As cosmic events go, lunar eclipses are on the level of Mercury retrograde—in other words, they can shake up your life in a major way. Yet, beyond that basic understanding, they’re a bit of a mystery to many people. Like, how often do lunar eclipses occur? What, exactly, are they? And what kind of rituals can you do to commemorate them? Not unlike the stars, questions here abound.
First, the technical stuff: A total lunar eclipse happens during a full moon, when the moon, Earth, and sun perfectly align in the sky with Earth in the middle. “The Earth shades the moon and prevents the sun’s light from reflecting on the moon,” says astrologer and massage therapist Tiffany Potempa. “The sun’s light is instead deflected from the Earth, giving the moon Earthy tones of red, brown, and gray indirectly.” Partial lunar eclipses involve a similar alignment, but the sun isn’t fully obscured by the Earth.
How often do lunar eclipses occur?
On average, there are two lunar eclipses each year, although Potempa notes that this can vary. “Eclipses only occur during two eclipse seasons per year, which are about six months apart,” she explains. “For about two years, every time an eclipse occurs, they will occur in a pair of signs that are directly opposite each other in the zodiac. Then, the eclipses will start to overlap and move to the next pair of opposing signs for about two years, going backward around the zodiac.”
Right now, we’re in the middle of a Cancer/Capricorn eclipse series, which started in 2018 and will last until 2020. That means whenever there’s a full moon in Cancer or Capricorn during that time frame—like the Capricorn full moon coming up on July 16, 2019—it will be a lunar eclipse. It’s also worth noting that lunar eclipses always take place within two weeks of solar eclipses, when the moon moves between the Earth and sun. Solar eclipses happen during the new moon.
What’s the significance of a lunar eclipse?
Let’s not sugarcoat it—lunar eclipses can be kind of dramatic. But ultimately, says Potempa, they shed light on our unconscious patterns and show us opportunities for healing, growth, and evolution. “Awareness and insight come through during a lunar eclipse, offering clarity on what we can transform and what we can let go of in our lives for personal growth,” the astrologer says. “They truly can be the fast pass to alignment if you’re ready to shift your story when the universe calls. The key is to be open to it if you want to progress the blessings.”
“Awareness and insight come through during a lunar eclipse, offering clarity on what we can transform and what we can let go of in our lives for personal growth.” —astrologer Tiffany Potempa
Lunar eclipses are so powerful because they touch on the north and south nodes—two energetic points in the moon’s orbit that represent our soul’s purpose. “The north node is the energy we need to lean into to evolve in this lifetime,” says Potempa. “The south node is our karmic past that we need to depart from.”
To use our present moment as an example, the north node is currently in Cancer—a sign associated with family, emotions, and intuition—and the south node is in ambitious, disciplined Capricorn. So during the upcoming lunar eclipse in Capricorn, Potempa predicts we’re all likely to experience this duality in our lives. “Collectively, I think we see these energies playing out—the rise of the feminine, the fall of the patriarchy,” she says. “The universe is calling for balance between these two energies. We can mix business with ethics. We can balance work and family. We can take the high road of both of these energies and be evolved leaders. This balance can and will elevate planet Earth.”
What should you do during a lunar eclipse?
To make the most of a lunar eclipse, Potempa recommends ritualizing it in some way, whether that’s making time for meditation (preferably outside, under the moon), clearing the energy of your space with sage or palo santo, or journaling about what’s coming up for you.
Potempa’s also a fan of doing Kundalini yoga to put herself in a high-vibe state, making playlists of songs that make her feel creative and alive, and dipping into sensory-deprivation float tanks so she can clearly hear messages from her highest self.
No matter what you choose to do though, she says, don’t miss the opportunity to connect with yourself during a lunar eclipse. “Eclipses are portals of consciousness—they truly can be nourishing and help us evolve,” Potempa explains. Take that, Mercury retrograde.
All full moons can make you feel a little out-of-sorts—here’s why. One way to offset the energy? Host a women’s circle.
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