Lunar and solar eclipses: some thoughts

In my former magickal practice as a LaVeyan Satanist and Chaos Magician, I never paid much attention to natural events. Since turning to the Niner current – and thence, Tenebrous Satanism – though, I’ve become more attuned to things like moon phases. A significant natural phenomenon worth discussing in connection with this is eclipses. And since I recently traveled to see the total solar eclipse, now seems like an apt time for this discussion. This entry will therefore share some observations and experiences I have in connection with both lunar and solar eclipses.

eclipses
Lunar eclipse photo by Vino Li used as cover art on “Nine Keys of Abyssal Darkness”

Introduction

The image on the cover of Nine Keys of Abyssal Darkness is a photograph of a lunar eclipse. Not surprisingly in connection with that, I am significantly more experienced with lunar eclipses than with solar ones. Of course, this is in no small part because lunar eclipses are vastly easier to observe. They are visible within a large region when they happen, and last for up to an hour. Solar eclipses, on the other hand, are visible within much narrower zones, last a shorter time, and require eye protection.

There is also a further dimension of unevenness to the comparison this entry will be undertaking. With the lunar eclipses, all of them were situations where I was engaged in some kind of significant magickal activity. With the solar one, I was on vacation with my brother – i.e. neither alone, nor setting out to perform a specific working. One can argue that some conclusions I draw in this entry are bound to be flawed because of this. Nonetheless, as I’m aware of this limitation, I will be attempting to extrapolate to esoteric conclusions in spite of it.

I’ll begin by going into a bit more detail about the various specific eclipses I’ve observed. I will follow this with some reflections upon the specific symbolic implications of lunar and solar eclipses respectively. I’ll then conclude with a few thoughts on eclipses’ implications for my specific magickal practice. This is sure to be in accord with the experiences of some, and at variance with the experiences of others. Either way though, I think there is still something to be learned in reflecting upon these matters.

My experiences with eclipses

Lunar eclipses

Jun 5, 2020 (Penumbral)

Due to an unfortunate convergence of current events and personal issues, I was not well mentally at this time. Moved only by a vague sense that I should “get out and do something occult” inspired by the release of this black metal song, I wound up in an impromptu ritual in which I spoke to the Nekalah about how I felt that the world was sliding in a direction sharply contrary to our interests, and asked for their aid in bringing about some sort of change of course. I had no idea at the time that within 48 hours of this, I would begin writing Nine Keys of Abyssal Darkness. Previously I referred to this incident in this entry.

I recall this night being quite rainy and overcast. As a result, I did not actually get to see the eclipse directly. However, I strongly felt the night’s energy was “different” from others despite that. Said impression in turn drove a lot of my subsequent efforts to continue my occult engagement with lunar eclipses.

Jul 5, 2020 (Penumbral)

This eclipse I remember happening quite early in the evening. Between that and it being penumbral, it was pretty subtle as far as actually getting to see anything. There was a slight darkening of one edge of the moon, but nothing more.

The rite I performed during this eclipse had to do with gathering more energy for my project. Months before, I’d had disruptive channeling experiences that led to my finding a hollow piece of bone in the forest. (Long story I won’t get into here, but suffice to say it predominantly involved Nythra.) This vessel I subsequently experimented with using in a variant of the lunar initiation rite described in O9A’s Naos. Insights gained thereby ultimately impacted both the Lunar Purification in the Fifth Key and the divination system in the Sixth.

This was overall a much less dramatic experience than the previous eclipse. (e.g. much less “well great, I’m a Lovecraftian protagonist who’s just made a terrible decision” -feeling, for one thing…) Again though, it reinforced my sense of energies being available during the eclipse that were not so at other times.

May 26, 2021 (Total)

In this instance, the eclipse took place very early in the morning. This resulted in a long wait, concluding in uncooperative cloud cover, i.e., didn’t actually get to see the eclipse at all. On top of that, I was also exhausted, as for the whole month previous, I had been refining what ultimately became the Eighth Key’s Rite of Descent – and, in the process, striving to gain at least basic gnosis of all of the Nekalah, so that I could say that I finished my first draft of Nine Keys of Abyssal Darkness within one year of having started.

At this point, I learned my limit when it comes to ritual magick frequency. For me, one working per week is sustainable almost indefinitely. With less than a week of rest, though – e.g. doing rituals every 3 nights, or every night, etc. – that starts to be draining, until I reset by stopping for at least a week. Carry this beyond 7 rites without a break and I’ll soon crash hard enough to need a month to recover.

The eclipse, however, was something like working number 8 or 9. The ritual was meant to be a summoning. And it basically didn’t work at all, because I had zero energy left by then. It was disappointingly anti-climactic, but very much a necessary lesson when it comes to knowing my limits magick-wise. I therefore have no misgivings in retrospect, as I did learn a lot from it.

Nov 19, 2021 (Partial)

For this one, I have a better recollection of the eclipse itself than I do of the working I was doing. In essence, the latter was another attempted summoning, more successful than the previous, but still falling short of my hopes. This sort of working eventually evolved into the Rite of the Threshold that the Eighth Key describes. I had not yet worked out all the kinks at this time, though. I did learn a lot, but as it doesn’t pertain strongly to the eclipse itself, I won’t detail it here.

What I more distinctly recall was that this was my first eclipse where the view was actually good. And what surprised me in connection was that in a partial lunar eclipse, the shadow that takes a bite out of the moon looks more black than red. The end result thus bears more resemblance to a partial solar eclipse (except you don’t need special glasses) than a total lunar eclipse (where the whole moon turns red). Being surprised by this – I’d just vaguely assumed the shadow would always be red with the moon – I do think added somewhat to the uncanniness of the experience.

May 16, 2022 (Total)

I had my first bout of COVID at this time, so I did not have the energy for an outside ritual. However, I did do divination related to a difficult friendship that had been weighing very heavily on me. I also did the Rite of Alignment that my book describes. And immediately afterward, I severed all ties with that person – beginning my long journey toward resolving many related issues. (Some of these issues I alluded to in my previous post on banishing. The “difficult friend” was a major aggravating personal factor in what I’m describing there re: my creative psyche getting twisted around.)

Of all the eclipse experiences I’ve had, this one most struck me as affirming general occult “wisdom” re: eclipses. i.e. chaotic energy that tends to bring strife, but culminating in much-needed change as far as breaking cycles goes.

Nov 8, 2022 (Total)

For this one I performed the Rite of Alignment again, but outside instead of inside this time. I do perform this ritual fairly regularly, as it’s excellent for reconnecting with the Nekalah after long periods of being preoccupied with mundane affairs – something that was a particular problem in parts of 2022.

This was, however, by far the most memorable lunar eclipse. The totality occurred in the middle of the night instead of super late/early, plus the sky was actually clear. I thus finally got to see the fully red “blood moon.”

Of all the lunar eclipses I’ve participated in, this one had the most noticeably “demonic” energy to it. While it was heavy at times, I wouldn’t say it was negative or threatening. More of a “disruption leads to liberation = bad omen for the timid, but good omen to the bold” type of aura. No surprise though that it would be a positive experience for a Satanist when put that way.

Solar Eclipse

On account of traveling for a total solar eclipse being a unique opportunity, part of me wanted to do a working during it. Many factors conspired against this, though. For one, it fell right at the end of what had been an intensely busy period at my day job. For another, I was hesitant to get too ambitious when I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect beyond that solar eclipses are much briefer than lunar ones. Thirdly, I didn’t take much with me in the way of ritual props because I didn’t want a hassle with airport security. I therefore didn’t wind up doing any magick during this eclipse. I did, however, strive to still maintain a magickal perspective on the experience.

April 8, 2024 (Total)

The lead-up to a total solar eclipse is basically the same experience as a partial solar eclipse. i.e., it gets slightly chillier and afternoon light starts looking a bit more like late afternoon light. Otherwise though you can’t see anything noteworthy without eclipse glasses. And if you do put eclipse glasses on, you just see an orange cheese with a bite taken out of it. It’s interesting but not all that striking in an occult sense, I found.

About 15 minutes before totality though, light becomes strange in a way distinct from “the afternoon is just getting on.” Things start looking noticeably desaturated and “wrong.” This seems to prompt a subtle uneasiness in both humans and animals.

When totality starts, the effects a sunset displays over 30 min seem to take place within a few seconds. The sky then looks like it is sunset on all horizons, with the sun in twilight high in the sky. It does not actually get that dark; despite clear sky, I only saw 1-2 stars at most. The eclipse itself is certainly impressive, though. The size and, most notably to me, the aurora-like flame-motion of the corona, are effects not adequately captured by photographs. I also did indeed see the solar prominence at the bottom of the sun that was widely reported in the media.

The thing is though, totality only lasts like 4 minutes. So it’s very much a case of, you’re barely registering what is going on, and then it’s already over. Good thing my brother’s phone had an eclipse app giving great instructions, or it’d have been even harder to make the most of it!

Eclipse symbolism

Lunar eclipses

As I mentioned in my moon phases post, themes I associate with the full moon include plenitude and gratitude. Its default energy strikes me as strongly benevolent, albeit with a mild note of uncanniness. Small wonder, then, that the occlusion of this white goddess, staining her red, has sinister connotations.

Red is a color more typically associated with Mars as celestial bodies go. This association, vs. the Moon being often seen as feminine, evokes a mingling of the divine feminine and divine masculine. One thinks in particular of Baphomet. Mainstream Satanic tradition envisions this entity as a reconciler of dualities. The Niner current places less focus on this theme, and more on the idea of her being “Mistress of Blood.” In both instances though, the lunar eclipse evokes serenity’s overshadowing by forces of chaos and violence.

Baphomet sigil
Sigil of Baphomet, painted by the author

What is of further interest from the standpoint of Tenebrous Satanism is where this red actually comes from: Earth’s shadow. This in turn evokes a yet further angle of subversion: the earthly is overshadowing the heavenly. A demonic uprising of those committed to the pursuit of flourishing and self-evolution in this world? Anyone who has read Nine Keys of Abyssal Darkness can appreciate why this is symbolism that would appeal to me.

Solar eclipses

I’ve long found the photographed “black sun” of the solar eclipse no less suggestive of the sinister than the lunar. There was certainly an era where this and the lunar eclipse were both under consideration for my book cover. Many fictional works also depict solar eclipses as times when evil has some kind of unique advantage. In my childhood, I had something of a terror of eclipses. It was entirely the solar and not the lunar that this was based on.

Now though, upon having witnessed said phenomenon with my own eyes? I would have to say I feel that the traditional sinister reputation of solar eclipses feels a bit overstated. For one thing, the sky doesn’t actually get that dark. One finds oneself struck by how impressively bright and glorious the sun looks despite the moon occluding it. For another thing, the solar eclipse is incredibly brief in comparison to to the lunar eclipse. I remember actually thinking when the lights so quickly came back on, “wow, sol invictus, eh?”

Finally, consider that in the case of the solar eclipse, we are in the moon’s shadow – vs. in the lunar, we are the source of the shadow. One could thus argue that the solar eclipse is more “business as usual” astrology-wise. i.e. some astrological body up there is interacting with another astrological body up there, and together they impact the earth. There is not the same connotation as with the lunar eclipse of “for once, you are seeing the earth do something to the celestial world rather than only being passively acted upon by the heavens.”

Implications of eclipses for Tenebrous magick

I don’t doubt that some sinister-path-walkers have done workings during solar eclipses and gotten results. More power to you if so. Speaking for myself, though, my sense of the right kind of nexion opening is much stronger during the lunar eclipse. There are also multiple important symbolic aspects of the Tenebrous current that they aptly illustrate.

Vs. the solar, to me, feels less like an affirmation of Darkness than an affirmation of Light. Such a brief scare re: the Monster eating the sun before the Hero deposes this force of evil!

In connection, there are two reasons why I personally wouldn’t attempt solar eclipse magick in the probable future:

  1. There’s too much daytime surrounding the whole proceedings.
    My magickal praxis is such that I can do magick during the day if needed. I require something like a dark room in order to do it effectively, though. Four minutes of twilight in the middle of a sunny day doesn’t really fit my bill on this front. All the more insofar as said twilight’s nature seems to reinforce the sun’s glory more than it interrupts it.
  2. There’s not enough time when it comes to the eclipse itself.
    Some magicians are always but half a step away from naos – i.e., my book’s term for the state of extraordinary consciousness in which magick is efficacious. That kind of person I can see doing an effective working during a solar eclipse for sure. I, however, am not such a person. I need ritual in order to operate magickally, and ritual takes time. Coordinating that timing with the narrow window of a solar eclipse strikes me as more effort than the payoff justifies. The blood moon, by contrast, lasts pretty much the exact amount of time that a Tenebrous ritual requires.

Concluding thoughts

Again, nothing in this entry is meant to negate experiences of left-hand-path magicians that differ from mine. My experience, however, is that for the Tenebrous path, lunar eclipses are more worth paying attention to than solar eclipses. At some eventual point where there are other Tenebrous practitioners besides myself, perhaps others may put forth a different perspective. Certainly I’m interested in hearing what they have to say if so.

I don’t want to come across as being negative toward solar eclipses as a natural phenomena either. It is an impressive spectacle, and certainly it’s worth traveling to see a total solar eclipse at least once. My suggestion though would be, if you’re traveling to see it, focus on actually observing the phenomenon when it happens. Don’t risk distraction, and hence disappointment, at a critical moment by occult messing-around.

Any other eclipse-enthusiast-esotericists in the audience? If so, how have eclipses impacted your experience of your own practices? This or any other related thoughts, please let me know in the comments.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Blackfate

    Sorry to bother you, but I recently picked up your book after noticing some overlap between your worldview and maergzjirah. It’s a shame not many people engage on your blog because your writing is insightful and great to read. I’d be curious to see what apotheosis means to you and how you’d perceive it.

    1. Othaos

      Fascinating – I have never heard of maergzjirah before and the quick glance I took at it while Googling just now looked pretty interesting. I’ll have to look into it further! Re: apotheosis though, I might need a bit more context from you first re: what exactly you’re referring to? And/or feel free to email me via the contact form if you want to discuss anything at greater length. Sorry too for the delayed response, as I didn’t receive a notification for your comment and only just saw it now!