The Strangeness of Eclipses

Eclipse 1All the attention given to the recent solar eclipse has got me thinking about the phenomenon in general. This particular eclipse is spectacular —at 6 minutes and 39 seconds in some places, it’s the longest this century. There is something really awe inspiring about a total solar eclipse—the darkness falling in the middle of the day and the sudden cold that comes with it  brings home how much we depend on the warmth and light of the Sun to keep us alive. Small wonder that in earlier times eclipses were regarded as  omens of great events, usually unfortunate.  A phenomenon so dramatic must mean something important.

I have often been asked what  it means astrologically and I find that a difficult question to answer  because it doesn’t mean any one thing in particular. The truth is that eclipses are regular astronomical events like solstices and equinoxes—there are at least two a year and there can be up to five—and when one occurs the world does not go into upheaval any more than it does at midsummer, or any more than usual.  As with  solstices and equinoxes, however, they bring in an energy that is powerful but  too generalised to attribute to any specific type of process or event. Individuals and nations for whom the degree of the zodiac where the eclipse occurs is prominent will experience some kind of important change  but it is difficult to say what that might be. And there are the physical effects such as higher than usual tides, odd weather patterns and strange animal behavior.

The Sun and Moon are exactly where they should be

The most miraculous thing about eclipses is not that they are rare, for they are not, but that they happen at all. They can only happen because viewed from the Earth the Sun and the Moon appear to be the same size. In reality the Sun is millions of times bigger than the Moon but due to the varying distances of the two bodies, they seems to be equal.

We could see that as nothing more than an interesting coincidence that provides us with an occasional spectacle. There is, however,  a deeper significance  here—if the Sun and Moon were not the ‘same size’ we might not be here at all. If the Sun were any closer, it would be too hot for life to exist and if it were further away, it would be too cold. Obviously.

There are more things than we may imagine that depend on the gravitational effect of the Moon. If the Moon was closer we would have unbelievably huge tides making coastal area  uninhabitable for hundreds of miles—regular and endless tsunamis—as well as other extreme environmental conditions. This may have been the the case when the planet was young and the Moon was much closer to the the Earth, a wild and inhospitable place. So many biological rhythms depend on the fluctuations of the Moon, including the fertility cycles of humans and many other creatures and perhaps much else that we don’t think about, take for granted or have not yet discovered. If the Moon was too far away to exert it’s influence it is hard to imagine what life might be like. It may not even exist.

It is more than a coincidence that the Sun and Moon are the same size. Eclipses are a visual affirmation of the perfectly balanced and life-supporting environment  in which we and all life can exist.  A  cosmic event happening on our doorstep reminding us that we are part of a larger dance.  If that’s all an eclipse means—it’s enough.

Eclipse 2