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Vedic Astrology Articles by Julene Packer-Louis

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Creation Myth that Explains Eclipses
by Julene Packer-Louis

There was a war between gods and demons for control of the universe. The gods decided to churn the ocean of milk with the spiritual mountain Mandara to find the nectar of immortality (amrita) that was hidden at the bottom. A demon Vasuki, who was a serpent, helped the gods by being the rope tied to Mandara. When the amrita was found the gods wanted it for themselves and they all lined up to receive the nectar. Vasuki snuck in between the sun & moon and drank it secretly. The sun and moon complained about this to Vishnu who threw a Sudharashan Chakra (a fiery holy wheel) at Vasuki and cut him in two. Since the serpent Vasuki had already drunk the amrita, he was immortal and could not die, so his head (Rahu - the North Node) and tail (Ketu - South Node) eclipse the sun and moon.

The Surface Symbolism

The ocean of milk is the cosmic ocean or the milky way galaxy. Rahu & Ketu coming between the sun and moon is symbolic of the eclipse cycle that occurs twice a year at intervals of 9-11 days shy of 6 months apart, when the new and full moon is in conjunction to one of the lunar nodes.

The Deeper Symbolism

Interestingly mandarava means murmur, so perhaps churning this ocean produced the "om" sound that existed in the beginning before creation and that is why this is a creation. Considering that both a spiritual mountain (good force) and a serpent rope (evil force) were used, both good and evil, light and shadow, are inherent in creation and in a state of primordial balance, reminding me of the Chinese yin/yang symbol.

Having to churn the ocean for hidden treasures and amrita to rise to the surface is indicative of the gift (treasure) of enlightenment (immortality) we can receive if we can remain in balance (mountain & serpent) while we bring forth our emotional (ocean) shadow materials that churn beneath our surface (and on an individual and collective level both). Now the ocean is emotions, influenced on earth by the moon in the form of tides, so it is representing our feelings, the perceptions of our mind that are strong enough to lodge themselves in our emotional body and create the ebb and flow of the tides of our physical manifest life.

Lord Vishnu cutting the serpent in half is indicating how we fragment ourselves as individuals, burying the bad or unacceptable parts of ourselves to allow only the good or acceptable parts of our self to receive nurturance, symbolized by whom was allowed to receive the amrita - only the gods (good forces). This was done at the complaining of the sun and moon, so it is our ego and our emotional memory perceptions that cause this self fragmentation.

Since in the beginning both the good and evil forces were necessary to bring forth the amrita, it means that both are an important, integral and inherent part of who we are. However, after we get what we want by using sometimes the less desirable aspects of ourselves to get there, we tell that shadow part of our self that they can't take part in the glory of the celebration of achievement. We don't need it anymore, just like the gods didn't want the serpent demon to drink after he helped churn the ocean. But the serpent snuck and drank anyway. And too, our past and less desirable fragmented shadow material has a way of sneaking up on us. When it does it eclipses the ego and the emotional perceptions that keep the metaphorical light on in our world, plummeting us into moments of darkness or a longer dark night of the soul.

Therefore Rahu and Ketu bring us the lessons of integration, fueled by the soul's longing to return to wholeness, to be one with our self and ultimately the cosmos itself by attaining moksha, which is indicated by the balance of good and evil in the beginning of creation when there was only the "om" of the churning, un-manifest. This too speaks of neutralizing bad karma not overpowering it with good, as that still keeps us tied to the wheel of samskara.

© Julene Packer-Louis 2010