Maha Navaratri 2017 begins today! In this important Hindu holiday, we celebrate the Goddess through “the great nine nights” (nav = nine, ratri = night). This festival will run through September 30th, the first ten days of this new lunar cycle. Goddess, Devi, Shakti, Durga, Divine Mother—the many names and forms all represent the dynamic and fluid feminine power that enlivens all of existence.
She is the creatrix, the warrioress, the nurturer, the purifyer, the protector. While she’s in the innocent and fertile maiden so is she the wise and learned crone. Both the nurturing mother, and the one who gives “tough love.” The impassioned lover, the devoted bhakta, the disciplined yogini. We see Goddess appear through us in innumerable manifestations. Through her many forms she teaches us and offers us countless blessings–love, compassion, courage, learning, discipline, surrender, success, enlightenment, and bliss. This festival is a time for celebrating the supreme feminine power in all her glory, and the many blessings she bestows upon us.
As with most Hindu celebrations, this festival correlates with the lunar calendar, and thus begins on the first day of the waxing Moon after the New Moon of September 19th. The celebration is through the “nine nights” of 21st through 29th, and into the eleventh morning known as Vijayadashami, “the day of victory,” on September 30th (because of the way the lunar phases correlate with the solar days, this year the celebration will span ten nights! Check the Vedic panchanga for your city to see the exact dates for Navaratri where you are.). Worship during Navaratri is most generally dedicated to Goddess in the form of Durga, the demon-slayer, but there is much nuance and variation to practice and forms of celebration throughout India. Above all, Navaratri is a community celebration of the Divine Mother, and the love, abundance and protection she gives.
There are many Navaratri celebrations throughout the year, but the fall-time Navaratri is the most widely celebrated, and is thus called Maha Navaratri – “the great nine nights”. It correlates with the time of the harvest, a time to give thanks for the abundance of the year’s work. Grains and crops are often offered to Devi as part of the celebrations. Ritualistic worship (puja) typically occurs in homes and temples throughout the nine nights and into the tenth morning of celebration.
The Many Forms of Goddess
In Kerala and other places in India, the first three nights of worship are dedicated to Durga (the invincible), the next three to Lakshmi (Goddess of prosperity), and the final three to Sarasvati (Goddess of learning). Durga, also celebrated as her incarnation of Kali, helps us to destroy and remove the negative tendencies in our minds and hearts, freeing us from the obstructions to our spiritual and material pursuits. Lakshmi helps us to cultivate positive qualities like compassion and devotion, and leads us towards both spiritual and material prosperity. Sarasvati assists us in attaining knowledge and wisdom, through the illumination of our consciousness. She aids in awakening sattva, the quality of purity, and the flow of prana, the vital breath. After removing inner and outer obstacles and cultivating prosperity through virtuous qualities, our devotion, service, and practice help us to attain a state of peace, bliss, and oneness.
In the Kali Kula (Kali school of worship) in northeastern India, Sarasvati is worshiped on the first three nights, followed by Lakshmi on the next and then Kali/Durga on the last three. Sarasvati, Lakshmi, and Kali/Durga (Kali emerged from Durga) are also known as the consorts of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The Goddesses, therefore, provide the shakti to the cosmic processes of creation, preservation, and death (transformation), similar to their male counterparts. Consequently, worship in this manner is dedicated to the cycles of life and Mother nature, through birth, then sustenance, then death. Death is not a complete stop, but allows for the regeneration of energy into a new cycle once again.
9 Forms of Durga
Throughout India, the nine nights of Navaratri are often dedicated to 9 different incarnations of Durga, allowing the worship of many different aspects of Shakti in a gradual evolution. You can read the stories and significance of these 9 goddesses here (or click on Goddess name below), or a more a brief introduction, here:
“Dark/black night,” representing a fierce form of Durga/Kali; darkness, death, surrender, dissolution of pain; Connecting with the sahasrara (crown chakra), remember that Divine Mother offers love, compassion, and many blessings even in hard times. Even in the midst of apparent darkness, and helps us to go beyond the boundaries of the material body-mind and connect with spirit.
“Great white goddess”; detachment, purification, renewal, protection, virtue; Through detachment and devotion, we emerge purified, shining and radiant after surrendering in the dark night. Rejuvenative herbs and foods are good today.
Goddess of “siddhis”; magical, spiritual or mystic powers and blessings, fulfillment of desires, devotion, divine union; Invite Goddess to reveal her presence to you everywhere and in every moment.
Personal Practice Ideas for Navaratri
If possible, it is great to reduce our workload and gather with community at local temples or places of worship. We can also create a little time and space at home and conduct some personal practices to celebrate Goddess energy. Dive into your own heart to connect with the inner Goddess in the ways that resonate most with you! Here are some ideas to do at home or with a group throughout the nine nights of Navaratri:
Create a sacred space, a Durga altar, or a Goddess altar. Even if you already have one, you can refresh it in some way or rearrange it specifically for Navaratri. Include images or statues of the Goddess(es) you have a relationship with. This could be according to one of the groups of forms above.
Even if you don’t have much time, dedicate at least a few minutes each day to connecting with the Divine Mother in front of your altar, calling her energy into your life and being.
Write in your journal about what qualities of Goddess you perceive and connect with. What aspects would you like to strengthen or to cultivate more deeply? Write any and all prayers and offer them to the form of Goddess that appeals to you.
Offer light to illuminate Goddess’s power, helping her to shine more brightly into the world and your life. You can light a candle by the altar and keep it burning when you’re at home. You can even keep an electronic tealight on symbolically when you are away.
Offer flowers or grains (even a small dish of dried rice) to celebrate Devi in the form of mother nature, fertility, the abundance of the harvest, and the cycle of life.
Offer incense, bells, water, or food if you feel called, by placing it on the altar, or mentally offering it to Goddess throughout the day. You can also offer something symbolic of your own work or practice, whatever you have been cultivating for harvest through the year. In offering this you surrender the fruits of your efforts to the Divine Mother.
Some people choose to fast in some variation, if this is something you have practiced before. This might include fasting during the day, fasting with only milk or fruit, or abstaining from alcohol and non-vegetarian foods during Navaratri.
Chanting the Devi Mahatmyam, a verse to the Goddess, is a common practice during the nine-night festival. You can also chant another Goddess mantra or songs that are special to you and your relationship with Devi.
Jai Ma Durga!
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The new lunar cycle begins Tuesday, September 19th, at 10:30 pm PDT, with Sun and Moon in sidereal Virgo. After a couple of months full of a lot of emotion and fire with many planets (and eclipses!) in Cancer and Leo, we have a chance to ground out a little bit more under the influence of earth-sign Virgo. Virgo is ruled by Mercury, the planet of the intellect, which brings a more practical and impartial nature to our energies this month. There is opportunity for curiosity and learning. The cycle begins in the Vedic nakshatra called Uttara Phalguni, which reminds us to take time in relaxation in order to re-kindle our productive energy.
The placement of Mercury and the nodes at the time of the Dark Moon, however, continue to make for a strong amount of “shadow” and subconscious energy to be present. Mercury, the lord of Virgo, will be in the 12th house from the Sun and Moon, and joining closely with Mars, showing a lot of intensity in the subconscious and potential for feeling disconnected. This New Moon also occurs under a full kala sarpa yoga, an alignment in which all seven planets are in between the two nodes of the Moon, Rahu and Ketu, in the cosmic circle.
The kala sarpa yoga can be translated as “black snake” or “serpent of time.” The Moon transits the entire zodiac each month, so for two weeks of each month Moon will be on the other side of this axis, breaking the kala sarpa yoga, but for half of the month all planets will fall on one side of the “black serpent.” This will occur frequently over the next several months, when all seven planets will be situated to one side of the nodal axis (see photo) for half the month. The Moon transits the entire zodiac each month, so for two weeks of each month Moon will be on the other side of this axis, breaking the kala sarpa yoga, but for half of the month all planets will fall on one side of the “black serpent.”
When this alignment occurs, more of the shadowy and subconscious energy represented by the nodes is present. We may expect to be more introverted during this time, but it is also possible that more disruptive events can occur. People who are born under this alignment tend to have many “heavy” experiences throughout life. There can still be many positive and auspicious events during this time as well (or for those born under a kala sarpa yoga), but they tend to come after or despite some hardships or challenges.
Look for this yoga to occur for half the month from now through January of 2018. We experienced a similar occurrence last year (2016) from roughly September through January. This doesn’t happen every year, but we happen to be in a time where both Jupiter and Saturn, the slower-moving planets, are both to one side of the nodal axis. Thus this alignment occurs when the faster-moving planets, Sun, Mars, Mercury, and Venus, (plus Moon for half of each month) are also on one side of the axis.
Thankfully, there is a wonderful opportunity at hand to get in touch with the shadowy, subconscious energy of the nodes, through ritual worship and practice offered by Navaratri, the “nine-night” festival of the Goddess, which begins on the first day of this lunar cycle. This is a Hindu festival dedicated to worshiping the Goddess, Devi, in her many forms, for nine days and nights. As the night represents darkness and ignorance, we pray to her to help reveal and remove our shortcomings, bestow blessings, and confer wealth and knowledge. We face the darkness and call on the Divine Mother to remove it and let the atman, or the pure divinity within each of us, shine forth.
Navaratri worship can include creating a special altar to the Goddess, and making daily offerings including flowers, food, incense, light (a flame), ghee, as well as prayer, meditation, mantras and bhajans (devotional songs). The Devi Mahatmya (a.k.a. Chandi Path), the story of Durga, is a traditional text to read throughout this festival. Occurring in the fall-time in India and the northern hemisphere, this Navaratri also coincides with the harvest season, and is a time to give thanks for the abundance of the harvest and pray that it carries us through the winter season.
In many places, the first three nights of Navaratri are dedicated to Goddess in the form of Durga or Kali, warrior goddesses who help us to cleanse our impurities, the next three to Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity and devotion, and the last three to Sarasvati, goddess of wisdom. In other traditions, there are nine different forms of the Goddess honored on each of the nine days and nights. Be sure to follow me to receive daily updates throughout the festival!
Nodes Have Changed Signs
Since the onset of the eclipse cycle in early September, the nodes, Rahu and Ketu, have fully transitioned from the Leo-Aquarius axis to the Cancer-Capricorn axis. This completes one year-and-a-half transit as it begins another. From now through March of 2019, we will experience Rahu in Cancer and Ketu in Capricorn. The obsessive, insatiable Rahu in Cancer will cause us to experience a heightened state of emotionality throughout this time, with perhaps overwhelming sensitivity at times. The confusion of the nodes impels us to take time to get a better understanding of our hearts, and much will be revealed around the eclipse cycles that come in January-February 2018, July-August 2018, and January-February 2019.
With Ketu now transiting sidereal Capricorn, we will have to observe our shadows in the way that we balance our emotional nature with our practicality. Ketu in Capricorn could make us resistant to taking responsibility and practical steps for the future, but he will eventually raise self-awareness around any challenges we have here. We can be very self-critical in the area of Ketu’s transit, which will also affect each individual where Capricorn falls in the natal chart. Conversely, we may encounter impatience, restlessness, and even lust in the area of life indicated by Cancer in our natal chart, while Rahu transits there. I am happy to offer this Full Report and Forecast for Your Sign Here. (If you’re already on the free mailing list, you’ll be getting it in your inbox later today!)
Jupiter in Virgo/Libra
Jupiter has technically transitioned zodiac signs recently, moving from sidereal Virgo’s into sidereal Libra’s designated slice of the pie-in-the-sky. Virgo is a much larger constellation than Libra, however, and in areas where abundant stars are visible just after sunset, one can see that Jupiter is still traversing the constellation of Virgo. The two do not each take up 30° of the 360° ring of the zodiac, in real observational terms, but rather Virgo takes up more than that portion while Libra covers less. Thus, we may be beginning to feel some energy of Jupiter in Libra (more inspiration for harmony, compromise, and the arts), I believe we are still experiencing a strong quality of Jupiter in Virgo (elevating our desire for organization of life’s details).
Also remember, most Western astrologers will say that Jupiter has been in Libra for the last year already, which can cause some confusion. That is based on the tropical zodiac, based on the seasons. Now is a great example of how the tropical zodiac does not correlate with the observable position of the planets and constellations as we see them from earth.
In the Vedic zodiac, Jupiter is still considered to be in the constellation of Chitra, which bridges the designations of Virgo and Libra. This nakshatra correlates with the star called Spica within Virgo (which Jupiter is closely conjunct at the moment), and translates as “the brilliant,” as it is one of the brightest stars in the sky. It is the sign of the celestial architect, and does bring forth a strong artistic quality. This is, therefore, a good time to allow your artistic inspiration to shine through, especially through both skillful and intelligent endeavors.
Mercury, Mars and Venus in Leo
Mercury, Mars, and Venus are all transiting sidereal Leo now. Venus in Leo can cause us to bring forth a lot of “me-first” in relationships, while the proximity of Mars and Mercury in this fire sign can lead to arguing, so be especially aware of these tendencies this month. The three are all catching an aspect from Saturn, now moving forward in direct motion in Scorpio, so that could help to add some mature caution to our impulses.
Each year, the full Moon in the Hindu month of Ashadha is dedicated to celebrating our gurus. This year’s Guru Purnima falls on the night of July 8th in North America and India, with the Moon reaching peak fullness at 9:07 pm PDT on Saturday. This year, Guru Purnima’s full Moon falls in Purvashada nakshatra (Vedic constellation), in the middle of sidereal Sagittarius, close to the galactic center. The Moon will be opposite the Sun in sidereal Gemini, where we began this lunar cycle.
The Sanskrit word guru is most commonly translated as “teacher.” It refers not only to the mighty spiritual teachers that are often associated with this word, but can indicate teachers in many fields of study or practice. One might have a spiritual guru, a yoga guru, an astrology guru, or even a knitting, cooking, or physics guru. “Gu” is often translated as darkness or ignorance while “ru” implies dispelling, disseminating, or removing. Guru as an adjective often implies grandeur or weight, frequently translated as “heavy,” which is a way that one might describe our most influential teachers. Students of jyotish will also recognize Guru as the name for Jupiter, who even the ancients knew as a large and profoundly influential planet. His influence in our lives is often in the realms of higher teachings and philosophy, and his position in someone’s natal chart can tell us about their path of learning and relationships with teachers. (For more rumination on the concept of guru in general, check out previous years’ articles.)
Each month, as the Moon waxes and wanes his way through the ecliptic, he undergoes 30 phases known as tithis in Vedic astrology. Although the transition is smooth, the tithis are delineated distinctly, and each one carries a certain supportive energy. The purnima phase, roughly a day long, is the fullest phase of the Moon, with the peak of fullness happening at the last moment of the phase (given as Full Moon time), before the light on the Moon begins to recede again as we enter the waning phase.
Purnima is generally thought of as the most auspicious phase of the month, and is positive for most activities, especially spiritual activities. There is a harmony of lunar and solar energy at this time. The Moon influences the ebb and flow of our watery emotions and our state of mind. We are most able to perceive this subtle body within when the outer Moon is fully illuminated. It is also a time where opposite poles within us (and in the external solar system), are both illuminated at the same time. Wherever the Full Moon occurs, it is on the exact opposite side of the zodiac from the Sun. On this Full Moon, the Sun is illuminating the Gemini part of the sky while the Moon’s light brightens Sagittarius for us. We are better able to integrate the two opposite poles within us when this occurs.
Sagittarius Full Moon
The Sagittarius section of the sky carries an energy of optimism and idealism, under Jupiter’s idealistic rulership. With the Moon here we are inspired to act on our beliefs, and share our purpose with the world. There is a great charitable nature here. Sagittarius is opposite from Gemini, where Sun and Moon began this lunar cycle, which is a place of much more practicality and impartiality, ruled by Mercury. On this full Moon we are able to see a better path towards balancing our flexible, curious, intellectual side (airy Gemini) with our passionate and idealistic side (firey Sagittarius).
The Vedic sky is divided into 27 sections or nakshatras, along the same band of the ecliptic as we see the twelve major zodiac signs. These smaller sections give us much more information about the energy coming from that part of the cosmos, and the mood that the planets will take on as they pass there. This Full Moon falls in Purva Ashadha nakshatra, known as “the invincible one.” There is a great deal of optimism and power here, so this could be a great time to face some fears and challenges that require confrontation. The water deity Apas presides here, strengthening our connection to the water element and our inner sensitivity.
As you tune into your own heart under the Guru Purnima full Moon, acknowledge the teachers and gurus who have and continued to support you along your journey. This is a particularly auspicious day for honoring them, upholding tradition, and even setting intentions for new paths of learning or teaching that you plan to follow.
Jupiter, Venus & Saturn
The Guru planet himself is in Hasta nakshatra at the moment, the sign of “the hand,” which adds even more expansion to our opportunities for learning and strengthening our skills. He is also aspecting Venus, who is now in Taurus, his own sign. Venus in Taurus (most of this month), elevates the artistry in our life, bringing more beauty and amplifying our connection with all sensual pleasures — nature, art, music, food, and our surroundings in general.
With this aspect it could be a good month to improve your material situation … but be aware that retrograde Saturn is also aspecting Venus now, having just transited back into sidereal Scorpio. While Jupiter’s aspect helps us to expand in Venusian endeavors, Saturn’s disciplinarian mood may bring up feelings of restriction. Take this as a lesson to broaden your vision and look at the long-term results of your decisions. Indulging in your pleasures now may require a bit of hard-work and commitment because of Saturn’s influence, but that is a reminder of the effort we will need to put forth over time to support our actions.
This Wednesday brings a new Moon cycle, starting us off with the energy of Aries and the Vedic nakshatra of Ashwini. The Sun and Moon coincide on the dark night of Tuesday, April 25th, with the waxing lunar cycle beginning at 5:16 am PDT on April 26th. Both Aries and Ashwini bring on the energy of new beginnings, as the first major and minor signs of the zodiac.
Ashwini is a Vedic constellation found within the first 13°30′ of sidereal Aries. Known as the “horsewoman” or the “twin horses,” this nakshatra is ruled by the Vedic deities called the Ashwin Kumars. These horse-headed twins are known as the physicians of the Gods, and thus the new Moon here leads us into a month of healing and exploring new types of medicine (especially herbal), as well as starting new ventures.
What kind of healing do you need to cultivate in your life right now? What medicines or holistic arts have been calling to you that you are ready to explore more deeply?
One caveat of the horse-power energy offered by Ashwini, and the headstrong, Mars-fueled strength of Aries, the ram, is that we sometimes tend to rush into things that we do not have the endurance to finish. Of course, we’re still experiencing the slowed-down energy of having three planets retrograde — Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter — so that may curb our enthusiasm a bit and allow for more foresight to meld into our springtime fervor.
The Sun, in particular, is exalted right now during his transit of Aries. This gives us an immense sense of physical vitality. It’s a great time to re-start our exercise regimes (yes, even if they already started and fizzled out around the Gregorian new year in January), and other projects that are fueled by our inspiration and gut “yes!” The direction that we wield the horse’s (or ram’s) head right now will be the one where we find the most momentum as we bound into our goals and ventures through the summer. The Sun’s energy, as well as our own, are strongest during the summer months.
What direction do you want to steer your energy for the coming year? Where do you feel the most inspiration, and want to plant seeds whose potential will grow throughout the lightening season? What projects have you had in mind for a while that you feel some extra gusto for right now?
Three Planets Retrograde
With Saturn, Jupiter, and Mercury all retrograde right now, we have the potential for some deep introspection along with our high inspiration.
Saturn retrograde helps us to dive deep into our long-term goals and commitments, especially around our work. Saturn also rules over two specific areas of life for each individual, and those areas may be under serious question right now, as you begin to align them with your values over the next two years of his Sagittarius transit.
Jupiter is also retrograde, giving us the opportunity to re-evaluate our goals as far as education and higher learning are concerned. Many people may be reconsidering going back to school, or alternatively taking a break from it. It’s also a good time to take a second look at what teachers and higher values we follow closely, and seeing if these internal relationships are changing for us at all right now. Jupiter also rules two areas of your life that could feel like they’re at a stand-still or going backwards right now.
Mercury retrograde comes more frequently and lasts for only three weeks (as opposed to many months for Jupiter and Saturn). Through his motion, Budha (Mercury) gives us a constant reminder not to plummet ahead too fast with what we think we know. The intellect, our impartial observer, needs times to reset itself, slow down, and look with fresh eyes, so that we don’t become overpowered by the passion of Mars, the opinions of Jupiter, or the desires of Venus (to name a few other influences). Mercury retrograde is a good time to check ourselves, become more curious and observant, and slow down our communication.
This could be a bit more difficult while Mercury transits Aries and Ashwini, who add more fire and head-strong certainty to our analytical mind, so it’s a really good time for a conscious practice of active listening and breathing before speaking. Mercury turns direct again on May 3rd.
Thursday/Friday this week brings the third day of the waxing Moon cycle this month, and both the Sun and Moon will be in their signs of exaltation at that time. This day known as Akshaya Tritiya occurs each year, three days after the new Moon in Aries. With Sun exalted in Aries and Moon exalted in Taurus, we feel optimum strength and inspiration as well as maximum peace of heart and mind. The divine masculine and divine feminine are both most readily available to express themselves through us.
It is hence known as the day of “never diminishing,” and tradition states that any investments made on this day will yield positive returns. This includes physical and monetary investments as well as spiritual and energetic investments … i.e., starting new ventures or setting new intentions in your life. The dark moon night of the 26th is a great time to be still and sit with your intentions, becoming clear on your goals, and putting them into action on the 28th carries the likelihood of an auspicious outcome. (Of course, with the three planets still retrograde it can help to consult an astrologer for the specific timing of any launches … but connecting with your heart and divine guidance are naturally more open pathways on this day as well.)
This Monday, April 10th brings the purnima full moon phase under a mass of retrograde planets. The Moon reaches peak fullness in sidereal Virgo at 11:08 pm PDT. In contrast to the sensitive and dreamy nature of Pisces that led us into this lunar cycle, the Virgo full moon illuminates for us some more grounded and practical ways of looking at the flood of emotions we have experienced lately.
Venus and Pisces
You probably remember my emphasis on Venus this Moon cycle, since the planet of desire and relationships has been having a heavy influence lately. Venus joined the Sun and Moon in Pisces at the start of this Moon cycle, setting the tone for (another) month of really focusing on relationships and how we go about achieving pleasure in this world. Venus has been transiting Pisces since late January, where he’s considered exalted.” This time frame has compelled us to realign our desire with the cosmic desire, taking a look at what our truest desires really are, and seeing how that relates to our most cherished values. Pisces is a place where we can learn to surrender into the divine flow, and also come into much deeper contact with our emotions. It’s also a sign that brings up the possibility of escapism, so if you have that tendency it’s a good time to watch out for it.
Since March 4th, Venus has been on his retrograde course. This semi-rare occurrence (happening once every 18 months), is a time where we seriously back up and reflect on our relationships as well as our pleasures. I have seen a LOT of people experiencing a degree of retreat in relationships as well, feeling more aversion to partners and feeling much more inwardly drawn. We seem to notice everything that’s wrong with the relationship, or the partner, or better yet in our own approach to human harmony. It can certainly feel a bit painful at times, but this is an opportunity for us to become more self-aware, and elevate the way that we approach and behave in our relationships.
What recent revelations have you had about your personal relationship style?
When you check in with yourself and allow yourself to feel your true desires, what do you find?
How do your desires relate with your highest values, philosophy, and beliefs?
Virgo Full Moon
This Virgo full moon is a great time to actually seek and find some tangible methods of implementing that elevated approach to pleasure. Virgo is an earth sign ruled by Mercury (the intellect), so this full moon guides us towards practical and implementable tools to improve our modes of relating, and reaching our desires. Jupiter joins the full moon here, so our belief structures and higher guidance is a strong support right now. We have the chance to take tools from our highest teachings and create daily practices and specific methods that take us towards our goals and desires.
What small daily practice can you add to your life that harmonizes both your desires and your beliefs?
What conscious plan of action can you implement, either on your own or with a partner, to better support your relationships?
This full moon falls within the section of Virgo known as Chitra, “the brilliant.” This is a very potent nakshatra (Vedic constellation) for taking the beauty that we perceive through Venus and birthing it into form in the world. The deity of this star is Vishvakarma, the celestial architect, who reminds us of the cosmic harmonic perfection that is truly an amalgam of beauty and order (think sacred geometry). This concept elicits the understanding that desire and beauty are not exclusive from sensibility and logic.
As your own architect, what steps can you take towards weaving more beauty and harmony into structured practices your life?
So Much Retrograde!
Though the full moon phase usually has us feeling a little bit more active and outward, this time around might really be better served with some personal retreat time. There is a lot to reflect on due to Venus retrograde alone, but on top of that, this purnima also finds Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury, Rahu and Ketu retrograde (the nodes always move in apparent retrograde direction). That’s six out of nine Vedic grahas appearing to move “backwards” through the zodiac. This mass of retrograde planets lasts through the week, from April 9th through the 15th.
This could mean that we will experience a major slowdown in almost all areas of life next week. Don’t worry, this just means that it’s a time to schedule some downtime and go inward. It’s not the best time to plan on starting new ventures or important milestones in life. In the area where I live, this week is spring break for a lot of the schools. A little vacation or retreat could definitely be appropriate right now, as things aren’t really moving forward anyway in terms of work, relationships, education, and communication. But be prepared for a few possible hiccups in travel logistics or scheduling of events.
On the following Friday, the 15th, Venus will turn direct. We will have hopefully found more clarity around our relationships and desires by then, and can begin to better implement our plan of action the between then and the end of May, as Venus continues his journey forward through Pisces.
Shani or Saturn is one of the planets whose retrograde motion recently began. He is the planet governing our commitments, perseverance, and work ethic, so with this motion we may be feeling ourselves slow down, and beginning to reconsider our long-term goals, particularly around career. This retrograde transit lasts from now through August 25th, during which time he will transit back into Scorpio (having only recently begun his journey through sidereal Sagittarius). This will give us the chance to take another last look at the commitments we were working through during his Scorpio transit over the last two years, which are very particular for each individual sign. (Email me for the free Saturn Retrograde in Scorpio e-book if you didn’t get it yet.)
Remember, above all, Saturn is here to teach us patience. With Mars in Aries while Saturn is slowing down, you might feel like a fireball wanting to speed ahead but frustrated at your ability to do so. This week’s mass of retrograde planets is giving you the opportunity to slow things down and turn inward for a minute, reflecting on what is really important.
Retrograde dates to remember:
Jupiter Retrograde: February 5th – June 9th
Venus Retrograde: March 4th – April 15th
Saturn Retrograde: April 5th – August 25th
Mercury Retrograde: April 9th – May 3rd
The purnima full moon phase this month also indicates Hanuman Jayanti, the celebration of the birth of Lord Hanuman. This Vedic deity represents the penultimate devotee, and shows us the immense strength that great faith, humility, and service can bring forth from within us. With all of this retrograde motion, and the powerful influence of the “Venus in Pisces” Moon cycle we are traversing, devotional practice is probably the best medicine. Chant, sing, meditate, and especially, find some ways to be of service, in order to honor Hanuman this Monday.
Sunday begins the New Moon cycle and brings with it a powerful eclipse whose alignment offers some deep healing opportunities. The annular solar eclipse will be visible from much of Africa, South America, and Antarctica, and will coincide with the exact time of the darkest Moon phase at 6:58 a.m PST (14:58 UTC) on Sunday, February 26th. This eclipse occurs with the Sun, Moon, Mercury, and Ketu all in sidereal Aquarius within the Vedic nakshatra of Shatabisha.
Aquarius is a sign ruled by Saturn, and it is where we remember something greater than ourselves. It is where we become inspired towards universal service, and to offering effort into society and for the greater good. Saturn, the planet of pressure and time, is aspecting the planets of this eclipse from his recent seat in sidereal Sagittarius, compelling us even more deeply to stand up for our principles and beliefs, and commit ourselves to these through hard work.
Shatabisha is the Vedic nakshatra that most elicits the concept of healing. It is the star of the “100 physicians” or the “100 medicines,” and is ruled by Varuna, the deity of the cosmic waters. With many planets under the influence of this star, we are strongly called towards our journey of self-healing, trying many different medicines and healing techniques to get there. Having Ketu here, eclipsing the Sun and the Moon, presents the opportunity to go deeply into our subconscious blockages and find release from past karma and trauma.
The Greater Eclipse Cycle
This is the third solar eclipse that has occurred since Rahu and Ketu transited into the Leo-Aquarius axis in January of 2016 (download the Free E-Book and Forecast by Sign for this transit if you haven’t yet!). Throughout this time, we have experienced shadows and blockages coming up around the themes of the Leo-Aquarius axis. On a broad scale, this relates to the balance of personal power and universal service that we play out through society. On an individual level, it has raised questions around the house-themes of Leo and Aquarius in the personal Vedic birth chart.
We have been uncovering layers of our own karma through this time, and discovering where change is needed in our lives–either through a change in our actions or a change in our thoughts. Our personal challenges become most apparent during the eclipse windows, which have occurred this month, as well as during August and March of 2016. Though these windows can be difficult times, the power of the lunar nodes helps us to see where we are stuck. With self-awareness and observation it becomes less difficult, but when we are not paying attention or are clinging to our own attachments, the eclipses can feel like they are wreaking havoc on our lives.
Since this is the third and final pair of eclipses during this transit of Rahu and Ketu, it is a time for really reaching some clarity around the lessons being brought up over the last year-and-a-half. Eclipses do cause confusion and are inauspicious in general, but as we do the work of self-inquiry and practice astute awareness, we can gain insight and more light after going into the darkness of their shadows. The healing power behind Shatabisha nakshatra may present us with some different medicines, or practices, to assist in our evolutionary process, assisting us in learning how to flow better with the cosmic waters.
In addition to the healing energy of this nakshatra, we are receiving the powerful gift of deep meditation offered by the Shivaratri holiday. Maha Shivaratri (or Sivaratri) is “the great night of Lord Shiva,” celebrated in India and around the world each year on the 14th night of the waning Moon this month. This year it falls on the night of Friday, February 24th into Saturday the 25th, around the world (except for mid-Australia/Japan and Eastward, where it falls on the 25th/26th).
On Shivaratri, it is a common practice to stay up the whole night in meditation, fasting and praying. This commemorates the sacrifice made by Lord Shiva when he kept the poison that arose from the milk ocean in his throat in order to protect the entire creation. In this story, his wife Parvati held his throat to keep him from consuming the poison, and thus this holiday also commemorates the union of masculine and feminine forces, Shakti and Shiva, yin and yang. In many places this is represented by a celebration of Shiva and Parvati’s wedding, and one may see large statues of the two paraded about town and worshiped.
Shiva and Parvati represent the path towards awakening consciousness through the ascetic side of yoga, and the practices of tapas and renunciation. By renouncing food and sleep for one night, particularly on the night of Shivaratri, we can gain some of the benefit of the austerities that these two performed for aeons. Tapas, or austerities, are yogic practices of undergoing difficult situations in order to gain more patience, as well as deeper understanding that we are in fact the eternal soul and not the body-mind with which we normally identify.
On this Shivaratri, as we approach the transformative energy of the eclipse in Shatabisha, the opportunity for overcoming the challenges and shadows of our minds is great. The power of group meditation occurring all over the world also contributes to this. With the energy of Aquarius behind us, let us offer the fruits of our practice towards the peace and happiness of all beings on earth, and spread the benefit for the greater good.
Mantras for Maha Shivaratri:
Om Namah Shivaya (the panchakshari mantra – “I bow down to infinite consciousness”)
Tyagenaike Amrtatvamanashuhu (by renunciation alone, immortality is gained)