Dancing in the Dark

Eclipses and the Cycle of Healing Crisis

by April Eliott Kent The following article is excerpted from a lecture presented
to the San Diego Astrological Society in April 1999.

Working with eclipses in natal astrology.

I don’t know if this is your experience, but I find that a client usually comes to me for the first time because they’re at a critical turning point, a “crisis” in their life.  It’s usually very easy to pinpoint the source of the crisis with eclipses. I just map out the solar and lunar eclipses for the year, figure out where those points fall in the client’s chart by house placement and hard aspect to natal planets. Then I backtrack 18 years, at 4.5 year intervals. These will show me years where the client was receiving conjunctions, squares, and oppositions from eclipses to roughly these same areas of their chart.

At that point, I have easy reference points for exploring these issues in more depth during the reading.  Then I calculate secondary and solar arc progressions, transits, and the solar return chart for the year; almost invariably, the configurations in the chart receiving the most emphasis from eclipses will also show a lot of important activity in all these charts. Fairly quickly, the main themes for the year emerge and provide a solid framework for a reading.

This is a fairly conventional way of working with any kind of cycle, whether it’s cycles of Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, progressed lunar phases, anything.  For me, what makes eclipses especially appealing as a cyclical tool is:

  • They’re really easy to use.  If a client comes to me and says, “When will I find a relationship?”  It’s a fairly simple matter to say, “Well, when were you last in an important relationship?” – find where the eclipses were, and work with 4.5 year periods from there.  The 9 year opposition part of the cycle seems especially strong.
  • Secondly, of all the tools we use in prediction, eclipses are the least subtle! People notice their effects.  They have a kind of bare bones, brass knuckles sort of immediacy about them.
  • Finally, eclipses show where crisis is occurring and how it’s related to past events, in a way that can reveal to your client just how far they’ve come in dealing with a particular issue in their life.  That can be extremely helpful and validating when your client is in “Why do I keep making these boneheaded mistakes?” mode.

Eclipses move clockwise through the chart, unlike progressions and transits, which move counter-clockwise.  And because solar eclipses usually occur in opposite signs in a given year, they will very often fall in houses of the chart that directly oppose one another.  So in interpreting eclipses in the houses, I’m working not with twelve individual houses so much as six teams of houses, or house axes, directly opposite one another.

The size of the houses in your chart vary, of course, depending on where you were born.  If you were born extremely north or south of the equator, generally one or two of these house axes will be quite large while the rest are quite small–so that progressions, transits, and—yes—eclipses spend more time transiting the large houses than the small ones.  On average, though, you can count on eclipses falling in a particular axis of your chart for about 1½ years at a time.

Eclipses in the 1/7 axis:
Crisis of Individualism vs. Relationship.

We meet a young woman who has just become engaged to the man of her dreams – a fairly common event during this cycle, with its connection to the seventh house of partnership.  She can’t believe he loves her and treats her so well—all the other men in her life have been rotten.  He wants to take care of her, support her emotionally and financially, and she’s torn between not believing her luck and really not believing her luck.  “What did I do to deserve this?” she asks herself, just like all those other times when the treatment she was receiving was not so loving.

Her decision to marry him will probably be the simplest part of this cycle.  The minute they announce their plans to marry, their excited friends and families pounce, anxious to help, to give advice.  Before the bride knows it, the plans for her wedding day have been taken over and she has ceased to be a flesh and blood person: she is now a “bride,” constantly shuffled around from caterer and wedding consultant and her new in-laws.  As the weeks pass, she shows the strain of constant planning and decision making, trying to please new and important people in her life, trying to keep everyone happy as the plans for the wedding progress — she becomes more and more frantic and exhausted.

Meanwhile, people are treating her differently.  Her single friends wish her well, but they treat her with a curious mixture of enthusiasm, resentment, and sadness – “We’re losing you,” they tell her, and she wonders with a start if that’s true: will she be one of those women who abandons all her friends when she gets married?  Her friends have helped her define herself, and the thought of losing them is like losing part of her identity.  She becomes anxious that the “I’ will not survive becoming part of a “we.”  She finds herself growing short-tempered and defensive with her husband to be, who tries to be understanding but has worries of his own, particularly about how much she’s spending on the wedding.

Eclipses falling in the first and seventh house axis don’t always describe a marriage, but it is an event that well describes the fundamental crisis of this cycle:  profound challenges to self and identity brought about through close relationships with others.  It’s a cycle that frequently describes turning points such as marriage, divorce, moving away from home.  Like eclipses to Mars, the ruler of the first house, this cycle is a time of marking out important territory for ourselves in the world, and trying to defend ourselves against perceived attacks on our individuality;  as with eclipses to Venus, ruler of the seventh house, we are evaluating our self-worth and values in the context of personal relationship. And because eclipses falling in the 1st and 7th houses often square natal planets in the 10th and 4th houses, we find that changes in our identity and personal relationship status can also have an effect on our career choises, as well as marking a significant change in how we relate to our family of origin.

Eclipses in the 12/6 axis:
Crisis of Retreat vs. Adaptation.

After the hectic activity of eclipses moving through the first house and seventh houses, eclipses move into the 12/6 house axis, and our young newlywed finds herself in a Crisis in Retreat and Adaptation.  After months of frenzied activity, planning a wedding, setting up a new household, our young couple enters the honeymoon phase.  For a year or so they barely leave the house for social engagements; they’re just plain worn out, and they need some time alone.

Our young bride is wondering just when the exhilaration of married life is supposed to kick in!  She adores her husband, and their wedding day was beautiful.  So why does she feel so tired all the time?  Why does she find herself crying at odd moments, picking fights with her husband over inconsequential things?  Why does she feel so weird?

Meanwhile, she’s spent hours changing her name on countless documents: the DMV, the passport office, Social Security office, credit cards.  People call her by her new name and she doesn’t even know who they’re talking to.

Living with someone new has brought about the challenge of working out new routines and adapting old habits.  Will we have separate bank accounts or joint?  Which toaster will we keep?  Who does the dishes?  After years of sorting out her own routines, each day with her husband is like recreating the wheel!

Eclipses in the twelfth house, like eclipses to Neptune, are times for retreat and recuperation.  Our young bride is recuperating not just from the wedding, but from a lifetime of bad relationships, stored up hurts and disappointments – and confronting her illusions about relationships, and her new husband.  Now that she has a safe haven, she can surrender her armor – and purging the emotions that have resurfaced is a tiring business.  Eclipses in the sixth house, like eclipses aspecting Mercury, find us delineating and defining roles and expectations, and dealing with the day to day reality of living with whatever changes we made in the 1st and 7th houses.

The fundamental crisis of this cycle involves honoring our need for solitude and contemplation, while simultaneously taking care of the mundane tasks at which we spend the bulk of our time.  Ideally, we can bring some 12th house contemplation to the 6th house, and approach our tasks as a spiritual journey – instead of envisioning spirituality as something which occurs apart from the everyday world.

Eclipses in the 11/5 axis:
Crisis in Reception vs. Self-Expression.

After awhile our young bride, a little stronger and better rested, emerges into the world to reconnect with her old friends.  But some of those friendships didn’t survive her disappearance.  Some of her single friends are convinced they were right about her dumping them when she got married, and don’t return her calls, while others insist she continue the social pace they enjoyed together when she was single.  Some of her married friends have upped the ante and moved on to having kids, and have no time for her.  Maybe her marriage required her to move a great distance from her ordinary support systems; maybe in making the life-changing transitions of getting married and confronting her past, she has outgrown a lot of her old friends.  Anyway, it seems that everyone has abandoned her at once, and the more she tries to pretend that everything is the way it’s always been, the worse she feels.

One day, while unpacking some boxes, she runs across a short story she had started writing a few years ago, and then set aside when she became engaged.  Reading through it, she starts making some notes in the margins; when she looks up again, she notices that several hours have passed.  She sets the story aside to make dinner – but is excited at the prospect of getting back to it tomorrow.

As with eclipses to Uranus, the ruler of the 11th,  this cycle finds us out of step with those around us.  The crisis lies in rediscovering the 5th house part of ourselves, those creative passions that are more compelling than any dinner party we could go to, and that eventually lead us out to share ourselves with the rest of the world – at which point we naturally attract the friends and associates which are appropriate for us.

Eclipses in the 10/4 Axis:
Crisis in Direction vs. Connection.

It’s a couple of years since our young woman rediscovered that story she’d written, and eclipses have moved on to the 10/4 axis of her chart.  She’s happily married, emotionally sound, she has new friends and creative energy to burn; but she finds herself feeling the lack of a strong purpose, a direction, a sense of meaning to her life.  She dislikes her job and doesn’t feel she is working in her ideal profession; her boss is a real tyrant, and lately has been piling lots of work on her and blaming her for missing deadlines she didn’t know existed.

Her husband encourages her to leave the job; after all, they both can live on his income.  But that wouldn’t solve the problem, because it goes deeper than just her problems with her boss: she doesn’t know what to do with her life.

She might have more clarity, she suspects, if her mother had provided a stronger role model.  Her mother stayed at home and cooked pot roast and raised her kids, and that certainly is not the direction our modern young woman wants to take.

Then one day, as eventually happens in life, her mother dies.  Our young woman returns to the family home –and,  metaphorically, to her fourth house– to celebrate her mother and mourn her loss, to grapple with endings and mortality.  One day, sorting through a trunk of her mother’s momentos, she finds something that shocks her: the yellowed, hastily scrawled pages of a short story her mother had written years before. … Her mother, a writer?  She’d never thought of her mother as a writer, or indeed as a creative person at all.

If the 10th house and Saturn, its natural ruler, send us out into the world looking for meaning in life, the 4th house and the moon send up on a treasure hunt deep within ourselves and our lineage.  Here, we find the raw material, diamonds in the rough, that we can polish and refine into a meaningful gift to offer the world.

Eclipses in the 9/3 Axis:
Crisis in Mastery vs. Skill

It’s been some months since the death of her mother, and our young woman has a secret: late at night, after everyone has gone to bed, she has been rewriting her mother’s short story, and it’s been growing and growing.  She’s added pieces of her own story, the one she found in that box a few years ago.  And she thinks – just maybe, when she dares to think about it – that it’s good, this story, and she thinks if she had the time, she could maybe even make it into a proper book.

One morning at breakfast she confides in her husband about the story, the idea of the book.  He tells her what a marvelous idea it is that she has, to write this book!  “Oh, leave that damn job, you’ve hated it so long – why don’t you take a chance and do this marvelous thing?”  And the more supportive he is, the more resistant she becomes.  “I’m not a real writer, I majored in accounting, if I leave my job and this doesn’t work out it’ll leave this big embarrassing hole in my resume…”  In her heart of hearts, she knows she’s found her career, you see.  The hours she has spent working on this story have been the happiest she’s known in years.  But the thought of committing to something so unknown terrifies her.  Who is she, after all, to think she can be a writer?

She feels she needs an objective analysis of her ability, so  she decides to take a creative writing course at the local university.  For her final paper, she submits part of her story.  A week later she receives her paper in the mail with her professor’s glowing comments.  The next day, her heart absolutely in her throat,  she goes to work and gives two weeks notice.

Eclipses in the ninth house, like eclipses to Jupiter, invite us to take a chance in life, to act on faith, even though we feel we are not up to the challenge.  While eclipses in the 3rd house, like eclipses to Mercury, provide the impulse to develop skill.  Often, this is the cycle when we take an existing interest to a journeyman level – make the leap from reading and writing a language to speaking it.

Eclipses in the 8/2 axis:
Crisis in Intimacy vs. Self-Sufficiency

It’s perhaps a year since our protagonist made her dramatic leap of faith, throwing herself headlong into a bold new enterprise.  The thrill of sleeping late and taking long lunches with her friends has worn off.  She and her husband are beginning to notice the loss of the income she was earning at her job.  And she finds it’s every bit as grueling to sit alone in a room writing all day, as it is to sit in an office hunched over spreadsheets.

The book is shaping up into something a little different than she had anticipated, and in exploring the motivations of her characters as she writes she is confronting some of her old demons as well.  She catches herself brooding; she’s often troubled, for reasons she can’t quite explain to her husband.  A good friend discovers a cancerous tumor; and in the face of her friends’s ordeal, our young woman feels increasingly ridiculous, sitting around in a room writing stories all day – and even more ridiculous for feeling increasingly depressed.

Her moods are straining her warm relationship with her husband.  He applauds her compassion for her friend, but doesn’t understand why she seems to be taking it so personally.  “You should be enjoying what you have,” he tells her, “instead of feeling guilty for having it.”

But that’s part of the problem, because more and more she’s feeling like nothing she has is really hers.  She’s unaccustomed to being completely supported by someone else financially, and it makes her doubt she’s worth anything on her own.  She might eventually be able to sell her book, but she is realistic enough to know that might be a long shot.  So the crisis becomes, is my worth dependant on how much money I’m earning?  Is the worth of anything I do accurately reflected by the money it can earn me?

The questions we ask ourselves during this cycle are among the most fundamental: who am I really, and is that of any intrinsic value?  What’s important in life?  Usually we experience some level of psychological discomfort, as we are tested in our resolve in pursuing whatever thing we went after in the previous cycle, or through exposure to the illness or death of others.  Usually, this cycle also introduces financial discomfort, because money, in our society, has come to define our self-worth; working through financial difficulties often clarifies for us our true self-worth, apart from our bank balance.  And we must know what is valuable about us before we enter relationship with another–which is the promise of the new cycle ahead.

And what becomes to the young woman in our story?  Well, maybe the financial strain weakens her marriage and she experiences real problems in this area as eclipses move back into the 1st and 7th houses.  Maybe she completes her book so she can take it out to meet other people (7th house) in the next cycle.  Maybe she just incorporates a whole new level of understanding of herself and what’s important, into her existing relationships, so that they became richer and more authentic.










© April Elliott Kent, 1999. All rights reserved.

If you wish to download or print a copy of this article for private use, please click here.


About The AFI

The Astrology Foundation is an incorporated non-profit society for all who are interested in Astrology, based in Auckland, New Zealand.
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