The Lunar Nodes in Vedic Astrology
Stephen Byrnes, PhD
When a new student of astrology learns the basics of the art, she inevitably encounters the lunar nodes. Not really planets, the nodes of the Moon are mathematical points in space, responsible for creating the "shadow" effect on the Sun and Moon during eclipses. Depending on which system the student is studying, the nodes get interpreted in varying ways with some authors laying great emphasis on them in chart interpretation, and others practically ignoring them altogether.
In Jyotish, the ancient astrological system of India, the lunar nodes are major points in the natal chart and are closely looked at, especially in their transit movements through the birth chart. As opposed to Western astrological systems which tend to view the nodes as favorable influences, Jyotish regards the lunar nodes as malefic forces, responsible for chronic disease, loss, suffering, "fated" cataclysmic events, and other maladies.
Let us take a close look at how the nodes, known as Rahu (north node) and Ketu (south node), are viewed in Vedic astrology. It is hoped that all students of the Divine Science will look at the nodes more seriously and cautiously in the future when analyzing charts. It is also hoped that this article will end some confusion over just what the nodes are and that they are, indeed, baleful cosmic influences that continually plague humanity.
THE NODES IN OTHER SYSTEMS
In Western astrology, there is a strong tendency to view the lunar nodes as having something to do with one's karma--the accumulated lessons of one's past lives. In this view, popularized by such authors as Martin Schulman of the Karmic Astrology series, the north node represents what we should be striving towards in this life time, a sort of karmic goal for us to reach. The south node is viewed as the past that we need to leave behind and not hold onto. Proponents of this view contend that, by looking at the sign and house placements of the nodes, one's karmic past and destiny can be ascertained. Curiously, the nodes are given rather strong importance in natal chart interpretation, but are seldom looked at closely in transit analysis of the here and now of one's life.
In the Uranian and Cosmobiological systems of Germany, the nodes are interpreted as having a lot to do with interpersonal relationships, rather than karma. Alfred Witte, founder of the Uranian astrological system, strongly propounded this view. The nodes, north and south, were regarded as key in determining how social a person was and, as opposed to the American view, looked at in transit analysis. Aspects from the nodes to other planets would indicate where and of what nature one's relationships would take. For example, a Venus-Node contact would indicate a romantic relationship, or an ability to socialize well with others.
In the Vedic astrological system, however, while the nodes may have something to do with one's karma and may involve relationships with others, they are inherently viewed as evil cosmic influences. This will become crystal clear in the discussion and chart analysis' which will follow.
One can better understand Rahu and Ketu if one looks at the Vedic myth associated with them. Though the myth that follows has various versions, the essential meaning of the nodes comes through.
At a party of the gods, the nectar of immortality (called amrita) was being served in abundance. To prevent interference with the party from the demons below, the gods offered to share some of the amrita with the demons. Knowing, however, that if they gave amrita to the demons, it would immediately make them immortal, the gods played a trick on the demons and were actually serving them a drink which looked like amrita, but in reality was not. Of all the demons, one saw through the sham: Rahu, a type of demonic dragon. Infuriated at the deception, Rahu grabbed some clothing of the gods and put it on. She then slipped into the party unnoticed and unrecognized. When Lord Vishnu offered the real amrita to Rahu, believing that she was one of the gods, Lord Surya and Lord Chandra, the deities of the Sun and Moon, somehow saw through Rahu's deception, cried out, and exposed her lie. Immediately, Vishnu grabbed a sword and sliced Rahu in half and then threw the two parts of her body into the heavens. The head of the demon kept the name Rahu, while the headless body became known as Ketu.
Unfortunately, Rahu had managed to taste and swallow the amrita just before her dismemberment, therefore, she was unable to be killed. Because of her immortality, she and her headless body now exist eternally in the heavens. Because she was exposed by the Sun and Moon, she is now the sworn enemy of those two planets, hence the darkening of the Sun and Moon during solar and lunar eclipses.
RAHU--THE ROLLER COASTER
As can be deduced from the above tale, Rahu is an excellent liar as she was able to deceive even the gods, if only temporarily. In the Vedic system, the north node, Rahu, has rulership over con artists, liars, illusion, and cheats. Since Rahu is now only the head and part of the body of an immortal demon, she is constantly hungry--whatever food is eaten never reaches the whole body as Rahu is only the head and mouth. Because of this, Rahu is also viewed as insatiable material desires. No matter how much she gets, Rahu always wants more. Because of this, Rahu is closely associated with addictions and obsessive/compulsive behavior patterns. Accordingly, Rahu rules drugs, poisons, alcoholism, addicts, compulsive gambling, sex addiction, and pleasure seeking. Rahu also rules worries, paranoia and irrational fears. Because Rahu is a demon and inherently evil, Rahu also has domain over suffering in general, especially chronic diseases and events that are sudden and seem fated and tragic.
Because Rahu had the audacity to impersonate a god, at considerable risk to herself (a gamble which eventually she lost), Rahu is associated with reckless behavior and of taking chances. Rahu can make people do things they otherwise would not by making them throw caution to the wind and thinking that they can get away with it.
A final lesson to be gleaned from the Vedic myth is that Rahu's gains are always temporary. In the myth, Rahu did manage to deceive the gods for a while, but was found out in the end and suffered for it. Likewise, when well-placed in one's chart, Rahu may give material success, drive, fame, and ambition, but these gifts are fleeting and temporary. It is a virtual axiom in Jyotish that whatever is gained with Rahu's influence will eventually fritter away and be lost. One of the great lessons Rahu teaches is this: You can't take it with you. The moment you think you have attained lasting success in the material world is exactly the moment when Rahu will take that success away, leaving you hungry for what you lost and cannot have again.
Students of Western astrology may have noticed the great similarities of Rahu to the outer planets which are not generally used in Vedic astrology. Indeed, the lunar nodes seem to be combinations of different aspects of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Some Vedic authors describe Rahu as being like Saturn in that it can create delays and obstructions for an individual. In the chart analysis' that will follow, Rahu's unsavory qualities will be easily seen--both natally and by transit impact.
In the Vedic system, each of the planets has colors and stones associated with them. Rahu's colors are dull brown, ash, and all faded or washed-out colors. Rahu's stone is a hessonite, sometimes called "cinnamon stone." Needless to say, avoiding Rahu's colors and gems is paramount to one's well-being. Although some Vedic astrologers recommend wearing Rahu's gems at various times in one's life, I do not endorse this practice. Colors and gems bring in the influence of a planet. Why one would want to bring in more of Rahu, a disembodied demon, into one's life is strange, indeed!
Although Rahu does not rule a sign (it is not really a planet, but a mathematical point in space), it is generally agreed that it functions better in Taurus and Virgo, with Taurus being Rahu's sign of exaltation. Most likely this is because Rahu's materialism functions best through the most material of the twelve signs. Likewise, Rahu is weak when in Scorpio or Pisces.
KETU--THE CRUEL ONE
Ketu is the headless body of Rahu. Sometimes called the Dragon's Tail, Ketu's chart position is always opposite Rahu's. Astrologically, Ketu is the exact opposite of Rahu. Whereas Rahu is pure physicality and materialism, Ketu is pure spirituality and non-materiality. In this respect, Ketu acts like Neptune. But Ketu's spirituality comes with a heavy price tag: It is, after all, half of a demon. Ketu brings spirituality on to people by making them suffer. It is almost as if Ketu creates so many disasters in a person's life, that one has no choice but to turn to the Divine for help and solace.
Since Ketu is non-physical and non-material, its influence creates denial and sometimes abandonment. For example, a person with Ketu closely conjunct the midpoint of the 4th house of the mother will typically report that their mother was emotionally or physically unavailable when the person was growing up. Ketu can be very mystic, occult, psychic and intuitive, but it can also bring with it isolation, loss, misery, and abuse. According to Prof. V.K. Choudhry, founder and developer of the System's Approach to Vedic Astrology, Ketu is "the planet of miseries."
One of the key things to be aware of with Ketu is that it rules diseases of unknown origin (like cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, etc.), or diseases that get misdiagnosed or mistreated. Because of Ketu's hidden, mysterious quality, it can be a most insidious influence. It is amazing how often Ketu is involved in the onset of some bizarre disease--this will become clear in the charts that will follow.
Some Vedic authors describe Ketu as being like Mars in its nature and action. In any event, Ketu's color is a steel grey, as well as all faded and washed-out colors. Ketu's stones are cat's-eye and tiger's-eye. To avoid bringing Ketu's influence into one's life more, avoiding these colors and stones is paramount.
As with Rahu, Ketu does not rule a sign, but it is generally agreed that it functions well in Scorpio and Pisces, with Scorpio being its exaltation sign. Conversely, Ketu is rendered weak by its placement in either Taurus or Virgo.
Let us now take a close look at several charts to see how the nodes operate, both natally and by transit.
THE NODES IN ACTION
Before discussing the nodes in actual charts, readers need to know how the nodes cast aspects in the natal and transit charts. In Vedic astrology, Rahu and Ketu aspect the 5th, 7th, and 9th houses from themselves. For example, if you have Rahu/Ketu natally in your 3rd and 9th houses, this means that Rahu will also aspect/afflict the 7th, 9th, and 11th houses since these are 5, 7, and 9 houses from the 3rd. Likewise, Ketu would aspect/afflict the 1st, 3rd, and 5th houses of the natal chart as these are 5, 7, and 9 houses from Ketu's place in the 9th house. Be aware that the nodes create the same aspects when they are in transit. So if the transiting Rahu is moving close to the midpoint of your 4th house, this automatically means that Rahu is aspecting your 8th, 10th, and 12th houses. The transiting Ketu would be conjunct the 10th house, but simultaneously aspecting the 2nd, 4th, and 6th houses by transit.
In short, if the nodes are placed in odd-numbered houses, all the odd-numbered houses will be affected by the placement. Likewise, if the nodes are placed in even-numbered houses, all of the even-numbered houses will be affected.
It is important to note that the impact of the nodes will be intensified if they are near the midpoint or Most Effective Point (MEP) of a house (within five degrees). The midpoint or MEP number is determined by the degree rising on the Ascendant. If the Ascendant is 8 degrees Scorpio, then 8 degrees becomes the MEP of each and every house in that chart. So, if one had the nodes at 10 degrees Leo/Aquarius, with an Ascendant of 8 degrees Scorpio, the nodes will be heavily impacting the 10th, 12th, 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 8th houses of that chart as Scorpio rising places Leo on the 10th and Aquarius on the 4th. Note that the conjunction to the midpoint of the chart is off by only 2 degrees--a very intense aspect.
If the nodes in this chart were placed, however, at 21 degrees Leo/Aquarius, their impact on the person's chart would be much, much less (provided the nodes are not aspecting a planet in that chart). When analyzing a chart, one of the first things to look for is whether or not the nodes are close to the MEP of the chart. If they are, you can be assured that the person's life is more challenging due to the nodal affliction.
The next thing to look at is whether or not the nodes are aspecting a planet natally (or by transit). If so, the significations of that planet, as well as the affairs of the house that planet rules in the birth chart, will be damaged and hindered. For example, if Rahu is conjunct Venus in a chart, this will not only affect one's ability to love and be loved, but also the house where Libra falls in the chart as Venus rules Libra (1).
8:24 AM, Zone 2
Source: Birth certificate
Janet's chart shows Libra rising with a MEP of 12:15. The nodes are placed in the 11th and 5th houses at almost 10 degrees Leo/Aquarius. The nodes are, therefore, very closely afflicting these houses, as well as all of the odd-numbered houses of the chart. The nodes are not aspecting any of Janet's planets.
Ketu's presence in the 5th house of children either denies children altogether or only gives one child, usually a male. In Janet's case, she had one son. Since Ketu is denial and suffering, Janet had suffered much because of her son as he was a drug addict and had been turned against her as a child by Janet's husband. In short, their relationship was more adversarial than familial, despite Janet's constant efforts to reconcile with him. It should be noted here that in her son's chart, the significator for the mother, the Moon, is weakly placed in the 6th house of enemies. In short, his chart was showing the adversarial relationship between him and his mother.
Rahu's placement in the 11th house of gains, income from the profession, and realizing one's goals created obstructions in those areas of life. Despite being highly educated, Janet was never able to secure a tenured teaching position at the college level--a life-long goal of hers. Additionally, several attempts at running her own business met with failure and disaster, despite initial success.
By aspect, Ketu is also afflicting the 9th, 11th, and 1st houses. Janet definitely felt that her life was unlucky (9th house--Ketu here is denying luck) and her father (also a 9th house matter) was abusive when she was growing up. Ketu aspecting the 11th denies the ability to reach one's goals and to enjoy a good income from one's work. The aspect to the first house gave Janet a heavy interest in spiritual matters, but it also unfortunately gave a strong tendency to head ailments (the first house rules the head) like sinus headaches. Since the 1st house also represents one's personality and how one appears to others, Ketu's presence there created an eccentric quality about her. Janet did manage to get along well with others (Libra ascendant), but she was definitely a loner who needed time each day to be in solitude to re-group her energies. I always recommend to people with Ketu either in or aspecting the first house to actively pursue some type of spiritual practice.
By aspect, Rahu is also afflicting the 3rd, 5th, and 7th houses. Janet's efforts at self-employment (3rd house) always met with failure, despite initial success. At one point, she was running a successful metaphysical store, but lost her credit card account due to a customer using a stolen credit card. Despite the fact that this was not her fault, the bank involved held Janet responsible, took her account away, and then placed her name on a nationwide list of bad merchant risks, thus preventing her from ever securing another merchant account. Without the ability to run charges, as well as the legal hassles that followed the allegations, Janet had to close the business. This was just one disaster among several in the entrepreneurial arena for Janet.
Since the 3rd house is also the mind, Janet was highly susceptible to the mental aberrations of Rahu: paranoia, worries, and fears, as well as obsessive behavior. Janet did report a constant feeling of dread and reported that she was deathly afraid that her son would hunt her down and kill her. This, despite the fact that her son lived over 1,500 miles away and had no money to travel to her. Janet also reported a bad problem with gambling. She had managed to squander away tens of thousands of dollars recently, despite her shaky financial position.
Rahu is also afflicting the 7th house of marriage. Janet married a prominent medical doctor. She reported that the first few years of the marriage were wonderful, but then things went very sour. The husband turned on Janet for some reason, and managed to estrange her son. The man was also investigated for illegal drug use, as well as prescription fraud (Rahu rules poisons, deception, and drugs). Janet stayed with him for years longer than she should have due to implied threats from the husband that if she left, she would never see her son again and that he would destroy her. When she finally did break away, she continually lived in fear that he would make good on his threats. As part of their divorce settlement, he promised to acquire a life insurance policy with Janet as the beneficiary. When he finally died and Janet contacted the insurance company to collect, she was informed that the premiums had been unpaid for years and that her husband had actually withdrawn the money accumulated in the account some time ago. In short, Janet got nothing.
As if the nodal affliction were not enough, Janet's ascendant lord, Venus, is badly placed in the 12th house in Virgo, Venus' debilitation sign, and conjunct the functional malefic Mercury. When one's ascendant ruler is weak and afflicted, it is difficult to attain success and happiness, particularly when the planet in question is Venus which has rulership over joy, love, and creature comforts. Janet's other functional benefics, especially Saturn, were weak or afflicted for one reason or another.
When Janet came to me for the reading, she was seriously thinking of suicide. I managed to restore hope to her, however, by recommending some remedial actions for the nodes (discussed further on in this article) and Mercury, as well as strengthening measures for Venus and Saturn. Things had managed to turn around for Janet, though, as she subsequently secured a secondary school teaching position. Although it was not what she ideally wanted, it was a stable paycheck and an opportunity to put her considerable education to good use.
11:28 AM, Zone 6
Source: Birth Certificate
Mary has Leo rising at about 7 degrees. Although the nodes are not within five degrees of the MEP of 7, it can be seen that they are almost exactly conjunct Mary's ascendant lord, the Sun. Whenever the mulatrikona lord of the Ascendant is badly placed or afflicted, the person's health suffers. In this case, since the planet in question is the Sun, a general indicator of physical vitality, the tendency to poor health is intensified.
As with Janet, Mary was highly educated, holding a PhD degree. Unfortunately, due to her health challenges, she was never able to actually work in her field. Mary reported that in the late 1970s, she began to suffer from chronic, undiagnosable pain and chronic fatigue which has persisted to the present day. The onset of her symptoms occurred during her Mars/Moon period, with the trouble continuing and worsening over the next 18 years of her Rahu period. For Leo rising, the Moon is a functional malefic planet as it is the mulatrikona lord of the 12th house of losses, expenses, and depression. In Janet's chart, her Moon is rendered weak by its late degree placement in Sagittarius--a sign of planetary "old age."
Discussion of her symptoms over the years revealed that during Ketu sub-periods, her condition and mental outlook worsened considerably, with her contemplating suicide during her Rahu/Moon period in the early 1990s.
Mary reported a life-long interest in spiritual and metaphysical matters--typical of a strong Ketu influence. She also reported that her father (symbolized by the Sun), left her mother at an early age. Her mother re-married, but Mary never felt very close to her step-father, although she did say he was a good provider.
Mary's chart shows a number of good placements such as the strong Saturn and Venus. Her 9th lord, Mars, is also favorably aspected by Jupiter, hence her success in higher education. Ketu's conjunction to the Sun, however, in the 10th house of career was tainting everything in Mary's life. Strengthening measures for the Sun were strongly urged, as well as propitiatory measures for the nodes. Time will tell how deeply they will help Mary get back on track with her life and end her physical suffering.
CHART # 3
10:40 PM, , Zone 6, DST
Source: Birth Certificate
Tara's chart also shows the nodes' role in creating disease. Tara's ascendant lord is Mars which is weakly placed in Cancer and almost exactly conjunct the north node Rahu. As with Mary's chart above, the ascendant lord is weak which means lowered vitality. Since Mars is a prime indicator of one's immune system and one's basic energy, having such a weak ascendant lord does not bode well for the health of the person.
Ketu is placed in the 10th house and very closely afflicts Mercury in Virgo in the 6th house of disease. Tara actually has a loaded 6th house with several planets there. In general, any planet placed in the 6th, 8th, or 12th houses becomes weak by natal or transit placement.
Mercury rules the nervous system, as well as the hands, arms, and lungs. Virgo and the 6th house have rulership over the intestines and digestive system in general.
When Tara was just three years old, she suffered a severe bone infection in her arm which resulted in her growth plates shutting down. The result was that one arm was growing normally, while the other stopped developing. Intensive medical treatments reversed the condition, however, and Tara's affected arm did recover. At the time of this calamity, Tara was in a Rahu/Saturn period. Saturn rules the bones and Tara's Saturn is weakly placed in the 6th house of disease in Mercury's sign, Virgo.
Several years later, during Tara's Rahu/Ketu and Rahu/Venus periods, Tara's stool began to get bloody. She was subsequently diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a digestive disorder with no known cause. The condition got so bad that Tara had a complete colectomy with the doctors using some of her small intestine to create a new "colon" so Tara could process her bodily waste. We've already noted the nodal affliction to the Mercury in Virgo, but it should be pointed out that Tara's Venus is also weakly placed in Virgo, Mercury's sign, in the 6th house of disease.
Tara's life has been one health issue after another, with a recent bout of severe fluid accumulation in the lungs for which she was hospitalized for several weeks. I suggested to her mother to obtain a red coral of about 5 carats for her daughter to wear to help strengthen her ascendant lord. I also suggested remedial measures for the nodes and Mercury as these malefics have practically ruined Tara's life.
CHART # 4
6:24 AM, Zone 5, DST
Source: Birth Certificate and Rectification
This chart is presented to show how entering the mahadasha, or major period, of one of the nodes can cause a dramatic shift in the person's behavior. As can be seen from this chart, the nodes are very closely conjunct the 4th/10th axis. Michael's mother reported that her son had always been polite, well-mannered, and cautious with his money.
Michael entered his Rahu mahadasha cycle on September 14, 1995. On that day, he walked into a bank and applied for a loan to buy a limousine to start his own business. Amazingly, despite having no experience in this business, Michael received the loan. From that point on, Michael's entire demeanor changed to the point where his mother was avoiding contact with him and was consulting psychics to see if he needed an exorcism!
Everything became money for Michael and his career ambitions led him to acquire several more limousines and expand his business (Rahu in the 10th gives ambition in career, as well as financial success, if only temporarily). Michael began spending money recklessly; began hanging out with strippers, drug addicts, and one man Michael's mother swears was involved with organized crime; and basically became a rude and obnoxious person. His behavior has continued unchanged to this day. Although his mother has re-connected with him, she knows that his behavior is the result of the intense Rahu influence now operating in his life.
11:23 PM, Zone 5
Source: Birth Records and Rectification
This chart is presented to illustrate what can happen when the nodes transit points in the natal chart. Sam has Leo rising at about 26 degrees. Beginning in March of 2002, shortly after entering his Mars/Saturn period, the transiting nodes slowed in their movement and came very close to the MEP of Sam's 10th/4th axis. The 10th house rules career, while the 4th rules the home. During this time, Sam began to be stalked by a long-time client, both at his office (10th) and home (4th). The client, an elderly gentleman, had exhibited no previous signs of mental instability. Sam eventually had to get the police involved.
Also during this period, Sam moved (4th house). During the move, Sam seriously injured his left knee trying to move something he knew he shouldn't. Transiting Rahu was aspecting the 10th house, which rules the knees, and Rahu makes one take chances when one should not. Rahu is also sudden calamities. Additionally, Sam has Saturn in Capricorn in the 6th house of disease. Sam had always had knee problems since he was a child. Nevertheless, that placement, combined with the transit Rahu to the 10th house ruling the knees and the Mars/Saturn period he had just entered, made Sam ripe for an injury.
It should be noted that unless the nodes form a lasting transit aspect to a planet or the MEP of a chart, the effect of the transit will be considerably less. In transit analysis, you primarily want to watch for periods where the nodes will slow in their movements or go stationary or retrograde over points in the chart as these can indicate potential troubles.
Remember, however, that the entire chart needs to be looked at when assessing potential problem times.
CALMING THE DRAGON
In Vedic astrology, there are certain remedial or propitiatory actions one can perform to placate the malefic influence(s) of certain planets, as well as strengthening measures to help weakly placed or afflicted benefic planets become stronger and thereby improve certain areas of one's life.
Traditionally, Rahu can be propitiated by one of the following actions:
1. Offering service to one's parents.
2. Offering brown-colored food to the birds each morning before breakfast and after bathing, preferably.
3. Offering service or help to the chronically ill.
4. Chanting the seed mantra of Rahu, usually 108 times each day.
Traditionally, Ketu can be propitiated by one of the following actions:
1. Offering food to stray animals, especially dogs.
2. Offering service or help to a spiritual person or organization.
3. Offering service to one's parents.
4. Chanting the seed mantra of Ketu, usually 108 times a day.
Additionally, listening to and meditating to the Shiva Pooja chants are helpful at mitigating the node's impact (as well as the planets Moon and Saturn, if malefic for the individual). In severe cases of natal affliction, or if the nodes will be afflicting something in the natal chart by transit for an extended period of time, I recommend having a yajna done for the nodes. A yajna is a ritual prayer ceremony performed by Vedic priests for a person.
Though how they will ultimately impact a person's life depends on the particulars of the natal chart, there can be little doubt that the nodes impact us in dramatic but usually negative ways. Knowing how they figure in your chart, both natally and by transit, can help you better understand the reasons for your challenges in life and take appropriate actions to remedy them.
Stephen Byrnes is a professional Vedic astrologer who practices Vedic astrology with an emphasis on natal and medical astrology. Contact him at 877-249-8122 or through his website http://www.VedicAstro.net, to set up a consultation with him. E-mail is DrByrnes@hotmail.com.
1. Venus also rules Taurus, but in Systems Approach to Vedic Astrology, only the mulatrikona signs of the planets are considered. Mulatrikona signs are the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, and 11th signs and their associated planetary rulers. So, the mulatrikona sign for Mars is Aries, the first sign.
David Hawthorne and Prof. V.K. Choudhry. Astrology for Life. SunStar Publications, Inc; Fairfield, IA., 1999. Available off of amazon.com.
Prof. V.K. Choudhry. Systems' Approach for Interpreting Horoscopes, 3rd ed. Sagar Publications; New Delhi, India, 2002. Available from http://www.YourNetAstrologer.com.
Introductory articles on Systems' Approach can be found at the following site:
International Institute of Predictive Astrology--http://www.IIPA.net
More in-depth information on Systems Approach can be found at:
Your Net Astrologer--http://www.YourNetAstrologer.com