IF YOU HAVE NEVER WITNESSED A TOTAL SOLAR eclipse you might not understand why it is such an awe-inspiring phenomenon. As the moon passes over the sun extinguishing the daylight, an eerie silence descends; the birds no longer sing and the temperature suddenly plummets. Your common sense may tell you that the sunlight will return and that everything will soon be back to normal but you cannot quite eradicate the feeling that this is what the end of the world might be like.
No wonder then that since the earliest times man has been obsessed with eclipses, and believed them to portend great and terrible things.
Such was their hold on the imagination that over 4000 years ago the ancient Egyptians were recording solar eclipses, as were the ancient Chinese and Babylonians. These ancient cultures variously believed that dragons or snakes devoured the sun, and that dreadful events would follow, usually affecting emperors, kings and the like.
However, some solar eclipses clearly had beneficial effects.
In 585 AD/CE the Greek philosopher, Thales, warned of a forthcoming solar eclipse, provoking fear and trepidation in the Ionian people. At the time the Medes and the Lydians were at war, but on 28th May as day suddenly turned to night they laid down their arms, and when the sunlight returned a peace treaty was agreed.
According to the Gospels on the day of the crucifixion at around noon a "darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun's light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two." Luke 23: 44-45. This darkening of the day has been attributed to a solar or lunar eclipse in April 33CE, although there is an equally strong counter-argument for a nasty storm.
One of the most famous solar eclipses of history, and a little nearer our own time, took place on 29th March, 1652, and was known as Black Mundy or Mirk Mundy. The prospect of this eclipse inspired panic in the nation: the rich loaded up their belongings and left London in good time while on the day of the eclipse the poor simply lay down on the ground and gazed up to the darkening heavens in the faint hope of salvation.
Thomas Carlyle in his collection of Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches gives us the Lord Protector's views of that day. "The most fearfullest eclipse of the Sun ever seen by mankind...came on about nine in the morning. Darker and darker... stars came out... birds so sorrowfully chirping took to roost. Much noised of by Lilly, Booker and the buzzard Astrologer tribe..."
Astrologers of the time were indeed full of doom and gloom about the effects of this solar eclipse. While Andreas Argolus summed it up in one neat little phrase perniciem offeres magnum - God help the Pope - Nicholas Culpepper foresaw, "All the evils of the sword, sedition, famine, pestilence..." and William Lilly warned of the death of the King of Spain and an "absolute falling out or breach of friendship between England and Holland". Lilly also predicted, "the raising up of one man or men... unto a greater height of sovereignty."
In the wake of Black Mundy the first Anglo-Dutch war broke out; and that man to be "raised up to sovereignty" turned out to be Oliver Cromwell.
Despite Cromwell's less than flattering opinion of astrologers they had clear reason to warn of the effects of this solar eclipse. Not only did the path of totality intersect the United Kingdom but the horoscope set up for that moment of total darkness places Saturn on the Ascendant. Of which more later.
Most of us will remember another "Black Monday" when stock-markets across the world crashed - 19th October, 1987. Two days prior to the crash parts of the United Kingdom were levelled by a hurricane - and in England hurricanes hardly ever happen! There may not have been an eclipse on the 16th or 19th but one had occurred ten days earlier on the 7th.
Which brings me to a couple of crucially important factors about eclipses: they have long time lines, and they come in cycles. However before I discuss these points in detail a little look at the astronomy of eclipses.
By the way, the word eclipse comes from the ancient Greek ekleipsis - to be abandoned...
The Astronomy of Eclipses for Dummies!
AN ECLIPSE OCURRS WHEN ONE OBJECT GETS in the way of another and blocks the view. Sometimes the Earth gets in between the Sun and Moon so that the Earth casts a shadow across the Moon - a lunar eclipse - and sometimes the Moon comes between the Sun and the Earth and blocks the light of the Sun - a solar eclipse. Not all eclipses are equal, however. Some are partial (when the Sun, Moon and Earth are not in a perfect alignment), some are annular (when the Moon is further from the earth and therefore smaller in appearance so that only part of the Sun's surface is blocked) and others are total.
The reason why every new moon and full moon is not eclipsed is due to the relative positions of the Earth, Sun and Moon in reference to the ecliptic - the apparent path of the Sun, or in layman's terms, the imaginary line in the sky that marks the annual path of the Sun.
Eclipses can only occur on the ecliptic.
The Saros Cycle
ECLIPSES ALSO HAVE SEASONS. It takes roughly 18.6 years for the Moon's nodes - the points at which the Moon's orbit crosses the ecliptic, the point at which eclipses occur - to complete a full circle. A nodal return if you like. For instance, at the time of writing the nodal axis is roughly 22° Virgo-Pisces and 18.6 years ago in September 1997 it was approximately 20° Virgo-Pisces. This 18.6 year cycle is known as the Saros Cycle.
Using the Saros Cycle it is possible to connect events of two or more time periods, thus we can speculate that significant events during the course of 2016 on both the world's stage and in our individual lives will have an echo of 1997 about them. Princess Diana died in September, 1997 so it will be fascinating to see if any further information comes to light about her untimely death or whether she will be thrust into our thoughts by one or more of 2016's events.
As I mentioned earlier, eclipses have a way of bringing secrets into the open.
The time-line of eclipses
SOMETIMES A HUGELY SIGNIFICANT OCCURENCE will take place at the time of an eclipse, but more often than not a life-defining event will occur some weeks or months before or after an eclipse.
In June 2001 a total solar eclipse occurred at 0° Cancer. This total eclipse was partially observable from the eastern seaboard of the United States - a Cancer nation with four planetary bodies in the sign. Some three months later the country was devastated by a series of coordinated terrorist attacks by al Qaeda. It was the beginning of the War on Terror and the precursor to the rise and rise of Islamic extremism.
Of the many significant connections between the charts of the solar eclipse, 9-11 and the USA, outstanding is the degree area 13/14 Libra-Aries: it is the MC-IC axis of the solar eclipse chart, the Ascendant-descendant axis of 9-11; and 14° Libra is the USA's natal Saturn.
While it is not an absolute rule, you should be able to see the degree area of the eclipse in the chart of an event such as 9-11. In this case Mars at 1° Capricorn is closely opposed to the eclipse. And Mars, as you may appreciate, is the planet of war.
This total solar eclipse took place two months and twenty-one days before 9-11 but was nonetheless well within the time-line of the eclipse. According to tradition, the effects of a solar eclipse last for as many years as the minutes of obscuration, which on 21 June 2001 meant almost five years.
The interpretation of eclipses
ASTROLOGERS TODAY STILL REFER TO the rules or judgements laid down by Claudius Ptolemy almost two thousand years ago in the Tetrabiblos; and they were certainly the rules followed by astrologers of the Seventeenth Century. Then, as now, the importance of eclipses in national and international affairs was paramount. The horoscope for the moment of totality would be set up according to the heart of each nation - the capital city - and a judgement made. Then, as now, the effects of an eclipse were believed to be far more pronounced in the areas of the world from which the eclipse was visible.
Looking at the horoscope of the Black Mundy eclipse is it any surprise that astrologers made such dire predictions.
The solar eclipse fell in the 10th house of government, monarchs, power and prestige. Cancer was rising thus the Moon (symbolic of the people and women in particular) becomes the ruler. More important, however, was the position of Saturn - the Malefic - within a degree of the Ascendant and squaring the eclipse. One other crucial feature of this eclipse is that it fell close the Ascendant of Great Britain's horoscope.
While today's astrologers would balance Saturn's difficult properties with its virtues - the triumph of perseverance being one - in William Lilly's time Saturn was synonymous with death, loss, violent storms, plagues and general scarcity and misery. That the Sun and Moon in the tenth house squared Saturn clearly played into many of the predictions of the deaths of such prominent figures as the Pope and the King of Spain.
In Lilly's day, Mars was considered the "Lord" of the eclipse because it was the planet of greatest significance, and its placing in the eleventh house would have pointed to conflict with countries that traded with Britain. The specific reference to "a falling out" with the Dutch also had much to do with the interplay between Cancer and Aries in the eclipse chart: Holland being a Cancer country and Britain an Aries nation.
ON THE 8th/9th MARCH, 2016 A TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE will take place at 19° Pisces: and since Sumatra, Borneo and areas of the Pacific Ocean will be in the path of the eclipse, these locations should technically be in the front line of any life-defining events over the coming months. (The eclipse will also be visible in Northern and Eastern Australia.) However, I am not at all sure that the rest of the world can breathe a huge sigh of relief and get on with business. After all, the total solar eclipse of June 2001 was only partially visible in parts of the United States yet it was enough to presage one of the country's darkest moments.
However distant this solar eclipse may be from Great Britain, the chart for that moment set for London packs a powerful punch. And if you believe there is something vaguely familiar about the appearance of this horoscope, you'd be right. There, in pride of place on the Ascendant is Saturn, just as it was on Black Mundy in 1652. And not only is Saturn rising but it is closely squaring an elevated Jupiter on the one hand and the solar eclipse and Neptune on the other, thus generating a T-square in Mutable signs.
My first thought upon looking at the eclipse chart was that it might have much to say about the referendum on Europe, which is due to take place in Great Britain on 23rd June. Could Saturn's position indicate a Brexit? The close square from Saturn to the eclipse is suggestive of a death or an ending. We might not be going to war with Holland but we could have a break-up with the EU.
Although the elevated Jupiter in the 10th house of monarchs and governments lends a celebratory and victorious aura to the horoscope - great events are planned for the Queen's 90th birthday which falls on 20th April - this planet is renowned for breeding inflation and inspiring over-confident actions - in many ways it is the planet of hubris. And with the Sun ruling the eighth house of financial relations in square to Saturn, it would seem to me that any euphoria over an exit from the EU would be short-lived. Indeed such an event could precipitate a catastrophic collapse of markets across the world.
I will be examining the prospects for the referendum on the EU in my June newsletter, so I do not want to spend an inordinate amount of time discussing them here, however eclipse charts often reveal more of their mystery when compared with an ingress chart - a horoscope set up for the moment the Sun enters each of the four cardinal signs - which is the reason I have included the Aries and Cancer ingress horoscopes in this newsletter.
In brief, you may notice that in both these charts Saturn and Mars are prominent: in the Aries ingress Mars and Saturn bracket the Mid-heaven and square a Venus-Neptune conjunction, on the one hand, and Jupiter, on the other. And in the Cancer ingress an elevated Mars in Scorpio is inconjunct Uranus, the ruler of the chart, while Saturn hugs the Mid-heaven in close opposition to Mercury. Indeed, this chart has the added burden of a Grand Cross in mutable signs - Saturn opposition Mercury squaring Jupiter opposition Neptune. In both ingress charts Aquarius rises, casting Uranus or Saturn in the role of ruler, depending on your persuasion. Either way, to my mind, these ingress charts do nothing to weaken the potential for conflict, loss and separation laid out in the horoscope of the solar eclipse. And Britain's relationship with Europe may not be the only casualty of these formidable portents.