Eclipses, along with meteors and comets, are the most impressive astronomical phenomena that people generally experience. They have been observed for untold ages, and have been a major consideration of astrologers since the origins of the craft. This is an article about eclipse basics, and the forerunner of several, more detailed articles to come.
Stonehenge had a built-in eclipse finder. A flag or sign placed in holes inside its perimeter counted the days of an “Eclipse Year” (356.62 days) with an error of only 2 hours over 19 years. A device called the Antikythera (you can see a rebuild and video here), over 2000 years old, is a mechanical computer that predicted eclipses and planetary positions. Of course, it has been well established that eclipses and other cosmic phenomena can be tracked and predicted from the Pyramids of Giza.
Solar eclipses occur when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth and is aligned with Earth’s orbit such that the Moon casts a shadow on the Earth. Because the Sun and Moon appear to be about the same size from Earth’s surface, total eclipses appear to blot out the Sun for beings beneath the Moon’s shadow. Lunar eclipses happen when the Moon is on the other side of the Earth from the Sun, just as in a full Moon, but the three bodies are aligned in such a way that the Earth casts a visible shadow on the Moon.
Not every new or full Moon produces eclipses, because an eclipse can only occur when the lunation is close to the Lunar nodes, a.k.a. the Dragon’s Head (Rahu in Sanskrit) and the Dragon’s Tail (Ketu) – the places where the orbital paths of the Earth and Moon intersect. The Lunar nodes appear to move in retrograde motion, completing a circuit of the Zodiac in 18.6 years. They are mathematical constructs, known only by their effects. The Indian designation of them, Chayagraha or “shadow planets”, is both astronomically correct and functionally descriptive.
The old rule for determining the duration of eclipse effects was to count the number of hours the shadow was visible as the years that a Solar eclipse (or months for a Lunar eclipse) would remain effective. Lunar eclipses are visible longer than Solar eclipses, and, in practice, they seem to produce effects of equal intensity and duration. L. Edward Johndro, one of the most skilled astrologers of the 20th century, developed a formula for their effective duration based on the daily motion of the Moon (usually turning out to be between 10.5 months and a little over a year). I have found no absolute rule – it appears to me that the duration of effectiveness is dependent on the number and importance of the factors tied to the eclipse.
“Apotelesmatics”, by Hephaistio of Thebes, speaks of Lunar eclipses in Capricorn as follows: “an army from without will come to Asia, and the former ruler will be captured after having been left behind by his own people”. In early October of 2001, Mars made its first pass of the previous (July 5th, 2001) Lunar eclipse in Capricorn, perfectly timing the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. This Lunar eclipse fell on the Sun in the charts of the incumbent U.S. President (born July 6th) and of the July 4th, 1776 U.S. chart. The mission of the American forces was to remove the Taliban from power, which managed to do. Mars’ second pass over this same eclipse degree was in March of 2003 when the U.S. military moved on Iraq, successfully capturing the Saddam Hussein, the ruler that was “abandoned” by his subjects, as the old prediction clearly stated.
Some classical texts say that the planet associated with the Zodiac sign of the eclipse (the Moon’s sign for a Lunar eclipse) is its “ruler”, but the famous Masha’allah believed that the Ascendant of the new or full Moon chart of the eclipse served the purpose of defining the eclipse. Despite this feudal metaphor of our predecessors, planets on or near the horizon or meridian of the local eclipse chart appear to describe the eclipse effects much more clearly, as does the first planet aspected by the Moon after the eclipse. Experience teaches that if there is no planet conjunct or opposite the degree, or on one of the local chart’s angles, then the rule of Masha’allah works best to define the eclipse effects.
Planets close to (or opposite) the eclipse degree are also significantly more noticeable than others when it comes to predicting eclipses’ effects This is also true of the first planet aspected by the Moon after exiting the eclipse degree, or the last planet it makes contact with before it enters into the eclipse. Any planet transiting the eclipse degree will activate its effects, or bring some degree of closure to issues brought up by the eclipse, according to its nature.
There can be four to seven eclipses per year, and, at any given time, several of them may be simultaneously active. Eclipses that fall on or opposite one of your natal planets will definitely be noticed, and transits to (or opposite) that eclipse degree will be very powerful.
Charles Jayne, a great 20th century astrologer, believed that a planet within 5 degrees of the eclipse degree or its Opposition (i.e. 175 – 185 degrees) is effective. He also allowed 3 degrees for the Square (90 degree) aspect. Neither he nor Johndro used other aspects to eclipse points other than for the purpose of Electional Astrology.
The dates that planets transit eclipse degrees may be more important than the date of the eclipse itself. Progressed or directed planets that contact the eclipse degree are known to produce profound effects.
An easy way to understand the behavior of eclipses is to use what I call the “Software Metaphor.” At any one time, your computer may have several programs running, and several of them may be dependent of common resource files. This is the technological equivalent of the many transits, predictive periods and so forth that are simultaneously active in your chart, and the common resource files are not unlike the Solar and Lunar return charts that amplify or diminish the temporary indications of the transiting planets.
Every once and a while the computer’s memory needs to be refreshed, especially when updated versions of common resource files are installed. In order to clear the active instruction set so that the new instruction set can take over, the computer is turned off and back on again. This process is called re-booting. In a sense, this is what eclipses do to both Natal and Universal Horoscopes.
Eclipses almost always bring both bad news and good news. Sometimes they can cause losses, or force one to let go, and sometimes they can activate combinations in the chart that might not be able to express themselves otherwise.
The total Lunar eclipse of March 3rd, 2007 fell in the 13th degree of Virgo. In the chart of Al Gore, environmental activist, this degree is the midpoint of several planetary combinations; Saturn/Neptune, Mars/Neptune, Venus/Jupiter and Moon/Venus are all involved. His film, “An Inconvenient Truth” (Neptune=inconvenient, Saturn=truth) about global warming (Mars=heating, Neptune=gases & toxins) won the Academy Award as best documentary (Neptune=film, Saturn=practical, true, Jupiter=prize) and also was a major player in netting him the Nobel Peace (Venus) Prize (Jupiter). It was also one of the most popular (Moon) documentaries in the history of film-making.
When an eclipse falls on your Sun, you’re likely to attract the attention of others. An eclipse on your Sun supported by positive planetary aspects and midpoint structures can bring promotions, publicity and fame. If the eclipse is challenging because of the configurations other planets form with it and your chart, others are likely to “point the finger” at you, and mistakes are brought to light, as if you are getting a critical review on the job.
Eclipses to the Sun are easy to find: they will happen within 5 days on either side of your birthday. You can also look for the corresponding dates 3 and 6 months before and after the birthday to find days on which an eclipse would be square or opposite the Sun.
U.S. President George Bush experienced a Solar eclipse on his Sun approximately 3 months before his birthday, on April 8th 2005, with Saturn forming a close aspect to the eclipse point. This was a time when he suffered constant criticism for his handling of the war in Iraq, the national budget, and, eventually, Hurricane Katrina.
An eclipse on the natal Moon usually predicts new conditions regarding your home or family. Since the Moon is associated with the rhythms of the body and the routines of life, these eclipses will often disturb them, precipitating wellness issues, changes of residence, births, and, for both sexes, difficulties in relationships with women (or attempts to establish new relationships with women).
If the natal Moon is prominent in some way (near the ascendant or midheaven), an eclipse close to its position may result in sudden changes in one’s public image, or even a re-invention of their persona. Therefore, a favorable eclipse here could be very beneficial for a politician or show business personality.
If Mercury defines the eclipse in some way, there may be sudden news or travel. The planet in your horoscope with which the eclipse connects will reveal the nature of this news, or the purpose of the travel. A positive eclipse on natal Mercury can show brilliant effects in negotiations, trade and commerce. False statements, confusion, problematic business deals, difficulties during travel, and theft are likely outcomes when a challenging eclipse targets Mercury, especially if an eclipse like this occurs in your natal 12th house.
If Venus is the “ruler” of an eclipse, money matters will be under focus. If the eclipse occurs on your Jupiter, there will be more money, on Saturn there will be less. The source of the money is indicated by planets in approaching aspect to the eclipse degree, i.e. Mercury: from signing a document, Saturn: from the father or a trust fund, and so on. If the eclipse has problematic associations, there may be issues with your personal appearance or income that have to be dealt with.
Never underestimate the power of natal Venus when it is eclipsed. It is almost certain that relationships will be “kicked up a notch.” Positive eclipses to Venus eclipses help make life more beautiful or comfortable and can bring proposals or other acts of romantic commitment. Difficult eclipses on Venus can damage beautiful or cherished possessions, or disturb relationships with friends and romantic partners. At the same time, both types can represent nonchalant or overly accepting attitudes.
If Mars is the eclipse lord, the survival instincts and combative energies are drawn upon to help you face challenging situations. The area of life being challenged can be identified by the place in your chart on which the eclipse falls. If the Midheaven is involved, it is a challenge at work; if the Descendant, a relationship becomes the center of action. When these eclipses are difficult, one suffers from criticism or imposition of others. Eclipses to natal Mars inspire boldness, aggressiveness and courage; sometimes too strongly. If favorably situated, this can be an excellent eclipse for anyone involved in competitive activities. Difficult eclipses to Mars are similar in effect, but one is likely to become a victim of overconfidence or ill-timed, poorly considered actions.
A favorable eclipse with Jupiter as its lord usually brings relief to situations signified by the natal planet to which it is joined. These eclipses are also famous for flashes of insight that solve seemingly intractable problems. This may also happen if an eclipse occurs in the 9th house and connects with natal Mercury.
Positive eclipses on natal Jupiter can represent the emergence of helpful allies or supporters, and enhance one’s acceptance by others. They can help financial plans come together. In business horoscopes, this is a good sign for an influx of capital, or new personnel that can make a difference in sales, marketing, or other means of expanding the company’s territory or vision (or increasing their profits. Negative Jovian eclipses are about things falling apart: they are infamous in legal issues and business launches that do not turn out well.
Things slowing down is a major indication of a Saturn ruled eclipse. Saturn’s eclipses seem to represent the limits that nature or society places on us, whether we are individuals, corporations or governments. Saturn eclipses do, however, anchor our responsibilities and authority, and bring our attention to things that must be done to improve our personal or financial security.
Favorable eclipses on natal Saturn are often surprising, in that they can give us success and power in business matters, and establish us in a stable financial position, especially if they occur in the 10th or 11th houses. They inspire caution, perseverance and patience. Difficult eclipses on Saturn bring up all sorts of restrictions, misfortunes, delays and obstacles, and sometimes, the onset of chronic physical problems. They can really tarnish the reputation and do serious harm to our credibility.
Eclipses involving Uranus, Neptune and Pluto certainly show profound effects, but only when they are powerfully active in the natal or eclipse chart. They can be considered active when situated on (or opposite) the Midheaven or Ascendant, or in close aspect to the Sun or Moon of the Natal chart. In the eclipse chart, one of these planets would have to be conjunct, opposite or (sometimes) square to the eclipse point, or on the local horizon or meridian to qualify as significant.
An eclipse conjunct or opposite transiting Uranus will always provide a surprise according to the nature and disposition of the natal planet it contacts. If that natal planet is Saturn, old and stale conditions might be broken up once and for all. If that planet is the Sun, one might drop one activity or interest completely in order to pursue something new or more exciting.
Eclipses to natal Uranus have shocking effects – they can initiate a conflict between the need for freedom and the sense of responsibility. If transiting Saturn is configured with the eclipse point, it can burden us with a responsibility that limits our freedom. They can make for re-invention dramas, in which individuals dress or behave in an age or culturally inappropriate fashion in order to impress someone younger or more “hip” than themselves.
If Neptune is conjunct or opposite the eclipse degree, there is a need for caution regarding the natal planet it touches. This kind of eclipse may be present in situations where dissolution, illusion or confusion is involved. If natal Jupiter is affected, one is at risk of seeing their money disappear, and reappear into the hands of another. If Mercury is affected, plans or activities may be undermined by false information.
Eclipses to natal Neptune can enhance self destructive patterns or cause deception and other trouble in business. They can represent separations if natal Neptune is configured with Saturn, but if the eclipse is positive and Neptune has a favorable relationship with Jupiter, it may answer one’s prayers.
Tiny Pluto, despite its demotion to “dwarf planet” status, can be the anchor for powerful eclipse effects. Plutonian eclipses are transformative, but never polite or comfortable. They are famous for initiating power struggles, and drastic or dramatic events and actions. The natal planet they contact often describe situations in which you are forced to deal with matters outside of your control.
When a troublesome eclipse lands on natal Pluto, the results of one’s errors, large and small, seem to manifest, especially if Mars is involved: one may even find oneself in a physically dangerous situation. They can bring toil and responsibilities when with Saturn, but with Jupiter, one may be freed from limitations. Pluto is always about letting go. Those who suffer from the effects of Pluto do so because they are holding on to something “toxic”: whether it be a relationship, an activity or an idea. Remember though, that the outer planets must be prominent in some way to fully express the effects of an eclipse.
Here’s an example of how eclipses can work in the chart of an individual. Amy Winehouse, the well-known and infamous British singer, was born 9/14/1983. At the time of this writing, her birth-time was unknown to the astrological community, but has since been revealed. I have not re-written the commentary with her correct chart in mind, because the indications shown by the eclipse charts alone are quite compelling and profound examples of how astrology, when done correctly can work even with minimal data.
We can see, from the birthday alone, that the Solar eclipse of 9/11/2007 was close to her Sun. We’ll also find that Neptune is square the Sun and Mercury, and that Jupiter, at 5 Sagittarius, is exactly on the Ascendant of the eclipse chart. This would presage advancement and honor, notice and victory. But her natal Sun and Mercury fall into a grand cross with the eclipse point and the transiting Uranus, Mars and Pluto, with Pluto conjunct the natal Neptune.
The nature of this complex eclipse expressed itself through her drug use (Sun/Mercury to Mars/Neptune/Pluto) becoming public knowledge at the time. It was also an important theme of her hit album, “Back to Black”, which was nominated for six Grammy awards.
Despite her popularity with American audiences, she failed numerous times to get a US work permit or Visa – her Sun was intercepted in the 9th house of foreign travel of the eclipse chart. In late January 2007, she entered an addiction treatment program (Natal Jupiter on the Ascendant of the eclipse chart) – but Uranus was connected with this eclipse, and Uranus always has surprises in store.
The Solar eclipse of 2/7/2008 occurred less than a week before the Grammy ceremony and featured the eclipse degree, Mercury (travel and communication) and Neptune (confusion) all falling opposite Ms. Winehouse’s natal Venus (artistic performance) and Mars (action and effort).
Jupiter (victory) is the eclipse lord again, and by most measures, the September eclipse would still be active. Natal Jupiter is within a few degrees of the eclipse chart Ascendant. It should be noted that the orbit-hopping planetoid Chiron (who belongs to the group of objects we refer to as “Centaurs”) is very close to the retrograde Mercury in the Eclipse chart. It often is a sign of one who demands or gets special treatment, or considers themselves to be an exception to the rules. I think it’s a timely and appropriate omen in her case.
On the day of the eclipse, the US government denied and then granted her a Visa within 24 hours. Eclipse Uranus (surprise) is opposite the natal Sun (honor) and Mercury (communication, travel) in this chart. But it was too late: she had already made other plans, due to her understanding that she could not come to the ceremony in California. Something had to be done; a satellite link (Uranus-Mercury) was set up so that her live (Sun), enthusiastic (Mars-Venus), crowd-pleasing (Venus-Moon) performance could be transmitted from London. She won 5 out of a possible 6 Grammy awards.
As a side note, her natal Jupiter was close enough to the square of the Lunar eclipse of 2/20/2008 to provide a boost of luck for her, and she was selected to sing the theme of the newest James Bond movie. As Saturn stationed on that same eclipse degree in late April of 2008, she was arrested on drug related charges, and it was decided that she would not do the movie, despite support from the lead actor and other individuals involved. Although Uranus is very close to Jupiter, the forward movement of Saturn in transit seems to have closed off all opportunities the February Lunar eclipse may have offered, as per the classical rules.
It is easy to see, from a case like this, how overlapping eclipses can powerfully affect someone who has contacts with them, and that even without a correct birthtime, much can be discovered about personal events through the study of eclipses and their transits. Further articles and eBooks on eclipses will be forthcoming in 2012.
- Charles Jayne – A New Dimension
- L. Edward Johndro – The Earth in the Heavens – Wieser Publications
- Apotelesmatics – Hephaistio of Thebes – Golden Hind Press, Project Hindsight
- Masha’allah – On the Things of Eclipses of Luminaries, And of Conjunctions of Planets, And of Revolutions of Years – Translated from Latin by Anton Grigoryev
- Project Hindsight – Translation of Hellenistic and classical works on astrology
- Eclipse Data – The most precise eclipse information available
Charts: Charts of George W. Bush and Al Gore from Astrodatabank Software – Charts calculated with Solar Fire Software
© copyright Roy Kirkland 2011