The language of Eclipses
On the eve of a new Eclipse season I find myself considering the language astrologers, including myself, adopt at times to describe Eclipses: a mixture of glamor and mystery, often far too esoteric to provide any real guidance. This language is obviously chosen to evoke special feelings in the reader, a sense of danger, even doom, but also of unlimited possibilities.
Traditional astrological texts more often than not describe the effects of Eclipses in very lurid terms, often depicting them as evil omens. Some modern readers of horoscopes are instead waxing lyrical about all the profound realizations and life changes we are all going to experience thanks to Eclipses. Maybe we need to find a middle way between these two extremes.
To use few examples of the traditional approach: Alan Leo (1860-1917), in the footsteps of William Lilly (1602-1681), described thus the possible effect of a Solar Eclipse in the second Decan of Gemini (as the one coming on June1/2): “Thefts and robberies, piracy and slaughters” (Lilly about the same Decan Eclipse states: “much Piracy at Sea, and Murder, many fruitless treaties, many turbulent Petitions presented by the people to their Superiors.”).
Alan Leo again, talking about a Lunar Eclipse in the Third Decan of Gemini (as the one coming on June 15): “The pestilence and many evil” (sic). And the Solar Eclipse in the first Decan of Cancer (as the one coming on July 1): “Disturbs the air, and causes various winds and alterations of weather“.
And what about this brief survey on the general effects of Eclipses from Sepharial’s (1864-1929) Dictionary of Astrology: “….disasters, tribulations, sickness and even death…..Falling on the Moon they denote hurt to mother, on the Sun to the father, on Jupiter to uncles, on Mars to brothers, on Venus to sisters, and on Mercury to aunts.” No one is safe by the sound of it!
I reproduce here Sepharial’s last comments because I have my own little story to tell about Eclipses on my Natal Venus (First House), Neptune (Third House) and Ascendant, in far-away 1953. They lived to be not messengers of terrible events, but of a joyous one, the birth of my much loved younger sister. The points in my Natal Chart that those Eclipses touched show the great love we share, but also the anguish of separation and longing for union (Neptune and Saturn in the Third House), and the fated loss caused by living far apart for a very long time (Venus conjunct Pluto, both opposing the Moon).
No wonder some modern writers sound so esoteric when talking about Eclipses! It is indeed difficult to translate the archaic language of Eclipses into one intelligible to the modern reader. On the other hand, to modernize and rationalize the language of Eclipses, calling them opportunities, as I have often done, is perhaps an attempt at oversimplifying something because we don’t understand it or we don’t know how to describe it.
Apart from all the dire predictions Eclipses in antiquity were also depicted, in writing and art, as Jacob’s ladders to angelic realms, or shadow bridges to cross over to the world of the dead and the unborn, more ‘doors of perceptions’ than just opportunities, I would say!
It is true that Eclipses were considered powerful omens, but not necessarily negative ones; they were in many cases seen as harbingers of success and positive developments, promising a victory in battle or a king’s ascension to the throne.
The unfair distribution of Eclipses
Eclipses are so elusive in personal experience, because their distribution, during a life time, their frequency, intensity and duration of effect vary considerably from person to person and from Eclipse o Eclipse. An Eclipse, Partial, Annular, Lunar, Solar, whatever, can have a revolutionary, traumatic or exciting effect on a particular individual, while having no effect at all on another. Even if he/she is someone sharing the same Sun, Moon and Rising Sign. This marked difference of effect can be explained by the fact that Eclipses come in series and family of series.
During a period of 18 years and 9/11 days there would be 70 to 72 Eclipses (Solar and Lunar), an average of four Eclipses per year (but there could be as many as seven some years). Only a portion of the whole zodiacal circle will be touched by Eclipses, so some Signs will have a greater share of Eclipses than other Signs, during a given period.
So, for instance, if you had the Sun at zero degree Cancer at birth and you were born in 1951, like I was, seven Eclipses (four Solar and three Lunar) would have fallen over your Sun’s position, between 1951 and 2011, and there will be others, in 2020, 2029 and 2039, if you live long enough.
If, instead you were born with the Sun in Cancer, but on the fifth degree of this Signs, born four to five days after I was, you would not expereince any Eclipse over your Sun’s position, for the whole of your life. You could, however, experience, at different times, Eclipses on your Moon, Ascendant , Planets or Nodes.
To get an idea of the uneven distribution of Eclipses, between the years 2000 and 2011 there have been five Eclipses on different degrees of Aquarius and Virgo, four in Aries, Gemini and Leo, three in Taurus, Scorpio and Pisces, only two in Libra, but six in Sagittarius, and eight in Cancer and Capricorn.
My own Approach to the study of Eclipses
My approach to the study of Eclipses springs from personal observations of their influence on my own Chart and life, and those of some clients, and also from the perusal of Eclipses’ stories and interpretations in different astrological texts, modern and old, providing a wealth of Natal and Mundane examples. A text that really helped me personally to understand the working of Eclipses is “Eclipses” by the scholar of the Occult David Ovason‘s, a book full of useful information and insight. Ovason stresses in particular the importance of the relationship between Fixed Stars and Eclipses’ degrees, discussing many great case histories to make his point.
When I know an Eclipse is close at hand I repeat the mantra I have often used with my students: ‘Eclipses of the Sun are New Moons, Eclipses of the Moon are Full Moons’. I am not here to demystify Eclipses, but I feel we need to have a more level headed approach toward them, not always expecting incredible events to take place or our personal lives to be transformed by them. Here I have attempted to do this without denying the power an Eclipse can actually exert in a person’s life and in the life of the collective. What I am advocating is to look closely at the Eclipse itself and also put it in the context of the current Transits. Eclipses are not separated phenomena, but are part, like every other cosmic event, of a much bigger picture.
In some of the examples that I’m using here you’ll find that the power of an Eclipse is always magnified by the presence of other major Transits happening during the Eclipse’s period of activity, a period that can stretch, forward and backward in time, for months and even years.
How to look for your important Eclipses, up-close and personal
Every New Moon is a portal to a league of the monthly journey. When the New Moon falls on your birth Sign you know that to be a special beginning for you, a turning point in the yearly cycle. Now, if that New Moon, like in this case, is also a Solar Eclipse the New Moon’s portal is opening to a wider horizon than just few months ahead, and also to deeper dimensions of experience; sometimes even a re-birthing of sort. Still, fundamentally, the Solar Eclipse remains a symbol of the end of one cycle and the start of another, though perhaps a particularly intense and significant one.
Following the same reasoning every Full Moon represents the climax of a journey or period. If this event happens around your birthday it would be a more significant climax. If the Full Moon were also a Lunar Eclipse you could expect some major realizations and far-reaching climax type experience.
Eclipses are not rare phenomena, but they will produce a marked effect only if falling in close conjunction and opposition (for the Lunar Eclipses) to a sensitive point in your Birth or Progressed Charts, meaning Sun, Moon, Planets, Angles, Lunar Nodes. The orb (distance) allowed for Eclipses’ aspects should be, I think, very tight, one degree or less, or we would end up with too many Eclipses and not much happening with them. I am aware that many astrologers advocate a larger orb for Eclipses in conjunction or opposition to your Natal Chart’s placements, three or even five degrees, but I feel that keeping to a tight orb is always the safest thing to do, when trying to measure the strength of any aspect. The closest the aspect, the more obvious the effect. Eclipses are not exception.
When hunting Eclipses for a specific individual, ascertain, first of all, if the person was born in an Eclipse Season, with a Solar or Lunar Eclipse closely following or preceding the birthday. If this is the case make sure to search for any conjunction of the Eclipses’ degrees (also opposition, for Lunar Eclipses) with angular and planetary placements in the Natal Chart, especially with the Sun, Moon, Ascendant or Ruling Planet. Even when you don’t find any close aspect make a note of the areas of experience (House) occupied by the Eclipses, because they will remain sensitive areas throughout life, where, from time to time, important crisis may take place.
As you have gathered from my own example you don’t need to be born in an Eclipse Season to be affected by the power of Eclipses.
With the help of the astrological software Solar Fire I have created a list that shows the date, Sign and degree of all Solar and Lunar Eclipses happening between the years 1940 and 2011. Looking at this list with your Natal Chart in hand you can make a note of the years when an Eclipse was conjunct any significant point in your Chart (Sun, Moon, Angle, Node).
Eclipses, like all astrological events, have a light and a dark side. The type of experience depends on a combination of the nature of the Planet involved (aspected by the Eclipse) and the field (astrological House) where the Eclipse occurs in the Natal or Progressed Chart.
So, for instance, an Eclipse on your Sun will affect your sense of identity and self-esteem, an Eclipse on your Moon your emotions and family life. An Eclipse in your Third House will colour your communication and relationship with siblings, in the Eighth House your intimate relationships, your shared finances and your desire for personal power, etc, etc.
The example I gave before, of the glut of Eclipses I experienced the year my younger sister was born, is one of many I could have used. Here are a few more, hoping they will help you to understand how Eclipses might work in your own life.
A Solar Eclipse on the 29th degree of Gemini fell on my Natal Sun at 0° 03′ of Cancer, XI House, in 1982, the year my partner and I emigrated to Australia. Some change: we have never gone back in 29 years! That’s an Eclipse’s effect. It wouldn’t have been so powerful though if not for the assistance of a Saturn-Pluto-Jupiter’s passage over the cusp of my IV House, nadir and taproot of my Chart, life changing transits on their own. Together with the Solar Eclipse, the Progressed Moon in Aries in my Natal IX House of foreign travels and people, and other apsects besides, the Eclipse manifested in the decisive way it did.
And what about, earlier, a Lunar Eclipse on my Pisces North Node, Natal VIII House, in 1979, the year I visited India, my stay there lasting two years, during which time I met my partner of thirty years, and having a lot to do with the later decision to emigrate to Australia. The emotional impact of that period is still difficult to assess for me, one of the most formative year of my life. That Eclipse too wasn’t alone, but coincided with a full-on Saturn Return and other important transits.
Eclipses haven’t quite finished with me, more are coming my way, and I wasn’t even born in an Eclipse Season!
Please check my next post where I’ll discuss how the June and July Eclipses will interact with the Natal Charts of some famous individuals, like Julia Gillard, our Australian Prime Minister, Camilla Parker Bowles, wife of the Prince of Wales, Hosni Mubarak, ex President of Egypt, Sathya Sai Baba, the Indian guru who recently passed away, just to name a few.