What is an eclipseFirst of all: what is an eclipse? The word eclipse refers to the concept of something being blocked or dimmed. Eclipses happen when the sun, moon and earth are all on the same plane. A lunar eclipse happens when the full moon moves into the earth’s shadow, blocking the moon’s light. During a solar eclipse, the sun’s light is obscured by the new moon passing between the sun and the earth. So, in both instances, the luminary that should be visible (either the sun, in a solar eclipse, or the full moon, in a lunar eclipse) temporarily becomes invisible. There’s another technical piece here about the lunar nodes. The lunar nodes (north and south node f the moon) are another topic of great confusion and misinformation in astrology, and they probably deserve their very own blog post one day. But for now, suffice it to say that a new or full moon becomes an eclipse when the sun and moon need to be within 18 degrees of the lunar nodes. The closer the sun and moon are to the nodes, the more dramatic the eclipse is.
Eclipses in ancient astrologyImagine for a second that you live some 2000 years ago — in a time before modern technology — and all of a sudden the sun disappears. That would freak you out, no? In ancient astrology, eclipses were considered bad omens for that very reason. The luminaries (Sun and moon) were seen as life giving planetary bodies, and when their light was blocked, that usually wasn’t a great sign. Historically, eclipses were important significators for huge collective events, such as the rise and fall of nations and their leaders, as well as natural disasters.
How to interpret an eclipseThe sun and the moon both move in predictable ways. We know that the sun rises every morning in the east, and sets in the west. While the moon is more in flux and ever changing, her phases form a set pattern too. She waxes and wanes, renewing herself every 29.5 days. And every month, we have a full moon. All of this is pretty straightforward. During eclipse season, however, this usual pattern is interrupted. The sun disappears briefly during a solar eclipse, and the moon is temporarily invisible during a lunar eclipse. What we see here is a disruption of something that’s usually predictable or reliable. This is also how we interpret eclipses when they happen at significant places in our chart: something that we consider to be regular is going to be temporarily disrupted. Both the sun and moon share a quality of visibility. During the day time, we rely on the sun’s light to see where we’re going — quite literally. And during a regular, non-eclipsed full moon, the moon’s light is able to illuminate things in the darkness. But during an eclipse, the light we’re used to rely on is obscured. We see darkness where there should be light. This means that there’s also an element of invisibility and confusion about eclipses. I often tell my clients that the entire eclipse “story” might take some time to unfold, simply because there is so much obscured during an eclipse that you often can’t see its impact until much later. At the same time, because an eclipse “replaces” what would otherwise be a regular old new moon or full moon, we do see the significations of those events connected to eclipses as well. A solar eclipse (AKA an eclipsed new moon) markes a new beginning or start of something, while a lunar eclipse (AKA an eclipsed full moon) is a point of culmination or manifestation, something coming to completion. The usual beginnings and endings associated with the new and full moon become much more dramatic when they are eclipsed. Think extreme beginnings and endings. Life chapters starting and closing. Again: an interruption the usual pattern.
When does an eclipse matterAll of that sounds pretty… intense, right? Given that we have a series of eclipses twice a year, wouldn’t this imply constant disruptions and changes in our lives, or at least twice a year? Why aren’t we all going crazy all the time? Here’s where eclipses are a little bit misunderstood. They seem like a big deal (and they are), but they’re not always out to get ya, wreaking havoc on your life. As mentioned above, eclipses were historically associated with collective events, not so much personal ones. They are defining moments, for sure, but often more connected to world events or royalty (one of the sun’s main significations). And most of us are just plain people living our own little lives. That being said, there are a few instances when certain eclipses might be more personal for you:
When the eclipses take place in one of your angular houses (1st, 4th, 7th, 10th). For the Aries-Libra eclipses in 2023 and 2024, that concerns folks with Aries, Cancer, Libra or Capricorn rising.
If the Moon or Sun is activated by annual profection.
If you were born around the time of an eclipse. Demetra George writes in Ancient Astrology vol. 1 that for folks born near an eclipse, ‘the personal events of their life are “fated” in so far as the person plays a role that impacts or participates in collective destinies.’
- If the eclipses take place in the same signs as your natal nodal axis. This is the classic nodal return or opposition. You’ll probably get more insight into what the nodal story in your chart means.