Thee is quite a different approach to the Lunar Nodes in Vedic Astrology, et the underlying significance is somewhat the same, as I understand it, as a beginner.
In both systems the North Node signifies new territory and the South Node old experience to be reintegrated by the North Node. But there the similarities stop.
In the West the North Node seems to signify green pastures of new beginnings, while Vedic astrology gives the North Node the problematic meanings of the trials and tribulations and character problems inherent in a lack of experience, somewhat like The Fool of the Tarot. Not surprisingly, in Vedic Astrology, the North Node is ruled by Saturn, the teacher of hard lessons and restriction. In Vedic Astrology, the North Node conjunct a planet signifies inexperience and a lack of restraint and recklessness. In a way this seems fitting to me as breaking new ground is always trial and error and pitfalls.
I am not an expert by any means, but from what I’ve read, the North Node in Vedic Astrology brings many trials. It is the Dragons Head, known as Rahu, and lacks a body, and carries some of the meaning of Adam and Eve, expelled from paradise, as the North and South Node were once one Dragon who tried to invade heaven to steal the nectar of the Gods. The Dragon was discovered by the Gods and sliced in half by a sword and now exists in mythology as the Dragons Head and the Dragon’s Tail,Ketu, both incomplete and searching for their missing half, and both hungering for the wisdom and knowledge they once tasted by invading the forbidden realms of heaven, like Adam and Eve.
I think this mythological backstory helps to understand the Nodes and what they signify – basically a quest for evolution.
Rahu, or the North node, signifies a reckless pursuit into the world to recapture the heavenly experience. Rahu signifies living for the moment, surfaces, insatiable hunger, greed, compulsion and obsession, exaggeration, pursuit of pleasure, sudden gain and sudden loss, all intellect [head] with no wisdom or assimilation of knowledge, gambling, and temporary satisfactions. In order to learn from this excess Rahu, the North Node or Dragonas Head, must reconnect with his other half Ketu, the Dragon’s tail or South Node.
Ketu, the South Node has taken a different path – world renunciation and a pursuit of inner enlightenment to regain the light of heaven. Ketu is also memory stored in the body, the unconscious, or Dragon’s Tail.
In Vedic Astrology, the Moon signifies the mind, and the Nodes are the indicators of the mind’s evolution. To grow and develop they both need each other, Rahu must draw from the wisdom of Ketu, and Ketu must interact with the recklessness of Rahu to participate in worldly challenge and gain consciousness, applying his storehouse of knowledge and experience.So the VEdic Nodes are reciprocal. Ketu is withdrawn, unconscious of the world – a monk – seeking enlightenment for the sake of enlightenment and his storehouse of wisdom is awakened by the unsatisfying shallow pursuits of Rahu, the inexperienced North Node. Like Adam and Eve they have both tasted the fruits of heaven are in exile. Through connection they can both regain their footing as earthly creatures in pursuit of the divine, which they both remember from their invasion of heaven.
To me, this myth is a more intricate and rich and meaningful way to imagine the evolution of the mind and spirit as explained by the awakening of the North and South Nodes and their reunion as one body in reciprocal connection.
I am not experienced in Vedic Astrology, but the explanation of the meaning of the North and South Nodes in Western Astrology, which were once known as the Dragon’s Head and /the Dragon’s Tail, has always seemed vague to me, and this Vedic view, which is is full of struggle, seemed vivid and to fit more with experience of overcoming and growth.
This is an intricate and complex Myth of Rahu [NN] and Ketu [SN] as told by an Indian Expert. He also explains the interaction of Saturn and the Sun with these two shadow planets. This is long and complicated, but an interesting take on Karma as signified by the nodes and their relationship with the sun and saturn in Indian Astrology whihc sees this as the struggle for liberation of the soul. It seems to have a connection with evolutionary astrology in the West.
What is the relationship between Lord Shani, Rahu and Ketu?
Rajiv Prasad, works at Amrita School of Business
Updated Jan 22
Rahu, Ketu and Saturn are as intimately related as the shadow is related to our body when walking in sunshine. Let me also add the Lord Sun, the center of the solar system and representative of our own soul or ‘atman’ to my answer.
Rahu and Ketu are the two shadow planets that are used in Vedic astrology which developed in ancient India. These two planets were originally ignored in the Western astrology, but later were incorporated as the Lunar North Node (Rahu) and Lunar South Node (Ketu). All the seven main planets move directly whereas these two always move in a retrograde manner (opposite in direction to the other planets).
Their retrograde movement depicts their peculiar nature as compared to any other planets. Now let us see what Rahu and Ketu are, and why do they move backwards? Rahu and Ketu are the two mathematically determined points in space where the ecliptic of the planet Moon crosses the ecliptic of the planet Sun as seen from Earth. The northern point of intersection is called Rahu (Lunar North Node) and the southern point is called Ketu (Lunar South Node).
So, these are two shadow planets, and do not have a real body as the other seven planets of Vedic Astrology. Being shadow planets, their energies are very subtle and difficult to grasp. Rahu represents the desires that are insatiable, addictions, confusion, delusion, arrogance, jealousy, pride and the like. It represents all the demonic qualities which take a soul downward in its journey, deeper and deeper into ‘tamas’ or ‘spiritual ignorance’. If a soul is strongly in the grip of Rahu energy, it feels completely separated from the Divine, and lives only for self-aggrandizement. If he attains a lot of worldly success, he may even develop the delusion of grandeur. For example, the demon Hiranyakashipu from our Hindu mythology who demanded that all his subjects stop worshipping Lord Vishnu (the Supreme God), and instead worship him, as he is the greatest in the Universe. Such delusions are the handiwork of Rahu.
The genesis of these shadow planets is explained beautifully in the myth of the churning of the ocean by the gods and the demons in the Srimad Bhagavatam written by Maharishi Veda Vyasa. In this story, they are represented originally as a demon called Swarbhanu who had participated in the churning of the ocean. Many things came out of the ocean one after the other. In the end, ‘amritam’ or nectar came out. According to mythology, anyone who drinks this nectar becomes immortal. The churning of the ocean was done by the gods and the demons together. The gods were worried that if the demons too drank the nectar, they would become unconquerable, and that would be too bad for the regulation of the Universe. So, they requested Lord Vishnu for help. Vishnu took the form of a lovely lady called Mohini and started to distribute the nectar.
The gods and the demons were sitting in two rows facing each other. Mohini was so beautiful that all the demons forgot themselves and started fantasizing about a life together with her. She was dancing tantalizingly and giving the nectar only to the gods, swaying seductively and passing by the demons, without giving them a drop.
This demon Swarbhanu was very smart. He understood the entire plot. He took the form of a god and sat between the Sun and the Moon – the two luminous gods. Mohini could not recognize the demon in time and as a result, Swarbhanu got a gulp of the nectar of immortality. The Sun and the Moon immediately shouted out in unison that Vishnu had given the nectar to a demon by mistake. Vishnu immediately cut the demon’s head with his divine disc. He threw the head of the demon towards the north and the rest of the body to the south. It is believed that ever since these two separated parts of the demon are circling the sky chasing each other so that they can unite but in vain. No matter how much they try, they remain 180 degrees apart from one another. In every birth chart, these two, Rahu or the demon’s head, and Ketu or the demon’s tail, sit 180 degrees away from each other.
So, Rahu is the serpent’s or the demon’s head that drank the nectar or ‘amritam’ that came out at the time of the churning of the ocean, but could not assimilate it as his head and body were separated by Lord Vishnu before he could gulp it down. As a result of this lack of assimilation of the ‘amritam’, the head (intellect) still lives under it’s self-created demonic delusions.
On the other hand, the demon’s body (Ketu) hungers for the ‘amritam’ more than anything in the Universe. While Rahu (the demon’s head) craves the worldly pleasures more and more insatiably, the demon’s tail (Ketu) craves the elixir of spiritual immortality which it was deprived of by Lord Vishnu at the time of churning of the ocean.
This dynamic or tussle between these two cosmic forces is compared by our ancient Seer (Rishis) astrologers to the restless writhing of a snake or a serpent, which has gripped the ‘soul’ and tosses it around, caught as it is between the two equally powerful waves generated by Rahu and Ketu respectively, that take it in opposing directions. Rahu represents ‘pravritti’ or worldliness and materialistic tendencies, while Ketu represents ‘nivritti’ or spirituality. The only way out of the worldly Maya for the immortal ‘soul’ – the Sun – in order to realize its true ‘Self’ is to break the grip of this snake.
Rahu’s influence makes this demonic grip stronger, while Ketu’s influence helps us to weaken this grip and ultimately to liberate ourselves from all our delusions, which cover our soul-vision.
How this process happens is depicted brilliantly in another myth which explains the birth story of Lord Ganesha. Ganesha is the child of Goddess Parvati who created him out of the turmeric paste that she had applied to her body before going to take bath. Shiva (the Supreme Spirit) had been away for a while. She commanded Ganesha to guard the door of the house while she went to take bath. In the meanwhile Shiva came but Ganesha could not recognize him. He stopped Shiva at the door. A ferocious battle ensued between them in which ultimately Shiva had to sever his head.
Hearing all this commotion the Devi Parvati came out only to see her son killed in battle with Shiva. She became mad with fury and threatened to burn down the entire creation if her son is not revived. To pacify her, and also realizing that being his wife’s child, Ganesha was his son too, Shiva restored him to life with a new head, that of an elephant grafted on his torso. Ever since, he has been worshipped as the first God to be invoked in any Vedic worship by Shiva’s blessings.
Now, let us understand the deeper significance of this mythological story. The Ganesha who was created only by the Devi’s (the kundalini Shakti) energy, without any contribution from Shiva, the transcendental Spirit, the lord Sun, was an unenlightened ‘being’ as a result. So, when the Lord, the Sun-shine of the Spirit came (Spirit was first experienced in meditation), he could not recognize Him. So, he resisted the Spirit (Saturn represents this resistance principle ) from entering his house (refused the process of Spiritual transformation). So, his head was severed by the Lord. This is similar to the demon Svarbhanu (the demon whose cut off head is Rahu, and the cut off body or the tail is Ketu) getting his head severed at the time of the churning of the ocean by Lord Vishnu.
Now, to understand why the planet Saturn is said by me to resist the Spirit (Sun), we will need to learn about another mythological story.
In astrology, Sun represents the soul and Saturn represents fate. Soul’s deepest desire is to know itself which is called Self-realization, but Saturn prevents it by making the embodied soul first repay it’s karmik debt by taking birth on the earthy plane. Everything that is fated to happen in life is represented by Saturn as he is like the Chief Justice for incarnated souls. Without serving the sentence meted out to it by Saturn, an incarnated soul (Sun) cannot become liberated. This is the main reason why they are treated as enemies.
In mythology Saturn is supposed to be born by the union of Sun with Chhaya (shadow). This Chhaya is nothing but the accumulated ignorance of the soul’s mind stored in the form of ‘sanchit (accumulated) karma’ in the soul’s causal body or ‘karan sarir’. The Rahu – Ketu axis represent this accumulated karma. Now, Sun (soul in its utter purity) himself is so gloriously handsome while Saturn was dark, ugly and lame at birth. Sun was expecting a handsome child like himself. So, he could not accept Saturn as his own son, as he was so ugly. This rejection by his father has caused Saturn to hate his father ever since. That is why Saturn (tamas of the mind) carries an enmity towards the Sun (Shiva in Ganesha story) and resists the process of spiritual transformation.
Sun’s marriage with Chhaya represents the soul’s attachment to its own baggage in the form of ‘karma’. This gives birth to the ego – the false self, the Rahu, which is often represented as the demon in Indian mythology. So, Saturn is the result of Sun’s or soul’s identification with the ‘ego’ or Rahu. Obviously, it is going to be a very tense relationship. If the soul were to disidentify with the ego, it will realize it’s own essence, which in turn would kill the ‘ego’ (Rahu or Chhaya) and it’s child, the Saturn. So, in order to protect himself and his mother, Chhaya (Rahu), Saturn binds the soul Sun in the fetters of karma. Though Sun is the king among the planets, Saturn makes him believe that he is a commoner, a slave, subject to laws of karma. Saturn prevents Sun from liberation or Self-realization.
In life, Saturn represents a person’s habitual ways of thinking and living. All of us are prisoners of our past in the form of the habitual tendencies that have grafted themselves deeply into our subconscious minds. Thus, all of us (glorious souls or ‘Sun’) are imprisoned by the Saturn – our past. We are forced to project our Rahu – the ego or the false identity that we carry in our head like a shadow or ‘Chhaya’ – throughout our unenlightened lives. That is the real meaning of this mythological story.
The appeasing of the Devi in this story represents the awakening and maturation of the kundalini shakti. Saturn which initially resists the spiritual process because of ‘tamas’ – Saturn being the lord of the heaviest among all the earthy signs, which is Capricorn – later starts to practice sincere asceticism as it starts to mature with life experiences over many life times. That is the role of the planet Saturn – to give us life experiences as souls through the operation of the law of karma. These lived life experiences across many lifetimes matures us as souls or ‘jeevatmas’. Saturn is also the Lord Yama, the dispenser of the fruits of karma in his higher function as deity.
The same Saturn principle, when operating in his highest form, gives the native wonderful qualities like discipline, perseverance, reverence for the sacred traditions and our Gurus or teachers, purity, truthfulness, sincerity, the ability to sacrifice the lower for the higher. These qualities constitute the eternal Dharma – one of the four pillars of any cultured society. So, Saturn in his higher function teaches us to behave in accord with Dharma. If we do not, it punishes us as the deity responsible for the dispensing of law of karma when we live, and as the Yama, the God of the after death process who decides our fate in between two earthly lives, after we die. Artha (knowledge and wealth), Kaama (discharge of healthy desires in a healthy way), and Moksha (eternal and disciplined freedom as liberated souls) are the three other pillars of a healthy society.
Returning to our earlier story, restoring Ganesha with a giant elephant head signifies complete enlightenment, where the baby soul (the child Ganesha) has become the fully Self-realized Master or Sadguru by Shiva’s grace. This fully Self-realized God Ganesha is our eternal friend (Ketu as a Deity) if we seek only Self-realization and nothing else. In that case, the benevolent Lord Ganesha ensures that all the obstacles in our path are removed and we progress quickly on the spiritual path. Even the material needs of the ardent devotee is met by Lord Ketu or Ganesha.
That is why he is also called the ‘Vighneswara’ (the God who removes all the obstacles). Normally, Ketu and Saturn are considered fearsome planets, whose dashas are going to cause havoc with our worldly life. It is very true because only thing which Ketu seeks is the spiritual elixir of enlightenment and nothing else, whereas Saturn seeks to bring us to the path of Dharma, so that we can purify our minds. We can think of Saturn and Ketu as a team batting for Dharma and enlightenment. In the ultimate sense, they are friends to us as eternal souls (Suns) who have lost our way in the Maya (Rahu and all his trappings!!)) of this delusionary world with all its temptations that make us addicted and trapped.
All the worldly desires (Rahu) that stand in the way are trampled upon by them ruthlessly. But on the other hand, if we have been on the spiritual path before, both Saturn and Ketu, when they come in our lives as the dasha lord, they removes all the obstacles, even material ones, which may be causing us to get distracted from our spiritual practices. They may provide us a secure job, peaceful family life, an enlightened teacher etc. to support our journey. There is nothing to fear if we are a devotee of the Lord. May Lord Ganesha’s grace be on all of us. God bless.
Thank you for this very detailed explanation Linda
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