Moderns have no useful narrative for eclipses. We hype ‘em. We marvel at the astronomy. We move on. Yet especially here in the US, if we could learn from the ancient intelligence of eclipses, we would be seriously alarmed. By eclipse measures used for millennia, last month’s total eclipse, what came to be known as “The Great American Eclipse” because its path of darkness ran exclusively through this nation from coast to coast (and its degree was conjunct our President’s rising sign)—the August 2017 eclipse was a doozy.
So what are the ancient measures? Our first clue is in the very word “eclipse,” whose root is the Greek “ekleipsi,” meaning “abandonment,” a condition which strikes archetypal terror in the members of a highly social species like homo sapiens. Laced with helplessness and vulnerability, knowing that you’re on your own and likely in danger, abandonment is one of the more difficult emotions for humans to bear. It’s a feeling children often have but quickly learn to stuff away, so that it can sneak out less treacherously as the monsters of one’s nightmares.
An ancient hunter-gatherer standing on the plains, one whose brain was wired with the cognitive jolt that caused homo sapiens alone to develop art, religion, and a sophisticated language that could carry symbols and concepts—that forager had a strong relationship with the Sun. He knew that without the Sun, there would be no life (a truth with which science still agrees). Fifty thousand years ago, when the Sun disappeared during an eclipse, humans felt seriously abandoned. They shrieked and drummed up songs to bring back their heavenly father.
We don’t have records from these ancient thinkers, but as humans gathered into cities and began writing things down, everywhere the Sun was perceived as a father figure. His eclipses became linked with his human surrogate, the King. When the Sun was eclipsed, the King’s power would suffer, and so would the humans under his care. Eclipses were dangerous times for leaders, when the heavens could turn against empires. Quite simply, eclipses were associated with widespread disasters—famines, floods, invasions–cataclysmic events that could strike down rulers and nations.
The priests worked furiously to avert such disasters ahead of time. Their primary purpose and method was to advise the king and perform the rituals that would keep the kingdom in balance, so the heavens would always be pleased. The king himself often performed key roles in these rituals, when necessary, groveling and debasing himself before the higher celestial powers. (How brilliantly such an act balances the natural arrogance of rulers!) The proof was in the pudding. Among the signs that the heavens had been appeased was the absence of calamities occurring before or after the eclipse. Bonus confirmation was a cloud or sandstorm hiding the eclipse itself.
For The Great American Eclipse of 2017, here’s what occurred: our king ran out on the Truman Balcony, gave a thumb’s up, then looked naked-eyed at the Sun, something every school child is warned against doing, while an aide shouted, “Don’t look at it!” I’ll let you make of that what you will. But I wager the Babylonian kings were all rolling in their graves.
Of course, in the weeks since the eclipse, we’ve suffered three cataclysms beyond our imagining: the back-to-back record-breaking Hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, along with the Equifax hack, in which security data for nearly half the population was stolen, a cataclysm I don’t think we can even begin to understand yet. Add to that the constant drip of new information about a further terror, how the US social and digital systems were so easily hacked by at least one foreign power, a thing even the ancient Babylonians would have understood as being bad for the kingdom (though not our president).
In all, we feel the ancient archetypal fingerprints of an eclipse—abandonment by the powers that be.
The Astrology for Aquarius website predicted eclipse floods and hurricanes (as early as May, 2017,) and since then has kept a fine catalog of the disasters occurring within the traditional eclipse period (one to two months before and after). It’s an impressive tally of world events. But to think “Wow, look what the eclipse caused,” misses the point. It misses the core meaning of the ancient eclipse narrative.
Eclipses don’t cause the harm. Rather they define the period during which we can reliably measure a kingdom’s spiritual harmony. Disasters occurring near an eclipse are a signal that the kingdom is out of balance. Its leadership has gone astray. When the priests couldn’t avert calamities occurring near an eclipse, they worked furiously afterwards, trying to unwind the negativity and set things in order again.
As my colleague Simone Butler also writes this month, we can’t count on our authorities to keep us safe. If the king will not right himself—if he will deny climate change, stand with white supremacists, roll back the rights of decent citizens while removing the protections and regulations that keep corporations in line—we’ve got to do an unwinding. We don’t have the support of ancient priests and their potent rituals. But we do have powers. We can unwind the negativity through various individual and collective ways. We can build personal emergency kits. We can freeze our credit. We can witness the system in action and hold our political leaders accountable. Most importantly, we can do the spiritual work that difficult times require. Though we’ve lost the ancient magic, we still have the intelligence and imagination of the homo sapien mind. Let’s use it.
Locate yourself in time! This eclipse may or may not be personally significant, but your transits and progressions always are. Don’t know what’s going on in your heavens? Order Steven Forrest’s fabulous Skylog report. If your birthday is within three months, ahead or behind you, Mary Shea’s Solar Return report will complete the picture of your year.