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Monday, June 28, 2010

Eclipse ~ Part I

In my email this morning (June 25, 2010) was an inquiry about an upcoming partial lunar eclipse.  While I’ve written many times and lectured and taught about eclipses, I thought it might be as good a time as any to revisit the topic.

My friend commented that she’d heard this was an auspicious eclipse.  One gets a sense of benefit from that word, auspicious, that is not (in my experience) usually connected with an eclipse.

In the simplest terms, an eclipse is an obscuration, a dimming or elimination of the light from one of our planet’s most important lights, sun or moon.  For that reason, eclipses most often have a negative connotation with regard to the astrological “what does it mean?”

Where astronomy splits from its mother, astrology, is that astrology offers some meaning we might derive from an analysis of the greater whole while astronomy is primarily about measurement of a piece of the whole (how far, how bright, elemental composition, motion, etc.)

The question of auspiciousness comes to some degree from the lunation process.  A lunation follows the waxing and waning moon through eight stages:  New, Crescent, First Quarter, Gibbous, Full, Disseminating, Last Quarter, Balsamic, and back to New.  The process of New Moon to New Moon takes about 29.5 days.

“Moons” are one of the first and most obvious markings of astronomical events experienced by us critters on this planet.  Moons are utilized for everything from hunting and fishing, to the timing of religious observances (Easter, Diwali, Saga Dawa, Ramadan, Passover, etc.)  New Moon timing for religious purposes usually doesn’t kick in until the moon begins to pull far enough from the sun’s rays to be visible in or after the sunset (crescent).  The more obvious Full Moon is the one that gets popular names such as Harvest Moon.

Some lunations or “moons” are deemed positive or auspicious and some not so much.  Every eclipse will also be linked with this or that “moon" because an eclipse is a "moon".  Considering lunations from an astrological (it means something) perspective, the more precise alignment that results in an eclipse steps up or enhances whatever the meaning of the lunation.

We can get an idea of the auspiciousness of certain moons by their names.  I’ve picked a few at random.  Some North American indigenous peoples call the midwinter Full Moon, the Starvation Moon.  That would likely be an inappropriate name for it in the southern hemisphere where seasons are flip-flopped.  The name Harvest Moon was given to the first Full Moon after the Autumn Equinox and northern hemispherites from North America (some tribes refer to the Grandmother Moon) to Europe celebrated it for much the same reason.  I’ve heard it said that its light extended the hours available to harvest.  Personally I’d rather not be swinging sharp harvest tools by moonlight.  The bounty of the harvest gave way to celebratory feasts such as the Thanksgiving holiday in the USA.

 For much of the world, the calendar is lunar based.  Probably the oldest lunar calendar in use is that of China which begins with the first New Moon after the Sun enters the Sign Aquarius.  Chinese New Year is an example of auspicious endeavor coming by way of splendid celebration, parades, fireworks, new clothing and special foods.  While celebration and ritual are practiced to “seed” the year ahead, some years are said to be more auspicious than others and a year may be said to benefit or challenge the native of one Chinese Zodiac year Sign more or less than it does the native of another Sign.

This is given to offer some hint as to how an eclipse might or might not be auspicious.  Many other factors can go into the mix.  For example, an eclipse that occurs in a good relationship to a benefic planet (Venus or Jupiter) might be considered auspicious.

A Hindu blog I came upon informs us that the eclipse is a “Chandra Grahan”.  I know that Chandra is Sanskrit for Moon; I will assume Grahan indicates eclipse.

(Although I’ve given a few years of my more than fifty years studying astrology to an investigation of Jyotish, Vedic, or Hindu astrology, I am no expert in those techniques.  I believe that any form of astrology when understood and practiced with expertise and heart has value; Western Tropical (my practice), Vedic, Chinese, Classical, Mayan, etc.  I remember a Mick Jagger line, “It’s the singer, not the song.”)

Here is information on the Chandra Grahan given by Paramahamsa Swami Sivananda

“At the time of the eclipse, people bathe in the sacred rivers. They do charitable acts. They give cows, money and gold. The day after the eclipse they feed the poor, the Brahmins and the Sadhus. After the eclipse they clean their houses, vessels, etc., and take a bath before they start cooking.

“Those who do Japa [mantra] at the time of the eclipse derive great benefits. The effect of Japa and Sankirtan [sacred song, call and repeat] during the eclipse contributes towards relieving the suffering of humanity and also of the planets. These people receive the blessings of the gods. They attain perfection quickly. . . .  You will shine in your own glory. This is the spiritual significance of the eclipse.”


There are many, many variants to the moon’s motion and relation to Earth.  There’s a slightly less precise alignment than an eclipse that is very nearly as dynamic in effect as the eclipse alignment that astrologer Richard Nolle’s named a “SuperMoon”.  Eclipses and SuperMoons are often linked with geophysical phenomena like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and the like.  I’ll write more about these special lunations at some point in the future.

Eclipses tend to occur in groups so the Lunar Eclipse this time is followed by a Total Solar Eclipse on July 11.  I’ve been writing about eclipses here in a general way in order to address the question of auspiciousness.  Many times I’ve been called upon to evaluate a specific eclipse in the sense of meaning and effect as applied to the world and individuals.  I will leave that for another blog entry since this one has grown large enough.

 Eclipses in 2010 (UT/GMT dates)

Annular Eclipse of the Sun
, January 15 at 25° 01’ Capricorn
The instant of greatest eclipse occurs at 07:06:33 UT

Partial Eclipse of the Moon
, June 26 at 04° 46’ Capricorn
Greatest Eclipse:  11:38:27 UT

Total Eclipse of the Sun
, July 11 at 19° 24’ Cancer
Greatest eclipse occurs in the South Pacific at 19:33:31 UT.

Total Eclipse of the Moon
, December 21 at 29° 21’ Gemini
Greatest Eclipse:  08:16:57 UT

Astrological information from Jim Maynard’s Celestial Guide.  Best astronomical eclipse data is from Fred Espenak at

The time of greatest eclipse will be near but not exactly the same as the time of the New or Full Moon alignment.

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