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Solar and Lunar Eclipses in Astrology

Ancient people often thought that an eclipse of the Sun or the Moon was a sign of disapproval or anger by the gods or from the heavens. Having the Sun disappear from sight during the day (Total Solar Eclipse) or to see the Moon seemingly swallowed up as they watched (Total or Partial Lunar Eclipse) was a frightening sight for many people.

It is not surprising that they might have thought this; to this day a Total Eclipse of the Sun confuses animals and birds. While a Total Solar Eclipse occurs somewhere every 18 months or so, to really experience a Total Solar Eclipse you need to be in the path of totality. It may be centuries between a total solar eclipse plunging a specific location into darkness during the day.

As astronomers and astrologers started to chart and understand eclipses, they were able to predict when these events would happen. The explorer Christopher Columbus was able to use his knowledge of an upcoming Total Lunar Eclipse to salvage a situation that could have turned out very differently for him.

Solar eclipses were often thought to represent the health or condition of a ruler or country while lunar eclipses were considered to more often be representative of the general population of the place that was experiencing the phenomena.

Solar or Lunar

Solar Eclipses occur on New Moons. New Moons are traditionally a time for sowing seeds and are a good time for breaking old habits and taking up new routines.

A Solar Eclipse amplifies the power of the New Moon and may bring sudden change, or bring a situation to light. Solar Eclipses tend to be associated with beginnings and with external events happening to you.

Diagram of what causes solar and lunar eclipses.
Tomruen, Solar lunar eclipse diagram, CC BY-SA 4.0

Lunar Eclipses occur on Full Moons. Full Moons are traditionally a time of harvest. It is a time for reaping what you have sown in previous New Moon periods.

A Lunar Eclipse amplifies the power of the Full Moon and may bring sudden change or bring something that has been hidden out into the open. Lunar Eclipses tend to be associated with endings, and are often more emotional and focused on change from within.

Read more about Lunar Eclipses and Solar Eclipses and their types further down.

What to expect astrologically from an Eclipse

Eclipses tend to bring to light problems or issues that you may need to work on or develop to improve circumstances in your life when they make a significant aspect to your natal or secondary progressed chart.

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Natal House/s Affected by the Eclipse

Looking at the house that an eclipse degree falls in as well as the house/s that is ruled by the sign involved in the eclipse will give you a general overview of the areas of life that may be affected by an eclipse. However, not everybody will experience an eclipse with the same intensity and some may feel little or no effect at all.

Natal Planets, Chart Points, & the Eclipse Degree

If you have a natal planet, luminary (Sun and Moon) or chart point (Ascendant, MidHeaven) that is closely aspected by the degree of an eclipse you are more likely to experience the effects of the eclipse.

Some people allow an orb (give or take allowance) of 5 degrees either side of the eclipse degree but the smaller the orb, the stronger the effect should be felt. Some feel that anything over a 2-degree orb is unlikely to be felt at all.

The type of aspect that the eclipse degree makes to the natal placement has an effect too. Those with natal placements at the exact degree (conjunction which is 0°) will feel it most.

Those with challenging aspects to the eclipse degree such as a square ( 90°) or opposition (180°) may find what transpires more stressful to deal with.

Those with easier aspects to the eclipse degree such as the trine (120°) or sextile (60°) are more likely to incorporate any new discoveries or changes in a positive manner.

Difficult aspects to Venus and Jupiter (traditionally called the benefics) may still turn out positive or helpful but the effect may be low key or short-lasting. Difficult aspects to Mars and Saturn (traditionally called malefics) may bring disgrace or ruin.

The natal condition of any planet or luminary that makes an aspect to the eclipse degree is important too. What natal house it is in, which house it rules, it’s dignity and the aspects it makes to other planets in your chart will give some indication of how it will cope with the stress or change that an eclipse might bring.

The qualities of the natal planet that is in aspect to the eclipse degree are likely to be in the spotlight over the next year, for better or worse. If the natal planet in question has no aspects to other planets in the natal chart, mid-points may prove illuminating.

Looking at the Sabian Symbol for the eclipse degree may also give some insight into what to expect as well.

The Secondary Progressed Chart

The secondary progressed chart can be checked to see if it has any placements that aspect the eclipse degree or will do so in the near future. If an aspect is made, the time that it progresses to the exact degree and minute may be significant.

The position of the secondary progressed Moon will also help in determining the emotional responses in general for a specific time period.

Other Transits at Time of Eclipse

What else is happening at the time of an eclipse can have a big impact on how the eclipse is expressed. As the Sun and Moon are involved in eclipses, any planet making a close aspect to them at the time of the eclipse will make its presence felt.

Aspects between the other planets and events such as planets being retrograde during the time of the eclipse will naturally color the landscape at that given time but may not have much impact long term.

When you do have a natal placement making an aspect to an eclipse degree, any other significant transits occurring in your natal chart would presumably be incorporated into your experience. How interrelated those significant transits are to the eclipse events may vary.

Looking at the eclipse chart itself, set for the place of residence of the chart owner may also be informative

Possible Triggers

While the actual day of an eclipse may not manifest in something major happening in your life (presuming you have a close aspect to the eclipse degree) it is not uncommon to have important information come to light or something significant happen in the week leading up to or after the eclipse.

Sometimes it will be a month before or after the eclipse that will give you some clue of what the eclipse shining a light on that particular degree in your chart means.

The natal planet or luminary that is in aspect to the eclipse degree should be watched for significant transits to or from it. When the planet or luminary in question crosses one of the angles (Ascendant, Descendant, IC, Midheaven) may also bring about events.

Transiting Mars and Saturn can trigger the eclipse degree and further information may be received or events may transpire when Mars (as the planet of action) or Saturn (as the planet of karma) transits the eclipse degree or its opposition.

The lunar nodes may also be of interest when they cross the angles or conjunct or oppose the eclipse degree.

Taking that further, looking at the secondary progressions for the dates that transiting Mars and Saturn conjunct or oppose the eclipse degree showed secondary progressed Moon at significant degrees in my experience.

Saros Cycles or Series, which link eclipses in groups, may show that you experience two (or more) eclipses from one Saros Series. As eclipses in an individual series are spaced every 18 years, long-term influences may be noticed and have a sense of progress or synchronicity about them.

Saros Cycles or Series

The ancient Babylonians discovered that all solar eclipses belonged to specific groups called Saros Cycles and Series (later called Saros Series). Saros Series have between 71 to 73 eclipses in each one and run for approximately 1280 years.

At any one time, there will be about 42 different Saros Cycles active, with half of them having begun at the South Pole and the other half from the North Pole. They will be in various stages of their cycles.

The Saros Series that starts at the North Pole are called North Saros Series and those that start at the South Pole are called South Saros Series. In any one year, there will be an eclipse from a North Saros Series and one from a South Saros Series.

To distinguish which series an eclipse belongs to, they are numbered from 1 to 19 and have the suffix of North or South, depending on where the series first originated. The numbers refer to the years that the series will produce an eclipse. Eclipses that share a number will happen within six months of each other, but not necessarily within a calendar year.

For example, we have the following solar eclipses occurring over 2017 and 2018.

Feb 26, 2017 – Saros Series 19 South – 8°12′  Pisces
Aug 21, 2017 – Saros Series 1 North – 28°52′  Leo

Feb 15, 2018 – Saros Series 1 South – 27° 7′ Aquarius
Jul 13, 2018 – Saros Series 2 Old North – 20° 41′ Cancer
Aug 11, 2018 – Saros Series 2 New North – 18°41′  Leo

While the Saros Series 1 North eclipse occurred in 2017, and Saros Series 1 South in 2018, only six months separates them. While most calendar years will have two solar eclipses, some will have up to four.

Because the Saros Series run for hundreds of years, some will be coming to their end, while others are relatively new, so there are occasionally two series running from the same pole with the same number. To distinguish between them, one is called Old and one is called New.

For each Saros Series, there is an eclipse every 18 years plus 9 to 11 days.  There is usually a similarity in how the eclipses within one Saros Series will manifest or express themselves if their eclipse degree makes a significant aspect to your natal chart.

However, for every 18 years that an eclipse from a specific Saros Series occurs, not every eclipse is likely to make a significant aspect to your natal chart. This is because each progressive eclipse in the Saros Series moves about 10° along the zodiac and you may not have natal placements at that zodiac degree.

Similarly, you may have an eclipse make a significant aspect to your chart, but from another Saros Series. The eclipses from this other Saros Series may have a different “flavor” or expression of their energy when they aspect your natal chart.

Therefore, you could have a completely different experience from having two different eclipses aspecting your natal chart, depending on what Saros Series they are from.

View a listing of Solar Eclipse dates with corresponding Saros Series number here.

For those interested in investigating further Bernadette Brady has written an excellent book called “Predictive Astrology: The Eagle and the Lark” which includes a section on eclipses and Saros Series. She includes a short description of what can be expected for each Saros Series. 

Lunar Eclipse (Full Moon)

A lunar eclipse occurs at the time of a Full Moon (Sun and Moon opposite each other/ 180 degrees apart). When the Sun, Earth, and Moon are all in alignment during a Full Moon and the Earth is between the Sun and the Moon, a lunar eclipse occurs. It is safe to look at lunar eclipses. 

Lunar eclipse diagram
Diagram Source: NASA

As the Earth blocks out the light of the Sun (the Moon’s light comes from sunlight reflected on its surface), the shadow from Earth is thrown upon the Moon.

There are three types of lunar eclipses: total, partial and penumbral. How much of the Earth’s shadow falls on the Moon is what determines what type of lunar eclipse it is.

Total Lunar Eclipse

During a Total Lunar Eclipse, the Sun and Moon are exactly opposite each side of the Earth. The darkest part of Earth’s shadow (umbra) is cast upon the entire Moon but some Sunlight still reaches the Moon. The sunlight filters out most of the blue light from the Earth’s atmosphere when this happens and the Moon appears to be red. This is known as a Blood Moon.

Total, partial and penumbral lunar eclipse diagram
Diagram Source: Luca, Lunar eclipse, modified, CC0 1.0

Partial Lunar Eclipse

During a partial lunar eclipse, the lineup of the Sun, Earth, and Moon means that only part of the Earth’s darkest shadow (umbra) is cast upon the Moon. This happens because while the Sun and Moon are opposite each other (full moon) they may not be exactly opposite each side of the Earth.

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

During a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse, the Sun and Moon are aligned with Earth but are not exactly opposite each side of the Earth as in a Total Lunar Eclipse. In a Penumbral Eclipse, the alignment of Sun, Moon, and Earth means that only the lightest outer shadow of the Earth (penumbra) casts a shadow on the Moon. It can be hard to tell when a penumbral eclipse is occurring as it is not as noticeable as the Total and Partial Lunar Eclipses.

Solar Eclipse (New Moon)

You should not look directly at the Sun. During a Solar Eclipse, you can use specially manufactured glasses or equipment to view the event. 

A Solar Eclipse occurs at the time of a New Moon (Sun and Moon at the same degree). When the Sun, Moon, and Earth are all in alignment at the time of a New Moon and the Moon is between the Sun and the Earth, a solar eclipse occurs.

Solar eclipse diagram
Diagram Source: NASA

Total Solar Eclipse

A Total Solar Eclipse occurs when from our view on Earth, the Moon completely covers the Sun. To experience the full effects of a Total Solar Eclipse you need to be in an area where the umbra (darkest inner shadow) of the Moon is thrown upon the Earth. This is usually an area of about 100 miles (160 kilometers) by 10 000 miles (16 000 kilometers).  The chances of this happening in any one place are about once every 360 years.

Those outside the area of the umbra but within the penumbra will be able to see a Partial Eclipse of the Sun.

Partial Solar Eclipse

A Partial Solar Eclipse occurs when from our view on Earth, the Moon partially blocks out the Sun. As only the penumbra (outer lighter shadow) of the Moon reaches the earth, the Moon only appears to cover some of the Sun.

Those inside the penumbra cast by the Moon will be able to see the Moon moving in front of the Sun.

Annular Solar Eclipse

An Annular Solar Eclipse occurs when the Moon is far enough away from the Earth that it doesn’t appear as big as the Sun does as it passes across its path. In this case, there will be a ring around the Moon, which is the outer edges of the Sun.

In the case of an Annular Solar Eclipse, the Moons umbra is too short to reach the Earth, but the antumbra does. Those within the antumbra will be able to view the Annular Solar Eclipse.

Hybrid Solar Eclipse

Sometimes a Solar Eclipse will change from one type to another. This can happen when a Total Solar Eclipse turns into an Annular Eclipse or vice versa. This happens because the curvature of the earth means that one area might fall within the umbra while another area might fall within the antumbra.

More Information

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Born and bred in Brisbane, Australia, I have had a fascination with astrology since I was a child. I hold the STA’s Practitioners Level Certification in Horary and am currently studying Hellenistic Astrology.