Moon and its Nodes: Points of Confluence or Separation? by Rohini Ranjan SignUp
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Moon and its Nodes:
Points of Confluence or Separation?
by Rohini Ranjan Bookmark and Share

Conspicuous by its absence from the Vedic astrological repertoire is the significance that is generally attributed to the sun-sign in tropical astrology that is practiced in many parts of the world. Why did Aryans, allegedly the proponents of the Vedic system of astrology, who were ardent sun-worshippers, chose to stay away from a more extensive consideration of sun-signs is intriguing. They decided, instead, to go with the moon! The moon-sign has almost the same status in Indian astrology as the sun-sign has in western astrology, for instance. The Indian 'newspaper' horoscope is based on the moon-sign and it is considered as a personal sign of great importance there as is the sun-sign in the west. The ascending sign enjoys an even higher position of significance in Vedic astrology, just as it does in serious western astrology. The ascendant changes more frequently (hours) than the moon (days), on a given day, there would be fewer individuals on any given day who would share the ascendant than the moon-sign. It therefore makes sense that one's ascending sign be considered as more 'personal' and an "individualistic" indicator of the tides of time.

The ascendant and moon-sign also play a significant part in the delineation of planetary combinations or yogas. Transit influences are often primarily considered from the lunar horoscope (natal lunar sign as the first house) for timing of events. The lunar chart is also utilized in "horoscope matching" (synastry). The popularly used vimshottary dasha system is, of course, a system of lunar progression and is utilized for timing by most Vedic astrologers (there are other dasha systems of lower frequency of usage, many based on the moon, some not {note added in 2004: this has changed in recent years as more and more information becomes available on the rules of usage of conditional and other dashas}). Since it is the major system of assignment of planetary periods that cover different parts of one's life, it makes sense to use the lunar horoscope for ascertaining transit effects. The significance of moon is indirectly also reflected by the fact that its nodes are given such importance in the astrological delineation. Rahu and Ketu, the north and south nodes of the moon, are mere mathematical points, but have an enormous significance and make one wonder about the possible importance of other mathematical points and nodes that exist as Arabic parts or mid-points etc. in other systems. {note added in 2004: I grow less convinced each day that the lunar horoscope or the matrimonial matching system (gana-kuta system) alone is adequate for a serious astrological delineation}

Hindu mythology describes that at the beginning of creation, the 'divine' caucus and the 'demons' decided to join hands and churn the "ocean of milk" (milky-way?). During that interesting exercise, they came across many treasures, which they divided amongst themselves, more or less equitably. Then emerged the jug of nectar that would bestow immortality! The gods started doing some serious thinking since they did not want the evil elements to become immortal. It is interesting that in Hindu mythology, gods are generally depicted as intelligent, scheming and manipulative, whereas the demons are usually shown as intense, single-minded, somewhat stupid creatures (tamasa or qualities of darkness!). Anyway, cashing in on the weakness in demons, Vishnu (one of the divine trinity that stands for the good things in life and is responsible for nurturing and maintaining the creation; the other two being Brahma the creator and Shiva the destroyer, decided to step in. One notable 'power' of Vishnu is His ability to change shape and form at the drop of a hat! So He changed Himself into a beautiful enchantress (mohini murti, one who entices, distracts, causes an illusion and hypnotizes!) for distracting the demons while the gods lined up hastily to get their fill of the nectar. At that time the sun and the moon noticed that one of the demons had sneaked into the divine queue (how devilishly godlike of him!) and they snitched on him. The demon was beheaded, but having consumed the nectar already, his head and the body continued to live. The head became known as Rahu while the rest of the body became Ketu. since that day, these two have continued to roam around the universe and try to eat (eclipse) the two snitches (sun and moon) who told on them (him?).

Though they are primarily out to get the sun and moon, the nodes do not miss an opportunity to get the rest of the planets as well, when they can, because all planets fall in either Sun's camp or Moon's. A situation when all the planets (Sun to Saturn) are flanked between Rahu and Ketu is known as the Kala-sarpa yoga (The deadly snake! Kala has many meanings including black, deadly and TIME). This combination is said to bring about confinements, limitations and other troubles and is not a good thing to have! It is one of the favorite boogy-men of jyotishis, right there with Mangal dosha and Sade- Sati of Saturn! Though Vedic astrology does not take into consideration, the trans-saturnine planets, it might be of interest to look at charts that have the nodes flanking the seven classical bodies and compare those with the ones which have all planets and luminaries flanked by the nodes. Interpretations vary, depending on whether the planets are between Rahu and Ketu or whether they are between Ketu and Rahu, but most accounts describe a difference in severity rather than a change in the quality of the evil effects in the two arrangements. Like any other combination, if the individual with a Kala-sarpa does not experience the dasha of the nodes or planets in the stars of the nodes, the effect would not be felt severely. {note added in 2004: In more recent times, academic jyotishis have begun to bravely challenge and avoid giving a blanket statement of fear and some innovative work has emerged from several camps due to a rethinking and better study of the lunar nodes. Kala-sarpa yoga is not considered an unconditional chamber of horrors anymore and there are many different flavors and intensities of its expression, far beyond the scope of the current article}.

Another 'nodal' combination is the Chandala yoga which is formed when the nodes are conjoined with the prime natural benefic Jupiter, essentially robbing Jupiter of its propensity to do good and to expand or to enable the nativity to expand (in a good sense!). This combination, like any other, must not be taken too literally. The strength, location and lordships of Jupiter have a major say in deciding the final outcome. This 'qualifier' has not been emphasized enough in most Vedic texts, old and new and can lead to major discrepancies and even misinterpretations in a reading. There are also some exceptions (aren't there always?) such as Ketu being in the 12th house with Jupiter, particularly for arise, Leo and Capricorn ascendants when the combination is desirable for matters pertaining to spiritual progress.

Though they presumably originated from the same body, Rahu and Ketu appear to have developed independently in different ways! Rahu is more of the nature of Saturn, intelligent in being cautious and not hasty when strong, meticulous and rigorous, sneaky, manipulative, vicious and vindictive, with sharp eyes and indolence befitting a fifteen pound feline! These qualities kind of tie-in nicely with the fact that Rahu is the head of the beheaded demon! Ketu on the other hand is more like mars, explosive, energetic, aimlessly rushing about, bumping into things (poor headless thing!), interfering, fast, religious, fanatic etc. Both nodes have a common propensity to place a veil over one's eyes, often seen during their dashas or of planets that are in the nakshatras or asterisms of the lunar nodes. They are not called shadowy or foggy planets for nothing. Nodes also tend to bring about very sudden turn of events and can cause a very rapid rise to power, glory and fame followed by a matching fall, and vice versa.

Another peculiarity of the nodes is their "black-hole" effect! Any planet that is conjunct with the nodes loses its qualities and energies almost completely. The "empty-shell" effect is particularly seen during the dasha periods of the planet. The lack of energy, motivation and direction are unmistakable. This is often seen in combust (conjunction with sun) planets to some extent. However, while the sun becomes a spokesperson and takes care of things pertaining to the conjoined planet, the nodes do not show such benevolence. Not only does the individual suffer during the dasha of the planet conjoined with the node, but also during the dasha of the node. The nodes assume the character of or assume lordship over the house they are located in. There have been specific signs that have been described in texts, giving the lordships of the nodes over signs and signs they are strong or weak in, but many astrologers, including myself, do not consider nodes to have own or any favorite (or otherwise) signs {note added in 2004: I have in more recent times written an article on astro-treasures that survived time which is available on this site and goes in more specific details on this topic}!

During the dasha of the nodes some degree of helplessness and lack of control over people and events can be noticed. Things happen suddenly, unexpectedly and in some individuals such a situation leads to a sense of a "free-floating anxiety". In a few, the nervous energy practically "buzzes" and a certain element of paranoia, a certain subtle to not so subtle "difference" in interpreting normal cues becomes very visible. Sudden turns of events, failure of communications at several levels become marked in these individuals. In some there is also the feeling of the element of "time" playing a major role. One often feels as if there is a "connection" established with events and persons from another time (particularly during mutual period of nodes)! Obviously, not everyone faces these effects to the same degree, but for some it could be a cherished person or object lost for years, for others it might feel as if events from a different lifetime are involved or being reactivated. Indeed, this brings up a very interesting point of the nodes representing "karmic debts". Nodal positions give an interesting window into the karmic ledger of an individual and must be thoroughly examined by astrologers interested in this very interesting and unique area. Particularly so, in charts where the ascendant, ascendant lord and moon are related to the nodes, by conjunction or asterismal/dispositor associations.

One occasionally comes across references to certain houses in a horoscope being of more 'karmic' significance than others, however, if we think about the issues a bit, it would appear that practically any house could have karmic ties or repercussions. The wealth in the second house, the courage in the third house, the mother and happiness in the fourth etc., all could be what they are in the current life due to karmic influences. However, two houses, the fifth and ninth are sometimes referred to as the summary houses for karma, the ninth showing the karma that is ready to be cashed and the fifth showing the karmic actions that can be or must be handled now to avoid the piper later

The fifth (from the ascendant and the moon) then is the house that must be studied for designing an efficient karmic game plan, the planets therein and the lord of fifth and its dispositors and associates could tell a lot about this matter. Since nodes have a tendency to bring in karmic influences into play (other planets do too, but nodes mobilize things unexpectedly and so the impact can be tremendous!). If nodes are associated with the fifth house or the fifth lord or dispositor of the fifth lord, then situations would arise in the life of the individual when s/he would be forced to take actions and make decisions almost on the spur of a moment, that would have future implications and repercussions! The periods, when this sort of situation could occur, would be of the nodes or related planets and could help in indicating the time when such an eventuality might arise. As they say, to be forewarned is to be prepared. My own humble philosophy is that in the here and now, we are exposed to opportunities that are a mixed bag of events, some of which are predestined while others are amenable to free-will. This might make some very uneasy, but if we think of an action decided by free-will today (do I buy stocks in this garage-based company that sells computers named like fruit?) as leading to a predestined event tomorrow (Do I go to Nice or Florence this summer? God bless Woz!). Okay! Okay!! So it was not a great example. You get the picture!! {note added in 2004: particularly today in 2004 when Apple and Steve Wozniak have literally passed through the "Gates", so to speak!}

And some more thoughts 10 years later ...

The 'problem' with jyotish and indeed all forms of astrology has been this. It appears logical. Fifth house is related to matters pertaining to children. The general algorithm goes like this: if the fifth lord is in trouble, it would reflect/indicate that the nativity's children would show a tendency for trouble. This is a simple logical link as all would admit. Now, obviously, if we test this in many charts, it would appear that in a few individuals possessing such a chart, there would not be any trouble pertaining to children. The rule fails, then? But, there might be other indicators that support the fallen lord of fifth. There might be other factors in saptamamsha chart (pertaining to fifth house) that could result in the effect in Rashi not being seen (expected does not match the observed). These are all layers of rules that form the logical matrix in jyotish. If we look at one or few factors, then sometime or another, our judgment based on the few factors is bound to fail. The exact weighting of the factors and rules etc. is neither well described in texts and often conflicting. This causes much heartburn to the logical scientist or businessman and they begin to wonder what is going on. This is a problem that will continue to plague each modern jyotishi.

Then we come to another level of uncertainty -- the primary axioms of astrology. How was the rulership assigned? Why Aries by mars and Pisces by Jupiter? What about the new-fangled reassigned rulerships?? Now, we may say that the rulership was based on the solar system. Lights in jyotish are very important and so starting with moon and sun in the kendra (sort of), we get the distribution of rulership based on orbits.

Sign   Aq   Pi   Ar   Ta   Ge   Cn   Le   Vi   Li   Sc   Sa   Ca
   #     11   12   01   02    03    04   05    06   07  08   09   10
Ruler  Sa   Ju   Ma   Ve   Me  Mo  Su   Me  Ve  Ma  Ju   Sa

Remember that 'su' (Sun) is really the projected earth and so Moon the satellite of earth being next to the sign ruled by Sun (earth) in the assignment of rulership would make sense, but then we switch to the astronomical orbitals (around the astronomical Sun), but we also see the distribution starting with Aquarius and not the traditionally accepted beginning of the zodiac from arise. That makes one wonder if there is a missing gap in the information. 

But is this really the reason for the assignment of signs? Who really knows? And why the beginning of the nakshatras from Ashwini? An alternate system has been given for the 'nadis' starting from Krittika the first star ruled by the Sun. More questions...

For that matter, why are the vimshottary dashas distributed in the order of the stars (which is the chicken and which the egg)? There are patterns figured out by modern astrologers for the solar and lunar sets or balanced periods between those assigned to inner and outer planets in the vimshottary scheme, with each node being assigned to each group, but then we run into other dashas that use both or one or none of the nodes. What is going on, enquiring minds want to know!

The importance of the lunar nodes in jyotish, I think, comes from their being the resultants of two most significant motions very central in the scheme of things - that of the earth-sun and of the moon, the two astrological 'lights'. Where the two orbits intersect, a node is created at each crossing. The nodes are the symbolic representations of the two indicators coming together at one of the nodes and separating from each other at the other node. If you visualize the two circular paths as coming from outside and merging and moving in at one node (N) and emerging from inside and separating (S) as they move outwardly then it does make some sense. Rahu may symbolize materialism moving towards spirituality yet not quite leaving the grip on where it came from. Ketu on the other hand is bringing the inner world to the outer through the separation and detachment. Rahu, therefore depicts the state where boundaries will be placed and one reminded of what is truly worth, hence it is of the nature of Saturn, while, Ketu representing the pure energy that lies within moving into a realm that is more 'massive' and gross, hence the symbolic similarity with mars. It takes more energy to bring the energy out of the atom (Ketu) than the implosion generally imposed through karma and destiny that makes one go inside (Rahu). The promise of Ketu, therefore, will take effort on the part of the individual, Rahu will make it happen for you. The negative side of this is that resisting Rahu and not pulling one's weight during Ketu's influence might not be the best strategy to follow. There is a time to flow with nature and other times to utilize one's free-will that human beings were given to exercise. Often, people seem to almost naturally seem to do the opposite (i.e., resist and not flow with Rahu and trying to not show the initiative during Ketu's periods, wrong strategies in both situations).

Anyways, even if we get to the bottom of the primary axioms and spin our wheels till they become red-hot, we would not have achieved much other than personal satisfaction of having figured something out. But it is not necessary because astrology has many such cul-de-sacs and potholes into which one can get stuck and remain stuck. Perhaps there is a higher level of wisdom that comes gradually and things begin to make sense. I have heard accounts where long-term divinators and jyotishis in particular (logical beings that they are!) reach a level where knowledge flows in even without seeking and sifting the information. The horoscope, the mental gymnastics, the math and transit, the dasha matrix and other seventy two and a half things we do in jyotish are really all information, fed into the computer between the ears or perhaps even that is only an I/O interface with the computer being 'elsewhere'. The information then gets processed and knowledge comes forth, in clear or dirty flow, in trickles or torrents.

Dissecting this astro-delineative process is frustrating because much of it exists below one's full awareness. Whether the jyotishi is aware of it or not, acknowledges it or not is another matter. Often people really believe that what they sift through during a reading is all logical and on being asked to explain, they pick out this or that yoga or factor (information) which they are prominently aware of (like remembering vividly the dream you woke up from which might have been one in a chain of many that night) and try to correlate this with the reading (knowledge) but the gap between the information used to derive the knowledge does not describe how the hiatus between incoming information and outgoing knowledge was wholly bridged.

I have stopped worrying about it, because it does not help or hinder the process though in some it would hinder and definitely would take up time and energy. Being a sensitive process, this Information to Knowledge conversion, is vulnerable to Heisenbergian changes while it is being observed and that further affects the output. Again, different persons would react to a different degree to being observed. Anyway, overall, it frustrates endlessly the logical, critical student of jyotish and sometimes they move away from pursuing it, out of desperation. Some do return, eventually.

The problems or some of the problems in the cognitive acceptance of astrology lie in the claims that astrologers feel pressured into making; claims of astrology being scientific, or of being a science. If we view astrology as a descriptor of human experience and destiny, a language that uses astrological symbols as alphabet and the chart being a descriptive passage in which the same fact is written in many different ways (we call these yogas, rules, the syntax of this language), then it becomes easier to conceive of astrology as a descriptive construct and not so much a rigid or relatively more rigid set of rules which are immovable and concrete. The same story can be told, the same experience described in more ways than one. If this were not so, how would one explain that -- using different parameters, different sets or subsets of rules and even different values of ayanamshas which essentially change the position of some if not all of the letters and words in an astrological paragraph -- how do different astrologers still manage to perform and perform well. This is a difficult and to some with a black and white view, a very disturbing concept and reality. But it is true if we view and review facts and experiences around us dispassionately and without prejudgment and games of prejudice. The difference between tropical and sidereal then becomes simply a longer stretch of the concept, and with the different rules and focus on different significators (aspects vs. actual positions for instance, midpoints -- another relative as opposed to zodiac based specific factor) tropical astrology becomes akin to a different language but describing the same experience, just as two different human languages would and do.

The point of this write-up is not to stir controversy but just a general voicing of my viewpoint. If it helps someone, makes it a bit clear for someone, that would be great. If it raises questions and curiosity, then that is not bad either.   

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More by :  Rohini Ranjan
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