A central principle of Yoga and Vedic Astrology is the cycle of human birth, death and rebirth, as the soul’s journey towards the realization of its cosmic roots. With each successive birth the desires of the soul to experience all aspects of life evolve until all desires have been transmuted (not suppressed) and surrendered. The desire that propels the soul to take birth on the physical plane is Rahu (north node) and the completion of the desire is Ketu (south node). When all longings cease and everything is embraced as an aspect of the divine, the journey is complete, and the soul merges back into its source.
While conscious memories of past lifetimes are wiped out at the time of birth, each lifetime is connected to the past through the subconscious. The birth chart is a reflection of stored memories from past lives (as well as early childhood), which become the basis of our reactions, feelings, choices, obsessions, fears etc., giving the astrologer a glimpse into the choices the individual may make, as well as the potential consequences. Thus, all influences in the horoscope are in a sense the “whispers” we hear in our head and heart compelling us to make certain choices, sometimes even despite our best judgments. The loudest voices are those of Rahu and Ketu, while at the same time the ones we are least consciously aware off.
The seven embodied heavenly bodies (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn) indicate the outer battles we wrestle with in life. Rahu and Ketu have no physical form, as they are positions of mathematical calculation, where lunar and solar eclipses occur. Their formless influences are harder to grasp and are usually the most entrenched aspects of our personality and psyche, as well as the most resistant to change, especially when afflicted in the birth chart. Rahu and Ketu are our deep seated inner battles.
Rahu and Ketu’s influence is usually more on the mental than physical level. Since they are always placed in opposite houses and signs to each other in the horoscope it is their tug of war that is usually responsible for the psychological turmoil in our life.
The nodes are often compared to marching armies — Rahu as the conquering army and Ketu as the retreating army. Rahu as the unconscious force of our deepest desire marches obsessively to “taste” a new area of life and to conquer a new territory. It is fixated on the new opportunity where he hopes to find Paradise. Ketu is the retreating army negating the territory it is walking away from as Paradise Lost.
In the allegorical myth of Rahu and Ketu, Rahu is the head of a snake and Ketu the tail, each half desperately needing to join the other to become whole. Rahu, as a creature without a body, has a mental approach to life, as well as an insatiable appetite, as he can consume without ever becoming full. In the horoscope, he shows our deepest desires and where we will strive the hardest but may also find it difficult to feel fulfilled. Rahu shows the area of life where our talents are beginning to flourish and expand but also the areas where we can become overwhelmed and loose control of our destiny due to over expansion. Therefore he can also create addictions, extremes and unstoppable compulsions. As the cosmic force exposing all the possibilities and extremes within the realm of existence, Rahu is necessary for the sustenance of life. He is in every horoscope and we all have the free will to either drown in his intensity, or utilize his energy to free ourselves.
Ketu as a headless creature is dissatisfied and disenchanted by what it comes into contact with in the horoscope. He represents the no-mind and introspective approach to life. He internalizes the energy of the planets he conjuncts and the area of life he influences in the horoscope. Ketu represents territories we have conquered and mastered in past lives and are detaching from in this life. Until ketu is totally purified, we may reject that area but still deep down simultaneously crave it, just as with Rahu we may be drawn to something but deep down be critical of it. There will be a feeling of being used up in the areas that Ketu contacts, or we may have an eccentric approach that does not fit social norms and boundaries. Ketu paints a very idealistic picture in search for the impossible and is obsessed with revealing all that is fake and imperfect. He is impractical and perceives life through very subtle and narrow confines, creating geniuses, revolutionaries and spiritual masters but also conspiracy theorists and neighborhood critics. Ketu’s negation needs to be channeled into the divine and not simply into embitterment with the world in order to reveal its higher gifts, otherwise he may end up neglecting his worldly duties and causing suffering. Non-conformists, anarchists, loners, psychics, yogis, hermits and of course astrologers all have a strongly placed Ketu in their birth chart.
Rahu pursues life with such intensity that it can give sudden inspiration and and phenomenal success, but unless the experience is spiritually integrated the success will not have the proper foundation to sustain itself, nor bring lasting peace. Ketu has reserves of knowledge and skills developed in past lives and when working from its higher principles can give penetrating insight into the area of the horoscope that it is influencing, as well as liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Both Rahu and Ketu are “out of the box” thinkers and revolutionaries with an innate dislike for authority and convention. When working through their higher principles they have the potential to bring about revolutions and meaningful change in society.
Rahu and Ketu whip up our life and toss us back and forth creating confusion but their ultimate goal is to help us integrate the polarities of the physical world with the metaphysical world. They are the main representatives of the duality we all engage in as spiritual beings temporarily residing in the physical plane.
1/7 Axis: In the first house Rahu will obsess and fear losing our self identity to the partner and Ketu in seven will be highly idealistic, seeking only perfect partners. In reverse, Ketu in the first will negate the self and Rahu in seven will become compulsive about needing to lose itself in relationships. Harmonizing our needs with those of our partner will bring this axis into balance.
2/8 Axis: Rahu in the second house can become attached and fearful of not having our tangible needs met and Ketu in the eighth will reject the deeper intangible mysteries of life. In reverse, Ketu in the second will shun its material responsibilities and Rahu in the eighth will become fixated with exploring life on the deepest emotional and intangible level. In the second and eighth house we have to balance our tangible and intangible resources and needs to grow and evolve.
3/9 Axis: Rahu in the third will have an insatiable appetite for acquiring skills and information and Ketu in the ninth will reject higher philosophical teachings. In addition, Rahu in the third will rely on its own skills and knowledge to achieve its goals and Ketu will reject the spiritual path. In reverse, Rahu will be consumed with god, religion, and spiritual matters in the ninth house and Ketu will reject practical efforts required to achieve the goals. In the third and ninth house axis we are learning to balance the lower concrete mind with the higher perceptive mind and self effort with God’s grace.
4/10 Axis: Rahu in the fourth house will be overwhelmed by its feelings, instincts, intuition, home and emotions and Ketu in the tenth will be afraid to carry out its responsibilities and express its full potential in the outer world (especially career). In reverse, Rahu in the tenth will become very ambitious in seeking power and status, and Ketu in fourth will sacrifice the inner alter, home and emotional life. In the fourth and tenth house axis the polarities of our masculine and feminine natures collide and we are learning to harmonize our inner and outer life.
5/11 Axis: Rahu in the fifth house will be bent upon leaving its distinct mark in the world, often giving very fertile and creative talents and Ketu in the eleventh will resist loosing its identity to the greater whole. In reverse, Rahu in eleven will become infatuated with name, fame, material gains or sacrifice for the greater good and Ketu in the fifth house will reject the development of our unique individuality and creativity. In the fifth and eleventh axis we are learning to balance our unique individuality with that of our place in the larger community.
6/12 Axis: Rahu in the sixth can become obsessive compulsive, competitive in seeking order and discipline just as Ketu in the twelfth rejects surrendering or letting things follow their own course. In reverse, Ketu in the sixth will be critical of having to follow routines, regulations and traditional work ethic and Rahu can lose itself to the pursuit of other worldly mystical experiences or escape from real life responsibilities. Harmonizing the need for discipline and order with surrendering and letting go brings this axis into balance.
The famous line from Hamlet “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”, reminds me of Rahu and Ketu. If you are protesting too much about an aspect of life, or ignoring and rejecting one area of life over another and not finding a peaceful resolution you probably have some work to do on your Rahu/Ketu axis. The nodes are trying to take us to the understanding that ultimately both ends of the spectrum are the same and harmony is achieved when you are able to give something to the opposite party. Let us work towards bringing the polarities within us together consciously rather than allowing ourselves to be pulled apart by them.