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Introduction to Eclipses in Astrology

By Margaret Penner Choinski

Here, in this eclipse, my own mind perceives a meaning which is different from the one you perceive, yet however we define it, an eclipse is a meeting of circles which are zeros. See how the shadow of the Earth’s rim cuts the Moon down to a crescent. Soon, in a few minutes, the crescent will be gone. For a while, the Moon will appear to be a dark zero---a nothing. Then the cycle will begin again, breathing a new life of light into the Moon. Soon, it will become a great zero of light in the skies. This is a conjuring trick on a cosmic scale…” [1]

                                                                           --- Mark Hedsel

     The eclipses of the Sun and Moon have always been given a lot of importance by mankind. For centuries they were harbingers of crisis. Ancient astronomers used their occurrences to build a body of omen-lore, some of which is still adhered to today.

Earthquakes, pestilence and other disasters were frequently said to await the Earth in the passing shadow of the eclipse.

Now, whether it is a symbolic importance, poetical, religious, or scientific, everyone’s ears prick up when a forthcoming eclipse is announced. Yet many people, even today, do not fully understand how accessible the dates are for any upcoming eclipse. The cycles are known, right down to the minute. The ancient Babylonians came to know these cycles too, from their long observance of the sky and their penchant for keeping records.

     When there came a time whereby astronomers were asked to forecast the effect of an eclipse on the country, they were practicing a very old form of what is today called Mundane Astrology: astrology of the state and people. This is the astrology that accommodates external events that are out of the hands of human beings, and bring us all together on the same level, i.e. weather, comets, supernovas, and eclipses.

     Part of the power of an eclipse is the expectation that it will bring change. When the common people are expecting change, then the powers-that-be-up-to-then are rightly nervous about how those changes might take effect.

The prediction of the affairs of the state became astrology ’s main function for a long time. By the 19th century astrology was becoming more and more about the individual and mundane astrology became marginalized as a predictive device. After the failure of western astrologers to predict World War II, a re-think was needed about techniques. Led by Charles Carter, astrologers began honing the time-honoured methods used to foresee the events of a country.
[2] Mundane astrology as it is now, reads the nation’s birth chart by application of horary techniques.

     The methods used can be expressed by the Arthurian principle of “The land and I are one.” [3] That is to say, “I” the people, can be seen as the 1st house, and “my boss” is equivalent to the King, seen in the 10th house. Events affecting the 10th house affect the King or leader, and this is significant for the stability of any country. Foundation charts of countries then become the birth charts of nations, and read in this way they reflect the character of that country.

     When eclipses occur, they can be placed within this chart to determine the nature of effect. This is a long way from the public assumption that the predictions associated with eclipses are pulled out of a hat! But this is not to say that the delineation of eclipses is straightforward; every eclipse has its own nature, and because they run in cycles of 18 years, a specific eclipse may not occur in the same spot geographically or in the horoscope for a long time.

When studying the astrological effect of eclipses, one can begin to get the feeling that within these cycles of other cycles lies much that is meaningful…but only a Higher Mind grasps the full meaning. Nevertheless, the mere mechanics of an eclipse are beautiful in itself.

     An eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth, and Moon all line up, called syzygy. As the Moon crosses the apparent path of the Sun---the ecliptic---the opportunity arises for an eclipse. This can happen at least twice a month at the times of the New and Full Moons. The Moon’s orbit of Earth has a wobble that prevents it from describing a perfect circle. The wobble, however, is regular and has its own cycle. The point of the ecliptic at which the Moon crosses at any given time is called the lunar Node. The North lunar Node refers to the movement of the Moon as it crosses the node on an “upwards” motion, and the South Node is made in the “downwards” direction.

The Nodes move back approximately one degree per month in the zodiac, returning to their original position (from any starting point) in about 18 years. When a New Moon occurs within 18 degrees of a Node then there is a solar eclipse ; when a Full Moon occurs within 18 degrees of a Node then there is a lunar eclipse.

     Each eclipse belongs to a cycle called a Saros Series---named by Suidas, a Greek lexicographer in the 10th century A.D., after the Greek word for cycle, “saros.” [4] Each Saros Series is “born” at one Pole of the Earth and “dies” at its opposite. This process takes approximately 1300 years to complete, winding its way around the globe, either going up or down depending at which Pole it will end. Along the way 72 eclipses will occur as part of its “family,” and necessarily they will each be seen in one country while not in another.

     When an eclipse has been observed in a country, oftentimes it was thought to presage the death of kings, sudden changes politically or economically, or other significant broad-scale events. The particular zodiacal degree was of note in comparison to the natal chart of the leaders and that of the founding charts of the country or city falling under the eclipse path.

     For centuries astrologers have maintained their opinion that eclipses can bring dramatic developments with decisive breaks from the past, when a natal planet occupies the eclipse degree. When one of the malefics, Saturn or Mars, moves to either conjunct or square that degree then the trouble signified by the eclipse event is thought to manifest.

Among its potential effects are riots, earthquakes, war, and violence in general.
[5] Ptolemy also suggested the timing could be made by locating the eclipse in reference to the chart angles cast for a particular place: for example, if the eclipse occurred between the Midheaven and Ascendant then the effect will begin to appear in about 4 months time. [6]

     The Saros Series are like people, constantly (relative to their lifespan) living, being born, and dying. At any given time there are about 42 Saros Series active. [7] As one Series continues to age, its eclipses will show in different countries. One might note the age of the cycle, as well as where it is seen in totality. An annular eclipse is a solar eclipse where the Moon covers the Sun, but is too far away from the Earth to completely cover the Sun, leaving a rim of light exposed.

The eclipse of
May 31, 2003, S.S. 5 North, is quite young at 379 years! Iceland saw this annular eclipse closest to total. In Iraq the coverage was fifty-percent and may have been “less dramatic [8]” for its limited observation from the ground.

     There is some disagreement over whether an eclipse has impact when it cannot be seen in the native’s geographical area. Stephen Arroyo argues that since our vantage point is geocentric we should be consistent and include only those eclipses that can be seen in a person’s area. [9] Others are firmly convinced that this has no bearing on the matter, focusing on the “sensitive degree” occupied by both natal planet/angle and eclipse . [1] The astrologer can judge for themselves whether to follow this rule or not.

     Since each eclipse belongs to a “family,” each member of that family is the same in essence yet different in their manifestation of that essence. One of the considerations in delineating each eclipse is the impact its particular birth-chart has upon the natal chart. Like a transiting planet which might benefit one person and not another, the eclipse in question will similarly affect individuals or countries, depending on the synastry generated. Brady advocates taking the birth data of a particular eclipse and looking specifically for conjunctions and oppositions to the mundane or natal chart, with crossings over angles. [10]


     When delineating an eclipse for an individual’s chart, the house placement where the eclipse is occurring is most important. This house is where any unexpected occurrence associated with the eclipse will show itself. The house also highlights the issues of concern that may arise at this time. Brady observes that eclipses “seem like wild cards stressing emotions or bring chaotic events or, at times, apparently having little effect. They can sometimes be positive or very exciting and at other times herald a period of difficulties.” [11] A lot depends on the natal chart itself. If the Sun or Moon are conjunct an eclipse, the condition of the luminary will reveal some of the subtleties of effect.


     The natal aspects to both luminary, and the ruler of the luminary, will tell whether or not the experience will be felt as beneficial or unpleasant. Natal Sun or Moon conjunct an eclipse will certainly be felt as a heightened intensification of the entire luminary experience for that person. For example, an eclipsed Moon in Pisces may see the person finally having a breakthrough in their ability to creatively capture and describe something evasive and fragile. In the 10th house it could be about finding that perfect job because one had unknowingly evoked the right emotion in the potential employer. Emotions are the touchstone with this transit. If the natal Moon is afflicted then an eclipse on it will serve to intensify the bad feelings. Whatever happens, the general effects of an eclipse can be felt for years after the event. When transiting Mars or Saturn conjuncts or squares the sensitized degree, then the event is manifested or reactivated (Mars), or crystallized into something that will not be going away (Saturn).

     For example, say an eclipse such as the one in May 2003 occurs, at 9 degrees Gemini. Wherever 9 degrees falls in the natal chart is the place activated by this eclipse . When the Sun or Moon is in that degree in Gemini the communications, specifically how one communicates in one’s life, will be the main issue. The thought processes are also involved---is the native driving himself or herself crazy? Do they have a problem with mental stress? Perhaps this eclipse is a warning of a short circuit to come if the thoughts are interfering with one’s mental health. The aspects made to the Sun and/or Moon are critical to the interpretation. However, a couple of points can be made generally about the eclipse triggers.

     Firstly, because the eclipse travels in a cycle which does not repeat often, the natal Sun or Moon being transited by any particular eclipse puts that luminary on the temporary holding pattern of that eclipse and the family to which it belongs. In a sense one “joins” the family of the eclipse. In this case the particular birth-chart, history, and age of that eclipse can lead to some profound understanding of how one fits into a much larger cycle. And although a person’s luminary may be eclipsed again some time later in life, that particular eclipse will never again eclipse it. What occurs as a result of this eclipse is largely a matter of how that eclipse goes with this natal luminary.

     The other point is that when a person’s natal luminary is eclipsed, it has been (so to speak) invited to join the heavenly Sun and Moon, if only for a minute or two. This can only have profound effects that might not be revealed for many years. In esoteric terms, it is a high honour indeed to be joined in this way.

     When asked why watching an eclipse was such a deep experience, Mark Hedsel, Master Hermeticist, said, “This feeling of death is there because the symbolism of the eclipse reaches into the very fundament of the human soul. There is a sort of presage of death, but not in the way one might immediately imagine.”[12]

     We are now back to the zero, and trying to guess the Divine Mind. A useless endeavour perhaps. But centuries of effort have gone into this task. Accordingly, we should not forsake the huge body of knowledge that has accumulated about eclipses and prediction from our Astrological ancestors. They had the time and the patience to stand around and watch how things played out. In our quest for the truth in the skies, we have some obligation to consider their conclusions.

Copyright: Margaret Penner Choinski

                      Earth Elephant Astrology


[1] Hedsel, Mark, The Zelator, Century Books, 1998, p.349

[2] Spencer, Neil, true as the stars above, Victor Gollancz, 2000, p.137

[3] ibid

[4] Brady, Bernadette, The Eagle and the Lark, Weiser, 1992, p.120

[5] Watters, Barbara, Horary Astrology and the Judgement of Events, Valhalla, 1973, p.95

[6] Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, The Ashmand Translation, 1st Century AD, p.54

[7] Brady, p.222

[8] Ibid, p.211

[9] Arroyo, Stephen, Astrology, Karma, and Transformation, CRCS Pub., 1992, p.193

[10] ibid, p.208, 227

[11] ibid, p.316-17

[12] Hedsel, p.345

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