Every six months there’s an eclipse season. The moon meets the sun and earth on the same plane (the plane of the ecliptic) and at new moon and full moon there is the possibility that the three bodies will line up more or less exactly to make an eclipse.
At a new moon the moon moves between the earth and the sun, blotting out the latter’s light either partially or totally to make a solar eclipse. At a full moon the earth gets between the sun and the moon and the earth’s shadow falls on the moon turning it a dramatic red – a lunar eclipse.
Just imagine the power you would have in ancient days if you could accurately predict an eclipse! (And imagine what an idiot you would seem if you got it wrong.) There’s a story about some Jesuit priests visiting China in the 16th century who were able to predict an eclipse more accurately than the astronomers of the emperor. Hmm… Maybe these crazy westerners have got something…
Nowadays we can calculate eclipses for centuries ahead: where they will be visible, when they will begin and end, how long they will last and so on. But what we are still developing is our understanding of eclipses at the subtle level.
Science of course doesn’t recognise subtle energies. For science, if machines can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist. But people can feel them, and that subjective experience is what gives meaning to the world.
For astronomers, the influence of the moon is gravitational, affecting the tides and the behaviour of certain sea creatures. For astrologers its influence is emotional.
Historically and symbolically the moon is associated with the menstrual cycle and the life journey of women. The triple goddess whose three aspects represent the changes from maiden (waxing moon), to mother (full moon), to crone (waning moon).
Now dictionaries give the meaning of ‘crone’ as ‘ugly old woman’. That’s not nice. It stinks of patriarchal misogyny. A more helpful picture is “A woman in her crone years is in a position to influence others. She is the embodiment of feminine wisdom.”
For astrologers, an important attribute of the moon’s role is to do with mothering, not just in the sense of giving birth and raising children but in the sense of how we take care of others’ needs and how our own needs are met.
This is an emotional process, often unconscious. Busy taking care of others’ needs, are you? Forget your own, do you?
And being unconscious it’s often automatic – what we do without thinking. Our automatic responses to the needs of a situation. But calling them unconscious doesn’t mean that these responses weren’t learned to some extent. And being learned means that they can be unlearned once you become conscious of them.
Now let’s bring eclipses into the mix. From an astrological perspective, the points where the moon crosses the plane of the ecliptic (see picture on the right) are called the moon’s nodes. The crossing point from south to north is the north node; the crossing point from north to south is the south node. These nodes used to be called ‘the dragon’s head and the dragon’s tail’ respectively. In Vedic astrology they are known as Rahu and Ketu.
When the moon is close to the south or north node, there’s a straight line between the sun, moon and earth and that’s when eclipses can happen.
Their influence is karmic. The south node is what we bring from other lives – the unconscious patterns, the emotional baggage, the unresolved personal issues. The north node is what we are striving towards in this life: to complete, to achieve, to move towards, to move ahead.
The south node is a safe, known place. We feel comfortable there. We can recharge there. But if we stay there, we do not progress.
The north node on the other hand is challenging. But that’s where we accomplish most. That’s where we progress.
And this is what gives eclipse seasons their significance and intensity. Events at this time (whether outer or inner and whether you realise it or not) may have more of a karmic resonance, a sense, if you will, of destiny.