Written and Illustrated by Brandi "Hari Avatar" Lyons
Vedic astrology first attracted my attention with the idea that each planet represents an archetype. Even though these archetypes were defined thousands of years ago, they still include all possible human roles and activities in a “navagraha,” or pantheon, of Vedic planet descriptions. Jupiter, for example, includes the roles of teacher, guide, and benefactor.
A planet, viewed as part of a group of iconic personalities, lends itself easily to predictions of it's behavior in a person's chart. A decent reading can be based on personal experiences with the “type” of person or job represented by that planet.
The ancient Vedic seers visualized the planets' relationships arranged into a “royal court.” The sun and moon are the king and queen. Their legitimate prince is Mercury, the clever and talented youth. Mars is the general of their military, and the masses of soldiers in their army are represented by the lunar nodes, Rahu and Ketu. The priest and priestess are Jupiter and Venus. Saturn is the illegitimate son relegated to servant status. It's a bit like a soap opera. Anyone's guess about their qualities, shaped by these lifestyles, is bound to be correct in many ways.
With such a compelling cast of astrological characters to reference, I based my initial readings almost entirely on their interactions, ignoring the details of the zodiac signs and houses. These seemed more subtle and passive, so they were harder to put a finger on for the purpose of chart readings. Houses divide all of life into fields of activity. The signs describe the conditions of those houses.
My system for learning the signs and houses involved organizing them as categories. Each had a list of characteristics and significations which, for the houses, consisted of places and fields of activity. The lists for the signs were possible descriptors for the houses. Like, Saturn in the third house in Gemini might read as "obligatory service to peers as a counselor."
Some of the category lists seem logical, so they are easy to remember. For example, the fourth house represents home and specifically the childhood home. It makes sense that you'd see things like motherhood, customs, protection, property, school, buildings, foundations, and origins in the list for this house. All those things have obvious connections. If someone told me the fourth house is the home I could probably infer that those other things might also be on that list.
But what about something more abstract? The list for the twelfth house includes: sanctuaries, dreams, bedrooms, imagination, spirit worlds, ancestors, (en)closures, foreign lands? Looking at it all together I can guess the gist of their possible connection. Maybe otherness or privacy in general?
But, I wouldn't have logically connected things like ancestors to the environment of the bedroom. And I wouldn't think of foreign lands and my imagination as being connected except, well, in my imagination. How could there be an intrinsic connection between these concepts that might be measurable in the real world? Was it an arbitrary categorization by wise seers in ancient India? Or, could there be a basic concept behind each that might make it possible to accurately guess the correlations without memorizing them by rote?
Clues about these hypothetical concepts didn't come to me until I was well into my studies of the zodiac signs called the nakshatras. These are smaller signs, unique to the Vedic system, within the twelve commonly known signs of the zodiac. There are 27 of them, and some are partly in one sign and partly in another. For instance, “Chitra,” is partly in the sixth sign, Virgo, and partly in the seventh sign, Libra. Their descriptions offered such precision that I used them instead of the larger signs. I memorized the mythological stories that represented their qualities and it made for some fascinating material in chart readings.
However, it wasn't until I read the following quote in a text I referenced that I understood that the nakshatras were energetic qualities:
“Pushan = the ferryman, yearning to cross over, shooting in great curves like a star, a great arch, a rainbow, or a bridge, or the suckers of a wide-spreading plant.” – from a description of Revati nakshatra by Barbara Pijan Lama
(link to: http://barbarapijan.com/bpa/Nakshatra/27revati.htm)
The author presents this nakshatra as the energetic quality of movement from one's current place or state to a more desirable place or state of being. She describes the activities of planets there as being like a “footpath” or a “rainbow bridge” which plucks those in need of guidance out of their needy state and deposits them into an improved one. Her example includes children or cattle, which are important to Revati nakshatra because of their need for guidance. People who work in animal shelters, or as teachers and guides for kids, often have a planet placed here.
Sample scenarios of the “energy” of Revati led me to the epiphany that these lists were not groups of items in a category; they were expressions of an energetic quality. I could suddenly see that Hasta, the thirteenth nakshatra, was the energy of crafting something by hand. Chitra, the fourteenth, was the energy of creatively defining the facets of something. Swati, the fifteenth, was the energy of blowing or tumbling from one thing to the next, and so on.
Even the twelve signs and the houses can be read more simply with this concept. The first house is personification, the second house is caching, the third house is peer interactions, the fourth house is laying a foundation, and so on. The signs illustrate the environment, like Capricorn climbing the ladder in a hierarchical group, and Aquarius connecting vast networks of equals.
Readings can be made by combining them like a game of Clue. You pick the planet that did it, the sign representing how they did it, and the house is which room they did it in. The nakshatra adds an element of information about what it was that they did. Clue would need nakshatras if there were other activities to choose from besides murder.
Now, sometimes I see a news story or a movie and I imagine what the subject's birth chart must look like. If the movie has a famous novelist character driving to a secret cabin in the mountains to write the last installment of his best selling trilogy, I think, "I bet that guy would have Mercury in Leo in his twelfth house."
And if that were true, knowing which nakshatras are in Leo, I could guess that his book might be based on an uprising against a philandering king, or a political love scandal in a historical setting, or.... As you can see, the Vedic system of referencing mythology and archetypes makes it so astrology is not just for astrologers anymore.
Brandi Lyons is a concept artist and Vedic Astrologer, who recently moved to Ann Arbor from Austin. She has studied Vedic Astrology and Kundalini for three years, and she spends her time tinkering with diagrams as she seeks to recombine ancient systems for healing into a new form with practical modern applications. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Brandi's website: http://www.hari-and-avatar.com/.