Brief Points On The Relationship Between Hellenic & Hindu Astrology

Recently, we had had a few questions come in about the relationship of the Greek & Hindu astrologies. 

Specifically – which bits were Indian versus which bits came in with the Hellenics that arrived under Alexander. And, in particular, whether the Nakshatras (27 / 28 ‘Lunar Mansions’ – Star Signs) were the Indian part, whilst the 12 (Solar) Star Signs more familiar to us here in the West, along with the “7 + 2” ‘Planets’ (the ‘Two’ being Nodes of the Moon) were of Greek introduction. 

That’s the question. Now, my response …

Solar oriented astrology [viz. the 12 signs of the (Western) Zodiac – Solar Rashis] is definitely something that becomes prominent in later times following the Hellenic ‘encounter’ , bceause as you’re probably aware, Jyotisha is instead oriented around yon Houses of the Moon.

However, here’s the thing.

There’s actually a surprising degree of coterminity between the two approaches when it comes to constellations and what not.

So, to take one prominent example – Gemini is, in the Western / (Post-)Hellenic view, ‘The Twins’, and more specifically, Castor & Polydeuces / Pollux. The Dioscuri – Zeus’ Boys.

Meanwhile, in Jyotisha terms, this is Punarvasu – which has some degree of co-identification with the Asvins, the Horse Twins, the Divo Napatah. Same figures, in other words. [Of course, there’s more to that particular Nakshatra in terms of major deific association, etc. etc. but anyway]

Another example would be Aquarius – which, in Indo-Iranic terms, is a region of sky that has also got some ‘watery’ associations going on. In Nakshatra terms, it’s Shatabisha (the Iranian name is Satavaesa – although the meaning’s changed slightly; ‘Hundred Healers’ to ‘Hundred Servants’ ), ruled over by Varuna (so the Sea associations continue) – and again, in Iranic terms the region of sky is known as ‘Vouru Kasa’ , a celestial ocean of sorts.

In essence – people view these sorts of things as ‘discrete’ systems … and yeah, of course, there’s a bit of a distinction in terms of whether we’re tracking the Sun’s path around the Sky or the Moon’s. Yet in reality, we’ve got an array of constellations – with observable coterminities in various cases – that form parts of the ‘track’ for either system, either celestial body. It’s not completely shared, of course, for reasons that ought be rather readily apparent … but it’s actually rather remarkable how well some constellations that are not really part of the 12 Zodiac thing (although are Classically attested) have quite similar meaning in Vedic reckoning …

… and therefore condition the relevant Nakshatra signs that are oriented from same.

Now, ‘native Indian’ may require a bit of a qualifier – insofar as .. wlel, after nearly 4,000 years in the SubContinent, I figure Hinduism’s functionally pretty ‘indigenous’ there , even though of course, it was borne in in its earlier phase , off the Steppe.

But also – the Nakshatras, and the constellations underpinning those aren’t an ‘import’ to the Hindusphere, even though strictly speaking, they would be an ‘import’ into India , because Indo-European understandings that came in with, well, the archaic-est eras of post-Andronovo IE / I-Ir religion and its bearers.

Now, in terms of how far back this stuff goes … well, as I say, the fact that we can identify clear strong cognates between Hellenic & Vedic star-lore indicates that it’s right back to the Urheimat (or thereabouts – well, Corded Ware Culture at least) .

We can show that it’s not Hellenic incorporation and Babylonian sourced by looking at the whens for an array of the materials in question.

So various asterisms show up with the relevant mythic etc. attestations going on right the way back into the RigVeda; even though the most articulated suite of materials in nice, handy, here’s a direct one-after-the-other-with-relevant-info-around-rulers-etc. format shows up by the time of the Yajurveda’s codification … which doesn’t mean that’s when stuff was being come up with – just when the materials discussing it were being organized, collated, etc. rather than occurring in more poetic and here-and-there salient fashion.

[And then considerably expanded upon as time goes on – by which i mean, again, a lot of the ‘star lore’ and so forth being actually committed to texts rather than being part of the mythology in a more .. nebulous fashion]

As applies the NavaGraha [Graha, as you may know – ‘influencer’, it’s cognate with ‘Grabber’, as it happens] … well, I mean, it would be rather peculiar were these not to be something the Hindusphere was aware of prior to Hellenic contact. I mean, many if not most cultures, particularly with an astrogation tradition , tend to notice the ‘stars’ that are brighter and move in rathe different fashion to all the other ones.

Now, again, we’ve got materials which go back through the Vedic Era which talk about the Grahas – like, obviously the Sun and Moon are pretty prominent; but also others – the earliest mention by name that I can think of offhand for Rahu (the ‘North Lunar Node’) is in the AV-S [the AtharvaVeda , Śaunakīya recension] [although Svarbhanu is right there in the RV and there’s some relevant eclipse-ish conceptry going on through there and subsequent, too] , for instance ; with a fairly overt suite of elements for all Nine to be found in Aranyaka / [early] Brahmana era texts dedicated to such purpose as well.

In essence, what we observe with a fair bit of stuff in this area is, as it goes with the comparative mythology in some parts – 

Related traditions, from a shared (if archaic and by now forgotten) origination , re-encountering one another and ‘mutually reinforcing’ through ‘resonance’ various coterminities, whilst also adding in some distinctive and less attested stuff likewise.

4 thoughts on “Brief Points On The Relationship Between Hellenic & Hindu Astrology

  1. Intriguing how it is Indra who strikes down Svarbhanu in the RV, almost as if he has some correlation with Vrita. Isn’t the head of both identified as Rahu?


  2. Pingback: Brief Points On The Relationship Between Hellenic & Hindu Astrology – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

  3. Pingback: Breves pontos sobre a relação entre astrologia helênica e hindu. – Druid Reborn

  4. Pingback: Brief Points On The Relationship Between Hellenic & Hindu Astrology — arya-akasha | Vermont Folk Troth

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s