what is ketu and rahu?
In Vedic astrology, Rahu and Ketu denote the points of intersection of the paths of the Sun and the Moon as they move on the celestial sphere. Therefore, Rahu and Ketu are respectively called the north and the south lunar nodes. These two shadow planets symbolise deep-seated patterns and karmic influences that we usually block from our conscious mind.
Ketu, in particular, is said to represent our past life history, as well as karmic strengths and weaknesses that we bring into our present life. The location of Ketu in the natal chart — its house, sign, and Nakshatra (lunar mansion) — signifies where the emphasis of a person’s past life was placed. It shows particular actions that an individual took to find security and a sense of belonging. For instance, the past life of an individual with Ketu in their eighth house was focused on finding security through other people’s resources, either marriage partner or ancestral wealth and inheritance. Many people with this placement didn’t have to work hard to sustain themselves (aristocratic past life is likely) or they were largely free of material concerns. Additionally, research-oriented activities, fascination with history or genealogy, and mastering occult knowledge (such as astrology) might have been important to them. In the present incarnation, a person will be capable of quickly developing mastery and expertise over these subjects.
Rahu, the point opposite to Ketu, represents the areas of present life in which an individual lacks expertise. It reveals our insecurities and weaknesses. Using the above example, Rahu located in the second house (opposite Ketu in the eighth) shows that a person will need to learn how to create abundance through their own effort and concrete activities in the world. He or she will be forced to find value and security within themselves, depending less on the financial assistance of family or marriage partner. At first, these attempts will be insecure, awkward, and partially resulting in failure, because an individual has no past life memory of succeeding in this very field that he or she needs to master now.
Ketu is essentially a force that pulls us backwards, towards the safety and familiarity of past life habits. It is true that Ketu can give great talents and skills relevant to its location in the chart. However, this shadow planet also creates serious inhibitions that prevent an individual from reaching their full potential in this incarnation. This goal can only be achieved by mastering Rahu. Most people manage to handle this area only to a moderate degree. Strong Saturn and Mars are main factors that facilitate the creation of healthy balance between Ketu and Rahu. In extreme cases, an inability to embrace Rahu will result in an individual giving up on life by committing suicide or losing their sanity.
how do ketu and rahu work in practice?
As the planet of ancestral influences, Ketu can make us approach past and history in a dogmatic, rigid, and narrow way. For instance, a folk musician under the influence of Ketu (strong Venus and Mercury are other planetary prerequisites for mastering any art or craft) will successfuly recreate the instruments and music of his rural forebears, but he probably won’t bring any new flavours into his art. Contrarily, a person whose natal Rahu is more prominent will experiment with folk music and perhaps enhance it with modern influences such as rock, jazz, or techno. Both individuals can be successful in what they do, depending on their capacity to captivate target audience, instrumental skillfulness, and many other factors. To illustrate what I mean, here is an example of a traditional Irish song performed in two completely different ways.
As we can hear, there is a substantial difference between how this traditional song is performed. Yet both bands celebrate Irish heritage in their own unique way. My main point here is that depending too much on Ketu can make us obstinate and limited in our ways. The danger of Rahu is that we can get lost in fantasies, strange pursuits, clouded ambitions, illusions, and desires.
The past-oriented musician will recreate the ancestral sounds with accuracy and precision, but he probably won’t know how to appeal to the tastes and fashions of younger generations. The future-centred musician can become too experimental and expansive in his imagination, losing the sight of heritage that inspired him to create folk music in the first place. In political terms, a conservative prime minister can blindly enforce the customs of past decades or even centuries, without taking the reality of the modern world into consideration. Conversely, a liberal prime minister will completely ignore his roots and ancestral wisdom, introducing entirely modern policies that may or may not work.
As we can see, neither of these two extreme approaches is correct. Everyone needs to balance their Ketu and Rahu axis. It might be a bold statement, but I believe that true happiness is impossible without knowing how to handle these two karmic planets. The purpose of Vedic astrology is to show an individual how to handle their past life karma in a gentle yet firm manner that promotes personal growth and does not hurt other living beings.
Thank you very much for reading.