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Lunations, Nodes and Eclipses: Part 10 of 12

by Mary Plumb

Why is it that we can talk about lunations, nodes, and eclipses in the same article? They are all celestial measurements based on the Moon's orbit around the Earth. The transiting lunation cycle is complete each month and begins at the time of the New Moon, when the Sun and Moon are occupying the same degree of the sign of the zodiac, or conjunct one another on the ecliptic. For example, there was a New Moon on January 27, 2017 at 8° Aquarius.

The following New Moon (which was a solar eclipse) was on February 26 at 8° Pisces. Since the lunation cycle lasts approximately 29 days, we have a New Moon every month. The New Moon is associated with beginnings (albeit in darkness) and a new infusion of potential. A good technique to use with your chart is to observe where the New Moon falls, i.e., what house is it in? Are there any planets at that degree or within close aspect to it? For example, if you have 8° Aquarius in the 3rd house with natal Saturn there as well, you may be able to harness the renewing and initiating energy of the New Moon in your mental state (or your environment and communications), and cultivate an essential Saturnine quality as well.

Look to the house positions where the subsequent New Moons fall to see in what general area you can begin again in during that month. As always, the angles of the chart are particularly sensitive, as well as any planet placed within 3° of the exact degree. But, even in a house that contains no planets, the New Moon will open fresh possibilities according to the house in which it falls. As with other cycles, start to watch the lunation cycle yourself and see what happens – how do you feel? Can you experience a beginning – again, a new start at the time of the New Moon, especially in relation to the house where it occurs?

The Full Moon is the time each month when the Sun and Moon are 180° apart on the ecliptic, always about 14 days after the New Moon. For example, the Full Moon in February was on the 10th when the Sun was at 22° Aquarius and the Moon was at 22° Leo; the next Full Moon was March 12 at 22° Virgo. Notice that the Full Moon location is given for the position of the Moon herself at that time; the Sun will always be at the exact opposite degree of the zodiac. As a teaching aid, watch the Full Moon's positions in your chart in the same way as the New Moon, but now you can expect something to visibly, or somewhat dramatically, come to a head or come into your awareness (remember that we can see at night at the Full Moon), again relative to house position and any planets that the lunation touches directly or by close aspect. Since the Full Moon is always the opposition point between the Sun and Moon, relationships to others are often highlighted at the Full Moon as well.

Although the lunation cycle proceeds from New to Full to New Moon again every month, when certain astronomical conditions exist along with the lunation we have the appearance of an eclipse. The word eclipse is derived from the Greek word meaning to fail, to omit or to abandon; in this case, there is the obscuring of one celestial body by another. At the time of a solar (New Moon) eclipse, the Moon is between the Earth and the Sun, and the Sun's light is (partially or totally) obscured. If the eclipse is visible from where we are, we will see it in daylight, when the Sun is above the horizon. We will see the darkening of the Sun's light, the Moon's crescent shadowing across his face, the Moon eclipsing or obscuring the Sun's energy. If it is a total solar eclipse, the Sun will disappear completely, a rare and awesome sight.

Just as the solar eclipse can only occur at the New Moon, the lunar eclipse can only occur at the Full Moon.1 During a lunar eclipse, the Earth is between the Sun and Moon and the light of the Moon is either partially or completely blocked by the Earth's shadow. If the eclipse is total, the Moon's light is completely obscured and a very dramatic picture is revealed – the brightness of the Full Moon is darkened gradually as the shadow creeps across her face. In this case, the Sun's light does not reach the Moon; instead, we see the shadow of the Earth being cast upon the Moon, the Moon being eclipsed.

Eclipses are very beautiful and dramatic celestial events that are visible from Earth, and have long been regarded as enormously important. To begin to understand their possible meaning, start with your sense of the Sun and Moon's functions and try to imagine what a highlighting of each function could suggest. As an example, if we consider the Moon as ruler of the past and container of memory, perhaps something dramatic about the substance that forms us may be revealed or recognized at the time of an eclipse that affects our chart strongly. (Again, look to house positions and any planetary involvement in your own chart.) If the Sun is seen as an indication of our purpose, role, and basic identity, perhaps we will be profoundly questioning these themes if an eclipse falls strongly in our chart. Another way to begin considering eclipses is to imagine them as spectacular statements from the cosmos. A solar eclipse is a very strong statement of new beginnings (New Moon), while a lunar eclipse is a striking picture of ripeness and revelation (Full Moon).

Although an ordinary lunation generally has an effect for the month in which it occurs, the question of how long an eclipse point remains sensitive is a good one and is much discussed in astrological circles. One easy tip is to consider that the point is sensitive until the next eclipse, and watch for transits to the degree of the eclipse to see what happens. For example, the solar eclipse on September 1, 2016 at 9° Virgo may have been strongly activated on December 31 when transiting Mars reached 9° Pisces, opposing the eclipse degree. There are generally four eclipses a year – two solar and two lunar.

Although eclipses occur in cycles and can be accurately predicted, their occurrence depends also upon the presence of the Moon's nodes. The nodes are points in space where the Moon's orbit, if extended on a plane, intersects the Sun's orbit, the ecliptic. The ephemeris gives the position of the North Node of the Moon, and the South Node is always 180° apart, i.e., the nodes are always in opposition aspect to each other. The nodes travel backward along the ecliptic at approximately 3 minutes per day, taking just under 19 years to make a complete transit around the zodiac. The lunar nodes are very rich in symbolic meaning andare used extensively in Hindu astrology. The North Node of the Moon has been traditionally called the Dragon's Head, while the southern point is called the Dragon's Tail. They form an axis across the birth chart, often pointing to deep, soul issues or moments of destiny in an unfolding life. The return of the lunar nodes occurs just before the ages of 19, 38, 56, and 75, and certain destiny-making events may transpire at these times.

All of these topics – lunations, eclipses, and nodes – are related, and studying one will enhance your understanding of them all. They are all tools, the observation of which, will teach you a great deal. All of the books suggested below are accessible, so please explore further! Pay attention to current events to see how these patterns are played out in the larger sphere as well as your own personal life.

There are many different ways that astrologers use eclipse cycles in their work. They are of great importance in mundane work (the forecasting of geopolitical events), and are also used in personal analysis by some to show sensitive points on the birth chart, e.g., the prenatal eclipse, which shows the position of the solar eclipse previous to one's birth.

1. The Sun and Moon must be in parallel aspect to one other, i.e., when they are within one degree of the same degree of declination, i.e., the position above or below the celestial equator described in degrees and minutes north or south of the equator. The Sun and Moon must also be conjunct one or both of the Moon's nodes for an eclipse to occur.


Robert Jansky, Interpreting the Eclipses; ACS Publications, Inc., 1984.

Alexander Ruperti, Cycles of Becoming: The Planetary Pattern of Growth; CRCS Pub., 1978.

Tracy Marks, The Astrology of Self-Discovery; CRCS Pub., 1985, Chap. 3 and Chap. 4



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