These are some of the simplest yogas (planetary combinations) to understand, memorize and apply in horoscopy that everyone should know them even if they forget the name. Such yogas belong to a set of broad chart patterns that allow us as astrologers to establish the sub-text of everything else in the chart right off the bat.
While nothing is one dimensional these two simple yogas give us a sense of life being smooth or rough from a broad perspective.
Simply put sarpa yoga occurs when malefics occupy the angles, absent the benefics, while mala yoga occurs when benefics occupy the angles, absent the malefics.
Sarpa means serpent and indicates rough sailing throughout life, a jaded character and outlook, a gritty hit the ground running style of life and often a sense of not belonging anywhere and being an outcaste etc. The serpentine connotation carries the notion of entanglement, intertwining and venom or toxicity throughout many aspects of life.
Mala means rosary or garland, as in the prayer beads used for chanting mantras. It indicates a natural attitude of trust and praise, good works and a desire to contribute to the world in a positive manner. The connotation of the rosary beads indicates a sense of humility, blessings and faith as well as being surrounded by a vale of protection or harmony.
Both the serpent and the garland have a circular, engulfing energy. The serpent is a mobile being, cunning, sly and easily agitated, while the mala is inert and passive, imbued with energy based upon the owners intent and action and ultimately it is something that can bring comfort and harmony into life. From this perspective sarpa yogas carry the notion of mobility, dynamism, and innovation while the mala yogas imply a sense of peace, relaxation, immobility and a carefree attitude as well as making it easier to blend into the environment or social system.
They ought to be evaluated from the ascendant and moon and for more subtle indications, from the sun and any point that can be used as a first house or lagna (such as the lots of fortune and spirit). Any and all yogas are very powerful if they exist in some form from the lagna (ascendant), chandra-lagna (moon), surya-lagna (sun) all at once, for finding a pattern repeated three times indicates strong, or fixed, karmas aka patterns of consciousness. The general formula is to consider things from the lagna and moon, and then the sun, assuming the first two feature the same yoga even if not created by the same planets. If just the lagna and moon feature a yoga then it can generally be regarded as fixed/unfixed karma.
*It is not wise to consider sarpa yoga or mala yoga present from chandra lagna based upon the moon’s condition (waxing or waning as benefic/malefic) and likewise for surya lagna (for the sun is considered a mild malefic naturally).
Sarpa yoga’s potency is greatly increased if both of the benefics are weak, afflicted and cadent (excluding the 9th) or in houses 2*, 6, 8, 12, which are the houses that do not witness the ascendant. On the contrary, mala yoga’s power is amplified if the malefics are weak/cadent (excluding the 9th) or in houses 6, 8, or 12.
Many times these yogas exist imperfectly wherein the angles are tenanted by more malefics or benefics but there is still one benefic or malefic that spoils the yoga. In such cases the yoga still exerts an influence but in a weakened state, unless said planet that is interfering with the yoga is very weak and afflicted.
In the chart of the sarpa yoga example above we find saturn, the nodes, mars and a malefic mercury (for mercury is malefic when associating primarily with malefics) poised on the ascendant/descendant axis, while the benefics, jupiter & venus, are cadent in inimical houses (6 & 12), while the waxing moon (a benefic) is also cadent, albeit in the benefic 9th. This is a particularly challenging sarpa yoga due to the sorry state of the benefics, but fortunately a mala yoga exists relative to both moon (excluding the sun in the 10th sign from her position) and sun. However in this situation the moon and sun are cadent and so not quite as powerful or capable of mitigation as they would be if in a succedent house (especially the 11th or 5th).
We would expect such an individual with this chart to have a major identity struggle, be prone to violence and easily swayed by others who are cunning and exploitative. Their key challenges are exemplified by the nature of the planets causing the yoga and their house lordships.
The mala yoga featured above is quite powerful, albeit a bit imperfect because of the sun’s position in an angle. Yet this sun is not as powerful as its lord, venus, placed in her own sign. Both luminaries have a strong influence upon the chart because they are in angles and therefore as lagnas they have a lot more power to modify the testimony from the ascendant. Notice that the same mala yoga is repeated from chandra and surya lagnas, making this an indication of exceedingly auspicious karmas. This mala yoga is again strengthened due to the fact that the malefics are all in dark houses (2 & 8) and do not witness the ascendant.
We might say this person lives large, enjoys luxury, travels frequently and is likely to possess power and wealth relative to their station. Evaluated from the ascendant their abundance will be derived from the planets causing the yoga and the houses they rule.
There is much and more that could be said when it comes to integrating an overview technique such as these yogas into a holistic analysis. I hope this brief article will allow you to integrate these and other yogas into your practice in a clear and holistic manner.
OM TAT SAT OM