Snakes & Ladders in Astrology (The Lunar Nodes)
Image: Jnana Chaupar 18th Century
Have you ever played the board game Snakes and Ladders? It is a great teaching tool for life, actually. This is what it was first used for. Surviving game boards suggest Snakes and Ladders emerged somewhere in Northern India or Nepal, where the game was known as the ‘Game of Knowledge’.
You get so far up the ladder, but at the roll of the dice (karma), you find yourself slipping down the snake. You take one step forward, and then slip 10 steps back. Sometimes, you take just one step forward, and then are catapulted many levels up the ladder. Great! Yes, but then you eventually meet with another snake! Big life lessons right there. If you are experiencing a cycle of one of the nodes of the Moon, Rahu or Ketu, you’ll know exactly what I’m referring to.
We are all about to experience the nodes in a big way, as Venus moves into Sagittarius on Jan 3, moving beyond the south node, Ketu, as all planets line up on one side of the nodes into the New Year. The Moon activates this combination as soon as it joins Venus in Sagittarius, from Jan 11. The most potent form of this combination takes place from Jan 11 to Jan 25, and again from Feb 7 to Feb 21. This is known as Kala Sarpa Yoga, or the ‘serpent of time’. Things feel fated, for better or worse. Whether we are catapulted up the ladder or slide back down the snake, things feel as if they are outside our control.
The virus is a good example of how we can sometimes feel we are getting somewhere, but then we seem to slip back. The truth is, even if it appears that way, we have actually developed something in the process of moving up and down snakes and ladders, whether a stronger immune response or an important lesson in life’s ups and downs.
Eventually, someone makes it to the end of the game. But that is only the end of the game for the winner. What about the rest of us? If you play the game long enough, you get the point of it: it is not about the end goal, but in accepting the twists of fate on the way there — wherever ‘there’ is.
We must accept the roll of the dice, as we continue on our journey into 2021.
I think 2021 is going to feel like a game of Snakes and Ladders, in that there will be a lot of ups and downs, lots of things progress as things slip back at various times. We may take a huge leap forward in relation to certain things, including our understanding of the virus, for example, but we may take a tumble in other ways.
Will you try to cheat in the game or accept your fate and the path your game of life is taking?
Kala Sarpa Yoga
This sense of things being up and down will especially be apparent during the first couple of months of 2021, as the planets line up on one side of the nodes in this karmic formation.
This is when we may feel like we are getting somewhere very fast initially, but then slip back down the snake to where we were, maybe even further back. If you have a chronic condition yourself, you will be very familiar with this phenomenon. You start to feel better for a time, but then you slip back.
This is obviously going to be the case in relation to the current virus pandemic. As soon as we think we are free of it, we are likely to take more risks and then… well, you get the picture.
The first couple of months of 2021 are particular uncertain. Patience is required. Imagine we are all playing a giant Snakes and Ladders, and you will accept the twists and turns more easily. And more importantly, you will understand that getting to the finish line will have its ups and downs; until we eventually make it there.
The Staff of Hermes
The Staff of Hermes
Mercury’s symbol, the caduceus, or ‘staff of Hermes’ (pictured above) is used by the medical profession. Healing is one of the biggest themes of Jyestha, the lunar mansion which the recent eclipse took place within, and where there is another eclipse on Dec 4, 2021.
This is where we see the constellation Ophiuchus, the ‘serpent bearer’, a constellation just north of the ecliptic, which is why it is not used as a sign of the zodiac. Instead, we incorporate it into Scorpio. Ophiuchus is associated with Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine. The symbol (below) is similar.
Rod of Asclepius
Snakes show both the poison and healing. Healing is necessary after we have experienced disease, of course. We can clearly see the timing of the recent transits and the eclipse in Scorpio with the release of the vaccine, as if we must now take the poisonous snake in hand to overcome the disease.
We must all become serpent bearers, to take the poison in hand (literally) and overcome it. This also points to the journey we take from Scorpio to Sagittarius, where we deal with our fears and overcome them. Everyone is scared of a virus, whether in its raw, unadulterated form, or in a vaccine.
The Night Sky is rich in this symbolism, where we see Ophiuchus, the serpent bearer and Aquila, the eagle, just north of the ecliptic and the zodiac signs.
These constellations (not signs) are represented by the lunar mansions Jyestha in Scorpio and Shravana in Capricorn. These lunar mansions play a big role in 2021. These are represented in the image of Vishnu, who rules Shravana, riding Garuda (the eagle), snake in hand, just like Ophiuchus, the serpent bearer.
Vishnu and his mount, Garudha
Play the Game
Gouache on cloth (India, 19th century)
Read below for each rising and Moon sign (sidereal zodiac)
Rahu in the 2nd house may focus so hard on achieving some kind of stability and financial security, because of the uncertainty of Ketu in the 8th. This may express itself as a loss or rejection of a partner’s resources and wealth, or indeed a rejection of others’ values, so that you are focusing a lot more on you and yours.
Rahu in the 1st house may focus you a lot more on yourself and self-development, while Ketu in your 7th house may show a rejection of others. This may also express itself as a loss of a relationship. It is worth remembering that the nodes are shadow aspects of ourselves. When they transit the house of self and other, we must be aware of the possibility of sabotaging a relationship (Ketu in 7th) in order to experience more of oneself (Rahu in 1st).
Rahu in your 12th house may show up or not, depending on how it expresses itself. The 12th house is hidden, possibility even from you, so this would depend on your means of escape. The 12th can show the need for retreat, for surrender and release. How each person goes about that will differ, of course. And while Ketu in the 6th house can show an ability to remove difficulties, debts, and illness, for example, one must be aware of the potential of not dealing with problems, so that you are checking out on some level.
Rahu in your 11th house can show a need to connect more with groups and associates, with friends and society. While all that sounds perfectly fine, you could ask yourself why you have this need right now. Ketu in your 5th house can show a need to connect more to who or what you used to love without question. Rahu in the 11th house can show someone having to earn more money due to another child in the household, or a creative project. You may focus so much on gaining money, that you neglect what you are doing for.
Rahu in your 10th house shows the need to change your work environment. You may feel the need for more recognition, but it may simply be a need to recognize what you yourself are doing, and why. Ketu in the 4th house of home and safety shows changes in the home environment, which may be felt in a need to leave home, so you can gain such recognition in the world. As the saying goes, ‘a tree can only grow as tall as its roots are deep’ rings through for you.
Rahu in your 9th house shows a focus and change to what you believe your true purpose is, even a questioning of one’s faith, whether you named it such or not. Ketu in the 3rd house shows a loss or neglect in relation to interactions which previously were challenging anyway, so you may feel unburdened and relieved by this. Your siblings may feel your neglect or lack of attention in some way, as your way of communicating changes due to you changing your fundamental beliefs.
Rahu in your 8th house can show up as unexpected changes which increase your sense of vulnerability, especially in relation to your partner. Perhaps your partner’s money and values are given more airtime, while yours are feeling neglected, or even diminished. If your bank account is dwindling, you have no choice but to seek help from others, be it a partner or from some other source of money that is not earned by you directly.
Rahu in your 7th house can show up as a need to engage in relationships to the point where you may neglect yourself and your own needs with Ketu in your 1st house. As long as you are aware of the sabotaging element of the nodes, the shadows that lurk in your awareness, i.e., your blind spots, you may be able to balance your need to be with someone, while acknowledging your own needs.
Rahu in your 6th house may show up as a need to deal with problems head on, either work related, or debts, or your own weaknesses which express themselves as people or events you perceive as threatening. Ketu in your 12th house will not allow you to retreat from them, but instead, you much face them. Ketu may cause issues with sleep, in which case recuperation in retreat may be just what’s needed.
Rahu in your 5th house may show up as a preference for something or someone you wish to give all your heart and attention to, but by doing so, you may neglect friendships and the bigger picture. The 5th house can show you cradling something you love, be it a child or whatever, while failing to see the support channels around you and the gains you have made thus far.
Rahu in your 4th house may show up as you are chasing a dream of happiness, spending more time at home, while you may experience less interest in work. You may develop a certain ambivalence towards the world around you, and the work you are doing, or you may be overly critical of what you do. This is very much a time to plant roots, no doubt, but remind yourself that planting roots allows you to go deeper into your work, too.
Rahu in your 3rd house can show up as a need to focus on your siblings, your communications and self-interest, your egoic needs, while Ketu in your 9th house is changing fundamental beliefs about who you are and your direction in life. As Ketu moved back from your 10th house, this journey may have meant losing some role in work or in the world in some way, so that you now may question your purpose in life. While you do this, Rahu in the 3rd will get you to focus on trying to figure it all out. Be mindful of not separating from the ground of all being, which will give you a sense of meaning and purpose in everything you think about and strive for.
OM TAT SAT