Vedic Astrology

Rahu and Ketu: The Purpose of Our Shadows

by Saraswati J. Miller July 05, 2014 09:11 PM EST
Rahu and Ketu: The Purpose of Our Shadows Getty Images
Rahu and Ketu: The Purpose of Our Shadows

Rahu and Ketu are not planets at all, they are mathematical points on either side of the Moon with rather significant implications on our Self experience. The Moon is arguably the most influential part of the chart- indicating our experiences within the womb and our relationship with mother, as well as our inner nature. The Moon is our guide for emotional well being and our connection to our intuitive self. In fact, the Moon is so important to our life experience, the relationship the nodes have with the Moon indicates their impact on our emotional well being- among other things. Rahu and Ketu, the Moon and the rest of the chart, all create our own unique stories, mythologies and individual karmic dramas.

The nodes, as Rahu and Ketu are referred to, are mischievous in nature. They present our karmas to us in this incarnation. Without them, and their very valuable life lessons, we would not have incarnated into a human body. They are essential to this lila, this play of life, that we are involved with in this dimension. Both Rahu and Ketu have their own unique array of offerings, but because they are shadow "planets" they often evade prediction. Their nature is to deceive, mystify, to be illusive, and to blind us from our true nature. They represent forces that can't be seen and are the parts of ourselves that go unnoticed and unrecognized. When, and if, the shadow or veil of illusion is removed, and we do see what has been hidden from us, it is often extremely painful. Rahu and Ketu request that we ask ourselves: What am I not seeing or what am I not willing to see? What am I clinging to and unable to let go of?

In order to understand the nature of Rahu and Ketu, it helps to have a little background on how they came to be. In Vedic lore, Rahu (north node) and Ketu (south node) came into being during the famous story of the churning of the ocean of milk (the Milky Way). As the devas (gods) were creating this great churning, amrita, the nectar of immortality arose (think churning milk into butter). The devas, however, needed the asuras (demons) to help them with this task and they had to work together to get the job done. As the immortal nectar was created and obtained from this "great churning", Vishnu made certain that it was only given to the devas. However, one asura named Svarbhanu, outsmarted Vishnu and the other devas. He disguised himself as a deva and got in line to have a drop of the sacred nectar given to him. The story goes that he hid between the Sun and the Moon so no one would notice him.

Just as Vishnu poured a drop of nectar into Svarbhanu's mouth, the Sun and Moon recognized that he was actually an asura! Vishnu chopped him in half, but it was too late. A drop of the immortal nectar was already in his mouth! Thus the two halves, Rahu and Ketu were born. The head of the asura who ingested the immortal nectar became Rahu and the lower half, the body of the asura, became Ketu. Rahu and Ketu are the head and tail of the demon, often referred to as the serpent. A lunar eclipse is connected to Rahu- this happens when he tries to eat the Moon, but it falls right out of him. Ketu is connected to the Solar eclipse. 

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This epic story is truly metaphoric on so many levels of life. It expresses the interplay of light and dark and how interdependent they both are on each other. These two facets of life are of course alive and well within our own natures and thus the play of shadow and light becomes our dance in life as well.

Rahu is the head of the serpent and has an insatiable appetite for the material world (his cravings for obtaining the nectar) and intoxicants of all kinds. He brings shock and the dark side of life and he can bring sudden changes, upheavals, even quick boons. Where Saturn brings sorrow, sadness and grief- the natural darkness that is life- Rahu brings an intensified demented version of this darkness; he manipulates and obscures everything he touches. Addictions and confusion are Rahu's domain as well as disturbances and trauma. He does not allow us to think clearly and brings deceit and dishonesty with him. That said, there are worldly benefits that come with him as well. He can give money, profits and excesses from the material world. He loves the foreign and unusual, which can offer great learning and awareness as a result. Enjoyable and exotic travels can also come with Rahu. Professions that require lying, cheating and stealing (politicians for example) will get benefits from Rahu.

Where Rahu may give, Ketu takes away, and is responsible for "cutting the ties that bind us to the material world". If we are attached to it, Ketu can and will cut those attachments loose- eventually. That is his job- to help us realize intimately the impermanence of this life. He is highly spiritual and not interested in the material realms at all. He will either grant access to spiritual advancement or deny it; Ketu is connected to Ganesha, the remover of obstacles. Since Ketu is just a body (no head) he literally has no mind. He can either show madness and complete craziness like schizophrenia, or certain zen states of no-mind which are more spiritual in experience. Ketu is a moksha planet, connected to liberation, letting go and deep surrender. Rahu and Ketu are always seven houses away from each other. They are always looking directly at each other, thus, whatever Rahu gives, Ketu will be sure to take it away.

The nodes are always moving against the direction of the other planets, in retrograde fashion. All the planets retrograde periodically (except for Sun and Moon) and when they do, they are said to be acting like Rahu and Ketu as a result. Our cravings, desires and fears are all connected to Rahu and Ketu. They instigate our pains, sorrows and drive us to take actions or no actions. They are our shadowed sides and will indicate what we are moving towards and away from in this life time. Thanks to Rahu and Ketu, we are guaranteed to grow in this life, but it may not be the pleasant kind of growth.

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