Jyotish, the science of light, otherwise known as Vedic Astrology, gives foresight, insight and hindsight into all affairs of mankind.

It can also lead us into some alternative points of view, where problems and their solutions are seen in the light of a different model. It’s not that jyotish controls life, but it has a unique way of interpreting it.

An astrological birth chart is a map of your karma. It indicates inherent dispositions, what an ayurvedin (Vedic physician) would call prakruti, or essential nature – which for ayurveda’s purpose is mostly physical, although related to personality.

On quite another level,  jyotish is often used to identify and assess the inherent disposition – and progression – of the psyche that animates the physical body. Jyotish is particularly interested in what life experiences the spirit or soul seeks in order to feel fulfilled, and what fruit it plucks from the tree of life.

We sometimes see in a birth chart that the seventh house of relationships is weak, meaning partnership and marriage will bring unhappiness. But just as there’s a place in the chart to find the first marriage, there’s another for the second or third marriage. And if that house is strong, it promises happiness.

Suppose my client Jennifer is single but has a weak seventh house, meaning her first marriage will be unhappy. But she has a strong second house, meaning her following marriage would be happy.

Hmm… If marriage were like a series of meals, she could rush through one to get to the other. But marriage is a contract with another person, and in the real world, that relationship ends only in death or divorce. But Jennifer doesn’t want to get divorced.

Faced with such a dilemma, the jyotishi must devise a symbolic act. In the Vedic world, ritual is a living tradition. And although one half of the world might call this magic, the other half understands it is simply an attempt to influence something on another level.

An upaye is a ritualistic act intended to satisfy logic at a causal rather than a phenomenal level. If we accept the premise that every action is preceded by a thought, we admit that thoughts can change the world. So when thought is accompanied by action and strengthened by intention, we really are causing a ripple. And sometimes that’s all it takes.

Suppose the above is our client’s hypothetical birth chart, not in fact that of the Jennifer pictured here. Note the 7th house hammered by malefics — occupied by Sun and Rahu, Mercury made malefic by association, and all aspected by both Mars and Saturn. For icing on the cake, the 7th and 8th lords are in exchange. Granted, it’s a mess, and so we expect the first marriage to result in unhappiness.

By contrast, note the 2nd house which, being 8th from the 7th, signifies the death of the first marriage and the birth of the second marriage. Jupiter is in its own sign, associated with a full moon, and aspected only by Venus. It’s a dream come true! And so we expect the second marriage to bring happiness.

Seeing this, the jyotishi would like to facilitate a symbolic first marriage, see the death of it, and then let his client get on with her happy prospects as shown in the second marriage.

Thus inspired, he sets aside Jennifer’s chart and goes to the nearest gardening centre. There he picks the runt from a litter of shrubs and at the next opportunity, introduces it to Jennifer. She pays for the shrub, and a brief courtship follows. On the next dark moon, the jyotishi performs a wedding.

(Kids, don’t try this at home. If you want a marriage to succeed, do it when the moon is relatively full, between first quarter and a day after the full moon. Remember, in Jennifer’s case only, the jyotishi intentionally engineers a bad start to a marriage by conducting it on a new moon.)

After the wedding, Jennifer takes the shrub home and places it in her bedroom. She waters it, she talks to it, she reveals her naked body to it, she kisses it good night.

She waters the shrub for eight months, and then she waters it no more. The shrub begins to die – its limbs droop, its leaves wither. She cries the day she knows it’s over. Jennifer is now a widow.

Jennifer cremates the remains of her “first husband” and enters a period of mourning. Then she starts dating again and, within a season, finds the love of her life – the “second husband” who was promised by the strong second house in her birth chart.

And just in case that one doesn’t stick, we can always look at Jennifer’s ninth house for her third marriage. (Subsequent marriages are always seen eight houses away from the house that signifies the preceding marriage.)

Now, in fact, I’ve described this in a light-hearted manner, all in the name of infotainment, but the practice is entirely real. In India, where modernity sleeps with the ancient without guilt, a number of Bollywood actresses over the past few years have had “doomed” first marriages arranged with peepul and banana trees, or clay urns, all of which were divorced or came to a sorry end, simply to make way for a better mate next time around.

But does this work every time? Absolutely. One of my clients has invested in a nursery, and another now lives in the woods.