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The Art of Nakshatra Analysis
|By Hank Friedman|
The circle of the nakshatras is one of the earliest elements found in Vedic astrology. Because the Moon returns to the same stars every 27 days, the ancient Jyotishis divided the sky into 27 sections and gave each a name. Initially, the nakshatras were used primarily for muhurta, the practice of choosing the best time to initiate an action, such as getting married, starting a war, building a house, and so on. Over time, the nakshatra placement of the Moon became the core element in the calculation of many dasa systems, and was also used to indicate the major life themes in a natal chart.
The placement of both planets and the Lagna in nakshatras reveals pervasive patterns in an individual’s life. Because they occupy even smaller spans of the sky than the signs, the nakshatras indicate what is at the core of each individual.
Part One: Which nakshatras are important?
Of primary importance in a person’s life are the nakshatras of the Ascendant and Ascendant lord (Lagna and Lagnesa). The nakshatras occupied by the Moon and the Sun are also significant.
Historically, the nakshatra of the Moon has been given primary emphasis in Jyotish simply because natives of Indian/Vedic culture were given birth names using the letters corresponding with their lunar nakshatra. While one’s Ascendant might not be known, his Moon’s nakshatra was evident.
The nakshatras of the other planets are of lesser importance, but if several planets occupy the same nakshatra, then its themes become more salient. The nakshatra of the current dasa lord can indicate the prevailing life themes.
Finally, the nakshatra occupied by Saturn often indicates where major karma resides.
Part Two: The importance of placement
A planet’s placement affects its nakshatra’s expression. A positive placement elicits the good themes that a nakshatra represents, and a negative placement elicits the challenging themes that a nakshatra represents. The importance of this principle cannot be overstated.
The four elements of placement are:
1. Strength. Strong planets (vargottama, own sign, exalted, dig bala, retrograde, and bright Moon) are well-placed, and weak planets (debilitated, in planetary war, combust, and dark Moon) are poorly placed.
2. House occupation and rulership. Planets in or ruling bad houses (6, 8, 12) are poorly placed. Planets in or ruling good houses (1, 5, 9 and 1, 4, 7, 10) or neutral houses (2, 11) are well-placed. (House 3 occupation or rulership is a mildly poor placement.)
3. Influence of other planets. Planets with or aspected by benefics (Moon, Venus, Jupiter, and sometimes Mercury) have much better placement than planets with or aspected by malefics (Mars, Saturn, Rahu, Ketu and sometimes the Sun).
4. Yogas. Planets participating in positive yogas are very well-placed, and in negative yogas very poorly placed.
In the chart of Arnold Schwarzenegger below, for example, Mercury has as positive a placement as possible. It is strong (own sign and dig bala), occupies and rules good houses, only aspected by
benefics (Jupiter and the bright Moon), and participates in many positive yogas (including Chamara, Dhana, and Bhadra Maha Purusha).
Mercury occupies Punarvasu, and its great placement will bring out the best themes of that nakshatra. It is no accident that in the 1994 movie Junior, Mr. Schwarzenegger was chosen to portray the first man to ever give birth to a baby. Punarvasu represents the ultimate mother, the one who cares deeply for and cuddles and nurtures her children. (Pushya, on the other hand, is the mother who lays down the law, and teaches her children ethics.)
Punarvasu also represents protectors, and in many movie roles (e.g. Kindergarten Cop and Twins), Arnold plays the part of the protector. One of the most common meanings of Punarvasu is repetition, and how many reps does a body builder have to do to develop muscles like his?
Negative placement occurs when a planet is influenced by malefics, occupies and rules bad houses, participates in no yogas (or only challenging ones), and is weak. (Note: when a natural malefic occupies a specific nakshatra, it also can bring out the more difficult sides of that nakshatra.)
Bob Dylan’s chart serves as an example of a poorly placed planet in a nakshatra. The 9th lord Moon is dark and waning in the 6th house very close to a debilitated Saturn, and receives no aspects by benefics. Shortly after the onset of the Moon dasa (at age 5), Dylan’s father was stricken with polio and Bob’s entire life was thrown into upheaval. The Moon occupies the
nakshatra Krittika, which reflects the crippling infection of his father, the disruption of Dylan’s life, and how traumatic it was for him.
Planetary placement dramatically alters the effects of a nakshatra. Those familiar with nakshatras understand that some nakshatras (including Ashlesa, Mula, and Ardra) generally carry negative connotations. Yet a person who has a well-placed planet in one of these three nakshatras will, in fact, generally manifest the positive themes and qualities of these nakshatras, and not the negative ones.
Part Three: Synergy between nakshatras
In the interpretation of a natal birth chart, one of the most effective ways to address nakshatra placements is to look at the shared meanings of the three major nakshatras (Lagna, Lagnesa, and Moon).
How does one find shared themes?
There are many ways. All nakshatras have their own symbols, but certain pairs (the Phalgunis –the marriage bed – and Bhadrapadas – the funeral pyre) share symbols and therefore the meanings of those symbols. Similarly, some nakshatras share deities.
All nakshatras have several attributes, such as activity (active, passive, or balanced), caste, direction, gender, nadi, nature, sexual type, qualities, species, tattvas, and so forth. When the main nakshatras share any of these attributes in common, they become very significant in an individual’s life. (Please review the table below to see the attributes of each nakshatra, and the section on nakshatra in Hart de Fouw’s book Light on Life for more information on the meaning of these attributes.)
Some astrologers assume that nakshatras ruled by the same planet also share themes as a result of their shared rulership. However, Hart de Fouw teaches that these lordships are different in each nakshatra dasa system, and therefore should not be used as thematic in understanding nakshatras.
Finally, and most importantly, each nakshatra has a set of themes and qualities that they represent, and when the major nakshatras in a chart share the same themes, those become central in the person’s life.
(The above table was the result of an intensive research project by the author.)
Part Four: Synergy between a planet and its nakshatra
Each planet has many qualities of its own, and when the nature of its nakshatra placement has the same attributes, these qualities are reinforced.
When a hot planet like Mars or Ketu is in one of the nakshatras signifying heat, for example, Purva Bhadrapada or Krittika, the intensity of the heat is amplified.
Similarly, the nakshatras Pushya and Ashlesa can indicate a person who is cold or formal, so Saturn in one of these would intensify the iciness and strictness.
Having a bright Moon in Punarvasu, on the other hand, ensures that the person will love babies and be incredibly nurturing.
Blending the nature of each planet (and all that it signifies) with the themes of the nakshatra in which it resides is a very effective way of ascertaining the confluent patterns in a person’s life.
The nakshatras add a very important dimension to the understanding of natal charts. One can use their meanings in prediction as well as in birth chart analysis. They can greatly enrich one’s astrology readings, and brilliantly illuminate major life patterns.
”My deepest thanks to my Jyotish guru, Hart de Fouw, without whom this article could not have been written.”
Hank Friedman Biography
On a more personal note, Hank lives in the San Francisco Bay area of Northern California. He has a lovely home in the El Cerrito Hills, adorned by his fragrant garden (where he often adds new plants). One of his personal passions is creating gourmet chocolate truffles, and sharing the recipes on his website at http://www.soulhealing.com (presently up to 50 pages) and giving truffles to all of his friends, clients, neighbors, and so on. He is also an aficionado of top-quality oolong teas and always on the search for new ones. You can reach Hank by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to the above, Hank has websites that are focused on specific astrology programs:
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