Holbrook: Horoscopes and the ‘Great American Eclipse’ (column)
August 16, 2017
"The Sun was eclipsed; it was total. Stars were seen. The chickens and ducks all returned to roost. In the following year the Sung dynasty was extinguished." — From Sung-shih (History of the Sung) referring to a total solar eclipse of June 25, 1275. Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Life in recent weeks has been rather uneventful.
The book I have been working on for a year-and-a-half is finished. I now have a regular, 30-hour-a-week job that keeps me busy and out of trouble.
At home, the long list of summertime house and garden improvements has mostly been completed so I am no longer called on to offer opinions and advice, or to a grab shovel and a bag of mulch.
Out in the woods, the moose have retreated up the mountain; now walks with the dog are pleasantly dull, lacking the danger and excitement of a sudden dash for cover as Luke bursts from the trees with an angry moose in pursuit.
Times like these fill me with a certain amount of restlessness and wondering what might be coming next down the pike.
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So it is with interest and anticipation that I am looking forward to the solar eclipse on Aug. 21.
I became aware of this important astronomical event as friends and acquaintances began to talk about heading north to Wyoming at the end of August, equipped with special sunglasses or other homemade contraptions suitable for viewing the solar eclipse. Last week I listened to an interview on NPR with a team of scientists that plans to send a special balloon thousands of feet up into the atmosphere to photographically capture the shadow that will pass across the earth during the eclipse.
Historically, we humans have been baffled, curious and mostly frightened by eclipses. According to Eclipse2017.Nasa.Gov, the NASA website dedicated to this upcoming eclipse, people have been paying attention to eclipses for at least 5,000 years. At the Loughcrew Megalithic Monument in Ireland, Cairn L is inscribed with spiral-shaped petroglyphic art believed to correspond to an eclipse that occurred on Nov. 30, 3340 BC. One ancient Chinese record of a solar eclipse in the second millennia BC describes the terrifying event as a dragon eating the sun; it further relates that the hapless royal advisors who failed to notify the Emperor in advance of the eclipse lost their heads.
We now mostly consider eclipses from a more scientific perspective. However, in ancient times celestial events were often seen to parallel or anticipate important political occurrences with astrologers playing a key role in charting and interpreting the movement of the planets.
I suspected that in the modern world of astrology, the upcoming eclipse was a big enough deal to stir up some interesting speculation around current events. I called a friend, New York astrologer Elisabeth Grace, who reports on "planetary patterns and their synchronicity with the headlines."
As we began our conversation, Elisabeth was breathless with excitement: "The Path of Totality! Don't you think that should be the name of a rock band?" The Path of Totality is the swath across the United States, from Oregon to South Carolina, within which viewers will be able to witness the moon completely covering the sun for two minutes and 40 seconds.
"There has not been an eclipse like this since before the founding of the U.S.," said Elisabeth. "The 'Path of Totality' crosses the entire United States and the eclipse can only be seen, fully, in the United States. In fact, astrologers are calling this the 'Great American Eclipse' and there is even a website called GreatAmericanEclipse.com."
"Once upon a time, individual citizens did not have their horoscopes read — astrology wasn't for everyday people — it was for the king or queen. And the horoscope for the head of state would determine the fortunes of the country."
And it just so happens that President Trump's astrological combination of planets lines up in a significant way with the current eclipse. "He has Leo ascendant in the same degree as the eclipse; that rising sign is what determines how he likes to be seen: regal, proud, dramatic, like a king."
So what did all this mean? Would America and we-the-people led by Donald Trump be "eclipsed"? Or — did the eclipse portend an even bigger, more super-sized Trump? Would all of this result in better times to come — or worse?
"To me, this all sounds a little ominous," I said, generally preferring astrological predictions that go something like: 'Tuesday will be a good day for romance.' "It sounds as if something BIG is going to happen — do you think it will be something good? Or bad?"
Elisabeth laughed, and I guessed that just the thought of this giant celestial rendezvous with destiny — whether good or bad — was thrilling for a hardcore astrologer. "This eclipse does look very significant, it does look as if something big may happen. But of course, nothing may happen and we astrologers will have egg on our faces …" she conceded.
At the end of our conversation I was thoroughly unsettled. And while I had been hankering for life to be a little more exciting, the possibility of global upheaval implied by Elisabeth's astrological interpretation was not exactly what I had in mind.
Suddenly, these quiet and uneventful last days of summer seemed much more appealing.
That afternoon a neighbor stopped by to see if Alan and I wanted to come over later for an impromptu happy hour. It had been a lazy August weekend, filled mostly with reading, a hike in the woods and sitting on the back porch watching the afternoon thunderstorms roll in.
With any luck, I thought, as we walked down the dirt road with our bottle of wine to contribute, the "Great American Eclipse" of Aug. 21 will not turn out to be the beginning — or the end — of anything too momentous. But simply a day when lots of people decided to put on some funky sunglasses and drive to Casper, Wyoming.
Christina Holbrook lives in Breckenridge.
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