The Lunar Zodiac - Moon Signs - and the Lunar Mansions


 

 


Definition: [Zodiacs] The Lunar or Draconic Zodiac is a band of the heavens approximately 10° wide, centered on the ecliptic, against which the Moon is seen to move, as seen from the Earth. Lunar Mansions are discussed below. In comparison, the full Planetary Zodiac band is 34° wide.

The Moon's path around the Earth is tilted at an angle of approximately 5° to the Ecliptic. Hence the Moon as it orbits the Earth could be seen against any of the constellations of this band. Hence, these are all Moon Signs.

How the tilt of the Moon's orbit means it can be seen in a wide band of sky above and below the ecliptic.

The Earth-Moon system. Earth is on the right. Three possible Lunar positions are shown: Ecliptic and highest and lowest points relative to the Ecliptic, called the Lunar Nodes. The stars that the Moon would be seen against are shown left. In the course of its orbits around the Earth, it will be possible to view the Moon, from Earth, at some point in time against any constellation within that 10° band. [The Earth-Moon distance is to scale on the diagram. The distance to the stars is not. The stars would be off the computer screen and in the next block to you at this scale.]

How does the Lunar Zodiac differ from the Solar Zodiac? It has more several more signs. Because of its orbital tilt, the Moon it can be found anywhere within a 10° band of the heavens in the night sky. Hence it strays on occasion out of the thirteen signs of the Real Solar Zodiac into other signs.

A good example of this is shown right. At the Taurus-Orion-Gemini border, the upper stars of the constellation of Orion, the Hunter, are within 5° of the Ecliptic. These stars correspond to the tip of Orion's weapon [either a sword or more usually a club] in depictions of the stars dating to at least the time of the Roman Senator Cicero [106 - 43 BC] and probably much earlier.

On occasion, when the South Node of the Moon's orbit is close to Orion, the Moon will occult these stars - there will be a conjunction between Orion and Chi or Chi² Orionis. Hence Orion is a Moon Sign in the Lunar Zodiac.

This is not the only example of where the Moon can be found against signs which do not form part of the Real Solar Zodiac. For example, on the diagram to the left the very bottom part of Auriga also falls within 5° of the Ecliptic. Hence Auriga is also a Lunar Zodiac Moon Sign.

A full list of the Moon Signs of the Lunar Zodiac is given below. In modern constellations there are 20 Moon Signs. However two of these constellations: Sextans, the Sextant and Scutum, the Shield are relative recent asterisms. 18 Lunar Zodiac signs would have been seen by the Ancient Greeks, as recorded by Ptolemy.

The lunar zodiac band in the night sky in the Gemini-Orion-Taurus region - hence the Moon can frequently be found in the sign of Orion.

 

A view of the Gemini-Orion-Taurus border in the night sky. Pink names are star names. The horizontal red line is the Ecliptic. The two yellow lines are the upper and lower borders of the Moon's zodiac band of ±5°. The green lines are the constellation boundaries. The white lines join the stars of each constellation to make the constellation figure. For example on the right of the picture on either side of the Ecliptic are two white lines which are the horns of Taurus the Bull.

As the Moon can be found up to 5° either side of the Ecliptic it will be observable against the top two main stars [Χ, Χ²] of the figure of Orion, the Hunter. and several of the minor Orion stars in this area. Hence Orion is a Moon Sign of the Lunar Zodiac.

Click on the above picture for a large version.

Table of Lunar Zodiac Signs

Lunar Zodiac Signs  Meaning  Ptolemaic Moon Signs 
 Pisces the Fishes  Pisces
 Cetus the Whale  Cetus
 Aries the Ram  Aries
 Taurus the Bull  Taurus
 Orion the Hunter  Orion
 Auriga the Charioteer  Auriga
 Gemini the Twins  Gemini
 Cancer the Crab  Cancer
 Leo the Lion  Leo
 Sextans the Sextant   -
 Virgo the Maiden  Virgo
 Crater the Cup  Crater
 Corvus the Crow  Corvus
 Libra the Scales  Libra
 Scorpius the Scorpion  Scorpius
 Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer  Ophiuchus
 Sagittarius the Archer  Sagittarius
 Scutum the Shield   -
 Capricornus the Sea Goat  Capricornus
 Aquarius the Water Carrier  Aquarius

Lunar Zodiacs before the Solar Zodiac: The Lunar Zodiac is easier to see in the heavens than the Real Solar Zodiac. This is because you can directly observe the Lunar Zodiac by watching the Moon in the heavens each night and seeing which signs it passes through. This isn't true of the Real Solar Zodiac, because when the Sun is in the sky its light drowns out the light of the stars, so you can not directly see which stars lie behind it. Instead you have to calculate which stars do so. This requires a level of sophisticated astrology which took centuries to attain. Not surprisingly therefore, ancient civilizations charted a Lunar Zodiac before the Solar Zodiac. This is certainly true of Western astrology. The Mul.Apin tablets surviving from Babylonia show the development of a Path of the Moon, centuries prior to a Solar Zodiac.

The Celtic Lunar Zodiac: A system of 13 Moon signs to encompass a calendar year. Thought by Celtic experts to be a modern invention. Follow the Celtic Zodiac link for details on this.

The Vedic Nakshatra Lunar Mansions: Unlike the Tropical Zodiac, the Vedic Zodiac is a Sidereal Zodiac, so it can include information on the astrological effects of stars themselves. However, it does this by means of an extra system of "Lunar Mansions": 27 Nakshatras, each corresponding to a particular star. Some anthropologists consider this system to be older than the Vedic adoption of the Solar Zodiac Wheel from the Greeks, with roots perhaps going back as far as the Rig Veda [ca 1500 BC]. Western Tropical astrology describes a natal chart as: Sun in Tropical Solar sign, Moon in Tropical Solar sign. Vedic astrology describes a natal chart as: Sun in Sidereal Solar sign, Moon in Nakshatra.

However, like the Sidereal Zodiac and Tropical Zodiac, the Nakshatras are an oversimplification of the heavens: they do not form a very accurate Lunar Zodiac. Considering their ancient lineage, perhaps this is not too surprising.

Very few of the Nakshatra stars are on the ecliptic, ranging up to 25° away from it. Therefore, only 18 Nakshatra stars belong to any of the thirteen Real Solar Zodiac constellations [which notably possess few bright stars]. One example the Nakshatra Swati, for which the star, Arcturus, the Bear Keeper, in the constellation Bootes, the Herdsman. Similarly, the star of Nardra is Betelgeuse which, as shown in the above figure, is approximately 15° from the ecliptic and therefore a long way outside the Lunar band. For this reason some of the Nakshatra stars are never actually occulted by the Moon.

The borders of the Nakshatras do not coincide with the Sidereal Zodiac signs, but rather form a separate system of 27, each Nakshatra corresponding to 13° 20' of the Ecliptic. The first sign, Ashwini, starts at the First Point of Aries in the Sidereal Zodiac. This shows the compromises that were required to meld the Lunar and Solar systems. There is absolutely no reason at all why a Lunar system should begin at the start of a Solar astrological system. There is also no very good reason for the Nakshatras to have equal lengths. Of course their number gives away the reason. The 27 Nakshatras are organized so each day of the Sidereal Month [27.2 days on average] had its own Nakshatra. In this way the system is compromised by being based on the calendar, rather than being a real map of the heavens for the Moon.

Further Details of the Nakshatras: As with signs in astrology, each star is assigned a planetary ruler, a masculine or feminine nature, and correspondence with a part of the body. [Two planetary rulers Kethu and Rahu, also known as the shadow planets, are Vedic names for the descending and ascending Lunar Nodes respectively. It is notable that in the Nakshatra system, the planetary rulerships have not been extended out to Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, as they have in Western astrology.] The Nakshatras are also assigned some specifically Vedic characteristics: Rajju, Yoni, Guna and Nadi. Yoni is the Nakshatra's corresponding animal.

Details of the Vedic Nakshatras can be found in the two tables below. As the Moon's orbit around the Earth takes approximately 27 days, which is not an exact fraction of a year, the Lunar calendar moves relative to the Solar calendar. So the Nakshatra dates move relative to the calendar as well. Therefore, it is very difficult to tabulate all the dates for which the Moon is seen against a Nakshatra. This is why there are no dates in the tables. A practicing Vedic astrologer will use ephemeredes or a computer to calculate a person's natal Nakshatra - the Nakshatra the Moon was in at birth.

Nakshtra Asterism Ruler Sex Rajju Body Part Yoni Guna Nadi Zodiac Sign* Longitude*
Ashwini Sheratan - Beta Arietis Kethu Male Feet Soles Horse Deva Vata Aries 13 deg 20’
Bharani 41 Arietis Venus Male Hip Toes Elephant Man Pitha Aries 26 deg 40’
Krittika Eta Tauri Sun Female Head Head Goat Rakshas Sleshm Aries Taurus 40 deg
Rohini Aldebaran - Alpha Tauri Moon Male Throat Fore head Snake Man Sleshm Taurus 53deg 20’
Mrigashira Lambda Orionis Mars Eunuch Head Brows Snake Deva Pitha Taurus Gemini 66 deg 40’
Ardra Betelgeuse - Alpha Orionis Rahu Female Throat Eyes Dog Man Vata Gemini 80deg 0’
Punarvasu Pollux - Beta Geminorum Jupiter Female Navel Nose Cat Deva Vata Gemini Cancer 93 deg 20’
Pushya Asellus - Delta Cancri Saturn Male Hip Face Goat Deva Pitha Cancer 106 deg 40’
Aslesha Alphard - Alpha Hydroe Mercury Male Feet Ears Cat Rakshas Sleshm Cancer 120 deg 0’
Magha Regulus - Alpha Leonis Kethu Male Feet Chin Rat Rakshas Sleshm Leo 133 deg 20’
Purva Phalguni Zosma - Delta Leonis Venus Female Hip Right Hand Rat Man Pitha Leo 146deg 40’
Uttara Phalguni Denebola - Beta Leonis Sun Male Navel Left Hand Cow Man Vata Leo Virgo 160 deg 0’
Hasta Algorab - Delta Corvi Moon Female Throat Fingers Buffalo Deva Vata Virgo 173 deg 20’
Chitra Spica - Alpha Virginis Mars Female Head Neck Tiger Rakshas Pitha Virgo 186 deg 40’
Swati Arcturus - Alpha Bootis Rahu Male Throat Chest Buffalo Deva Sleshm Libra 200 deg 0’
Visakha Zubenelgenubi - Alpha Libroe Jupiter Male Navel Breast Tiger Rakshas Sleshm Libra Scorpius 213 deg 20’
Anuradha Delta Scorpii Saturn Female Hip Stomach Hare Deva Pitha Scorpius 226 deg 40’
Jyestha Antares - Alpha Scorpii Mercury Male Feet Right Side Hare Rakshas Vata Scorpius 240 deg 0’
Mula Shaula - Lambda Scorpii Kethu Eunuch Feet Left Side Dog Rakshas Vata Sagittarius 253 deg 20’
Purvashada Kaus Media - Delta Sagittarii Venus Male Hip Back Monkey Man Pitha Sagittarius 266 deg 40’
Uttarashada Nunki - Sigma Sagittarii Sun Male Navel Waist Camel Man Sleshm Sagittarius Capricornus 280 deg 0’
Sravana Altair - Alpha Aquilae Moon Female Throat Genitals Monkey Deva Sleshm Capricornus 293 deg 20’
Dhanista Rotanev - Beta Delphinum Mars Female Head Anus Lion Rakhsas Pitha Capricornus Aquarius 206 deg 40’
Satabhik Lambda Aquarius Rahu Eunuch Throat Right Thigh Horse Rakshsas Vata Aquarius 320 deg 0’
Purvabhadra Marakab - Alpha Pegasi Jupiter Male Navel Left Thigh Lion Man Vata Aquarius Pisces 333 deg 20’
Uttarabadra Algenib - Gamma Pegasi Saturn Female Hip Shins Cow Man Pitha Pisces 346 deg 40’
Revati Zeta Piscium Mercury Female Feet Ankles Elephant Deva Sleshm Pisces 360 deg 0’

* NB The signs in the above table are Sidereal Zodiac. Similarly, the longitudes given above are ecliptic longitudes measured from the start of the Vedic Sidereal Zodiac not the start of the Tropical Zodiac.

No.

Nakshatra Translation Symbol Deity

1

Ashwini Horse Goddess Horse Head Ashwini Kumars
2 Bharani Bearer Vagina Yama
3 Krittika Cutter Razor Agni
4 Rohini Red Chariot Brahma
5 Mrigashira Deer's Head Deer Head Moon
6 Ardra Moist Head Rudra
7 Punavasu Prosperity Bow Aditi
8 Pushya Flower Flower Brihaspati
9 Ashlesha Embrace Serpent Sarpas
10 Magha Mighty Palaquin the Pitris
11 Purva Phalguni Former Red One Front Legs of Marriage Bed  Bhaga
12 Uttara Phalguni Latter Red One Back Legs of Marriage Bed  Aryaman
13 Hasta Hand Hand Savitri
14 Chitra Bright Pearl Tvashtri
15 Svati Independant Wheat Sprout Vayu
16 Vishakha Forked Triumph Arch Indragni
17 Anuradha Following Radha Lotus Mitra
18 Jyeshtha Eldest Umbrella Indra
19 Mula Root Crouching Lion Nirriti
20 Purva Ashadha Former Victor Fan Apah
21 Uttara Ashadha Latter Victor Elephant Tusk Vishva
22 Shravana Ear Arrow Vishnu
23 Dhanishtha Abundance Flute The Vasus
24 Satabhisha 100 Physicians Empty Circle Varuna
25 Purva Bhadrapada  Front Good Feet  Front Legs of Death Bed Ajaikapada
26 Uttara Bhadrapada  Back Good Feet  Back Legs of Death Bed Ahirbudhnya
27 Revati Rich Drum Pushan

The Arabian Lunar Mansions [Manazil]: There are 28 Lunar mansions in the Arabian system. Again this suspiciously month-like number is to keep the mansions in step with the number of days in a Sidereal Month [27.2]. Again, therefore, the mansions in this system are not heavens based, but calendar based. As with the Vedic system they start at the first Point of Aries, but this is in the Tropical Zodiac, not the Sidereal Zodiac. I have been unable to discover how the obvious problem of the movement of the marking stars of the mansions against the Tropical Zodiac, because of the Movement of the Ages, is solved for the Arabian Lunar Mansions. It is likely that it is this problem which has made the Arabian system fall out of favour for most Western astrolgers. It replicates our problems with the "fixed stars" and the Tropical Zodiac.

In short, all the faults of the Nakshatra system are replicated with the Arabian mansions along with some extra ones because of the Tropical Zodiac dependence. Interestingly, scholars think that this was not always the case, and the Arabian system is an unusual example of going from a more to a less complex zodiac. It is likely that the first mansion of the Arabian system began at a "fixed star" [perhaps Alcyone] and that the mansions were not of fixed length, accurately reflecting real asterisms seen in the heavens. This better, though more complex system now seems to be no longer is use.

In the Arabian systems favour, only one of the mansion marking stars, for the mansion Al Hakah, is outside the Real Solar Zodiac's 13 constellations, and even this resides in Orion [which the Moon can enter, see above]. The marking stars are therefore a much better Moon zodiac system than for the Vedic Nakshatras.

Details of the Manazil are given below. For the reaons explained for the Nakshatra tables no dates can be given.

No.

Mansion Translation

1

Al Thurayya The Many Little Ones
2 Al Dabaran The Follower
3 Al Hak'ah A White Spot
4 Al Han'ah A Brand or Mark
5 Al Dirah The Forearm
6 Al Nathrah The Gap, or The Crib
7 Al Tarf The Glance [of the Lions Eye]
8 Al Jabhah The Forehead
9 Al Zubrah The Mane
10 Al Sarfah The Changer [of the Weather]
11 Al Awwa The Barker
12 Al Simak The Unarmed
13 Al Ghafr The Covering
14 Al Jubana The Claws
15 Iklil Al Jabhah The Crown of the Forehead
16 Al Kalb The Heart
17 Al Shaulah The Sting
18 Al Na'am The Ostriches
19 Al Baldah The City or District
20 Al Sa'd al Dhabih The Lucky One of the Slaughterers
21 Al Sa'd al Bula The Good Fortune of the Swallower
22 Al Sa'd al Su'ud The Luckiest of the Lucky
23 Al Sa'd al Ahbiyah The Lucky Star of Hidden Things or Hiding Places
24 Al Fargh Al Mukdim The Fore-spout (of the Water-bucket)
25 Al Fargh Al Thani The Second, or Lower, Spout (of the Water-bucket) 
26 Al Batn Al Hit The Belly of the Fish 
27 Al Sharatain The Two Signs
28 Al Butain The Belly

[The material in this table is derived from: Vivian Robson, The Fixed Stars and their Constellations, 1923. pp 70-76.

The Chinese Lunar Mansions [Xiu]: See the Chinese Zodiac entry for details on these. 28 mansions are in use.

The Zodiac and Astrology:

01:  What is a Zodiac? What are Zodiac Wheels?
02:  Galactic Zodiac
03:  Real Solar Zodiac and Zodiac Charts
04:  Tropical Zodiac
05:  Sidereal Zodiac [Vedic Zodiac]
06:  Comparison of Tropical and Sidereal Solar Zodiacs
07:  Examples of Tropical and Sidereal Zodiac Wheels for Prince William's Horoscope
08:  Planetary Zodiac
09:  Lunar Zodiac and Lunar Mansions
10:  Chinese Zodiac
11:  Celtic Zodiac
12:  The Non-Zodiac Stars and Constellations

© Dr Shepherd Simpson, Astrological Historian

 

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