"Rahu creates smoke, has a dark body, resides in forests and engenders fear; he is airy (vata) in constitution. Ketu is similar to Rahu." Parashari, 3.30.
Apart from the seven planets, Vedic astrology gives consideration to certain significant points of planetary relationship as minor or secondary planets. The two most important of these are the nodes of the Moon. The north node is called "Rahu" or the Dragon's Head; the south node is called "Ketu" or the Dragon's Tail. We will refer to these two nodes throughout the book as Rahu and Ketu, as it is a simpler nomenclature.
These two nodes are considered to be secondary or shadowy planets. Astronomically, they represent the points at which the Moon's orbit crosses the ecliptic, the celestial equator. These are the places at which the Moon crosses the point of the Sun's orbit, at which eclipses can occur. The lunar nodes show the times when the solar and lunar forces obstruct each other or cancel each other out. They show the potential for short-circuiting, as it were, our solar or lunar energies. They are thus very sensitive points that can repercussions in the total field of planetary forces.
Rahu, the north or ascending node is the point at which the Moon crosses the ecliptic to the north. Ketu, the south or descending node is where it crosses it to the south. The influence of the north node is thus ascending, expanding, externalizing but of what is largely a negative force. The south node is descending, contracting and internalizing. Hence in the Vedic system the south node is less negative than the north.
Eclipses of the Sun and Moon can occur in proximity to either of the nodes. The nodes were regarded mythologically as the demon which swallows the luminary and causes the eclipse. As such, they have the power to overcome the Sun and the Moon, and in this sense can be stronger than any of the planets. In Vedic astrology, therefore, the conjunction of any planet with either of the lunar nodes is regarded as a kind of eclipse of that planet, wherein its energy is in some way obstructed, negated or liberated.
While it is the practice of many modern astrologers today to overlook or consider lightly the lunar nodes, Vedic astrology regards them as among the most important factors in chart interpretation. They possess the power not only to negate planetary influences, but as the eclipses are points of energy transformation, they have additional special properties to transfer or to augment planetary influences, for good or ill.
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