Planning strategies drawn
from the study
of celestial mechanics



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"When Eclipses happen or Comets appear in Earthly Signs they portend barrenness and scarcity by reason of excessive droughts; when in Watery Signs by reason of too much rain, in Airy Signs they signify mighty winds, seditions, and the pestilence, in Fiery Signs terrible Wars and slaughters."

"Eclipses operate more forcibly on Cities, Provinces, and Kingdoms than on Particular persons of private condition, or even upon Kings and princes, for their effects rather respect the multitude."

Quotes from the aphorisms of Jerom Cardan (1501-1576) as printed in Anima Astrologia


Eclipses of the Moon and the Sun were terrifying to ancient peoples. They viewed them with terror, thinking they signified a great calamity about to happen or that the darkness of the celestial light was a punishment from their God.

The ancient Chinese believed Solar Eclipses occurred when the dragon in the sky tried to swallow the Sun. Later, astrologers called them harbingers of disaster and disease, yet the eclipse patterns were studied and from their periodic appearance astronomers extrapolated the movements of the Earth and Moon.

  • We can’t speak of eclipses unless we understand the Earth’s rotation which causes the Sun to appear at a different angle to us every season.
  • We can’t understand eclipses unless we understand the orbit of the Moon around Earth which takes approximately 27 days.
  • We travel around the Sun, and the Moon travels around us.

Esoterically the Sun is the powerhouse of the chart, the life giver, the ego, and designates the center of joy in our lives. Without the Sun we would not be able to exist and Earth would be cold, barren, and lifeless. Those of us in temperate zones are at the mercy of the seasons, sometimes basking in warmth, sometimes lighting fires to keep warm, but always the eternal Sun promises to return in full force to warm our small place on Earth. The Sun indicates what is most important to us, what we take pleasure in, to a certain extent our children and the authority figures in our lives.

The Moon’s light however, is not her own, but a mere reflection of the light of the Sun. Yet the Moon has the force, that with the Sun, moves the tides, and symbolizes the emotional nature, the awareness and reflection on ideas and feelings.

MoonEven the symbol of the Moon looks like an ear and may perhaps be considered representative of how we listen to those subtle feelings and intuitions within, and absorb information outside us. The Moon indicates our responsiveness, our past, and our ability to collect from the atmosphere information.

The Facts

We need to understand lunations to understand the eclipse.

A New Moon is the time when the Moon sits at the same degree of the zodiac as does the Sun, but the Moon is a dark orb then, and we cannot see any reflection of the Sun. During a Full Moon the Moon is at the exact opposite degree of the zodiac from the Sun and shines at her brightest.

Each lunation consists of the degree of the New Moon until the Full Moon, and every month we have a lunation: these are common and normal phenomena.

But some lunations are eclipses and some not, so we wonder......Why?

The word "eclipse" is derived from the word "ecliptic." The ecliptic is the apparent path the Sun travels along as we orbit it on our 365 day cycle. If today the Sun is at 25 Libra, then the ecliptic is also at 25 Libra, at approximately 9’ S 40" declination to the equator.

We can map this path every year as we go from fall to winter to spring to summer and back to the autumn again. It’s as though we drew an imaginary line through the equator out into space marking where we see the Sun every day throughout the year.

Since the Earth is tilted on its axis we have a variance of up to 23’27", exactly the same as our tilt. Declinations measure the distance from this imaginary equatorial plane in degrees north or south. As the Earth does its yearly dance of rotation and tilting the declination, or plane from which we view the Sun, shifts.

The Moon as it orbits the Earth will cross the line called the ecliptic twice a month, and these crossing points are called the Moon’s Nodes. The nodes travel backward along the ecliptic at approximately 3 minutes per day, taking just under 19 years to make a complete transit around the zodiac. The lunations only repeat at the same degree of the zodiac every 19 years. (See Note #1.)

Yes, but what is an Eclipse?

The Solar Eclipse takes place when the Sun appears to darken as the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun. The New Moon is the monthly conjunction of the Sun and Moon. Both are in the same degree of longitude. An eclipse of the Sun occurs when, at the monthly conjunction with the Moon, the latter has no latitude, so the two are precisely in line with one another as seen from Earth. The Moon blocks the light of the Sun.

A Lunar Eclipse occurs when the Moon becomes dark as it passes through the shadow of the Earth, and the reflected light of the Sun is blocked. An eclipse of the Moon takes place when the two, at their monthly opposition (the Full Moon), are again lined up, with the Earth between them. The Earth blocks the light of the Sun so that the Moon is in the Earth's shadow.

The Moon’s orbit is tilted about 5 degrees to the Earth’s orbit, so for this reason the Moon’s shadow generally misses the Earth and no Solar Eclipse is present. Likewise, the Moon’s orbit prevents it from being eclipsed since it usually passes above or below the shadow of the Earth.

Therefore a Solar or Lunar Eclipse can only occur when Sun, Earth, and Moon are all in a nearly straight line.

Occultation is a term commonly used when the Moon and a planet are in the same degree of declination. However, any celestial body can "occult" or hide another from view. These are similar to an eclipse of the planet and are noted by serious astrologers.

Types of Eclipses

Solar eclipses occur when the Moon is between the Earth and the Sun. A total Solar Eclipse occurs when the Moon completely blots out the face of the Sun. An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon darkens only the middle of the Sun, leaving a bright ring around the edges, and a partial eclipse occurs when the Moon only covers part of the Sun. Lunar eclipses occur when Earth is between the Moon and the Sun. Total Solar eclipses may only be viewed in certain parts of the world, but Lunar Eclipses can usually be viewed by most people on the night side of the Earth.

There are generally four eclipses a year, two Solar and two Lunar, although in some years there are three Lunar.

Conditions signifying an Eclipse

First of all both Sun and Moon must occupy either the same degree of longitude or opposite degrees of longitude. Eclipses only occur during the New Moon or Full Moon.

The Sun and Moon must ALSO be in parallel aspect to one other, i.e., when they are within one degree of the same degree of declination (the position above or below the celestial equator described in degrees and minutes north or south of the equator). The Sun and Moon must also be within orb of conjunction to one or both of the Moon’s Nodes for an eclipse to occur. One reason to note the importance of declinations is that Eclipses ONLY occur when the Sun and Moon are in the SAME degree of declination AND longitude. They may be in the same degree of longitude but no eclipse will occur unless they have the same declination. Actually, ANY two planets that fulfill this condition are in planetary eclipse, otherwise known as an occultation.

Interpreting an Eclipse

As Cardom said in the preface, eclipses "respect the multitude" and have more importance in relation to mundane events than in everyday lives. Personal delineations which forecast the matters of a house occupied by an eclipse being "wiped out" or "diseased" are a bit strong, since after all there are several occultations a year.

A Solar Eclipse, and any New Moon, has in it the sense of planting seeds, new beginnings, initiation, and a new frame of reference. Wiser minds than mine have advised against beginning any venture, however, the three days before or after a New Moon, eclipse or not. The Solar Eclipse is a conjunction and therefore means "emphasis".

The Lunar Eclipse has in it the sense of culmination, reaping what was begun in the past, realizing the fruit of labors or thoughts. Again, it is advised against beginning any project during the six day period surrounding the Full Moon. A Lunar eclipse is an opposition and may bring "relationships" into the interpretation.

The Solar Eclipse, with the Sun obscured, would have in olden days seen seers predicting the end of someone in high station, such as a King, Queen, (a Princess Di?) or religious leader, (Mother Teresa?) as the Sun represents those in high station, positions of power or importance, in mundane astrology.

The Lunar Eclipse, when the Moon appears red as though covered with blood, would have been foretold as a calamity affecting the common people, as ruled by the Moon, such as crop failures, herds of animals destroyed by famine, pestilence, floods, and disasters effecting everyday necessities and commodities.

Both types of eclipses were blamed for "droughts...earthquakes..scarcity of the fruits of the earth...some terrible fires."

For the personal chart

Should a Solar Eclipse occur conjunct a natal planet, or the angles, an important new cycle emotionally is at hand in that area. The Lunar Eclipse upon a natal planet, or angle, may bring with it a culmination in that house and of the nature of the planet.

In a Solar Eclipse, the ego, the joys, authorities, pleasures are temporarily cut off as moods and emotions block the input. One may end something important due to an emotional outburst, an unreasonable attitude, or past habits and irrational feelings catching up and overpowering you or those in close contact.

During a Lunar Eclipse one may be blocked from expressing ones intuitions and feelings because "Earth" anchors you to practical matters, (an excellent time to kick a habit, by the way), yet it is a good time to state intentions as the Sun holds sway and past habits, and ingrained reactions, will not well up to interfere.

Astrologers disagree about how long eclipse effects are viable, some saying as many months as hours the eclipse is visible, some saying three months before and after the Lunar, and 6 months before and after the Solar. Some even use longer periods of influence.

"The duration of the effects of an eclipse is said to be a year for every hour the Sun is eclipsed, and a month for every hour the Moon is eclipsed." - Turnbull, 1918, editorial note in Anima Astrologia.

What you may want to study are transits of planets in aspect with the eclipse degree for several months before and after the event. These are known as eclipse triggers, and in some cases very pronounced, because the eclipse "brings to light," and the planetary transit adds significant energy. Many strong triggers mean more emphasis on the eclipse area. (Not to forget that aspects via declination may hasten or slow down the longitudinal aspect, and be just as valid.)

Some degrees are "sensitized" as they are repeated over and over again over a span of years, through station points and major outer planet aspects, so, in my opinion, each eclipse may have varying lengths of influence dependent upon the degree and how much reinforcement it receives from other planetary aspects.

As always, one should relate the current eclipse in personal charts to the whole chart, taking into consideration the strength and aspects of the natal planet, then using the keywords of beginning (Solar) and culmination (Lunar) for the eclipses as relating to the attributes of that planet and the house it rules. Count at least six months before the eclipse and look for transits to that point from Mars or any planet heavier (transits of Sun, Moon, Mercury, and Venus are usually too fleeting, unless there is a retrograde station) and watch what is brought to the attention with that transit. This will give you some good direction as to the import of the coming eclipse.

 In traditional astrology one would relate activity to the houses that have Leo and Cancer on their cusps.

Another hint is to count back nineteen years when the last eclipse occurred at that degree and meditate upon what happened then, or what circumstances were brought to the attention at that time.

Example of eclipse triggers

In 1996 -1997, 4 degrees Cardinal signs were repeated over and over again with not only eclipses, but stations of Saturn and Mars nearby. Those with planets at these degrees felt the brunt of the eclipses through the retrogradation of both Saturn, the taskmaster, and Mars, the troublemaker, both acting as trigger points. And triggering not once, but due to their retrograde paths, three times.

Looking at the September 27, 1996 Lunar Eclipse at 4 Aries 17, we page back in the ephemeris and see that

  • Saturn was at 4 Aries 17 on May 16, 1996, as well as
  • September 22, 1996, and again,
  • February 8, 1997.
  • Mars at 4 Cancer 17 August, 1996, may have signified action taken in relation to the problem area, (as signified by Saturn’s presence), that was not fully realized until after the eclipse was finished

In March 1997, the Lunar Eclipse at 3 Libra 35 reinforced those Saturn station degrees, and as an added bonus Mars stationed at 5 Libra 55, (within orb of the Solar Eclipse point) crossing the eclipse point three times:

  • January 16, 1997,
  • February 25, and
  • July 27. (Note: Both eclipses hit the ecliptic at between 1-2 declination, North and South, and Saturn hovered near these degrees starting in April 96 until March 97!)

In this particular series since one station point was at 7 (Saturn) and the Mars station was at 5 Libra, people who had planets as far away as 7 degrees Cardinal felt the full force of the eclipses due to the powerful retrograde activity near eclipse degrees.

There is much more to eclipses then delved into here, particularly along the lines of mundane astrology.

Predictive Astrology: The Eagle and the Lark is suggested as further reading.This book discusses the Saros cycles of repeating eclipses.

Note #1. A significant point to ponder is that the Moon’s Nodes in their approximate 19 year cycle are tied into declination. When the Moon’s Nodal orbit coincides with the 0 Point of Aries, the ascending Node will be crossing the ecliptic along this point of the celestial equator and the Moon then achieves it’s greatest declination in relation to its 19 year cycle, about 28'35". However, it continues for years afterwards to orbit at a high declination, to almost 29' at times, and then 9.5 years later, when the Node crosses the autumnal equinox point (0 Libra), the Moon will be at it’s minimum declination (approximately 18') and remain within the bounds of the ecliptic for a length of time.

© 1997- 2017 This article first appeared in 1997 and was revised in 2017.

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Alphonse Mucha (1860 – 1939) This Czechoslovakian Art Nouveau artist became famous in the fin de siecle period after his poster of actress Sarah Bernhardt became a sensation. His work often celebrates the beauty of women. His posters and artwork are colorful, sensual, filled with detail and rich with symbolism.