By Theodore Naicker
Welcome to this column for OPA where we will be exploring concepts in Vedic Astrology. Let’s start by understanding how the zodiac signs are conceived.
Sidereal Zodiac Signs
Oral traditions of Vedic astrology in India have used the sidereal zodiac for centuries. The Tropical zodiac is used in Vedic astrology to supplement analysis of seasonal effects such as the weather and agricultural outcomes. The Sidereal zodiac is reserved for the study of life, as it is believed that souls descend into matter through stellar gateways and therefore to study that life wholly, a stellar paradigm is most suitable. The Sidereal zodiac is created with a specified fixed star as a reference point, and the twelve signs are given equal 30° increments of space from there. There are different reasons for choosing which star to create the Sidereal zodiac with, and for the purposes of the study of human life, the star Chitra (Spica) within the constellation of Virgo is used.
The Sanskrit word for an astrological sign is rāśi, and one of its meanings is a fixed/ stable/equal quantity, which is referring to both a fixed quantum of space as well as indicating that the nature of the space is fixed. The aim when creating the Sidereal zodiac is therefore not about finding a truly inertial reference frame, but it is rather about the proper selection of the reference star from which to create the zodiac belt as a string of defined portions or rāśi.
Since the Sidereal zodiac is situated lightyears out into space, the planets of our solar system are therefore considered to be celestial bodies causing grahaṇa (blocking/ eclipsing) of the starlight emanating from the signs, thereby trapping the soul to karmic effects as it descends, conditioning the mind, and affecting the body. The planets are hence called graha in Vedic Astrology. We will be discussing this in more detail in later editions.
The Nodes of the Moon
So far, we have introduced one meaning of the word rāśi: a fixed quantum of space bounding a Sidereal zodiacal sign. Let us now consider a deeper meaning of this Sanskrit word. The word rāśi is made up of two sounds rā and śi, which refer to Rāhu and Śikhi1 respectively. Rāhu is the North Node of the Moon, and Śikhi is the South Node of the Moon. Since the Nodes of the Moon are perceived as mainly destructive in nature in Vedic astrology, they have the power or responsibility of destroying the Sidereal zodiac2. Rāhu destroys the binding quality of ākāśa (space) which holds the rāśi together in place, and Śikhi destroys the stars which are the energy behind the rāśi. Therefore, the joining of the Nodes (joining of their names) which is rāśi, indicates that there is constant tension of the signs and stars against the operation of the Nodes which are constantly intending their dissolution.
Since the zodiac signs indicate all created things, Rāhu is an agent of cosmic turbulence (or mental disturbance) which destroys the stable perceptive ability of the mind to focus, understand, and harmoniously associate with life. It is the root of selfishness and the reason for the descent of the soul. Since we have descended from stellar gateways, Śikhi is an agent of detachment or rejection, a cosmic agency of disassociation which cuts through everything binding us in the embodied state. Therefore, Śikhi shows the path of evolution back to Source, and Rāhu shows the path of more material entanglement. They both represent extreme behaviours or dynamics of the mind (Moon). Their joining is the delicate balance of space and attachment (rāśi) through which the mind (Moon) perceives and creates the subjective reality of experience.
Rāhu is the Ceaseless Consumer, the disembodied Head of the Snake, devouring all things created by the power of the rāśi. Just as the rāśi as portions of the stellar sky, indicate literally the source of all material resources on earth, Rāhu is ever-ravenous to consume and deny these resources for others. It represents the unbridled scientist without a care for ethics, the mafia boss wholly consumed by acquisitiveness, the Big Pharma business person who hoards more than they need. In whatever rāśi Rāhu is placed, therein it works to selfishly consume resources of that rāśi, denying access to such resources to other graha it is placed with, and its dispositor just so. Rāhu works to keep the soul caught in the cycle of reincarnation because it is the part of the mind always looking outward and which is acquisitive in nature. It represents that point of peak material attraction and increase, which lures the mind to bind with matter. All that glitters is not gold, and while Rāhu may indicate a path of evolution through matter, the risk of further being bound by the cosmic inertia is equally heightened as it partakes of a cycle of consumption and possessiveness difficult to escape. It is the proverbial Apple of the Snake of Eden.
Śikhi is responsible for the cutting away of the soul from the stellar influences themselves. It therefore has a dual role. Firstly, while the embodied soul is engrossed in material cares, Śikhi indicates mistakes and blind-spots in our vision, as the rays of Śikhi remove countless Suns (stars) from the celestial sky. For such a person, Śikhi brings non-attainment of material goals and dissatisfaction and doubts with what one has. Secondly, when the embodied soul is ready for its journey back to Source and is ready to connect with deeper soul reflections over its material ones, Śikhi will indicate the steps to the evolutionary path of the soul out of matter and back to Spirit. Śikhi is the part of the mind always looking inward, always rejecting external material connections, and always seeking the source of the soul’s being before the descent of the soul began down stellar gateways. It is cosmic memory of the time before descent. Whatever constellational reference Śikhi is placed in, it is the place in the chart where there is precious little material satisfaction and material quantity, for it is where the mind naturally struggles to connect with material life, or the platform from which the mind seeks the soul.
The Protectors of Rāśi
Rāhu and Śikhi represent challenges and extremes of how the mind (Moon) relates to life. Rāhu selfishly consumes the resources and energy of a rāsi, and Śikhi seeks to undermine the feeling and connection to material things in life. The Luminaries (the Sun and the Moon) are the Great Protectors against the operation of Rāhu and Śikhi respectively. The Sun ensures the rāsi have enough energy, vitality, and resources; the Moon ensures there is enough flow of feeling to want to connect with material life and relationships. In the next edition, we will learn all about the Dvādaśa Āditya, the twelve forms of the Sun which energize the rāśis.
1. The conventional name for the South Node of the Moon is Ketu. The astrological indicators have multiple names in Sanskrit, which point to varying nuances in its function and intention.
2. To find out more about the conceptualization of the Nodes of the Moon in Vedic Astrology, see the following article (https://www.spicastrology.com/ the-lunar-nodes-and-yoga/)
Theodore Naicker, DMA., DAS. is a practicing specialist Western and Vedic astrologer based in South Africa where he teaches astrology and runs holistic retreats and workshops. He has a background in the petroleum engineering industry, and is interested in cultural anthropology, military history, Ayurveda, and yoga. Find out more about Theodore’s background, qualifications, and events at (https://www.spicastrology.com/about-theo)