Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Astrology of Knitting

Is there astrology specific to knitting?

This is "The Return of Ulysses" by Romare Bearden. Bearden instinctively grasped the connection between the fiber arts and occult knowledge. He shows Penelope weaving, but a cat plays with yarn under the loom, and a messenger crow waits outside the window.

As an increasingly avid knitter and an astrologer, I have been wondering about this. There is a signature for talent in the fiber arts, I think. Knitting, crocheting, tatting, and weaving are included in the fiber arts, and the common denominator for them all is the tying of knots.

Astrology-savvy knitters think of Virgo as the sign of the craftsman. This could be any craft, from baking to woodworking, which is done with the hands. It doesn’t have to be knitting. Saturn is the planet associated with time, and knitting is nothing but an endless repetition of loops or knots extending into infinity. Saturn gets closer to the spirit of the fiber arts, in my opinion, while Virgo represents anything done with the hands. That said, the anal, extreme detail-orientation of a hard-core Virgo is the defining characteristic of those who are good enough to join a knitting guild.

In Vedic astrology, the Third House is associated with the urge to create using one’s hands. Having a benefic like Venus or Jupiter in both the rasi and the navamsa often confers a life-long talent in one of the arts or crafts, but once again, this could also be anything from cooking to carpentry. For people who don’t have a career in the arts, the benefic in the navamsa may be more important, because interest in crafting seems to blossom in a subject’s mid-thirties and beyond.

Getting back to western astrology - are Saturn-in-Virgo natives top suspects? Sure, but think more broadly. Think about a ruling Saturn, or a strongly aspected planet in Virgo, or a stellium in either Capricorn or Virgo, or either of these signs on the angles. These natal configurations don’t promise a knitter, but they do tend to show up in the background.

MOON-SATURN ASPECTS

If there is any natal aspect closely associated with knitting, I suspect it has to be the hard aspect (conjunction, square, or opposition) between Moon and Saturn, and occasionally the trine. Moon-Saturn hard aspects love to braid hair, tie knots, or weave rugs. It is as if the Moon needs a beautiful, nurturing way to express the limitations of Saturn, and Saturn is forever tying us in knots or binding us in some way.

Why Moon-Saturn hard aspects? Hard aspects create tension between two planets, and stress in the subject’s life. Knitting is very meditative once the knitter knows what he or she is doing. Saturn requires patience, but it also gives the gift of meditation, and the satisfaction of creation during time that would otherwise go to waste. Moon-Saturn hard aspects are a challenge to manage – they are associated with depression, difficult motherhood, difficulties in becoming a mother, difficulties with one’s own mother, and constant delays and restrictions in one’s life circumstances. Yet, with knitting, Saturn provides an artistic solution for some of the very problems it creates.

How does the Moon show up? The nurturing generosity of knitters can be legendary – they are forever knitting gifts for other people. Even those who only knit for themselves are usually pretty generous when it comes to teaching others how to knit.

PLUTO

When I began researching this article, I was surprised to find no mention of Pluto in connection with the fiber arts. Pluto is a portal to the underworld – it is represented by the occult, and has associations with remaining invisible and also with causing death. Consider some examples from the following myths, songs, and stories.

The myths of the ancient gods sometimes focused on the fiber arts – think of Arachne, the girl who infuriated Athena by weaving a tapestry depicting the transgressions of the gods – she ended up a spider. In fairy tales, spinning yarn or thread was associated with mild trance – magic might take place as a result. Spells were contained in knots – recipients of hand-made clothes were wary of gifts that might interfere with their free will. The folk song, “Are You Going to Scarborough Fair?” recalls this idea with the lyric, “Tell her to make me a cambric shirt, without any seams or needlework.” The singer assures us he will give his love only if it is not coerced by occult means.

Pluto comes to mind when I think of the Moirai – the ancient goddesses of fate and destiny. Chlotho spun the thread of life, Lachesis measured out the thread and was said to make choices about a person’s destiny after the thread was measured, and the scary Atropos cut the thread. Atropos lives on in the name of the toxic plant Atropa belladonna, or Deadly Nightshade, and also in atropine, an anti-cholinergic drug derived from the plant which ironically keeps a compromised heart beating.

Take knitting away from the knitter, and he or she will seethe or twitch with frustration. Madame Defarge, of Tale of Two Cities fame, is a most Plutonian knitter – she knits the names of those the French Revolution will destroy. A modern knitter is more likely to knit the name of the one who took the knitting away.

There is now a resurgence of popularity in public (visible) knitting, which peaked right around the time Pluto entered Capricorn in 2008, and is still going strong. But I remember my grandmother knitting when I was a little girl – women didn’t knit in public back then. Knitting was something that made her less visible, but I now realize it also allowed her the luxury of observations made in silence (Pluto is invisible).

OUT THE COMET’S ASS…

Rather than focus on the planets or aspects behind knitting, the author of this blog observed knitters on an unspecified forum, possibly ravelry.com, according to their sun signs. Her sharp perceptions about knitters who made revealing self-assessments ended up as an article simply titled, “Knitters”.

I have a Capricorn stellium, and this blogger nailed Capricorn. She notes that Capricorn knitters have a knack for color or spatial dynamics, adds that they knit because they hate to waste time, and sniffs out their dislike of wasteful stashes. I had already written “My First Socks”, where I mentioned that color is my talent, and “My Knitting Philosophy”, with its remarks about show-off stashes and class warfare, before I discovered her article, and I had to laugh. There is no denying I’m a Capricorn knitter. Her article is worth checking out.

BARBARA WALKER, THE KNITTING LEGEND

If there is one famous knitter who taps the hidden power of the ancient gods, it has to be Barbara Walker. Before beginning research on this article, I knew her only as the author of “The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets”, which won Book of the Year from the Times (London) in 1986.
It turns out this book was a mere sideline for her – she had already made her reputation as the Julia Child of knitting with the publication of “Mosaic Knitting” in 1976, and followed it up with an even greater achievement, the four-part series, “A Treasury of Knitting Patterns”.

Like Julia Child, Walker rigorously tested all of her patterns, because she understood that knitting success can hinge on a single incorrect purl stitch in the wrong place. She was a perfectionist and an extremely thorough collector who ended up preserving much of what is known of the entire art of knitting – almost all contemporary knitting designers refer to her work. No matter what Fair Isle motif or lace pattern a knitter selects today, chances are good that Walker carefully recorded it years ago.

Naturally, I was curious about her natal horoscope. She was born July 2, 1930. I don’t have a birth time. Yet, even without a birth time, some things jump out of this horoscope immediately. Ruling Saturn in Capricorn is opposite Pluto in Cancer, creating an energy axis between the two planets I associate most closely with the fiber arts. There is a decent likelihood of Moon square Saturn. And Neptune (creativity) is partile conjunct Vesta (one’s life purpose, what one invests in most heavily) in the 1st degree of Virgo! (Vesta is not shown in the chart below.) Without a doubt, this woman had a knitter’s signature.

SOURCES

Steege, Gwen. The Knitter’s Life List, Storey Publishing, 2011.

I found Romare Bearden’s “The Return of Ulysses” in this book, as well as biographical information on Barbara Walker.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Knitting Philosophy

THOUGHTS ON SOCKS (My Knitting Philosophy)

Trying on a sock just after turning the heel.

PROS

•There is nothing wrong with mindless knitting (and indeed, a good deal to be said for it – many women knit precisely because knitting becomes “mindless” and therefore meditative, once you know what you are doing). Simple ribbed socks, or plain-Jane, stocking-net-stitch socks that show off a fancy, self-striping yarn, are the easiest knitting out there. Totally mindless. Call it “stupid knitting” – once you know what you are doing.
•I love “stupid knitting”. I’ve got the rest of my life to prove my competence in other areas – knitting is one thing that doesn’t have to go on my resume.
•There are two kinds of sock heels in this world – the kind that have a heel, heel flap, and gussets (round heels, square heels, band heels), and the kind that don’t (short rows and afterthought heels). Maybe it’s the Capricorn in me, but I prefer structure. Socks with a traditional heel, heel flap, and gussets have the best fit, and fit is everything when it comes to socks.
•Socks can easily knit from stashed yarn, and a knitter can shape their stash around socks, because they are easy to knit from a single skein. That said, I’m not a big fan of big-stash ladies.
•Having a large stash is wasteful – a lot of it never gets used, and is simply given away, or it gets thrown out. Rachel Herron, author of “A Life in Stitches” and owner of www.yarnagogo.com, points out that our grandmothers who knit never had large stashes. They knit carefully according to the project – and budgeted enough extra for mending only. Herron’s grandparents were sheep farmers in New Zealand – yarn was made to sell, not to show off in a stash to demonstrate one’s discretionary income or careless spending habits.
•But there is one thing that can be said for having a small stash. In terms of emotional well-being, four or five versatile skeins in a stash will get you through an extended period of no money far better than money will get you through a time of no knitting.
•Socks are quick and easy gifts. For those who aren’t married, the gift of socks is a lifesaving alternative to knitting a sweater before one has a ring, or is safely hitched – this is known as the “Sweater Curse”. The “Sweater Curse” is a myth, but most knitters know better than to fuck with it.
•Socks are portable. They can sit in the trunk of your car for years until you finally get around to them. I should know.
•Hand-knit socks and sweaters should look hand-knit – there should be some small design element (lace, picot border, a few Fair Isle motifs) or creative use of color that lets the viewer know that this is a hand-knit item. Otherwise, what’s the point?

CONS

•Cost is the elephant in the room. I’m serious. A fancy skein of hand-dyed yarn costs $28.00 these days. $28 for socks! Are you kidding? Socks cost $2 at WalMart. The most expensive, manufactured pair of socks I own – the Smartwool socks that I hike in, and could not live without – cost me $18. So, I’m spending $23 to $28 for fancy, hand-dyed yarn to knit socks that I must hand wash. I’m spending more for socks that don’t have the knitting technology found in a pair of Smartwool socks. Where class warfare exists in knitting, socks are at the center of the war.
•In terms of cost, socks are the poorest value out there. For a knitter, the item with the highest “added value” is probably a shawl - it takes only two skeins of yarn to knit a large, heirloom piece that can be handed down to one’s children. Try doing that with socks.
•Socks wear out, and get lost. But they’re not as bad as fingerless mitts. Nothing gets lost more easily than a fingerless mitt. No sooner do they come off the needle than one of them goes missing. You might as well just knit a matching set of three, and pray...

NEXT UP: The Astrology of Knitting

Saturday, September 15, 2012

My First Socks

Just sitting around on my day off, contemplating the need for hand-made socks.

I put off knitting my first socks for the longest time – I’m four years into knitting, and this is my first pair. I’ve knit a beautiful full-length lace shawl, and figured out fitted sweaters with set-in sleeves, and I haven’t had the nerve to take on socks.

All the different parts of the sock – cuff, leg, heel, heel flap, gusset, instep, sole, and toe – scared me to death. How was I going to figure out how to knit all of that, and pull off a Kitchener stitch to sew the darn thing up, too? It made me think of my long-ago French boyfriend who insisted that I memorize all the different parts of the cow because he said Americans didn’t know shit about butchering meat. I thought socks would become the French butchery of knitting, and I tucked my tail beneath my legs, let out a MOOOOOOOO, and ran.

Two years ago, I knitted two pairs of cuffs with a gorgeous, midnight-navy Sanguine Gryphon Skinny Bugga yarn called “Sooty Dancer” that cost me an arm and a leg. (Sadly, this gorgeous color is discontinued, and Sanguine Gryphon has split up, although still operational. It’s other half is now called Cephalopod Yarns, and I do recommend them, despite the fact that I swear their yarn requires a designated credit card.) I named them “Junk-in-the-Trunk” socks, stowed them in the trunk of my trusty wheels, and they stayed there for two whole years (you don’t want to know what else is in that trunk, so don’t ask).

Then I finally found a teacher I could afford – Mary, the owner of Two Rivers Yarns in Brunswick, MD, is offering private half hour classes for $15.00 a half hour – you won’t find a better price anywhere in the DC metropolitan area. In fact, I’m willing to bet she is one of the most affordable knitting teachers in the entire country. Now, I would have someone to help me when I got stuck. For the first time, I began to feel the necessary confidence to tackle socks.

So, the first thing I did was fish the rainbow-colored, total 1970’s Shalimar finger-weight out of stash and knit a second pair – notice that I knit top-down to the part where I turned the heel, and then I stopped. (Gemini, the sign of the twins, is on my natal MidHeaven, and it isn’t there for nothing, ladies.) Now, I would have two pairs to learn the round heel and the Kitchener stitch on (more fun and misery for all concerned, right?)

Two pairs of socks at once is the only way to go with a Gemini Midheaven...

The book I used is “Sock Knitting Master Class” by Ann Budd. It has a CD, and knitters these days swear by CD’s in the back of a knitting book. I wouldn’t know, because the CD player in my 10 year old, museum piece laptop is broken. When I upgrade to the modern world, I’ll let you know, dear readers.
The lace pattern I used is “Rose Ribs” (p. 81). It’s probably a great pattern. I don’t know how to knit it (never mind the gorgeous lace shawl I did figure out). I’ve done nothing but botch the lace, so to save face, I’ve started alternating the lace with sections of stocking-net.
My mostly orange "rainbow" sock on top of the "Rose Ribs" pattern. When finished, these socks may not be much good for anything other than wearing around Halloween. Knitting cheaply out of the stash has a way of leading to laughter AT you in the end. Or these could turn out really nicely...you just don't know until your project is close to done.

Small sections of lace allow some air in. Random yarn-overs speak to my laziness – only an anal knitter would chart their first sock, and I’m a don’t-worry, be-happy knitter. When I was a total knitting beginner, I didn’t even know how to cover my screw-ups. Four years in, I’m still a sloppy knitter (I’ll never make the knitting guild), but now I know how to hide things. Mwahahahahahaha!

When someone asks me what my talent in knitting is, I always answer, “Color”. By that, I don’t mean knitting color blocks, or intarsia. I mean putting colors together. I don’t sit there with a color wheel, but I’ve always had an eye for color (you want colors for a Fair Isle fingerless mitt – try three pairs of your favorite skinny yarn in these colors – burgundy and lime green, teal and lavender, navy and off-white – you’ll see how pretty this combination is). Although I am the first one to admit that knitting technique matters, and anal knitters make the most beautiful items, I am better at blogging and color. Everybody’s got a talent!

NEXT UP: My Knitting Philosophy

Sunday, August 26, 2012

HELP FOR VEDIC BEGINNERS (Part Four)

"When God created the world, He gave us astrology so He could drop a few hints". -the Space Cowboy


This is my FINAL ARTICLE in the series, "Help for Vedic Beginners". My intent was to provide beginners with enough of a foundation in the basics that they will feel confident about pursuing further self-study, and-or taking an actual class in a specialized topic like yogas. Beginners out there, please let me know what you think after reading all four articles in the series.

For those of you who are proficient in Vedic astrology, and who are just reading to "brush up", or for an idea or two that you might have missed, I would be interested in hearing whether there are any beginning topics that I should have addressed, and didn't. Please take the time to read all four articles before commenting.

And now, without further ado...


WHY ARE VEDIC CHARTS SO HARD TO READ?

Vedic horoscopes come in two flavors – North Indian style and South Indian style.
The South Indian style is much easier for a beginner to read, but it has not gained widespread use in the Vedic world. Most Vedic charts on the Web are North Indian style. If you purchase a detailed Vedic horoscope, it will almost certainly come with North Indian style charts.

James Braha uses the South Indian style charts in his book, “Ancient Hindu Astrology for the Modern Western Astrologer”. The cover is actually a depiction of his natal chart in the South Indian style. He does this in order to make the book more accessible to beginners.

NORTH-INDIAN STYLE HOROSCOPES

Since North-Indian style charts get the most play, let’s take a look at Angelina Jolie’s horoscope as an example. She was born June 4, 1975 at 9:09 am in Los Angeles, CA.


The diamond - shaped box at the top of the horoscope is the Ascendant. Venus is right on the Ascendant (see “Analysis of Angelina Jolie’s Vedic Horoscospe” in Sources, for a good Vedic analysis of her horoscope.)

Now take a look at the numbers…these are the key to a North-Indian style chart. The “4” is the 4th sign of the zodiac, which is Cancer. Jolie has a Cancer Ascendant.

Don’t make the same mistake that this author made when she was a beginner and assume that the house with the “1” must be the Ascendant. The diamond-shaped house at the top of the chart is ALWAYS THE ASCENDANT.

If you’re not sure which house is the second house, remember that Leo, the fifth sign of the zodiac, comes after Cancer. So the house with the “5” is the second house, and this chart is meant to be read counter-clockwise.

***

There is quite a bit of good Vedic analysis of Angelina Jolie’s chart on the Web – I only mentioned one author in the sources for this article. For readers who are interested in a good biography, I recommend, “Angelina: An Unauthorized Biography” by Andrew Morton.



There are just a couple of observations that I would like to make – one is that this is an incredible horoscope for having children. Jupiter is the karaka (or “indicator”) for children – it is in its ruling sign of Pisces and located in the 9th House (its own house). This is the strongest possible combination of sign and house for Jupiter.

Jupiter is conjunct the Moon (motherhood), and the Moon is Lord of the Ascendant – indicating Jolie’s very strong relationship with her own mother, and also her desire to be a mother, (with Jupiter’s power of expansion influencing the Moon).

Plus the most powerful indicator of craving and insatiable desire in a Vedic horoscope is normally Rahu – which just happens to be located alone in the 5th House of children, so it’s energy is unmitigated by the influence of any other planet. Rahu is also a foreigner, and the 5th House represents the first child – her first child was indeed a foreign adoption.

In Vedic astrology, odd-numbered houses that follow the 5th House represent one’s relationship with particular children, and/or their qualities. The stelliums in the 9th and 11th houses of her horoscope suggest a powerful, fated relationship with her two daughters, Zahara and Shiloh. Her interaction with Zahara, and Zahara’s own personal qualities, are embodied by the planets of Jolie’s 9th House – Moon, Jupiter, and Mars. The planets in her 11th house (Ketu, Sun, and Mercury) influence her dynamic with Shiloh, and also the traits Shiloh displays herself.

The other observation I would make is that individuals like Angelina Jolie who are powerfully in touch with their life-path may experience a strong planetary maturation, even if the planet is not in a sign of rule, exaltation, or fall. Thus, Jolie realized a lifelong dream around the age of 36 when she directed her first film, “In The Land of Blood and Honey”. Her 12th House Saturn in Gemini is neither in its sign of rule or fall, but it is significant that the 12th House represents living and working in foreign lands - her role in "Blood and Honey" was a summation of all of her third-world development experience to date.

Seeing Saturn yield this sort of energy on maturation does seem to hint that there will be intense life experience regarding one or more of her children around the age of 42 when her Rahu matures - note its position in the 5th House.

***

MINI-VEDIC LESSON #2
Q:

This is a south-Indian style chart with a Leo Ascendant. Saturn is in the 9th House, and Jupiter is in the 3rd House. Quiz yourself – what does this mean?

A:

Saturn is fallen in Aries in the 9th House of Luck, Higher Learning, and Philosophical Values. The 9th House also represents the guru and the father. Having a fallen planet in the House of Luck sets the native up for a difficult life.
Jupiter is in the 3rd House in Libra, which confers talent in written or spoken communications, and blessings for the siblings, rather than for the native. Jupiter is also in Libra, Saturn’s traditional sign of exaltation, so it is slightly weaker than usual.

Take-Away Lesson:
In Jyotish, fallen planets cast a positive aspect into the house opposite them, while ruling or exalted planets cast a negative aspect into the house opposite them. In this example, fallen Saturn casts positive energy toward the 3rd House, which further strengthens the impact of 3rd House Jupiter.

Conclusion:
This native will not do as well as his or siblings in terms of material success. Higher education will likely be ruined in some way, and this may be linked to the lack of material success. An astrologer would counsel the subject to avoid resentment and envy of the siblings – it is this native’s life lesson to yield energy toward one’s siblings. He or she would also advice the subject that some 3rd House blessings will still accrue to him – he should develop whatever talent is “gifted” by this placement. If the subject is a woman, Jupiter’s nakshatra (it happens to be Swati, in this instance, although this cannot be determined from the simplified chart) will also suggest qualities of the first spouse, or first serious life partner.

SOURCE:

Vic DiCara's Look at Angelina Jolie

PART THREE - If you want the previous article in this series.

PART ONE - If you want to jump all the way back to the beginning of this series.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

HELP FOR VEDIC BEGINNERS (Part Three)

EXPLAIN VEDIC ASTROLOGY IN A NUTSHELL, PLEASE…
Traditional Indian names for girls reflect the names of the Vedic asterisms - Ashwini, Rohini, Chitra, and Phalguni are all popular. This photo found on the web is of an Ohio State student named Ashwini.

Are you kidding? Beginners have balls…

Yet, only a beginner could ask a question like this. And I like beginners. So, I’m going to try to answer, from a technical perspective, rather than a philosophical one.

To get from your western birth chart to a Vedic natal chart, known as a "rasi", you have to remember that the Ascendant and every single planet moves 23.5 degrees from its western position for those born around the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, and 24 degrees sharp for those born in 2010. The western tropical zodiac moves apart from the sidereal zodiac 1 full degree every 72 years.

EXAMPLE:
• Let’s look at an example for a native born in 1970 with the Moon at 1 degree of western Taurus.

• Subtract 23.5 degrees from this Moon. It is roughly 7 degrees Aries in the Vedic zodiac, which locates this Moon in Ashwini, the first of the 27 asterisms.

You can do this to determine your own nakshatra. The 27 Vedic moon signs are more precisely delineated than the western sun signs – they are the jewels of the Vedic system.

MY OBSERVATIONS:
• Most folks will use software to do these calculations. Solar Fire calculates a rasi (pronounced "ra-shi") and a navamsa (pronounced "na-vam-sha"). But you become a better astrologer if you learn to calculate an approximate sidereal degree in your head - this technique will allow you to glance at a subject's Western horoscope and quickly "ballpark" their Vedic rasi, a useful skill for anyone who consults using both systems. For manual calculation of a navamsa, a navamsa table is needed.

• Your natal nakshatra, or Vedic Moon sign, describes your personality, and also sets up your planetary dasa structure. It is far more important than the Sun in Vedic astrology.

***
Now, you need to make the same calculation for the Ascendant, which is the second most important consideration in the Vedic system, and is also considered more important than the sign of the Vedic Sun.

EXAMPLE:
• Let’s look at an example for a native born in 1970 with the western Ascendant at 14 degrees Virgo.

• Subtract 23.5 degrees from this Ascendant. It is roughly 21 degrees Leo in the Vedic zodiac, which locates this Ascendant under the asterism of Purva Phalguni.

***
You will now make the same calculation for each of the seven traditional planets (Sun through Saturn) and the North Node (Rahu) and South Node (Ketu). Vedic astrologers use only the planets that were visible in the night sky, so the outer planets are not considered.

You will find that many of your planets will shift houses and signs as you move from a western tropical zodiac to a Vedic sidereal zodiac. This is because your Ascendant has shifted to a different sign. This tends to throw off a lot of beginners, who insist that a horoscope is meaningless if it doesn’t match the western horoscope.

The important thing to remember is that this does not make Jyotish inaccurate. It is a different system, and house meanings are different. Most people find that their Vedic horoscope complements the information found in their Western horoscope.

***
Let’s take a look at some examples, to see how this works. In Vedic astrology, the sign on the Ascendant often has an impact on career choice, or in some cases, life purpose other than one’s career – and it must make an accurate prediction about the native’s life.

In western astrology, the sign on the Ascendant describes personality traits, and sometimes, physical appearance. It also has an impact on career choice, so there is overlap between western and Vedic interpretation.

EXAMPLE:

Roommate - Western Libra Ascendant, Vedic Virgo Ascendant.

She is pretty and popular, with a strong interest in pop-culture and new bands and cool music. She is also fair in her assessments of people – very Libra. It is pretty clear how Venus operates as the lord of her western chart.

When I first tried explaining Vedic astrology to her, she insisted that she couldn’t possibly have a Virgo ascendant, which is the case in her Vedic chart. Yet, what does she do for a living?

She is an executive secretary who supports a hospital CEO. The job entails strong organizational skills and a detail-oriented focus, and these traits are supported elsewhere in her western chart. But the Vedic chart makes a prediction – Mercury as lord will determine the shape of her career choice, and it did.

***
Sometimes, the shift operates on a more subtle level that is not immediately obvious. Consider the following example:

EXAMPLE:

Western Virgo Ascendant and Gemini Mid-Heaven, Vedic Leo Ascendant

This woman is detail-oriented, and has always worked in Mercury-dominated career fields. She has been a secretary and a teacher (Gemini MC). She enjoys writing, and majored in journalism. A lot speaks to the western Virgo Ascendant, particularly in terms of career choice.

Yet, the Sun is the lord of her Vedic Leo Ascendant. To be valid, it needs to make some sort of accurate prediction about her life. A Leo Sun has to leave some sort of a lasting legacy, and this woman is me, the author of this blog.


WHAT’S THE BEST “GO-TO” RESOURCE FOR JYOTISH ON THE WEB?

Hands down, the best resource on the web is the vast and wonderful website at www.barbarpijan.com.

Barbara Pijan has made an incredible amount of material for Vedic students available for free on the Internet. No other Vedic astrologer in the US has made this kind of treasure trove available without charge. This website inspires my intent for this blog – I am striving to build the kind of treasure that Pijan and her husband have built, and make it available for free. In the best Vedic tradition, Pijan has acted as my role model or guru, even though I have never met or corresponded with her.

When I first encountered this website, the wealth of knowledge on the nakshatras alone kept me busy for a week. But there’s a lot more on here than just nakshatras.

This website will seem overwhelming at first. There is so much here that it boggles the beginner’s mind. But if the beginner persists, Pijan’s gift yields like a cornucopia.

She uses the Sanskrit terms for the planets (also called “grahas”) and signs (also called “rashis”) – this alone can scare away the beginner. You have to do a little bit of memorization of Sanskrit terms to be able to navigate easily in her world, so a quick run-down of the Vedic signs is shown below.

ENGLISH-SANSKRIT TRANSLATION

Sun = Surya
Moon = Chandra
Mercury = Budha
Venus = Shukra (note the similarity to the English word for "sugar")
Mars = Kuja or Mangala
Jupiter = Guru
Saturn = Shani

Aries = Mesha
Taurus = Vrishabha
Gemini = Mithuna
Cancer = Karkata
Leo = Simha
Virgo = Kanya
Libra = Thula
Scorpio = Vrischika
Sagittarius = Dhanushya
Capricorn = Makara
Aquarius = Kumbha
Pisces = Meena

ARE THERE OTHER GOOD SOURCES ON THE WEB?

Other good sources for articles on the web include the library at Komilla Sutton’s website (located under the Resources tab).

James Kelleher also maintains a well-written archive of articles on his website, which may be reached from the heading “About Jyotish” to the left of the mandala on the home page.

Another good stash of Vedic articles by Veno is available on her website. Veno is the illustrator of Prash Trivedi’s wonderful nakshatra book, “The 27 Celestial Portals”.

Veno's essays are a quirky collection with a little bit of everything from the “Cosmic Cow” to “Polynesian Astronomy”. In particular, I liked “Venus, The Beautiful One” and “Random Thoughts on Tantra”.

PART TWO - If you want the previous article in this series.

PART FOUR - If you want the next article in this series.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Moon Phase Astrology

Time Out: This may be the most creative, interesting astrology book published in 2011. Raven Kaldera expands our understanding of Dane Rudhyar’s classic, “The Lunation Cycle” by cross-pollinating the eight phases of the “Lunation Cycle” with the moon in all twelve zodiac signs for a total of ninety-six different archetypes. The entire cycle repeats every 240 days, which is close to the 236 days that Venus spends as a morning star (the two patterns may not be related, but it is interesting to see how a similar cycle operates in terms of the moon).

I put a review on amazon.com titled, “Catchy Archetypes and a Clever Perspective on the Moon”

(July 18, 2012), but I wanted to expand on it a little. This article is not a re-write of that review, so reading it first might be a good idea.

Kaldera is a Northern tradition pagan (Norse but not reconstructionist) and an experienced shaman. My sense is that he uses spirit helpers to guide his astrology, and the result is access to astrological ideas that are very different from the mainstream. Astrology revealed through trance or channeling of other-worldly wisdom doesn’t get the respect it deserves from traditionalists in astrology – these are the same folks who refuse to acknowledge the value of the Sabian symbols or give Elsie Wheeler credit for channeling them. My own view is that when revealed knowledge creates a bulls-eye match across a lot of horoscopes, its time to pay attention.

“The Lunation Cycle” was probably Rudhyar’s most widely read book, even though none of his books are an easy read, to say the least. You don’t need to have read “The Lunation Cycle” first in order to understand Kaldera’s book, but a quick recap of the classic may be helpful.

Here are some brief notes from a long-ago lecture I attended with Moses Siregar III:

NEW MOON – Not a large karmic burden – these natives are child-like in their energy. Moses Siregar III describes old and new version of the New Moon. He feels the young are just here to explore themselves, while the old ones have quiet energy and are going to do what they are here to do.

CRESCENT – Adolescent energy. Brittany Spears and Woody Allen have this moon. Enough said.

FIRST QUARTER (Waxing Quarter) – This phase is one crisis after another, and the focus is on scrambling to survive. Take it from me. This is my natal moon phase.

GIBBOUS – Siregar identifies it as perfect and very picky, and also notes the hard-driving, authoritative expression. Kaldera shows how this is truer in some signs more than others. I call it the corporate moon. The highest material expression of the moon happens here.

FULL MOON – Siregar says this moon learns through relationships, and tends to be focused on one long marriage, or on multiple marriages. Kaldera feels this moon has the best chance of liking themselves, but shows how it is hard for loved ones to access their minds and hearts.

DISSEMINATING MOON – This moon spills over and offers its knowledge and wisdom to the world in some manner.

THIRD QUARTER (Waning Quarter)– Siregar notes that this is the season of giving in to the dark – he feels that many of these natives reach an impasse (something that they really wanted isn’t going to happen for them). Kaldera feels this phase and the FIRST QUARTER phase are the most challenging natally.

BALSAMIC – The moon is almost spent and out of energy in its final phase. Its natives tend to be calmer and less reactive emotionally, too.

***
In "Moon Phase Astrology", Kaldera takes the above framework and shows it manifesting in each of the signs. The Libra New Moon is the “White Knight’s Moon” while the First Quarter Libra Moon is the “Black Knight’s Moon”. The contrast does turn out to be stark, but notice how a phase is skipped. In some signs, he shows how energy is carried from one phase to the next – for example, Full Moon, Disseminating Moon, and Waning Quarter Moon in Virgo are all “Fate” moons, but the Waning Quarter moon is the most “fated” of all.

How accurate are some of Kaldera’s descriptions? Here’s an excerpt from “Fate Moon”, the Waning Quarter moon in Virgo:

“The third Fate is the one who gets to say No, to draw the line and cut the cord….and she is lonely enough to want to reach out. Yet it seems that whenever she centers her life on others, things go wrong. She is forced to make difficult choices and defend her boundaries, and often cuts the cord and retreats again into solitary meditation. Being the one to mark out death is not an easy job, and it makes her desperate for human validation and coldly withdrawn by turn.

Still, she is required to render service to others. That service consists of saying No, setting boundaries, and perhaps of causing death. This is an important service that most people don’t appreciate unless they are in bad need of it, so she receives a lot of hostility in spite of her best efforts…

Many Fate’s Moon people live alone or end up living alone. A lot of time is spent facing health issues and death, of loved ones and themselves. Work is important to them, and the best job is either a service job that does not get closely involved or some kind of solitary work….This is not a Moon that is destined to learn about deep empathic melding with others…"

This is the natal moon for James Holmes, a 24 year old former neurology PhD candidate at the University of Colorado Medical School, who is better known as the Colorado Theater Gunman. He was born on Dec 13, 1987. In the space of a few moments, he shot 71 people, and killed 12 of them.



Friday, July 13, 2012

Chiron In Synastry

The author and her best friend on Jenn's wedding day.

One of my Summer 2012 “Double 007” projects is to figure out what Chiron means in synastry. So far, it’s been slow going (nobody said being a part-time astrologer is easy – darn good thing I still have the day job).

Obviously, Chiron can go either way – it can wound deeply or heal beautifully. Dismal synastry between two individuals involving a tight planet-Chiron conjunction isn’t my focus in this article – one will hopefully opt to get away from the offending person as quickly as possible – end of story.

Yet Chiron can be the hidden key to some very close, deeply loyal relationships between two people who don’t appear to have anything else in common in terms of synastry. Let’s find out why.

Nikki10 writes, " I do agree that soulmates are talked about and popular but many people dont really know what they are. A soulmate is a person that has agreed (before they are born) to help you learn lessons during your lifetime, and you have agreed to help them also, help their soul evolve." 11.08.12 forum.astro.com


CHIRON’S SECRETS IN SYNASTRY

• Chiron plays the healing role only when it is tightly conjunct a natal planet in the other person’s horoscope, using an orb of around 1 degree or less. (Actually, I would bet on the very tight opposition also, but I don’t have the charts to back this assertion up.)

• A light-bulb clicked on in my brain - Chiron also seems to operate something like the Moon when a conjunction is formed. In a synastry context, the emotions, vulnerability, and self-protectiveness of the Moon mesh closely with Chiron’s energy.

• For this conjunction to work without becoming terribly wounding and destructive, the two people can’t live together. If these two people recognize their need for space, and never attempt to live together, they can be life-long friends or lovers.

BFF, BUT YOU WOULDN’T KNOW IT FROM THE CHART ABOVE…

Here’s a nice example of two people who don’t appear to have much in common. My natal is on the Inner Wheel, and my best friend’s natal is on the Outer Wheel. Almost all of her planets are situated in the “middle degrees” between 9 and 21 degrees of a sign. None of mine are except Uranus. Yes, my Jupiter makes a partile trine to her Ascendant, but this is hardly “wicked crazy” synastry. Sure, a bunch of her planets make sextiles to mine, but sextiles do not a synastry make, if the reader catches my meaning. There is only one set of near-partile conjunctions in the chart – her Chiron and my Moon-Saturn.

Jenn lives in Cincinnati, and I live in Maryland – about eight hours away by car. We have been friends for nearly 15 years, and I am god-mother to her daughter. Months may go in between phone conversations, and we don’t keep in touch on Facebook, but when we do get on the phone hours pass before we stop talking, and we pick up effortlessly on the shared experience of our life as if the time lapse was unimportant. We also have a remarkable shared taste in jewelry – Jenn is always buying me cleverly designed, semi-precious pendents or necklaces on QVC, and I hardly ever return anything.

Over the years, I know that Jenn has healed (her Chiron) my limitations (my Saturn) almost unconsciously. I only get to spend a week or so at her house in Cincinnati every other year or so, but during that week I feel as if I have come home. Plus she tells me how intense that week is for her (her Chiron is on maximum overdrive, and that can be exhausting).

We both recognize how difficult it would be for the two of us to live together, even though we did it for three months when I was leaving my ex. In our synastry, the Saturn is mine, and I am the one with the crazy, “fucked-up” life, especially when compared to her stable, married, suburban existence. The healing dynamic of Chiron goes both ways, though. Like a gentle physician, she gives me stability and sensitive insight, and I teach (Chiron) her about a wide world of experience that she wouldn’t otherwise access.

First, let’s look at what Lois Haines Sargent says about a Moon-Moon conjunction in synastry in her mid-century classic, “How To Handle Your Human Relations”, first published in 1958.

MOON CONJUNCT MOON

"Feminine and domestic urges are similar. There is similarity of viewpoint and tendency of mood and disposition. The two individuals will be sensitive to each other’s moods and feelings. Reactions often produce telepathic thought exchange."

"These two agree on little things, and have many likes, dislikes, and tastes in common. There is mutual understanding and sympathy. Many similar traits of personality will be noticed. A tight Moon conjunction is considered a “soul-mate aspect”.
P 53

***

Clearly, Jenn’s Chiron operates something like a Moon, and interacts with my Moon in the way described by Lois Sargent above.

Jenn’s Chiron is also very close to my Saturn. In synastry, a Moon-Saturn conjunction is the “tie that binds”. Below is an excerpt from my private notes on Sargent’s book:

"Tight aspects between Moon and Saturn (conjunction, square, opposition, trine, and sextile) are the gold-standard for longevity in a marriage (or a friendship). Sometimes this can be a double-edged sword, because a spouse who suffers abuse finds it very difficult to leave a marriage when a strong Moon-Saturn aspect exists. This aspect is often shared between couples who remain separated for years before finally agreeing to a divorce."

"There is a real sense of duty and obligation to one’s spouse with this aspect, but the energy dynamic does carry a price. A best case scenario blends the Moon-Saturn 'tie that binds' with one of the soul-mate aspects, and other aspects that promote agreement, enjoyment of one another, and compassion."


Sargent goes on to describe the drawbacks of a Moon-Saturn conjunction in synastry – there can be a dominant-submissive dynamic between the two individuals which may burden the Moon person in particular. The conjunction can be a “ball-and-chain” for life. Yet when Chiron “acts like the Moon” and conjuncts Saturn, a healing interaction occurs without any of the negative bondage or limitations associated with the Moon-Saturn bond.

A striking depth and connection and loyalty toward each other is present in our friendship, but the fact that each partner gives the other a lot of space is what makes the relationship last. These people cannot live together, but will be as close as soul-mates as long as they live apart.

When people with very tight planet-Chiron conjunctions spend too much time together, something happens and the relationship fizzles. Chiron is half-horse, and horses get restless and skittish when kept in the barn – they need to be able to run free. These relationships can last a lifetime when each person is allowed the freedom to live apart.

***
With regard to understanding a tight Chiron conjunction with another individual’s planet, I knew I was on to something. So I flipped through my horoscope collection, looking for more examples. A tight Venus-Chiron conjunction would be the soul of tact with each other, I hypothesized. A tight Mars-Chiron conjunction would have one person healing the tendency for anger and aggression in the other – this assumes it is manifesting well, and that these two don’t kill each other first.

Unfortunately, these aspects are rather skimpy in my chart collection – partile or near-partile conjunctions are not common aspects. The best I could come up with was a polyamorous couple with a partile Chiron-Saturn conjunction who don’t live together. The Chiron person is happily married to a third party. The Saturn person has had a difficult life, but relishes his independence. She is a great wit, and heals with continuous, funny banter. Those who know them realized that these two were in love for years, long before they openly acknowledged polyamory.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

HELP FOR VEDIC BEGINNERS (Part Two)

VEDIC ASTROLOGY BASICS…WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT FROM WESTERN ASTROLOGY?

The North Node is known as Rahu, the serpent-demon of insatiable desire. Rahu is ruthless, having sharp weapons in his hands. Yet he also carries a shield and protects when he wants to (not depicted here). He is shown riding a lion, which symbolizes his belief that he is the royal equal of the gods. He protects in a godly manner and attacks in a demonic manner, just like Durga or Shakti. His decision to protect or attack the native is entirely based on the karma the native has earned.

This is another question that I get a lot, and it can be hard to sum up without wandering. So, I’m going to pick four big differences, and stick to ‘em.

This article isn’t going to deal with anything technical. Calculating a Vedic chart by hand and learning enough Sanskrit to get around a Vedic website will be covered in Part Three, the next article in this series. Part Four will examine how to read a North-Indian style natal chart. So sit back and enjoy Part Two, which covers the interesting stuff without requiring much mental effort from you, dear reader.

One artist strongly influenced by Rahu on an unconscious level was George Bellows, an early 20th century American painter. Many of his paintings depict outcasts, dark-skinned men, poisonous or toxic landscapes, demonic facial expressions, and other strong Rahu elements. Even this peaceful picture, titled "Blue Morning", reveals the deep blue color and smoke or haze traditionally associated with Rahu.

1. THE NAKSHATRAS

Vedic astrologers borrowed the western Sun signs from the Greeks, and grafted it on to their own system more or less successfully, but the Moon signs are uniquely Vedic. They are considered the jewels of the Vedic system.

From a newbie perspective, the mere idea of learning 27 distinct archetypes is so much more exciting and confusing than the idea of mastering 12 sun signs and their meanings. It tends to winnow out folks who aren’t serious about grasping Jyotish pretty quick.

Rahu is shown riding the lion of royalty, while Ketu rides the vulture associated with death, destruction, and karmic clean-up.

Some of the asterisms occur in pairs, like Vishaka (Radha) and Anuradha – the name “Anuradha” actually means “Another Radha”. This means they share some core underlying characteristics.

One central meaning of the Moon is family, or tribe, or caste, or sub-caste. It connotes one’s people, or one’s social sphere. An exalted Moon was believed to be “tight” with its family – it didn’t warm to outsiders, or let them in very often. So the asterism Rohini, where the Moon is exalted, is said to take on this quality, and this is generally accurate for those born under Rohini.

A fallen Moon was believed to exhibit the opposite quality – it was extremely open to foreigners or outsiders, and often prospered among them socially and financially. The Moon is considered fallen in Anuradha, and natives born under this asterism often do exhibit this quality.

There is no way to do the nakshatras justice in this article. In Part 1, I mentioned the best book for a beginner is "The 27 Celestial Portals" by Prash Trivedi. A more extensive review by this author is available on amazon.com - the date is Nov 6, 2007, and there aren't that many reviews, so it should be easy to find.
This iconic painting by George Bellows of two boxers reveals volumes about American race-relations in the early 20th century. Today, the "Fight" painting is considered a masterpiece.

The Rahu theme is very strong, including the triumph of a black man, and the demonic expressions on the faces of the spectators which are not visible in this image.



2. RULING PLANETS RULE; FALLEN PLANETS HURT BAD

This is one huge difference between Vedic and western astrology. In Vedic astrology, ruling and fallen planets have actual predictive value – their impact on destiny may be of staggering importance. Western astrology tends to emphasize beneficial personality traits in connection with ruling planets, and often minimizes fallen planets altogether. There is almost no predictive value associated with western planets in rule, exaltation, detriment, or fall.

In Vedic astrology, one considers ruling, exalted, and fallen planets in the rasi and also in the navamsa, the "marriage chart" which has a secondary use - it gives a snapshot of the native's life after age 35 or 36. All of these may and usually do have a distinct impact on the person’s life.

For those who did not have an earlier chance to read my article, “Which Vedic Techniques Actually Work?” this might be a good time to do it.
This is a twin mantra for Rahu and Ketu.

Here are a few observations:

Obviously, it would be nice to have no fallen planets in either the rasi or the navamsa. Those who have only fallen planets in the rasi and also in the navamsa are here to suffer. This often brings about spirituality, and sometimes results in a fascinating life-story. These people have had interesting lives because they have suffered, in some cases.

This painting by George Bellows is titled "Night Excavation". The dark midnight-blue shades of Rahu predominate. The focus on toxic elements mined from the earth, and the vulnerability of nearly invisible miners crouching around a flame point to a very Plutonian theme. There is some cross-over between Pluto and Rahu. Rahu also represents new technology, and it helps to remember that new mining techniques were high-technology in the early 20th century.

For people who have a number of ruling or exalted planets in the rasi, the results may not be as great as expected – the person ends up a comfortable, upper-middle class citizen with an ambitious lifestyle amidst a social sphere of similarly status-conscious individuals, or as leading members of their small town or city, or as comfortable housewives who marry well and are happy with their kids, and never achieve anything else. It is almost as if too much ease early in life makes them complacent. This is particularly true when the rasi is full of ruling and exalted planets, and the navamsa is just average.

It is better to have a relatively weaker rasi and save one’s ruling and exalted planets for the navamsa, since the navamsa is thought to map the second half of one’s life. This suggests a person who is able to realize real career and personal achievements after an early life of struggle and obscurity, or just plain hard work.

A fallen Saturn has a “generational” effect on many of the people born during the 2 ½ years that Saturn occupies Aries – I realized this while reading Barbara Pijan’s website. Aries represents new life, and Saturn-in-Aries natives tend to be hesitant about starting new life, or to limit their progency. A lot of one-child couples have at least one parent with Saturn in Aries. Or there is a significant age difference between the first and second child, suggesting secondary infertility or a desire to be a one-child couple for a long period.

Fallen malefics (Saturn and Mars) are said to manifest more consistently than fallen benefics (Jupiter and Venus) do. My own internal jury is still out on this.

Those with ruling, exalted, and fallen planets are more likely to associate these placements with distinct life experiences which occur at or near the age of maturation. That said, some individuals will experience significant success or failure even if the planet is located in a “regular” sign (see discussion of Angelina Jolie in Part Four).


3. PLANETS MATURE AT CERTAIN AGES

In Vedic astrology, planets mature at certain ages, and the full potential of the planet is seen at this time. Malefic planets, including the Nodes, are said to “calm down” after they give their maturation effect, allowing the things they represent better integration or at least less importance in the native’s life.

Nonetheless, there are some individuals whose lives are so dominated by a particular planet or Node, that when maturation occurs, it as is if the horoscope has no energy left to give, and the person dies. George Bellows, the early 20th century American painter who left a cow-town (Columbus, OH) to become one of New York’s most famous artists, was strongly influenced by Rahu – his famous painting of boxers and tenement children depict sacrifices and outcasts, and even his landscapes included Rahu elements of haze or smoke. He died at age 42, the age at which Rahu matures.

Here are the ages of planetary maturation:

Jupiter – Age 16

In modern times, having a ruling or exalted Jupiter usually shows some special opportunities for higher education or learning. For example, my ex’s Jupiter-in-Sag daughter won a scholarship to study in Germany for a year while she lived with a German-speaking family, and was also able to do a film internship in Germany – this turning point influenced her choice of college and career.

Jupiter is the karaka (indicator) of both children and spouse for a woman. In Vedic times, a girl was married at or before 16, and expected to produce a son soon afterwards. Having a strong Jupiter was considered a great blessing – it ensured the health of her husband and child, and likely promised a safe delivery. Girls with a strong natal Jupiter were and still are prized in the Indian marriage market.

Sun – Age 22

In modern times, this is when a young person begins to assert themselves in the job market.

Moon – Age 24

In Vedic times, a woman was fully established as a mother by the age of 24. Before the 20th century, if a woman did not marry by this age, she was likely to remain a spinster. In 19th century American culture, girls who were not chosen for marriage as teenagers often had a last chance at marriage around this age. Usually this came about because a sister died in childbirth, and a girl married her brother-in-law so that her sister’s children would be raised by an aunt.

Venus – Age 25

Venus is all about love and/or money. In modern times, significant love affairs often occur at this time. Some people plan weddings. Some are gifted the money to buy their first home. Some get their first decent job at this age. Some end up on unemployment for the first time – Venus gets lazy, but still brings in some money. And for some, nothing happens.

Mars – Age 28

This coincides with the 1st Saturn return in western astrology. It is a time of greater initiative and independence in life – Mars brings the courage to strike out in a new career, or move to a different part of the country, or to return to school. It is around this age that many young people finally leave their families behind and become completely financially self-supporting.

Mercury – Age 32

More intellectual development takes place at this time. Those with writing careers may publish their first books. Some become managers of others with significantly increased responsibility around this age.

Saturn – Age 36

As Veno notes, whatever the person has been working toward gives its full results at this age, usually in the house that Saturn occupies. Often either great upheaval or greater security and stability are the result. For an example of this, see my discussion of Angelina Jolie in Part 4.

FYI:
Veno is the artist who did the beautiful illustrations in "The 27 Celestial Portals" by Prash Trivedi, and who also happens to be a talented Vedic astrologer in her own right.

Rahu – Age 42

This coincides with the western Uranus opposition, and for many, the onset of a mid-life crisis or real career success, or both. Rahu is associated with extra-marital liaisons of all kinds, dark-skinned people, foreigners, witchcraft, toxins, pharmaceutical use, aviation, hidden knowledge, and electricity. Rahu likes the things that society doesn’t approve of much, like kinky, BDSM sex. Komilla Sutton notes Rahu’s role in power-plays of all forms. Some achieve real power or prestige in their careers for the first time - my high school friend won his first state senate race as his Rahu matured.

Ketu – Age 48

This is the only one I haven’t experienced myself – it is said to be a spiritual turning point. In Vedic times, this was the age when a man’s grown sons could take care of their mother, so a man was free to become a wandering sadhu or at least go on extended pilgrimage. Ketu has a reputation for Neptune-like confusion and deception, but it is also said to be “like Mars” in terms of courage and initiative. People who are destined to take top roles in corporations are usually taking big steps toward that role around this age.

This painting is titled, "Burning Oil Well at Night near Rouseville, PA about 1861" by James Hamilton. Ketu is associated with oil and natural gas.

***

Not only planets but also houses experience an age of maturation in Vedic astrology. It is beyond the scope of this blog, but Veno gives a great overview of this phenomenon in her article, “Maturity of Planets and Houses”. For people who ask, “Well, what happens after I turn 48?” this article will suggest some answers for those younger than 66 years old.



4. RAHU & KETU

Hands down, Rahu and Ketu are far more important in Vedic astrology than the North Node and South Node are in western astrology. Rahu and Ketu have their own associations and mythology, and for all intents and purposes, have the status of planets, although they are not planets and do not act as lords of other houses. Rahu and Ketu even assume some of the properties of the outer planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto - planets that Vedic astronomers may have suspected existed although they could not see them.

Here’s a brief recap of the Rahu-Ketu myth: A demon with a desperate craving for the nectar of immortality connived a way to steal it, and managed to swallow it, but the Moon and the Sun tattled to Lord Vishnu, who swiftly retaliated by chopping off the demon’s head. The head (Rahu) retained its insatiable craving, while the headless body (Ketu) became associated with inability to function in the real world (and also with spirituality).

Here we see Rahu devouring the Sun, which Vedic sages believed is what happened during an eclipse. Some western astrologers have connected Rahu with the mythical dragon, because the North Node was traditionally called "The Dragon's Head" in classical times.

Rahu and Ketu are emphasized when they conjunct a planet, and strongly emphasized when they tightly conjunct the Ascendant or Mid-Heaven axis. Ketu is generally recognized to cause more trouble in the house where it lands, but the two always work as a pair.

As noted earlier, Rahu is associated with extra-marital liaisons of all kinds, dark-skinned people, foreigners, witchcraft, toxins, pharmaceutical use, aviation, hidden knowledge, smoke, haze, and electricity.

While Ketu is often associated with poverty, disaster and paralysis (inability to function), it does have some more positive associations, some of which are associated with considerable wealth in some cases. These include oil and gas, film, photography, and pilgrimage.

Those born in Ketu dasa will find their entire forties are dominated by Rahu and Ketu, because they will begin their Rahu dasa and experience the gain or loss associated with the early years of this dasa during the same decade that everyone else experiences the Rahu and Ketu maturation. For these folks, there are only a few breaks from Rahu and Ketu during the entire decade.

***
UPDATE - JULY 2, 2012
This article was being written while more than 1.3 million homes in the Washington DC area lost electricity during a near-100 degree heat wave. Everyone suffered (Rahu rules electricity). I don't even want to admit how much I've gritted my teeth and tried not to scream during the past two days, and some people still don't have power. But the trick is to find the "silver lining" in the sacrifice demanded by Rahu. My hope is that readers enjoyed the result.

PART THREE - If you want the next article in this series.

PART ONE - If you want the previous article in this series.




Tuesday, June 19, 2012

HELP FOR VEDIC BEGINNERS (Part One)

The South Node is known as Ketu, which means "comet", because a comet resembles a long, fiery tale without a head, and Ketu is also headless. A comet was often considered a portent of disaster, and so is Ketu.

I get questions about how to start learning Vedic astrology so often that I figured I’d better just write a blog article about it. My goal was to eventually write a series of articles explaining a lot of the topics that beginners find confusing.

Then, I sat down to actually start writing a comprehensive article that would be easy enough for any beginner to grasp, and realized what a wide-reaching subject this is, and how it resists condensing. It didn’t take me long to figure out why articles like this are not readily available.

So, I decided the Vedic beginner needed some hope, and some practical advice wouldn’t hurt, either. If you understand modern western astrology, and want to get started teaching yourself Vedic astrology (also called Jyotish, which means, “Path of Light”), you need some sort of framework, or a gentle guru who has gone before you who can guide the way…so this is where I need to live up to my reputation as a teacher. Let me know how if I accomplish my dharma, readers!

WHY DO MOST PEOPLE WANT TO LEARN JYOTISH?

Most folks are attracted to Jyotish because of its predictive value. This means they are already starting to come to terms with the fatalistic nature of Vedic astrology before they begin to study it. If you are the sort of gentle reader who cannot wrap your brain around pre-ordained fate, and must believe in free will to maintain your sanity, Vedic astrology is going to hurt. (As pagan author, Raven Kaldera, puts it, “Tis an ill wind that blows no minds.”) It does not preclude free will, but it does not give it the same emphasis found in modern western astrology.

WHERE DO I BEGIN?

Assuming that you are certain of your birth time, the easiest thing to do is to spend some money for a complete analysis of your Vedic chart, including your dasas, or major planetary periods. You should do this around the time you buy your first book, and start exploring online resources. You will be able to refer to your report as you read, and you can hand-check the calculations from your Western horoscope to make sure they are correct (this article will show you how to do this).

If you consult a Vedic astrologer for a reading, it will be more expensive than getting a printed analysis, and most Vedic professionals need to charge separately for it – they can’t afford to “throw it in” for the price of a reading.

Glancing around online, I see that Vedic Scholar is offering a full report for $50.00. Here is the link.

A full report will contain interpretation of well-known yogas, and may even throw in a few obscure ones. Most beginners are very curious about yogas because of their predictive value - yet yogas are not a beginner’s topic (See my article titled “Which Vedic Techniques Actually Work?”, and note the final section on yogas.)

Here’s a good STUDY OUTLINE for the beginner:

1. Learn how Vedic astrology works.
2. Learn as much as you can about all 27 nakshatras (Vedic Moon signs)
3. Then worry about yogas – don’t worry – #1 and #2 will take you years, little grasshopper.

CAN I DO MY RASI AND DASAS MYSELF?

If you can’t afford a report, but you do have an accurate birth time, you can still figure out what your Vedic “rasi”, or natal chart, looks like. You can even estimate your planetary dasas (covered later in this series). It may not be as accurate as a report run on computer software, with an analysis by a live human being (who is hopefully an experienced Vedic astrologer), but it’s good to learn how to do calculations yourself – you learn far more thoroughly this way (this will also be covered later in this series).

If you have access to western astrology software such as Solar Fire, you can calculate a rasi, a navamsa, and other divisional charts. These charts are done on western-style chart wheels, so they will not look like Vedic charts. Nor does the Solar Fire software calculate the planetary periods, or dasas. But it’s still helpful if you want to sketch a quick chart yourself, and would like a software program to back up your calculations.

WHAT’S THE FIRST BOOK I SHOULD BUY?

The first Vedic book you should buy is “Ancient Hindu Astrology for the Modern Western Astrologer” by James Braha. Trust me on this…there are a lot of beginner books out there, but this 1976 classic does the best job of covering all the bases. This was the book that introduced Vedic astrology to the United States. It is available used on amazon.com. Here is the link.

This was my very first book on Vedic astrology, and years later, I still look back through it from time to time. It covers almost every beginning topic in detail. It does not cover nakshatras (Vedic moon signs), but the Vedic zodiac is better covered in a good nakshatra book (patience, little grasshopper, we’ll get to that…)

Once you have mastered the Braha book, you will be ready for some of books by modern astrologers who are writing today.I like “Path of Light: Volume 1 Introduction to Vedic Astrology,” by James Kelleher, which is available on his website. This book is selling well, and there are good reasons why. Here is the link.

It’s a hardcover book, dear reader, so you know it’s going to be pricy. If you only have money for one book by Kelleher, Vol. 1: Introduction to Vedic Astrology is a better pick than Volume 2: The Domains of Life.


I’VE GOT TIME ON MY HANDS. WHAT’S THE BEST NAKSHATRA BOOK?

The most extensive and accessible book available on the topic is titled, “The 27 Celestial Portals”, by Prash Trivedi. Sharp-eyed readers will note my amazon.com review of the book under my real name. Here is the link.


MINI-VEDIC LESSON #1

In Vedic astrology, two planets are conjunct if they reside in the same house. You will see this referred to as, “Saturn is with Mars”. Saturn and Mars do not need to be conjunct in the western sense.


This is a south-Indian style chart with Mars and Saturn conjunct in 11th House for a Pisces Ascendant. A whopper of a yoga is formed, because Mars is exalted in Capricorn, and Saturn rules here. Having both the malefic planets in one house is almost always hard on the house itself, but here it confers powerful benefits, both in terms of the lordships, and also within the 11th House itself. However, this does not mean that Mars and Saturn lose their power to teach painful lessons in this house.


Modern Vedic astrologers do take into account that a western-style conjunction of two planets is more noticeable. For example, a native with Mars conjunct Venus is said to be a “leader of their village”. In my experience, this effect only shows up when the two planets are closely conjunct in the Western sense, and I only use orbs of around 6 degrees.

PART TWO - If you want the next article in this series.





Tuesday, June 5, 2012

UAC 2012: THE MOST TIRING CONFERENCE YOU’LL EVER LOVE (Part 3)

Life at UAC 2012 in New Orleans...Hospitality Girls Rock! We kept this conference on its toes.

From left: Christine Thomas, Susan Scott, Kelley Hunter, our lovely boss, and this author, Monica Miller (aka Sunny Dawn).

This is my FINAL ARTICLE on UAC workshops that I personally attended. I hope my readers enjoy the whole series.

The next couple of workshops shown below reflect two different approaches to timing transits which bring on lucky financial increases. Both astrologers look at the charts of lottery winners to show these techniques in action, but both also stress that lucky configurations often mean some other form of luck than a lottery win.

Joni Patry’s Vedic technique is simple to understand. David Beazley’s technique is more complex and requires special software. Beazley also provided an extensive handout – without this, context will be lost on recording.

JONI PATRY – How To Predict A Sudden Rise In Life

Patry is especially easy to understand, and her presentations are very well-organzied. She has found that when transiting Jupiter and transiting Rahu (North Node) form a trine, and when a third planet just happens to be in a natal position which completes the formation of a grand trine, this brings on a better paying job, or a lottery win, or some other luck.

Looking at lottery winners’ charts, she emphasizes that the transit is slow enough to encompass both the date of the ticket purchase and the actual date of winning. Her feeling is that the Nodes represent a change in destiny and the beginning of new life experience, so that somehow these two dates will be related.

DAVID BEAZLEY – How To Find A Winner

Beazley’s technique involves looking at “midpoint pictures” formed by transiting trans-Neptunians. Regarding lottery wins, he feels the technique works best for the day the ticket is purchased. Having a lucky natal horoscope isn’t essential – not everyone has the traditional lucky natal aspect between Jupiter and Uranus. Even if you don’t have a “big winner” natal chart, you can still improve your odds and chances of smaller wins using the Nova Chart Wheels software to follow trans-Neptunian transits, and if you can’t figure it out, you can always pay him to do it for you.

Evening on Jackson Square in the French Quarter, with the iconic St. Louis Cathedral in the background.

JOSEPH CRANE – Why Did Dante Put Astrologers In Hell?

Crane takes us to spy on the astrologers of Canto 20 in the Inferno, who imitate the motions of the planets as they walk in never-ending circles, and whose bodies are twisted because they twisted everything in their predictions.

He shows us Dante’s ambivalence toward the astrologers. Dante selects examples of famous diviners such as Tieresias and Manto, and mixes them with astrologers like Figulus and Guido Bonatti, in an effort to show why the entire profession stands accused and condemned. But some of the stories are false, and Crane says that Dante’s well-educated contemporaries would have perceived this.

Crane also points out that Dante rarely, if ever, made mistakes in the Comedia, and suggests that Dante knew his audience would recognize the inaccuracies and interpret accordingly. So Dante delivers the necessary double-speak, as well as an authentic and genuine warning against astrologers who deliberately falsified their predictions, or who gave council they knew was wrong.

Crane does an in-depth and thorough look at one of the more puzzling cantos in the Inferno. This is a nice recording for history buffs, because he treats his famous and obscure classical sources with equal care.

POST CONFERENCE

RICHARD “RICK” TARNAS - The History Of Rock And Roll

Let me say that I am more than a little in awe of Rick Tarnas, author of the best-selling “The Passion of the Western Mind”. He really conveys passion for the subjects he finds most fascinating – and he’s so darn smart on top of it. Few people who attended UAC managed to stick around for a post-conference, but this one was totally worth it. As Tarnas himself put it, it was a very select performance – almost as if he was giving a private concert.

Folks waiting for their own concert on Frenchman St. in Marigny, just outside the French Quarter.

He begins with the premise that astrology helps you understand the music, and music helps you understand the astrology, because music conveys the archetypes more directly than other arts. He also points out that rock-and-roll begins with the convergence of European and African cultures – so New Orleans is the perfect city for this presentation.

The Pluto-Uranus conjunction of the 1960’s dominated the birth of rock-and-roll. Pluto represents submerged and simmering anger and sexuality, and Uranus is electric and revolutionary. With the sextile to Neptune, shocking and sinful music emerged.
Tarnas delineates each period of development, beginning in the mid-1950’s, with the corresponding secondary conjunction or other aspect which most influenced events.

The Jupiter-Uranus conjunction from the summer of 1954 to the summer of 1955 lasted just 14 months, but Elvis Presley had his first recording, Chuck Berry released his first record, Kerouac publishes “Howl”, Ferlinghetti’s poems are released, and all three of James Dean’s movies come out during this brief period.

From there, Tarnas follows the conjunction of Uranus and Pluto, which really gets started around 1962, and shows how developments in rock-and-roll occurred each time the conjunction made an aspect to other planets. Even secondary aspects were magnified by the unleashed flood of energy – for example, John F. Kennedy was assassinated under the Saturn-Neptune opposition of 1963.

Tarnas also does a sweeping critique of the Beatles, careful analysis of the natal charts of Elvis, Bob Dylan, and Mick Jagger (along with plenty of music clips), and shares insight into why the majority of stars of this period did their best work before turning 30. It isn’t possible to do this presentation justice within the scope of this blog, so I recommend the recording and accompanying video if it is available.

***
In honor of today's Venus Occultation, here's a picture of Venus in the arms of her Mars...


Sunday, June 3, 2012

UAC 2012: THE MOST TIRING CONFERENCE YOU'LL EVER LOVE (Part 2)

Life In The Big Easy...Great music with no cover charge at BMC on Decatur St. near Esplanade.

UAC 2012 LECTURES – WHAT SHOULD YOU BUY?

Attendees spend a considerable amount of time trading tips on the lectures and presenters they liked, because folks find that the lectures they most wanted to attend occur in the same time slot as one or two others that were also on their bucket list. So everyone wants tips on what recordings are worth the price at the end of the conference, as well as which ones might be worth skipping.

Here’s a continuation of what I’ve liked so far:

CHRIS TURNER – Suddenly I’m Old. How Did That Happen?

“I think I believe in reincarnation, but even if I don’t, I’ve lived a lot of lives.”- Chris Turner

Chris Turner, a spunky and opinionated 70 year old Australian, designed this workshop because she felt there is only limited structure for interpreting the horoscopes of clients past age 60, and even less for those past age 75.

As one of the youngest people present, I learned a lot from this presentation, and not only from Turner, but from the audience. Comments from the audience will enhance this recording if they are preserved.

Turner talked about the Pluto-in-Leo’s insistence on demanding change on social issues – from feminism to divorce – and says they will continue their demands into old age, requesting not to be abandoned in nursing homes, and voluntary euthanasia for those who want it. These are older people who hope to return to live with their families, even though Pluto-in-Aquarius suggests the death of the conventional family.

She also mentioned that the Pluto-in-Leo’s born in the late 1940’s and 1950’s will experience a Pluto opposition between the ages of 85 – 90, the first generation to experience this transit since the planet was discovered, and also the first cohort to experience it at such a young age.

It used to be that a lot of people died around the Uranus return at age 84, but this age is increasing for many people. Elderly people still have a tendency to die very close to their birthdays, indicating involvement from the Solar Return.

Turner bluntly states that living longer than age 84 may not be all that desirable for many of us. She feels a widow in her early 80’s may not have that much to live for – the relationship with the great-grandchildren is nowhere near as close or special as it is with the grandchildren – and it is the relationship with grandchildren which sweetens the lives of the elderly.

***

QUIK RESTAURANT TIP: Palace Cafe on Canal St. near the Marriott has amazing pecan catfish for $17.00.

Venus descending a staircase during busy lunch at Palace Cafe.

ONE MORE RESTAURANT TIP: Domenica in the Business District has a great half-price happy hour. Spicy lamb meatball pizza, and very good desserts. Don't miss!

***

PRISCILLA COSTELLO – Playing The Hand That Pluto Has Dealt

This presentation was a scattered grab bag of many different ideas – Plutonian spiritual practices, shielding techniques in Plutonian situations, Pluto’s natal aspects to the Sun, and Pluto’s transits were all covered.

A natal Pluto-Sun aspect may make us especially vulnerable to seduction or being overwhelmed by a member of the opposite sex. A Pluto transit to the Sun (or a transit to the progressed Sun) may indicate the possibility of surgery or weight loss – it can really change one’s appearance. Diets done during this year have a greater chance of success.

Listeners who are hoping for a focused presentation may become somewhat frustrated by this lecture. Those who are comfortable piecing together many different topics as they listen will probably enjoy it.


GLENN PERRY – Oppositions: The Scylla and Charybdis of the Birthchart

Perry has a smooth, melodious speaking voice (he’s a professional therapist) and is reliably focused throughout the presentation, so this recording should be worth the money.

The take-away lesson is that natal oppositions reveal the essence of what one achieves in terms of a career or contribution to society. For example, Mark Zuckerberg’s chart is full of oppositions. His Venus closely opposes Saturn, Mars, and the Moon, and he has another tight opposition between Mercury and Pluto. The oppositions manifested with his creation of Facebook – Zuckerberg designed it for those who want to have relationships (Venus), but want to be in control of the dynamic (Saturn). Facebook also allows us to dig out (Pluto) information (Mercury) about others with whom we might be in relationship.

Perry does equally insightful analysis of the T-Squares in the natal charts of Bill O’Reilly (Fox News) and George Lucas (creator of Star Wars). Listeners will be thinking about how they express their own oppositions in terms of career or personal ambitions by the time they finish this recording.

ARLAN WISE – An Astrological Look at Internet Dating

Wise first does a run-down on the houses from a dating perspective, and then surveys the on-line dating landscape with cautionary tales about romance fraud, and other mistakes that Internet daters tend to make. She is protective and reformist - her current relationship is with someone she met through on-line dating – but in her own words, Internet dating can be a “playground for overactive Uranus and projective, wishful Venus”.

A number of topics are covered – 1st meeting charts and the value of particular transits. Long-term and important relationships often begin under Venus Rx, while there are more likely to be a lot of false starts under Mercury Rx. A strong Pluto transit will change your life situation, and may also bring about a relationship with someone totally different from anyone you have ever dated before.

Anyone single or in a relationship with someone he or she met on the Internet is likely to enjoy this presentation – it’s a very occult Venus topic!

***

Certain cities express astrological polarity in a very visible way. Polarity is a pair of opposite signs, like Aries and Libra.
TIP FROM MY ROOMMATE: New Orleans is a purely Scorpio city, but they eat like Taureans (foodies all the way).

TO BE CONT'D.