Yesterday’s partial solar eclipse felt powerful. After a night of vivid dreams I came downstairs feeling bleary, and under-prepared. My other half was already busy with an impressive array of pinholes, and our trusty colander, last pressed into astronomical service for the memorable eclipse of 1999. I felt a bit like the boy at the back of the class who hadn’t done his homework properly. I did have a piece of cardboard with a hole in it though, and guess whose pinole worked best!
We had some Moony fun comparing results and got quite excited as Luna’s round form appeared, gradually protruding across more and more of our small solar images. The first appearance of ‘her’ shadow brought a slight shudder of realisation -that these are physical bodies, moving round, out there in space.
Then I realised I could get a better picture on the LCD screen of my camera (by manually focussing and being careful not to look up!).
Most people had wanted a clear sky, but I was glad when a continuous veil of cloud covered the spectacle sufficiently for us to be able to watch the shimmering molten crescent directly -that was the best bit- and take photos without a special filter. I’ve never seen a total eclipse, but this was extremely beautiful.
So, of course, is the astronomical ‘co-incidence’ that the respective difference in size, and distance from earth, of the Sun and Moon (x400 in each case), means that their discs appear exactly the same size when viewed from earth (at least until some point in the inconceivably distant future).
For me, though, the real work of the eclipse was going on already. In a piece of writing I’ve been busy with (its personal and deals with bereavement and end-of-life experiences), in bodily phenomena (some more comfortable than others), feelings, and dreams.
As an astrologer I’ve once again felt frustrated by the domination of mainstream coverage by scientists. The Guardian, for example, did a predictable ‘science v superstition’ piece. The front page of our local paper, which publishes a sarcastic ‘horoscope’ column every week, had a banner headline that read: ‘Town in Shock Pays Tribute …’. A well loved local butcher had been run over by two vehicles on the previous Sunday night. Although serious astrologers are careful to distance themselves from fearful beliefs about eclipses, the symbolism of a great light being extinguished does quite often seem to co-incide with the death of a popular figure around the time of a solar eclipse. The link wasn’t considered in this case, of course.
Strangely, perhaps, the symbolism can refer to events either before, or five or six (or more) months after a solar eclipse. In either case the timing would be indicated when a point in the horoscope ‘sensitised’ by an eclipse is transited by other planets. There are various interpretive schema, but for instance, R.C. Davidson, in his 1950’s manual The Technique of Prediction writes: “lunations and eclipses falling on sensitive points of the horoscope are nothing more than a double transit of the Sun and Moon”. Just as an alignment of these bodies causes higher tides, “their influence is simlarly potent when applied to the sea of human experience”.
Nowadays we tend to emphasise that astrology is about signs, symbols, and metaphors; about discerning a good course of action, rather than predicting deterministic effects. In the case of solar eclipses the symbolism is about the lunar principle -emotion, intuition, imagination, embodiment, dreams, unconscious processes, flow, memory, childhood, ‘mothering’- temporarily occluding the solar -rationality, purposiveness, clarity, individuality, conscious awareness, leadership, mentoring, ‘heroism’, and so forth.
Events associated with an eclipse can, of course, be positive. Before the 1999 solar eclipse, which was total, though as it turned out invisible, in Cornwall, I was (despite the above caveats) concerned about what it might signify for a friend who was living there at the time. The eclipse was due to fall within a degree and a half of her natal Sun in Leo. In Western astrological tradition the Sun rules the heart, and she’d been having palpitations, intermittently, for some time.
She tells me that she’d felt quite positive about the eclipse on a personal level, seeing it as an opportunity for change. When I wrote to her after the event she replied (at the end of September 1999) saying that she’d felt very emotional for quite a long time afterwards, that this may have been an unblocking, and that ‘things were flowing well now’.
If we had approached that eclipse looking for celestial causes of earthly events we might have concluded that astrology didn’t work because nothing had happened, or that even if something had happened there would be nothing we could have done about it. Approaching astrology as a way of working with natural/cosmic symbolism and timing, on the other hand, we might argue that a temporary occlusion of a person’s solar nature by an upwelling of emotion is just what the symbolism suggested, and would seem to have recommended. For astrologers, meaning is written into the fabric of nature.
I was hoping you might post something on the eclipse Brian, and was very pleased to get a flag for this. Thankyou. It was touching to read about your – our mutual – friend.
That total eclipse, for all the Cornish cloud, was powerfully affecting for me. The birds’ sudden silence, most of all.
Your article struck a strange chord here, this time round. A much loved local policeman died in Falmouth the week before the eclipse. On the preceding Saturday, with literally every shop in the town bearing a picture of his smiling face in their window, 6-7000 people walked his beat through town..and that in a town of 20,000.
The eclipse also happened to coincide, by five minutes, with the start of an Illustration forum here where I was due to give a talk on Crow and Cave Birds (for which your various Hughes writings have been a great help and encouragement). I also showed a few minutes of Noel Chanan’s 1983 recording of them in conversation about their collaborations, the Artist and the Poet. Have you seen that? Happy to lend you my copy, if not.
Much appreciated Mat.
It was a strange time for me. Dark moon and eclipse when I needed energy to get through a pair of interconnected events (night and day)… I felt tired but oppositely when I got to Avenham park in Preston the morning of the eclipse there were fire breathers, drummers and dancers on the knoll… and yes I’ve felt the force of change… not sure where or how that’s headed yet. I have more insights on where it’s not going than where it is! Colinders are a great idea but I found walking past trees created a similar effect letting me see it from an eye corner.
That’s interesting too. One aspect I hadn’t thought about (and haven’t seen much written about) is that a solar eclipse is the only time we get to see a dark Moon. Yet the seeing is fraught with possible danger, and made possible by a light we cannot look at. (I’m still ‘digesting’ this).