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Vedic Chart Reading Basics: Part 2

In part 1 of this post, I discussed some basic chart-reading guidelines for those new to astrology (or just new to Vedic-style charts). While those with Vedic astrology backgrounds will prefer to check out some of the blog’s more advanced posts, my hope is that this post and its predecessor will be a useful reference for beginners.

Since the first post in this series discussed the initial steps in chart reading, such as locating the ascendant, learning abbreviations for planets and signs and identifying the 12 houses, this post will go into a bit more detail about how planets, signs and houses work astrologically, while also introducing the concept of “aspects.”

In another earlier post about astrology fundamentals, I discussed the importance of viewing the planets as people. Like people, each planet has specific personality traits and, in the same manner that we respond in certain ways to different environments and lifestyles, planets respond differently to the energy of each astrological sign.

The 12 houses represent the different parts of our lives, as discussed in this other early post. For example, the 6th house represents our daily labor, debts, enemies and health or illness, while the 7th house represents our partnerships (including most notably – but certainly not only – marriage).

Let’s look at the big picture this way:

  1. Planets are people.
  2. Houses are the different parts of our lives.
  3. Signs are the types of energy (think: adjectives) connected to each house. Signs always match up with houses in the same clockwise order (i.e. Taurus always comes after Aries, Gemini always comes after Taurus, etc.), so as long as you find the ascendant in a chart, it’s easy to match up the houses and signs.
  4. When planets are close to each other in a chart (a “conjunction”) or reflect on each other at a direct angle (such as 180 degrees, which is called an “opposition”) they impact one another. Conjunctions and oppositions are both types of “aspects,” which is the broader term for all the ways planets reflect on one another and impact each other with their energy.

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The Astrology of Terrorist Attacks

World events tend to provide especially clear examples of astrological patterns. The chart for a declaration of war, an economic crash or a terrorist attack will normally contain fewer variables and mixed signals than natal astrology. This is because an individual person is generally a combination of a wide variety of personality traits and influences that manifest over many decades, but (for example) the morning of September 11, 2001 in New York City is primarily a snapshot of a single major occurrence.

While viewing the chart for the recent Paris terrorist attacks* (on November 13, 2015), I noticed an aspect of less than three degrees between Mars and the nodes (i.e. Rahu and Ketu)**. The September 11, 2001 chart, analyzed in this post, includes an aspect of less than one degree between Mars and the nodes.

Since I wondered how consistent this sort of placement was in the charts of major terrorist attacks, I looked up the July 7, 2005 London attacks, as well. The day of the London attacks included Mars aspecting the nodes by less than one-and-a-half degrees. To put this information in context, an aspect of three degrees or less between Mars and the nodes only occurs for an average of less than two weeks per year.

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A Close Look At Combustion

Combustion, which refers to a phenomenon that occurs when planets are considered too close to the Sun, is a topic that seems to be interpreted differently by many astrologers I’ve learned from and respect. Some say they’ve either never found it to be the case in their practical experience or, at least, that it’s not the case with Mercury (the most common planet to be located so close to the Sun) and/or has mixed results. Some astrologers also feel the Moon cannot become combust, while others list it along with the other planets. I’ve also heard more than one astrologer suggest combustion is very real but that the required orbs are just much tighter than indicated in classical texts.

Those texts state specific orbs of combustion for different planets – (although the orbs vary a bit depending on which text is referenced) – and generally take a very negative view of combust planets. James Braha mentioned in an ACVA (American College of Vedic Astrology) lecture that he feels combust planets have a multi-layered effect that both brightens and agitates, giving the example of models with a combust Venus, who, despite their beauty, often have difficult love lives. The late Narendra Desai mentioned in another ACVA lecture that he felt Mercury, being so used to closeness with the Sun, doesn’t actually become combust. Chakrapani Ullal’s ACVA lecture on the topic is informative but also interestingly ambivalent; he suggests his own observations regarding combustion have been mixed.

It’s been my own observation that an unusual percentage of highly intelligent people have a very combust Mercury… and also that an unusual percentage of these people are anxious and neurotic. Possible anxiety and neurosis aside, it would be difficult for anybody to convince me that a combust Mercury makes one more likely to be intellectually slow or have trouble communicating, which I’ve heard from other astrologers whom I respect (but disagree with on this account). Even in regard to anxiety and neurosis, correlation doesn’t necessarily mean much; highly intelligent people may just be more likely to be anxious or neurotic. Similarly, without considering astrological factors, there’s plenty about modeling that seems as if it could make one’s love life more difficult. The number of variables involved in life is enough to make pinning down the facts about certain topics problematic at times… and that applies to most fields, not just astrology.

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Evaluating Transits: Ascendant or Moon?

Jupiter recently transited into Leo, using Vedic Astrology’s sidereal zodiac. Since Jupiter is the greatest natural benefic and only changes signs about once a year, many people are discussing the transit and what it means for each sign. However, some astrologers discuss transits based on the Ascendant, while others focus on the Moon sign.

Here’s a quick guide to the difference:

The Ascendant represents what’s actually happening. So looking at houses/signs from the Ascendant is probably the most fundamental way to judge a transit, and certainly the most accurate predictive method.

The Moon represents how we feel about what happens. So looking at house/signs from the Moon is important in its own way and shouldn’t be ignored. For example, if you get into a romantic relationship, what really matters is how you feel about it, not that it occurred. It’s not like you’re going to date an asshole, have your self-esteem plummet, become a nervous wreck and then look back on the time fondly, thinking, “Well, who cares how I felt – the important thing is I was in a relationship!”

Other situations are more matter-of-fact, such as predictions about finances or what a transit may be like for your children, if you have any. The simple reason for this is that people are usually happy to make more money or see their children thrive, but dislike losing money or seeing their children suffer.

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Jupiter & Donald Trump’s Future

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Donald Trump is out to an early lead in polling for the Republican Presidential nomination, and just about everywhere one turns people from either major party (or neither major party, for that matter) seem worked up about it and insistent he’s a joke candidate with no real chance; yet, he’s not just ahead, but way ahead of any other Republican candidate, as of the timing of this article. To be fair, Trump’s disapproval ratings are far higher than the other candidates, too. He’s a big personality who often evokes “love him or hate him” reactions, but he’s already affected the race and proven to be more than a sideshow.

What makes Trump’s Presidential aspirations interesting from an astrological perspective is that a study of his chart strongly suggests the best is yet to come for him and – wait for it – that period of his life is scheduled to begin in November, 2016. That’s election month. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’ll win – for one thing, he has to remain a viable candidate for more than a year just to have a shot – but it’s certainly an interesting coincidence.

Trump’s strongest planet is a near-stationary Jupiter, which was moving at less than 1% relative speed at his time of birth. (Near-stationary planets in one’s natal chart are often extremely important and powerful.) His Mercury in its own sign of Gemini, located in the 11th house of fulfillment of desires, social circle and networking, has surely played a major role in his success, as well.

However, Trump’s overall life-path may be most defined by his 4th house-10th house axis, which includes both luminaries (i.e. the Moon and the Sun, which is also his Ascendant lord) in a tight opposition orb to each other and in close conjunction with Ketu and Rahu, respectively. This indicates Trump’s career in real estate, as the 4th house represents the home environment (including homes, in general, not just one’s own living space) and the 10th house represents career and status. However, Trump’s near-stationary Jupiter suggests that he was destined to be “larger than life” in some way or another, even if his other planets were in different locations. The role of his 4th house-10th house axis wasn’t to ensure his success (which his Jupiter and Mercury had already heavily weighted the deck in favor of), but instead to point to the area where he would apply most of his energy and resources.

And in November, 2016, Trump’s Jupiter mahadasha (major period) begins. Jupiter is likely Trump’s most important planet, but he hasn’t even experienced its mahadasha yet. This mahadasha should be highly positive and benefit him in a number of ways, no matter what happens in his current campaign; however, he’ll have to remain a relevant Presidential candidate long enough for Jupiter’s energy to kick in or the timing will be too late to help his chances in the 2016 election. In the meantime, upcoming transits of a number of important planets and a change in antardasha (minor period) from Moon to Mars all seem lined up to benefit Trump in the near future.

Yet, Trump may still encounter obstacles relating to much of the populace, as a substantial part of his personality seems driven by a need for expansion and power. While Trump’s Jupiterian strengths have led to positive relationships with his grown children, given him an instinctive sense of generosity at times, and helped him to employ thousands of people, some of the less desirable manifestations of that Jupiterian energy, as channeled through his current Rahu mahadasha – such as potentially harmful expansion, over-the-top self-promotion and a bombastic attitude – have also played a role in defining his identity to the American public.

However, he’s just finishing up his Rahu mahadasha, which began all the way back in 1998… and that’s the sort of thing Rahu can do to people, especially if they’re prone to such tendencies before entering its mahadasha. Rahu, the north node of the moon, focuses on more, more, more; it represents insatiable desires and, in Hindu mythology, is depicted as a head without a body. Picture that image for a moment – it’s always hungry, not equipped to digest experiences or process them, only to continue craving them. As that sort of craving is quite a motivator, (albeit an inherently unsatisfying one), Rahu plays a substantial role in the lives of many people who are famous and/or achieve worldly success. Rahu’s also hell on impulse-control, which fits with Trump’s tendency to speak first and think later. And if he seems obsessed with status and career, well, he has Rahu in his 10th house, which represents those very things.

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Ben Affleck & Rahu’s Rollercoaster

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At first glance, Ben Affleck’s chart looks like a dream come true. Venus is right on the ascendant in the intelligent, creative sign of Gemini, opposite Jupiter in its own sign of Sagittarius and trining a 5th-house Moon in Venus’s own sign of Libra (in the nakshatra of Svati, which is often associated with the wealthy and socially adept). Mars is located in his 3rd house, which has a strong connection to the arts, and is in the sign of its great friend, Leo (which, once again, represents the arts). In other words, it’s a fitting chart for a multimillionaire movie star who is also sharp enough to become an elite screenwriter and film director.

Most movie fans are familiar with “Good Will Hunting,” which Affleck and Matt Damon famously wrote together and starred in, jumpstarting their careers. However, in my view, Affleck’s career artistic peak and one of the best movies of the new millennium is “Gone Baby Gone,” which was co-written (adapted from a novel by Dennis Lehane) and directed by Affleck. I can’t remember a movie in the past few years that likely resulted in more couples arguing as they left the theater… and that’s a compliment, if it wasn’t clear 🙂

Then there’s Affleck’s substantial humanitarian efforts, which he’s kept rather low-key compared to the amount of effort and attention he gives them. Considering the lifestyles of some movie stars, it’s a bit ironic that a clearly talented artist who invests much of his time on charity work to help the Democratic Republic of the Congo, (which constitutes way more personal attention than writing some checks or showing up at a few banquets), seems to trigger intuitive suspicion and negativity among much of the general public. Affleck clearly understands how he’s often seen and even incorporated this view of himself into his art when he starred as a philandering husband framed for murder in the recent blockbuster “Gone Girl.”

He’s also had one of the most unlikely career trajectories in film history. He was celebrated as a screenwriter in his 20s, unfairly mocked as a tabloid headline for years, reemerged as one of the world’s top directors (and, suddenly, a respected actor), won an Oscar and now his pending divorce is all over the news, with most accounts essentially blaming him for drinking and gambling away his marriage. Of course, who knows if that’s true? However, the point is that it’s on every supermarket shelf, and while it’s likely especially personally painful for Affleck, it’s really just a dip on the Rahu-driven rollercoaster he’s been riding for a long time.

Rahu is the north node of the Moon and considered especially troublesome in Vedic Astrology. It represents our insatiable desires – the areas of life we are relentlessly compelled to experience but must eventually realize are maya (illusion) to continue on our spiritual path. Rahu is specifically responsible for all forms of mass hysteria, which include both fame and public derision. So far, I’ve done celebrity profiles on Woody Allen, Taylor Swift and Affleck and I’ve ended up writing about Rahu extensively in each one. None of these people were originally chosen to profile with the idea of focusing on Rahu, but it turned out to play a huge role in all of their lives.

Affleck’s Moon nakshatra of Svati and his Ascendant and Venus nakshatra of Ardra are all ruled by Rahu, so it’s bound to be a substantial influence throughout his entire life. As it’s placed in his 8th house, it represents sudden ups and downs, secrets and the esoteric or occult. Since the Moon nakshatra determines which mahadasha (major period) one experiences first in life, Affleck grew up during a Rahu mahadasha; then he initially became famous during the mahadasha of his strong 7th-house Jupiter in Sagittarius and antardasha (sub-period) of Rahu. In this instance, Jupiter, which is generally considered the planet best able to work with Rahu’s energy, was able to channel the more positive elements of Rahu into a sudden rise.

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Getting to Know Pluto

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Generated by IJG JPEG Library

Pluto’s in the news these days, as recent NASA photos provide us with the clearest images of the planet (or whatever you want to call it) in our history.

This is especially intriguing to me since Pluto plays a prominent role in my own natal chart, yet I must admit that I know relatively little about it compared to most of the other planets, which are closer to Earth and more commonly referenced in astrology.

On January 24, 1980 at 8:09 AM Pacific Time, Pluto was exactly stationary. My birth certificate reads: January 24, 1980 at 8:27 AM Pacific Time. Retrograde Pluto’s relative speed at the time of my birth was 0.15% (i.e. 15% of 1%).

Stationary or near-stationary planets are often tremendously important and tend to point to the area of one’s life direction and/or greatest potential. For example, Donald Trump has an almost exactly stationary Jupiter (with a relative speed of 0.52% i.e. 52% of 1%) placed in his 2nd house, which represents finances. The late musician Amy Winehouse’s chart features a near-stationary retrograde Venus (moving at a relative speed of 3.32%), which certainly hints at both her immense artistic talent and inability to act with moderation regarding the Venusian elements of life.

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Vedic Dress for (NBA Basketball) Success

You may know that each day belongs to a specific planet in Vedic Astrology and that each planet has its own mantra. It’s also considered an astrological fundamental that each planet is connected to a specific color or color scheme. People can use this information to create more harmony in their lives by wearing a planet’s color(s) on its day of the week or by regularly wearing the color(s) of a planet whose specific energies are currently desired. Yet, as I’ll explore in this post, there may be another more competitive and rather intriguing possibility involving the planetary colors. If you’re familiar with those colors, feel free to skip the next paragraph, but here’s a quick cheat sheet:

The color of the Moon is white or silver, Mars reps red, Mercury gets green, Jupiter features yellow or saffron, Venus picks pretty pastels, Saturn sports sterner shades, such as dark blue and black, while the Sun blasts a bright orangey pink. 

So, yes, there’s a reason Vedic monks wear saffron and why green is considered “lucky” throughout so much of Asia. The connection between color, astrology and fate actually has a long tradition.

As an NBA basketball fan, I’ve observed more than once that the same teams win a disproportionate number of titles for a 30-team league that incorporates features such as a salary cap, revenue sharing and a draft that gives the worst teams the best chance at the top prospects. Not only that, but with only five players on the court at any given time (compared to the much larger numbers of players in a baseball, football or soccer game), theoretically, a star player or two should change the fortunes of any NBA team tremendously.

Yet, the same teams win, win, win, like it’s fated.

Team colors have long been an integral part of organized sports and they make up a memorable element of any NBA franchise’s identity, ranging from jersey colors to the team logo to promotional material and even communal impressions (such as associating the Boston Celtics with the “lucky green” connected to the team’s Irish-inspired nickname).

So, why wouldn’t the same teams, featuring their fortunate color schemes, win much more often? This was easy for me to explore, at least somewhat superficially, as there’s a clear general consensus about the greatest NBA teams.

The Boston Celtics claim the most titles in league history. I personally consider their 67-15 1986 title team, which played in the league’s greatest era and cruised through the playoffs with a record of 15-3, to be the best single-season squad in NBA history. That’s far from the whole story though… back in the late 1950s and 1960s, the Celtics won 11 titles in 13 years, which is a level of consistency that has never been and likely never will be matched in any pro sport. For years, rival sportscasters and columnists would joke, half-bitterly, about the lucky “leprechaun” that seemed to make sure Boston emerged victorious. We all know what color leprechauns are 🙂

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Generated by IJG JPEG Library

“Notice how my mustache adds a flourish of Jupiterian yellow?”

The Los Angeles Lakers boast five titles in the 2000s, which, added to another five during the golden age of the 1980s (and a great 69-13 title season in the early 70s), makes for quite an impressive combination. You can also add a ridiculous number of 2nd-place finishes to the record, as the Lakers ran into a near-unstoppable Celtics squad multiple years in the late 50s and 60s NBA Finals. Known for doing everything big and bold, this Hollywood franchise uses yellow, represented by Jupiter, as its base color, and combines it with flourishes of rich, velvety purple. Some people feel the color purple is related to Saturn, but I think, at least in the present era, it’s more connected with Rahu, as it is so often associated with fame or prestige. (The musician Prince, who has Rahu in his Ascendant and his Moon in the Rahu-ruled constellation of Satabishak, may have the strongest association with the color purple in modern popular culture.)

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“Yes, Kareem, we know you’re Muslim… just trust us on this color thing.”

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ACVA’s Great Astrology Resources

While listening to a wonderful lecture by legendary Vedic Astrologer Chakrapani Ullal titled “Surya: The Significations of the Sun” this evening, it occurred to me that more people should know about the great resource that is ACVA’s MP3 library.

ACVA (The American College of Vedic Astrology) features an online store that sells literally hundreds of lectures by great astrologers in MP3 format. The lectures generally cost $9 if they’re about an hour and only $12-$18 for some that are four-to-five hours. This resource has played an exceptionally valuable role in my learning process.

It’s possible to sample the teachings and lecture styles of different Jyotishis at an affordable price this way; and once you find somebody you “click” with, they’ll likely have multiple lectures available on the ACVA website. (Chakrapani has an even 20!) If you’re interested in astrology – (and, if you’re reading this, I figure you probably are) – the ACVA store is worth a look even if you’re not actively studying at the moment. Out of the hundreds of lectures available to browse through, some topic or another is quite likely to catch your eye.

* After writing this post, it occurred to me that I should probably make it clear that I have no connection at all to the ACVA and, in fact, haven’t even met anybody who works there. I know people get suspicious about posts like this that promote a specific service. While that’s understandable in this day and age, I promise that all I’m doing here is spreading the word about an awesome opportunity for Jyotish lovers.

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Study: Birth Month Related to Health

A just-released Columbia University Medical Center Study demonstrates a connection between birth month and the likelihood of contracting different illnesses. This is, of course, interesting from an astrological perspective, although not as much so as it might seem to a casual observer. Only the Sun, which is one of many celestial bodies involved in astrology, returns to (virtually) the same position each day in different years. Other planets will be somewhere entirely different today than on this date a year or two or twenty from now. So, while it’s interesting to note evidence of a sort of cosmic connection between health and the Earth’s annual phases, the specific connection to astrology, quite ironically, isn’t so precise as many trying to discredit the study seem to fear.

I’ve found it amusing to come across an unusual amount of talk (regarding a major study from a respected institution) about various concerns and objections to these findings. I may have read that correlation doesn’t equal causation more today than I have in a very long time, and I’ve also come across some rather dramatically phrased warnings that people are, basically, just reading way too much into this. The extent of concern among many Americans who consider themselves scientific thinkers about the possibility that somebody might point to this study as a way to legitimize astrology is both humorous and unfortunate.

It’s unfortunate, because mysticism and science should be working together, as they do rather seamlessly in many Eastern cultures. Those who are so quick to insult the intelligence of and attempt to delegitimize anybody who even remains open-minded towards astrology would never say that almost everybody in India or Japan is an idiot; such a xenophobic ad hominem attack would be rightfully condemned. Yet, almost everybody in those nations believes in the very things that are so often called idiotic or (if a nicer word is being used) superstitious in the West. I’m sure most American “scientific thinkers” are familiar with the transitive property.

The reality is that much of what we call “mystical” or even “psychic” is simply going to be called scientific in ten, twenty or fifty years. This study is a perfect example of the melting of those borders. It doesn’t fit into many “scientific” people’s worldview, so it seems threatening to them; however, the study was done by an Ivy League medical center, not some fly-by-night group of eccentrics. And more and more studies that find a way to merge mysticism and science are almost surely going to emerge in short time. Whether it’s astrology, NDEs or past-life memories, we’ve reached the point where many members of the scientific community, often with credentials from the Ivy League or top international universities, are dedicating themselves to this sort of work. In that sense, the dam may not have broken yet, but it’s certainly sprung a leak, which makes the endgame quite predictable.

In this instance, the determining factors may not be specifically related to astrology. If I’m going to accuse those instinctively arguing against some astrological connection of simply reacting in accordance with their biases, I want to be careful not to do the same thing myself. We don’t really know why different months seem to have specific lifelong health impacts. However, the holistic idea of health being naturally connected to the Earth’s yearly phases seems like common sense to me and, I’m sure, to practitioners of Eastern medicine, mystics of all sorts, and even just regular people who live in a manner that’s more in touch with nature than the average 21st-century Western lifestyle.

I would love to see this sort of large study focused on subjects from a single year, so that all the planetary positions (instead of just the Sun) would be consistent for each date for the participants. Then we could easily see if there’s a relation between astrology and health in this manner. Unfortunately, I think that study is unlikely to be funded anytime soon, at least in the US.

In the meantime, I wonder if astrologers will be able to run their own smaller studies, or even sift the data from this study and find patterns. I’ve long been curious (and even a little suspicious) about astrological placements and combinations related to health and physical appearance. It seemed to me that if such indications were as precise as many astrologers claim, it should be relatively simple to provide proof. But maybe it’s just that nobody cared enough to try proving it yet; after all, it’s not like astrology studies get much in the way of funding. And maybe, someday, this study will be looked back on as a key factor in changing that.

 

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