Each New Moon is a delight to me. When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I was blessed to have a spiritual teacher who, in the days leading up to each New Moon, would review with me my daily meditation practices and give me a new set of mantras and breathing exercises for the coming month. Each week as the lunar cycle progressed, we would discuss my experiences. I knew then that we were tying each new set of practices to the initiatory energy of a New Moon. What I did not know the was that I was learning to attune my consciousness to the cycles of the Moon. It was a gift given, as is said in the Zen tradition, “from warm hand to warm hand.” I didn’t know then that I was training in the most basic of astrological practice: observation of the cycles of the Sun and Moon. It’s something that humans—and in particular, women—have done since we’ve been walking on two feet and looking up at the sky.
This memory comes to me now as I’m contemplating the eclipse cycle that will begin with the total solar eclipse of April 19 at 9:12 p.m. on the west coast, and the early morning hours of April 20 in the east. It won’t be visible in the northern hemisphere. It will be visible in parts of Asia, Australia, East Timor and Indonesia.
It’s rare to have two New Moons sequentially in the same sign. It happens only about once every two to three years and very rarely at the time of an eclipse. We get two New Moons in the same sign when the first one occurs at about 0 degrees, as was the case on March 20. Then the next one will then be at the tail end of the sign, as will be the case on April 19/20 with the Moon at 29° 50’ Aries.
The 29th degree is called the anaretic degree. It’s the last degree of 30 for each sign. Symbolically, it’s like a last chance for a planet to manifest the significations of the sign, until that planet goes around the wheel again. People with planets at the 29th degree of a sign in their horoscopes may feel a sense of urgency to manifest the themes of that planet in that sign.
It’s the same with this New Moon. Aries, the first sign of the zodiac, represents beginnings and the sheer instinct to “make it.” At this New Moon with the Sun and Moon conjoined at 29° Aries, the overall feeling may be one of urgency.
Within an hour of the perfection of the New Moon, the Moon will jump into the sign of Taurus, as the Sun will do later on April 20. We are now in mid-spring here in the north as the fixed signs are timed with the middle of each season. There’s a sense of settling in. When the Moon makes its way through the earthy sign of Taurus for about 2.5 days each month, that’s the Moon’s happy place. The watery energy of the Moon is said to be “exalted,” like an honored guest, in Taurus.
The April 19/20 lunation occurs shortly before Mercury, now in the middle degrees of Taurus, enters one of its thrice-yearly periods of apparent retrograde motion. It’s an optical illusion from our point of view on earth, that when a planet slows down in its orbit around the Sun, it appears to be moving backwards. In the human psyche—as we’ve been collectively aware of this phenomenon for millennia— there’s a sense of things being slightly out of whack. It’s a call to slow down and take stock of where one has been and may go next. A period of “Mercury retrograde” for three weeks, three times a year, is normal and welcome, no cause for alarm.
At the April 19/20 New Moon eclipse, the dwarf planet powerhouse Pluto will have recently made its way into the sign of Aquarius, its first foray of several before it will reside in Aquarius until the 2040s. With Pluto now at 0°Aquarius, the Sun and Moon, at the last few minutes of Aries, will make an out-of-sign square with Pluto. A square between the Moon and Pluto may feel like pulling weeds up by their roots to make way for a new garden. It’s necessary and jarring, and by transit, it’s also temporary.
Ancient people feared eclipses, which often coincided with events like famines and floods. When the Sun goes dark because it’s covered by the Moon, that’s weird and scary. A solar eclipse is an exceptionally potent New Moon. In Aries, it is pure fire.
Yet the April 19/20 eclipse will be accompanied by two easy sextile aspects underway. A sextile occurs when two planets are about 60 degrees apart. There’s no guarantee of a great outcome when two planets make this aspect. A sextile is an invitation for things to flow smoothly if everyone cooperates.
For this eclipse, Saturn at 3° Pisces will be sextile to the Moon, bringing some manner of limits to the emotional intensity. Mars, the planetary ruler of the Aries New Moon, will be moving toward a sextile with Mercury in Taurus. Mars, currently in Cancer, brings a protective quality to the inwardly drawn reflectiveness of Mercury, now in its “shadow period” before it “goes retrograde” on April 21.
The days leading up to and following the April 19/20 solar eclipse are potentially volatile. It’s considered unwise to set intentions or start something new during an eclipse itself. But when the new crescent Moon becomes visible a day or so later, that’s a good time to do something brave.
Remember the old saying: Feel the fear and do it anyway.
Blessings for the Aries solar eclipse!