As you read this, the enormous mass of the Moon is hurtling towards the path of sunlight in line with the Earth. In the early morning tomorrow, the Moon will block that pathway, giving us a solar eclipse! However, the Moon is a little farther away in it’s orbit, so it won’t be close enough to fully block the Sun, anywhere on Earth. This gives us an “annular” eclipse, and not the stunning darkness of a total eclipse (as the Great Eclipse of 2017 was). Without a total eclipse, it’s easy to not notice it, even if you are in the eclipse path (this will be nothing like the stunning experience of a total eclipse). Also, few of us are in the eclipse path. So for many us, we have an opportunity to celebrate the eclipse (and watch it on simulcast!). Some of us (including me!) are able to see it in the sky.
Whether you are in the path or not, how will you celebrate this cosmic alignment? As Naturalistic Pagans, we know that the power of our rituals is in our own minds and the minds of those around us, so remote, simulcast, and similar rituals are can still be powerful! Here is a link to a simulcast in case you aren’t in the eclipse path (others are available online as well). The posts about the Great Eclipse of 2017 are also helpful.
In any case, solar eclipses are not all that common, with some years having no more than two, and many years having none (and much more rare for one to be visible from any specific place on Earth). The next solar eclipses are (tomorrow), then December 2021 (total, visible from Antarctica), April 2023 (hybrid, Australia), October 2023 (annular, Americas), April 2024 (total!, United States), October 2024 (annular, South America), February 2026 (annular, Antarctica), August 2026 (total, Spain & Iceland), February 2027 (annular, South America), August 2027 (total, Africa), etc. Lunar eclipses also provide similar ritual opportunities, and are visible to anyone on the night side of the Earth, happening as often as solar eclipses (remember that due to geometry, each solar eclipse comes with a lunar eclipse, and vice – versa).
Here is the path of this annular eclipse, which is visible from Eastern Canada, North Eastern US, and far Northern Europe. Those in Canada and the US will need to get up to see it at the break of dawn! This can be a pain, but has the added advantage of less protection being needed (still follow these safety rules!) if the clouds are hazy right at sunrise (see the picture at the top of the post – images like this are only possible for sunrise or sunset eclipses).
An eclipse is a powerful time that forever strengthens one’s bond to the rest of our Universe, and thus a sacred time for us Naturalistic Pagans – and a good time for a ritual. Rituals are often more powerful if we feel connected to them. To gain that connection, it helps to be involved in the writing and planning of the ritual – whether that’s from scratch or just making minor tweaks. So here is a rough skeleton of a ritual, to which you can add a little or a lot, with whatever feels right for you – if you don’t already have a ritual plan ready. A few others have already appeared online.
Whether you are in the path of the maximum eclipse or not, it is recommended to start this ritual well before the maximum eclipse for your location.
Set up your altar, with a black cloth, quarter cauldrons (typical cauldron contents include incense or a feather for East, a candle for South, a seashell or water for West, and a rock or earth for North, many of these on a bed of sand) , and items to be charged by the eclipse shadow. You may want to mark the wider ritual circle with a stone at each quarter (and perhaps each cross-quarter). Two black stones can be added as well, one at the direction from which the eclipse shadow will enter (North or Northwest) and another at the direction where the eclipse shadow will leave (East or Southeast).
Enter the circle and approach the altar from the eclipse entrance direction (see above). Clear you mind of distractions, and focus on this place, this time.
Lift the East cauldron (these directions can be done by one celebrant or by separate celebrants).
Spirit of the North, spirit of the darkness, of hibernation and potential, join us in our circle today. Welcome earth! Carry the North cauldron clockwise around the circle and return it to the altar. Hail and welcome!
Spirit of the East, spirit of the eclipse wind, of air and inspiration, join us in our circle today. Welcome air! Carry the East cauldron clockwise around the circle and return it to the altar. Hail and welcome!
Spirit of the South, spirit of the blazing Sun, of fire and passion, join us in our circle today. Welcome fire! Carry the South cauldron clockwise around the circle and return it to the altar. Hail and welcome!
Spirit of the West, spirit of the oceans, of water and cleansing, join us in our circle today. Welcome water! Carry the West cauldron clockwise around the circle and return it to the altar. Hail and welcome!
(the order of the directions was chosen to bracket the eclipse entrance direction to the Northwest)
In this sacred time, in this place marked by the Moon and Sun, we reach back to touch all those who have seen an eclipse, we feel their wonder, terror, and their very lives. Many of them are our Ancestors in body or spirit. We join them in memory – may this eclipse connect us to them as it connects us to our Universe.
(as you have likely traveled to arrive at this place, you may want to add this as well.)
We come here in reunion with those who have deeper roots in this place – those trees, rocks, creatures and others who call this home, this small piece of the Earth, part of the planet that is home to us all. May we bless them for their hospitality. We thank them for this chance to meet them and to share this eclipse.
We welcome the incoming shadow of the Moon, racing toward us at over 1,000 miles an hour. May it’s darkness infuse these items, calling to mind this gift from the Universe for years to come.
(add whatever else you’d like here, perhaps something for each family member, perhaps an offering or sharing.)
At the Great Eclipse of 2017, I charged several things. These include ritual items like my Cosmala, Anishinaabe abalone censer, Venus of Lespugue, beads for the Cosmalas of others, and perhaps my Nebra Disk. I’ll also charge a jar of salt and vials of water – these will allow me to charge other items in the future. I’ll charge things by dissolving a pinch of the salt in any water, and then sprinkling that water on the item (or taking a sip) – so this whole jar will last years or decades. This is how I charged my ritual staff – which is sadly too bulky and delicate to bring on a long trip with the whole family packed into a car.
When talking about the salt idea with my family, my son pointed out that the path of the eclipse will charge billions of liters of nitrogen molecules in the atmosphere, which will then circulate worldwide within weeks, so every breath, every breeze, will contain at least some of those eclipse charged molecules. In fact, the air we just inhaled is already charged with the energy of an eclipse, due to the millions of eclipses that have already happened! Yes, I agreed with him that this was all true (and that nothing is actually, physically different upon charging – that it’s all in our minds), but that I was still going to charge things with this eclipse. Also, I pointed out to him that because I decide what is symbolically important to me, I’ve already decided that the sacred beams of eclipse energy can pass through clouds, so my charging will work even in the event of cloudy weather!
As the eclipse ends, remember to end your ritual (adjust this to fit you intention).
Spirit of the South, spirit of the blazing Sun, of fire and passion, we thank you for your presence here today. Go if you must, stay if you will.
Spirit of the West, spirit of the oceans, of water and cleansing, we thank you for your presence here today. Go if you must, stay if you will.
Spirit of the North, spirit of the darkness, of hibernation and potential, we thank you for your presence here today. Go if you must, stay if you will.
Spirit of the East, spirit of the eclipse wind, of air and inspiration, we thank you for your presence here today. Go if you must, stay if you will.
(the order of the directions was chosen to bracket the eclipse departure direction to the Southeast)
The circle is open, but never broken. May the peace of the Goddess be forever in your heart.
A song or chant is a nice addition to this ritual, too. Whether you celebrate in the path of maximum eclipse, far from it, or at some other time, may your celebrations be blessed.
The Author: Jon Cleland Host
Starstuff, Contemplating: We are assemblages of ancient atoms forged in stars – atoms organized by history to the point of consciousness, now able to contemplate this sacred Universe of which we are a tiny, but wondrous, part.
Dr. Jon Cleland Host is a scientist who earned his PhD in materials science at Northwestern University & has conducted research at Hemlock Semiconductor and Dow Corning since 1997. He holds eight patents and has authored over three dozen internal scientific papers and eleven papers for peer-reviewed scientific journals, including the journal Nature. He has taught classes on biology, math, chemistry, physics and general science at Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University. Jon grew up near Pontiac, and has been building a reality-based spirituality for over 30 years, first as a Catholic and now as a Unitarian Universalist, including collaborating with Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow to spread the awe and wonder of the Great Story of our Universe (see www.thegreatstory.org, and the blog at evolutionarytimes.org). Jon and his wife have four sons, whom they embrace within a Universe-centered, Pagan, family spirituality. He currently moderates the yahoo group Naturalistic Paganism.
See Starstuff, Contemplating posts.