NOTE: This post has the unique distinction of being co-written in collaboration with astrologer June Rose Trimbach. We will be co-teaching classes together in the coming season, and as we were already communicating a lot about our shared ideas regarding this Total Solar Eclipse, it seemed like a fitting opportunity to introduce our coming work together. On October 29 we will be co-teaching a class at the Portland School of Astrology entitled The Daimon: The Guiding Spirit of Astrology. We are also currently developing a series of introductory astrology webinar classes we will be teaching in the coming months. There is not yet a planned start date for the webinar series as we are still putting material together, but I will let you know as soon as we have clear dates set up. Feel free to send me an email if you are interested in learning astrology from us through the webinar medium, and I can answer any questions you may have about them.
Solar Eclipse in Leo
Black as the night from which the light of stars emerge, black as the earth full of death that produces life. Black as the feathers of crows that soar through space, black as the darkness that nurtures recovery. The blackness of a total solar eclipse in which the light of our Sun is blocked takes us into the mysterious void from which all of our known universes are created. In the blackness we may rediscover our own source of primordial creativity from within, as well as realize the illusory nature of a reality we previously believed in.
In the time leading up to this eclipse, the Sun is shining through its home sign of the Lion, the sign of strength of heart and leadership. The light of the Sun brings exposure and purification; the true hearts of humans are exposed. As the Moon moves in front of the Sun, a shadow is cast, and a shadow is revealed. While the shadow of leadership and courage is exposed, it is also a portal for deeper understanding of our own hearts, our own courage to lead and to shine. We learn the deeper motivations for these goals, and the potential wounding therein.
Astrologer Joe Landwehr teaches that in a Solar Eclipse the creative dynamic potential is eclipsed by the emotional needs of the Soul. The needs of the Soul can be largely irrational, in that we can be pulled to act in ways that one wouldn’t always choose. Joe has taught that the Soul sometimes drags our unwilling selves into tough places, but places that we need to be. These irrational Soul-needs are like a deep well of insight into the meaning of our lives that when we ignore, come back to haunt us. This means that if our Soul is drawn to leadership, acts of courage or greater emanation of the heart, we may have to face these parts of ourselves now. How can we show up to these potentially hidden parts? The eclipse can reveal these parts, but they may not look rational or even safe: how can we honor the parts of ourselves that have remained in the dark?
An eclipse is also known as a great dragon showing itself, devouring the Sun: terrible and mystical and wise. This eclipse takes place on the north node or the head of the dragon. This head is desirous, consuming and wishes to devour, but devour what? There is potential available amid the surrounding astrological transits to cast off old inner restrictions in order to access greater currents of vitality to not only express in the world, but also take the responsibility to manage with greater integrity. Yet when we speak of stepping into greater empowerment and claiming greater levels of Leonine power, we must also question and reflect upon the shadow cast by ambition. As the Leo Sun turns black, the disappearance and reappearance of light can be a portal through which we may gain greater awareness for how to live a more empowered life; one that works in collaboration with the power of others, rather than claims power over others. The lion is strongest when it realizes it is connected to the natural energetic heart of its community, rather than being the heart itself; love is found in the space in between people.
New forms enter our lives during eclipses as old forms exit, and the quality of what comes in and out can feel both exciting and scary. Though eclipses have a long association in the astrological tradition with difficult, even disastrous events, they have also proven to mark significant thresholds of more fulfilling fortune. Professor Qiguang Zhao wrote a beautiful book on dragons entitled A Study of Dragons, East and West in which he explored how the dragons of ancient cultures in the East (East Asia) that were more apocalyptic and associated with heaven came to be associated in the West (Middle East and Europe) as a demonic death symbol linked to “the world of nightmare and the scapegoat, of bondage, pain, and confusion” (p. 61). Zhao shared the following text from Wu Cheng’en’s Journey to the West that shows the transcendent symbolism of dragons, the creatures most associated with eclipses:
Soaring and transforming,
Encircling clouds and mists,
Like suspending white hooks their claws let fall,
Like bright mirrors the silver scales shine.
Whiskers flap like white silk, each stand’s visible,
Horns rise imposingly, each prong is clear
Those rugged foreheads;
Those bright round eyes.
The Dragons, hidden or seen, can’t be fathomed;
The Dragons, flying or flitting, can’t be described.
If you pray for rain, rain comes instantly;
If you ask for clear sky, you have it at once.
These, only these, are the true dragon forms.
Most dignified and holy,
As a good omen, their aura surrounds the palace profusely.
Leo 3 Decan
In the days leading up to the eclipse, many of us find ourselves consuming images of banners, bravado and martial violence. These are themes that are presented by the third decan of Leo where the eclipse takes place, a decan associated with the Seven of Wands card illustrated above by Pamela Colman Smith. The image of the third decan is seen by Austin Coppock in his book 36 Faces as an image of “The Banner.” It is ruled by Mars, the planet of courage, heroic acts and martial combat. These are clues to what the dragon head of the eclipse might be seeking: glory, a cause to fight for. This is perhaps what we are all seeking right now. And now is a time to get in touch with our personal banners. What do we stand for and why?
Mars not only rules the third face of Leo where the eclipse occurs, Mars is also present within the third decan of Leo giving it amplified power. In addition, the eclipse occurs within the Egyptian bounds of Mars, and Mars is applying to a conjunction with the North Node of the Moon, the head of the dragon. Mars is on the threshold of leaving combustion with the Sun at the time of the eclipse, but is still invisible under the beams of the Sun emerging from its long journey through the underworld (though perhaps the total darkness of the eclipse may allow for Mars to become temporarily visible). Although we have a Mars recently reborn from its union with the Sun, it still carries within it the impact of past wounds from previous cycles. We can feel the determination of Mars in the image of the Seven of Wands card, in which a warrior is fighting against an onslaught from an angry mob. Mars asks us what ideals, principles, and other forms of personal terrain are worth fighting to protect at all cost.
The Total Leo Solar Eclipse has been named “The Great American Eclipse” as the path of the dragon enters the continental United States in Oregon and exits in South Carolina. In the time leading up to the eclipse, heated conflict has erupted in the United States over the banner fought under by the Confederate army in the Civil War. Notably Charleston, South Carolina is on the path of the eclipse dragon as it exits the continent, as Charleston is the location of the first shots fired in the Civil War as well as the location of the horrific murder of African American church goers in June 2015 by white supremacist Dylan Rooff, a tragedy that reignited debate over the presence of Confederate flags and monuments across the United States.
Even as we see images of the shadow of the banner, the question we may ask is if we can devour the banner itself. Can we devour the face of evil so that it is banned from the earth, or will that only perpetuate more violence? The head of a dragon in a realm of such proud martial power is also evocative as the ultimate protector, the courageous warrior willing to give their own life in order to protect life. Martial strength may be utilized to resist forces of hate and as stated in the Four-Fold Way by Angeles Arriens, “by staying in our power, by showing up and choosing to be present, by extending honor and respect, and by being responsible and accountable.”
To know the absolute is to be tolerant.
What is tolerant becomes impartial;
What is impartial becomes powerful;
What is powerful becomes natural;
What is natural becomes Tao.
— Lao Tzu, quoted from R.L. Wing’s translation, The Tao of Power
As the path of the Total Solar Eclipses travels from coast to coast across the United States, its relevant to delve deeper into the country’s astrological context. The astrology chart most often used by astrologers relates to the date of the Declaration of Independence, and though different versions exist they all involve the Moon in Aquarius, the South Node of the Moon in Aquarius, and the North Node of the Moon in Leo. Thus the United States is experiencing the karma of a nodal return and eclipses in the same signs as occurred during the time of its Declaration of Independence. Part of the country’s karma involves the fact the same people who crafted its language of liberation also owned slaves, and the development of its culture coincided with attempts to forcibly remove the culture of the land’s indigenous population.
The shadow of hatred and fear showed itself in Charlottesville, Virginia on a weekend in between two eclipses under a fiery celestial triangle. It was met with courage. There is an opportunity now to join this fight that was started as far back as our mind will take us. This fight has had many iterations throughout time, while simultaneously it is a fight felt deeply and personally all around our planet. But to join it lightly without knowledge of the shadowy realm this fight takes place in, would be unwise. The opening of a true heart of courage is possible here, a courage based on love and camaraderie. Is it possible even in evil actions, this is what is sought? The ghosts of the past are imminent in the story of America and its present begs for action and healing.
The shadows of Leo and Mars have been problematic in these wounds; the elite white class wrote the constitution for themselves and pitted the poor whites and slaves against each other; a reality we are still seeing. The infrastructure and laws of our country (Saturn) have kept people in chains through Jim Crow laws, the prison industrial complex, and other forms of institutional oppression. Curses economic, societal and emotional hold us back from sharing love with each other, yet we find anecdotes of that very love being shared liberally. The story of fear is not the only story, and we must connect with each other in good ways to get through this. How have the structures of the past and present limited your expression of love, and is there an opportunity of liberation now?
The eclipse activates a grand fire trine with Saturn and Uranus. The disruption of past structures and creative ways of making new ones are prominent themes right now. Uranus is in an exact trine with the Solar Eclipse, making creativity and the unleashing of potential a huge catalyst for change. Uranus is also the story of Prometheus, the one who stole the Fire of the Gods and gave it to humanity. Western astrologers tend to glorify the myth of Prometheus, yet other interpretations reveal it to be a cautionary tale of hubris and desire to wield the power of gods. Fascinatingly, the current transit of Uranus in Aries forms a square to the natal placement of Pluto in Capricorn in the chart of the Declaration of Independence. The Pluto of the U.S. is a storehouse of subterranean power and wealth, ruled by Saturn who now finds itself in Pluto’s twelfth house of secrets and hidden potential. The light and shadow of this eclipse is revealing deep secrets, yet there is an even deeper sense of upheaval. In the next five years the U.S. will have its first Pluto return, a transit that can transform, empower or dismantle altogether.
Love is also a force of light and nurture that liberates you to inhabit to the full your own difference. There should be no imitation of each other. No need to be defensive or protective in each other’s presence. Love should encourage and free you fully into your full potential.
— John O’Donahue from Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
So what is there to do in this time of upheaval? Make a choice to know the shadows of your own heart; true courage comes from love. The shadows of the past are cropping up, in our nations, in ourselves. One power of Leo is to lead by example; to bring an open heart to everything you do. Remain open to changing the structure of your life based on the needs of the Soul. Consider your personal banner: what would you be sure enough to proclaim to the world upon an inspection of the shadow and a heart centered reflection?
What will burn in the light of day as it is revealed, what will take form in our world and what will leave? The shadow is only something to be feared when it is not addressed. We can learn and heal from the scared parts of ourselves, and generally this is what eclipses are about. There is also a question of how we can move in the world. Can we put something into the world that is authentic? Can our radiant heart find liberation and the structure to express itself more truly and freely? Even as actions from wounding inflict more wounding during this eclipse period, can we stand from a place of empowerment and love for the world?
Written by Gray Crawford and June Rose Trimbach
Arriens, Angeles. (1993). The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer, and Visionary. Harper Collins.
Coppock, Austin. (2014). 36 Faces: The History, Astrology and Magic of the Decans. Three Hands Press.
O’Donahue, John. (1997). Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom. Harper Perennial.
Zhao, Qiguang. (1992). A Study of Dragons, East and West. Peter Lang Publishing.