The Case for Sidereal – I

I have been wanting to address this rather thorny issue for some time. There is a great deal of misunderstanding with regards to the tropical in relation to the sidereal, which requires a relatively simple approach. Strictly speaking, whatever that has been employed profitably for millennia requires no defence, but at this time. in the light of so much misinformation, an introductory case needs to be made. I shall begin with a brief explanation of the phenomenon responsible for the split between sidereal and tropical in the first place.

Figure 1 Earth Axis & Procession.

In understanding the nature of the sideral zodiac in relation to the tropical, we need to consider the Precession of the Equinoxes. The motion of the equinoxes along the ecliptic is caused by the cyclic precession of Earth’s axis of rotation.

Upon the compilation of the renowned star catalogue, which he completed in 129 BCE, Hipparchus observed that the positions of the stars had shifted from that recorded in earlier Babylonian (Chaldean) measures. He concluded that it was not the stars that were drifting. but instead the point of terrestrial observation. This apparent drifting backwards from the point of view on Earth is called precession and consists of a cyclic wobbling in the orientation of Earth’s axis of rotation with a period of 25,772 years

Hipparchus discovered another gem in his account of his discovery in On the Displacement of the Solsticial and Equinoctial Points, which Ptolemy subsequently described in his Almagest III.1 and VII.2).

Hipparchus measured the ecliptic longitude of the star Spica during lunar eclipses. He found that Spica was approximately  6° west of the autumnal equinox.  He then compared his own measurements with those of Timocharis of Alexandria, a contemporary of Euclid, who worked with a lesser-known Aristillus early in the 3rd century BC.  He realized that Spica’s longitude had lessened by approximately 2° Unfortunately. precise years are not offered in Almagest.

For many modern astrologers in the West, including contemporary traditionalists, the idea of using a sidereal zodiac is considered either irrelevant or anathema. The single most common reason for rejecting sidereal out of hand is in something that is neither technical or based on the perceived accuracy of outcome per se. It has to do with understandable protestations against changes in natal charts when tropical is converted to.sidereal.

There are other reasons, but this is by far the most common. That is to say, the detractors of sidereal do not act from a scientific or technical point of view. Of course, their position is understandable and not entirely without merit. One would require a very solid reason to switch from one zodiac to another. The better position from my point of view is to embrace both systems and apply either one of them wherever they are the better choice.  I will add here that reading both systems for a Nativity is not without reward.

The Precession of the Equinoxes produces an apparent drift of approximately one degree every 71.6 years. and it does so as if in reverse. A random tropical chart for 05 April 2019 – 3.50 PM GMT gives is the Sun at 16.32 Aries. If we calculate the same chart employing Fagal-Allen (sidereal) we have the Sun @ 21.32 Pisces..

Hipparchus of Nicaea (c.190 – c.120 BC), An image of Hipparchus from the title page of William Cunningham‘s Cosmographicall Glasse (1559)

Kenneth Bowser writes: “Late in the first millennium B.C., probably during the lifetime of Hipparchus of Rhodes (mid-second century B.C.), the Greeks introduced an innovation in zodiac reckoning that had heretofore been sidereal in the Near East and Eastern Mediterranean world for many centuries: they began to reckon the positions of planets and stars from the northern hemispheric vernal equinox. Until that time the equinox had been described in terms of the degree of the zodiac the Sun traversed when it reached the equinox, variously in the Greek world as 15°, 12°, 10°, 8°, 5° and 3° of Aries as precession slowly changed the Sun’s position in the zodiac at the time of the equinox.” The Tropical-Sidereal Debate, Part 2: The Sidereal Point of View

Sidereal comes from the same root as consider- From Latin sīdereusfrom sīdussīder-constellation, star. The Sidereal view is anchored in the stars and not based in reference to the Solstice and Equinoxes in the Northern Hemisphere – the latter is a Greek invention and certainly has its uses, by the word astrology itself refers to the study or wisdom of the stars. Western sidereal astrology is based on the Babylonian sidereal zodiac

A common criticism of sidereal is that the constellations are massively unequal in size, but of course the same is true for tropical observations. In fact, if anything, sidereal ought to be commended for the emphasis it places on the stars themselves. Indeed, the Indian use of nakshatras stresses the importance of individual or small clusters of stars, usually three.

Usually, when the subject of fixed stars comes up with modern astrologers. it soon becomes plain that the stars are of some interest but in the same way that asteroids, outer planets or even hypotheticals. They are seen as one more thing you can add if you so wish, whereas to a traditional astrologer, particularly a sidereal one. the stars are primary and the name of our art tells us this.

figure 1 Spherica Precession Diagram

One of the most vexing issues for Tropical practitioners interested in the stars is the issue of stars being ‘pushed’ out of their constellations, For example, one may have a Sagittarius Ascendant conjunct Antares, the Heart of the Scorpion. What can one do in such a situation? Most obviously, we can pretend it doesn’t matter. But when the Heart of the Scorpion is ripped out only to be artificially re-located to another sign, of a different element and in aversion., one either accepts the contradictions or looks more deeply into what we really mean by signs and constellations, as they

This second-century-BCE wooden plaque from Gansu, China, presents an outline of the Big Dipper, surrounded by constellations.

work in a tropical zodiac.

However, things are not quite so simple in practise. Western astrology has been heavily invested in the tropical view for at least two millennia. Our view of the zodiac has become a brittle one. Even though the Hellenistic methods came to us from astrologers who either used both sidereal and tropical or (less likely) they didn’t know which they were using because at that time the two systems were close to the same. From what I have gleaned, Hellenistic astrologers before Claudius Ptolemy used a sidereal zodiac for at least some purposes.

figure 2

They took this sideral zodiac from the Babylonians. The Indians almost certainly took their system at least in part from Babylon, although many Indian traditionalists claim that Vedic is of greater antiquity. However, the only genuine solution, if one’s aim is to is retain the original positions of stars in relation to sign. – in which case the stars are back where they are in their own signs. Few things illustrate this better than the 27 Indian Nakshatras with four Padas each, arriving at a total of 108 – a sacred number.

I mentioned that the Hellenistic astrologer used sidereal at least some of the time, but there is evidence that even in very early Indian astrology, the tropical zodiac was used. The reason for this seems rather obvious. The tropical zodiac is designed so that the first degree of Aries always falls on the Spring Equinox. In other words, this system measures and marks the seasons as we experience them in the Northern Hemisphere. There were no ancient forms of astrology known in the Southern Hemisphere, that resemble those of the Northern Hemisphere, but astrologers in the South either ignore the distinction or reverse the horoscope so that Spring in the North is Autumn in the South.

Here, we are back to the wold of Hesiod, where stars and asterism mark the times of the year for various agricultural activities, rainy and dry periods and so on.  It seems quite plain that tropical is by far the better Farmer’s Almanac and other forms of astrology such as Mundane would usually operate with the tropical zodiac. see figure 3.

So it is my contention that sidereal works best when used in Indian astrology because the whole system is essentially based on it. For those interested in the stars, as am I.

Fragments of a Babylonian Star Calendar

sidereal is the obvious choice. I would add that Indian astrology – by far the greatest group of siderealists, are also very interested in the

figure 3 – traditional astrological calendar showing the seasons

circumpolar stars. Ursa Major or the Big Dipper has seven stars known to Indian as Rishis or Sages. This constellation is almost certainly the origin of the ancient swastika symbol. See figure 2. The ladle-like arms mark the seasons.

It is my hope that this has served as a decent introduction to the two zodiacs. It’s intended as an introduction that is light on the technical side of the subject. In a forthcoming article, we will look more closely at how the sidereal works seamlessly with Indian astrology,

It is certainly the case that exploring sidereal astrology from an Indian point of view will by no means ultimately interest everyone. Nevertheless, I contend that study in this area will prove to be enriching and time well spent.

 

Annular Solar Eclipse of 26 Dec, 2019 AD

I became aware of this upcoming eclipse quite some time ago. It caught my attention because the point of greatest eclipse is over Singapore, within a nexus of volcanoes and frequent seismic activity and of course the date echoes that of the massive tsunami in the Indian Ocean on Boxing Day, 2004 believed to be the deadliest tsunami in history, with a death toll in excess of 230,000 people in 14 countries.

It began at 7:59am local time on December 26, 2004, when a 9.1-magnitude quake struck off the northern tip of Sumatra in Indonesia, reminding us all that this region is extremely volatile. In fact, it was at the site of present-day Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia. that the extinction level super volcano killed off all but about 10,000 human beings about 70,00 years ago.

The upcoming eclipse is .3 minutes and 40 seconds in duration, affording a window of more than two and a half years of influence, but that doesn’t mean that we would have to wait that long for results, particularly considering. the larger pallet of celestial events, not least of which is the momentous Superior Conjunction of 2020 12 Dec 2020.

The chart for the eclipse is, of course, diurnal, the Planetary Day is Jupiter, the Hour belongs to Saturn who is also the Almuten.  Mercury is Matutine Waning, Venus is Vespertine Waxing. No planets are in their Joy. Significantly, the Hyleg is the Sun – this evokes an image of the life force being diminished at the time of the eclipse.  Five planets and luminary are deposited by Saturn and Saturn’s reach extends to Mars in his own domicile with his exaltation in Capricorn. Importantly, the Sun in Capricorn is in aversion to his domicile. The N. Node in the fourth house.gives us the image of the ‘end of things’ as well as earth and its roots.

The Greater Malefic is unleashed. Saturn is the key player for this eclipse and even more so for the upcoming Conjunction.

There is a crucial element that might be missed by many astrologers using the tropical zodiac exclusively. The Eclipse occurs in the Moola (Mula. )nakshatra, which is the 19th nakshatra or Lunar Mansion.

Each of 27 (or, according to some texts, 28) equal divisions of the ecliptic through which the moon passes during the course of a sidereal month; a lunar mansion; the period of time with which each of these corresponds. In Sanskrit, nakṣatra means star, lunar mansion (lit. ‘with dominion overnight’) from nak, nakt- + kṣatra dominion See (OUP)

The significance of ‘Moola’ is root and its symbol is a bundled bunch of roots tied together. Moola nakshatra is ruled by the Goddess of destruction, i.e. Goddess Maha Kali. – sharp or dreadful.  Ketu is also attributed to the nakshatra.;  Michael Conneely  writes: “The planets and luminaries Mula Nakshatra is the first Nakshatra of the third (and final) Sattva group of nine Nakshatras, and it arises out of the very difficult Abhukta Mula Gandanta Zone: 2 deg either side of the transition from the sign before: Jyestha, to this Nakshatra: Mula.” See https://blog.starwheelastrology.com/

mahavidya goddess with a pair of scissor_

This is an obvious potential pitfall of using the Tropical zodiac which is oriented to the Solstices and Equinoxes  The sidereal zodiac is fixed and based on the position of stars and the Moon. So, when we draw up a chart using Tropical, the nakshatras will, of course, remain in the same place, but do not appear to belong to the signs and asterisms from which they were derived. So, we have the odd situation of a planet in the early degrees of tropical Capricorn, whilst the sidereal charts place it in the early degrees of Sagittarius. This is the case in this chart. Moola is the galactic centre in Sagittarius ad to miss this is to lose much valuable information. In my own view, the nakshatras are too important to ignore.

Saturn itself, however, is in the 22nd nakshatra, Shiravan Chandra (Moon) owns this Nakshatra. This constellation spans from 10°00′ to 23°20′ in Makara, owned by the Shani (Saturn).

See the chart below, calculated using the Fagen-Allan zodiac.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that astrologers such as Vettius Valens and those before him used a sidereal (Babylonian) zodiac and sometimes in concert with a Tropical zodiac. Of course, for some time, the two systems would have yielded similar results. It would see that the exclusive use of the tropical zodiac came into being either by or through Ptolemy.  We are now seeing more clearly how the Indian, Persian and Hellenistic astrological traditions influenced each other. An increasing number of contemporary traditional astrologers have taken it upon themselves to discover what can be gained by knowledge of Indian and Persian astrology.

Having said that, the reading of the tropical chart for this event provides a great deal of information and could be used as a stand-alone chart. However, we would miss some extremely important elements in the process.

There is no denying that this a difficult configuration for the eclipse. We also find a strong Mars in the House of Death. Volcanoes and seismic shifts are notoriously difficult to predict, but with this chart, I think it would be wise to take careful note and do whatever needs to be done to minimize the loss of life The magnitude is uncertain, but it will be a highly significant impact that by no means will go unnoticed. By including recognition and analysis of the nakshatra, we are given deeper insight into the nature of the event.

The following video of the last eruption of Krakatoa was taken by Martin Rietze, who retains Full Credits.

 

 

The Zodiacal Riddle of Vettius Valens

The phases of the moon, Liber Floridus, 1460, The Hague KB 72 A 23, f.16gr

The works of major Hellenistic astrologers have become available over the last few decades. Of course, Claudius Ptolemy has been part of the canon for centuries. His works have been helpful in many ways, but we can’t say he is the last word. Indeed, the reading of Ptolemy has lead to many preconceptions, particularly with regard to which zodiac is to be used.  He leaves us with the strong impression that the Tropical zodiac is the only one to use.

When I first Vettius Valens I was aware that there were enormous problems with the transmission, Rober Hand makes note of several of them. I have come to the conclusion that Valens was using more than one system and that it was never certain even which zodiac he used. Returning to the text of the Anthology I was taken by parallels, by no means perfect, between recognizable colloquial Greek methods and particularly Indian and Babylonian astrology. I have needed to to be selective due to the sheer volume of material.

There is still a persistent perception that Hellenistic Astrology is a particularly Greek development, no doubt because of the fact that it’s assumed that the Hellenists were all Greek. We know that Philo was a Hellenized Jew but nobody thinks he was born in Athens. I’m assuming here that the reader is familiar with the term is also aware of the extent of reciprocal influence across the known world. With this in mind, I believe that Hellenistic Astrology can be better understood.

For example, on first reading The Anthology of Vettius Valens, one may be bewildered about many things, but for the most perplexing element of all is his explanation of the nature of the signs and planets. For example, he tells us that Aries is watery: Surely this requires further explanation. How can a blazing Fire sign be watery It occurred o me that what he actually doing was describing the season in the Northern hemisphere. Rather than looking at the influence of Mars, he may as well be talking about April showers.

Autumnal Sky

“Aries is by nature watery, with thunder and hail. From its first degree to the equinox, it is stormy, full of hail, windy, destructive. The middle degrees up to 15° are mild and fruitful; the following degrees are hot and cause plagues> of animals. This sign has 19 bright stars. On the belt are 14 bright stars, 27 dim, 28 somewhat bright, and 48 faint. The constellations that rise at the same time as Aries are (in the north) the first part of Perseus, and the rear and the left parts of Auriga, and (in the south) the fin and tail of Cetus. When Aries is rising,> the feet of Bootes (in the north) and the hind parts of Lupus (in the south) are setting. Vettius Valens, Anthologies,”  Book I.3

Let’s turn to his thoughts on Taurus: “Taurus is feminine, solid, lying in the sun’s spring tropic, full of bones, with some limbs missing, rising backwards, setting straight down. This sign lies for the most part in the invisible sky. It is calm. From its first degree to 6° (the section of the Pleiades) it is worthless, even destructive, disease-producing, thundering, causing earthquakes and lightning flashes.

What are we to make of this? It doesn’t describe the sign, Taurus under Venus, the Exaltation 0f Pisces. Neither does it begin at the first degree. In the Northern Hemisphere and May is usually mostly blessed with clement weather. I’m at a loss unless he is referring to the constellation itself without associating it with the sign Taurus. How could we use such information in astrological interpretations?

This passage tells us several things about how Valens interpreted the heavens. Aries doesn’t line up with the Equinox, but he doesn’t say here exactly how many degrees it differs from 0° Aries and the Tropical Vernal Equinox. The first part of Aries, in the Decan of Mars, is watery by nature, producing hail and high winds. The second Decan of Aries is the Sun and according to Valens, is “mild and fruitful.” The final Decan of Aries is Jupiter, the greater benefic, which is hot and causes plagues.

Further, Valens tells us that “Taurus is feminine, solid, lying in the sun’s spring tropic, full of bones, with some limbs missing, rising backwards, setting straight down. This sign lies for the most part in the invisible sky. It is calm. From its first degree to 6° (the section of the Pleiades) it is worthless, even destructive, disease-producing, thundering, causing earthquakes and lightning flashes.The next two degrees are fiery and smokey. The right part (toward Auriga) is temperate and cool. The left parts are worthless and changeable, sometimes chilling, at other times heating. The head (to 23°) is in a temperate atmosphere, but it causes disease and death for living things. The rest is destructive, worthless, disease-ridden.”” It is unclear as to why he would refer to Taurus as “; lying in the sun’s spring tropic” or why a Venusian sign is so destructive. Nevertheless, he goes on to mention 27 stars.

Throughout the Anthology, Valens is meticulous when regarding the stars, noting not only the constellation but groups of asterisms, seen to be part of a divine play. It recalls Hesiod’s Works and Days, wherein, for example, Hesiod’s associates of the rise of the “rainy” Pleiades with wet weather and Sirius with very hot weather, just as the Egyptians did, If he is referring to the sign as it has been known, it makes precious little sense.

As one progresses through the work of Valens it becomes increasingly apparent that his work, among many other things, might be used as a kind of almanack, bit with due caution.. Hesiod was better skilled at that.

Valens is thought by many to have used a sidereal zodiac which plausibly accounts for his notion that the Vernal Equinox is not the same as °Aries.  The fact is, he may not have known the difference because the two zodiacs at that time would yield very similar results. I heartily recommend Chris Brennen’s chapter on Tropical Versus Sidereal Zodiacs in his Hellenistic Astrology pp. 216-222. Let’s try to sort out the background.

Nearly 1800  years ago the Battle of Hormozdgan decided the fate of the Parthian Empire and led to the rise of the Sasanian Empire that would rule unchallenged over the Middle East for 400 years.. Yet the culture itself went back millennia. The tropical Zodiac was being used by some as early as the 2nd century BCE Others used the Sidereal Zodiac.

The difference between signs and constellations

Since Pythagoras’s expedition in 570 B.C., the strategic body of water that finds its way into the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.,has been called the Persian Gulf. Compared to the focus on Greece and Rome, Persia hasn’t enjoyed anything like the scholarly attention it so obviously deserves, and this is certainly true with respect to astronomy and astrology in the 20th century., including the creation myth that informs them. There have however been notable exceptions. Theirs was a rich tradition of the Magi, esteemed throughout the known world. It was also a culture that venerated the stars.

Yet they were one of several highly advanced societies with regard to astronomy and astrology. As I have written elsewhere,, even the most unjustly founded empires do in fact have some advantages and this is very much the case in the transmission of knowledge. The Hellenistic world united Greece with Egypt and  Persia with both. The School of Alexandria was among the greatest venues for shared knowledge, from Hindu astronomers and astrologers, Buddhists, Pythagoreans, numerous Solar religions, Neo-Platonists, devotees of Isis, Christians, Jews, Babylonian and Zoroastrians.

The 28 “western” Lunar Mansions

It’s a Persian, Indian, Babylonian, Egyptian and Greek alchemy that produced what we now call Hellenistic astrology and to practise this, one requires a great deal of knowledge,  Recreating that astrology depends on a number of things, not least of which is being certain of which zodiac was being used.. In a recent article, I suggested that that Mashallah used the sidereal Sassanid zodiac on at least one occasion. Yet astrologers have been content to assume that he always used a Tropical Zodiac,

Nakshatras and Padas Nakshatra (Sanskrit: नक्षत्र, IAST: Nakṣatra) is the term for lunar mansion in Hindu astrology and Indian Astronomy. A Nakshatra is one of 27 sectors of the heavens.. Their names are related to the most prominent stars and asterisms in the respective sectors.

As previously indicated, during the time when many of these records were penned, the tropical and sidereal zodiac would have yielded similar results. Moreover, we now know that Indian Astrology had a significant and reciprocal impact on Hellenistic astrology.

The assumption of a universal Hellenistic Tropical Zodiac is fiction. However, this perception might explain why some of the Hellenist material we have is so perplexing, resulting in the illusion that there might be a need for two zodiacs for different purposes. The sidereal zodiac, as the name suggests, is anchored in the stars. The Tropical zodiac is oriented to the Equinox and Solstice points. The fact that the constellations precess at a rate of one degree every 70 years is for all intents and purposes, ignored. This naturally of much concern with those work with Fixed Stars and to be in a position to integrate nakshatras into interpretations.

Theodoros Karasavvas, J.D.-M.A has provided an enviably brief but accurate account of the origins of Greek astrology: “The Babylonians were the first people to systematically apply myths to constellations and astrology and describe the twelve signs of the zodiac. The Egyptians followed shortly after by refining the Babylonian system of astrology, but it was the Greeks who shaped it into its modern form. The Greeks borrowed some of their myths from the Babylonians and came up with their own. For that matter, even the word astrology – as well as the science of astronomy – is derived from the Greek word for star, “asteri.”

Dendera astrological calendar 12 constellations, each made of 3 decans10 days Each decan represents a major star. 1st Century ACE Roman period

The Babylonian, Egyptian and Indian zodiacs were sidereal. The Tropical and Sidereal Zodiac were the same when the precession of the equinox reached 0º ARIES in the year 221 A.D. in the heyday of Hellenistic astrology. In the last century,  the celebrated Egyptologist, Cyril Fagan, proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the original Egyptian zodiac was Sidereal. The practise of dividing each sign into three decanates was an integral element.

Decanal stars on boats in Hathor Temple at Dendera.’Starry gods are sailing on boats across the firmament on the astronomical ceiling in the outer hypostyle hall of the Hathor Temple at DenderaIt.

I=, not alone, but definitely among a tiny minority, who suspect that Valens and presumably other Hellenistic astrologers used a sidereal zodiac. This shouldn’t be seen as a problem because the Sidereal and Tropical zodiac have different uses. The tropical zodiac takes as its anchors the Solstice and Equinox points. It is the zodiac of choice for terrestrial timekeeping. Zero degrees Aries always marks the Spring Equinox and zero degrees of Libra will always mary the onset of Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. The Tropical zodiac is the clear choice for calendrical, mundane purposes Precession has no consideration. We know that the rate of precession is approximately one degree every 70 years, so the stars are no longer necessary in the same sign. For example, The Heart of the Scorpios is now well into Tropical Sagittarius. Regulus, The Heart of the Lion isn’t even in Tropical Leo anymore, just as Fomalhaut is no longer in Aquarius.

If you are concerned with the position of the stars over time, the Sidereal Zodiac wins hands down, There are several bright and not so bright stars in the firmament that have ancient and consistent significance and the Tropical zodiac distorts this badly. It is clear that Valens was interested in asterisms, including circumpolar and other asterisms that did not fall on the ecliptic. Ursa Major, for example, is considered to be the three rishis and the seasonal turning of the constellation draws a swastika in the heavens, one of the most ancient sacred symbols. He was clearly very interested in the Fixed Stars.

Robert Hand, in his brilliant commentary on Valen,s makes some fascinating points regarding the close parallels of Indian astrology apropos of Valens. This would explain many things.

Anthology p. XII

The Nakshatras are 27 in number and are each specifically oriented to set asterisms. Each Nakshatra is divided into four Padas. Each pada is allocated to a sign. This gives us the sacred number or 108. The zodiac used in India is sidereal and there is no attempt made to pretend that the constellations associated with signs on the ecliptic are equal, which they most certainly are not. This isn’t the place to delve into the intricacies of Indian astrology, but I hope to have at least piqued an interest in expanding what we mean by Classica or Hellenistic for that matter. I believe this also opens to door to the possibility of modern astrologers using a sidereal for some purposes and to still remain “Classical.”.

I give the last word to Robert Hand whose introduction to Schmidt’s translation is masterful and he makes i very clear that the text is riddled with problems that show no sign of relenting any time soon. There have been additions made by later authors and contradictions abound. When faced with the signs beginning at 8 or ten degrees and aware of the urgent need to decide which zodiac he actually used. Hand concludes:

“The lunar mansion or nakshatra is 13°20’ long. This is very close to the average daily motion of the Moon in the zodiac, and it is well known that this is the derivation. The navamsa is exactly one-quarter of that and therefore resonates to the passage of the Moon through the quadrants of the chart. On average the Moon moves very close to 3°20′ of arc while it is rising from the Ascendant to the M.C., from the М.С. to the Descendant and so forth. ” Moreover, he uses two methods to establish the Ascendant in a horoscope, now known as A and B. They are closely allied with Babylonian astrology.

Once the text is finally sorted out, I believe that close reference to Indian astrology may be very helpful. I suspect that the model of Nakshatras will shed light on the often perplexing  astrology of Vettius Valens

Church of the Nativity in the village of Arbanasi, in Veliko Tarnovo, north-central Bulgaria, there is a similar zodiac fresco image — a “Wheel of Time” in which the cycle of human life is represented:

Rahu Ketu & Nakshatras for the Hellenistic Astrologer

Vishnu and Lakshmi on_Shesha Naga, Lakshmi stimulates the dream of creation.

This is a continuance of Astrological Mysticism in The Surya Siddhanta. Since that article was written several months ago, I have managed to obtain other texts on Indian Astrology which have served to explain or fill in apparent gaps. I have also been fortunate to meet highly accomplished Indian astrologers who were amenable to discussing how Indian techniques might be used in concert with Hellenistic astrology, I came away with two techniques that seem to be particularly useful and, to my way of thinking,, add much-needed dimensions.

My time here is not to go into any of these texts in depth but I will make them available to the reader who desires a broader compass. I will caution ahead of time that less is often more, particularly when the goal is practical in nature. Of course, particularly when discussing Indian Astrology, practise and spiritual discernment is as important as in its Hellenistic, Persian, Egyptian, Druidic or Babylonian counterparts.

This can only serve as the simplest of introductions to two techniques used in Indian astrology. To tell the entire story would require the retelling and analysis borne of millennia. I, therefore, present this with due humility in the hope that it might spark interest in other practitioners of Hellenistic astrology.

Jyotish translates as “science of light,” and refers to the profound and mathematically sophisticated form of astrology originating in the earliest texts. Jyotish is as revered in the sub-continent as authentic astrology is largely undervalued and even reviled in the modern West. The essential tenets of Jyotish, including the nomenclature of the science of light, will not seem alien to a practitioner of |Tradional Western astrology. In fact, there is, therefore, an unbroken chain of this science of light going back to very ancient times.

In a previous article, we discussed The Surya Siddhanta of an unknown date. It was readily available in the 11th and 12th Century AD. The translation most commonly seen is that of Ebeneezer Burgess, published in 1860.. However, there is solid evidence that it was much older, perhaps existing in oral form long before that, It is also widely understood that changes had been made over the years

With uncertain provenance we must take what we have on its own terms., assisted by reference to other Indian astronomical works., It should be borne in mind that the same is true for all ancient forms of astrology. India the relationship between Spirit and Matter is common to all, in a highly developed form it is to the sciences, although they may use differing nomenclature. I have elected to employ the term Indian Astrology because it is practised from the Himalayas to Kanyakumari with surprisingly little variance, all things considered.

“The yantra is a mystical or astronomical diagram used as an amulet or charm. Beneficial in getting rid of insufficiency, competitors, resentment and bad effects of planets” – Neeta Singhal

The word Vedic can be misleading as can the nomenclature of Hindu astrology because it is used not only by Hindus, but also Sikhs, Jains, and Muslims. There are also many practitioners of Jyotish globally, but there is never any doubt of its origin in its present form. There is also an undeniable connection with the yogas and the gods are of Indian origin both Vedic and later.

For reasons which are not entirely clear, the intermingling of astrological cultures over millennia didn’t result in complete transference of some of the most useful elements of Indian astrology. Perhaps the chief of these is the Nakshatras system and an adequate understanding of the Nodes. Classical, Islamic and European sources tend to be vague on the subject of the Nodes and some don’t mention them at all. My friend and colleague Clelia Romano have done a splendid job of surveying the opinions of the Nodes and has provided 40 chart readings of people with mental illness to demonstrate how the Nodes work. A pdf from her site is available here.

Nakshatras are divisions of the zodiacal wheel by 27 which are further subdivided to arrive at the mystically significant of 108  The divisions of four are called padas and they are assigned planetary qualities. The Nakshatras are anchored to the stars so one might use a Tropical zodiac with Sidereal Nakshatras. This is not common practise in India because the Sidereal zodiac is usually (but not entirely) for all purposes. they are Lunar Mansions and Rahu and Ketu are also Lunar based.

This simple chart shows the positions of Nakshatras, showing planetary lords and ruling deity.

For the Western Astrologer, the use of a Sidereal Zodiac s problematic. Think for a moment that you have always known you were a fiery personality with a Leo Sun, an Aries Ascendant and Moon in Sagittarius. The Sidereal reading would have you be a Cancer Sun, a Pisces Ascendant and a Scorpio Moon. The elemental change alone is enormous, even before considering the signs. themselves. We are tropically oriented. Our system is based on the Solstices and Equinoxes and the Sidereal is based on the stars. But as fortune would have it, we can use the Tropical for the Signs and the Nakshatras at the same time.

The question arises, of course, as to why a Western Astrologer would eschew the various systems of 28 Lunar Mansion in favour of the Indian model. The truth is that Lunar Mansions are not used that much in the West, largely, I should think because they offer us very little information and even that much can be vague. Moreover, each version gives us different information. The great exception is the use of astrological magic and fine-tuning a particular element of a chart or indeed as a tool in chart rectification.

Because of the nature of the nakshatra,. we can discern a great deal about the nature of the soul’s first point of contact with the material world, as was explained to me by a highly credible Indian astrologer. Now, of course, such things are relevant in a plurality of systems. But we don’t actually suggest what was the nature of a previous incarnation or indeed one yet to come., There were attempts in the 70s and 80s riding high on the misguided New Age era. From the School of Theosophy came swaggering confidence that one could simply make up association using only the nodes.

It needs to be said that the idea of reincarnation or the transmigration of souls is solidly established in the European tradition from Plato to the Druids, who may have actually preceded the Indian sages on this matter. Brahmins have referred to the Druids as their European cousins or brothers. Indeed, early Christianity had proponents of reincarnation until they were silenced by orthodoxy. So the metaphysical of a mystical framework already exists, yet Traditional Astrology appears to avoid the question. I’m quite sure that the reason for this is the influence and threats of the Abrahamic religions.

So, a Hellenistic or Persian astrologer could employ Nakshatras, with a Tropical zodiac and in fact, this is done by Indian Astrologers both within and outside the sub-continent.  Let me provide one example of how this can be done. This is a chart calculated in a Hellenistic programme, showing the 27 Nakshatras, the Padas and the traditional Chaldean Decans. It so happens that the Whole Sign system is the most often used on the Indian sub-continent. The Hellenistic astrologer is not required to make any essential changes beyond using the Nakshatra and taking the Nodes as seriously as Vettius Valens.

We find the Lagna (Ascendant) is in the 27th degree of Libra – the Nakshatra is Vishaka, which occupies 20-00 Libra To 3-20′ Scorpio. Jupiter is the Lord and the symbol is an Archway and both Indra and Agni preside. Indra is one of the oldest gods from the Rigveda and Agni is both a god and Fire. The short description or general characteristics: include energy, strength and potential power, bright in appearance, well spoken and adept at making money. The Pada is Gemini and Mercury is very happy here. Jupiter brings a driving idealism in this place.  The character is described as being versed in scriptures. So we would derive a charming and effective person, an idealist desirous of change towards justice, but one whose health is likely to be fragile.

Sometimes the Moon Nakshatra is studied, along with the Sun or any other point. However, the Lagna seems particularly important and immeasurably more so when considered in relation to the Nodes. The western astrologer might use this useful astrological tool. However, we haven’t got the full benefit until we have studied Rahu and Ketu through the eyes of Indian Astrology:.

The creation of Rahu and Ketu is told in the creation myth itself. The story is one of immortality stolen by a dissembling demon. This is the most pertinent part of the story for our purposes:

Devas (demigods) appealed to Vishnu, who then took the form of Mohini and as a beautiful and enchanting damsel, Mohini distracted the asuras, took the amrita, and distributed it among the Devas, who drank it. Asura Rahu-Ketu, disguised himself as a deva and drank some nectar. Due to their luminous nature, the sun god Surya and the moon god Chandra noticed the switching of sides. They informed Mohini. But before the nectar could pass his throat, Mohini cut off his head with her divine discus, the Sudarshana Chakra. But as the nectar had gone down his throat he did not die. From that day, his head was called Rahu and body was called Ketu. Later Rahu and Ketu became planets. The story ends with the rejuvenated Devas defeating the asuras.

Komilla  Sutton writes “Rahu Ketu is the name given to the Nodes of the Moon. Rahu is the North Node and Ketu is the South Node. They are points on the ecliptic where the Moon is in alignment with the Sun and the Earth. They indicate the precise point of harmony with the three most important influences in our life- the Sun, the Earth and the Moon. This relationship plays an important part in the unfolding of individual consciousness.”

Dark forces gaining divine attributes through deception is an archetypal tale of the Fall. The attempt to kill the Asura, only made him more malefic. It is not true that the N|odes are always malefic, but they often are and should be studied closely. Whether or not they are demonic isn’t up for debate. They have advisedly named shadow planets. They are secretive and not always easy to detect.

According to Sutton: “Rahu behaves like Saturn. It deals with drugs, poisons, over-ambition, power play, hidden knowledge… Rahu’s element is air. It deals with all aspects of air-related activities air travel, Air accidents, Aviation, Pilots etc. Other significations of Rahu include students of Astrology, metaphysical knowledge, witchcraft, skin diseases, smallpox, deception, politics, political manoeuvre, inventions, scientists, execution, diseases, disenchantment etc.”

Rahu

Rahu is the head and for our immediate consideration, the mouth. Rahu is forever hungry and analysing. He can eat but lacks the body required for digestion. This brings with it an obsessive nature. Of course there will always be other considerations required to get the full picture, but imagine in Rahu were in the fifth house. The perennial hunger could result in excessive, even uncontrollable gambling or result perhaps in what is now called sex addiction. Desires are out of control.

In the tenth house, Rahu might manifest as an unquenchable desire for prominence. In the second house, Rahu can never have enough possessions. This need has almost nothing to do with wealth. We can see this in compulsive collectors who are never satiated and always looking for the next piece. The drive will never be satisfied because Rahu cannot digest. He is perennially hungry and the hunger is insatiable..In Indian astrology, the 2nd house includes speech as its province. This could a mellifluous voice with an occasionally sharp tongue.

Rahu in the first house belongs to people who can’t seem to get enough of themselves. They may well appear selfish to others. But of course, Ketu will be in their seventh house. This brings a crisis in relationship pursuits. Obviously, the other elements of the chart will affect how this is expressed.

If we refer back to our sample chart, where we found the Nakashatra Vishaka, on the Ascendant, we now add Rahu to the ninth house, this could subvert the good qualities by exaggerating. The fictitious person might tend towards a degree of fanaticism in religion and the domains of Jupiter.

Ketu is the headless body. Kee5tu can usually indicate something about what has past, including what preceded your physical being in this life. What Ketu wants most of all is-Moksha -liberation. Because no ‘thing’ can give that, Ketu rejects what is available where he is. So, Rahu is unsatiable appetite and Ketu is on the opposing side of the spectrum. They are desire and aversion personified if you will. IF this results in rejecting negative elements, then all is well and good. But if helpful elements are discarded, this could be quite devastating.

Importantly, the “Nakshatra’s Ketu rules are Ashwini (Aries), Magha (Leo) and Mula (Sagittarius), the fire triplicity. These are the beginning stages in the cycles of life. Mars, Sun and Jupiter the rulers of Aries, Leo and Sagittarius are friends with each other. Together they represent strength, the soul and wisdom, Ketu has the capacity to give in these areas. A proper blending of these three planets in our natal charts direct us towards seeking Moksha- the final liberation from the cycle of life and death.” See Sutton, Komilla 

Ketu Dev Tail of Demon Snake

Most intriguing is that Mula is the most difficult and painful of the Nakshatra because the work is to cut through all illusion. In relation to the fire triplicity, we can say that warrior, sage and sol are dramatically energized by Ketu in the quest for Moksha.

The examples I’ve given are for the Natal chart which is the main focus of this article. I have long used the Nodes in Mundane charts also. Mundane has its own set of rules, but the same principals apply. I have noticed a very high number of catastrophes in which the Nodes are squaring a key point in the chart, but even here, there are many other elements to consider and the seasoned astrologer will know what to do..

Summary: I have attempted to offer an introduction and insight into two interconnected elements in Indian astrology, that I believe would be easy enough for most Hellenistic astrologers to incorporate. The Nakshatras are anchored in the stars and the Tropica Zodiac derives from the Solstice and Equinox points. The nodes are so poorly documented in the Western tradition to render them next to useless. Many writers don’t mention them, mention them in passing and usually contradict each other. Indian astrology does not have that problem. Also, Hellenistic and Indian astrology have a great deal in common already. Both use the seven planets/luminaries and the nodes. Both favour the whole sign system. I should think that the most challenging point of disagreement is the zodiacs. But it is permissible to use the one with which you are familiar.

There are few stellar practitioners of Indian astrology who have published extraordinarily fine works to help the westerner understand the astrology of the Indian sub-continent: I recommend anything by Dr David Frawley, Light on Life by Hart Defuw & Robert Svoboda. Ancient Hindu Astrology for the Modern Western Astrologer by James Braha,  The Nakshatras by Dennis M. Harness. The Lunar Nodes: Crisis & redemption. & The Nakshatra: The Stars Beyond the Zodiac. by Komilla Sutton.

Rahu-Rahula-Tibetan form-

Fomalhaut – Watcher of the South

According to Ptolemy, Fomalhaut, in Piscis Australis and Watcher of the South, is of the nature of Venus and Mercury. It is generally a fortunate star and indeed very powerful and yet to cause “malevolence of sublime scope and character, and change from a material to a spiritual form of expression. Cardan stated that together with the stars rising with 12 Gemini it gives an immortal name.” [Robson*, p.165-166.]

The name Fomalhaut comes from the Arabic meaning Fish’s Mouth, which is how Ptolemy described it Fomalhaut is a very bright star among dim ones This makes it easy to see, but the constellation isn’t a great deal of help in finding it. In the heavens, the fish can be seen drinking water flowing from the jar of Aquarius. Other stories credit the stellar fish swallowing the waters of the great deluge, thus saving the world. The Fish is interpreted as a saviour in several traditions, including Hinduism and one of the main manifestations of Vishnu is as the Cosmic Fish.

According to the brief account of Eratosthenes, the Syrian fertility goddess Derceto (the Greek name for Atargatis) is supposed to have fallen into a lake at Bambyce near the Euphrates river in Syria and was saved by a large fish. Hyginus says, in a repetition of his note on Pisces, that as a result of this the Syrians do not eat fish but rather they worship the images of fish as gods. See Ian Ridpath Star Tales and my own article on the origins of Pisces entitled “Ikhthus Unchained.”

Canopus, alongside Achernar and Fomalhaut, which are corresponding stars in Eridanus and Piscis Australis, made up the Tre Facelle of Dante’s Purgatory, symbolizing Faith, Hope, and Charity:

“When the Southern Fish rises into the heavens, leaving its native waters for a foreign element, whoever at this hour takes hold of life will spend his years about sea-shore and river-bank he will capture fish as they swim poised in the hidden depths; he will cast his greedy eyes into the midst of the waters, craving to gather pellucid stones (pearls) and, immersed himself, will bring them forth together with the homes of protective shell wherein they lurk. No peril is left for man to brave, profit is sought by means of shipwreck, and the diver who has plunged into the depths becomes, like the booty, the object of recovery. And not always small is the gain to be derived from this dangerous labor (implying that a diver’s life was usually an unenviable one) pearls are worth fortunes, and because of these splendid stones there is scarcely a rich man left. Dwellers on land are burdened with the treasures of the sea. A man born to such a lot plies his skill along the shore; or he purchases at a fixed wage another’s labor and sells for a profit what it has brought him, a pedlar in the many different forms of sea products”. [Manilius, Astronomica, 1st century AD, book 5, p.333.]

To move from the absurd to the sublime, the association of Venus and Mercury is a very apt one. Gabriel is the messenger Archangel and Aquarius is the human face among the four Fixed Signs. An image of Gabriel can often be found in the Southern areas of Churches.

Saint St Archangel Gabriel Christian Russian Handpainted Orthodox Byzantine Icon

Fomalhaut can bring unexpected honours as symbolized in Gabriel’s role in the Annunciation.

The Babylonians are credited with identifying the water-bearer pouring out water to a giant fish. The water-bearer represented their god Ea, and he ruled the period either side of the winter solstice when Babylon was subject to flooding. The Great Fish was supposed to be the parent of the Pisces fishes, in both Babylonian and Greek myth.

The Mercurial nature becomes very clear in nativities that have a close association of Fomalhaut and Mercury. Conjunctions produce strong intellects unless otherwise diminished.

Aldebaran (Tascheter) the Watcher of the East.

Icon of Archangel Michael (detail), Yaroslavl, 1216.

The constellation of Taurus holds the red eye of Aldebaran (Tascheter) the Watcher of the East. He is almost universally considered to the be the Watcher of the Pleiades. The association is with the Spring Equinox when the system was conceived. The Pleiades are associated with rain and even tears. To suffer a dry Spring was considered a bad omen indeed, as crops would fail.

The Pleiades aka The Seven Sisters is probably the best-known star clusters in the heavens. It is easily visible with the naked eye on a clear night in the winters of the Northern Hemisphere.  It has also been of particular interest since antiquity and to a variety of cultures. There are references to the Pleiades in Hesiod, The Odyssey, The Bible, and the Quran. The asterism is also revered in  Hindu mythology. The Plaiedes have always been one of the most studied asterism in our history. Manilus writes: ”

Auroch (Bull No 18) Hall of Bulls Lascaux

“The Bull will dower the countryside with honest farmers and will come as a source of toil into their peaceful lives; it will bestow, not gifts of glory, but the fruits of the earth. It bows its neck amid the stars and of itself demands a yoke for its shoulders. When it carries the sun’s orb on its horns, it bids battle with the soil begin and rouses the fallow land to its former cultivation, itself leading the work, for it neither pauses in the furrows nor relaxes its breast in the dust. The sign of the Bull has produced a Serranus and a Curius, has carried the rods of office through the fields, and has left its plough to become a dictator [eque suo dictator venit aratro]. Its sons have the love of unsung excellence: their hearts and bodies derive strength from a massiveness that is slow to move, whilst in their faces dwells the boy-god Love (Cupido).” [Astronomica, Manilius, 1st century AD, book 4, p.233].

The Pleiades (M45) as imaged with the Takahashi E-180 Astrograph from Bifrost Observatory. For complete details about this image, see Pleiades (M45). Photo copyright 2012 by Fred Es[panak of NASA

In the image of the Bull from the Lascaux caves, we find that the astronomical detail is stunning. The Bull is enmeshed in the Hyades, with the Pleiades clearly articulated just above him. You can also see the belt of Orion. That we have such a clear a Neolithic representation of the constellation is a testimony to how long the heavens have held a particular meaning for us and also that there has been far less changing in our interpretations than we might reasonably expect. Of course, this begs the question why.

The Angel of the East is Michael the Archangel. He is best known as something of an Avenging Angel but is more properly known as a protecting Angel. His sword is always ready.  The East is the place of the Sunrise and the beginning of things.

This is what Vivian Robson says about Alderaban: “It gives honor, intelligence, eloquence, steadfastness, integrity, popularity, courage, ferocity, a tendency to sedition, a responsible position, public honors and gain of power and wealth through others, but its benefits seldom prove lasting and there is also danger of violence and sickness. [Fixed Stars & Constellations in Astrology.  p.120.] Aldebaran is known as the Eye of God but also associated with blindness. Many of these attributes are the blessings and shortfalls of youth. We are facing the origins of creation.

We can’t forget that this is the element of Earth or that the Hebrew meanings are oxen in the sense of the yoked power of the Bull, Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabets and speaks to powerful potential. The name aleph is originally derived from the West Semitic word for “ox”, and the shape of the letter derives from a Proto-Sinaitic glyph.  It is thought that this glyph was in turn based on Egyptian hieroglyph, however, I find insufficient evidence of the last claim.

The tarot card that embodies this quite consciously is The Fool. The Fool is in a sense outside of the system and has the value of zero and perfect potential. In mosy decks, the Fool is shown with a staff with a sack over his shoulder, which is undeniably associated with virility. the Fool is youth personified: optimistic for no particular reason and most of all, unaware of the potency he carries and is about to walk off a cliff while sniffing a flower.

The name Aldebaran (pronounced /ælˈdɛbərən/) comes from the Arabic word al-dabarān, meaning “the follower.” The name refers to the Pleiades cluster (Messier 45), which the star appears to be following across the sky.

The Classic Theory of Ferrari d’Occhieppo

This should be read as something of a footnote to my previous article on the magi. Ferrari d’Occhieppo was a well-known astronomer and his work on the Star of Bethlehem became the foundation of a theory that is seldom questioned. It is satisfying mostly because it is rooted in the notion that Jesus was to be the harbinger of the Age of Pisces. I came upon this theory after I wrote my last article on the magi and believe it merits some response.

The chart for the birth of Jesus according to Ferrari d’Occhieppo – 115 September 15, 7 B.C. at around 6 pm in Bethlehem,

I personally find several reasons to questions this classic attempt to discover the birthdate for Jesus using astronomy as well as astrology.  It has a very rationally basis on the Superior Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn which occur approximately every 20 years. The observation of the Superior Conjunction was ancient by the time the magi would have seen this one. They are considered important markers for change, including social and regime change.

To some extent, we’re comparing apples to oranges. The article I wrote was designed to discover what the magi probably saw when they spoke of the Star in the East which would lead to the King of the Jews. The article under review purports to discover the birth of Jesus.  Surely the two events were significantly far apart if the magi came from what is now Iran. Nevertheless, the two events are obviously connected.

This is the ‘classic’ theory of  Ferrari d’Occhieppo (1969) – Hughes (1979) – Seymour (1998), compiled by Bernadette Brady:

“.Jesus was born on September 15, 7 B.C. at around 6 pm in Bethlehem, under the opposition of the Sun in Virgo to the conjunction Jupiter-Saturn at its rising. This assumption explains the words of the magi to Herod: ‘We saw his star at its rising’, which supports the supposition that this ‘star’ had not yet disappeared and that it could be observed again, and the enigmatic metaphor of the Immaculate Conception (the text of the Gospel ‘born of a virgin’ could be read rather ‘born in the sign of Virgo’). The simultaneity of the astronomical event occurred with the arrival of the Messiah, king of the Jews (Jupiter, the royal planet, beneficial, in conjunction with Saturn, the planet of the Jews). The symbol of Pisces would have been preserved as a form of recognition and a rallying sign for the first Christian communities. ”

Showing the position of Saturn and Jupiter on the Ascendant

The underlying assumptions strike me as bold, compelling and for the most part, speculative.  The insistence of the Conjunction in Pisces overrides any other considerations in the charts, save the alleged reference to the Sun in Virgo not only as indicative of the virgin birth but perhaps the very meaning of it. Having said that the idea that there are some elements of the Jewish community which would interpret the co-joining of the star of Kings, Jupiter, with Saturn, the star of the Jews as a clear sign of the coming of the promised king.

Although it is not entirely impossible that the Sun in Virgo refers to ‘born of a Virgin’ one would have to run roughshod over a great deal of established theology. It takes as virtual fact that the entire event might be an example of astrotheology, wherein all the players take a symbolic role that can be described by the planets and luminaries themselves. At this point in time, such claims can only be considered as speculative. We have no evidence of this, either way. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Secondly, let’s look at the Superior Conjunction referred to. It occurred 10 Sep 7 – 28 Sep 7- 3 Dec 7 19 Dec 7. There is no doubt that the magi would be very familiar with the Conjunctions as indicators in Mundane astrology. However,  they are considered most significant when there is a change in Triplicity. The previous had been in Leo. We are still left, though, with the Conjunction being the only provable element.

Positional Astronomy. – Superior Conjunctions

The theory goes on to mention the Essenes. I also commented on some elements of the Essenes and pointed out that they had at least as much to do with the Zoroastrian magi as the Jews.  certainly, they were not associated with mainstream Judaism. I do not doubt that this connection should be considered, but so should a very great number of factors.

When all is said and done, I feel even more convinced that the chart I offered in the previous article fits more exactly and for multiple reasons the star in the east seen by the magi. Nevertheless, I admire the work and passion that went the construction of this theory and believe it may raise many questions deserving of research.

The complete text of the article in question is in French @ http://cura.free.fr/16christ.html Feb, 2002