Grahas (The Planets)

by Kerry Shamblin

The planets are the major characters in the play of astrology. It is their movement along the backdrop of the stars and their relationships with one another that are gauged and read in an astrological chart. A well-endowed or strong planet is one that is posited in or ruler of friendly signs or houses, or it may be conjunct with or aspected by certain planets that enhance it. An afflicted planet may be conjunct or aspected by other harmful planets, placed in an unfriendly sign, or have the rulership of or placement in difficult houses.

SUN   The Sun represents our soul on a higher level and our ego on a lower. It describes who we are within ourselves. Western astrology places the greatest emphasis on the Sun sign, a reflection perhaps on the importance of personal ego in our culture. Vedic astrology considers the Sun sign generally as next in importance after the Rising and Moon sign. It represents our true will, central purpose in life, and perception. A well-placed Sun will give intelligence, strong will, character, vitality, authority, courage, confidence, and leadership. If the Sun is too strong it can create pride, tyranny, and arrogance, outshining everyone else. A weak Sun may show a lack of confidence, and the tendency to sacrifice one's self, allowing others to dominate. The Sun rules the sign of Leo, and represents the father and our relationship to him. We begin our calendar week with Sunday. It is the strongest celestial body that we observe from Earth, without which there would be no life for us.

MOON   The Moon rules the second day of the week, Monday, and the sign of Cancer. Whereas the Sun represents the father, the Moon represents the Mother, the Divine Goddess, and the feminine creative principle. It shows the state of our mind, including thought, emotion, and intuition. A strong Moon shows nurturing, caring, sensitivity, and receptiveness, giving emotional maturity and responsibility, allowing us to benefit others. An afflicted Moon shows mental disturbance, a poor ability to relate to others, and personality disorders. The Moon is easily influenced by the energies of other planets. It symbolizes relationship, interchange, and communication with others.

MARS   Mars is the planet of projection, aggression, force, drive, and courage. Its energy is masculine and shows how we project our vital energy and emotion, and it indicates our passion, motivation, and determination. Key words for Mars are drive and power, and he rules work, effort, research, and development. A strong Mars will indicate these qualities, but overly endowed or ill placed; Mars can cause violence, control, domination, or injury. Well placed, Mars provides the capacity for confidence to carry out our will, discrimination, insight, and self-discipline. In short, it is the planet of goal-oriented action, and its placement can show our tendencies toward utilizing that energy. Tuesday is Mars' day, and it rules the signs of Aries and Scorpio.

MERCURY   Mercury is the indicator of the intellect or informational capacity of the mind. He moves the most quickly of all the planets, gaining the reputation of messenger, traveler, and communicator. His nature is mutable, and both other planets and energies that closely affect him easily influence Mercury. He rules writing, speech, education, calculation, thought, and commerce. A strong Mercury affords one intelligence, good humor, and psychological balance, as well as strength in Mercurial matters. Afflicted, Mercury may cause a weak intelligence, a deceptive nature, speech impediments, or nervous system disorders. Mercury rules Wednesday, the turning point of the weak, significant in that his placement indicates the point at which we can use our intellect to change our lives and achieve balance. He rules the signs Virgo and Gemini.

JUPITER   The planet of expansion, spiritual intelligence, creativity, luck, and grace is Jupiter. Whereas Mercury rules the intellect that depends on information, Jupiter points toward eternal intelligence and the Divine spirit. Jupiter is joyous, fun loving, enjoys music, and loves to share. A well-endowed Jupiter will give us a strong tendency toward inner work, religiosity, a healthy vitality, and a joyful nature. An afflicted Jupiter could cause too much optimism, causing us to over speculate or to overextend ourselves or our resources. We could become caught up in the pursuit of fun, pleasure, or luxury. Jupiter shows the expansiveness of our spirit, and his placement in our charts shows the source of grace and fortune in our life. Another name for Jupiter is Jove, hence the term jovial, and his day of the week is Thursday. Jupiter rules the signs Sagittarius and Pisces.

VENUS   Venus is well known as the goddess of love and beauty, and she represents relationship and harmony. Venus signifies art, music, poetry, and dance, and her placement shows our source of sensitivity and refinement. She is the embodiment of femininity, and indicates sexuality and sexual love. A well-placed Venus gives us an inherent sense of beauty and harmony, giving a great capacity for love, devotion, and sensitivity. An afflicted Venus can lead us toward self-indulgence, vanity, and exhaustion through seeking pleasure comfort, and luxury, allowing us to be taken in by appearances. Venus rules Friday, Taurus, and Libra, and she loves to entertain and socialize.

SATURN   Whereas Jupiter expands, Saturn is the contraction, the limitation, and the constant reminder of our spirit's entrapment in material manifestation. Saturn is a negative force that obstructs, destroys, and depresses; he is the significator of old age, death, and disease. He is the slowest moving of the planets, discouraging development, often binding us to the rule of external forces. Saturn shows our ego, fear, selfishness, and doubts. A strongly malefic Saturn can cause attachment to base values and the underside of life, showing criminal behavior, perversity, and the pursuit of gross pleasure, without grace. On the other hand, a well-endowed Saturn is necessary for a spiritual life, as he gives detachment from the material world and the necessary energy to transcend the material realm. He can be pictured as the yogi in meditation, the guiding spirit of the ancestor. A strong Saturn protects the life and is necessary for creating anything of enduring value. The last day of the week, Saturday, is ruled by this planet, which also rules the signs Capricorn and Aquarius.

RAHU   Rahu, the north node of the moon, is associated with worldly desire and material manifestation. It represents the journey of the spirit as it engrosses itself in the material world. Rahu points to worldly desire, fame, greed, high intelligence, manipulation, obsessive behavior, foreigners, mass disease, dementia, and inertia. On the positive side, it can show sensitivity to mass trends and can give popularity, fame, power, or prestige. It is of an airy nature, and is described in Vedic texts as born of a lioness, with half of a huge, snake-like body, and being very powerful, having the capacity to overcome the Moon. It incarnates as Varaha, the boar. The nodes of the moon are not given sign rulership, but some say that they favor the signs of Jupiter and Mercury, while others assert that Rahu favors Aquarius, and Ketu favors Scorpio.

KETU   Ketu, the south node, is the force of spirituality, of otherworldly desire. It shows the spiritual process of evolution that refines the materialized spirit. In worldly matters, it is considered malefic, but in matters of the spirit is seen as benefic, as worldly difficulties often lead someone toward seeking relief through union with the Divine. Ketu indicates wisdom, liberation, non-attachment, focused intelligence, penetrating insight, derangement, bearing arms, invisibility, and psychic abilities. It's placement shows our capacity and nature of spiritual liberation, and it has the power to overcome the Sun. It incarnates as Meena, the fish.

Rahu and Ketu came into being this way:

Once upon a time, a demon attempted to obrain some amrita, the nectar that grants immortality. Posing as one of the gods, the demon waitied for the amrita to be passed. Just as the demon enjoyed his taste of the nectar, his identity was revealed to the Sun and Moon, who sat next to him. They informed Vishnu who came immediately, weilding his whirling disc, which he threw at the demon, separating the head from the body. The demon, having already partaken of the amrita did not die. The head of the demon was thereafter known as "Rahu" while the body was named "Ketu." Rahu and Ketu periodically get revenge on the Sun and Moon by swallowing them, which manifests astrologically as eclipses.

RETROGRADE   When a planet is retrograde, it is not moving backwards, literally, but apparently to us it seems to be moving in the opposite direction of its usual orbit. This is due to the position of the planet in its elliptical orbit around the Sun compared to the Earth's elliptical orbit around the Sun. During retrograde periods, the planet is actually closer to us on Earth, and so its energy is somewhat stronger. A retrograde planet at birth may cause its energies to become internalized or latent in us. That planet's energies may develop later in that person, but because of this become more prominent later in life. This could cause a childhood hobby to become a career in adulthood, for example.