In Vedic Astrology, Rahu (the north lunar node and “head” of the serpent) and Ketu (the south lunar node and “tail”of the serpent) are important factors representing our karma and also other facets of our lives. Rahu represents the influence of the current avatar or life and where we are going in life, as well as dominating our basic instincts, while Ketu represents that of our past-life karma.
The two also relate to other planets. Rahu connects to Saturn, a Vata-planet and Ketu to Mars, a Pitta-planet, yet they also have other connections as well. Ketu relates to the atmaguru or inner-guru at a deeper level, as also the inner workings of our buddhi or intellect, as through the planets Budha (Mercury) and Brihaspati (Jupiter, the teacher of the Gods). Rahu connects to the Moon (representing the mind), which it eclipses, while Ketu eclipses the Sun (representing the Self), yet both nodes can eclipse either Sun or the Moon and have specific influences upon these planets that they either aspect or are associated with in the charts.
Virgo is said to be ruled by Rahu (along with Mercury) and Pisces is ruled by Ketu (along with Jupiter), the opposite signs. When placed in such signs, these planets hence produce more power, as also when they transit such places and affect other planets as per their placements, locations of signs and energetics. Virgo is half-way through the signs, while Pisces represents the end of the signs, as sign twelve. Here, Rahu represents the start of our journey and hassles we face,as through the health-sign of Virgo and the sixth-house, while Ketu represents death and the end of the journey, the liberation from it via the twelfth sign (Pisces) and twelfth house. While Budha or Mercury is the progenitor of mankind via the Sun, so also Jupiter is the cosmic Guru of mankind as Devacharya (teacher of the Gods), from which they descend. Not surprisingly then, we find Rahu’s daughter Prabha, marrying into the lineage of Budha Atreya (Mercury’s ruler) and his lunar line.
Wednesdays are sometimes used for the days of placing or wearing vaidurya (lehsunia) or cat’s eye, the gemstone for Ketu, worn generally on the little or middle-finger of the right-hand. The little finger is also that of Budha or Mercury. It is said to be the stone of insight, wealth and also kavacha (protection) against evil influences and black-magic, as well as the stone of choice for those in the gambling field, as also stock market, representing unexpected and sudden gains – as also can Rahu’s gemstone gomed or hessonite also grant. Such should be worn with caution, however and only after consulting astrologers, due to the karmic purgation and sudden effects they can bring the wearer, which may result in losses! For this reason, such harsh stones are better for yogis and astrologers who can handle such energies and harness their inner powers.
This is also as, both planets represent the two sides of the immortal Naga or serpent-deity (Sarparaja, Nagaraja) in it’s many incarnations as Takshaka, Ananta and also Vasuki, who can be helpful, but also harsh to materialistic minds, having detached Shiva-energy. Reverence for serpents overall, especially cobras helps alleviate the issues caused by Rahu and Ketu, who, like serpents, can also grant divine and inner or occult knowledge, such as knowledge of the Tantric path, of alchemy and alternative higher systems of healing. Rahu connects to systems such as radiation theory (formally cauterization was used), while Ketu more to modern surgical approaches such as laser surgery that are beyond the scope of traditional medicine of the ancients (but connects to solar and lightening-like kundalini energies that were known to yogic healers). Healing via gemstones at a deeper energetic level are also under their domain, as also finding gemstones (ratnas), the power of them, insight and also dhana (wealth) in general, said to be under the domain of serpents, as also immortality (which falls also under alchemy).
Strange states such as comatosed states as also those caused by poisoning fall under Rahu, while those that can cause such states and unexpected incidents as brain hemorrhages fall under Ketu, representing mysteries diseases that can also be sudden and fatal. The term for a comatosed state in Sanskrit is sanyasa, which is of course also the final ashrama or stage of life for Hindus, the stage of renunciation. Rahu is the state beyond ordinary consciousness, while Ketu is more the means to reach such a state by his sudden and harsh actions – the reactions of our actions or past-karma. Ketu represents the culminative causes or nidanas, while Rahu represents more the effect produced as a result. They are said to be the evil agents or Saturn, who represents our collective (sanchita) karma, as per some classical astrological texts.
In India, serpents or nagas overall however are connected to the deeper wisdom of Ayurvedic healing systems and also philosophy,as through Lord Shiva, the lord of nagas or serpents and also classical yogis and philosophers such as Nagarjuna and even Patanjali, the latter who was seen as an incarnation of Ananta, the great serpent-deity. They hence have an ancient and important place in Hinduism and in Yoga. Here, they can also cause kundalini disorders, where a person thinks they are being enlightened or attaining a greater state of consciousness, but actually fall into deep psychological psychosis or delusions (unmada / moha-bhavas), rather than divyabhavas or spiritual states they confuse them for, especially under Rahu and his transits and influences, especially upon the moon and other psychological indicators and first house and it’s lord. Ketu can cause people to become married away and zealous.
Here, Rahu and Ketu can cause one to become psychotic, but can also produce geniuses, with some eccentricity. They help open up the mind when with or aspecting the Moon, and specifically in yogic charts, help to represent going beyond the mind and even gaining of yoga siddhis or mystic powers of yoga, which are personified by nagas or serpents in the yoga tradition. Like Rahu and Ketu however, the inner-forces of yoga as indriyas (senses) or pranas (breaths) that are sometimes also seen as nagas, are difficult energies for the materialistic or conditioned mind to process, understand and come to terms with. We often see our losses in life as negatives, when they only often seek to drive us inwards and beyond our temporal myopia, so that we may learn new things, ways and also become stronger at dealing with challenges. They help us understand that life, like our experiences and even relationships are often temporal and we should seek to develop some sort of vairagya or detachment from them, the best we can.
In traditional Tantra, the goddesses Dhumavati (Nirriti) and Chinnamasta (Vajrayogini) relate to Ketu and Rahu respectively. However, it makes more sense to connect Dhumavati with Rahu, the head, due to her smokey-nature and the fact that like Rahu eating the moon, she is also the eater of her husband, Lord Shiva, or individual consciousness (atman) itself. Here, she represents the state of Parashiva-tattva or the Supreme Self (paramatma), the state of shunyata or void, also known as Atattva in Saivism. Chinnamasta, like Ketu is a headless trunk, being the headless Goddess who is a decapitated form of the Goddess Bhairavi, the fiery Martian goddess, much as Ketu is a form of Mars and operates as an inner form of him. Like Ketu, while decapitated, she drinks her own blood as amrita (ambrosia) and remains immortal herself.
Sometimes, forms of Vishnu as Varaha (the boar) are connected with Rahu, as his incarnation, which connects to Dhumravarahi, the “smokey sow”, a form of the Goddess Dhumavati that likewise relates to smoke (dhuma). So also, the Matsya (fish) form of Vishnu connects to Ketu, the headless trunk, who is often depicted as a headless torso arising from a fish’s body or mouth, thus connecting more also to Chinnamasta.
The two also have counterparts in the Vedas. The deities Mitra and Varuna are strongly connected to karma and past life transgressions in the Rig Veda, as forms of Rudra-Shiva in his form as Saturn (Varuna) as the karmic dispenser and lord of mrityu (death) and also the Sun’s form (Mitra). The Sun is actually sometimes lauded as the “eye” of Mitra and Varuna. Here, Rahu connects to the shadowy influence of Saturn and the karmic difficulties that obscure our Self, while Ketu represents our inner-Gurus as the friend (Mitra) that helps us see our true Self, without the issue of possessing a head or ego. The two hence go together. Varuna comes from the root vr meaning “to cover / obscure”, just as Rahu eclipses the moon and represents the smokey and shadowy nature of the Self, as it’s inborn avidya or ignorance at a lower level, but also as nirakarajnana or formless wisdom of the Supreme Void on a higher level. Invoked together as Mitra-Varuna, they form the immortal and eternal serpent as Ananta or Sarparaja, the king of the Nagas.
Here also, the goddess Nirriti in the Vedas connects as the female counterpart of Varuna’s wife, Varuni, as causing poverty and distress due to our ignorance, yet also helps us learn life lessons beyond it, as Dhumavati, while Indrani (Shachi), the spouse of Indra is also Gayatri, the goddess whose song delivers us from ignorance, a form of the sun connected to Mitra’s spouse and also connects here to Chinnamasta in her headless form. The Goddess herself states she is the head (murdha, Rahu) and also the banner or flag (Ketu), representing the twin nodes, in the Rig Veda in her fierce (Ugra) form (RV.X.159.2), hence as Dhumavati-Rahu and Chinnamasta-Ketu.
Other forms such as the great Jnani, Sri Ramana Maharishi and his chief disciple Sri Vasishtha Ganapati Muni also represented the twins Mitra and Varuna of the Vedas and interplay of Rahu and Ketu. At a deeper level, Sri Ramana represented the inner-form of Varuna-Rahu as the higher wrathful aspect of Lord-Shiva in his kinder incarnation as Mitra, while Ganapati Muni represented the wrathful energy of Varuna (often feared for his shrapas or curses), but also acted as the physical conduit through which Sri Ramana’s teachings came as the Sun or Mitra, the personification of the word of Brahman, or the Vedas. Ganapati Muni was also a devotee of Renuka or Indrani, a form of goddess Chinnamasta as Vajreswari or the lightening-goddess, and here hence connects to Ketu, as also since he had the experience of kapalabheda or the opening of his skull as a result of his tapas or austerities and devotion to the Devi. Ramana and Ganapati were also seen as Skanda and Ganesha respectively, as the two sons of Lord Shiva; of these, Ganesha also relates to Ketu as his deity and also form as the cosmic and inner Guru, the esoteric form of Brihaspati, the Guru of the Gods.
The interplay of Rahu and Ketu thus permeates not only astrology but also Hinduism, with them being immortalised and taking numerous incarnations as teachers in the world, through empowering the Rishis or Vedic Seers. Their lessons can often be overbearing, but also present us with innumerable deeper lessons and insights, if we remain open and attuned to listen to them and endure their forces, beyond the ego-mind sphere of duality!
OM Namah Shivaya!
– Rig Veda Samhita
– Charaka Samhita
– Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra
– Lal Kitab
– Dr. David Frawley: Ayurvedic Astrology: Self-Healing Through the Stars