In the Grip of the Grahas (Planets)

Gary O'Toole
6 min readApr 26, 2021


Alex Rosario on Unsplash

I once read a chart for someone who began to use the word ‘rahoo’ as a sort of exclamation while experiencing a Rahu time period, much like you would use ‘woohoo’! They did this without ever having heard of Rahu or what the word meant. Although they did not know it, they were in the grip of one of the Grahas.

The word Graha is where we get our words grip, grab and grasp. The Greeks gave us the word planet, to mean ‘wanderer’, while Indian astrologers or Jyotiṣī saw the planets as deities with the power to grab us — not literally, of course, but subtly, very subtly.
It is precisely because of this subtly that they have a firmer hold. When we cannot see something, if we don’t know we’re doing something, how can we even begin to think about changing it?

Sometimes, that grip may seem more obvious, but that is not often the case — even for someone who is consciously working with astrology. Whether or not we are studying the Grahas, the grip is so subtle that we often must rely on the navigation tools of astrology to guide us.

Someone may become more aware of their patterns without the use of astrology, of course, but even then, they cannot see it in the context of timing and must rely on their intuition to guide them. Nothing wrong with that, of course. We astrologers do that too. But the benefit of astrology is that we don’t have to rely on our intuition all the time.

Astrology is not just about who we are — it’s about who we are becoming.

When we see that we are in a ‘planetary period’ which has a certain say in a certain part of our lives, then we have the potential to see it more clearly. It’s not guaranteed, of course. It’s only a potential. The influence is so subtle, and yet so powerful because of the subtlety. And because subtlety is lost in our modern era, we are less likely to be aware of the potential — even if someone is deliberately seeking this knowledge.

Saturn’s Vice Grip

This grip is more often a problem in the case of planets like Saturn because Saturn often represents something we would prefer were different. It can often feel like a vice grip as it pressurizes us to let go of something or do something more appropriate.
When we are in Saturn’s period, we are more likely to state that ‘I didn’t want this, surely’. And yet, there it is. This creates a disjointed sense of who we are and what we want, as if there were one part of us that does not want us to experience something, a more conscious part, perhaps, and another which is not only willing to take it on but has created it.

It is the most subtle part of our being that relays Saturn’s, or any planets’, wishes, their imprint on our less subtle parts. First, the signal is sent to our energy body, so that we are given or denied the energy to think a certain way, which in turn makes us act a certain way. These subtleties are referred to as the sheaths or koshas in Vedic science and philosophy.

When signals of things we would consciously prefer not to experience are sent, there can be a disconnect, which is what Saturn can feel like sometimes. And while it is certainly possible to make Saturn’s wishes more conscious, and to mitigate any challenges, it’s a challenge all the same.

I will give you a very real life example of this from my own life. I share this story just to show how unconscious these impulses are, no matter how aware I might be of the planets’ influence.

When I was last in a Saturn period, it was within a period of Rahu, and they both sit opposite each other in my birth chart, in my 2nd and 8th houses. As soon as I began a Saturn period, ‘’I’’ decided to go for a therapy my doctor had recommended which I had put off previously due to how extreme it was. This involved taking a course of 3 different antibiotics, a ‘triple therapy’ treatment for a Helicobacter pylori infection. This is a very common bacterial infection which can cause ulcers in some people. I was one of the lucky ones!

As soon as a Saturn period began, I decided to begin the treatment, just to get rid of the pain. It was initially such a relief, and I was so thankful to Saturn for taking away the pain. However, what I did not consider was its impact on my mental health subsequently. Saturn aspects my Moon, by 3rd house aspect and it was during the last of the 3 years of that Saturn period that its aspects kicked in.

3 Stages of Daśās

The first year of Saturn, or any other malefic planet, shows its strength throughout the charts. My Saturn is of above average strength and certainly granted me relief form the pain and other experiences I welcomed at the time.

The second year of Saturn triggers its rulership and placement more so. This is when I was trained in counselling, as Saturn sits in my 8th house, ruler of my 3rd and 4th. This was challenging, in a way, but mostly rewarding.

The third and final year of Saturn triggers its aspects. Saturn aspects my Moon. The result? A year of severe depression!
It was only in hindsight that I realized the impact the triple therapy antibiotic treatment had on my mental health, the link between the gut microbiome and mental health, which to anyone else watching would have seemed obvious due to Saturn’s aspect to my 2nd house and Moon, etc.

Why do I tell this story? As aware as I was of Saturn’s placement in my chart, I still did not consider the consequences. And Saturn is all about the consequences!

Another thing I decided to stop as soon as that Saturn period began was taking cacao products. I got it into my head that I had become addicted to the high it gave me, and I didn’t want to rely on a product to feel good. Where did that thought suddenly come from, just as I began that Saturn period?!

I was perfectly happy (literally) taking cacao powders up to that point. As soon as I decided to quit it, I began to suffer the withdrawal symptoms. If you have ever relied on anything to feel good, even if it’s just raw chocolate, and you suddenly go cold turkey, you have to come down. Saturn eventually brings us down to earth; sometimes, with a crash.
Saturn is all about cleaning up our act, which usually means removing things from our life, as we pay back our debts. Sometimes, that pay back means we are sad to say goodbye to something, while at others, we are glad to be rid of it.

Sweet Embraces

Other Grahas are a lot more fun, thankfully. Who doesn’t want to be in the grip of Venus, and sensual pleasure, or Jupiter, and more meaningful pursuits in life? But even these can be more complex, depending on other factors in our birth chart.
The nodes, Rahu and Ketu, are always more complex, whatever they are doing in our chart, as they require an even deeper look into our psyche and subconscious, to uncover hidden motivations, perhaps what may seem inappropriate at times.

Some Grahas grab us in more obvious ways. Planets such as Mercury which represents the intellect, for example. A Mercury period, which always follows Saturn, helps us to make sense of the previous Saturn experiences. This helps us to integrate the hard won lessons more consciously.

Mercury periods are particularly useful because they bridge Saturn and Ketu, helping us to make sense of a seemingly disjointed reality of being a spirit being living a physical reality.

Whatever Grahas you are currently experiencing; you can make its wishes known by simply sitting with it in your chart and asking the question: What do you truly want here?

You are not asking this of a planet spinning out there in space, although you are using its position to help navigate you inward. You are asking this of yourself and using the planet to go deeper into your being — to make peace with whatever you have already asked for on some level.