Summary: Explaining how Natural Benefics and Natural Malefics can switch roles on account of the houses they own in an individual’s birth-chart. They then become Functional Malefics and Functional Benefics and can bring problems and benefits in their major time periods. This change of behaviour is dependent on the specific ascendant in the chart.
Functional Benefic and Functional Malefic Planets
This is where things begin to get a bit more complicated. Students of Jyotish need to be familiar with the basic concepts of ‘natural benefics and malefics’ before reading this section. If you already understand these concepts you might just want to skip to the article giving a list of functional benefics and malefics for all ascendants.
Why do functional benefics and malefics matter?
- Firstly they form a key component of chart interpretation.
- Secondly, this knowledge is also vital for prescribing the correct remedial measures for bringing balance to the planetary energies for a particular birth-chart with a specific ascendant. This is a key component of Vedic Astrology’s ability to modify returning karmas.
Concept of Functional Benefics and Malefics
In addition to their natural benefic or natural malefic characteristics, planets in Jyotish take on other characteristics, for better or worse, depending on what houses they ‘own’ or ‘rule’ in an individual’s birth-chart. The concept of a ‘House’ and how it corresponds exactly with a sign in Jyotish are covered in a separate article.
This depends on the specific ascendant for the birth-chart being examined.
These planets then become’ functional benefics’ or ‘functional malefics’ because they function in good or bad ways over and above their natural characteristics.
Their ‘functional’ behaviour therefore overwrites their ‘natural’ behaviour. These results, again for better or worse, will usually become apparent during the major time periods (Mahadasha) of the planet.
We will now examine how this happens.
The Sage Parashara stated a set of rules to determine if a natural benefic will become a functional malefic (and vice versa) for a particular ascendant on account of the houses the planet ‘rules’ or ‘owns’ in a particular birth-chart. These rules are not complicated, but there are quite a few of them and they need to be worked through systematically.
As Rahu and Ketu do not own any houses they are never categorized as ‘Functional Malefics’ – they are just natural malefics and do not change their roles.
How Sun and Moon can become Functional Malefic Planets
For the two planets Sun and Moon this is fairly straightforward as they each own only a single sign and therefore a single house in an individual’s birth-chart.
Let’s now look at one of Parashara’s rules. He said that: a planet becomes a functional malefic if it owns either the 3rd, 6th or 11th house.
He also said it becomes more negative in that order. So if a planet owns the 11th it will be more problematic than if it owns the 6th and if it owns the 6th it will be worse than when it owns the 3rd.
Applying these rules we see that for a Libra ascendant the Sun owns the 11th house as it rules Leo (houses correspond exactly with signs in the Jyotish system). The Sun therefore becomes a major functional malefic for a Libra ascendant and is capable of doing considerable damage to the house it occupies in the birth-chart and the planets it joins there or aspects in the house opposite it.
If we now take an Aquarius ascendant and count houses clockwise around the chart we see the Moon owns Cancer which for this ascendant is the 6th House. So the Moon has become a functional malefic for an Aquarius ascendant because it owns the 6th.
How Planets ruling two houses simultaneously can become Functional Benefics or Malefics
Things are relatively simple when dealing with the Sun and Moon because they only own one sign each, so only one house each. The complexity arises with the other planets Venus, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn which own two signs and therefore two houses each.
Let’s see the implications of this and look at a couple more of Parashara’s rules:
Parashara said that: a planet becomes a functional benefic if it owns either the 5th or 9th houses.
He also stated that: ownership of any of the Kendra houses 1, 4, 7 and 10 is also beneficial.
Some examples of Natural Malefics becoming Functional Benefics
A natural malefic such as Mars can become a very positive influence for someone with a Leo (sidereal) ascendant. This is because Mars ‘owns’ both the auspicious 4th and 9th houses for this particular ascendant. These positive effects will be particularly noticeable during the major time period (Mahadasha) of Mars.
Another example of a major, natural malefic changing role is in the case of Saturn for a Taurus ascendant. If Taurus is the first house, then Saturn owns the 9th and 10th houses. So it meets two of the criteria stated above and becomes a fine, positive functional benefic for a Taurus ascendant. But only for this ascendant!
Some examples of Natural Benefics becoming Functional Malefics
As we have already discussed: A natural benefic such as Jupiter can become a very negative influence for someone with a Taurus (sidereal) ascendant. This is because Jupiter ‘owns’ both the inauspicious 8th and 11th houses for this particular ascendant. These negative effects will be particularly noticeable during the major time period (Mahadasha) of Jupiter.
Let’s take the example of a person with a Libra ascendant and Jupiter placed in the 7th house. The 7th is the area responsible for partnerships and marriage. Although we need to do a detailed analysis before making any predictions, we could certainly expect problems with partnerships, lack of harmony and even possible divorce during the Jupiter Mahadasha. Instead of bringing a positive energy into the 7th house matters it now brings problems!
As a final example we will take Mars for a Capricorn ascendant. According to the above rules it should be a functional benefic on account of its ownership of the 4th house, but it is also a functional malefic on account of its ownership of the 11th. Well in this case the 11th is more negative than the 4th is positive, so it ends up being a functional malefic!
At this point we can either learn more of the rules relating to functionality (preferable, but takes time) or simply refer to a list of functional benefic and malefic planets that has been worked out for all ascendants using these rules – (see below).
Further Resources on Jyotish
Introduction to Jyotish. A range of articles for people entirely new to Vedic Astrology. Including: Introduction, FAQs, Origins and Karmic Implications.
Key Concepts in Jyotish. Articles covering the Sidereal Zodiac, Planetary Forces, Forecasting Analogies and ‘Planetary Antidotes’.
For Western Astrologers. Articles examining major differences between the two systems and the paradigm shift needed by Western Astrologers wanting to understand the subject.
Learn Jyotish. An extensive collection of articles covering key facts, concepts and methods. Aimed at ‘foundation level’ students. Includes essential information needed before beginning chart interpretations. Covering: Chart Formats, Planets, Houses, Mahadasha Periods, Transits, Aspects, Birth-time Errors, Natural and Functional Benefics / Malefics, Chart Interpretation Basics, etc.