Jyotish means “the science of Light”. This term is applied to Indian astrology, and particularly to its Vedic pantheon. The science of Light is rooted in Earth’s relationship to the constellations. Our western astrology, due to the precession of the equinox over the millenia, is not aligned with the constellations. It has shifted about 23 degrees from them, so far. It interprets the Zodiac signs as phases – segments of the arc – of Earth’s journey around the Sun.
Both approaches however, deliver profound experiential insights.
In 1998, I was asked by Andrew Foss, president of the British Association for Vedic Astrology, to draw for him a set of the grahas, or planetary deities.
Six months later, Andrew’s mentor David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri) of the Vedic Institute in New Mexico, commissioned from me another set of the grahas, to illustrate his book The Astrology of the Seers.
On both occasions I sat down to draw the gods consecutively, one each day of the week, Sunday through Saturday, and the North and South Nodes: Rahu and Ketu.
Here are both sets, with accompanying notes. The first set was drawn for Andrew who is now about to publish them in his own book; they are his copyright, and here is his link: http://www.LearnVedicAstrology.com <http://www.LearnVedicAstrology.com>
http://www.VedicSoftware.com <http://www.VedicSoftware.com> .
The 20 sketches of the grahas became an inspirational basis for The Sacred India Tarot.
Firstly, Ganesh. No enterprise begins without invoking the auspicious creativity of the Elephant God, a son of Siva:
Notes on Surya: Vishnu means “the one that pervades”. Thus the Surya – SUN – resonance.
As well as his benevolence, Surya’s is a destructive, cleansing, Self-willing power. In Indian culture, he is drought, fire and death as well as truth and creativity. In Egyptian initiations, it was said “Osiris is a Dark God.” To grow, we must confront.
The Sun is the power of light (Jyotish) – the translation onto the negative-film of the material plane. The real Light appears as darkness on our retina.
Surya’s beauty has an awesome simplicity – a pitiless and denuded dharma. He is wheel-rolling. In Surya, all orbits and revolutions turn at different angles to one another, merely to hint at the Whole dimension of his mandala. The black in his yantra suggests the corona, and sunspots: solar flares and magnetic bursts.
His yantra here, is tilted. His force arises out of its centre on a different plane. He has a superb innocence. Aruna the Dawn drives his chariot, but It could be as well be Krishna; because Surya is akin to the Vishnu archetype, the Sustainer, the all pervading.
Light is generated in Surya, to every direction and field of space. Nothing reflects or is reflected. It is all Self creating. There is no polarization or “effect” in the intoxicating nucleus of the Oneness.
In Jyotish, a Sun ruled personality may lack sensitivity to others, and is also not very impressionable in the astral field, i.e. does not have occult “experiences” – particularly if Earth and Saturn are strong in the chart.
Chandra, the deity of the Moon, is also SOMA, the nectar of the gods.
Fluidity, receptivity, clouds, sea, an infinite series of crescents, reflected light … let us form a vessel; attunement, watery, childlike – a polarized light is drawn across the heavens.
The foundation of Vedic Astrology has 27 Lunar Mansions and 108 segment/divisions (27 times the 4 lunar quarters). The fast mover around the constellational field, absorbs every resonance, and determines the constellar imprint at birth, for a lifetime’s cycles. In India, the Moon is the central significator, more so than the Sun. Indian and Western astrology have varying cultural and climatic nuances, and a different “harmonic” chart structure, but interpretation brings forth the same principles, like different sides of the same leaf.
The grahas or gods are all represented as male – even the Moon and Venus. This is because it is taken for granted in Indian metaphysics, that every god has his Shakti or feminine half, and cannot operate without her. So some of them are profoundly androgenous.
Chandra carries a mace and a white night lily. Chandra’s complexion is silvery white. His mystic vehicle is drawn by a young antelope; the three wheels are lunar-phase Yantras. The ten horses are the seminal energy of Brahma’s child Atri, spilt in all the 10 directions (damsels) and received by earth.
Chandra expresses the love of children, of the young in all the Universe. Light giver, boon bringer, he touches surfaces, moving the lunar tide.
Chandra is “the son of Varuna (the winds) Lord of the Oceans, from which the Moon rises.” During the waning half of the month, (moonth) 36,000 gods feed on his nectar and exhaust him. During the waxing half, Surya feeds him with the water of the Oceans, and he regains strength and fullness.
A Lunar ruled personality is highly sensitive, receptive, yielding: susceptible also to shadow persuasions and deception.
Mangala, Mars, is the son of Earth. That is why he does well in Capricorn. For all his energy and drive, he represents aspects of the tamas-guna – i.e. enclosure, systems, the trained warrior, control and obedience, skill. The tamas-guna gives form to the fiery, centrifugal rajas-guna. (See Tree of Life, Three Gunas, at the end of this post.)
Mangala’s spear, club and the demon-destroying Skanda on peacock, are the spirit of war and of self defense. The negative side of this is: wilful destroyer, tamas-inertia, road rage (chaotic or cold), ignorance. Note his sensual facial features: fire in earth. Mangala carries his Shakti on his lap. His hands gesture “freedom from fear”. The Shakti is also the spear. The feminine Shakti is the Kundalini of which Mars when in his exaltation, is Lord.
Big muscular body, but also stillness. The alert spear is at rest: law-sustainer, the balance which is sattva-guna. The red energy is kept still and quiet.
Budha, Mercury. Intelligence is budha, a faculty which quicksilvers the mind, but is not the mind, it is the Universe. Sweet mischievous winged one, hears the speech of birds, blesses, delivers, playful chameleon, has lived as a woman – the son/seed of Chandra(moon) and Tara, goddess of the Word. Thus Budha’s Ardhanariswara curve, his sensitive androgenous grace.
Budha’s vehicle is a Lion with an elephant’s trunk – rather a surprise. The Lion is the king of beasts. The Elephant is the remover of obstacles, and very Indian. The Lion is the power of grace, and the Elephant – who grows SLOWLY – is the power of speech and memory.
Budha’s aura is gold. He is like Hermetic gold, clear, sparkling and childlike. The most adaptable and amenable of archetypes, he can take on also the colouring and power of the asuras – demons. He carries a short sword and a Tara Yantra shield.
Guru: Jupiter: Brhaspati is the protector of the hymnology of the Vedas – teacher of the science of Light – controller of the Sun and Moon.
His western counterpart is Jove, or Zeus. Brahma is his tutelary deity. He holds rosary, mendicants’ staff, sacred water-pot, and his gesture disposes boons. Auspicious, except when reversing.
He has a yellow-white complexion, and sits on a golden lotus. His hair and beard are matted, and he wears an antelope skin. He is the preceptor of the Gods. Eight horses – or lotus petals, the directions of space – pull his chariot. The Great Swan is Paramahansa. In Vedic symbolism, the swan churns nectarine Light from the dark water – the cream from the milk.
Sukra: Venus. An androgynous figure. “Sukra” means “white”. The preceptor of the demons was Kavi – he brought destroyed asuras back to life. Bull Nandi found this out, and told his Master, Siva, who ordered Kavi before him, and gobbled him up. Inside Siva’s stomach, Kavi sang hymns in Siva’s praise. Pleased, Siva let him out through his penis, and told him (Kavi) he is his own Son, now called Sukra the white.
Like the Nilakunta/Kalakunta story, an atomic homeopathy comes into play: the transformation of the demonic at the root, by Siva
This tale of alchemic transmutation has strong resonances with the mythology of Uranus and Aphrodite. Uranus engendered so many Titans (cosmic demons), that he was castrated by Chronos (Saturn) by order of their mother, Gaia. His organ fell into the sea where it burst into a great froth, out of which emerged Aphrodite, goddess of love … comely as in Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, brought to shore. No wonder, many believe she’s the cause of all the trouble.
In the Solar system, Venus and Uranus both rotate around their axes at right angles to the rest of the planetary universe.
Sukra/Venus had agreed earlier to be the preceptor of Demons, because he had feelings of envy and ill will towards Bhraspati (Jupiter), the preceptor of Gods. The Vedic psychology is as precise and informed in its symbolism of dark and light, as any Jungian analysis. The demonic vitality, when regulated, becomes an auspicious servant.
Sukra/Venus enjoys white flowers, and to ride a red lotus; favours water, carries a water-pot, staff, rosary and boon-bestowing gesture, like Jupiter. The tutelary deity is Indra; the vehicle is pulled by the 8 white horses of the sea.
Sani – Saturn – has a dark complexion, and carries lance, dart, spear and bow. Sanaischava was the second son – the firstborn was Manu, scribe of the Laws – of the shadow wife of Surya. Surya’s actual wife (Samjna) couldn’t bear Surya’s brilliant Light, so she left her shadow-replica for Surya to conceive with.
Sani keeps his head bent, for fear of causing injury to living beings. This is because once upon a time, being engaged in austerities, he failed to notice his lovely wife – who cursed him henceforth, that whatever he looked at, would be destroyed. So when the Gods persuaded him to visit Siva and Parvati and their new baby Ganapati (Ganesh), he kept his head bent, and wouldn’t look.
(Some say that he did look, and that is why Ganesh has an elephant head. In general the Vedic Divine behaviour has much in common with Olympus.)
But if Sani averted his gaze, he lost the ability to behold good fortune and the removal of obstacles, and grew gloomy. So he has a sadness, a darkness in his heart about the intolerable brightness of Surya; and a compassion with the living beings – the burden of their Dharma.
Sani’s tutelary deities are Prajapati, Lord of Creatures and their Procreation, and Yama the Lord of Death. His ornaments are a very dark sapphire – the colour nila. His ikon is black iron installed on a pedestal the shape of an arrow. Sani is slow moving, and tends to be lame. He has the face of the Sun, but rides a crow. He is a philosopher of the wheels within wheels which themselves are turning.
David Frawley’s book says Sani’s Vedic vehicle is an Ox. So I gave him a pair, yoked and slow moving. Sani has musicians’ hands. Saturn is the musical discipline, the harmony of the spheres, the subtle intelligence, or cosmic intellect.
Rahu, the upturned glyph, is the Dragons’ Head with a serpent body. Rahu is a wide ranging break-dancer, with a passion for manifestation and reverse modes. He chases the Sun and Moon to eat them, but whenever this begins to occur, there is a strange resonance of alignment along the ecliptic planes: the Oneness, the silence in all the Universe … which Rahu dreads.
Paradoxically, Rahu’s dark path around the petals of the Light, cancels every difference.
Rahu most resembles Uranus. Vedic astrology, with galactic archetypes to deal with, as well as planets, dispenses with Uranus, Neptune, Pluto. As with Uranus, Rahu’s multi-dimensioned visit apparently breaks apart the known world, manifesting and destroying islands of aggrandizement … to reveal, as in Holst’s The Planets: Nothing. Ringing silence. Or Magic! Rahu’s energy field is a clash of cymbals.
His vehicle is a Lion and eight trotting horses, as black as beetles. He occludes and occultates the Sun: thus his power to promote illusion, magic and worldly gain, political tyranny and wealth … which break apart. He is pure Hollywood glitz. On a sundial, the principle of Time the all-devourer, faces the Sun: Rahu is the shadow the Sun throws behind Time. He carries sword, shield, spear, gesture of protection and gesture of boon disposal. He is worshipped by black flowers, and his face is tiger like. His tutelary deities are Kala – great Time – and Sarpa, the Serpent queen. Kala is another name for Yama, Lord of Death.
[NB: The KaLAs (accent on second A) are fractions of the Moon’s orbit. The Nitya Shaktis are 16 moon digits around the cycle of its waxing and waning.
KaLA is a manifestation (through the unfolding of Sri Chakra Yantra) of material force, along with sound (Nada). See also the similar root words: KaLA meaning root; KALI yuga, materiality, and KALAKUNTA, the great black demon churned up with the gods’ ambrosial butter, which Siva swallowed and turned peacock blue in his throat.
So KaLA suggests “materiality” and also “part or fraction” – which is what the materiality-projection turns out to be. KaLA is said (in Sri Chakra Yantra writings) to limit the infinite power of Siva who is formless. KaLA forms and separates.
KAla is the god of Time, carrying noose and cudgel. This also limits and materializes.]
In Rahu’s story, he was an Asura – a great Demon. He pretended to be a god, and came to drink Soma with them in their revels. Surya and Chandra (Sun and Moon) detected him, and reported him to Vishnu, who cut off his head with his Discus. But Rahu’s mouth had already tasted Soma and become immortal; so Brahma had to reluctantly make him into a planet. Rahu is hungry for ever, for the bliss. He pursues the sun and moon during the period of eclipse. Rahu, the North node, is a point of intersection of the orbits of moon around earth and earth around sun; this point travels counter-clockwise around the zodiac. It makes a complete circuit every 18.6 years.
Rahu rules the constellations Ardra, Svati and Satabhishak. His nature is feminine-absorbing, with Jupiter and Venus influences. He is exalted in Gemini, rules Virgo, is harmony in Libra, discord in Aries, detrimental in Pisces, and falls in Sagittarius – the story of his life. He “contributes to worldly prosperity”.
KETU – the Moon’s South Node – is the body chopped away from the Asura – from the serpent who tasted nectar, and remained for ever addicted.
Ketu favours spiritual development, Yoga and “the party is over”. Ketu is what got left behind Rahu’s binge, and is the situation of most of us. Rahu assists the general razzmatazz, but Ketu is much smaller than that giant head, and his tendency is to concentrate and distil, rather than to expand. Core-wise, he isn’t interested in externals.
Ketu is exalted in Sagittarius, rules Pisces, is harmony in Aries and discordant in Libra, causes grave detriment in Virgo and falls in Gemini. In some representations he is two-armed, with his left hand on his knee.
In the centre of the wheel is stillness. The tail end of the dragon seeks stillness. I feel blindfold with this KETU. I cannot see, he is a great mystery, and there isn’t much to read about him. He rides on Pigeons. His ikon is banner shaped. His tutelary deities are Brahma and Chitragupta. Chitragupta is an attendant of Yama. Thus: the Creator and the Destroyer are his guardian angels. He winnows out the excess. His head is deformed, and his complexion and ornaments are ashy. NAM YAR – who am i?
David Frawley’s book explains: RAHU is the shadow of the Moon; KETU is the shadow of the Sun. Ketu is contractive, centripetal, like Saturn. Ketu tends to use up one’s vitality – overwork and isolation, but … the most wonderful insight from past lives, aligned with Mercury. KETU means “a flag”. He boosts all the planetary powers. He is most like Pluto – trans-formative, the Light of the dark.
“Rahu and Ketu indicate the factors which block out the light of the great luminaries.”
In this general context, I am reminded of a classic photo of the world’s second highest mountain – taken on the Duke of Abruzzi’s expedition to the Karakorum in 1909: K2, known locally as “Ketu”, as seen from the Baltoro Glacier:
Here are now the second sequence of the Grahas, six months later – without notes, as published in David Frawley’s book, The Astrology of the Seers. It gave me an opportunity to develop all the ideas:
Dattatreya, the Guru of Life
Dattatreya, at the finale of this sequence, complements Ganesh at the beginning. Dattatreya is the Guru of those who no longer walk holding the hands of someone more grown up. Dattatreya is the unconditional preceptor through nature and through every situation in life: puja to the sacred art of Life.
Bridging principles of Kabbalah and Vedanta: Tree of Life, Four Worlds and Three Gunas
NB – for contemporary and wonderfully accessible teachings on Vedic Astrology (Jyotish), look up or google The Vedic Institute (David Frawley), British Association of Vedic Astrologers (BAVA – Andrew Foss), and Komila Sutton, who writes and lectures brilliantly. Andrew developed a Vedic-astrology software which is friendly to western tropical chart users.
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My adventure invites fellow travellers. I am a poet, an artist and a seer. I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.