In astrology you don't have to be paying attention very long before you hear the phrase; "It's an eclipse!" But most people don't understand why eclipses are so important and/or dreaded.
First you need to know just exactly what an eclipse is. In astronomy, it's easy, when you get a full moon that turns all coppery and weird, that's a lunar eclipse. They aren't really common, but they do come about every few years. Then there are the solar eclipses, when the sun is blotted out by the moon. Those are fairly rare, separated by decades, and maps of the path of totality are shown and the phenomenon is explained (the moon is passing in front of the sun and the shadow falls on the earth) and warnings are issued to not look directly at the sun. People buy welder's glass so they can safely look at the sun, or they build a projection box, which is easier, cheaper and safer, but not as neat as using welder's glass.
Those are the astronomical eclipses, which are also considered eclipses by the astrological crowd as well. But there are other eclipses that the astrologers pay attention to, that the astronomers dismiss as mere passing curiosities, and are not remarked upon.
In an astrological ephemeris, you can learn to spot an eclipse. It's really quite easy. All eclipses happen at the New Moon (Solar eclipses) or the Full Moon (Lunar eclipses). However, not every New or Full Moon is an eclipse. What makes a lunation (New and Full Moons) an eclipse? The Nodes. The Nodes of the Moon are mathematical points, and are considered "shadow planets" in Hindu astrology. They are eclipse markers, and they are included in the ephemeris mostly so people can see when the eclipses are. The Moon's Nodes are points that show where the Moon's orbit intersects the ecliptic the Sun's orbit. The ecliptic is named that precisely because this is the line in the sky where eclipses happen. Nowhere else. The Nodes are always opposite each other, so the ephemeredes only show the North Node, and you are supposed to know the South Node is exactly opposite in the zodiac.
When a New or Full Moon is within 17 degrees (or so) of the North or South Node, it is an eclipse. Maybe it won't be visible where you are, or indeed anywhere on earth (some occur north or south of the poles), but astrologers consider it an eclipse. You can have as few as two or as many as seven eclipses in any given year. It all depends on the position of the Nodes and the New and Full Moons. Most commonly, eclipses occur in pairs, a solar and lunar or a lunar and solar, roughly two weeks apart. Then slightly less than six months afterward, it repeats.
The Nodes move in an apparent retrograde motion in the zodiac in an 18.6 year period. Sometimes you will see the terms "mean node" and "true node". The mean node is the approximate place the actual Node is as it moves in a regular steady motion backward through the zodiac. The true node is the actual mathematical position of the Node which can vary in speed and direction. OK I said they move retrograde, but in actuality it's more like three steps backward, one step forward, three steps backward etc. remember these are mathematical points, and vector analysis has allowed computers to take into account the slight wobbles in the orbits of the earth and moon so as to get an extremely accurate placement of these points which do actually wander a bit. Most charts use mean nodes, though some programs allow you to choose. They may vary by a couple degrees, but it's not a big deal.
OK, so you see a New Moon (Moon and Sun are conjunct— in the same degree) which happens every 29 days or so. You then check to see where the North Node is. If it's within 17 degrees of that degree, or the degree opposite, it's a solar eclipse. A Full Moon occurs when the Moon is in the opposite degree from the Sun, at the halfway point between New Moons. If either the Moon or Sun is within 17 degrees of the North Node, then the Full Moon is also a lunar eclipse.
So you find an eclipse, or two or more, now what? What makes these things so important?
The other planets in astrology all exhibit retrograde motion from time to time. The Moon and Sun do not. But they do have these eclipses. In a way, eclipses have a similar energy to retrogradation, more intense, something hidden and not immediately accessible, a reversal of energies. After all, the Sun or Moon is potentially blotted out. So what should be prominent and visible is not. That's a big deal.
To see if you will be personally affected by any particular eclipse, look at your natal chart. (You need a full natal chart to do this.) If the eclipse is within three degrees conjunct or opposite a planet or your Ascendant or Midheaven, then it becomes personal for you and you can expect change in the areas governed by that planet or point. Further, you can also expect change in the houses that planet rules, irregardless of the actual house the planet resides in. As an example, the eclipse is at 4 degrees of Virgo, and your Venus is at 6 degrees of Pisces, then your Venus will be affected by the eclipse. Now assuming that Venus is in your ninth house, and presuming equal size houses, that eclipse will also bring change in the houses where Taurus and Libra (ruled by Venus) are on the cusp, which would be the 11th and 4th houses. So look for change in the areas of law, religion and higher education (9th), friends, groups and aspirations (11th) and home, family matters, and the past (4th), as well as relationships, how you relate socially and women in general (Venus).
Big change can be good or bad, but usually people are a bit afraid of change, so eclipses are considered difficult influences. But sometimes what at first seems bad, can eventually turn out to be good. One woman I know has a solar eclipse on her Venus, which ruled her 11th house of friends. She decided to pull up stakes and move because she just couldn't stand her friends, they were nasty and unhelpful and she felt used and undervalued, and she wanted to pursue her dreams of a better more prominent career path. So she got a new better job and moved across country. She settled in, made new friends, and those friends introduced her to the man who became her husband, the son of a billionaire. She had a child at the age of 39 and was amazingly happy, richer than she ever imagined, with a wonderful family and a full happy life. This is a true story, and the marriage happened within three years of leaving the old locale. So the eclipse was the kick in the butt to get a new job and set of friends and through that, make a whole new, better happier and more wonderful life for herself. Now, she was not necessarily happy with the original change, but she did it, and in the end it was way better than before.
So eclipses are not necessarily bad, they just shake up the old way of doing things.
Eclipses are also important in the arena of world events. The chart of the eclipse itself is studied by astrologers and the degree of the eclipse is a sensitive point for a year or longer. When other planets conjunct or oppose that degree— even months or more than a year after the eclipse, it can trigger delayed reactions of the energy of that eclipse. This is how some people are trying to predict/pinpoint earthquakes and other earth phenomena.
An eclipse can also cause change or problems in a country, if the eclipse is conjunct or opposite a planet or ascendant or midheaven of the country's chart. (Yes countries, states and other municipalities have charts— usually it's cast for noon of the day of incorporation. So do corporations, houses, vehicles and other non-living things.) The effects are the same as for a person, but the houses have a slightly different meaning for a municipality or country than they do for a person.
Then the chart of the eclipse itself can be problematic if another planet is conjunct, opposite or square the degree of the eclipse. That planet's energies colors the already heightened energies of the eclipse. If it's a pleasant planet— like Venus, it's no big problem usually. But if it's one of the planets that can cause sudden upsetting change, Mars, Uranus, or Pluto, it could be a bit rougher ride. And if there are two or three planets in a pattern tied into the eclipse, it becomes more intense and "interesting."
Incidentally, astrologers don't always take into account whether the eclipse is actually visible or one of the "less important" types of eclipses. If it is visible, and you are in the path of totality, it can be considered quite a bit stronger in influence. But an eclipse that occurs outside the earth's visibility can cause just as much change as one that is actually visible. It all depends if the degree hits your chart, or your country's chart or is with other planets that make it more intense and energized.
Eclipses are like "super" new and full moons. Their influence can last from six months (the average Lunar eclipse) to a year (the average Solar eclipse) or more (big eclipses with other close planetary aspects/patterns or perhaps one that it total in the area you live). These time frames are approximate. Sometimes the energies around the eclipse itself are really high and people are just keyed up and weird. Sometimes the eclipse itself seems to pass almost unnoticed, but three months later when Mars and Jupiter hit that point, all hell breaks loose. It's tough to tell beforehand, and even sometimes after the fact.
Many predictions are made from eclipse charts, and some actually come to pass. Many do not, but that's not necessarily a bad thing if the prediction is for disturbing or catastrophic happenings.
So hopefully you have a better understanding of eclipses and why astrologers pay such close attention to them. Keep watch in your own chart, and you can see the areas where change may be coming for you or loved ones. It's better to know beforehand and be a bit prepared, than have it hit without warning. That's one reason people go to see astrologers after all.
© 2000, 2004 Estelle Daniels, all rights reserved.
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