Learning Indian (Vedic) Astrology

I have been rather quiet on my various blogs recently. This has been a rather busy time for me. During the month of May, I took a course at Kepler College called Crash Course in Indian Astrology, which was taught by Kenneth Miller. The course proper is finished, but I still need to finish the final homework assignment.

I had wanted to study at Kepler College when it was still able to offer Master’s degrees, but at the time, it was not possible for me. I have also been curious about Indian Astrology for a long time. Unlike Western Astrology, Indian Astrology has a living tradition, so it did not seem fitting to attempt to learn it through self-study. It just so happened that I learned about this course at the same time that we got a nice-sized income tax refund, so I decided to go for it.

At the time, I had no intention of “converting” to Indian Astrology. I was only seeking to learn a little more about it so that I could talk intelligently when asked about the subject by friends or clients. A “crash course” seemed perfect for that purpose. Now that I am in the home stretch, I find that I am re-thinking the entire direction of my practice. Before I discuss this, however, I want to talk a little about the differences between Indian and Western Astrology.

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Differences between Indian and Western Astrology

Indian Astrology, or Jyotish, is a different astrological language from Western astrology. It is a related language. Much of the vocabulary is recognizable, but it is used in different ways. Below are some of the main differences that I have learned so far.

Sidereal Zodiac(s)

Even beginning astrology students usually know that most practitioners of Western Astrology use the Tropical Zodiac, which is based on the Solstices and the Equinoxes.  When learning this, students also learn that Indian Astrology uses “the” Sidereal Zodiac which is based on the constellations.

As it turns out, this is not really accurate. To begin with, none of the Sidereal Zodiacs in use by practitioners of Indian Astrology truly correspond to the actual constellations. For one thing, the constellations are not all the same size.  The largest constellation, Virgo, is about 3 times the size of the smallest constellation, Capricorn. Just like the Tropical Zodiac, the Sidereal Zodiacs divide the ecliptic into 12 equal parts.

The difference is merely in where 0° Aries begins. In the Tropical Zodiac, 0° Aries begins at the Spring Equinox. In theory, the Sidereal Zodiacs begin at the first star of the constellation Aries in the sky. There is a problem, however. There is no bright star at the beginning of Aries to measure by.

As a result, various calculations of what is known as the Ayanamsa exist. The Ayanamsa is the difference between 0° Aries and the Spring Equinox. Apparently, historically, different almanacs were published in different villages with different Ayanamsas, most of which were calculated using one of the bright stars at the end of the constellation Pisces.

This became a problem not just for astrologers. In India, the dates of most of the major festivals are based on the position of the stars. The different Ayanamsas meant that different villages were celebrating their festivals at different times. To remedy the chaos that this could cause, in the 1950s, the Indian government standardized the Ayanamsa using modern scientific methods. This became known as the Lahiri Ayanamsa.

This did not settle the issue for astrologers, however. Apparently, rather than using stars at the beginning of Aries or the end of Pisces, Lahiri uses Spica, which is at the end of the constellation Virgo, and sets 0° Aries opposite to this fixed star. There is no traditional authority that allows the Ayanamsa to be calculated in this way, so there are quite a few astrologers who reject this calculation.

All in all, it seems like the calculation of the Ayanamsa in Indian Astrology is as chaotic as the quadrant House divisions are in Western, if not more so.

Other Technical Differences

Speaking of House divisions, practitioners of Indian Astrology, by and large, use the Whole Sign House system. This goes a long way in reducing the amount of chaos that the different Ayanamsas would otherwise cause.

This brings me to a different issue. Even though most practitioners of Western Astrology use the Tropical Zodiac, there are some that do use one of the Sidereal Zodiacs. There was a time that I did not have an opinion on this, but now I do. My current opinion is that this is not a good idea.

There is some research that suggests that Vettius Valens, a renowned astrologer of the Hellenistic Era, used a sidereal zodiac along with or instead of the Tropical Zodiac. Even if this was the case, the methodology of Western Astrology has developed using the Tropical Zodiac for almost 2,000 years since that time. One of these developments has been quadrant-based House Systems, such as Placidus or Regiomontanus, and there is no real consensus between Western Astrologers as to which one to use. So, if you combine the uncertainty as to the Ayanamsa with the uncertainty of quadrant-based houses, you are increasing the chaos exponentially.

Even if you use a Whole Sign House System, the methodology of Indian Astrology is very different than Western. For example, Indian astrology does not use the five-tiered dignity system that Western Traditional/Classical Astrology uses. It does use exaltation and rulership. It also uses something that is known as debilitation, which corresponds to Fall in Western Astrology. Aside from that, dignity is based on a system of friendship and enmity between the planets and a complicated combination of other factors, many of which are not considered or are considered differently in Western Astrology. Also, Indian astrology does not use the Ptolemaic aspects. Instead, the only aspects it recognizes are planets that are in the same sign and opposite signs and special aspects for Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

Given these differences, in my opinion, it does not seem wise to “mix and match” by using one of the sidereal zodiacs with Western astrological methodology.

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Philosophical Differences

While there are major technical differences between these two astrological languages, the most profound differences are in their philosophy.  While people of other religions can and do practice Indian Astrology, by and large, it is rooted in Hindu beliefs and religious rituals. This gives it a rich philosophical and spiritual foundation that is mostly lacking in Western Astrology as it is practiced today.

For example, in Indian Astrology, the planets do not operate mechanically. They are governed by Intelligent deities. This means that if you are having trouble with a planet, one of the things that you can do about it is to appeal to the deity of that planet for relief. Hinduism also has rich teachings about karma that explain the interaction between Fate and Free Will in a very profound way.

It is also a common practice for Jyotishi (practitioner of Indian Astrology) to say prayers to the planetary deities before reading a chart. Our instructor began each class with one of these prayers.

My Dilemma

As I said, when I started the course, I did not intend to “convert” to Indian Astrology. Now, I am not so sure. Obviously, I do not know enough after a “crash course” to switch at this point in time. I will still be offering my services in Western Astrology for the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, I have been working on developing what I have been calling Essentialist Astrology. Essentialist Astrology is more of a philosophy of practice rather than a methodology. After learning about Indian Astrology, I wonder if this is not a fool’s errand.

Much of what I have been trying to do in Essentialist Astrology is a regular part of the practice of Indian Astrology. Indian Astrology is patriarchal, of course, but not as much as one might think. For example, the planetary deities are all masculine, but the stars and the deities of the Nakshaktras (the Indian version of Lunar Mansions) are all feminine.

Also, while Indian Astrology is mostly rooted in Hinduism, there are many practitioners of other faiths such as Buddhism and Jainism. This is one of the reasons that the instructor prefers the term Indian Astrology to Vedic Astrology.  When I asked what practitioners of other religions do, I was told that it was perfectly acceptable to substitute the angels or deities from one’s own tradition for the Hindu gods. Apparently, Buddhist practitioners use bodhisattvas or aspects of the Buddha, and Christian and Jewish practitioners use the Archangels.

So, substituting the planetary Janyati for the Hindu gods does not seem like it would be a problem either.

Given all of this, it seems like it may be more productive to study Indian Astrology than it would be to keep struggling with Western Astrology. I do not know yet, but it is something to seriously consider.

My New Shrine

One of the things that I have done is to make a new shrine, which is on the top shelf of the desk that I work at. In Filianism, it is encouraged to use images for Dea and the Janyati from living traditions rather than historical ones whenever possible. This is because with living traditions, we have more confidence that we are using the images correctly. I was able to stick to this practice with my new shrine, as you can see below.

 

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From left to right: Sri Saraswati, Quan Yin, Green Tara, Uma, White Tara, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sri Durga

 

In this shrine, Our Lady of Guadalupe is Sai Raya (the Sun). Quan Yin is Sai Candre (the Moon). Sri Durga is Sai Vikhë (Mars).  According to the Chapel of Our Mother God, Sri Saraswati can represent either Sai Thamë (Jupiter) as the Divine Musician or Sai Mati (Mercury) as the goddess of Wisdom and learning. I chose to have Her represent Sai Thamë.

I had originally planned to use Sri Lakshmi for Sai Sushuri (Venus), but I could not find a statue that I liked. Instead, I found a lovely image of Green Tara. I had a difficult time with the image to use for Sai Rhavë (Saturn). Many of the images associated with Her, such as Kali, are rather difficult. In Filianism, She is loosely associated with the Dark Mother, who is God without Form, and thus has no images. In researching, though, I discovered that White Tara bestows longevity and compassion for earthly suffering. If nothing else, it seems like it is appropriate to go to White Tara for Rhavic difficulties.

Surprisingly enough, I had the most trouble with Sai Mati. I thought I might use an image of Sophia or even a historical image such as Athena, but I could not find one I liked. I found an image of Uma in a catalog, and I kept being drawn to it. I did some research, and I discovered that She is a mountain goddess of Wisdom. I found a story about Her that I really liked in which She taught Agni, the god of fire, and Vayu, the god of wind, about humility. This reminded me of The Sermon of the Apple Seed from the Feminine Scriptures, which I try to keep in mind in all of the work that I do.

Where Do I Go From Here?

So, the question is, now what? Where do I go from here? The answer to this is that I do not really know. I guess the first thing is to finish the last assignment from my class. There are a few books that the instructor recommended that I have not had the chance to read yet, so that will probably be the next step.

I guess after that, I will let the Janyati lead the way and see where that goes.

The Moon’s Nodes, What Do They Mean?

There are some topics in Western Astrology in which there is a widespread consensus. The meaning of the Moon’s Nodes is not one of them. This article will talk about what the Nodes are and discuss various approaches taken by Modern, Classical, and Indian Astrology. Finally, I will talk about the approach that I have developed in my own practice.

What are the Moon’s Nodes?

From the Earth, it looks like the Sun travels through the sky in a circular path which is the same every year. This path is known as the ecliptic. The other planets, including the Moon, all have orbits that vary somewhat from the ecliptic. The Moon’s path varies about 5°. Because the path of the other planets varies from the ecliptic, they all cross the ecliptic twice along their orbit. The places where they cross are known as the planet’s nodes.

Ecliptic

Of the planetary nodes, it is the nodes of the Moon that are of the greatest significance. This is because, from the perspective of the Earth, the apparent size of the Moon is the same as the apparent size of the Sun. Thus, whenever there is a New Moon near one of the Nodes, there is a Solar Eclipse, and whenever there is a Full Moon near one of the Nodes, there is a Lunar Eclipse.

Modern Karmic Interpretation

In recent years, the most commonly used interpretation of the Moon’s Nodes is that they relate to personal karma. In this interpretation, the South Node relates to one’s past lives and the North Node relates to one’s future. A complex version of this method of interpretation is put forth by Steven Forrest in his book, Yesterday’s Sky.  In this method of interpretation, Steven Forrest explains how he uses the South Node’s sign, house position, and ruler as well as the planets that aspect the South Node to tell a story about a person’s past life. He makes no claim that this story represents a factual past life. Instead, he claims that the themes of the story are what is important and that by understanding these themes, one can heal from one’s karma. From this idea, he has developed an entire branch of astrology, known as Evolutionary Astrology.

Not all Modern astrologers go this far, but the use of the South Node to indicate past lives and the North Node to determine one’s future direction has become widespread.

Other Modern Interpretations

While the karmic interpretation of the Nodes seems to be extremely popular in the present day and age, it seems to be a relatively recent one. For example, in an astrology textbook from 1971, The Compleat Astrologer, by Derek and Julia Parker, there was no mention of the karmic interpretation. In this book, the North Node was described as beneficial and having characteristics similar to Jupiter, and the South Node was described as adverse and having characteristics similar to Saturn.

In her book, Classical Astrology for Modern Living, by J. Lee Lehman, Ph.D., Dr. Lehman discusses a Nodal Cycle that seems to have been derived from Dane Rudhyar. This cycle traces the Moon’s path along the ecliptic as it travels across the North Node, reaches her Northernmost point, travels South, crosses the South Node, keeps going until she reaches her Southernmost point, and then travels North again. Dr. Lehman gives complete delineations for each of these stages when they are found in a Nativity Chart.

Classical/Traditional Western Interpretation

There seems to be a fair about of confusion and ambiguity about the meaning of the Nodes in the Western Tradition. In Book 1 of Christian Astrology, William Lilly reports that “the Ancients” considered the North Node, or the Head of the Dragon, to be of the nature of Jupiter and Venus and a Fortune. According to him, the Ancients taught that the North Node was good when conjunct good planets and evil when conjunct evil planets. In contrast, the South Node, or the Tail of the Dragon, is evil when joined with good planets and good when joined with evil planets.

After this description, William Lilly disputes with this interpretation, saying “upon what reason grounded I know not.” He says that he as always found the North Node to be the equivalent of the Fortunes and that:

when joined with the evil Planets to lesson their malevolent signification; when joined with the good to increase the good promised by them. For the Tail of the Dragon, I always in my practise found when he was jointed with the evil Planets; their their malice or the evil intended thereby was doubled and trebled, or extremely augmented.

He then wrote that when the good planets were joined with the South Node the good that was promised by them was disrupted and often came to nothing.

In his book, Hellenistic Astrology, Chris Brennan discusses a variety of approaches to the Nodes taken by astrologers in the Hellenistic Tradition. Some viewed both of them as negative because they were the places that eclipses formed. This was particularly true when either of the luminaries was found with them. The approach of “the Ancients” that William Lilly described seems to have been recorded as far back as Rhetortius of Egypt in the early Sixth or Seventh Century.

Rahu and Ketu in Vedic Astrology

In Vedic Astrology, the North Node is named Rahu and the South Node is named Ketu. Rahu and Ketu are considered planets in their own right. According to myth, the Devas and the Asuras worked together to churn to the ocean to create a substance called Amrit, which was a nectar that would grant immortality.  The Asura stole the Amrit for themselves, but Lord Vishnu took an incarnation as a beautiful woman, Mohini, to distract the Asura and take back the Amrit.

 

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Rahu

Mohini then went to the Devas to distribute it. One of the Asura, named Svarbhanu changed his appearance to obtain some of the Amrit. He sat between the Sun (Surya) and the Moon (Chandra), but they recognized him and exposed him to Lord Vishnu, who severed Svarbhanu’s head. Svarbhanu had already received a drop of the Amrit, and thus, did not die, but remained forever split in two. The head is Rahu and the tail is Ketu. Since that time, they have taken revenge against the Sun and the Moon by swallowing them, but as the Sun and Moon are also immortal, they always emerge intact.

 

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Ketu

 

Rahu is the head and has a mouth with no stomach. This means that Rahu can never be satisfied. Rahu is what we desire but can’t get enough of. In contrast, Ketu represents the things that we have no interest in and that bring us no pleasure.

How I Use the Nodes

Given the diversity of opinions on the Nodes and what they do, as a practicing astrologer, if one is to use them, one must work out what to do with them. For myself, the one thing that is clear about the Nodes is that they are the places where eclipses form.

Metaphysically, eclipses are the temporary triumph of Darkness over Light. As such, I view both of the Nodes as malefic influences. In a birth chart, if a person’s Sun is within 16° of either Node, that person was born during an Eclipse Season. The person is also likely to experience one or more eclipses by secondary progression in their lifetime.

In my own research, I have noticed that people who were born into eclipse seasons tend to be heavily impacted by larger social events or movements on a personal level. This impact is not always traumatic, but it often is. If they were born between eclipses, this impact will influence their entire life, but its power will dissipate somewhat when they progress into an un-eclipsed Lunation (New or Full Moon). The direct effect will largely subside at the first uneclipsed New Moon, although they will still bear the scars. If a person progresses into an Eclipse season, the impact will begin at that time rather than at birth.

For those who were not born during or progress into an Eclipse season, I treat the Nodes as collective karma rather than as individual karma. I look at their position in the chart and their interaction with other planets to determine where and how collective karma impacts the native.

In addition, I have considered integrating the principles of Rahu and Ketu, and I have seen some positive results in my initial research. On the other hand, I am a little dubious of “mixing and matching” principles in this way.

Quiet Heroines

In my last article, mentioned that I had started a new project, a website called Quiet Heroines. This website will feature the stories of women who have led extraordinary lives, but whose voices have been lost to history.

I intend to feature a new heroine every month. There will be a main article with historical and biographical information about her which will come out on the first Sunday of the month. After that, throughout the month, I will add bonus articles, often discussing astrological information relevant to the heroine, such as a birthchart analysis, a proposed rectification chart, or other things that may be of interest concerning her.

The first heroine is Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, and the main article is:

Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

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Zodiacal Releasing: The Narrative of Our Lives

As an astrologer, I am very conservative about adding new techniques into my practice. In my experience, when reading an astrological chart, in many ways less is more. I have found that the more techniques I throw at a chart, the harder it is to interpret, and the fuzzier my reading becomes. For this reason, I was not immediately ready to jump on board when I first heard about an Ancient Hellenistic technique known as Zodiacal Releasing. This past February, however, the Hellenistic Astrologer, Chris Brennan released a podcast and YouTube video on this technique which included a good basic description of how to use it. You can find this video here.

What is Zodiacal Releasing and How Does it Work?

Zodiacal Releasing is a Time Lady technique. Time Lady techniques divide a person’s life into sections, with a planet or planets ruling each section. Zodiacal Releasing is a little different than many of these techniques in that it uses zodiac signs rather than the planets.

It is a rather complicated technique, and the division takes place on four different levels, with Level 1 spanning years and sometimes even decades and Level 4 spanning days or sometimes only hours. This technique uses the Lot of Spirit or the Lot of Fortune as the launching point depending on what you are using it for. Chris Brennan describes it as dividing one’s life into chapters and paragraphs, but it makes more sense to me to use the analogy of trilogies and story arcs.

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Evaluating New Techniques

Before I go into my thoughts about Zodiacal Releasing, I would like to explain my process for evaluating techniques to determine whether I will incorporate them into my practice. The practice of astrology has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. The ready availability of computers has made casting a chart much, much easier than it was when I was twelve years old and learning to cast a chart by hand on the kitchen table using my mother’s astrology textbook.  Furthermore, everywhere you look on the Internet, there is someone talking about a new (or old) technique or practice. If one were to learn and use everything available, it would be chaos. To manage this, I have a process I go through to sort through techniques that I encounter.

1. Is the technique sound on a metaphysical or philosophical level?

While some astrologers take a purely pragmatic approach to our craft, it is my own belief that we cannot separate what we do from our philosophy.  Sometimes, with older techniques, it is not possible to know their metaphysical basis; however, from my perspective, the older the technique is, the more likely it is to be sound on a metaphysical level, even if we do not know the underlying philosophy.

2. What is the lineage of the technique?

I think it is very important to know where a technique comes from to the extent that it is possible. Now, while I am not one who believes that we must trace every technique to an Ancient, Medieval, or Renaissance text, I do tend to favor techniques with a deep historical lineage. There is a problem, though. In the West, we lack a living tradition. At most, we have remnants that have survived through the ages.  So, when we uncover older techniques, we must reconstruct them, and we are very likely to get it wrong.

So, from my perspective, the best techniques are the ones that have stood the test of time. Given how broken the astrological tradition is, there is a surprising amount that has survived relatively unchanged. For example, with the exception of granting the Outer Planets rulerships over signs, the rulership system has remained largely unchanged since the Hellenistic Era.

With respect to modern techniques, I do not reject them out of hand; however, to me, the burden of proof with respect to them is extremely high.

3. How well is the technique understood?

In the past several decades there have been many dedicated translators and researchers who have worked hard to recover traditional astrological texts, including the late Robert Schmidt, who founded Project Hindsight, and Robert Hand. Even so, the process of recovering and understanding techniques is not an easy one. In many cases, all we have are incomplete texts without a living teacher to explain them properly. So, even when we have ancient techniques with a solid pedigree, we must still proceed with caution.

4. Does the technique work?

While this is not my first consideration in evaluating techniques, I am a practicing astrologer and not a researcher. If I am going to use a technique, it needs to work, and it needs to work reliably and consistently. Most of the time when techniques are presented, the astrologer will give example charts, and of course, it is important to carefully listen to the examples presented. That is not enough, though. The technique needs to work for me.

I first test a technique on my own chart. The reason I do this is that I know my own chart the best, and I have the most information about my own life. There is a disadvantage in that it is hard to be objective about one’s own chart, but I have long experience as an astrologer and in testing techniques on my own chart. If the technique does not work on my chart, and I cannot see a good reason why it would not, I usually reject it out of hand.

From there, I test it on other charts that I am familiar with, and then move on to charts of celebrities and famous people. I am a bit ruthless when it comes to these things. For me, the burden of proof is on including a new technique, not excluding it. I generally expect a technique to work at least 80% of the time, and for there to be a good reason why it did not work on the other 20%.

5. Does it tell me something I did not already know?

I already use a number of different techniques, and it is hard enough to juggle the sometimes confusing amount of information that can be gleaned. While there is something to be said for getting the same information from several different techniques, life is short. If a technique does not improve my readings, even if it meets all of the above criteria, I will not take the time to incorporate it in my practice.

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Evaluating Zodiacal Releasing

So, now that I explained my process for evaluating techniques, how did Zodiacal Releasing do? The short answer is…very well! For the long answer, let’s go through my criteria.

1. Is Zodiacal Releasing sound on a philosophical and metaphysical level?

The technique of Zodiacal Releasing was found in Book 4 of the Anthology of Vettius Valens, and he attributes it to Abraham. Generally, when a technique is attributed to a religious leader by a Classical text, it is an indication that the source is Ancient revealed knowledge. As such, it can be presumed to be sound on a metaphysical basis, even if we do not fully understand it.

Yet, the details of the technique also suggest its philosophical basis. In using the technique, one moves the Lot of Spirit, which is related to the mind and the will through the chart. In doing so, one pays attention to its relationship to the Lot of Fortune, which is related to bodily matters as well as luck or chance. In other words, this technique considers how one’s will interacts with the forces of fate or chance.

2. What is the lineage of Zodiacal Releasing?

As mentioned above, the technique is found in Vettius Valens’ Anthology and is attributed to Abraham. On the other hand, the technique had largely been lost, and as far as can be known at present, there is no mention of it in the texts from later traditions.

So, by necessity, we are dealing with a reconstructed technique. This is not an ideal situation, but if it passes all of the other tests, it is certainly not a reason to exclude it from consideration.

3. How well is Zodiacal Releasing understood?

There have been astrologers, including Chris Brennan, who have been researching and working with Zodiacal Releasing for over a decade. While there is a lot of work still to do, this seems to be a good start.

4. Does Zodiacal Releasing work?

When I watched the YouTube video explaining this technique, I was impressed from the beginning. With just a superficial understanding, the technique captured the major turning points in my life. The more I learned and the more I played with the technique, with my own chart and the charts of others, the more impressed I became. I think I can safely say, even with the limited understanding that I have, it is by far the most accurate timing technique that I have come across.

5. Does Zodiacal Releasing tell me something I did not already know?

Yes, it does. In applying this technique, I understood things about my life and my life direction that had long baffled me. When I practiced the technique on a couple of my friends, they reported that it really helped them understand the meaning of things that they had gone through in their lives.

How to Learn Zodiacal Releasing

Zodiacal Releasing is one of the more complicated techniques that I have come across. I would definitely classify it as an Advanced technique. I would not recommend it to a beginning student of astrology. A good understanding of astrology in general and at least some familiarity with Traditional/Classical Astrology is necessary.

As mentioned before, the technique is described in Book 4 of Vettius Valens’ Anthology. A full translation of Anthology translated by Mark Riley is available for free pdf download here. The technique is also described in great detail in the last chapter of Chris Brennan’s book, Hellenistic Astrology.

On the other hand, this is one technique I would not recommend learning on your own, even if you are an experienced astrologer. If you are interested, I would start by watching the YouTube video I linked to above. From there, I would highly recommend Chris Brennan’s course.

He teaches this technique as a part of his Hellenistic Astrology course, but he also has a stand-alone course on Zodiacal Releasing available. It consists of an 18-hour video lecture plus a great deal of bonus material. While you do not get individualized instruction, there is a comments section, and he does answer questions that way.

Next Steps

As you might imagine, it is not often that I incorporate a new technique into my practice, so it is always exciting when I do. I still need to work with and practice this technique before I fully incorporate it.

For a while now, I have been considering a new project. I got this idea when I listened to the full soundtrack for the musical Hamilton. The final song talks about Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, and all that she did after he died to preserve his memory. I thought about the many other stories of feminine bravery that we know nothing about. My idea was a site specifically devoted to telling these stories. I have a lot on my plate right now, and I did not know how I would find time for another site.

Yet, with this new technique, it occurred to me that I could combine this project with my research of Zodiacal Releasing. My plan is to write a biographical article about each woman, and then to include bonus astrological articles about them whenever possible, using Zodiacal Releasing and other techniques.

The new site is live, and its name is Quiet Heroines: Celebrating the Power of the Feminine. I plan to have the first article up on Sunday, April 7, 2019, and it will be about the woman who inspired the site, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton.

Can Eclipses Bring Good Things?

When reading the article on my astrology site regarding the Lunar Eclipse of January 21, 2019, a friend of mine noticed that I suggested that the launching of the modern Olympic Games was related to the Saros Series that this past Lunar Eclipse belongs to. In response to that, my friend asked me whether eclipses could bring good things?

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That is a really interesting question, I think. In my research, many inventions seem to have been related to eclipses, as was Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the Americas. This would seem to be problematic to my assertion that eclipses represent periodic, temporary triumphs of Dark over Light. Or is it?

It would take a wiser person than I to have anything that resembles a full and complete answer to this question, but I do have some thoughts on the matter. To start with, I think that it is undeniable that eclipses can bring things that are beneficial to some people. For example, I live in the United States, and I would not be living here if the discovery of the Americas did not happen. On the other hand, this discovery was not beneficial for everyone, and indeed, it was quite harmful to the original inhabitants of this continent.

In order to unravel this mystery, it may be helpful to look at the Symbol of the Cross and our nature as Axial Beings.

The Symbol of the Cross

The CrossI have discussed the Symbol of the Cross before, but here is a brief overview. The Cross relates to the material world. It has two axes, the horizontal and vertical. The horizontal axis relates to pure materiality, and the vertical axis relates to spirituality. Even though they cross in the middle, these two axes are independent of each other. One can do very well on the material axis while falling into Darkness on the spiritual axis. In the Christian written tradition, Jesus is reported to say, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24, NRSV. Likewise, it is possible for someone to do poorly on the material axis while rising towards the Light on the spiritual axis. Indeed, in the same Christian tradition, this was the fate of the saints and martyrs.

Inventions and discoveries often give us a more comfortable life on the material level. In this sense, they are good and beneficial. On the other hand, they are usually neutral and can even be harmful to us on a spiritual level. In many cases, inventions are necessary due to the fact that we have declined on both a material and a spiritual level. See also The Bugbear of Literacy by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy.

So, in effect, there is no reason why there should not be things that are beneficial on a material level associated with eclipses. I would say that even so, there is a good chance for there to be an element of Darkness involved as well. That is certainly the case with the discovery of the Americas, and it could be argued that there has been some Darkness surrounding the Olympics from time to time in its history. I will address the Olympics in more detail later, but before I do, I would like to discuss another element of discoveries related to eclipses.

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Eclipses and the Modern Scientific Worldview

Not only have there been many discoveries that have been astrologically associated with eclipses, but eclipses themselves have led to direct discoveries about the Universe, or at least the mechanical workings of it. While these discoveries are interesting and even useful, they have also prompted the current belief system of the modern Western scientific community. This belief system appears to be that the Cosmos is merely a mechanical place governed by chance and random events. In this belief system, an eclipse is merely a shadow.

Yet, in spite of this, or perhaps because of it, there is almost a religious fervor to encourage people to go out and watch eclipses. In a sense, viewing an eclipse seems to be almost of the nature of a religious test to prove that one is not bound by the “superstitions” of the past. In this respect, I do believe that the modern embrace of eclipses is an intentional movement into Darkness, even though there have been technological advancements associated with it.

Our Nature As Axial Beings

This being said, I think there something different going on in the case of the Olympics. Yes, there have been negative things associated with the Olympics including violence and countries using them for political purposes in terms of boycotts and the like. On the other hand, I do believe that the modern Olympics is a positive development not just on the material level, but a movement towards the Light on a spiritual level. Indeed, even the negative things that have happened may have prevented wars and more serious problems as countries could take their aggression out on the Olympics instead.

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Yet, it does appear that they are related to eclipses. There was a Total Lunar Eclipse that occurred on November 4, 1892. Later that month, on November 23, 1892, Pierre de Coubertin launched the plans for the modern Olympic Games. This eclipse was 44 minutes long, and if you count a month for every minute of totality, this would mean that the full impact of this eclipse would not be felt for another three years and four months. This would be the end of March and early April 1896. This was the beginning of the first modern Olympics in Athens.

So, what is going on?

I think this has to do with our nature as Axial Beings. Humans are the ones with the power to choose. Even if Darkness is present, we have the choice to embrace it or reject it. From my research, one of the features of eclipses is that they seem to be times when our Axial nature is tested. There are many repentance stories surrounding eclipses. One of them was the Eclipse of Thales that stopped a war according to Herodotus. There was a long-standing war between the Medes and the Lydians. There was a Solar Eclipse that occurred during the battle, which caused the parties to stop fighting and negotiate a peace.

Perhaps the launching of the modern Olympic Games is of this nature.

Implications

So, what does this mean?

In Modern Astrology, often eclipses are presented as times of opportunity and spiritual growth. It would seem that this might be the case from what I have said.

Yet, I think this goes too far.

Of course, whenever we have a crisis, there is an opportunity for growth. When there is a death in the family, when we have a tragedy, or when we face a serious illness, it is common for people to view these as turning points in their lives. They can even be the catalyst for deep spiritual awakening. Does that mean we should embrace these times? There is the old saying, “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”

This leads to the deeper question of what is the point of suffering, which is a subject that has confounded spiritual leaders and theologians for millennia.

I cannot claim to have the answer to this question; however, I think that the best practice is still to avoid eclipses as much as possible. Yes, it seems like it is possible that good things can come from eclipses, but it is not something to expect or hope for. Just as we might experience spiritual growth from a tragedy, we would not willingly embrace such a tragedy to obtain this growth. In the same way, it seems like a bad idea to embrace eclipses.

Being Without a Living Tradition

One of the biggest challenges as a Filianist is that there is no living tradition to draw upon. As I have been thinking of this, it has occurred to me that this is also a challenge for Western astrologers who are trying to work in a more traditional manner.  I would like to share some of my thoughts and ideas about this.

What is a Living Tradition?

Before I begin, it might help if I explained what I mean by a living tradition. A living tradition is one that has been passed down in an unbroken line from teacher to student from either a time that cannot be counted or from a genuine source of revealed knowledge. With respect to Filianism, such a living tradition no longer exists. We believe that there was a time that there was a feminine living tradition, but any line between teacher and student has long been broken.

hieroglyphs-541146_640There are remnants of the feminine tradition in the patriarchal traditions practiced today, and there is archeological evidence that there was a feminine tradition that existed in the past. While these things are to be valued and treasured, they are a poor substitute for having a true living tradition.

In Orthodox Filianism, this is dealt with by keeping to very simple devotional practices and by not allowing for priestesses or anything of that nature. This is in the Orthodox version only, however. Many independent Filianist groups do allow for priestesses.

The lack of a living tradition is also dealt with by being honest and humble in what we profess, exercising a great deal of caution.  We use the remnants of the feminine tradition that can be found in various cultures today, in the East and in the West, and supplement this with some of our own materials and practices.

Reconstructed Traditions

The problem of a lack of a living tradition is faced many who are not Filianists as well. In the West, Christianity was ruthless in rooting out “pagan” religions and traditions, so those who wish to explore these forms of wisdom and spirituality are in a similar position.

One of the other ways to deal with this problem is to try to reconstruct these traditions from the written and archeological evidence that we have available to us. An example of a reconstructed tradition is the modern Druid movement. It could also be said that the modern practice of Traditional/Classical Astrology is a reconstructed tradition.

Uncertainty of Interpretation

The difficulty with a reconstructed tradition is that there is very little certainty that one is interpreting the material that we have accurately.  In many cases, we do not have written records. If we do have written records, they often must be translated. Furthermore, we have to deal with the problem of texts. The printing press was not invented in the West until the 15th Century, even though it was developed in China about 600 years earlier.

Before that texts had to be copied by hand. Of course, the scribes in those days were surely more accurate than someone completing such a task today would be. On the other hand, we are still dealing with uncertainty that increases the further the text is in time from when it was written.

The other big problem is that even when we have written materials and even when we have original texts, not everything was written down. Of course, some information was probably deemed too important to reduce to writing, but even more of an issue is that writing was a major project. Just as secret matters would not be written, neither would things that were common knowledge. It would be far too much of a waste of time and resources.

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Adaptation to Modern Times

Even if we did have perfect information about broken or destroyed traditions in order to revive them, we would still have the problem of how to adapt them to modern times. I do not believe in evolutionist ideas about “progress,” nor do I think that we are more advanced than our forebears. However, we are not the same as them either. Our physical, mental, and spiritual capacities are greatly reduced. At the same time, we have more technology which artificially enhances our computational abilities.

Because of this, any revival of spiritual traditions, or any revival of traditional sciences such as astrology, needs to take into account our reduced abilities to understand and to implement its doctrines or teachings.

In a living tradition, this adaptation would have taken place over time, as spiritual leaders or masters of the craft would have made small adjustments from generation to generation. Every now and then, there would have been major changes as a leader emerged. In the present, we tend to think of these leaders as innovators. Within a true living tradition, however, these leaders are not innovating but are making large-scale changes to adapt a tradition to the present age.

This idea is reflected in the Christian tradition in the Gospel According to Matthew when Jesus says:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.

Matthew 5.17 New Revised Standard Edition

Without that organic adaptation over time, modern scholars and practitioners are in a very difficult position. This often leads to one of two extremes. On one extreme, scholars can decide to bend and shape the tradition to fit the modern world until it bears little resemblance to the original. On the other extreme, scholars can rigidly hold on to the letter of what was written to the point that it is unworkable in the modern world.

In Traditional/Classical Astrological circles, there are those who go to both extremes, and sometimes the same person will do both at the same time. For example, there are Traditional/Classical Astrologers who will insist that any technique or practice must be attested to by a traditional, pre-Enlightenment source, while at the same time also insist that astrology is purely mechanical, denying any spiritual or Divine powers that may be at work….a position that would have been considered absurd by pre-Enlightenment thinkers.

Modern Revelations

Now that we have looked at the problems with reviving broken traditions, what about modern revelations? There are many who have claimed to have received revelations about spiritual matters. In modern astrology, one of the most influential sources of alleged “received wisdom” comes from the Theosophical Society. One of the early leaders of this Society was Madame Blavatsky, who claimed to have received revelations from a brotherhood of Great Masters. On a smaller scale, the founder of one of the main branches of Evolutionary Astrology claims to have received some of the major tenets in a dream.

The problem with modern revelations is very similar to the problem in reconstructing or reviving broken traditions. The issue of continuing revelation is a subject of great controversy within a number of religious denominations. Those religions that do accept continuing revelation usually have some means by which to test and evaluate them.

Without a living tradition, it would seem that evaluating such revelations would be extremely difficult. How do you know where the revelation is coming from without a tradition to use as a standard?

So What Can We Do?

From all of the problems that I have raised, it would seem that the situation is impossible. How can one know anything or be sure of anything, especially in the West? There are some who turn to Eastern forms of spirituality as a solution. Within astrology, the Vedic tradition is one of the few surviving astrological forms that still has a living tradition to draw upon. The problem with that is similar to the problems with reviving historical traditions, however. As a Westerner, is it really possible to understand the Vedic tradition and get it right, especially without a guru?

Despite the broken tradition and despite all of the problems, I do think that there is value in the Western system, particularly for Westerners. This is the reason that I am slowly working to develop what I am calling Essentialist Astrology.

On the other hand, I think it is important to be aware that we are dealing with a broken tradition. As such, it is necessary to proceed with caution and humility, and to be cognizant and honest about what we do not and can not know.

Saturn 土星

Saturn is a difficult planet. She is the Greater Malefic, and her associations are the banes of human existence. Hardships, difficulties, blockages, the passage of time, old age, and death are all in her domain. Yet, these are all essential for manifestation. Saturn is necessary for our existence.

The Janya of Saturn: Sai Rhavë

sairhaveThe Janya or Great Angel that governs Saturn in Filianism is Sai Rhavë.  Sai Rhavë is one of the three Janyati associated with the Feminine Trinity. Sai Raya is associated with the Mother, Sai Candre is associated with the Daughter, and Sai Rhavë is associated with the Dark Mother.

One of the big debates in monotheistic religions is whether God is imminent and with us in our daily lives, whether God is a Creator who is apart from Creation, or whether God is so far beyond us to be incomprehensible to us. In Filianism, this is not a debate, but all three are true. In order to help us understand this, we use the model of the Feminine Trinity. I say, model, because the full Truth is beyond our capability. For this reason, in a sense, all religious doctrines are models. Just as we cannot truly see the Solar System but use models and pictures to understand it, in the same way, we need models and pictures to comprehend the Divine.

In the Trinity, the Mother is our Creatrix. She made us and loves us unconditionally. Yet, we became separated from her. In the Filianic tradition, like the physical Sun, She is “too bright for us to look upon.” Because of this, She gave birth to the Daughter. The Daughter is the aspect of Dea that is with us and cares about our earthly needs. When we experience the presence of Dea, it is always in one of the forms of the Daughter.

The Dark Mother is the aspect of Dea that is completely beyond our comprehension. While the Mother is too bright for us to look upon, the Dark Mother is beyond our perception altogether. She is the holder of the Mysteries that we cannot understand from an unEnlightened state, such as why suffering and evil exist or how Evil and Good are both necessary parts of manifestation. In the Filianic Tradition, she is “the Darkness beyond the Light and the Light beyond the Darkness.”

Of Her, not much can be said, but this passage from The Gospel of Our Mother God may help a little.

She that hath no beginning nor any end; She that did stand in the heart of chaos and make all things harmonious, She that doth bear the worlds within Her hand; the maid that knoweth Her is truly free.

She that is the maker of being and of unbeing; She that is all that is and all that is not; the maid that knoweth her in truth hath left all worlds; hath left in truth the body and the mind.

The Clew of the Horse, 45-46, Authorised Version

For obvious reasons, there can be no images of the Dark Mother. On the other hand, even though She is associated with the Dark Mother, Sai Rhavë is also one of the Seven Great Angels, and there are some feminine images for her. These include Kali from the Vedic Tradition and all “dark” and “crone” forms of goddesses. Filianism does not recommend direct devotion to the Dark Mother or to Sai Rhavë.

Saturn Returns

The Saturn or Rhavic principle is a paradox. On one hand, it is beyond manifestation, and its highest level is no less than Enlightenment itself. On the other hand, it is deeply wound up with the material world and what binds us to it. One of the ways that the Rhavic principle/Saturn binds us to materiality is through time. Saturn is the great timekeeper of our lives.

The Saturn cycle marks all of the natural ages for our rites of passage towards maturity. The first time transiting Saturn squares our natal Saturn is at the age of seven, which is considered the Age of Reason. We have our first Saturn opposition at the age of fourteen, which is the average age of puberty. Our second Saturn square is when we are twenty-one, which is the common age when children are considered full adults.

The first time that Saturn returns to the position it was in when we were born is when we are around 29.5 years old. The age we are during our first Saturn return can vary, however, from age 27 to 30, and because of retrogrades, it can last for a couple of years. This marks the end of the first stage of our lives as we move towards full maturity.

Our second Saturn return happens between 57 and 60, and it is at this stage that we move from “mature adult” to “honored elder.” If we live to age 87-90, we will have a third Saturn return. A very small handful of people may live to their fourth Saturn return, which would be around 117-120 years old, but that is very rare indeed.

For most people, Saturn divides our lives into three parts: childhood, maturity, and old age. Of course, a 25-year-old is not a child and a 62-year-old is not exactly old, but the Saturn boundaries are real. Once they are crossed, we change dramatically.

The Material World and the Soul

Each Janya and her planet have the same glyph. All of the glyphs are made from a combination of three symbols, the Circle of Spirit, the Crescent of Soul, and the Cross of the Material World.

Saturn GlyphAs in the glyph for Sai Thamë, the Circle of Spirit, or the connection with the Solar, is absent. There is just the Soul, or the connection with the Lunar, and the material world. In Sai Rhavë glyph, however, the material world is sitting on top of the Soul. This seems an apt depiction. Unlike in the glyph for Sai Vikhë in which the cross is off to the side, in this glyph, the cross is directly over the Soul and dominating it.

Astrological Associations of Saturn

Sect: Day

Oriental Element: Tsuchi 土 (Earth)

Rules Aquarius, Day House

Air Aquarius

Rules Capricorn, Night House

Earth Capricorn

Exalted in Libra

In Detriment in Leo and Cancer

In Fall in Aries

Daytime Triplicity Ruler of Air

Participating Triplicity Ruler of Fire

In Joy in the 12th House

Temperament:

Oriental (in front of the Sun): Cold and Wet

Occidental (behind the Sun): Cold and Dry

Day of the Week: Saturday

Orb: 9° (Moiety 4.5°)

Colors: Indigo, brown, and black

Plants: Hemlock, fern, poppy, moss, mandrake, hemp, willow, and pine

Animals: Cats, dogs, serpents, mice, eels, tortoises, and bats

Metal: Lead

Stones: Sapphire, lapis lazuli, all black stones, and all stones that are unpolishable

The Way of Renunciation

All of the non-Luminary planets have a spiritual path that is associated with them. The spiritual path associated with Saturn is that of renunciation or releasing oneself of all social status and material belongings. This is a hard path. It is the way of the hermit or the spiritual beggar.

See Also:

Sleeping Beauty and the Three Faces of Saturn

The Astrology of Sailor Moon – Part VI: Sailor Saturn