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.