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It’s Eclipse Season: What You Need to Know

Photo: Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images

The interpretive language of astrology is so rich and expressive that it’s easy to grow detached from the physical movement of planets through the sky. Knowing a planet is retrograde might feel emotionally potent, but how many of us notice the planet itself appearing to move backward through the sky?

There’s nothing wrong with this, of course; modern astrology is a language for expressing our human emotion as much as it’s a language for the physical stars. Still, it’s important to get shaken out of the realm of pure metaphor, and nothing’s more powerful than a total solar eclipse — when the moon temporarily blocks out all the sun’s light — to remind us of the bright physical immediacy of the world, to bring us back to our bodies, to show us the power and drama of the skies. Welcome to eclipse season.

In astrological terms, eclipses are moments of change and upheaval. They’re special times worth paying attention to, but less rare than the news would make them seem. Right now, we’re in an eclipse season, one that began the first week of August and will last through the solar eclipse on the 21st. Most years the Earth has two “eclipse seasons,” happening roughly six months apart and lasting about 34 days.

These seasons are the only times when the angle of the moon’s orbit makes it possible for the Earth, moon, and sun to move into alignment. Even though solar eclipses happen multiple times a year, it’s rare to be able to witness a total solar eclipse. Each one is visible from only a small area; many aren’t visible from land at all.

Whether or not an eclipse is visible, though, each eclipse season brings change, in the form of a pair of linked eclipses — one lunar, one solar, happening in signs on opposite poles of the zodiac. Every lunar eclipse comes with a full moon, and every solar eclipse with a new moon.

This season’s lunar eclipse happened in Aquarius on August 7 — the Earth was positioned between the sun and the moon, and the sun cast Earth’s shadow over the full moon. You might have noticed yourself feeling emotional, feeling wild, feeling a deep need without a shape or a name. A lunar eclipse can make your emotions run and leap in weird directions and take unexpected forms. It’s like a full moon in overdrive, and if you’re still feeling its effects, it’s okay — eclipse season isn’t over yet.

Monday will bring the solar eclipse in Leo, the culmination of this season. During a solar eclipse, the moon is positioned directly between the Earth and the sun, and the moon blocks out all or part of the sun’s light from reaching us where we stand on Earth. This is a total eclipse, which means for a moment, all of the sun’s light will be blocked by the new moon. It’s the one time a new moon, usually invisible to us against the dark night sky, can be seen clearly — a dark circle lit in silhouette by the sun behind it.

In normal months, a new moon marks an opening, a beginning, a shift in your path. A solar eclipse is like a new moon magnified and refracted through the sun. If a new moon is a time for setting intentions, a solar eclipse is a time for opening all the doors and windows and seeing what the wind blows in.

Eclipses have a reputation for upheaval and scariness and shaking your life to its core. It’s easy to laugh at ancient beliefs — that eclipses are bad omens or apocalyptic messages — but still, there’s a kind of magic in recognizing we can’t control the skies, no matter how well we can predict their movements.

Even when we think we know better, a solar eclipse can upend our physical sense of how the world should work. A solar eclipse can tilt the world’s balance and shift the world’s symmetry. It can change our own feelings and lives, and this change is reflected back to us in the sky. Daytime can turn to night, and night can turn to daytime again. Eclipses can remind us that transformative change is possible, right here on earth.

It’s Eclipse Season: What You Need to Know