The Ouroboros & The Total Solar Eclipse

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Well. Here we are. On the brink of one of the most anticipated, most talked about, astrological and astronomical events of the year.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling bone weary. Exhausted; soul, body and mind. This dying Balsamic Moon has been pulling me under like a rip current the last few days.

The Solar Eclipse will be occurring in my first house, within a couple degrees of my Leo Ascendant. The Ascendant symbolizes the Eastern horizon at the time of your birth. It speaks to how you emerged from the womb to first greet the world. The sign (and planets) on the Ascendant in your natal chart describe both how others see you (the personality you exude, your physical appearance), and how you perceive others, your environment, and this life that you have found yourself in –  it colours the lens through which you see the world. The degree of your Ascendant is the intersection between you and the world. It is active and dynamic – a point of constant becoming.

I have been living in near isolation and hiding for the past 18 months, doing my best to veer as far away from my Ascendant degree, the point of intersection with the world, as I can (i.e. as in, toward the 8th House cave where my Sun, Mercury, and Venus live).

At an Osteopath appointment way back at the end of March, while the Osteopath worked on my body, I lay on the table rambling on about depression, identity crises, and some insights I had harvested over the year while living as a hermit. I was still riddled with insecurities and self doubt, with no idea how I would ever rebuild my capacity and become self-sufficient again. I wasn’t doing “well” at this point, but I was doing “better“.

My Osteopath is a quiet, intuitive type. Her primary focus is the body, rather than the mind, but she was listening intently as I spoke. She then told me, with great certainty, that I had already birthed something new into my life. It had happened. I was now in a process of emerging. The deep changes had already occurred. The next task was to figure out how to be this “new me” in the broader spheres of life. I was gradually approaching my Ascendant degree again; what felt like a point of re-entry into the world.

It was so reassuring to hear this reflected back at me, since in so many ways I still felt deep in the trenches.

But I trusted her. Although my progress still seemed to move at a snail’s pace, I trusted her trust in me.

Leo Ascendants view the world through the lens of theatre, through drama, through story. Life is like a stage.

As this Solar Eclipse activates my Ascendant tomorrow, making it buzz and hum with energy, I suspect my life will soon receive a call to leave the shadows of the wings and enter the stage for the next Act, the next Scene. The curtains are currently rustling as the rigging system prepares to pull back the heavy drapes.

And to be frank, I do not feel ready. At all.

Last night I dreamt of a snake.

Snakes can hold many meanings in dreams (it is also a Lilith symbol). One of the symbolic meanings is derived from the regular molting process a snake undergoes where it sheds its skin – all in one piece usually, which makes it an explicitly powerful symbol of regeneration. Unlike other animals, the skin of a snake does not stretch. Therefore, further growth is impossible if it does not shed its exterior skin. Shedding one’s skin is one of life’s many “deaths”.

New growth sometimes demands we shed and molt. How tight and restrictive is your life feeling right now? Like a snake, are you outgrowing your exterior skin?

I think perhaps, I have partially undergone this process… this eclipse may call for me to complete it in the coming months (figuratively speaking!).

The Ouroboros is a fascinating ancient symbol that depicts a serpent eating its tail (also called “ the tail devourer“). It dates back as far as Ancient Egypt, but the Ouroboros has been incorporated into medieval traditions, Alchemy, Gnosticism, Jungian psychology to name a few. There are many parallels to be found in other traditions in the world including those that reference Kundalini energy as a serpent with its tail in her mouth at the base of a person’s spine, laying dormant until awakened (this will be familiar to those who practice yoga or work with chakras).

It is a symbol that speaks to regeneration, the constant cycles of death and renewal, creation and destruction. It speaks to duality and wholeness, the eternal unity of all things, and the integration and assimilation of opposites through facing of the human shadow.

Whether you have front row seats to the Total Solar Eclipse in all its glory, or not, embrace The Ouroboros. Face your shadows and shed some skin.

I trust in your emergence.

I live in Canada, far off the Path of Totality. I’m not sure I’ll see anything more exciting than a minor darkening of the sky, as if the sun was facing a thick cloud cover. I am quite envious of all you who will witness the day dramatically turn to night! Someday I will catch a Total Solar Eclipse in person, but in the mean time, I will live vicariously through other people’s experiences!

Yes, the symbolism perceived through the astrological lens is powerful (for a more thorough investigation of this, check out my Eclipse Primer). However, the actual astronomy of it all, the lived experience of a Total Solar Eclipse itself, overflows with numinous awe.

I thoroughly enjoyed these tantalizing snippets of eclipse experience written by Mabel Loomis Todd,  presented by Maria Popova in her incredible curation of wisdom at Brain Pickings, and I wanted to share:

What to Look for During a Total Solar Eclipse: Mabel Loomis Todd’s Poetic 19th-Century Guide to Totality, with Help from Emily Dickinson

“As the dark body of the Moon gradually steals its silent way across the brilliant Sun, little effect is at first noticed. The light hardly diminishes, apparently, and birds and animals detect no change. During the partial phase a curious appearance may be noticed under any shady tree. Ordinarily, without an eclipse, the sunlight filters through the leaves in a series of tiny, overlapping disks on the ground, each of which is an image of the Sun.

[…] As the entire duration of an eclipse, partial phases and all, embraces two or three hours, often for an hour after “first contact” insects still chirp in the grass, birds sing, and animals quietly continue their grazing. But a sense of uneasiness seems gradually to steal over all life. Cows and horses feed intermittently, bird songs diminish, grasshoppers fall quiet, and a suggestion of chill crosses the air. Darker and darker grows the landscape.

[…] Then, with frightful velocity, the actual shadow of the Moon is often seen approaching, a tangible darkness advancing almost like a wall, swift as imagination, silent as doom. The immensity of nature never comes quite so near as then, and strong must be the nerves not to quiver as this blue-black shadow rushes upon the spectator with incredible speed. A vast, palpable presence seems overwhelming the world. The blue sky changes to gray or dull purple, speedily becoming more dusky, and a death-like trance seizes upon everything earthly. Birds, with terrified cries, fly bewildered for a moment, and then silently seek their night quarters. Bats emerge stealthily. Sensitive flowers, the scarlet pimpernel, the African mimosa, close their delicate petals, and a sense of hushed expectancy deepens with the darkness. An assembled crowd is awed into absolute silence almost invariably… Often the very air seems to hold its breath for sympathy; at other times a lull suddenly awakens into a strange wind, blowing with unnatural effect.

Then out upon the darkness, gruesome but sublime, flashes the glory of the incomparable corona, a silvery, soft, unearthly light, with radiant streamers, stretching at times millions of uncomprehended miles into space, while the rosy, flaming protuberances skirt the black rim of the Moon in ethereal splendor. It becomes curiously cold, dew frequently forms, and the chill is perhaps mental as well as physical.

Suddenly, instantaneous as a lightning flash, an arrow of actual sunlight strikes the landscape, and Earth comes to life again, while corona and protuberances melt into the returning brilliance, and occasionally the receding lunar shadow is glimpsed as it flies away with the tremendous speed of its approach.” ~ Mabel Loomis Todd

I’m intoxicated with these descriptions. I can’t help, but want to share one more!

David Baron was given the following advice by an astronomer: “Before you die… you owe it to yourself to experience a total solar eclipse.”

He acted on this advice and conveyed his reflections on the experience in the following 2017 Ted Talk(transcript excerpts included below)


“[…] Well, about 10 minutes before the total solar eclipse was set to begin, weird things started to happen. A cool wind kicked up. Daylight looked odd, and shadows became very strange; they looked bizarrely sharp, as if someone had turned up the contrast knob on the TV. Then I looked offshore, and I noticed running lights on boats, so clearly it was getting dark, although I hadn’t realized it. Well soon, it was obvious it was getting dark. It felt like my eyesight was failing.

And then all of a sudden, the lights went out. Well, at that, a cheer erupted from the beach, and I took off my eclipse glasses, because at this point during the total eclipse, it was safe to look at the sun with the naked eye. And I glanced upward, and I was just dumbstruck.

Now, consider that, at this point, I was in my mid-30s. I had lived on earth long enough to know what the sky looks like… I’d seen blue skies and grey skies and starry skies and angry skies and pink skies at sunrise. But here was a sky I had never seen.

First, there were the colors. Up above, it was a deep purple-grey, like twilight. But on the horizon it was orange, like sunset, 360 degrees. And up above, in the twilight, bright stars and planets had come out. So there was Jupiter and there was Mercury and there was Venus. They were all in a line.

And there, along this line, was this thing, this glorious, bewildering thing. It looked like a wreath woven from silvery thread, and it just hung out there in space, shimmering. That was the sun’s outer atmosphere, the solar corona. And pictures just don’t do it justice. It’s not just a ring or halo around the sun; it’s finely textured, like it’s made out of strands of silk. And although it looked nothing like our sun, of course, I knew that’s what it was. So there was the sun, and there were the planets, and I could see how the planets revolve around the sun. It’s like I had left our solar system and was standing on some alien world, looking back at creation.

And for the first time in my life, I just felt viscerally connected to the universe in all of its immensity. Time stopped, or it just kind of felt nonexistent, and what I beheld with my eyes — I didn’t just see it, it felt like a vision. And I stood there in this nirvana for all of 174 seconds — less than three minutes — when all of a sudden, it was over. The sun burst out, the blue sky returned, the stars and the planets and the corona were gone. The world returned to normal. But I had changed.

And that’s how I became an umbraphile — an eclipse chaser.

[…] And so let me tell you: before you die, you owe it to yourself to experience a total solar eclipse. It is the ultimate experience of awe.

Now, that word, “awesome,” has grown so overused that it’s lost its original meaning. True awe, a sense of wonder and insignificance in the face of something enormous and grand, is rare in our lives. But when you experience it, it’s powerful. Awe dissolves the ego. It makes us feel connected. Indeed, it promotes empathy and generosity. Well, there is nothing truly more awesome than a total solar eclipse.

What if we all stood together, as many people as possible, in the shadow of the moon? Just maybe, this shared experience of awe would help heal our divisions, get us to treat each other just a bit more humanely.

Now, admittedly, some folks consider my evangelizing a little out there; my obsession, eccentric. I mean, why focus so much attention on something so brief? Why cross the globe — or state lines, for that matter — for something that lasts three minutes? As I said: I am not a spiritual person. I don’t believe in God. I wish I did. But when I think of my own mortality — and I do, a lot — when I think of everyone I have lost, my mother in particular, what soothes me is that moment of awe I had in Aruba. I picture myself on that beach, looking at that sky, and I remember how I felt. My existence may be temporary, but that’s OK because, my gosh, look at what I’m a part of.

And so this is a lesson I’ve learned, and it’s one that applies to life in general: duration of experience does not equal impact. One weekend, one conversation — hell, one glance — can change everything. Cherish those moments of deep connection with other people, with the natural world, and make them a priority. Yes, I chase eclipses. You might chase something else. But it’s not about the 174 seconds. It’s about how they change the years that come after.

Thank you.” ~ David Baron


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