The fisherman draws fish that he never saw from many fathoms beneath the water, the miner brings gold from the depths out of the earth, through which his sight cannot pierce. In this wise has God taught it.
As there is nothing so occult that it shall not become manifest, so the same must be made known. Be it in the celestial firmament, in the sea, in the earth, all things must become manifest; but through man who discovers all things.
— Paracelsus, from his preface to Magia Emblemata et Prognostici
Penumbral Pisces Lunar Eclipse
Within change and strife resides freedom and release, for every heart breaks within love that returns and gives birth. Beyond every flower found in radiant color, ripened fruit savored, or prismatic crystal unearthed and polished, lies an infinitely more vast and invisible realm of dark fertility surrounding and shaping this and all other universes. In fathomless oceanic depth, under waves inexorably dissolving and bringing forth life, glimmers the slippery, silvery sheen of soul we find in Pisces.
Light as dramatic as can be sensed during the Pisces Lunar Eclipse on September 16 begins to fade as soon as it has brought forth its fullness. We stand like a willow on the banks of its vortex, trunk strong and branches unfurled toward the constant disintegration of earthly matter into water. This week’s lunar eclipse at the end of the zodiac culminates many stories embedded in the intense mutable shifting of the past year. Within red shadows projected upon the Moon, one’s presence of being may become lightened from the accumulated heaviness of past failures and regrets.
In contrast to a solar eclipse in which the Sun is overwhelmed by the shadow of the Moon, symbolically the meaning of a Lunar Eclipse is rooted in the phenomenon of our Sun casting the shadow of our Earth onto the face of our Moon. Linking the Moon to what we carry from the past within our body and mind, the past transmutes in the shadowy face of the Moon to allow for new emergence and presence. Dane Rudhyar in The Astrology of Transformation wrote that at a lunar eclipse “the traditional perspective born of past experiences of adjusting to life and society is blotted out by an eagerness to meet experience in a new, original manner.” This emphasis on new choices and vision is amplified by the Sun being on the side of the North Node of the Moon in Virgo.
The eclipse is classified as penumbral because although the lunation is fairly close to the nodes of the Moon, the eclipse is at 24º20′ Pisces while the south node of the Moon is at twelve degrees of Pisces. Though the shadow cast will not completely cover the Moon’s face in rosy glow, it remains a lunar eclipse that irrevocably alters the stories internally streamed from the past year of life. Aligned with Chiron just as the Total Solar Eclipse in Pisces on 8 March 2016 was also conjoining Chiron, there is a cathartic release into the ever emptying ocean of Pisces that washes away remnants of disappointing burden that have been sticking to the flesh and circulating repeatedly in the mind.
Pisces is the exaltation of Venus, and the lunar eclipse occurs close to the specific degree Venus exalts in (27° Pisces). Venus looms over the eclipse as Jupiter in Libra rules the eclipse and Venus is co-present in her home of Libra alongside Jupiter. Pisces is the inwardly directed home of Jupiter, a place of inner expansion and vision, a faculty of intuitive gnosis merging heart with mind. Relationships, our current relations as well as all manner of past relational patterns that inform our meeting with others, rise from the waters of Pisces at this week’s eclipse with a message of vital importance, whether found in the form of verbal language or nonverbal image. In the twilight preceding the full illumination of the Pisces Moon, one may behold a brilliant Venus on the horizon that is continuing to brighten as an Evening Star.
Though as mentioned the shadow of this week’s eclipse is fainter than that of a total lunar eclipse, nonetheless the redness of the eclipsed shadow on the Moon evokes Pisces through its correspondences with eros that vitalizes blood flow and inspirit. The red shadow covering the Moon also has symbolic overtones with the renewal of the rubedo stage in alchemy, as it portends responding to life from a new presence free of past conditioning. Red is also fitting for Mars being in square to the lunar eclipse, making this Pisces Lunar Eclipse a tumultuous affair. In fact, there is little balanced about the Libra influence of Venus and Jupiter, as Venus will be applying closely to an opposition with Uranus in Aries and a sextile with Mars in Sagittarius, with Mars further in trine to Uranus. Yet in the stillness of a Pisces pool within the surrounding bedlam, insight may be discovered.
“The true duty of the artist is to know what she is doing and transmit her knowledge with precision. The artist must always lift up the skirts of Venus or her twin-sister Medusa; if she is incapable of that, she should consider changing professions.
Let’s thus seek out the possibility of having subtle organs that will allow us to spread a beneficial magic or receive it while cultivating the protections against the multiple venoms of the invisible world. It is only in the strange magic ocean that we can find salvation for ourselves and our sick planet.”
– Leonora Carrington, response to a questionnaire for L’Art magique, 1957
The above quote from Leonora Carrington and painting by Ithell Colquhoun were both shared by Jon Eric Graham in a presentation he gave entitled “A Stunning Revenge on All Things: Surrealism, Alchemy, and Magic” at the recent 2016 Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle I attended. In a subsequent presentation Pam Grossman also shared the same Scylla image by Ithell Colquhoun in her talk “Witch Pictures: Female Magic and Transgression in Western Art.” As Pam Grossman traced the history of the depiction of witches in art, highlighting the obvious shift of meaning once women had platforms to create their own witchy images, I was struck by the full archetype of the witch held within any modern manifestation of image, no matter how corporate or commercial. Namely, that the indescribable trauma and travesty of the collective history of witches is held and honored within the same image of witchcraft a modern teenager will embrace as part of claiming her own sense of the sacred feminine. This is not to suggest oppression will go away or that its wounds will disintegrate, only that in the dissolution of the Pisces Lunar Eclipse an empowering liberty may be discovered within our identities that have been hurt the most.
The square between Saturn and Neptune that finally culminated in the week before the lunar eclipse involves the transfiguration of collective images in meaning. Indeed, the most intense aspect to the lunar nodes at this week’s eclipse is not the actual Full Moon Eclipse, but rather the square between Neptune and Saturn, with Saturn applying closely to a square with the lunar nodes and Neptune conjoining the South Node of the Moon. Whatever sacrifice has had to be made in this past year of the square between Saturn and Neptune, like Odysseus passing through Scylla and Charybdis we now must resolutely with responsibility press forward on the path we have realigned with. Any fixations on past dreams that did not manifest must now be dropped into the receding tide, with focus and accountability bound to the work needing to be done in the present moment that meets one’s own needs as well as creates valuable resources or inspiration for others.
The numerous catalytic aspects involved in the Pisces Lunar Eclipse unfortunately make it likely that the disasters, acts of violence, and traumatic events that have dominated current events recently will continue. On a personal level, however, if you are somewhere securely away from overwhelming conflict the incredibly active nature of this week’s eclipse can be an enlivening impetus toward tangible realization of goals and vision worked on across time. Mercury remains retrograde, separating from its union with the Sun earlier in the week and applying to a trine with Pluto in Capricorn. Though Mercury has shifted toward its Morning Star phase in which goals and plans can be focused on with greater clarity, it is not yet visible and so there is still a chthonic fertility to all things Mercurial.
Particularly compelling to me is that the true node of Black Moon Lilith will be conjoined with Venus in Libra at the time of the lunar eclipse. This means that Venus combined with Black Moon Lilith will be opposite Uranus in Aries and sextile to Mars in Sagittarius. Black Moon Lilith is the oscillating shadow point that balances the Moon’s orbit, bringing the liberating quality of Uranus contacting Venus and Mars more directly into the experience of the Pisces Lunar Eclipse. Where we have been abandoned, betrayed, felt exiled or placed at a distance on the outside, becomes in the shadowed light of the lunar eclipse a strength fortified by lack and solitude and ready to burst forth with meaning to express and share during the dissemination of the eclipsed light.
Pisces 3 Decan
The Lunar Eclipse is in the third face of Pisces, associated with the 10 of Cups card illustrated above by Pamela Colman Smith. An image of joy, fulfillment, rainbows and giddy children, the 10 of Cups is interpreted as the quality of blissful happiness and manifestation that those who reside within the third face of Pisces not only yearn to bring about but possess the internal resources to do so. The final decan of the zodiac from the perspective that Aries is the beginning, the third decan of Pisces is a place of magical manifestation where seeming miracles can be brought about against all odds.
Austin Coppock in his book on the decans 36 Faces ascribed the image of “A Cup of Blood” to this face, describing it as a “mad quest for an ideal” and “being willing to sacrifice everything” for “the attainment of one’s greatest desire, no matter the cost.” While Three Books of Occult Philosophy described an image of a naked man with a beautiful woman whose head is decorated with flowers, other ancient texts describe terror of loss bringing screams and cries. Austin Coppock linked the third face of Pisces with such “heights of agony and ecstasy,” writing that “Though there can be no greater pleasure than the union with the beloved, no pain is greater than its frustration, or worse yet, the betrayal of the person or ideal whom one has sacrificed so much for.” As a result Coppock noted the importance of applying discernment and discrimination to acts brought forth in this face.
Coppock made a brilliant connection with the fragmentary Hellenistic text The 36 Airs ascribing the daimon of hope Elpis to the third decan of Pisces. This is the hope left at the bottom of Pandora’s box, the answer to doom pointing to “beauty, love and the real possibility of happy endings. The last decan [of Pisces] is thus a miniature of all incarnation, asking the most important questions and offering the most impassioned answers” (p. 260).
The third face of Pisces is ruled by Mars, and as Mars in Sagittarius is in square to the lunar eclipse, the meaning of this passionate decan of Pisces must be faced. The warnings of losing one’s beloved or cherished ideal in no way means to hold back from pursuing what enlivens the heart during the eclipse. With Saturn in square to the lunar nodes and Neptune conjoining the south node, however, it is vital to plant seeds and develop growth in places clearly able to receive and bolster one’s ideal intentions. There is co-creative magic found in the face of this week’s Pisces Lunar Eclipse to align with the work, path, and collaborators most resonant with one’s deepest desires.
Coppock, Austin. (2014). 36 Faces: The History, Astrology and Magic of the Decans. Three Hands Press.
Paracelsus. (2014 edition). Magia Emblemata et Prognostici. Ouroboros Press.
Rudhyar, Dane. (1980). The Astrology of Transformation. Quest Books.