The Eclipse, an enduring Celestial Omen

An eclipse occurred, a kingdom fell and someone noted it. Another eclipse occurred and a similar event occurred. The early omenologists or soothsayers began passing this information on one to the next. It seemed to have some validity and so it would be passed on, which validated it even further.

An eclipse is probably the most dramatic of celestial events – as the day briefly turns to night. Accordingly it is an omen that can’t be ignored. It signals a big change, perhaps the fall of a dynasty, as the light of the Sun is eaten in midday by the darkness of Night. Poets, playwrights and even historians have passed on the continued significance of this celestial event. Even our language indicates the omen-like nature of the eclipse. “His talents were eclipsed by those of a younger man.” This sentence indicates that one was on the way down and the other on the way up. “Bach’s talents eclipsed the composers who preceded him, such as Buxtehude.”

However long before the eclipse was noted as a significant celestial omen, our perceptive ancestors had linked the lunar and solar cycles to earthly events. Note these links were associative, not causal – intuitive, not deductive. While many of their earthly associations were functional some were psycho-emotional. It’s easy to guess by residual words such as lunacy and lunatic, what the effects of the Moon were on behavior. Many still attribute craziness to a Full Moon. 

With the influence of the Sun & Moon, and their connection, the eclipse, so obviously apparent on earthly affairs – the ancients extended their attentions to the firmament of heaven, which consisted of an uncountable number of tiny dots of light of varying colors and intensity. They began by observing and naming the fixed collections of these dots of light, i.e. the constellations, to assist in navigation – their early Global Positioning Device.

Even the Bible notes the connection. “And God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for Signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.” Genesis 1:14

Once they had generated some precise star charts they noticed that several of these pinpoints of light were not fixed in a constellation, but actually wandered around the sky. These wandering stars, as the planets were originally referred to, were eventually assigned a unique celestial sphere to differentiate them from the fixed stars.

From the physical manifestations of the heavens it was an easy step to the psycho-emotional-political effects – i.e. the falling of kingdoms and dynasties with eclipses – waging war when Mars was in ascendance - making love when Venus reigned supreme. Again these associations were passed on from generation to generation over hundreds, then thousands of years. Time and again these associations were verified and passed on. They seemed to make some kind of odd sense.

These connections between the human and celestial are somewhat captivating. For instance whenever the Moon and Venus are together in the sky it seems to be a time of interpersonal harmony. So I was not surprised and even said, ‘Of course.’ upon hearing that an Indian went through a cathartic experience upon viewing the Moon & Venus rising together in the early morning sky before dawn. He had an epiphany concerning the power of forgiveness over anger and bitterness.

So these a-causal connections, both physical and emotional were and are passed on from generation to generation because they are validated by experience - over and over again. And the eclipse with its direct connection to the Sun and Moon started it all.

Check out how the urge to predict the time and location of eclipses led to math and astronomy, and subsequently science, in the article, ‘Astrology drives Astronomy – not vice versa’.