Monday, August 4, 2008


To witness an eclipse, the temporary darkening of the Sun or Moon, instills a sense of awe in most people. From ancient times, astrologers have considered these phenomena ominous portents.[1] The belief is that eclipses may be accompanied by adverse incidents, even if these may take place with delay. The lack of clear empirical evidence concerning the nature and timing of such incidents suggests eclipses have questionable scientific merit. However, this notion has survived through the ages, including in mythology. As the saying goes, where there is smoke there is usually fire. In this article, an attempt is made to resolve the age old mystery of the eclipses by giving a full account of the astronomical and astrological nature of such events.

What follows is a review of the Moon’s astronomical cycles, in order to better understand the astronomical phenomena. This is followed with a review of the mythology of the lunar nodes. Finally, the astrological influence, as seen in Vedic astrology, are presented. In particular, the insights of the Systems' Approach, which allow us to better identify and time astrological influences of such events in a given horoscope, are explained. Importantly, even if problems are seen in a natal chart, the are ‘astral remedies’ which are an integral part of vedic astrology, that have as their aim to prevent setbacks through an appeal to ‘divine grace.’

Two types of eclipses
There are two types of eclipses; a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse. To understand the eclipses of the luminaries requires us to know about the alignment of the Earth, Moon and Sun from the geocentric point of view. In particular, where the earth's ecliptic orbit around the Sun intersects with the lunar orbit of the Moon around the Earth, is where the so-called Moon's nodes are found at any given point in time. These points are calculated and from the Earth these imaginary points are 'seen' to move backwards, or in retrograde motion, in the zodiac.

The ancient mythology of eclipses
The ancient mythology of the Vedas tells of how Rahu and Ketu came into being. The story goes that God had arranged for the devas (the Sun, Moon and planets), to drink the elexir, Amrita, to grant them immortality. The asuras, or devils, were purposefully being distracted by God while the devas obtained immortality. However, the serpent Vasuka, realising the plan, managed to pose as a deva and take a sip from the elexir. When the Sun, Surya, realised the deception, he took his sword and cut the serpent in half. However, as it had already become immortal, the parts simply became the dragon's head, Rahu, and dragon's tail, Ketu. Due to this event, the nodes have been the enemies of the Sun and Moon and when the Sun and Moon travel close to the lunar nodes, Rahu will try to swallow them up, creating either a solar or lunar eclipse. However, as the Sun and Moon are immortal, they reapper shortly afterwards in full splendor. So, from ancient times, eclipses have been linked to the Moon's nodes. This insight has largely been lost in western or tropical astrology, but not in the ancient vedic astrology. As it turns out, the lunar nodes are not only very important to explain solar or lunar eclipses, but more importantly, they are the key to understanding the influence of eclipses.

The two cycles of the Moon
To understand this astronomical phenomena we must consider the two different cycles of the Moon that together determine the pattern of eclipses over time.

  1. First, we need to consider the monthly lunar phase from new to full Moon and back to new Moon again, which takes 28 ¼ day to complete.

  2. Second, the Moon's orbit around the earth needs to be considered in terms of the Earth's orbit around the Sun - along the ecliptic. In the following image, where the orbital planes are shown from a geocentric point of view, the lunar orbit is tilted at about a five-degree angle to the Earths orbit and the nodes are found at the intersection points of these two planes.
An eclipse can only take place if the Moon's phase is either new or full and the Moon is in transit relatively near to the nodes, or within 1° 30’. These two cycles become favorably combined about every six months for a solar eclipse to occur. Although a new Moon occurs every month, we don’t have an eclipse each time. This is because more often the Moon's shadow passes completely above or completely below the Earth. In other words, the Moon in these cases passes above or below the direct line of sight between the Earth and the Sun. As the new Moon takes place 18 3/4 days before or after an alignment with the nodes, there is a 37 1/2 day period that a solar eclipse can take place, the so-called eclipse season.

The retrograde motion of the nodes
The nodes of the lunar orbit are gradually shifting their orientation in space. By the time one node is in line with the Sun again, it has regressed around 9°. However, and importantly, the eclipses only take place when the nodes become stationary, which happens two to three times a year. In vedic astrology, it is the stationary motion of the nodes, which are functional malefics, that untoward incidents can take place. However, the story needs to be slightly more nuanced.

Lunar eclipse
A lunar eclipse may occur only at the full Moon, as the Earth passes between the fully visible Moon and the bright Sun. In this case, the Moon passes into some portion of the Earth’s shadow, resulting in a full or partial lunar eclipse, making the otherwise bright Moon darkly visible. Importantly, this can occur only when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are aligned exactly, or very closely so, with the Earth in the middle.
Solar eclipse
A solar eclipse may occur only at a new Moon, when the Moon is in its new and dark phase due to its conjunction with the brilliant Sun. As the Moon is then passing between the Earth and the Sun, the Moon may obscure the rays of the Sun and cast its shadow on the Earth, fully or partially obscuring the light of the bright Sun. Between two and five solar eclipses occur each year on Earth, with upto two of them being total eclipses.

Total solar eclipses are nevertheless rare at any given location because during each eclipse totality exists only along a narrow corridor in the relatively tiny area of the Moon's umbra.

These two cycles, the lunar month and the eclipse year have no immediately apparent relation. However, at a deeper level there are clear regularities at work in both cycles. Babylonian astronomers discovered that 223 lunar months, a period of 18 years 11 days, was equivalent to 19 eclipse years (346.6 days each), at which point the two cycles repeat.

The nodes in ancient vedic astrology
In the ancient astrology of the Hindus, which relies on the sidereal zodiac, there is a central importance given to the concept of the Moon’s nodes, Rahu and Ketu. Although invisible, these points are considered the equivalent of planets in the Zodiac in terms of their influence on life on Earth. Moreover, their karmic nature is considered to be mostly malefic, such that they tend to unleash negative karmic energy on either points or planets in the degree the nodes inhabit at any given time. While the nodes travel in retrograde manner, they are observed to slow down and become stationary for almost three months at a time, two to three times a year, in terms of their true (not mean) calculations. As the nodes slow down in speed and become stationary, their influence becomes intense for any planet or sensitive point on the affected degree. It is the stationary nodes, which carry the karmic energy of untoward incidents in the life. The eclipses, however, which occur only when the nodes are stationary, may add to the adverse energy. This may be because the alignment of the Sun, Moon and Earth is closest at such times. Further, the truly adverse events are then explained by conjunctions of Sun and the planets with the stationary nodal axis at such times.

The involvement of Sun and planets
At the time of the eclipse, we have noted the fact that the Sun and Moon become conjunct or opposite each other. An additional fact is that the Moon’s nodes are always stationary around the time of a Solar eclipse. As the Moon’s nodes are not far off from the Moon, the Sun normally becomes conjunct one or the other transit stationary nodes shortly following the eclipse. Moreover, the planets Mercury and Venus, which are normally not far off from the Sun, also tend to become conjunct the stationary nodes.

The meaning of Rahu and Ketu
According to the Systems' Approach the nodes have the following meaning:
  • "Rahu is personified as a diplomat and a shadowy planet and a legendary deceptor when disposed beneficially. Indicates diplomatic jobs, jobs requiring manipulations with facts, deals in poisons and drugs. It signifies cheats, pleasure seekers, insincere and immoral acts, etc. It is phlegmatic in nature and gives malignant growth. When afflicting, causes malignant growth, disease of phlegm, intestines, boils, skin, ulcers, spleen, worms, high blood pressure, etc. It gives smoky and unpleasant appearance due to habits of overeating, resulting in foul smells and unclean body and nails." Rahu is related to crisis due to manipulation. In mundane astrology, Rahu rules over diplomats, salesmen (along with Mercury) and winemakers, etc.

  • "Ketu is dry and fiery in nature. Its affliction causes wounds, inflammations, fevers, intestinal disorders, aberrations, low blood pressure, deafness, defective speech and gives emaciated body with prominent veins. It is personified as a saint and inclines a person more towards mystic science and spiritual pursuits." Ketu can bring about sudden, explosive events. In mundane astrology, it is related to spiritual people and people that become isolated from others, for a number of reasons.

In the Systems' Approach, we may consider that if the Sun becomes conjunct the stationary Rahu or Ketu following an eclipse, some adverse event may take place. More so if other planetary energies are operating in the same direction.

According to Professor V. K. Choudhry, the creator of the Systems’ Approach,
“the untoward incidents happen (i) when the Sun comes into transit affliction of Rahu and Ketu within next 8 to 10 days of the eclipse and (ii) if simultaneously some other transit affliction comes into play.”

It is these natal and transit phenomena involving the stationary nodes which explain why people have tended to become concerned about adverse happenings following a Solar eclipse. The same logic applies for lunar nodes, but there the conjunction of Sun or planets should take place closer to the time of the eclipse.

A graphical representation
Let us examine the following graphs showing the transit of Rahu and Ketu. In the graph showing Rahu, we note that when Rahu becomes stationary in early 2009, the Sun becomes conjunct the nodal axis well within the 8 - 10 days after the eclipse. This suggests the impact of this eclipse will be greater for those with sensitive points or planets around 15° Capricorn (in the sideral zodiac).

In the transit of Ketu we see that in July 2009 the conjunction of the Sun with the stationary nodal axis occurs before the eclipse. This suggest the impact will be less for those with points or planets near or on 6° of Cancer.

An eclipse in the SAMVA USA chart (Perpetual Union)
In the 20° Cancer rising chart for the USA, the stationary RAHU at 15° Capricorn will become conjunct the transit 2nd lord SUN on January 29, 2009, three days after a solar eclipse. The conjunction will bring difficulty to the President and highly placed persons, notably in the field of foreign relations. At that time, 6th lord JUPITER will be at 12° Capricorn conjunct the natal 3rd lord MERCURY at 12° Capricorn in the 7th house, suggesting conflict associated with US business intitatives abroad or the communication of the government to the public concerning e.g. leisure or tourism activities. At the same time, transit 8th lord SATURN at 27° Leo in the 2nd house will be afflicted by natal SATURN at 27° Scorpio and 5th house. This stationary aspect will begin in December 2008 and will produce all kinds of problems. The situation could become aggravated in late January 2009 due to the solar eclipse and conjunction of Sun with the transit stationary nodal axis and other influences.

Astral remedies
Importantly, the ancient vedic astrology has developed faith healing remedies to counter the adverse karma seen at various times in the lives of all people.
Such faith healing operates in the domain of divine grace in terms of the expression of accumulated human karma that propels us all towards a more perfect understanding of the meaning of God in our life.

[1] See for instance Richard Houck, 1994, “The Astrology of Death”, Groundswell Press and Celeste Teal, 2006, “Eclipses: Predicting World Events & Personal Transformation”, Llewellyn Publications.

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