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Rahu/Ketu and the Greco-Roman lunar nodes
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Bill M. Mak



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Posted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 3:53 pm    Post subject: Rahu/Ketu and the Greco-Roman lunar nodes Reply with quote

I have been studying the history of Rāhu and Ketu for some years already and went through most of the key sources from the Vedic corpus to later saṃhitā/siddhānta texts. One thing that is still unclear to me is when they start to feature in the Indian horoscopes. Varāhamihira did not have Rāhu and Ketu in his Bṛhajjātaka, although the concept of rāhu is known to him as evinced in the Bṛhatsaṃihitā. Furthermore, there seems to be no reference to Ketu as the descending node prior to the tenth century.

In contrast, the Greco-Roman horoscope seems to have included the lunar nodes from very early on (3rd/4th century CE?). What I had in mind was also Deborah Houlding's very interesting article titled "Charts and Symobols in early astrology - A study of the chart form of L497. http://www.skyscript.co.uk/greek_horoscope.html. Since this is a Byzantine transmission, I have my reservation whether this piece truly reflects the use of lunar nodes in the Greco-Roman horoscopes. Since the Tetrabiblos does not prescribe the two nodes as part of the astrological system, unless L497 represents a different or lost Greco-Roman tradition, the inclusion of the nodes might have been later interpolation.

As an aside, does anyone know about the history of the symbols for the lunar nodes? The head and tail reference have been associated with the Babylonean Anu, although neither Bouché-Leclerq nor Neugebauer/Van Hoesen, Hartner etc, have been very clear about this point.

Any of your thoughts on this subject is appreciated.

Bill Mak
Kyoto
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Martin Gansten
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Posted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 6:55 pm    Post subject: Re: Rāhu/Ketu and the Greco-Roman lunar nodes Reply with quote

Welcome to Skyscript, Bill! When you say,

Quote:
One thing that is still unclear to me is when they start to feature in the Indian horoscopes.

are you looking for evidence from actual written horoscopes or from astrological literature?
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Bill M. Mak



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Posted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 11:00 pm    Post subject: Re: Raahu/Ketu and the Greco-Roman lunar nodes Reply with quote

Quote:
One thing that is still unclear to me is when they start to feature in the Indian horoscopes.


Both I suppose, in both Western and Indian traditions. I wonder who was the first authority on their application in horoscopy.
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pankajdubey



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Posted: Sun Aug 03, 2014 5:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This might interest you:

https://www.academia.edu/767173/Rahu_and_Ketu_in_mythological_and_astronomological_contexts

PD
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Martin Gansten
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Posted: Sun Aug 03, 2014 6:52 am    Post subject: Re: Raahu/Ketu and the Greco-Roman lunar nodes Reply with quote

billmak wrote:
Both I suppose, in both Western and Indian traditions. I wonder who was the first authority on their application in horoscopy.

Right. I wondered because you said you had already gone through most of the key sources. If there are any textual sources you haven't explored (from among, say, the genethlialogical works listed by Pingree in his Jyotiḥśāstra), please feel free to mention them -- chances are that someone here has read them.

As for actual preserved horoscopes from India, I know some exist, but I've never heard of anything older than a few centuries. Perhaps someone else knows?

I haven't studied what you call the Graeco-Roman sources (I presume these are, more or less, what I'd call Hellenistic sources?) with respect to the use of the lunar nodes. I do know that the Perso-Arabic and later medieval Latin traditions took a rather different view of the nodes than the Sanskrit sources: the latter tend to regard both nodes as malefic, whereas the former consider the north node to be benefic.
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Mark
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Posted: Sun Aug 03, 2014 10:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

BillMak wrote:
Quote:
Both I suppose, in both Western and Indian traditions. I wonder who was the first authority on their application in horoscopy.


Hello Bill,

Great to have another academic participant of your calibre on the forum! Your articles have generated a lot of interest here on Skyscript.

I see our member Pankajdubey has already given you a link to the article on the Indian astrological use of the nodes by Rajesh Kochhar. That was something I had in mind myself.

The surviving texts we have strongly support the view that the first use of the nodes astrologically was in the hellenistic rather than the Indian tradition.

For example, we have astrological discussion of the nodes by the two major hellenistic figures in the 2nd century CE (Claudius Ptolemy and Vettius Valens).

The first part of Book V of Vettius Valens Anthology discusses in depth the consequences of the critical configurations of the Moon with the North Node. Namely, conjunction, opposition and square. Intriguingly, Valens sees contact with the Nodes in a basically malefic light. This is consistent with the later Indian astrological tradition but slightly different from the Perso-Arabic stance. There is also use of the Nodes in Book III as part of the calculation of death in the nativity using the pre-lunation to the nativity.

http://www.csus.edu/indiv/r/rileymt/Vettius%20Valens%20entire.pdf


In his Tetrabiblos Claudius Ptolemy also discusses the nodes in Book 3.12

Quote:
Again, if the luminaries, together or in opposition, move toward the maleficent planets upon the angles, or if the maleficent planets move toward the luminaries, particularly when the moon is at the nodes or her bendings, or in the injurious signs such as Aries, Taurus, Cancer, Scorpio, or Capricorn, there come about deformations of the body such as hunchback, crookedness, lameness, or paralysis, congenital if the maleficent planets are joined with the luminaries, but if they are at the mid‑heaven points, elevated above the luminaries or in opposition one to the other, the deformations will result from serious dangers, such as falls from a height, the collapse of houses, or the attacks of robbers or animals. If Mars prevails, the danger is from fire, wounds, bilious attacks, or robberies; if it is Saturn, through collapse of buildings, shipwreck, or spasms. Tetrabiblos Book III, 12, p327 , Robbins, Frank E. (ed.) 1940. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press (Loeb Classical Library).


http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Ptolemy/Tetrabiblos/3C*.html#12

The noteable feature of the early hellenistic use of the nodes seems to be a concentration on their activation through contact with the Moon through conjunction, opposition or square (the bendings). Other planets connected to the nodes dont seem to be discussed by these early sources.

For a more thorough discussion of the use of the nodes in hellenistic, perso-arabic and western medieval and renaissance astrology I recommend this article by the Brazilian traditional astrologer Clelia Romano entitled: The Lunar Nodes- A New Reading of Its Astrological Meaning (2009).

http://www.astrologiahumana.com/lunarnodesintraditionalastrology.pdf
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Bill M. Mak



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Posted: Fri Nov 21, 2014 10:57 am    Post subject: More on the lunar nodes or the absence of them Reply with quote

Many thanks to all your feedbacks, especially Mark's very thorough response. It appears to me quite clear that the lunar nodes did carry astrological influences in the minds of Ptolemy and Vettius Valens. It is not clear to me however since when the nodes actually become treated as almost equals to the planets, which appeared indeed quite abruptly in the Indian case, without any known prehistory as in the Hellenistic tradition.

I am currently working on a body of Chinese horoscopic texts dated 7th-10th century which are thought to be translation of a Syriac horoscopic text, with the best candidate being one of the abridgments of the Tetrabiblos, brought to China by the Nestorians (sic). In the earliest version, there are no lunar nodes. In the very late version, there are not only the two lunar nodes, but also two more mysterious pseudoplanets known as Yuebei and Ziqi.

On the Chinese pseudoplanets, I plan to publish a monograph on the topic next year.

On the Chinese translation of the Syriac horoscopic text, I am about to publish a paper next month. I will write more under a different threat to gather responses from those who are interested in this latest discovery.

Best regards,

Bill
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Levente Laszlo



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Posted: Sun Dec 14, 2014 1:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mīnarāja is said to first take Rāhu as a graha (VYJ 2, 9-10 as given in Pingree, Jyotiḥśāstra p. 81-83), and he relied on YJ and the lost work of Satya (and perhaps Garga and Parāśara as given in CESS 4.427), the latter having had access to a lost Greek source, so I'd bet it was Satya who introduced the astrological use of nodes, which would be expanded as an inclusion among planets eventually.
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Mark
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Posted: Mon Jan 05, 2015 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Levente Laszlo wrote:
Quote:
Mīnarāja is said to first take Rāhu as a graha (VYJ 2, 9-10 as given in Pingree, Jyotiḥśāstra p. 81-83), and he relied on YJ


So does Mīnarāja explicitly mention the YJ?

Thats interesting. With Bill Mak's research challenging the dating of the YJ by Pingree the question arises whether the Mīnarāja might have possibly proceded the YJ? Kenneth Johnson has floated this idea as a possibility here on the forum. But if your right and the Mīnarāja explicitly mentions the YJ that is clearly not possible.

Mark
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Bill M. Mak



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Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 2:39 pm    Post subject: Yavanajātaka and Vṛddhayavanajāt Reply with quote

Mark wrote:
Levente Laszlo wrote:
Quote:
Mīnarāja is said to first take Rāhu as a graha (VYJ 2, 9-10 as given in Pingree, Jyotiḥśāstra p. 81-83), and he relied on YJ


So does Mīnarāja explicitly mention the YJ?

Mark


The answer is no but there are some curious parallel/identical verses in both (thus not entirely certain which one precedes the other). I have discussed the problem in my two latest works: SCIAMVS 14, 2013:65 ; 2014:1103-4 (http://www.billmak.com/astronomy/). My position is that VYJ prima facie is older than YJ, since "vṛddha" in a Sanskrit title always refers to an "older" work and never "expanded" work as Pingree seemed to have suggested.

I have yet to comb through the VYJ. My impression is that it is more "Greek" than YJ. In fact, even Varāhamihira's Bṛhajjātaka contains more Greek loanwords than the YJ.

The next logical step would be to compare the content of the two works. Some years ago, a student of Pingree attempted to give it a try. Unfortunately he stopped after transcribing it. I guess once I have finished editing the YJ and annotating the Bṛhajjātaka this year, I will start working on the VYJ and hopefully prepare an English translation of it.

Thanks for all your suggestions! I will keep an eye on the pseudoplanet problem.
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pankajdubey



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Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 3:59 pm    Post subject: Re: Yavanajātaka and Vṛddhayavanaj&#2 Reply with quote

billmak wrote:
Mark wrote:
Levente Laszlo wrote:
Quote:
Mīnarāja is said to first take Rāhu as a graha (VYJ 2, 9-10 as given in Pingree, Jyotiḥśāstra p. 81-83), and he relied on YJ


So does Mīnarāja explicitly mention the YJ?

Mark


The answer is no but there are some curious parallel/identical verses in both (thus not entirely certain which one precedes the other). I have discussed the problem in my two latest works: SCIAMVS 14, 2013:65 ; 2014:1103-4 (http://www.billmak.com/astronomy/). My position is that VYJ prima facie is older than YJ, since "vṛddha" in a Sanskrit title always refers to an "older" work and never "expanded" work as Pingree seemed to have suggested.

I have yet to comb through the VYJ. My impression is that it is more "Greek" than YJ. In fact, even Varāhamihira's Bṛhajjātaka contains more Greek loanwords than the YJ.

The next logical step would be to compare the content of the two works. Some years ago, a student of Pingree attempted to give it a try. Unfortunately he stopped after transcribing it. I guess once I have finished editing the YJ and annotating the Bṛhajjātaka this year, I will start working on the VYJ and hopefully prepare an English translation of it.

Thanks for all your suggestions! I will keep an eye on the pseudoplanet problem.


In India,Sphujidhwaja's Yavana Jataka is also known as Brihad (bṛhada)Yavana Jataka as well:

http://shop.saptarishisastrology.com/index.php?page=details&prod=1062&cat=52&group=41

There is vṛddha yavana jātaka of Meenraja as well.

http://www.vedicsolutions.in/BookStore/BookDetail.asp?cnt=168&pid=RANJAN_H48&name=Vridha%20Yavana%20Jataka%20%20(set%20of%202%20vols.)&search=&value=&criteria=&qc=
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Kenneth Johnson



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Posted: Sat Mar 07, 2015 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I will address Bill Mak’s comments on the VYJ of Minaraja in another post, when I have had time to read his new article thoroughly; for the moment I will stay with this thread and give a few of my own observations on the Nodes.

As Bill points out, Rahu is used in Varahamihira’s Brhat Samhita, where one may find numerous astrological predictions regarding eclipses. This tradition was quite old by the time of the BS (c. 550 CE), and is already well developed in the Sardulakarnavadana, which Pingree [Jyotihsastra, p. 68] dates to the first century CE. But this, of course, is not the same as using the nodes in natal horoscopes, and I agree with the consensus here that Vettius Valens seems to be the earliest in that respect.

Rahu and Ketu are mentioned only briefly in Varahamihira’s Brhajjataka:

BJ II.03: rAhus.tamo.agur.asuraz.ca.sikhI.iti.ketuH. (Tama, Agu and Asura are the names of Rahu; Sikhi is the name of Ketu.)

BJ II.05: prAg.AdyA.ravi.zukra.lohita.tamaH.saura.indu.vit.sUrayaH. (The east etc. are governed by the Sun, Venus, Mars, Rahu [Tama], Saturn, Moon, Mercury and Jupiter respectively.)

Such brief references do not demonstrate the existence of any astrological delineations of the Nodes. Yogas involving Rahu are to be found in the Hora Sara, attributed to Prthuyasas, son of Varahamihira, but almost certainly spurious and probably later than 850 CE (Pingree, Jyotihsastra, p. 90). The Nodes also appear in an astrological context in the Brhat Parasara Hora, c. 650-750. Unfortunately, this text has been badly tampered with in the 20th century; none of the printed editions bear more than a marginal resemblance to the summary given by Pingree (JS, 86-7) of the chapter lists from the earliest mss. (which date only to the 17th century). Until we possess a critical edition based on the early mss., it is probably unwise to make any assertions as to the original content of the BPH.

This brings us to the Saravali of Kalyanavarman, c. 800 CE, where finally, in Adhyaya X, we find a fairly well developed astrological picture of Rahu. There are several references to Ketu as well, but terms such as “dhumaketu” or “upaketu” may cause us to wonder whether or not the author is referring to comets. I suspect that it is fair to say that there was an astrological tradition concerning Rahu in horoscopes no later than 800.

I am not familiar with the idea that the terms “Dragon’s Head” and “Dragon’s Tail” have a Babylonian origin. I believe that it is equally possible that these terms come from India; the evidence from mythology is well summarized in the article by Rajesh Kochhar cited above, https://www.academia.edu/767173/Rahu_and_Ketu_in_mythological_and_astronomological_contexts

I also believe that an Indian origin for the nodal glyphs is possible. While Asko Parpola (Deciphering the Indus Script) has claimed, rather controversially, to have identified the nodal glyph among the characters of the Indus script, there is now some debate as to whether the Indus inscriptions constitute a script at all (Farmer, Sproat and Witzel in EJVS, 11-2, 2004, 19-57). To the best of my knowledge, the earliest treatment of astrological glyphs is found in a 6th century ms. of Rhetorius and was published in Neugebauer’s “Greek Horoscopes,” already cited, though with reservations, by Bill. Here we find that the glyphs for the Nodes are precisely the reverse of the way they appear now. Speculating that the myth of Svarbhanu, the eclipse dragon, may be the origin of the terms Dragon’s Head and Dragon’s Tail, and noting that “serpent” and “dragon” are closely related concepts in mythology, and that Svarbhanu is frequently perceived, at least in Indian oral tradition, as a cobra, it is interesting to note that Rhetorius’ glyph for the Dragon’s Head (Rahu) is identical to the markings on a cobra’s hood.
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Kenneth Johnson



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Posted: Sat Mar 07, 2015 8:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And, just for fun, an illustration which shows that the markings on a cobra's hood really do look like the Rhetorius glyph for the Dragon's Head:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Common_Indian_Cobra_or_Spectacled_Cobra_33.JPG
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Bill M. Mak



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Posted: Wed Mar 11, 2015 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The idea of Rāhu and Ketu as Dragon's head and tail does not appear to be Indian as evinced by the way Varāhamihira attributed this view to "some other people" (anye) in Bṛhatsaṃhitā. Certainly there was no such description in the Vedas but later Indians, especially modern Indians tend to conflate everything and label everything "Vedic" without critical references to the source materials.

I think Bouché-Leclercq's view still worths considering. I am however not sure if he was the first one who proposed the Babylonian origin of the draconic association with eclipses.
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Radu Canahai



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Posted: Sat Feb 13, 2016 4:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Probably one of the oldest Indian astrology reports of lunar nodes as planets (graha) used in predictions is in Puranas, specifically Garuda Purana which date from 4th century (Chapter LX). The english translation is available at archive.org.
Discussion is about a dasha cycle that involve Rahu, and although it is not very clear, it seems to be a nakshatra-based kind of dasha cycle, specifically Ashtottari Dasha.
The text also states that malefic planets (Sun, Mars and Saturn) are auspicious in the 6th house. Also, all the planets are auspicious in 11th house, that seems to be a hellenistic idea.


Last edited by Radu Canahai on Mon Feb 15, 2016 7:53 pm; edited 1 time in total
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