A total eclipse like the one set to happen on Aug. 21 is a positively intoxicating event. A blackened sun fringed by a radiant corona will plunge everything under it into eerie daytime darkness, a phenomenon that makes bats fly around like it’s nighttime and awakens primal instincts in humans. The effect is powerful; as science writer John Dvorak wrote, "It was as if the most primitive part of the brain — the part inherited from reptiles — kicked into play and now controlled my emotions." This upcoming one is getting an inordinate amount of attention because a large portion of the US will be treated to a full view of the eclipse, something that hasn’t happened in years.
While all of this is perfectly interesting, I, like many people, feel like I hear the most about eclipses when reading my horoscope. What I’ve never known, though, is exactly how eclipses affect our charts, or why they are such a big deal in astrology — so I decided to talk to astrologers to hear what they think about of all of this.
First things first: Eclipses, particularly this eclipse, mean something different for everyone, depending on your chart. Astrologer Susan Miller writes that anyone whose birthday falls within five days of the eclipse (or whose birthday is Feb. 21) should guard their health, and should know that the year that follows that particular birthday will be a critical one for them. Leos may also feel solar eclipses strongly, because the sun is their ruler.
In general, solar eclipses have a lot of symbolism when it comes to light. The sun provides all of the light for our planet, astrologer Chani Nicholas told BuzzFeed, and it’s a force of life. When the sun’s light gets obscured, things get a little temperamental down here on Earth. Light’s absence is associated with death, destruction, and an overturning of power.
Astrologer Wade Caves told BuzzFeed he sees a lot of connections between this eclipse and health. “Eclipses tend to mark endings, and the closing down of things,” he said. “The sun has implications of health and vitality in people who lead and take charge. When moon eclipses the sun, it’s almost like the source of health, vitality, lumination, and truth are momentarily taken away from us.”
And what about this eclipse? Even though it’s no longer thought to be bad luck to be in the direct path of the eclipse like it was in the ancient days, Nicholas said, “it’s still a shadow falling on the US. It feels very symbolically resonant somehow.”
Not only that, but Nicholas says a theme for this eclipse is breakthroughs — which, as she reminded me, often come after breakdowns. Some people might have important personal breakthroughs in how they express themselves and feel in the world. Or we might see important breakthroughs for the country as a whole.
“For America, this is a time to deal with our national self-image,” Nicholas said. “We’re coming to grips with how we see ourselves.”
Remember for a moment that countries have birth charts too, and the last time the path of totality was limited to the US was in 1776. In that year, we had war, sure, but we also overthrew a king and established lasting independence.
“Eclipses reveal shadows,” Nicolas said, “but they also create a feeling of breaking through to something, especially for certain people.”
So, who are those people exactly? “The eclipse is happening at 28 degrees Leo, so it’s going to be really significant for anyone whose ascendant is at 28 degrees Leo within a degree or two,” Nicholas said. (An ascendant is the zodiacal sign and degree that was ascending on the eastern horizon when and where you were born. You can figure out yours here.)
“One of those people who this will affect is Donald Trump,” Nicholas said right off the bat. As in, President of the United States Donald Trump. Trump is a Gemini, but his ascendant is at 29 degrees of Leo — so you better believe he will feel this eclipse.
“Leo ascendant gives him a lot of bravado and makes him act kingly,” Nicholas added. “The sun is the ruler of Leo, and the sun’s metal is gold. Trump’s association with gold and glitz and glamor is all tied to his Leo ascendant.” Additionally, when Trump was born, the sun was conjunct, or next to, Uranus. “That makes him a very unstable, erratic, and, some might say, unpredictable person,” Nicholas said. “It gives him the persona of someone who is going to break things and change them and cause a certain amount of upheaval.”
In fact, a ton of on-the-nose metaphors surround this eclipse. It’s occurring during the reign of Leo, and “when there are eclipses in Leo, astrologers historically have linked them to the coming of a ruler or the downfall of one,” Nicholas said. It’s also joined with the fixed star Regulus, whose name literally means “king” or “ruler.”
That’s not all. Trump was actually born on a total lunar eclipse (June 14, 1946), and, according to Nicholas, if you’re born during an eclipse, you're more susceptible to the energy of an eclipse. “Eclipse times are times of heightened activity and an amplification of you and an issue you’re going through,” Nicholas said.
All of those crazy-sounding coincidences definitely add up, too. “You can use a points system to see how affected you’ll be by an eclipse,” astrologer Christopher Renstrom told BuzzFeed. “The more points you have, the more potent an eclipse is for you.” So far, Trump has five points: his Leo ascendant, the connection to Regulus, his birth during an eclipse, Uranus’s position near the moon when he was born, and the eclipse’s prominent presence in the country he leads. And that, my friends, is a bigly amount of points.
Throughout history, solar eclipses haven’t been exactly kind to kings and rulers. The sun brings light and power — Louis XIV was called the Sun King for a reason — and the moon fully blocking off that light is not a great sign for the person in charge.
“Since the sun is associated with health and vitality in leaders, when it gets eclipsed, it’s almost like the source of health, vitality, lumination, and truth are momentarily taken away from us,” Caves said.
One leader who suffered an unfortunate fate during an eclipse was Mongkut, King of Siam. Mongkut was well-versed in astrology and accurately predicted a solar eclipse on Aug. 18, 1868, Renstrom said. He invited a bunch of people to see the totality of the eclipse, which conveniently happened within his realm. The eclipse went off without a hitch, showing Mongkut’s astrological prowess, but he contracted malaria during his expedition to see the eclipse and died six weeks later.
Anyway, Renstrom noted that Mongkut isn’t the only leader whose fate was tied to an eclipse. In a recent Facebook post, he neatly laid out all the ways Bill Clinton was practically fated to get impeached in December 1998. Clinton, a Leo, testified before a grand jury five days before the solar eclipse on Aug. 22, 1998. “What he said in that testimony was enough for Ken Starr to start articles of impeachment against him,” Renstrom said.
Three months later, he was impeached by the House of Representatives. And three months after that, on Feb. 12, 1999 — just four days before another solar eclipse — Clinton was acquitted by the Senate.
Meanwhile, Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House of Representatives on Feb. 24, 1868, just one day after — you guessed it — a solar eclipse.
Eclipses can happen any time of year, but will always take place in pairs, six months apart from each other, Renstrom explained. Often, an event that happens around the first eclipse is revisited on or near its partner. And the February-August connection is important, because most of February falls under Aquarius, the same sign inaugurations happen under, and most of August falls under Leo, the sign of kings. This was certainly true for Clinton, who was acquitted on Feb. 12, 1999, four days before a solar eclipse in Aquarius.
“Every time you have an impeachment, it’s in August or February,” Renstrom said, adding that Richard Nixon resigned in August.
Eclipses aren't just about the sun and the moon, and Nicholas sees some other...interesting things going on in the sky around eclipse time. “This eclipse is going to be trine Uranus and trine Saturn and conjunct Mars,” Nicholas said. “Saturn and Mars are the most difficult planets that we deal with in astrology. Uranus is very unstable and unpredictable; it breaks things, but it can lead to breakthroughs. Mars is aggression, courage, the ability to pursue goals. Saturn wants to create form and structure. When these three are together during it, it feels very tense, and like conflicting energies all called into the same event.”
Unstable, unpredictable, broken, aggressive, conflict...all related to an eclipse that could strongly affect the president who's already promised "fury and fire." Nothing to see here, folks!
Caves is highly aware of all of those competing elements, and stressed how prominently Mars features in this eclipse. “Mars is connected to principles of warfare, military, and a police state. I mean, if you gave the god of war control for a day, what kind of things do you think he would do?” Um, I can think of a few things off the top of my head, and I want none of them to happen, especially not before Game of Thrones ends.
But! Don’t pry open the door to your bunker just yet. “I can almost guarantee you nothing will happen on Aug. 21,” Caves said, adding that the effect of solar eclipses can take months or years — so just keep an eye on the calendar as events unfold.
Nicholas said we should look for some kind of upheaval, or for vital information — either the personal or political kind — to be unlocked. Given that Mercury will be retrograde from Aug. 12 to Sept. 5 (ugh, I know), whatever vital political or personal information that happens on Aug. 21 “will be revisited or revealed in some major way on or around Sept. 5,” Nicholas said. Duly noted.
As for Renstrom, he’s captivated by the presence of Sagittarius, which is connected to foreign trade and powers, during the eclipse. “Trump’s belligerent words may lead to more circumscribing against his power,” he said. “Congress is slowly but surely circling off his influence with foreign powers. My suspicion is that they may be looking to enact something similar about North Korea.” But it could take years for the effects of whatever happens this month to really be noticeable; Caves said perhaps we'll feel it most in 2020, at the end of the current eclipse cycle.
While this all sounds extreme and like we’re basically heading for a societal collapse, Caves did say that “stuff is rarely that dramatic.” These planets and their supposed meanings and powers may sound omnipotent, but they usually work in subtler ways. And if any of the astrologers sound...alarmed, it’s because it’s pretty unusual for an eclipse to feature so many curious planetary alignments and connections.
Contrary to popular belief, astrologers aren’t soothsayers. They definitely don’t (and can’t) predict the future. Instead, “I think about how the present is intertwined with the future and the past,” Caves said. “It’s one thing to predict something, but it’s totally important to use the astrological system to ask, ‘How did we get here in the first place?’” Which, of course, is good advice even when a historic eclipse isn’t about to happen.
They’re also not trying to scare us. Ptolemy, a first-century Greek astrologer, was often asked why he prognosticated things that scared the bejeebus out of his countryfolk. “His response was that the usefulness of foreknowledge allows us to steady our souls for what is going to come,” Caves said. “It gives us a moment to brace ourselves.”
Obviously, anything astrologers say could happen, but it certainly doesn’t mean that they want it to, or that it will. They’re just literally reading the signs, looking at history, seeing patterns, and trying to make sense of it all, just like you or me.
In a time when nothing seems to follow any of the patterns we expect, it makes perfect sense that people would start to look away from their phones and computers and up to the sky to figure out what’s going on. How we got here. What might happen.
No matter where you fall on the horoscope believer scale — die-hard devotee or committed skeptic — the eclipse will happen. It’ll cut across the country, millions of people will see it happen, either partially or in full, and Earth will continue to turn. Maybe something dramatic will happen in relation to it; maybe it won’t. And if nothing major occurs, it’ll be easy to dismiss all of this as crap — at least until the next time you check your horoscope and it’s scarily accurate.
Either way, when the eclipse is ready to put on its show, try not to think about what it could portend. Just look up, watch it go, and enjoy. Oh, and don’t forget your glasses.