element that we should talk about which is the 12th house. 


CS: Yes, so the 12th house is super interesting. It represents the period of time we were in our mother’s womb. So what an important nine months, right? Everything that our mother experienced was having this profound effect on us before we knew we were ‘us’.


Q:  It’s the house of the unconscious, but you could also say it’s the House of the pre-conscious. It’s in the Shadow. You don’t quite know what it is yet. It’s unconscious to the ego, but in some ways, it is also pre-conscious in the sense that you don’t know what’s happening. (CS: That’s right). So it’s also with great effort that it takes us into the transcendental or what is called the superconscious.  Where the 12th house is, usually is an unconscious resource. 


CS: That’s right.  So it’s usually part of our being that we’re not very aware of and an important part of our journey to the transcendental.


Q:  It can be disowned.  You might disown being aggressive: positive aggression, to move towards. 


CS: That would be Mars, to step in. So someone with Mars in the 12th house might be quite unaware of their own aggression but encounter aggression in other people around them.  So that’s a typical 12 house. 


Q: So by learning to bring the Shadow of your Mars out into the light and taking it on yourself as your own energy, then that’s the power for your transformation.


CS: The 12th House we access and integrate with a lot, a lot, a lot of meditation because that’s how we make our unconscious conscious and that takes a serious commitment and that’s really a lifetime of work.


CL: We hope you enjoyed this episode. Please rate and review Dharma If You Dare on your favorite podcast app to help more people find and benefit from these teachings, and don’t forget to subscribe to get episodes and bonus content sent directly to your device.  Interested in developing a working understanding of astrology as a system of personal and spiritual transformation?  Looking to explore the material from today’s talk and look at how it applies to your own life?  Catherine Sensei’s self-study course ‘Intro to AstroDharma’ goes step by step through everything you need to know and includes fun, meaningful, and engaging exercises, including analyzing the Dalai Lama’s chart and guided activities to deepen your understanding of your own natal chart.  Visit to learn more about the course and to access some free resources. 


See you next time, and may all our efforts benefit all beings.