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.
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.]
Table of Lunar Zodiac Signs
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.
* 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.
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.
[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:
© Dr Shepherd Simpson, Astrological Historian
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