This Lesser-Known Astrological Transit Happens Just Before Your Saturn Return—And Could Be Just as Intense

Photo: Getty Images / Mengwen Cao
The internet’s favorite celestial transit, Saturn return, is considered an astrological coming-of-age. This period—when Saturn first returns to the position it was in when a person was born, around age 29—is often challenging. Saturn is the planet of discipline, focus, and lessons, and its return to its location in a person's natal chart could push them to make tough decisions about their life and who they want to be (and become).

But, there is another transit that happens just before the Saturn return that plants seeds about life purpose. Called the nodal opposition, it promises a different kind of lesson oriented toward destiny, fate, and reaching highest fulfillment. It happens when the nodal axis, with the north node at one end and the south node at the other, is flipped from its positioning when a person was born. In other words, it occurs when the north node and the south node are each in opposite signs from the ones they occupy in a person's natal chart (hence, opposition).

For example, if your natal north node is in Scorpio and south node is in Taurus, then your nodal opposition occurs when the north node reaches Taurus and the south node arrives at Scorpio, which takes about 27 years. And if that’s you…congratulations, you’re currently experiencing your nodal opposition! (To figure out where the nodes were when you were born, enter your birthday into this node generator.)

What the lunar nodes tell you about yourself

The lunar nodes (north and south) are mathematical points calculated based on the moon’s path intersecting the ecliptic hemisphere. They’re associated with lunar eclipses—and all the fated events these can bring about—because any full or new moon that’s near one of the nodes will be an eclipse. In Vedic astrology, the nodes were considered unfavorable, and were represented by the mythical figures Rahu, the maker of eclipses, and Ketu, an eerie formless comet.

Now, modern Western astrology characterizes the south node as your karmic past, skills, and development you’ve already mastered, and as an easy comfort zone. The north node, by contrast, is your future edge: a place past your comfort zone that can bring up fear and joy, and indicate the lessons you’re meant to learn in this lifetime to feel fulfilled.

Bringing together the historical interpretations with the modern, it’s not as simple as saying the north node is good and the south node is something to avoid. Through facing challenges, we develop courage. Both sides of the nodal axis bring us essential guidance, and this is highlighted in transits like the nodal opposition, which brings the two nodes into tension with each other.

Why your nodal opposition is a significant turning point

The nodes orbit retrograde by default, and take about 18.6 years to make a full revolution. That means everyone has their first nodal return—aka when the nodes return to the signs they were in when you were born—around age 18: the age society bestows on us the freedoms of adulthood.

Another nodal return takes place around age 37. But, at the halfway point, there is your nodal opposition (or reverse nodal return), around age 27 or 28, when the nodes are in opposite signs of where they were when you were born. Oppositions mark times of tension and compromise, and the nodal opposition is no different. It’s generally perceived as a reversal, where the place you’re destined to go is meshed with the place from which you came, and vice versa.

Some people characterize this time as a period of failing at something they thought they wanted to achieve, only to find out it wasn’t right for them. Others might find that they entertained a new idea, but were unable to take action—which is, perhaps, a sign that it wasn’t the right time in their life for that idea.

For those with an especially difficult nodal opposition, know that the seed of your purpose is within the failures and dead ends. We often don’t know what we want in life until we try a few things out. It’s possible the universe could hand us our life’s dreams on a silver platter, and we’d sniff it and turn away. We may not recognize it yet because we need more experiences to arrive at self-knowledge.

How your nodal opposition could impact your Saturn return to follow

No transit works totally alone, so it’s also a good idea to consider your nodal opposition in context with the next big life-altering transit, your Saturn return, which typically happens just a couple years later, around age 30.

Both your Saturn return and nodal opposition will involve lessons—for Saturn, lessons in independence, and for the nodes, lessons on purpose. This can play out differently for each person, depending on the many factors in any given birth chart. But, based on the timelines, a few common themes tend to emerge.

Your nodal opposition may set up your Saturn return

The eclipse energy of your nodal opposition could cause destabilization, which allows for big change and growth. This could mark the breakup of a relationship or friendship, or a death in the family, which makes room for the coming-of-adulthood moment of your Saturn return. A big promotion at the nodal opposition could also allow you to move into a better place in life in the following few years. In short, your nodal opposition can act as a setup to your Saturn return.

These periods might offer different, but complementary themes of growth or change

You might experience tension in different parts of your life during these transits because they impact different parts of your chart at once. For example, because Saturn is often associated with work and career, the focus of your Saturn return could be around professional themes. Meanwhile, your nodal opposition could reflect a different but parallel story, bringing tension to your health, partnerships, identity, education, or family.

The two transits could merge together

If you’re someone whose nodal opposition occurs within months of your Saturn return, the two stories could cross paths. Sometimes, it’s hard to say if a new job was what prompted a breakup or if the declining relationship was what pushed you to go for the new job. In the same way, changes prompted by your nodal opposition and Saturn return can overlap. We’re always evolving, and areas of our life are bound to interact with each other.

In any case, the important truth to know about transits is that they’re temporary. No matter which planets or points are involved, the cycle will pass, and the lessons are yours to apply going forward. By reviewing the notable events that took place around the time of your first nodal opposition, you can get dreaming about the possibilities coming at your next nodal return.

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