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Vedic Astrology Articles by Julene Packer-Louis

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The Jyotish Interpretation of the Nodes: Rahu & Ketu
by Julene Packer-Louis

Vedic Astrology is the name the west gave to Jyotish. Jyotish, Indian Astrology and Vedic Astrology are all names for the same thing. Jyotish is its proper Sanskrit name. Jyotish is one of the limbs of the Vedas (sacred knowledge from ancient sages). It is called "the eye of the Vedas" for it allows us to glimpse this sacred knowledge through the practice of astrology.

Jyotish, like ancient western astrology, sees planets as malefics or benefics. Both Rahu (North Node) and Ketu (South Node) are malefics. They are called the "chaya grahas" in Sanskrit which means "shadow planets" because they have the capacity to eclipse the Sun & Moon when they cast their shadow. Both Nodes are malefic. Rahu is said to be the most malefic foce in the chart and has a nature similar to Saturn. Ketu is less malefic and has a nature similar to Mars.

Both Nodes magnify the areas of life represented by the houses they occupy, and the sign energy. As shadow planets they tend to take on the energy of the planets they aspect, especially by conjunction. They also represent karmic retribution linking present restrictions and opportunites with past actions. Rahu is viewed as beginning the karmic cycle - the ascending node in the process of externalization and expansion. Ketu is viewed as completing the karmic cycle - the descending node in the process of internalization and contraction.

Rahu indicates our imagined fears, our fears of the unknown being worse that the actuality realtiy. Rahu indicates our outer desires and fulfillment of worldly pursuits. Rahu also puts us in harmony with positive social trends and can give us popularity, prestige, power and even fame. This is very similar to the modern western approach. Here's where it differs. Rahu is the dragon's head. He has no body, he's just a head. Rahu seeks outer fullfilment by going after its worldly desieres with an insatable thirst than can never be quenched. It causes inner unrest as we go after this milestone, then that milestone, then the next, etc. "I'll be happy once I obtain or achcieve this." After that comes another desire to fullfil and we are never happy in the present moment because we are living for the future. This is why he is considered to be a malefic. Rahu represents our insatible worldly desires that cause inner unrest and keep us preocupied with the future instead of appreciating the present. Rahu represents the illusions that we think we need to fulfill to be happy. It represents how we are carried away by societal trends of the masses, what we are supposed to be or achieve in society. And then we get it and we still aren't happy so we think we need something else. Round and round he goes chasing his tail instead of realizing happiness is not something to be found out there, it comes from within.

Ketu indicatets our self-doubt, our lack of confidence, our inner disturbances. Ketu emphazes our sense of separate self, isolated, and caught up in our own contradictions. It represents our spiritual pursuits, non-attachment, detachment, enlightenment and is the significator of the liberator of our karmas. Ketu is body with no head. Ketu digests the experiences of Rahu. Ketu becomes disillusioned with Rahu's worldy pursuits and turns the energy toward spiritual pursuits. Ketu gives us empathy for others and the world as we seek to understand the spiritual undercurrents of the external world. Ketu goes off on a very different tangent in Jyotish. It represents the widsom born from contemplating the nature of creation and insight into the universal creative life force. It is about the rituals and religions we practice to prepare our souls for final liberation. The function of Ketu is mental and spiritual regeneration and the neutralization of karma.

You can bring any of these interpretations to your Western interpreation of the nodes to enhance the meaning and give more of a spiritual point of view.

Rahu functions best in the 9th or 10th house. If the ruler (of the 9th or 10th house where Rahu is) is placed in an angle (1st, 4th, 7th or 10th) or a trine (1st, 5th, 9th) but not the same house as Rahu, a Raja Yoga is formed. Raja Yoga is a combination for fame, status and prestige. This yoga would manifest under the Rahu dasa in the sub-period of that planet &/or in that planet's dasa under the sub-period of Rahu.

Ketu functions best when placed in the 12th house or associated with the ruler of the 12th. The 12th house that is called the house of Moksha, which means final liberation, and that is Ketu's primary function. Ketu is a karaka (indicator) of the 12th house.

Reading the Nodes in a Vedic Chart
-Sideral zodiac signs are used by most Vedic practicioners (Lahiri anayamsha is most common)
-Whole sign houses and aspects are most often used
-Any planet in the same sign as Rahu & Ketu are associated - it's called a "yuti." That is the strongest association. It's just like Western conjunction only there is no orb, it's same sign aspect.
-The planet conjunct one is also opposite the other and the planet is associated with both nodes.
-There is contraversy as to whether Rahu and Ketu cast aspects beyond the conjunction and opposition and what those aspects are. So I am leaving that out.
-You want to look at the type of house Rahu & Ketu are in.

  • 1, 4, 7, 10 Kendra: powerful
  • 1, 5, 9 Trikona: has some beneficence
  • 3, 6, 10, 11 Upachaya: create tension for improvement
  • 6, 8, 12 Dusthana: suffering & transitions
  • 2, 7 Maraka: death & injury

-You also want to look the house that the planets conjunct Rahu or Ketu rule. (Rahu & Ketu don't rule any signs or houses) Rahu & Ketu will absorb the energies of those houses as well.
-You also want to look at where the rulers of the houses that contain the nodes are placed. (Planets rule the same signs in Vedic as they do in Western).
-By the time you've determined the house type of all the planets associated with your nodes, you'll know which are more helpful and which are more challenging.

© Julene Packer-Louis 2013