As you read this, millions of people are driving, packing, or otherwise getting ready to experience totality. Just hours from now (Monday afternoon), a child will experience our Universe in a way that sets her or him on a path of wonder and joy to become a great scientist, a reality based president, or who knows what else. Will you be there? Will you bring a child to the path of totality?
As I’ve said earlier, a total solar eclipse experience can’t be captured in a video or photo. Descriptions are a little better. Here is one, from FiveThirtyEight:
Zeiler: A total solar eclipse has got to be a least a 1,000 on a scale of 1 to 10. For a couple of minutes it’s like you’re standing on the surface of an alien planet. There’s a 360-degree sunset all around you. You’re in a deep twilight — you’ll see the brighter stars and planets. But the sight that will be most amazing is the sight of the sun’s corona. There’s an incredible light show that happens in the sky around you — the remaining sunlight is electric. The corona beautifully frames the disc of the moon. The contrast makes for an incredibly black hole.
Eclipses connect you to the universe. In our daily lives, we don’t really perceive and understand the solar system in motion. But during a total solar eclipse, you see the solar system moving in real time. …You’re lifted out of the Earth and sense that we’re part of a bigger universe.
White: You feel grateful after an eclipse. People celebrate — they’re wired, they’re partying. Most people hoot and holler, more than once people have cried. It’s that amazing, it’s that intense.
And here is another description, in this short video:
As foreshadowed by Lunasa itself, 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 totality or not, it is recommended to start this ritual 30 minutes or more before the maximum eclipse for your location. For those on the path of totality, totality only lasts for around 100 precious seconds – much too short for this ritual. Holding the first part of the ritual in the long partial phase at the beginning of the eclipse (between first and second contacts),* and then holding the ending of the ritual in the long partial phase at the end of the eclipse (between third and fourth contacts)* encloses the maximum eclipse within your ritual, while also leaving you fully focused on the eclipse experience during the whatever the maximum of the eclipse will be 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.)
I’ll be charging 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 will charge my ritual staff – which is sadly too bulky and delicate to bring on a long trip with the whole family packed into a car. Hmm…. I hunt with my bow and arrows – maybe a touch of that saltwater on my arrowheads will bring darkness of a different kind to the deer I am honored to hunt?
Another property comes to mind – in metal objects, the atoms slowly change places by a process called “diffusion”. As a materials scientist, I sometimes need to calculate the speed of this process under a given set of conditions and atom types. The upshot for us here is that if a metal object is charged, and it comes into contact with another metal object, a tiny number of charged atoms will be transferred to the new object, where they will slowly drift from place to place, from then on. 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!
A friend will be seeing the eclipse from the very special location of the Garden of the Gods in Illinois, so this eclipse will charge those rock formations! The eclipse path contains many other special locations (and all locations are sacred, after all), including the Parthenon replica in Nashville, which contains the giant statue of Athena. So this giant statue of Athena will be eclipse charged itself!
Then, after 3rd contact, in that long, peaceful time of the grateful savoring of the memory of totality, remember to end your ritual, which now has included the surreal moments of seeing stars in the middle of the daytime. Again the order is adjusted to highlight the path of the eclipse, which exited the circle to the Southeast.
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.
As I write this, Pandora just happens to play the Pink Floyd song with “… the Sun is eclipsed by the Moon……”. That reminds me that a song or chant would be a nice addition to this ritual, too. Whether you celebrate in the path of totality, 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.