STAR STUFF (What is a Solar Eclipse, and What Does it Mean to Us?)

The Sky that we all live under is one of the greatest divine forces shared amongst the human race. Our story has been interwoven with the sun, moon, and stars for thousands of years. Some of our first religions were inspired out of our curiosity for its infinite beauty and indescribable celestial events, with Jesus’s crucifixion and the birth of Mohammed being linked by historians to a solar eclipse.

A total solar eclipse is the act of the moon stealing the sun’s show, completely blocking it out of the sky and turning day into night for a matter of minutes while the sun’s ring blazes like a halo around the moon; a sacred and ancient collaboration. It has been eloquently described by meteorologist Joe Rao as “akin to watching a Broadway theater’s lights dimming before the drama begins: The excitement kicks in as one feels the temperature change and the birds quiet down”. In these moments, one feels the stillness of the universe, all life in the path of the eclipse quiets down and is completely entranced by the cosmic spectacle.

The earliest recorded solar eclipse was described on an ancient clay tablet in Ugarit in modern day Syria on March 5, 1223, BC, where it was recounted as “the sun being put to shame”. Since then, there have been countless solar eclipses but not many like the one that will be coming up this year.

Total solar eclipses actually grace our planet about every 18 months. However, it is not often that the path of eclipse falls over populated regions of the planet. On August 21st, around 10:20 AM, we will be experiencing the first eclipse to glide across America in 99 years from the coast of Oregon to South Carolina. The rare occurrence has dubbed this eclipse as the Great American Total Solar Eclipse and is being seen by many as the event of the century. People far and wide are traveling to the path of the eclipse and interstates like I-5 and I-85 are even expected to have congestion days in advance, so plan accordingly. Eclipses throughout history have correlated with important events like Nat Turner’s slave rebellion and proving Einstein’s theory of general relativity, and it leaves me wondering what this solar eclipse could bring to our day and age.

I think we can all agree it’s been a wild year and a half. With all this momentum garnered through our social and political experiences this past year, many people that I’ve talked to see the eclipse as a symbolic representation of new beginnings or the end of an era in our collective journey. Throughout history, eclipses have been thought of as bad omens, with the Greek root of the word (ekleipsis) even meaning abandonment. This was also during a time where humans did not really understand what was happening in the sky and understandably felt the world coming to an end when day dramatically turned to night for a couple minutes. Today, we can look at the eclipse and decide what it means for us. Whether that “abandonment” is the negativity in our lives, or if it’s bringing attention to and working past the abandonment we feel, we have the ability to put intention into this celestial spectacle and give it power to serve as a catalyst in our lives, similar to how people view New Years: a fresh start.

However, this total solar eclipse has more potential for transformation than a new year would because the physical phenomenon of the event will place us fully into our intention. It’s not like this eclipse will save the world, but magic happens when humans everywhere are reminded of the infinite beauty of the universe and their connection to it. For a couple of minutes while the sun is consumed by the moon and day turns to night, humans are removed from their normal day to day lives and placed in front of cosmic enchantment with nowhere to hide, a universally profound experience that can spark a divine flame within our souls.That IS the definition of intent: thinking clearly and lucidly on how you want to proceed in the world, towards others, and onto yourself.

Unsurprisingly, people have been ceremonially gathering around solar eclipses across the globe for decades. Thousands of people coming together to combine collective consciousness towards an eclipse. Imagine that amplification of intent. What can it mean to all of us, when we know it means a lot to those who show up? Can it stir something within us that we can’t even imagine? Could we even really know until we live the experience? Ultimately, we are the only ones capable of inducing a change in our lives but it helps to have a celestial event serve as a spur, a guiding force, a symbolic push for our inner journeys.

One would imagine then that solar gatherings have been common over the eras, but documented evidence shows that the first organized events started as unpublicized underground movements, with the first one taking place in an Indian village in 1994, as a crowd of 300 attendees. From there, the idea of an organized eclipse gathering crested in 1999 when nearly 30,000 people danced amongst psychedelic trance music in Hungary for the week long Solipse Festival where artists like Infected Mushroom made an appearance.

In 2012, Symbiosis began its chronicle of an annular eclipse gathering in Nevada at the Pyramid Eclipse festival. Now, 5 years later, they have co-created The Global Eclipse Gathering in Oregon’s Ochoco National Forest, August 17th-23rd, with several other production companies from around the world, setting up for an epic week in the path of the eclipse. This special gathering will be the perfect place to share the beauty of the universe with tens of thousands of other people, all parking their earthly worries for a couple minutes to delve into the mystic and reconnect with the universe in a meaningful way.

After all, we all are made of star stuff. Allow this eclipse to remind you of your celestial beginnings, and take some time to dive into the idea … of what does this eclipse mean to you?

SAFETY NOTE: Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (“totality”) when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face, which will happen only within the narrow path of totality (https://go.nasa.gov/2pC0lhe(link is external)). The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun.

by Valen Lambert @chagurl — Trash pirate and boogie bunny; “I’ll see you on the d-floor my friends”