by Steven Forrest
A longer version of this article appears in Athlon Publication’s “The Great American Eclipse,” which is available at many newsstands, including Barnes & Noble, Hudson News, etc. I am grateful to them and to my intrepid editor there, Brad Tolinski, for permission to publish this abridged and somewhat more technical version in our newsletter this month.
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A miracle of nature looms on America’s horizon. On August 21, starting in Oregon, racing in a grand arc across the United States, finally going offshore in South Carolina, a shadow of night will fall in the midst of day. Along the centerline of the solar eclipse’s path, stars will shine at lunchtime. Birds will go crazy. Some people probably will go crazy too. Eleven states will experience the eerie surreality of Totality, but no state in the contiguous 48 will escape the shadow of our first American total solar eclipse since February 26, 1979 – and that one just touched the Pacific Northwest and was mostly hidden behind their famously gray skies.
Meanwhile, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, Little Green People are drooling over UFO travel brochures, dreaming of visiting Earth on August 21. Our giraffes and hummingbirds may be cool, but you can’t beat Earth’s most famous attraction: a total solar eclipse. It is just possible we are the only planet in the galaxy where this particular spectacle is available. Think about it – the Sun and the Moon, even though they look very different, are almost exactly the same visual size. That means that the Moon fits over the Sun almost perfectly. It’s not so small that it’s nothing at all – but also not so big that it blocks out the magnificent solar corona. The odds against striking that happy balance are “astronomical.” Hence those UFO travel brochures.
A dark shadow sweeps across the earth . . . who could read that line without feeling a little Neanderthal twinge of fear? What are the gods and goddesses telling us? On the face of it, “a dark shadow” doesn’t sound like good news.
Enter the astronomers. Patiently they explain that the Moon is just a rock and the Sun is only a ball of gas. They both lie at safe distances and all this is predictable, so never listen to superstitious charlatans, a little shadow never hurt anyone . . . I am sure you’ve heard it all before – and you will hear it repeated ad nauseum as the date of the eclipse approaches.
Being an astrologer, I am of course on the other side of the fence. It is not about fear, but while I love astronomy, I also believe that the sky signifies something. My only personal fear as August 21 approaches is about the avalanche of nervous emails I am surely going to receive from my clients and readers. People are often spooked by eclipses, and some astrologers are guilty of fanning those flames. It’s instinctual: there’s just something wrong about the Moon eating the Sun. The willies such an event generates are truly primal. “A shadow falls across the earth” is an edgy line whether we are sophisticated denizens of the Metropolis – or perhaps indigenous 16th Century Jamaicans hoodwinked by the late, great Christopher Columbus. When, in response to the rapacious misdeeds of his crew, the Natives stopped supplying them with food, Columbus took a look in his almanac and saw that an eclipse was due – in this case, a lunar eclipse. He summoned the Native leaders and threatened to “destroy the Moon” unless catering services were promptly renewed. The Natives laughed – until the moon began to disappear. In the words of Columbus’s son, Ferdinand, “with great howling and lamentation they came running from every direction to the ships, laden with provisions, praying the Admiral to intercede by all means with God on their behalf; that he might not visit his wrath upon them . . .”
Kindly, Christopher Columbus agreed to discuss their case with the Lord and thus was the Moon – and prompt Jamaican food service – restored.
Like an erupting volcano or a tornado, like hurricane winds or a waterfall after torrential rains, there is something simply awesome about an eclipse. Kings and emperors have feared them and have felt dwarfed, even threatened, by them. Way back on October 22, 2137 B.C., the two royal Chinese astrologer-astronomers, Hsi and Ho, were allegedly drinking booze when they should have been observing. They failed to predict an eclipse. When it occurred without them warning him, the Emperor, Chun King, was not happy. His decree: off with their heads.
Since then, I have never accepted a single Chinese Emperor as a client.
To astronomers, the sky is merely a fact. To astrologers, it is poetry. Any argument between them is as silly as debating the relative merits of physics and English.
So what is the poetry of a total solar eclipse? And what specific meaning might we find in the sky-show of August 21?
Start by realizing that we come very close to a solar eclipse every month. That event is simply the New Moon – which of course means no Moon at all. At that time of the month, the Moon is aligned between the Earth and the Sun so the brightly lit side of the Moon is aimed away from us. We can’t see it, in other words. The only astronomical difference between a New Moon and a total solar eclipse is that in the former, the Moon is a little above or below the Sun, so it doesn’t cover the Sun’s face. Close, but no banana, so to speak.
For those of you with a more technical interest in astrology, let me express this a little more deeply. Eclipses, both solar and lunar ones, only occur when the Sun, Moon, and the axis of the lunar nodes are aligned. The nodes represent where the plane of the Moon’s orbit crosses the ecliptic. The Sun is always on the ecliptic, by definition. Thus, when the Sun, the Moon and the lunar nodes are all conjunct, the Sun and the Moon are aligned center-to-center and we get an eclipse instead of just the normal monthly New Moon. If you want to dive more deeply into the astronomy behind all this, have a look at chapter three of The Book of the Moon.
Out of the New Moon emerges the Crescent, the Half, the Full Moon, and eventually it all wanes back down to another New Moon. So a New Moon is both an ending and a new beginning. A total solar eclipse is simply an intensified, special-case version of exactly the same thing. In essence, it is a New Moon on steroids: an epochal new start – and of course any such start must be preceded by some dramatic ending. Space must be made for the new beginning. Now, to be true to the sky-poetry of an eclipse, add that little tingle of fear everyone feels in his or her bones as the Sun disappears – or at the very least a dose of humbling, knee-knocking awe. Death is scary, and something must die for something to be born. A good thing or a bad thing? That depends on whether you are the baby bunny rabbit or the pregnant coyote.
An example: Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon on March 7, 51 B.C., the day of a solar eclipse. Thus died the Roman Republic to make way for the Roman Empire. Personally I pray that particular pattern does not repeat itself here in America.
Momentous events – such as Caesar crossing the Rubicon – often occur right around eclipses, although their effects can sometimes be triggered even months later as planets contact the place where the eclipse occurred – a fact that quickly gets into deeper technical astrological territory. The degree of the solar eclipse seems to remain “charged” for a while, waiting for transiting planets to form aspects to it. We will point to some post-eclipse dates connected with the August 21st event in a little while.
Here’s the easy part – there is a big difference between the “poetry” of the days leading up to an eclipse and the days immediately afterwards. Right before an eclipse, something is rather literally dying – the Moon cycle itself. Events rooted in those two weeks or so often go awry. Intentions are thwarted. Keep that in mind as you make any personal plans – or as you watch any news that might be unfolding – during the “fortnight” before August 21st.
Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, for example, had long planned to marry on Friday, April 8, 2005, which happened to be the day of an eclipse. Pope John Paul II died on April 2. The result was that their wedding had to be postponed for 24 hours so Charles could attend the funeral. Not such a big deal – but try this one: I know a man who moved with his wife to their dream house in a different state at the end of July 2008. There was a solar eclipse on August 1, so their move had happened squarely in that “dying” period that makes way for new starts. Within a couple of years, they had divorced and the wife was married to the gentleman who had actually built the house.
It will be intriguing to watch the daily headlines through this crystal ball – both the newspaper headlines and your personal ones – from about August 7 onward to the date of the eclipse. Wheels that start turning during that time are dying wheels. From eclipse-day on August 21 onward to about the end of the month, the energy is different. It has more momentum and staying power, for good or for ill.
Sabre-tooth tigers must have been magnificent beasts, but when I go hiking I take some comfort in their extinction. Without endings, there could be no beginnings. When you are touched personally by an eclipse, that is essentially your situation. In your life, something must die so that something new can be born. One trick is to take it on faith that something is being born even though you can’t yet see it. Recognize that whatever is dying needs to get out of the way. You can take comfort in that perspective now – or you can take comfort in it later.
I said “when you are touched personally by an eclipse.” Eclipses do not affect everyone equally. You might possibly be immune to this one. Your astrological radio has to be tuned to the station where the broadcast is happening – which in this case is near the end of the sign Leo. What if you are not a Leo? Are you then unaffected by this eclipse? Again this quickly gets into technical territory. Does the eclipse occur, for example, on the place the planet Venus occupied when you were born? Then something must die in an important relationship – that is Venus territory. Does it happen near the sign and degree that was on the Midheaven when you were born? That suggests a career focus. Maybe you lose your job – and maybe you find a better one.
Any competent astrologer can help you sort all that out. Here, in this one-size-fits-all context, all I can offer is that if your birthday falls within a week or so of any of these four dates, the August 21 eclipse has your name on it: February 17, May 19, August 21 itself, and November 20. That means it is connected with your Sun via a hard aspect – and the Sun is the center of everything, both astrologically and astronomically.
The central shadow-path of this eclipse slices across America. It first touches U.S. soil at Government Point, Oregon, at 10:16 a.m., local time, then it crosses Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee. It clips the northeastern corner of Georgia, then sweeps across South Carolina before heading out to sea. Those are the states where Totality is visible. Weather permitting, the rest of the continental USA will at least see a partial eclipse. The event has America’s name on it, in other words. Furthermore it occurs opposite the “revolutionary” Aquarian moon in the most commonly-accepted birthchart for the United States – the “Sibley chart,” which is the one that most accurately reflected the timing of the attacks of September 11. (If you are interested in learning more about that chart, go to my website and search for “The USA Chart.”)
So what does this summer’s eclipse portend for America? Astrologers are expected to make predictions. It is the bane of our profession, in my opinion. I feel we can predict questions and perhaps make some educated guesses about what answers might arise. But we must never under-estimate life’s wild cards, nor life-shaping power of consciousness and wisdom – wise choices, in other words. They can shape the human future. We can all prove gloomy astrologers wrong. And if the people lead, maybe those gloomy astrologers will follow!
With that in mind, let me dive into the soup. Leo is the Lion, the “King of the Beasts.” This eclipse involves the archetype of kingship – leadership, in other words. It is triggering that Aquarian Moon in the USA chart, the sign of revolution, genius, and either breakthrough or breakdown. Since we are talking about an eclipse, we know that something must die to make way for a different future. During the second half of August, we are likely to see dramatic events connected with the fusion of these symbols. Might this involve the deaths or “falls” of “stars” in the fields of film, sports, or music? Those are Leo figures, for sure. And of course, very directly, Leo represents those “kings” that rule us – political leaders and captains of industry and finance. (Remember that not everything would happen right on August 21. The rest of the month is active too. Some events rooted in the eclipse will be further triggered by the arrival of Mars on the eclipse-point around September 2, the arrival of Venus there on September 18, and the square aspect of Mars to that point on January 23, 2018.)
Obviously America is currently torn by passions and division at the “Leo” leadership level. I suspect those tensions will reach some kind of major breaking point around this eclipse. Underscoring it all, Donald Trump’s ascendant is right at the end of Leo, almost exactly where this eclipse takes place. His “radio” is definitely tuned to this station. Does Trump get impeached, as many predict? Or simply consolidate his power? Does he stage a coup, as many fear? Does the military step in? Martial law? Massive civil unrest? Assassinations? Do we see the end of the American Republic and the beginning of the American Empire, just as happened when Caesar crossed the Rubicon? Or does Democracy, which has grown so lazy and divided, find renewed life?
And maybe none of that will happen. The August 21 eclipse is just a dance between a big ball of gas and a big rock up in the sky. And that sky is a mirror. It reflects us all down here below. But what exactly does it reflect? Not our answers, but our questions. Something has reached a breaking point in our country. Something needs to die so that something new can be born. And the impatient sky is pressing us to choose what to do about it. We are about to reach a crossroads. The choices – but not the timing of those choices – are in our hands.