Happy Solstice, Full Moon, Christmas and New Year!! The winter solstice on December 21st was the turning point in the annual Sun cycle. It was the darkest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, as the Sun reached the furthest point in his southerly course as seen from Earth. From now forward we experience the return of the light, as the Sun begins his northerly course and daylight hours get a bit longer each day. The winter solstice and the days around it bring a still point before the new beginning of the annual solar cycle. This is similar to the still point that we experience each month before the New Moon begins the lunar cycle, bringing with it renewal and a fresh energy for that cycle related to the position of the planets at that time.
The December solstice passes while the Sun is aligned with Sagittarius constellation and the core of the Milky Way galaxy, in the Vedic constellation or nakshatra called Mula (or Moola). Sun is also in Mula on this coming Full Moon (December 25th!). Mula literally means “the root” (muladhara = root support) and represents the energy of roots — origins, deep meaning, and life rising out of the darkness. The deity for Mula is Nirriti, a dark goddess who relates to death and destruction.
This symbolism reminds us of the great opportunity for spiritual growth associated with this part of the sky and this time of year. It is when we let go of the material that we can begin to pursue deeper spiritual meaning (and then light can dawn!). With the physical death that occurs in nature at the end of the solar cycle, we are offered a moment for stillness and contemplation. As daylight begins to return, we can recognize that the physical death of winter is actually just a period of transformation–that life continues and grows again each year with the coming of the new cycle.
The Full Moon occurs in Ardra nakshatra (within the constellation of Orion, near Gemini) on December 25th at 3:12am PST. The brightest moonlight of the cycle is on the night of December 24th! Ardra is often translated as “moist,” “fresh,” or “green,” and represents the energies both of destruction and renewal. Its deity is Rudra, a destructive and stormy form of Shiva. The symbolism of the storm also illustrates both the purifying and nourishing power of rains, which wash away impurities and feed the seeds and soil to allow new life to sprout.
The alignment of the Full Moon in Ardra and the Sun in Mula offers great opportunity for transformation, rebirth and renewal. It is not surprising that this occurs around the time of the solstice, and the holiday of Christmas. The prevalent energy of Ardra, however, is its intensity, which may be a quality we feel during the transformation and rebirthing happening at this time. Whatever storms have been brewing in your life or nature, you may feel a peak in the upheaval around this Full Moon.
Allow the winter storms to aid in your own personal renewal and refreshment. This is a good time to witness and accept the death of stagnant and collapsing energies from the last year and last season. Let loose on the reins and let all your endeavors rest for a moment while you enter the void before new beginnings. You can align yourself with the pure and mysterious energy of this space through practicing meditation. What is washed away in the storm will be composted and recycled, later to become the fuel for your new endeavors in the coming year. Allow yourself to pause and sit with the stillness, and discover its deeper meaning as you connect with the root of your own heart. This quiet moment of listening will help your desires and purpose to become clear, so that you can enter the New Year in more alignment with your goals and dharma.
Enjoy this magical time of winter stillness. Happy Solstice, Full Moon, Christmas and New Year!
For the first nine days and nights of the waxing Moon this lunar cycle we celebrate Navaratri (starting October 13th in North America). Literally the “nine nights,” this is a Hindu festival dedicated to worshipping the Goddess, Devi, in her many forms, for nine days and nights. There are nine forms of Durga that are typically celebrated each day. We celebrate the power of Shakti, the sacred dynamic feminine principle of divine energy. We pray to her to help reveal and remove our shortcomings, bestow blessings, and confer wealth and knowledge. Navaratri worship can include many forms of puja (ritual prayer). These 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 Mahatmyam (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.
Goddess is worshipped over the nine nights in the form of nine incarnations of Durga (Navadurga). These are Shailputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalaratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri. Below are the stories of these goddesses, how to worship them, what they represent, as well as what colors and planets are associated with the nine days of Navaratri.
In many places, worship is dedicated to Goddess as Durga, Lakshmi and Sarasvati, for three nights each. Durga helps us to destroy and remove negative tendencies in our minds and hearts, cleansing them of impurities that create obstructions in our spiritual and material pursuits. Lakshmi helps us to cultivate positive qualities, like compassion and devotion. She helps us to achieve spiritual and material prosperity. Sarasvati assists us with learning and attaining knowledge and wisdom, through the illumination of consciousness. She relates to prana, the vital breath, often associated with chi or life-force. Through our devotion, service, practice, study, and meditation, we allow prana to flow freely and enter a state of peace, bliss, and oneness. The tenth day of Navaratri is known as Vijayadashami, the day of victory, and is a time for auspicious beginnings after emerging from these nine days of worship and union with the Goddess.
May your connection to the Divine Mother and Shakti within deepen and blossom during this time. Jai Ma!
First Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Shailputri
Tuesday, October 13th
On the first day of Navaratri, On the first day of Navaratri, we honor Goddess in the form of Shailputri (a form of Durga), the “daughter of the mountains.” In the story of Shiva and Shakti, Shiva’s wife first incarnated as Sati, but Sati ended up sacrificing herself in a ceremonial fire because of her father’s (Daksha’s) disapproval of her husband. It was foretold that she would be born again to a father who respected the divine ascetic, and thus she reincarnated as Parvati, also called Hemavati (the daughter of Himavat, personification of the Himalayan mountains), or Shailputri (literally “daughter of the mountain”).
Shailputri rides a bull, Nandi, and carries a trident and a lotus in her hands. She rules the Moon (Chandra) and wears a crescent Moon on her forehead, just like her consort, Shiva. She is the mother of Kartikeya and Ganesha, and thus represents creative energy. She relates to the muladhara (root chakra), where we begin the journey of awakening the divine energy within, in the process of letting it rise into union with divine consciousness. It is good to concentrate on the root chakra today. Shailputri is a fitting goddess to worship for initiations and auspicious beginnings, and for the first day of Navaratri, as we are beginning the process of awakening Shakti. Devi’s color is red, which can be worn on all the nights of Navaratri, especially tonight.
Second Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Brahmacharini
Wednesday, October 14th
On the second day of Navaratri we worship Goddess as Brahmacharini, she who practices penance. Another form of Parvati and Durga, Brahmacharini is the form of the goddess who endured tapas or austerities (penance) to win the heart of Lord Shiva (representative of sublime consciousness). As he was an ascetic dedicated to austere meditations in solitude, the high-born Parvati forsook her father’s wealthy abode and chose the sadhu life of self-discipline and renunciation in order to attain spiritual growth. She went to live in the forest, enduring the elements, forgoing food and water, and meditating for eons. Brahmacharini is depicted in bare feet, holding a japa mala (prayer beads), and a kamandal (a simple water-pot, often carried by sadhus), and wearing rudrakshas (the bead related to Shiva and renunciation).
Although fasting is a suitable practice for all nine days of Navaratri (some fasts include milk or milk and fruit), it is especially potent to offer oneself to Goddess by fasting today. By worshipping Brahmacharini through simple offerings, prayer, and our own self-discipline, she blesses us with emotional and spiritual strength, and the ability to persevere through hardships. She represents and offers us loyalty, devotion, and spiritual growth and wisdom. She rules the planet Mars (Mangala), the planet of strength and courage, who assists us in overcoming weakness and practicing yogic discipline. The term brahmacharini also refers to female renunciates in the Hindu faith, who choose a life of tapas (austerity) and dedication to the Lord, rather than worldly life. The color to wear for the second day of Navaratri is royal blue.
Third Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Chandraghanta
Thursday, October 15th
On the third day of Navaratri we celebrate Goddess as Chandraghanta, a powerful form of Durga. She wears a half-Moon (Chandra) in the shape of a bell (ghanta) oh her forehead. Riding a lion or a tiger, she has 10 arms in which she holds many weapons, as well as a japa mala, a lotus, a kamandal, and mudras (hand-positions) offering blessings and protection. Posed as a warrioress, she is ready to destroy the obstacles and enemies of her devotees. She rules the planet Venus (Shukra), and is truly a gentle goddess. Chandraghanta is full of love and compassion, and wants to bestow happiness and prosperity on those who worship her. This form of the Divine Mother brings us courage as well as grace and beauty. Worshipping her helps to remove suffering and to grant us serenity. The color to wear for the third day of Navaratri is yellow.
Fourth Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Kushmanda
Friday, October 16th
On the fourth day of Navaratri we celebrate Goddess as Kushmanda, the power of Shakti that created the universe. It is said that when there was only darkness, Kushmanda smiled and the universe was illuminated. She is known as Adi Shakti, the first Shakti, creatrix of everything. She resides in the center of the Sun (Surya), and creates his bright light from her “cosmic egg.” She is radiant and glowing, and spreads warmth as well as vitality to her devotees. Kushmanda rides a lion or tiger and has 8 arms, holding many weapons, as well as a lotus, a japa mala, and a pot of honey or divine nectar.
Worshipping Kushmanda helps us to feel the spark of divine existence that radiates from the Sun to and through us all. She helps us to attain strength, good health, happiness and spiritual illumination. She is said to bestow siddhis (special powers) and thus can assist us in achieving success in many areas of life, including wealth, material comfort, and relationships. The power of the Sun enhances our positive and sattvic qualities through our worship of Kushmanda. She relates to the ahahata (heart chakra), and as such we should remember to approach her and make offerings from the purity of our hearts. It is common to wear green on the fourth day of Navaratri.
In some areas where Navaratri is dedicated to Durga, Lakshmi, and Sarasvati for three nights each, today begins the worship of MahaLakshmi. After calling upon the energy of Durga for three days to destroy our demons (shortcomings, false beliefs, and external obstacles), we now invoke Lakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity. She helps us to attain both material and spiritual wealth, including virtues such as devotion and compassion. Through worshipping Lakshmi and seeking her benevolence, we call forth the benevolence from within ourselves which will bring joy and happiness as we share it with others. Similarly, the warmth and energy of Kushmanda and the Sun is meant to be shared with others from the heart, which will help us to find ourselves in a kingdom of love and light.
Fifth Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Skandamata
Saturday, October 17th
On the fifth day of Navaratri we celebrate Goddess in the form of Skandamata (literally the “mother of Skanda”). Skanda is a name for Kartikeya (also known as Murugun and Subramanya), the brother of Ganesha (both sons of Shiva and Parvati). We see Skandamata depicted holding her young six-headed son, as well as holding lotus flowers and keeping one hand in a blessing mudra. In worshiping her we call forth the protection and care that the Divine Mother has for all of creation, as all are her children. She blesses us with bliss, happiness, and motherly love, as well as nourishment and good health.
Kartikeya is the Lord of War, the leader of the army of devas (Gods) who fight the asuras (demons) in Hindu mythology. In the stories, the demon Tarakasura was tormenting all of humanity, and it was destined that only Lord Shiva’s son would be able to kill him and save the world. Shiva had renounced everything and was lost in meditation, however, after the death of his first wife, Sati. The Gods devised a plan and ensured that Parvati was born (a reincarnation of Sati), and followed a path that would result in Shiva’s emerging from meditation and remarrying. When they finally married, Shiva and Parvati ended up making love for millions of years while the world awaited their savior. Eventually, the fire deity, Agni, snuck into their cave in order to steal the seed that was needed. It was so hot that he could not hold it, however, and dropped it in the river Ganga (another manifestation of Goddess), who deposited the infant Skanda on her banks where he was found and nourished by six women (thus the six heads).
The demons represent the ignorance which gives rise to all human impurities and misfortune. In worshiping Skandamata we also worship Skanda and receive his blessings, including protection from harm and victory over our enemies, both internal and external. Skandamata relates to the vishuddhi (throat chakra), meaning “pure” or “undiluted,” showing that we can attain purity and realize infinite blessings through her worship. She is rules the planet Mercury (Budha), the planet and deity of communication and the intellect. The color to wear for the fifth day of Navaratri is grey.
Sixth Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Katyayani
Sunday, October 18th
On the sixth day of Navaratri we celebrate Goddess in the form of Katyayani, the warrioress who destroyed Mahishasura (the buffalo demon). Mahishasura had been granted a boon (unbreakable wish) from Lord Brahma that determined that no man could kill him. Thus, when he was terrorizing the earth and heavens, the Gods summoned Goddess Durga to come and save them. This form of Durga is named Katyayani, for her father Katya, a devoted sage who did rigorous penance in order to have Durga take birth as his daughter. Katyayani takes a fierce form of the Divine Mother when we call upon her to destroy our demons, including both internal negativities and external obstacles to material and spiritual success. She relates to the ajna (the third-eye) chakra, where we draw our concentration during worship today.
Katyayani relates to fervent devotion, and it is told that she was also worshipped by the Gopis of Vrindavan, who called on her to help them win Lord Krishna as their husband. It is said that worshiping Katyayani will help in bringing a good relationship and marriage, as she bestows the strength to remove obstacles. She also rules Jupiter (Guru), who represents husband in a woman’s astrological chart. Jupiter brings grace, expansion, and optimism, just as Katyayani helps us to fight sorrow and fear. Katyayani is related to fragrances, and offering her incense and other aromatics is a good practice to include in worship today. Through healing scents she helps us to fight disease and improve health. She holds both a lotus and a sword in two of her hands, and holds the other two in mudras offering protection and blessings. It is common to wear orange on the sixth day of Navaratri.
Seventh Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Kalaratri
Monday, October 19th
On the seventh day of Navaratri we worship Goddess as Kalaratri, a dark and fierce form of Durga. She has wild black hair, dark complexion, three red eyes, and flaming nostrils. She rides a donkey, and carries a sword and a cleaver in two hands, while her two other hands are in mudras offering blessings and protection. “Kala” refers to time, darkness, and therefore death. “Ratri” is night, and the presence of this goddess signifies a night of facing death and darkness. She reminds us that these are parts of the experience of life. By facing these aspects, and by worshipping Kalaratri, we can be freed from the pain and suffering associated with them. She is by our side bravely and compassionately as we face the morbid and terrifying aspects of existence, and helps to destroy our fears and weaknesses, giving us great strength.
She is an expression of Kali, whose fearful form was birthed from Durga’s third eye when Durga needed more strength and ferocity to fight the demon Raktabija. She is also called Shubhankari, she who does auspicious deeds, and reminds us that we have nothing to fear from her, and nothing to fear, ever. The compassionate energy of the Divine Mother is always working through all parts of creation, even in the processes of destruction. Kalaratri rules Saturn (Shani), who also represents time and ultimate death, and offers us the opportunity for expanded consciousness through meditation on these inevitabilities. By worshiping Kalaratri on the seventh day of Navaratri and meditating on her deeply, we connect with the sahasrara (crown) chakra, and the barriers between mind, body, and spirit begin to dissolve. She blesses us with happiness and courage, helping to remove sadness, pain, and fear. It is common to wear white on this day of Navaratri.
In some areas, the seventh day of Navaratri begins the worship of Sarasvati. Having worshipped Durga and Lakshmi for three days and nights each, to remove obscacles and obtain spiritual wealth. Now the devotee is ready to receive knowledge, which comes from Sarasvati, the goddess of learning. In other schools of worship, such as Kalikula in Nepal, Sarasvati is celebrated for the first three nights, followed by Lakshmi, and the last three nights are dedicated to Kali.
Eighth Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Mahagauri
Tuesday, October 20th
On the eighth day of Navaratri we worship Goddess as Mahagauri, the “great white goddess.” This incarnation of Durga is fair, shining and radiant like pure light, representing her purifying shakti. She rides a bull and carries a damaru (a hand-drum) and a trisul in two hands, keeping the other two in mudras for blessing and protecting. She represents compassion, truth, and purity and bestows these on her devotees. Mahagauri is often thought of as the young form of Parvati, and thus worshipers often feed young girls sweets on this day of celebration, to honor the great white goddess.
The story is often told that while Parvati was doing penance to win Lord Shiva, her body became black and dirty. When Shiva accepted her he washed her with the water of the Ganga which made her shine resplendently and become Mahagauri. This represents her power to free us from all pain and suffering and to bless us with auspiciousness and virtues, those who bathe in the waters of the holy river Ganga are said to be blessed and purified. This includes freeing us from the painful attachments to the material world. As we worship Mahagauri only after the night of worship dedicated to Kalaratri, we can see that this detachment and reemergence into the light can come only after facing death and darkness. This goddess relates to the planetary deity Rahu (the north node of the Moon), who is actually a shadow point in the cosmos and has no physical body. Thus Mahagauri relates to parts of our soul and psyche that are beyond the physical body or chakra system. By making offerings to and meditating upon her, we can begin to go beyond our attachments to the mundane details of life and purify our connection with spirit. The color to wear on the eighth day of Navaratri is pink.
Ninth Day of Navaratri: Goddess as Siddhidatri
Wednesday, October 21st
The ninth day of Navaratri is of utmost importance. On this day we worship Goddess as Siddhidatri, the giver of all siddhis, special powers or perfect attainments. Siddhis are magical, spiritual, or psychic powers, attained through dedication and devoted practice. Through worship and meditation upon all the forms of Durga, culminating with that of Siddhidatri, we can attain perfection and infinite blessings from her. Through the siddhis, all desires can be fulfilled. But it is said the greatest blessing one can receive is to transcend all desires, or to have one’s only desire be to know Goddess/God. With the blessing of devotion, through her grace, we can remain peaceful and happy in all circumstances, blissfully experiencing the Divine Mother’s presence in and throughout all of creation, in every moment.
In her depiction, Siddhidatri sits on a lotus or a lion and holds a discus, a lotus, a mace, and conch shell, which she will use to sound the victory we attain through her worship. She is surrounded by and worshipped by all forms of divine beings–Gods, demons, spiritual masters and nature-spirits. It is said that even Lord Shiva received his powers from Siddhidatri. In the divine form that is half Shiva and half Shakti, he is merged with Siddhidatri and known as Ardhanarishvara. Siddhidatri relates to Ketu (the south node of the Moon), and thus she governs our deep and ancient psychic wisdom. She is a powerful goddess to worship for enhancing spiritual, psychic and energetic healing powers. The color to wear on the last day of Navaratri is sky blue.
The Tenth Day of Navaratri: Vijayadashami
Thursday, October 22nd
The tenth day of Navaratri is known as Vijayadashami, the day of victory. After calling upon the Divine Mother’s presence and qualities to arise from within us for nine days and nights, we emerge victorious, basking in Her light and virtues. This is an auspicious time for beginning new ventures, especially creative and spiritual pursuits.
Jai Ma Durga!
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The New Moon and Solar Eclipse in Purva Phalguni on September 12th will bring the shadow energy of the planet Rahu to the forefront, revealing to us things that are usually hidden in the subconscious. The New Moon occurs in sidereal Leo, around 11:41pm PDT. This begins a Leo cycle for us, which raises the energy of inspiration and compels us to tap into our source power and share it with others. Leo is ruled by the Sun, the archetype of divine masculine energy in the heavens. The source of all life on earth, Sun energy reminds us of the divine spark that we all share, and encourages us to purify ourselves and to care for our surroundings (or kingdom), offering our power forward. During this month we may feel an urge to purify ourselves and purge what is unneeded–maybe a cleanse to prepare for the changing of seasons. Take stock of where you allocated your energy this summer, what type of kingdom you’ve created, and what you can do to strengthen your connection with source as you continue to manage your responsibilities.
On the night of September 12th (Pacific time), Sun, Moon, and Earth are all in close alignment near the northern lunar node, known as Rahu. Earth will experience a partial solar eclipse at this time, but it will only be visible from very southern regions (southern Africa and Antarctica). When the Moon’s orb passes in front of the Sun, and the shadow emerges, this brings otherwise hidden energies and knowledge to the surface. In the sign of Leo, this eclipse will help us to examine our relationship with power, how we approach our responsibilities, and where we feel powerless. At the eclipse time, the Sun’s light (representative of our inherent power and connection to the soul) is temporarily blocked out. This can elevate our awareness of where we feel powerless, and at the same time directs us to find that connection with source and soul power. It ultimately leads us to the realization that God/Goddess energy is in fact present with us in all our movements and actions.
Looking deeper into the sign of Leo, we see that the New Moon and Solar Eclipse occur in the Vedic nakshatra (constellation) called Purva Phalguni. The symbols of this star sign are a couch, a hammock, or the two back legs of a bed. As such, this sign represents rest and relaxation, as well as recreation. Its energy will encourage us to take it easy and have some fun. This sign is also associated with a Shiva lingam, and is sometimes translated as “the former reddish one.” In this way Purva Phalguni is related to procreation.
It is a good time to remember that in order to be creative, we must also spend time being inactive and restful. The period of rest is what assists us in rejuvenating our creative energies in order to have the strength to be active and producing output again. In the generally active sign of Leo (a fire sign, ruled by the Sun), this nakshatra reminds us that part of tapping into our inherent strength and divinity is sitting back and enjoying life. The deity for this nakshatra is Bhaga, who relates to enjoyment, wealth and prosperity (he also relates to the Sun). Venus is the ruling planet of this star, which naturally draws an emphasis towards pleasurable activities, art and beauty, as well as makes it a social constellation. This could be a great weekend to enjoy some art and music, as well as relaxation and romance. Bhaga also relates to the morning star, which is currently Venus, who rises in the east a little while before the Sun.
Venus, who was in retrograde (backwards) motion for the last 6 weeks or so, is now stationary, and will soon be starting to move forward slowly through the zodiac. During this time we may have felt backed up around relationships, or around how we relate with pleasure and seeking happiness. By this time we should have had some realizations and some clarity about which direction to move forward and how. The New Moon and Solar Eclipse in Purva Phalguni on September 12th give us a boost of energy towards letting loose around Venus things–slowing down, relaxing, and letting our pleasure centers indulge a little. Purva Phalguni reminds us about the importance of recreation.
Of course, there is also a shadow side to each sign that can send us too far in one direction. When amplified by the eclipse, Purva Phalguni energy could lead us to slip out of balance into a place of excessive indulgence or laziness. Especially with the procreative power of this nakshatra, make sure that your romantic affairs don’t go further than you’re ready for! Jupiter is very close to the Sun during this eclipse as well, which can amplify things and bring on a big optimistic nature. Feeling hot under the Sun’s rays, however, Jupiter’s position here could make us doubt our current belief systems and want to purify them as well. This gives us an opportunity to freshen our value systems and decide what teachings to hold onto, sorting out what serves our highest purpose and what does not.
Eclipses in general tend to amplify everything, and though it can feel like a lot of upheaval is going on, the result is usually a revelation of wisdom. We may get to realize where we have been denying ourselves the inherent goodness found in resting, relaxing, and having fun. We could get a good look at the shadow side of our pursuits of indulgence (or over-indulgence). The nodes themselves are still on the Virgo/Pisces axis (through all of the eclipses this year), so we’ve been called to look at and balance in ourselves the side of us that wants to keep everything organized (Virgo) versus the side of us that is willing to let go into the unknown (Pisces). Examine what these themes mean to you, and where you’ve been struggling with that dichotomy. We’ll see another eclipse (Lunar, this time) in two weeks on the September 27th full Moon, so it’s likely that we’ll be really feeling what is coming up around this through then. Wherever Pisces and Virgo are in your chart (based on Vedic rising sign), the motifs of those houses are what will be calling your attention through this time.
So, during this New Moon, take some time to relax and enjoy your surroundings, reveling in the kingdom that you’ve built for yourself to live in (whatever that looks like). Take pleasure in the work that you’ve done, and let that happiness rejuvenate your creative energies before the next steps must be taken. Saturn also aspects this New Moon and eclipse, so that will assist the purification process by helping us to commit to the responsibilities and values we find most beneficial towards our goals and soul purpose. It could still be hard work, especially as we proceed with relationships after reevaluating them through Venus retrograde. The balance between letting go and organizing everything will still be on our minds through the next eclipse, and we’ll get some time to review it when Mercury goes retrograde on the 17th. For now, with Sun and Moon in Leo, bask in the last rays of summer offered by that warm, generous headspring that fuels us all, remembering the atman that it also symbolizes.
The New Moon will occur Tuesday morning at 7:05am PDT, in early sidereal Gemini (Sun and Moon at 1 degree 3 minutes Gemini). This begins the Gemini Moon cycle for the next month. Mercury rules Gemini, so we will deal with the themes of the intellect a lot this cycle. We may see our thinking accelerate and new ideas synthesize, as well as a deeper exploration of communication. It’s a time to look out for vata, as the swiftness of Mercury and its air-sign Gemini can elevate that dosha in the mind and body. Staying hydrated and well oiled is important (internally and externally), as well as doing grounding practices that connect you to the earth. Applying oil to the bottoms of the feet will be very nourishing, or to the entire body before you shower.
It’s also a time to be aware of high pitta, the fire-dosha, as the Sun and Mars are also tightly conjunct right now. This is what we call a highly combust Mars, as it is only half a degree away from the Sun in early Gemini at the time of the New Moon. This can be incredibly aggravating, as these two fire planets joined increases the heat in our bodies and minds and can cause us to feel easily provoked and prone to anger and explosions. To alleviate pitta imbalances, we can avoid spicy foods during this time, and eat cooling ones such as cucumber, coconuts, and watermelon. Make sure to intake enough liquids and use coconut oil rather than more heating oils for internal and external use. Lavender, tulsi, and rose essential oils are all calming and cooling to the body-mind, and can be used for aromatherapy by placing a drop or two on the pillowcase at night or in a diffuser in your home or office. You can also make a tea from the dried petals and leaves of these aromatic plants.
Rose is especially helpful in this time because of its ability to soothe and balance the heart and emotions, which could feel overwhelming right now. With New Moon so close to Sun and Mars, there is the potential for their fire to weigh on the heart in the form of passion or frustration/anger. At the same time we have Venus joined with Jupiter in Cancer, which expands Venus’s potential for love and happiness, and also raises the importance we place on it and makes us weigh it closely against our values. Jupiter is our potential for wisdom and higher thought or spiritual understanding. With these two in the feminine Moon-ruled sign of Cancer, we can really tap into some Divine Mother/heart-energy if we seek happiness and through spiritual practice. If we let Jupiter’s expansive quality push us to seek material pleasures too much, we will inevitably be disappointed as time goes on, as these are all temporary. Tulsi can help us to orient our love towards a place of devotion. Jupiter and Venus will be really close in the sky for most of the coming month (very tightly conjunct around June 30th), and incredibly beautiful to witness in the night sky. They will be close with the Moon in Cancer at the end of this week… a great time for open-hearted prayers.
There is the potential to feel an urgent sense of seeking during this New Moon, which falls in the Vedic nakshatra Mrigashira, located around the star Bellatrix, (on the shoulder of Orion, in the region of the sky bridging Taurus and Gemini). Mrigashira is the star of the deer’s head, often referred to as “the wanderer,” continuously searching with curiosity. Though there is a beauty and innocence to this, the restlessness of this star can also interfere with our ability to stay focused and one-pointed. Its deity is Soma, a name for the Moon, and the Moon as it relates to our emotional mind can be easily changeable. Mrigashira also represents many positive qualities of the Moon, which is beautiful, gentle, calming, and full of compassion and Divine Mother energy. This star is also associated with Parvati, the wife of Shiva in Hindu mythology and a powerful representation of the goddess. This is a great time to get in tune with all aspects of the goddess, from the most gentle, motherly form, to the strong-willed warrior aspects of Durga and the fierce and compassionate nature of Kali (both forms of Parvati).
In Vedic thought Soma also refers to the nectar released through meditation. In this we can again see this New Moon as a call to stay hydrated in order to nourish the water element in our bodies, which is the conduit for the flow of all nutrients, including the physical and the spiritual. We can follow the searching nature of this star and the present alignments on a path to find new experiences, relationships, or temporary pleasures, or on a search for higher knowledge, wisdom, and heart-opening. Call forth the gentle energy of Mrigashira to appease the heat of combust Mars. Stay cool as much as possible and nourish the heart during this month of powerful celestial combinations.
Tonight is Maha Shivaratri, or the Great Night of Shiva. It is the celebration of the day of Lord Shiva and Parvati’s wedding, representing the unification of Shiva and Shakti, or the masculine and feminine forces of divine consciousness and energy. We celebrate each Shivaratri on the fourteenth night of the waning moon, while Maha Shivaratri falls on this night during the lunar month Magha.
This moon phase begins during the night on Monday, February 16th, 2015 in North America and continues through until the evening of the 17th (when the New Moon phase begins). In Hindu tradition, this night is highly auspicious for performing spiritual practices and penance in order to accrue grace and swifter spiritual gain. It is said that a boon (wish) from Lord Shiva may be granted to one who undergoes penance with devotion.
Fasting and staying up all night are typical practices, along with yoga, chanting, meditation, and prayer. The panchakshara or five-syllabled mantra, “Om Namah Shivaya,” is particularly auspicious to chant on this day. It beckons forth divine love and the emergence of our higher self. In the Hindu trinity, Shiva is the destructive or transformative aspect of the divine, aiding in the destruction of our ego and the accompanying hindrances that do not serve us. This allows a rebirth into higher consciousness.
Shiva is known as the greatest of yogis, who sits on a mountain top in meditation with equanimity for all creation, for aeons without disturbance. In the stories, he had retreated to Mount Kailash and renounced the world after the death of his first wife, Sati. The other gods eventually required Shiva to leave his meditation, however, in order to marry again and produce a son that could destroy a powerful demon who was terrorizing the three worlds.
Parvati was born for this purpose (a reincarnation of Sati), and was naturally attracted to the meditative Shiva. She went to serve him while he was in his deep meditation, and grew to love him, even though her less devoted friends were turned off by his rough appearance. For a long time he seemed not to notice her, and thus Kamadeva, the God of Love, was sent to fire a love arrow at Shiva. Though this startled him and awakened him from his trance, he soon realized the scheme, destroyed Kamadeva and sent Parvati away. Her love for him did not diminish, however, and she prayed for a path that would lead him to accept her.
The sage Narada, who was in on the gods’ plan, told Parvati that Shiva could not be won by charm and beauty, but only by spiritual practice and austerity. Propelled by her love for Shiva, Parvati took up the life of an ascetic and left her father’s palace to live in the dirt on the forest floor, forgoing food, water, and luxuries while meditating on her lord. The force of love in her heart compelled a devotion that allowed her to burn away all fears and impurities through her meditation, and she became one of the most powerful yoginis.
Finally, having compassion for her and the three worlds (who were awaiting his heir to prevent their destruction), Shiva went to see Parvati in disguise in order to test her devotion. He asked her why she was performing such penance, and she replied that it was all for the deep love of her lord. He questioned why she would want to marry someone like Shiva who was crude and without riches, who carried skulls and associated with a wild crowd. She allowed the passion of her heart to rise and defended her lord, telling the man that Shiva was the greatest god and yogi and that only someone with a lower mind would not understand him.
For the strength of her devotion, Shiva granted Parvati a boon and finally accepted her as his wife, and the worlds rejoiced. The complementary forces of Shiva and Shakti, masculine and feminine, divine father and mother, were finally able to unite and propel the dance of creation needed for all to be in balance. This is why on Maha Shivaratri, we celebrate and call upon the merging of these two halves, consciousness and energy, through penance and austerity. It is a great time to fast and refrain from indulging any of the five senses.
On this Shivaratri, Venus and Mars are tightly conjunct and joining Ketu in Pisces. Though Venus is exalted in Pisces and this could raise passion levels, it could also create confusion or a disturbance in relationships, and stir up overwhelming emotions including fear and feelings of isolation. Ketu’s influence brings a critical eye, and Venus and Mars are receiving an aspect from Pisces’ ruler, retrograde Jupiter, so this placement could cause us to temporarily retreat from Mars-Venus interactions. Moon and Mercury are also tightly conjunct, with a close aspect from Saturn and a wider aspect from retrograde Jupiter. This could bring an analytical influence to our emotional body and processing, but also a strong feeling of pressure (Saturn), and an evolving philosophy in regards to our emotions today.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 17th, begins the new moon phase (Amavasya), with the moment of new moon at 3:47pm Pacific time on Wednesday, the 18th. This new moon will occur with Sun and Moon in sidereal Aquarius in the nakshatra Dhanishta. Aquarius is a fixed air sign ruled by Saturn, so this cycle may bring some big ideas to the forefront that we hope to implement through action, perhaps continuing the Capricorn-cycle-driven urge to add structure to our lives. Aquarius is a place where the individual is less emphasized (opposite Leo, where the full moon will happen), so these ideas will apply more to our society and community, and acts of service are likely. Saturn brings the opportunity for discipline, so it could be a great time to add more to your spiritual practice, including some breath-work or pranayama.
Dhanishta, ruled by Mars, is the star of wealth. Its deities are the eight Vasus, which refer to the elements making up the earth and cosmos, and it is related to music and arts. We may be working on ideas to help increase wealth this moon cycle, especially creative endeavors that benefit the many. Though we may feel the disciplining and discerning force of Saturn, Mars and Venus will be joined in Pisces for a few weeks, which could cause some of our energy to get lost or diverted to the dream realm. Venus is exalted in Pisces, which can cause us to overemphasize our desires and fantasies, especially with the aspect from its retrograde ruler, Jupiter. With the critical influence of Ketu, be gentle with your relationships and partners. We may, however, get the chance to bring some of that dream-realm material into our artistic and community service endeavors with consciously-applied action and discipline.
Happy Maha Shivaratri, Hara Hara Mahadev!
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