The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 119, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Bernadette Brady
Episode originally released on August 18, 2017
Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: email@example.com
Transcribed by Andrea Johnson
Transcription released December 28, 2022
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CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This episode was recorded on Wednesday, August 16, 2017, starting just after 10:08 AM in Denver, Colorado, and this 119th episode of the show. For more information about how to subscribe to the podcast and help support the production of future episodes by becoming a patron, please visit TheAstrologyPodcast.com/subscribe. In this episode I’m going to be talking with Dr. Bernadette Brady about the astrological significance of eclipses. Before we get started there’s one relevant piece of news that I wanted to mention briefly. I recently did an interview with a team of filmmakers from California who are making a documentary that focuses on the Great American Eclipse. The title of the documentary is Umbra, and it’s being directed by a listener of the podcast named Natalie Rold.
The production of the film is being funded through a crowdfunding website called IndieGoGo, and they’re currently about 60% of the way through their funding goal, with the deadline for funding the project ending next Tuesday, August 22. After meeting with the team involved in this project I think that it’s gonna be a really great film, and I would encourage all of my listeners to look into it and consider making a contribution in order to help fund the project. You can find their funding page by going to www.IndieGoGo.com and searching for ‘Umbra’. Or, alternatively, you can just do a Google search for ‘Umbra: The American Eclipse documentary’ and then their page on IndieGoGo should show up as the first result. If they’re able to reach their funding goal then we should see a really well-made documentary that talks about both the astronomy as well as the astrology of the Great American Eclipse by sometime next year. All right, with that announcement out of the way, let’s get started with today’s interview. Bernadette, welcome to the show.
BERNADETTE BRADY: Hello, Chris. Thank you for having me.
CB: Yeah, I’m really excited to have you on the show. Of course the context or the genesis of this episode is that there’s much attention that’s being directed towards the so-called Great American Eclipse that’s set to take place next week. And so, I wanted to have a show dedicated not to not so much talking about that eclipse in particular and what its significance might be, but just the general topic of how eclipses have been dealt with both historically in astrology as well as in contemporary astrology over the course of the past century. And you’re actually somebody who is known to specialize in the subject, and you wrote a great and very influential chapter on eclipses in your 1992 book, The Eagle and the Lark: A Textbook on Predictive Astrology, so I’m actually really excited to have you on the show today to talk about this topic. Do you think that’s an accurate portrayal—that you’re somebody who specializes in, or at least is seen as an authority on this topic to some extent?
BB: Thank you for the introduction. Thank you for the high praise. I wouldn’t call myself a specialist but I have a particular line of approach I take to them which other astrologers appreciate; you know, I have other areas which I’m probably more passionate about in astrology. But the thing is with the eclipses, what actually came about—if I can give you a little bit of the background to what enabled me to develop that work—was just practicing as an astrologer; just earning one’s living as an astrologer, working 9-5, so to speak, with clients. And just actually finding myself sitting in a consulting room, looking at an eclipse that’s going to happen in their chart and saying to the client, “Something good (or bad) may (or may not) happen to you,” this is not really good enough.
BB: In other words, what I was discovering just empirically really was that the chaotic inconsistency of eclipses. You think you’ve got them worked out and then another one comes along and it’s utterly different, and I wasn’t happy with the approach that astrology was taking at that time. And so, I just sort of went back to basics and got into the mechanics of it and in the series, etc., etc., but I’m jumping ahead. So I suppose on one level I am an expert on it, but there are quite a few different experts in different ways. So I’m always reluctant to take a title like ‘expert’ because you could ask me a question next I won’t know the answer to.
CB: Sure. Well, I will attribute that title to you, and I’ll keep it sort of humble like that instead of, you know, going further and calling you a ‘master eclipse astrologer’.
BB: No, no, no, don’t do that.
CB: Okay. But yeah, I like that as a setup in terms of—in the beginning of that chapter in your book from 1992—you said it’s clear that eclipses are very powerful and astrologers recognize that, but there is this difficulty, you know, figuring out how to use them reliably; and so, that sent you in search of additional ways that you could modify the technique or use it more precisely. And then you discovered in some ancient astrological texts one of the potential keys for doing that in the Saros cycle, and so that’s something that we’ll definitely get into later. So maybe before we get into that we could set this up by sort of introducing you to my audience and maybe talking a little bit about your background. So how long have you been studying astrology? When did you start? And just where are you from in general?
BB: Yeah, well, I’m Australian. You can tell from my accent. I’ve been living here in the UK for about 15-16 years now. I got into astrology in 1976. It sounds a long time ago, doesn’t it, but the years do fly along. And it was a real joke—I love the way the Cosmos gives us jokes or teases us—and I was deciding to explore more alternative models or ontologies for how the world works, and I’d decided I would actually explore tarot. And then I would look at Gematria and then I would look at astrology and then I would look at—no, I was gonna do tarot after astrology, that’s right. I had this list, you know, and I allocated six months for each one. And so, I spent a lot of time on Gematria and then I got to the astrology which I was gonna give six months to. This is 1976, Chris.
BB: And I’ve never gotten out of that one; it hasn’t finished with me yet. And I can just get the joke, you know. I just laugh, right?
CB: Yeah, best laid plans.
BB: Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. And people ask me where I learned my astrology. Well, I was driving to work one day—I was working as a bacteriologist; I had this other background, so to speak. And I was driving to work one day, worked in one of the major hospitals, and thought, “When I retire, I can actually do astrology full-time.” And I actually stopped the car and I thought, “You blithering idiot. Why wait?” And I was just in my mid-20s and late-20s. “Why wait till then? Why not do it now?” So I did. I quit my well-paid job and everything else and did it now. And to survive, to physically just earn the income, I also had to teach astrology. So people will say, “Where did you learn your astrology?” And I say, “Well, I attended seven classes a week. I was teaching them.” You know, you do that, you learn astrology from your students. You learn because you have to push yourself and you have to keep reading and working. And yeah, so I did that for many years actually, indeed, before we actually moved over here to the UK.
CB: Wow. That’s actually really notable and really interesting because many people do wait. I mean, they often do have a primary career field, and then eventually after retiring sometimes they’ll get into astrology more fully and do some of their most notable work. I mean, somebody that comes to mind right away is James Holden, for example, who had a whole career as an electrician.
CB: And on the side he was translating Firmicus Maternus and all of these other texts since the 1950s.
BB: Wonderful, isn’t it? Yeah, that’s a wonderful story. Yeah, wonderful, wonderful.
BB: Well, I was just passionate about it and wanted to do it. And one only has one life, and so I like to spend my days doing things I love. So yeah, it was hard. It was hard, but you learn and you work and it was amazing. I was struggling along, you know, just hand-to-mouth. And then what actually happened, a local newspaper decided to do their annual—in Australia, January is the holiday—‘there’s no news happening, so we’ll try and do something with alternative practitioners’ and different things. And so, I had a reporter come along to have his chart read, so I did the chart, and he then wrote it out with a whole lot of other things. And he put the reading he had with me in bold, in the middle, in dark ink, and he says, “I can’t talk about what happened; it was too personal and too amazing,” and left it at that.
BB: And so, from that point on, my phone started ringing, and then I actually tended to have something like 300 clients on my books waiting for an appointment at any one time. And I did that for about 10 years. I would just have that level of booking, seeing 15 to 20 clients a week. So, you know, it was a huge workload where once again you learn astrology from your clients, which is where The Eagle and the Lark came out of and where all this work on eclipses came out of. Because as I said right at the opening, when you’re sitting there with the client, and you’re saying something good or bad may or may not happen, that, in my opinion, is not good enough; you have to be able to do better than that. So, hence, that set me on this research journey into eclipses.
CB: Right. And so, eventually coming out of that you eventually published. And I think that was your first book, right, in 1992, The Eagle and the Lark?
BB: Yes, it was. And it was written as a textbook for the students I was teaching because I wasn’t happy with any predictive astrology books around. There was Hastings’ book, and apart from Alan Leo of course, I wasn’t happy with it. I was coming up also with how to delineate transits slightly differently, or more practical in a practical way working with time maps and so on—all the ways that I had actually developed myself—just when you’ve got a really big client load. And I was doing primarily constant predictive work; that’s what clients wanted. And so, when you have that level of client load you learn consistent techniques to produce consistent results, so that if something goes wrong—because I’d get the clients to give me feedback—you can apply it and you know how you got to that point. Do you know what I mean?
BB: So we can then say, “Well, that was the bit that’s going wrong,” so you can take it out and actually have a look at it and do something about it. And, indeed, that’s the journey that the eclipses went through to correct weaknesses in my own predictive system. I’m not saying I’m perfect at it, but everybody has their own ways of doing things.
CB: Sure. Yeah, and the way that you present it in this book is really amazing because it clearly something where you’re both researching and talking about what contemporary astrologers are saying theoretically or conceptually about different things, but then you’re also stacking that up against your actual experience as a professional astrologer, and there’s something valuable about that.
BB: Yes, I think there is, Chris. It’s sort of like living in the coalface or at the coalface. You’ve got to deal with it, you know, in very much the real-world situation with people with real-world issues. And as you’re well aware you’ve got to be useful for them rather than actually distracting for them.
CB: Sure. And so, already at that point, but then especially after that, it seems like you got more and more interested in studying the history of astrology and studying some of the older astrological traditions, and that started to inform both your practice but also your interest as you at one point decided to focus and go into academia over the course of the following decade, right?
BB: Yes, yes. What actually happened I also had a lot of problems with the astrological use of fixed stars, which I won’t digress into very much, but that fitted into this as well. And the exploration of that took me very, very deeply into the origins and foundations of astrology, but of a heavenly discourse that humanity has with the cosmos. And that sort of gets you into philosophy and history, and so that sort of propelled me towards the academy. And then I was over here in Bristol working with a program; we were working on a software product, Starlight for Fixed Stars, which I put together. I was working with Sarah Ashton, her name was, and I met my good old friend Nick Campion for breakfast one morning, ‘cause he lives in Bristol, and that when he said, “Let me show you what’s happening at Bath Spa University.” And so, he took me out to a cowshed. It was just a cowshed and it still had cows, you know. But Nick’s a Pisces, and so am I, so we stood there in this cowshed with the cows and he shared with me his vision of astrology and the academy, and I just got the same vision. And I said, “Right, we’re relocating and I’m gonna do it.” And he said, “You’re kidding?” I said, “No, no, this is what’s gonna happen,” and that’s what’s happened.
So I came over with my partner, Darrelyn, to do the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology and never left it ‘cause once I finished that I went on to do a PhD. I did my PhD on fate in contemporary astrology, which is a wonderful, wonderful topic; clearly I would say that because I spent seven years studying it. And then now I’m actually just very deeply part of the MA, a tutor with Nick. There’s 13 tutors all told and Nick is 14, so there’s a group of us; and probably about half of us have an astrological background, but the other half don’t and it’s a wonderful mix. And, Chris, it’s just fantastic working with the students at a post-graduate level ‘cause the students keep pushing you, which is just fantastic. It’s wonderful.
CB: Right, and I love that background. And that’s one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you because you not only have that background as a practitioner, but you also have a solid academic background in studying the history of astrology and studying it from a cultural standpoint. So in terms of wanting to talk to somebody about how astrologers have traditionally dealt with eclipses and how the phenomenon is viewed by astrologers, you have, you know, a lot of background from all of those different perspectives at this point.
BB: Yes, yes, yes. I mean, there’s holes in that background, but there always are holes in anything, right?
CB: Sure. All right, well, let’s jump right into it then and start talking about eclipses. And I think a good starting point might be just defining our basics in terms of the astronomy of eclipses essentially, right? One of the things that actually your book is really strong about and that I love in your writing style is that you don’t take things for granted. You make sure that you introduce the basic concepts and you define the astronomical situation or whatever the fundamentals are first before going into the more advanced discussion. So maybe we could do that a little bit here of just talking about what an eclipse is and what the circumstances are that are necessary for one to take place.
BB: Yeah, yeah, certainly. And also, to put it into context in terms of the practicing astrologer, the practicing astrologer doesn’t necessarily need to know how to do it out in the sky, but they do need to recognize it in a horoscope because the astrologers are horoscope-orientated. The sky to them is a horoscope, this two-dimensional map, which is fine. But astrologers need to be able to—if they’re looking at a horoscope—to have a look at that and say, “Wow, this person’s born on an eclipse,” or “This person’s born on the eclipse season.” And the only way they can do that is to actually understand the actual mechanics of eclipses and the relationship the Sun and the Moon have to the node. So that’s the motivation behind that—to make it easily spottable by an astrologer.
And in a nutshell—because people can find this stuff on the Web as well—but a solar eclipse is a New Moon that happens in a particular relationship to the nodal axis. Because all the nodal axis is, Chris, is just the plane where the Moon and the Earth and the Sun are all on the same line, visual line; that’s all the nodal axis is. So every month we get a New Moon, but if we actually looked at it in the sky, the New Moon would be a little bit above or below the line of the Sun. You’re not gonna see it; it’s gonna be above or below the shadow of the Earth. Sorry, above or below—I’m going around in circles in my head here. The Sun, if you actually look at it in the sky map, you’ll actually see the Sun might be in a particular place on the ecliptic, and the Moon might be below the ecliptic or above the ecliptic. So technically in a horoscope it’s a Sun-Moon conjunction, and it’s a New Moon. But they’re not aligned; they’re not together; the Moon’s not covering over the top of the Sun.
So you get a New Moon every month, and then 14 days later, or 14 days-and-some-hours later, you get a Full Moon, which is the Moon opposite the Sun. So that, as people know, that’s the lunation phases, and they just keep running ad infinitum, we hope. But if they actually start to line up on the nodal axis then that means that we’re actually gonna get an eclipse. So if the New Moon—the Sun-Moon conjunction—happens, visually in a chart, if it’s happening within 19° of the transiting node, either in front of it or behind it, then that is potentially an eclipse. If it’s within 12°, it’s definitely an eclipse. And the closer you get to the node, the closer that New Moon happens to the nodal axis—North or South Node—the more potential it is for total. Indeed, totality is something like within 10° or 11° of the actual nodal axis.
CB: Okay, so that’s a great rule of thumb. So anytime you have a New Moon—if you see a New Moon in a chart or in an ephemeris—that’s within 19° of the nodes that’s gonna be either a partial or a total eclipse.
BB: Definitely. And indeed, as an astrologer you look to see if it is. You could go to the NASA website. You can use The Eagle and the Lark, my book; you might not have it. You could go to the NASA website to see if it actually is an eclipse at that time. Here’s a little plug—if you actually have my book then you can quickly look it up and you can also look up the essence of what that eclipse means, which is the Saros series which we’ll get to later on. And the same with the Full Moon, Chris, the lunar eclipse, which is actually the Moon opposite the Sun. And if you get a Full Moon, and the Full Moon in a chart, Sun-Moon opposition, is within—NASA will tell you 19°, but a Full Moon that’s 18°-19° away from the nodal axis—the shadow, the tiny, tiny, slight eclipsing of the face of the Full Moon is so minor, no one would ever recognize it. So to get a visible lunar eclipse you need the lunar eclipse, the Full Moon, to be around about 11° at least from the nodal axis; tighter than that is better. And a rule of thumb, Chris, the closer it is to the nodal axis, the more it is closer to totality, being total.
BB: And if astrologers know that then they can recognize them in a chart.
CB: Sure, that makes sense. And so, it’s difficult ‘cause sometimes astrology students don’t necessarily know this, but the nodes represent the point where the path of the Sun intersects with the path of the Moon; and so, that’s what you need in order for an eclipse to take place. Because as we all know, visually, an eclipse, or a solar eclipse at least, is the Moon moving in front of the Sun and blocking it out because they’re roughly, from an observational standpoint, the same size.
BB: Yes, absolutely. And an easy way for people to think of nodes, to get it in their head, is to think of two hoops, hula hoops, not just hoops. Squeeze one—make them plastic hoops—and put one inside the other and tilt it; and the points where the two hoops meet would be the nodes. Because if you’ve got a little body traveling along one hoop and another one traveling along the other hoop, if they meet at the point where the two hoops are intersecting then they’ll all be on the same line. That’s basically the node; that’s what a node is.
CB: Sure. Okay, that makes sense. It seems like later in your career—at least over the past 10 or 15 years—you’ve really started to focus even more and more on observational astrology and not just looking at astrology abstractly in terms of charts, which is partially what we’re talking about right now, but also visually what things look like if you go out in the night or during the day and look up in the sky.
BB: Yes, yes, I have been enchanted by the Neo-Mesopotamian period or Neo-Assyrian period in astrology, the origins of astrology. And that raw essence of where it comes from, where astrology comes from, it comes from more than just that one place, but there’s definitely a great seed, a great river of thought that mixes with Egyptian thinking to create the Greek, and then through the Islamic world into the Medieval to here. So this is one of the great rivers. It’s based on observation, just simply watching the sky as a continuous narrative, as a continuous sky narrative where the characters are like characters in a Shakespearean play. And just as Shakespeare would have the characters go off to a certain side of the stage to have a conversation, etc., this is the same concept that the Assyrians had in terms of the two planets would meet in terms of a fixed grouping of stars. The zodiac, the stars, the sidereal, the actual physical star was the stage. And these characters moved in and out and they would query.
What’s interesting is that they didn’t have a planetary theory as we would know it, Chris. We can sit down and we can, you know, calculate where Saturn will be 20 years from now or 200 years ago; we would use Kepler’s laws, but even before Kepler’s laws, you could work out the cycles. And they did do that to a certain extent, but there was always a sense that maybe Mars would change. Maybe he’s not going to get to that place and meet up with Venus. Maybe he’s going to suddenly go retrograde and go off and hang out with Mercury for a while and that could be a disaster. So it’s an excitement. You never know what’s gonna happen; you’re watching these characters on this stage. And it’s that observation and every night watching it, and everyday with the clay tablet chiseling out, or rather pushing out in the clay, the letter to the king; they had to report daily what was going on. And then the libraries and libraries of that—that is one of the great foundations stones, literally in clay, in astrology, which we still have. We still have a lot of that material, which is just wonderful to access.
CB: Sure, sure. Yeah, let’s get into that then. So let’s transition to talking about astrological views on eclipses now that we’ve kind of defined the astronomy of the subject. And the period that you’re talking about right now, from what is essentially the Mesopotamian tradition, the earliest versions of Western astrology, if you take it as far back as we can go in terms of the evidence, I think the oldest Mesopotamian clay tablets that contain astrological observations and recordings date back to about 1500 BCE or something like that, right?
BB: Yes, there are some ‘cause the Venus tablet is dated to that, although the remaining copies we have are probably about 1100 BCE; so that’s fragmentary. But the main, huge body, the libraries that they unearthed with a bulldozer I might say, in the early 20th century, whole libraries of clay tablets, which were the stored letters to the king from the astrologers—a lot of that has been transported to the British Museum, and there’s still about 300,000 tablets there. A lot of them haven’t been translated, although they have all been looked at. Then there’s wonderful work by Hermann Hunger, and the other person is Simo Parpola who had done quite a lot of the translation work of these tablets, actually taking the tablets—which are the letters of the astrologer-priests to the kings—and they’ve simply given these translations. Now fortunately I had a copy of one of these and I was able to track it down; it took five years and a book search with eight books for them to find the other one that I needed, so I’ve got these. Then you get scholarly comments on it; I’ve got those as well. But it’s the primary material which is the interesting thing.
And just to read it, Chris—it’s slightly disjointed and bits are broken off, etc.—but just to read the translation it’s a journey into the heart of astrology which I find astounding, and it got me looking at the sky with different eyes. And so, to the point that I wanted to take what they were saying and see if it still worked, personally, I think it still does work. I think my best ever mundane predictive work—and I would say this—has come out of doing this type of astrology; getting off the horoscope and back into the sky and simply standing looking at it. Now, you know, in today’s world we don’t have to go out and look at the sky. There’s plenty of free software you can download—Stellarium, for example—where you can reconstruct the night sky from thousands of years ago and you can look at it, and you can look at it as an astrologer. Yeah, and they’ll talk a lot about eclipses there. There’s a lot of things that are hard to understand because they change the names of things; so the Wolf Star can also be Nergal, which can also be Mars, you know, so you’ve got that sort of difficulty. But it just teaches you that there’s this sky narrative between planets and what they’re going on.
And in that, Hermann Hunger has 165 statements that he’s translated about eclipses in his work and some of them are solar eclipses and some are lunar eclipses; the lunar eclipses are just as powerful as the solar eclipses. But in a nutshell, it’s interesting because not all the eclipses are negative in this level of work. Some of them are, and in other times it’ll be a sense of blessing to the king, you know, something positive actually happening. But they mix their astrology up with also the immediate environment. They mix it up with the feel of the wind in their face and if there’s thunder coming from a certain area of the sky. So they’re bringing in all the ‘gods’ (in inverted commas), you know, for them. The planets, the visuals, the stars, and of course then the actual environment, the atmosphere as well.
CB: Right. So astrology during this period developed as a late form of divination in addition to other forms of divination that were already practiced up to that point. And so, one of the things that shows up in some of the earliest tablets is they’re not just taking into account celestial omens—like eclipses or comets or things like that—but they’re also taking into account other types of omens that are occurring in the observer’s environment at that time.
BB: It’s a combination. Like here, I’ve got on here: The Moon makes an eclipse in the morning watch and finishes the watch, and the north wind blows; there will be recovery from illness in Akkad, and that’s a pretty classic sort of interpretation of an eclipse. But then here: If the eclipse begins in the south and the north wind blows, the fall of Elam, and it will not come close to Akkad. So there’s a sense of the direction of the eclipse. In terms of a lunar eclipse, the ‘horns’ of the Moon—which way it’s pointing, what horn is obscured first, etc., or if there are horns—actually also indicate a direction. So you also have the seeds of—it’s not horary astrology, obviously. But it’s sort of like electional astrology in the sense that you’ve got the seeds of not only can we get a sense of the feeling for it, but we actually have the direction that is actually indicating north, south, east, or west, and it can be good or it can be bad, just depending on the actual eclipse. And we don’t know why they would judge one positive and one negative but they definitely did.
CB: Sure. So the type of astrology, the earliest type of astrology that they’re practicing for most of the Mesopotamian tradition is mundane astrology, where they’re relating celestial omens to the populous as a whole or to groups of people, like cities and nations. And oftentimes they’re associating eclipses with pretty momentous or major affairs rather than more trivial ones essentially, right?
BB: Yes, the individual doesn’t exist in the model, or the only individual that does is the king. But the king is not an individual in this regard. The king is the state and the king is the stability of the empire or the kingdom, so the king represents the Cosmos in that regard. Obviously, you get a lot more of that in the Egyptian model. But even in the Assyrian model you’ve the sense that the king—who was associated with the Sun—right in the very beginning, the king is the Sun. So if something’s happening to the Sun in the sky then something is being reflected in the king here, in the king’s palace. So they’ll talk about the king’s son, they’ll talk about the king’s advisors. So they’ll talk about the king as an individual, but of course they’re talking about the state. They talk about locking the king up or rather keeping him confined in the palace until Mars gets out of Scorpio, for example. They’ll talk about locking the king’s son up because he could get too rebellious and try and overthrow the king, his father. They talk about the king’s army, with Jupiter as the general of the king, the major military figure in the court. So it’s all personalized, Chris, but it’s all also mundane, you know. But a solar eclipse in particular is a direct threat to the king because he’s being blotted out.
What you’ve got to remember with the Mesopotamian model is the Moon is masculine. The only feminine entity is Venus—there’s reasons for that but I won’t digress into it—but the Moon is masculine. And the Sun is the king, the Moon is the god; the Moon is the divine force. All the other planets are deities, or rather people in the king’s court: Mars is the hero, the warrior; Jupiter is the general or the son, the son of the king, the next in line to the throne but not there yet; Mercury is his advisor; and Saturn also belongs to the king; everybody else is a member of the court. And the only planet in the sky—and it’s not a planet of course, it’s a luminary—the Moon, is the deity, is the god. So the Moon is the god. It’s a lunar-driven system, and the Moon is the major entity. So a Full Moon, for example, is when the Sun and the Moon see each other. Now we think and we’re taught in our cultural background that the Moon is a blank canvas, and we see it as full because the Sun’s light hits it, which is exactly the physics; that’s exactly what happens. But how they saw it is that the Moon received the offering of the king. The Moon received the light of the king and accepted his offering because the Moon is the god, and so the Moon is the powerful entity.
So every month, the Moon had to accept the offering of the king. So even if there were clouds—not gonna get a lot of clouds of course in Mesopotamia. But if there were clouds—and they talk of clouds—if that doesn’t happen every month on the 14th day—because it’s a lunar calendar—then this is a bad month for the king because the god has rejected the king’s gift. So if you actually get a lunar eclipse—which is the Full Moon becoming darkened—that can also be ominous. But for some reason sometimes those lunar eclipses are seen as positive for the king, but negative for the king’s enemy in some way; there’s something else going on there. But a solar eclipse—which is what, you know, we’ve just been describing where the Moon passes over the face of the Sun—that’s the god. That’s the god blocking the gift, turning the gift off, you know, so that’s really serious; and quite often it was thought that the king would die in a solar eclipse. As you’re aware, you know, you’re not gonna get too many solar eclipses happening over Mesopotamia; it’s not something that happens. Even though we get solar eclipses twice a year, we get two eclipse seasons a year. How often are you going to see one directly over Mesopotamia? Just like the Great American Eclipse, you know, that’s coming up. How often does that happen? Not very often. But when they do see a solar eclipse, that’s really quite serious, and it’s thought the king would die. But what they do then is they substitute the king, which is another conversation, right?
CB: Right, right. Let’s hold on for that for just a second. I mean, to make a general statement though about eclipses, I read a figure saying that in the Enuma Anu Enlil, in the surviving portions of it that exist—which is one of the major compilations of celestial omens that was developed in Mesopotamia—that something like 40% of the lunar tablets, the tablets that deal with the Moon, were on eclipse omens specifically. And for the most part, even though there might be exceptions sometimes, oftentimes eclipses were interpreted as negative portents in the Mesopotamian tradition that indicated things like wars or famines or plagues or the death of the king or other types of major things that were affecting the civilization like that essentially, right?
BB: Yes, yes, absolutely. But they also would delineate the lunar eclipse in positive lights. It’s important to understand that there is this mixture that can actually happen. So it’s not always negative. Here’s a lunar eclipse here, and it says: The king of Akkad will extend the life. So this is a lunar eclipse which is giving life in some way. Why they say that some times and not others is a little bit of a mystery. But it’s not all just ‘eclipse bad’, it’s very much a mixture. Solar eclipses are definitely very threatening. Lunar eclipses, they would see at least two of those a year; at least one a year. Lunar eclipses of course work by longitude rather than latitude, therefore, they’re open visually to a good half of the world’s population at one time, so therefore we’re going to see a lot of them in any one location.
So at least once a year in Mesopotamia they would actually see a lunar eclipse; therefore they’re gonna start to learn because they’re very much empirically-driven; they’re simply watching and they’re recording what’s happening. And then based on those recordings they’re trying to make better predictions further along when that happens again. They go back to the empirical records—very much like astrologers do today—and look at what happened then and then actually apply it to then. So they’re starting to realize that just ‘cause there’s these eclipses happening at least once a year—if not sometimes twice a year—they’re starting to realize by their own empirical work that they’re not always negative. And so, I think that’s why we’re seeing the lunar eclipses getting quite a variation in their interpretations in this body of work.
CB: Right. So one of the keys to astrology—even since those very early Mesopotamian times—is you study the past in order to predict the future.
BB: Absolutely. It’s the key to the Mesopotamian model. It’s the key to the work they’re doing. That’s what they’re doing. That’s why they record it down. And you see omens being repeated as the years go through. They go back, and they think, “Well, this happened before, and that was the prediction that was made, and that came to pass, so we’ll rattle that off again,” they do do that. And sometimes there’s letters where they’re chastising the king, where they’re saying, “You haven’t done what we’ve said you should do to alleviate the problem. You’ve put the statue in the wrong place. And now this king over there is gonna get the benefit of it, you, idiot (they literally say that to the king). And now what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to do this whole thing again to alleviate the fate that’s potentially coming our way because of this.” So they’re not just passively recording, they’re also actively engaging with the king saying, “This is what you need to do.” They’re acting as consultants.
I always like to think what they are is not so much the modern-day idea of the astrologer with the client and the consultant; they’re actually guardians. The first astrologers stood on the edge between order and chaos. They didn’t assume that the Sun and the Moon would see each other every month in a Full Moon. They didn’t assume that the Sun would rise every day. Order was not assumed. You stood on the edge of your kingdom and that was order and you looked out into chaos. And the job of the earliest astrologers was to be watchful, to be a guardian, to watch the sky and to report it, and then try to alleviate potential problems that could be showing up there to make sure that the order wasn’t lost in the kingdom. And so, an eclipse—particularly a solar eclipse—was of course a huge disorder because the Sun is turned out, so that’s really disorder. And so, it’s that level of disorder that the eclipse represented that was the ‘grit in the oyster’, so to speak, that propelled them to develop an astrology to develop their observational skills.
I mean, Chris, in something like the 6th century BCE, they had determined the location of the node within 10 seconds of arc, and that’s without the concept of zero, without the mathematics that we know. This is working with basically abacus-type thinking and no idea of the celestial geometry. They had actually figured out the location of the node within 10 seconds of arc and could from that point on start to predict eclipses accurately forward because they had to; because they had to beat kettle-drums before the eclipse and during the eclipse to alleviate the pressure. And they had to put statues up. They had to do substitute kings. They had to be prepared to stop the disorder flooding into the kingdom, particularly with the solar eclipse. So I have nothing but admiration for these first astrologers. Their skills of observation were extraordinary.
CB: Right. I mean, that’s a really important point that you made about chaos and, you know, the seeming orderliness of the universe and of the daily and monthly and yearly cycles. And then, you know, if you have a total solar eclipse that takes place, that’s visible in your location in the middle of the day what happens is you’re in the middle of a nice sunny day out and suddenly the Moon moves in front of the Sun, and it’s just complete darkness out in the middle of the day. And you really would have this very gut-level reaction of something, you know, is amiss; like something has gotten thrown out of order. This is not what’s normally supposed to happen, but instead something extraordinary is happening right now. And for early observers, in the earliest phases, we’re talking about astrology being one type of divination where they’re just looking at random, chance phenomenon—like the flight of birds or entrails or other things like that, and astrology is just one of those other random celestial things. But then to have a momentous event like that happen, suddenly, you want to start recording it and you want to start paying attention to it to know if that might happen again, and that leads to the development of an advanced mathematical astronomy eventually over the course of centuries.
BB: Absolutely, absolutely. And it shifts astrology from the sense of divination to actually something else, which we haven’t really well-defined. I mean, collectively, we’re still trying to define it because it becomes predictable in terms of you develop planetary theory. You can therefore predict the eclipses. You can predict that Saturn’s going to do certain things, etc., etc., and therefore it’s not the random divination of cutting open a goat or pulling a tarot card, you know. There’s something else there that’s coming in that is still a debate here in astrology, whether astrology is divination or not. And that’s still very much an interesting academic debate, at least here in the UK.
CB: Yeah, definitely. And some of Geoffrey Cornelius’ work of course on that has been major in raising that question in the 1990s. And I know a lot of people, you know, still struggle with that in terms of, you know, coming from that Mesopotamian heritage where you have astrology developing as a form of divination, and divination being based on chance-like phenomenon.
CB: But then eventually they realized that all of the phenomena that astrology was based on were fixed and predictable things that you could predict hundreds of years in the future.
CB: And I’m not sure if astrologers have ever fully reconciled that necessarily.
BB: They haven’t. I can tell you now they haven’t, which is fine. I mean, it’s great. I love it for the fact we still don’t know what astrology is, and we still have these debatable points and these questions. And I love that; that’s great.
CB: Sure, sure, sure. So going back to that point about, you know, an eclipse being something that throws off the cosmic order and sometimes the Sun being associated with a king, and therefore an eclipse sometimes being viewed negatively or having negative implications for the king, one of the points about Mesopotamian astrology that’s really interesting and that Rochberg and some other scholars point out is that the Mesopotamians didn’t seem to have a completely fixed view of fate because they had propitiatory rituals or mitigation rituals that would allow the populace to avert. So if there was a negative omen that was indicated by something like an eclipse then there might be a way to mitigate it or to avert the negative things that it indicated. And as a result of that they didn’t necessarily have a fixed view of fate necessarily, but instead things were viewed as negotiable, right?
BB: Absolutely. I think it’s important; that’s right there at the very genesis, very beginnings of astrology. We get this sense of astrology as not telling them what will happen; it’s telling them what’s going on so they can actually start to try and take action to alter that in some way, manner, or form. In Egypt at this time there was the development of magic to actually help alleviate one’s personal fate. The Egyptians at this period of time were very much more about the individual; ‘cause we’re talking about late period in Egypt, the 7th century BCE. But in Mesopotamia, we’re still looking at the sense of the whole kingdom, so they’re protecting the kingdom and the king, and there very much is a ‘we can do things to actually alleviate this’. And indeed, the whole essence of fate—which is revealed in their work—is what’s developed when the human spirit bumps up against the determinism of nature (i.e., the course of the planets or eclipses, etc.), stuff that can’t be altered. But that interface with the human spirit is not going to accept that as a fait accompli and will try and change something. And it’s what they put, what humanity puts between themselves and determinism is what we would call fate; there’s other words for it as well, but we could call that fate.
And yes, they believed in a substitute idea. They had this wonderful policy that if they predicted the king was going to die, they would simply take the king off the throne and then grab some poor blighter off the street, put him on the throne for a month. And at the end of the month, they execute him, and that then fulfills the fate; the gods have been appeased. Or the other thing they’d do is they erect statues; we’re not quite sure what that did, but they’d erect statues. And then the other thing they’d do is they’d use copper drums, and we don’t know how that was being worked, what was the philosophy behind that. But they definitely, absolutely were into negotiating fate—as astrologers are today.
Astrologers today have deep, deep connections. What’s exciting, Chris, is the continuous train of thought from the Mesopotamian to right now. At this very moment you’ve got astrologers out there negotiating with fate in different ways. In Jyotish astrology they will chant mantras and they will wear stones, etc., to help alleviate a Saturn transit, which is very, very Mesopotamian in its thinking. Now in Western astrology, say, for a Saturn transit, we could get our tax return done on time or address the issues of responsibility. In other words, we are appeasing the Saturn parts of our life. It’s the same concept, you know, trying to negotiate and work with fate. I could go on forever and ever and ever on this topic, but I won’t.
CB: Sure, sure. And I know Nick Campion, for example, likes to point out the parallel between an ancient Mesopotamian tablet where the astrologer advises the king not to go outside for 40 days and a more modern parallel where, for example, the astrologer Joan Quigley in the 1980s—who was the astrologer for Ronald Reagan—when he got involved in I think the Iran-Contra controversy, she advised him to be quiet and not make any public statements for the next several weeks; and Nick likes to draw a parallel, like a direct line in the tradition.
BB: Yeah, I totally agree. It’s a continuous, unbroken practice in human life right from the Mesopotamian, right through to today, which is very powerful; it’s very exciting.
CB: Sure. So this period that we’re talking about in Mesopotamia is about the 7th century BCE. And this is basically the high point of the Mesopotamian state-supported astrology, or at least it’s the most well-documented time where most of our surviving tablets come from. And at this time I think David Pingree said that there were at least 10 different, what he called, ‘colleges’ of astrologers all around Mesopotamia who would write to the kings and send in reports about their astrological or their astronomical observations and then their astrological predictions based on that. And then sometimes they would make recommendations based on what to do, often in terms of mitigation or propitiation rituals. And sometimes that would be, you know, more minor or small-term things, like the statues thing that you were talking about and other things like that. And then the most extreme version would be this ‘substitute king’ ritual that you mentioned where they thought, you know, something bad is gonna happen to the king when this eclipse takes place, and therefore we’re going to make somebody else king so that you can almost redirect that to the person who was the king at the time, like a tricky little thing. Then at the end of that period that person is killed in order to fulfill the prophecy and then the real king comes back at that point.
CB: It’s both, on the one hand, very striking and it’s not necessarily the most positive, I don’t know, footnote in the history of astrology. I always think that somebody should really write a script about the ‘substitute king’ ritual in Mesopotamia where there’s a plucky, substitute king who outsmarts his captors and manages to stay king at the end of the ritual.
BB: We learn about this because what it tells us is their view of fate was that fate was blind. Fate was mechanical. It was collective and it was simply like the weather. It was blind, blind fate, whereas fate now in astrology—which you see parallels—but the fate we have now in astrology is deeply personal. For example, you know, if something was gonna happen to you, the astrological philosophy we have today is we can’t take a substitute, Chris, and put him into your life and let it happen to them. Because you would say, “But no, no, fate is personal. It will happen to me whether I pretend I’m Chris or not,” do you know?
CB: Right, right.
BB: So that’s the big difference. And what we learn from those rituals back then is A) that humanity wanted to negotiate with fate and that’s really important, but B) they saw fate as blind; that’s the simple way of putting it. They saw it as blind or just a mechanical thing, whereas post-Hellenistic period, once Plato comes in—and I know Plato’s not an astrologer, but he’s very, very instrumental in the sense of the individual. Plato gives us soul, and as soon as we get an individual soul then we actually start to get individual fate. Individual fate is very, very deep in Medieval astrology as well, so it’s not a modern concept. But that’s the big difference between the fate we’re talking about with the Mesopotamian and fate later in astrology. Does that make sense to you?
CB: Sure, when they haven’t even developed the concept of natal astrology until relatively late in the Mesopotamian tradition.
BB: Yeah, about 400 BCE before we get the first horoscopes.
CB: Sure. But it is interesting that there’s still this underlying concept of necessity that something bad is gonna happen to the king, and so we better make somebody else the king; and it’s still gonna happen, but not necessarily the way it might otherwise.
CB: So there’s an interesting interplay there between a necessity-based fate and a free will of some sort.
BB: Yes, yes, yes, yes. A necessity-based fate is a good way of putting it. I’d leave free will out, right?
CB: Yeah. Yeah, that’s a very loaded term.
BB: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
CB: Sure. Okay, so getting us back on the topic that’s essentially the Mesopotamian tradition. And then eventually in the late Mesopotamian tradition they developed the concept of natal astrology. Then we move into the Hellenistic tradition and we start getting more of a personalized notion of fate, and we get, you know, philosophical schools like Stoicism that become very influential. And in the later traditions in terms of eclipses of course, once you get the development of natal astrology you start getting more personal ways of interpreting eclipses in terms of the birth chart in the Hellenistic and Medieval tradition. And one of the things you and I were talking about is there’s not actually as much literature about eclipses in terms of natal charts as we find that there was in the Mesopotamian tradition in terms of mundane astrology, at least from what we know, right?
BB: Yes, absolutely, and it’s an interesting point. It’s not a heavy presence in the Medieval material. Having said that, Chris, you’re bound to have a listener who’ll come hurtling in with some quotes which will be great to share with us, right? But yes, once you’ve got the Mesopotamian, it’s absolutely packed with eclipse material. And then once you sort of leap over the Hellenistic, late Hellenistic, and then moving into early Islamic, etc., it’s not there. But then, as you said, it’s a shift into the individual astrology rather than the mundane. Clearly the mundane astrology was there, but a lot of the material is much more focused on the individual horoscopic work. And it’s almost like in terms of individuals they thought maybe the eclipse didn’t affect the individuals, unless the individual was the king; they kept it more for the mundane. But we don’t actually have—I’m bound to be wrong here—but from my knowledge we don’t actually have a lot of mundane astrological work coming out of the Medieval, but I’m sure there’s some; just my brain is not registering it.
CB: Sure, sure. Yeah, I mean, there’s a little bit in Ptolemy and a little bit in Hephaistio in the Hellenistic tradition.
BB: Yes. Yeah, I was thinking Medieval, you know. I was pushing it past the Hellenistic.
CB: Sure. And so, one of the few things that does show up later that’s an interesting development that still has some relevance in modern times—or has carried over and influenced some modern traditions—is the notion that when you are looking at an eclipse, sometimes in the Medieval texts when they discuss it, the eclipse itself was not always thought to coincide immediately with the predicted event. But instead sometimes it could indicate an occurrence that would occur many months after the eclipse takes place, right?
BB: Yes. Yeah, it’s not something I’ve found that useful to apply to the contemporary use of eclipses, at least in client work, the sense that the eclipse can come in much, much later; but to really address that we need to back up a little bit. When we’re talking about the mechanics of eclipses, what I should have stressed there as well is twice a year, there’s an eclipse season. And the eclipse season happens, we talked about, when the Sun and Moon, New or Full, is roughly 19° of the nodal axis and then an eclipse will happen or can happen. So once a year of course—or twice a year, sorry—the transiting Sun will get within that 19° band of the transiting nodal axis. So in six months it will get around the North Node and then six months later it will actually get around the South Node. So therefore twice a year we get what’s known as an ‘eclipse’ season.
Now these seasons are really important. Clearly we’re in one now and it will extend through to about the 5th or 6th or 7th of September coming up. In other words, you look to see when the Sun finally gets 19° away from the transiting nodal axis and then the eclipse season finishes. And once you’re in an eclipse season, even if the eclipse is happening at the end or at the beginning or whatever the case may be, the season is pregnant with the eclipses; the season is being emphasized, being stressed. So we’re in eclipse season now, and as a practicing astrologer, you always get a lot more clients banging on your door, or a lot more activity going on; people getting agitated. Things are happening to people in different ways, manners, and forms. And to bring it back to the immediate point you’re making about how long does an eclipse last, in terms of when you’re looking at a chart, and you’re looking at eclipses happening at a certain degree—and let’s say it’s forming a square to the Venus or something like that; square to the Ascendant—you’re gonna bring that into your predictive work in talking about the eclipse in the client’s life. But what you can say with reasonable certainty is that the events that you predict for the eclipse will happen in the eclipse season. That could happen two weeks before the actual eclipse, it could happen the week after the eclipse, it could happen on the day of the eclipse, but it will happen in the eclipse season.
And once the eclipse season finishes that eclipse has finished, but let me put a rider there. If the eclipse brings to your attention things that you need to take note of in your life, or brings change into your life in some way then clearly the changes will actually run for years and years and years afterwards. But the actual eclipse event—the ‘Aha!’, the click, the bang, the actual event—will be in the eclipse season. Now if we actually extend that—if you start saying, well, it could run for months or it could run for years; the actual event could suddenly pop up six months later, for example—astrology gets very messy, very quickly because you’ve also got transits; in other words, you’ve got other predictive systems. And if you start having everything with big orbs—which is what you’re talking about—then the orbs overlap and you can never distinguish what’s really going on. You sort of get gloamage rather than a sense of a clear time map for the person, where you can see the events and see the reaction and give them an idea of the pathway they’re walking.
So I’ve always found it personally better to actually think of the eclipse season. And I’ve found that really works for people that the events will happen within that season; and then the consequences may flow on for many years, but the events, the big ‘E’ word, the event is happening in that season. So that’s my own opinion on that. So I disagree with the Medieval model when they do talk about it; it could happen months after. And I also disagree with the contemporary arguments. I’m not saying they’re wrong, I just disagree that the eclipse could happen six months later, etc. I just haven’t found that to be valid. So, you know, that’s where I’m coming from.
CB: Sure. And I guess I was thinking of that partially in some Medieval texts, but then also some contemporary astrologers, like Robert Zoller, for example. Supposedly his prediction about 9/11 was based on an eclipse that took place in 1999 where the path crossed over the eastern coast of the United States, and then somehow that eclipse degree or chart was supposedly triggered many months later by an ingress of Mars or something like that; or at least that’s the rationalization from, you know, contemporary practitioner of Medieval astrology, to whatever extent that’s Medieval. I will say though you do at least in your book mention the eclipse season indicating something, something that I agreed with. And since basically at this point we’re just moving on to talking about how eclipses are interpreted in modern astrology by contemporary astrologers, you point out that one of the ways that contemporary astrologers look at eclipses is when they move into and start falling in a new set of houses, you’ll get a 12-to-18-month period that lights up the specific axis of two houses with solar eclipses and lunar eclipses for this extended period of time; so to whatever extent that’s the case.
So for example, we’ve just started recently—when the nodes moved into Leo and Cancer, or sorry, Leo and Aquarius—a 12-to-18-month period where we’re gonna have a series of eclipses that go back and forth between Leo and Aquarius for the next, you know, year or two basically, right?
BB: Yes, absolutely. And that’s important. That gives you a big clue about the meaning of the transiting node because the transiting node is of course what dictates where the eclipses are. So the transiting node will take nine years to transit halfway through the chart to emphasize a pair of houses. And indeed, if an eclipse is not directly affecting your chart or not, the transiting node will be going through a pair of houses. So all the eclipses are happening in that pair of houses. They’re not happening all the time for that 18 months, but I see them like little shotgun pellets or something, you know, or like ink splot bombs or whatever. You’re getting that splat happening through the 2nd and 8th houses, for example; so they would be for that individual a 12-to-18-month period, depending on the house class they’re using. So a stressing of finances and dealings with other people’s money and resources and their own resources; all of that type of simplistic stuff, that would be the agitated background going on to be aware of. Not meaning it’s negative, but that would be the stuff that’s floating up to the top of their life and they’re having to deal with. So that’s an important thing because, as I said, it tells us about the meaning of the transiting node. ‘Cause the transiting node is simply where the eclipses are happening in the house; and to me, that’s an important clue about the meaning of the nodes themselves.
CB: Yeah, definitely. And I think that’s been a very positive development in the growth and development of eclipse doctrine and interpretations in contemporary astrology—partially looking at them through the lens of the lunation cycle and the lunation phases, where you have the New Moon and Full Moon that take place each month in a different part of a person’s chart; which in and of itself is representing different cycles of new beginnings and endings, or growth and decay, or what have you. And then every once in a while, every six months, you have an eclipse come along, which is oftentimes treated in modern astrology like an amped-up or super New Moon or a super Full Moon. You’ve got an especially powerful New Moon or Full Moon cycle taking place in a certain part of the chart during a specific time period essentially, right?
BB: Yes, yes.
CB: Would you agree with that?
BB: I have a particular approach to understanding what a particular eclipse means ‘cause I think they’re all quite different in their own ways; but yes, effectively. But the thing is with the lunation cycle, which is singly a beautiful thing, the reality is that it’s very much in the background of our life. And I think it’s very important, but I think it’s almost like breathing; we can sometimes be quite unconscious of it and it just is going on. Because if we are in a time of new birth and then fullness and then decay dramatically every month, we’d be locked up, you know; we’d need to be sedated.
BB: Yeah, it’s a very subtle thing, quietly in the background.
CB: Sure. So then the question then becomes, you know, what are some of the ways in which either those lunations—but especially the eclipses—become more important in a person’s chart. Because I think one of the things you pointed out in your book is modern astrologers have this experience sometimes of seeing a really striking and powerful example of an eclipse hitting a person’s chart and then very evocatively showing an important turning point or event or moment in their life. But then it’s actually oftentimes a sort of wild-card factor for modern astrologers, or at least when you wrote your book it was, to the extent that it wasn’t always clear how to narrow that down ‘cause it was almost like ‘lightning in a bottle’ or trying to capture lightning in a bottle.
You could see these one-off instances where an eclipse is really important, but it wasn’t always clear how to precisely capture that and predict that ahead of time. And while there were sometimes certain shortcuts or certain things that modern astrologers had developed, like looking at close aspects, you recommend very tight orbs for that to natal planets; like if an eclipse hits a natal planet within 2°-3° or less, ideally, that might be an important turning point. But then that eventually led you to finding or discovering another factor that could help to narrow down which eclipses are gonna be important in predicting what they mean as well, right?
BB: Yes. Yeah, very, very, much so. What was going on—and still does happen now, which is fine—astrologers would actually look at the eclipse chart. So this eclipse coming up in a few days’ time they would look at the actual horoscope for that moment and then delineate that. And what you would find is astrologers would say, “Well, the Saturn in the eclipse chart was squaring my Sun.” But the problem you have with that is that the chart for the eclipse that’s happening in a few days’ time is simply the transits to your chart, you know. If you’re going to look at that chart and then see how it affects you, it’s no different to looking at the transits on that day to your chart. So once again there’s a blurring of boundaries there as to what’s really going on, what’s the eclipse and what’s just the transits, and I wasn’t happy with that. And as we talked about in the beginning, I found myself saying to clients basically I didn’t know what was going on. I really liked your term, Chris, ‘lightning in a bottle’ ‘cause to me it seemed like that. Because you would get an eclipse, which is really clear and it’s fantastic, and you’d think, “Yeah, now I get those,” and then next year you’re dealing with another eclipse and it’s just utterly different; that was the problem.
So in unpacking that, I unpacked it in the very early ‘80s, and I say that because it was before the internet. I call it ‘BC’, it’s almost like ‘before computers’. But there were computers, but they were pretty basic; I can remember my first computer just had a couple of floppy disks in it. But going into the library and finding books and finding stuff, I tripped over the concept—researching backwards, that was discovered by the Mesopotamian astrologers in the 7th century, 6th century—that the eclipses happened in cycles. Now everybody is aware of the Metonic cycle, where an eclipse happens every 19 years at the same degree; pretty relevant for this one coming up, by the way, which we can talk about shortly. But the more important thing was, for me, anyway, that an eclipse is a piece of geometry; it’s a beautiful geometrical dance between the Moon, the Sun, and Earth. I’ll talk solar eclipses now.
If an eclipse is happening, you get a tiny, tiny partial eclipse that’s happening on the North Pole. So you have to be standing on the North Pole to see a tiny, tiny partial eclipse, and that will be the beginning of a north Saros series cycle. And once that starts, once you actually get that one, once you’ve grabbed that bit of ‘lightning in a bottle’ then you can say, right, every 18 years, 10 or 11 days—depending on the number of leap years in the 18 years—every 18 years, 10 or 11 days, there will be another eclipse in this series. And it will be a little bit further down in latitude and about one-third around in longitude; you can actually work out where it’s gonna be visible. And it will keep doing that; it’ll absolutely keep doing that like freakin’ clockwork. The solar system is Newtonian, right? So every 18 years, 10 or 11 days, another eclipse will happen, another eclipse will happen, but it won’t happen in the same place; it will happen about 10.5° further along in the zodiac.
So it leaps-frog through the zodiac. It’s like a board game, Chris. Whereas a transiting Saturn or Pluto will go through every single minute of arc of the ecliptic, a transiting eclipse cycle will leap-frog every 10.5° further along. And it’ll keep doing that and it will do that for about 72-73 eclipses. So you multiply 18 years and some days by 72, what you get is an eclipse Saros series that will last for about 1,200-1,300 years. And it will end with a tiny, tiny partial eclipse on the South Pole, if it starts on the North, and it will be total, always total, in the equatorial regions. So most of the total eclipses, you know, you won’t get them at very high latitudes; we get them more in the middle bands of latitude.
Therefore, once you have that, with the solar eclipses there are 18 to 19 of those series all at different stages washing down from the North Pole: some just starting; some being total, like this one coming up; some ending, being tiny partial eclipses. So you’ve got 18 or 19 of those all lasting about 1,200 years washing down from the North Pole, and then you’ve got exactly the same thing happening in the South Pole washing upwards to the North Pole, so you have all these different eclipses happening. And in any one year you’ll get an eclipse on the South Node and an eclipse on the North Node obviously. So one eclipse will be a North Node Saros series and the other eclipse six months later will be from the South Node Saros series. Now as soon as we have that we can actually find the very first eclipse of that series, the birth chart; I think of it as the birth chart. And of course, hey, I’m an astrologer; give me a statement that this whole phenomena starts at that point, I’m immediately gonna construct a chart for it. That’s what we do, don’t we, Chris? We think, “Well, I wonder what the chart is for that moment when the whole thing starts?” And of course you’re starting it at the North Pole or the South Pole, so there’s no house system; you’re just really looking at planetary combinations.
So what I did—this was back in the early ‘80s—is I basically worked out those beginning charts. I found the beginning. I mean, now you’ve got the NASA website, which is just amazing, but that didn’t exist then. So because of the mechanics, because of the sheer geometry, I could write a little bit of computer code and actually just work out, just plot them all: plot every single series, every single eclipse, every single degree that hit an ecliptic and plot it back and find the origins of each series. Once I did that then I had a birth chart. Then I ran it empirically with clients and with case studies and people with diaries and history and so on like that, and astrologically it knocked my socks off, Chris. Because what was actually happening is, the eclipse, I recognized the Saros series it belonged to. I could go back to that birth chart and get a sense of what was the essence of the eclipse and with quite confidence apply that into looking at the predictive work for the client. And a lot of it I had to do from theory slowly; I mean, that was back in the early ‘80s. I’ve actually been able to watch every single eclipse series which is active at the moment, and I’m quite happy with the way I’ve delineated that. Now that chapter you were referring to in The Eagle and the Lark puts all that down so that people can use that work and look it up.
But the other really exciting thing that came out is not only does it give us a sense of a meaning of what an eclipse actually talks about, but also I started to find—I haven’t been able to do more research on this—is that an eclipse series could pick up a whole point of human history, could pick up a whole theme and run with it; there was one that happened at the time when Gutenberg invented the printing press. And every now and again, not every eclipse, but every major scientific publication that’s come out has come out under the Saros series when it repeats, and I find that extraordinary. So different ones have different flavors that will run through human history or run through history. So I started to realize that the eclipse Saros series were more than just individual meanings in a natal chart; they were huge, big cycles that we were swept up in.
And sometimes you get people born on an eclipse, and they’re born in the energy of this great cycle that’s unfolding. And if they happen to become famous people—obviously not everybody does—then they’re life portrays that. The last emperor of China was such a character. And I should have looked this up before we started, but he was born on an eclipse. And I’m going on memory now, I might get this a little bit wrong, but the eclipse was something about great things coming to an end, to be the end of something, to be disconnected finally from something, and his life was sort of tangled up in that. And indeed the current English royal family is deeply embedded in eclipse cycles; they can’t get out of them; their life is tangled up. William was born on an eclipse, as you know, and that eclipse started with one of the very first kings of England, and it ends in 2038, when he’s going to be king.
And so, you start to think, does he end the whole thing? I don’t know. But, you know, his life is more than just his life; his life is actually part of this great Saros cycle. Now a lot more work needs to be done on that; a lot of mundane empirical research work needs to be done on that, but these cycles I think are incredibly important. So we can personalize it by looking at a particular eclipse cycle and actually looking at what the meaning is, or we can also step back and do a whole mundane look at it on a really big cycle, like a 1,200-year cycle, to actually look at how that’s unfolding across the globe. You can see, Chris, everything in my chart is ruled by Jupiter. So you can see I can get really pumped with these ‘big-thinking’ ideas.
CB: Sure. Well, no, it’s exciting. And, you know, one of your unique contributions to the field of astrology over the past few decades is you discovered from some ancient text this ancient cycle that started being observed by the Mesopotamians in their tradition, where eclipses actually come in ‘families’. And this is referred to as the Saros cycle, which you’ve sort of repopularized in contemporary astrology. It actually repeats about every 18 years, and then the eclipse will take place around the same spot in the zodiac, but it’ll move about 10°. And each of these eclipse families has a similar expression, which then allows you to do what we were talking about earlier, which is in order to predict the future, you have to go back and study the past and either see how that eclipse family has worked out. If you wanted to make a personal prediction for how this eclipse might be relevant to a person, you might go back 18 years ago and see how that last eclipse, you know, affected the person, if it did at all.
BB: If it did at all. And to be effective for one single chart, a natal chart, a person—to be affected by the same Saros series more than once—they have to have a planet at a significant point 10° separated from the first one. Do you know what I mean? They have to have the places in their chart that are gonna be hit by it every 18 years, 10° apart, and that doesn’t happen very, very often. And that’s why it can be difficult for natal astrology if you don’t understand the Saros series, I believe, anyway. But we get eclipses happening in the same natal chart, but they’re utterly different families, and that’s why they come across as wild cards. But if we step back and look at the birth charts right from the beginning of the Saros series then we see they’re not wild cards. They’re actually ‘shape’ cycles which are unfolding in humanity, so that gives us a powerful tool for approaching it. I just want to correct one thing, Chris.
BB: My thinking through it, which led back to the Mesopotamian, there was a wonderful astrologer called Carl Jansky. Do you know his name at all? Canadian astrologer.
BB: Well, he wrote a little book called Eclipses, which when I was studying I sort of bought everything I could and I bought that. And he actually talked about the Saros series, but he didn’t use it as a tool; he just indicated it was there. And I just wanted to pay credit to him for that because then that propelled me back further to look into what was going on. And indeed, the numbering system I use for eclipses in The Eagle and the Lark—which is south/north or south and a number—that comes out of Jansky’s numbering system for eclipses. And it’s different to what astronomers use, which is the Den Van Bergh system. Van den Bergh—my God, I’m getting confused—which is actually just a numbering system which doesn’t tell us very much about what’s going on with the eclipse. I’m just clarifying that ‘cause I wanted to give credit to Carl Jansky for that little book he wrote.
CB: Yeah, that’s great. It’s great to always see and recognize those lineages when you have something like that…
CB: …which is sort of an offhanded remark sometimes, or some work that one astrologer does, and another astrologer comes along and, you know, discovers it and thinks it’s really great and then develops it more.
BB: We stand on shoulders, Chris. We all stand on shoulders.
CB: Right. Especially in astrology where that’s, you know, very visible sometimes when you have different lineages of astrologers or you have one astrologer who’s been influenced by another. But your unique contribution to that especially would be casting a chart for the very start…
BB: The birth.
CB: …of each Saros series and then relating that chart and using that as a tool to figure out how that family of eclipses might relate to an individual.
BB: Yes, absolutely. I mean, and in all fairness, when Carl was doing that work, he probably didn’t have the ability to be able to find those birth charts. So I was doing it at the very early stages of computing, and I’d actually done quite a lot of work in some basic coding. I’m not very good at it, but just enough to be able to run sequences and so on like that. And what happened is I bought a piece of astronomy software on a disc. And I managed to hack into it, and I got it doing what I wanted it to do for me, which was really, really useful, and that helped me then to back-track and find the origin charts. Yeah, that was before that wonderful NASA site and so on.
CB: Sure. And so, you relate the birth chart to the start of the Saros series. And the Saros series, because it’s occurring, you know, every 18 years, and then it moves about 10° in longitude each time, the entire series, from start to end, can last for hundreds and hundreds of years, right? How long is the average length?
BB: Yeah, it’ll go twice around the chart. So the average length is about 1,200-1,300 years. So long cycles. It’s a long cycle.
CB: So we’re talking about very long-term cycles.
BB: Yeah, great, isn’t it? You think Pluto has a long cycle; no, the Saros series. And this gets really exciting, Chris, because you can take a country’s chart that has a much longer life and you can start plotting the cycles as transiting leap-frog points into that chart. So if you have a chart that’s very long-lived you can start to do that. And this is obviously a country’s chart; it gives you that potential to be able to explore.
CB: Right. And then one of the additional pieces of research that you’ve done that’s very exciting for people that are interested in history and the development of culture and science and other fields is that you’ve shown these different eclipse families as having a sort of theme to them and important historical events taking place in connection with these different series that happen every 18 years, so that sometimes there’s a connection between different ones.
BB: Yeah, absolutely. There’s definitely a connection. If they’re in the same Saros series, they have a common theme, and I see them like a complete package once I’ve delineated the chart. And in my book, The Eagle and the Lark, I gave the actual birth date of each Saros series with the planetary positions and then my consideration—excuse me, delineation of that. But I did that intentionally, Chris, so people could look at it themselves. Other astrologers could look and say, “Well, actually I disagree with what Brady’s doing there. But I can see those planets and I would delineate that as ‘X’.” And that’s absolutely fine because I think we need to do that so that people can bring their own thinking to their astrology. So I take that and then I look at that like a package of meaning, and then I drop that in a precise point into the natal chart, keeping it very, very tight aspecting.
So I won’t look at the different planets in that birth chart and do synastry with the natal chart. Some people will do that saying, “Well, back then in 1832, Saturn was such-and-such, and that’s squaring my natal Sun.” And I’d say, no, no, no, don’t do that. Take that chart, get it as an essence. This is the family, this is the tribe, take that. And that’s dropping into your natal chart in this particular position, so I look at it in that regard. I don’t know if that makes sense. Does it?
CB: Just to clarify, so you sort of synthesize and try to draw out what the essence is of the…
BB: Whole series.
CB: …all the major configurations in the original chart, and then you sort of more broadly compare that to the natal chart or some of the themes from the eclipse chart to the natal chart rather than doing a direct synastry.
BB: I inject it into the natal chart at that precise degree that the eclipse is happening and look at it. So, I mean, if we take the example of—I’m just trying to see this particular one coming up. I should know it off the top of my head. What I will do is I’ll just grab my book; I’ll get back to my primary source.
CB: Yeah, that’s always handy when you can do that.
BB: Primary sources are really great. So this is 1-north, this eclipse happening in a few days’ time. It’s Saros series 1-north. The name doesn’t mean anything; it’s just a tag so we can know what we’re talking about. It started on the 4th of January in 1639 at 5 hours 12 minutes and 37 seconds; that’s Greenwich Mean Time. It’s happened on the North Pole, so it’s coming onto the North Node. Planetary positions are there, and it’s a Jupiter-Pluto-Uranus node combination. There’s a Venus to Jupiter-Saturn, and there’s a Mars to the New Moon-Neptune. And I’m just gonna quote myself here to give people an idea. So the meaning I’ve given to that—and this is now talking about natal charts—it simply says: Unexpected events involving friends or groups place a great deal of pressure on personal relationships. These relationship issues may loom large as the eclipse affects the chart. The individual would be wise not to make any hasty decisions since information is distorted and possibly false. The eclipse also has an essence of tiredness or health problems attached to it. That’s that Neptune component.
Now what I’d do with that, Chris, I’d take that, if someone’s chart was being affected by this eclipse; it’s 29° Leo. Let’s say it was happening on the Ascendant, just to give an example, then you would be looking at a sense the person—because of their Ascendant—would be making decisions which are probably not very well-informed, and there’s relationship tensions or a breakdown or something happening where things are not working out. But let it sit there because if you take action, you’re definitely not informed of the whole thing, so you need to give it space to actually work through. And that would be sitting on the Ascendant, that’s the emphasis on you, whereas if it were, say, sitting on the Sun, it could be your reputation, the people around you that you respect, the authority figures and so on. So I would look at it that way. I would actually inject this idea of tensions in group relationships or friendships, but things resolving okay into the chart and delineate it that way. And, to me, this is quite a nice eclipse. Having said that, now we’ve got a dog barking.
CB: No, problem.
BB: This is quite a nice eclipse. It’s a bit chaotic as we go through it because it looks like things are gonna break down, but it’s not going to. It’ll land on its feet okay and that’s the key point.
CB: Sure, and then of course there’s other factors. I know that you take into account—especially from an observational astrology standpoint—in terms of this eclipse, it’s gonna take place so close to Regulus.
BB: Yes, yes.
CB: It seems like in some of your discussions that’s been partially something that you’ve focused on.
BB: Yes, it has been. Normally I wouldn’t take note of that, but Regulus happens to be right on the ecliptic, so it is actually happening right on Regulus. I definitely—as you’re probably aware—do not project stars onto the ecliptic. I have very strong opinions against that, so I wouldn’t do that, but Regulus is right on the ecliptic and it is happening on Regulus. So Regulus is a very complex star. It’s one of the four cardinal stars. In the 17th-18th century they got named the ‘royal’ stars of Persia, but that’s a recent construct but they’re still key points. And in essence when you research Regulus, it’s great success as long as you don’t take revenge, that’s a natal chart meaning. So this eclipse happening on Regulus really is saying—depending on how it fits into people’s charts—there will be all sorts of chaos and pressures around relationships and groups. Depending on how it’s affecting the individual, as long as the individual doesn’t try and become vitriolic or try and take revenge then it works out okay. But if they try and take revenge in some way then this will turn quite difficult for them because that’s what Regulus would bring to this eclipse as it lands into people’s charts. Does that make sense?
CB: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. And you actually wrote a whole book about fixed star interpretations at one point, right?
BB: Yeah, two books actually, and computer software and computer reports.
BB: The interesting thing is if people want to research eclipses on Regulus, you can actually use the Metonic cycle, which is the 19-year cycle I mentioned at the beginning. The Metonic cycle means that an eclipse will happen at the same degree every 19 years. It’ll be a different Saros series, Chris, but it’ll be at the same degree. So for example, we’ve got this one happening in a few days’ time; the last time we had an eclipse there was the 22nd of August 1998. We got a solar eclipse on Regulus, and it was a different eclipse family; it’s 19-north. And what actually happened then is there were huge bombings in Kenya on the 7th of August. The 20th of August the US military launched a cruise missile attack against the alleged al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan; and of course that started chemical warfare and the whole Middle East issues, and then in August North Korea launched its first satellite.
So in other words we’ve got another story going on here—this is the Regulus story—that it got fired off, and we’ve got America launching missiles, and we’ve got Korea starting to test missiles. So this is a bit scary, you know, because we can see these themes returning again. It’s not a Saros series; it’s Regulus being hit by an eclipse. And if we go back just one more, the one before that was the 22nd of August 1979. So this is 19 years before and this is another Saros series 18-north. And do you know what the USA was doing then, along with Great Britain? Let’s test nuclear weapons in Nevada. Let’s blow Nevada up. And now we’re actually letting off atomic weapons in Nevada as that eclipse was going on.
BB: And I’m not suggesting there’s going to be nuclear war, I’m making the point here that it’s the Regulus issue that’s being fired off. Now the eclipse with the atomic explosions in Nevada, 18-north is a very, very violent eclipse anyway; it’s a pretty nasty series. And the one that was 1998 was 19-north, which is about realism and consequences, so there was a sense of “you blow up our embassies, and we will shoot cruise missiles into you.” But let us hope with this coming one—and there is tension as we’re well aware—it actually won’t come to that because there’s a sense, you know, the first one here in the modern era is the blind testing nuclear weapons, the second one is using them, not nuclear, but using cruising missiles. Let’s hope the third one just keeps to being saber-rattling, but you can see the same elements cropping up. This is the mundane emphasis on Regulus being hit by a hard, hard eclipse series. So you can see another layer here with mundane astrology; you can zoom in like that, testing a point in a chart, testing a particular degree in the zodiac. Every 19 years, a degree, it’ll be hit by an eclipse, you know, so you can just go back ding-ding-ding-ding-ding easily.
BB: And what you’re doing is you’re analyzing the degree rather than analyzing the eclipses, you know, ‘cause each one is a different eclipse series.
CB: Right. And then of course as many people are talking about right now, the United States recently elected a leader who has Regulus conjunct the Ascendant with Mars.
BB: Is that Ascendant, Chris? Because I’ve seen other charts for him. You’re probably more informed than I would be there. So is that his Ascendant, do you think?
CB: So it’s slightly complicated. It’s very likely that it is. That is supposedly the official birth certificate that was released by his campaign a few years ago, and it evidently appears to be his birth certificate. If it’s real then, yeah, he has 29 Leo rising.
CB: But the slight conflict is just that his mother was asked 10 or 20 years earlier, and she gave a time that was about an hour earlier, that was like 17 Leo rising. So he likely has mid-to-late Leo rising one way or another. The birth certificate supposedly gives 29, as long as that wasn’t doctored basically.
BB: Yes, yes. Fair enough, yeah. If it is at 29,he is an interesting President, shall we say. I’m a great believer in not commenting on other nations’ leaders in terms of character, etc. But he’s volatile, let’s say that.
CB: Sure. And we don’t have to get into it too much ‘cause I don’t want to drag you into that.
CB: But it’s just if somebody posed that to you as a hypothetical question 10 years ago and said, you know, “If a country elects a leader who has Regulus conjunct the Ascendant, and then an eclipse takes place at that degree, is that gonna ratchet up the importance, or is that going to be less important?”
BB: I would ratchet it up, I would say. If we take all the individuals out of this I would say that it’ll be a time of a great deal of tension with another nation and threats of attacks. Because this particular eclipse says it’s all okay in the end, I don’t think anything will happen. Do you know what I mean?
CB: Sure, sure.
BB: That would be my take on it, but it is a worrying time, yeah.
CB: Yeah, and the only other point before we move on, also interesting, he was also born on a lunar eclipse, where his North Node is at 20 Gemini, his Sun is at 22 Gemini, and his Moon is at 21 Sagittarius. So almost exactly like an hour or two before a pretty close lunar eclipse.
BB: Yes, yes.
CB: So that’s interesting as well.
BB: It is. It is really interesting. Because one of the things I’ve been working on—the last three years I’ve been working on it—is I’ve backtracked, and indeed, I disagree with what I wrote in The Eagle and the Lark. And what I wrote there is I thought that the lunar eclipse was an extension of the solar eclipse, just part of it, but I really disagree with that position now. And increasingly what I’ve been doing is looking for—and I’ve tracked down thanks to the NASA site—the birth charts of all the lunar eclipses, which I’ve plotted and been working on, and looking at the expression of those, and I’ve started to realize the lunar eclipses had their own Saros series just like the solar do. That’s established in astronomy, you can look that up on the Web, but we can actually take the same thinking to the Moon and each lunar eclipse belongs to its own lunar eclipse series. And I haven’t published this work yet, but I’ve been slowly building on it and working on it and watching it, and it is quite interesting.
I can’t remember. I have actually looked at Trump, but I haven’t got it here in front of me in terms of him being born on a lunar eclipse. Indeed, I did a master class on it just a while ago and it’s totally gone out of my head now. But you can actually look at that chart and actually get a sense of what are the issues that he’s actually transposing and what is actually putting forward with his life, and it is about being strongly-opinionated and controversial. I remember that, but I can’t remember the rest of it, but yeah, the lunar eclipses are really important. And just to segue a little bit onto it, my thinking on that is, you know, it’s like blinding flashes of the obvious. You know, the older we get, the more we get the ‘blinding flashes of the obvious’ as I call them, but astrology has, in my opinion, huge gender issues. This has been brought to my attention by the queer astrology movement, they asked me to do some things. And really thinking about that academically, I started to realize the gender issues in Western astrology.
You know, we live in a solar world, and the Moon is seen as the secondary light. But as we go back into Medieval—and also as you’ll be aware of in Hellenistic—by night, the Moon is the major light, and by day, the Sun is, so that there’s more of a balance between the Sun and the Moon in that regard. And it’s that thing that has propelled me then into disconnecting the Moon from the solar Saros series and allowing the Moon series to stand on its own right. And that’s my current astrological research work at the moment, which will be a few more years before I really publish anything on it because I’m still developing and understanding the different lunar series, but it is important. And in that regard when we separate them out, the Moon starts to take a really interesting shape.
If I can digress to just a few minutes on this, you know, we are aware that the Sun and the Moon are the two lights, and they are essential; they are of equal balance in astrology. And if we recognize the Sun as the life spark—that essence of the self in very much that sense of life—then how does the Moon fit into that? And it made me realize that the Moon is that life actually has to participate. If we have a spark of life, if we don’t let participate in the world—breathe, for example, eat, have the world go through it, drink, urinate, you know, have the world go through you, participate biologically, intellectually participate, emotionally—if the thing can’t participate then it dies; and therefore I’ve been reevaluating the Moon in astrology in terms of it is participation, the ability to participate. So yeah, sure, it’s emotions, but it’s much, much more than that. It’s what we give and how we receive.
And so, that shapes the whole lunar eclipse thinking as well into this idea that a lunar eclipse is unique in its own meaning and its own right, but also it embraces the way the person engages with the world, rather than the solar eclipse, which is about how the world affects me, you know, the sense of ‘me’, the physical ‘me’, or the ego part of me, or the ‘I’ part of me. The lunar eclipse affects the sense of how I engage with that; ‘I’ being the collective ‘I’. Sorry, I segued into that, but I just think, Chris, this is what I’m really working on and chewing on at the moment. I think there’s value in looking at the Moon as equal to the Sun, and its Saros series as equal to the solar one, and letting the Moon stand separately with its own voice, which is really going back to the Mesopotamian, because in that model the Moon was the empowered and important entity in the whole system.
CB: Right. That’s brilliant and that makes sense to reassert the importance of the Moon. And nowhere is that more evident, you know, in its importance relative to and being on par with the significance of the Sun when it comes to eclipses because that’s the point at which it becomes the most relevant. From our perspective, the Sun and Moon—because of the weird way our solar system is set up, for whatever reason—are the same size approximately from our vantage point here on Earth. And therefore you can have something as unique as a perfect or a total solar eclipse where one can cover the other and suddenly almost gain the upper-hand in some sense for a time.
BB: Yes, absolutely. I mean, they’re very balanced. The amount of time they spend above the horizon is equal. When the Sun is low in the winter, the Full Moon is at the highest, gives us the light, and vice versa; there’s a whole constant dance and shift. The lunar Saros series start at the equator and go up to the poles and back again, and they’re total on the poles, you know, like around that, the total of the times they’re doing that. So you’ve got a totally synchronistic rhythm between the two, the Sun and the Moon, at almost every single level when you analyze it. I find it deeply fascinating at the moment.
CB: Yeah, and especially in terms of some of those gender things. One of the things that always surprised me that I didn’t expect to find appealing about some of the older traditional astrological models is how there was often this attempt to have a balance, like through the domicile rulership scheme, for example, where each planet has a masculine and a feminine expression through a masculine rulership and a feminine rulership of a sign, or the concept of sect and the division between day and night planets or charts, like you mentioned, and other things like that.
BB: Yeah, absolutely, Chris. Absolutely. It’s a much more of a non-gendered balance-type of model that’s in there, which is really quite interesting. And something to share with your listeners, there’s a really easy way to test this because in the Medieval model of course if you’re born at night—if the Sun is below the horizon—then the Moon is the main luminary. So one of the things you can do—and I fit into that category; my Sun is in the 4th house. I’m a Pisces with a Sagittarian Moon. And so, when people ask me what am I, I’ll actually say I’m a Sagittarian with a Pisces Sun. In other words I put my Moon first because I’m born at night. And I share that with students, and many people who have nocturnal charts really respond quite strongly to that in a deep place. They recognize that in themselves in the sense that the Moon is their major light and the Sun is their secondary one. So share that with your listeners, that they can play with that, and if they’re born at night, see how comfortable that sits with them, that idea.
CB: Yeah, I think that makes a ton of sense. And sect is definitely something I try to emphasize constantly here on the podcast. And sometimes it seems like people—to go along with what you were just saying—people who really resonate with their Sun sign often do tend to be those people who were born during the day, whereas sometimes the people that feel a little bit more ambiguous or uncertain about it can oftentimes be the nighttime people who are resonating more closely with their Moon placement.
BB: Exactly. Absolutely. I totally and exactly agree. And sect is a beautiful example of that. Absolutely, yes.
CB: Sure. Okay, so as we try to wrap this up, just this very last thing in terms of how people listening to this can know when they might personally be connected with an eclipse. It seems like one of the major things is if you have an eclipse that’s very closely aspecting a major placement in your birth chart, with a very tight orb, that’s definitely one of the major factors that you would take into account in saying an eclipse will be relevant for somebody personally. Is that accurate?
BB: Yes, I would. You look at the degree of the eclipse, physically or mentally located in your chart. And then particularly for a solar eclipse, I would look for a square or conjunction, or an opposition—that’s the fourth harmonic—because that’s the harmonic of manifestation. Other aspects are great, but this is an event coming in, and then you don’t get time to sit with it for 10 years and learn its nuances. It’s a plunk, an event happens. And so, as soon as we get that sense of happening it’s a fourth harmonic. The conjunction, the square, or the opposition. 90° in other words. 90°, 180°, or 0. So you’re looking for that and then you’re looking to the personal points of the chart, Chris; this is what I believe anyway. So you’ve got Sun, Moon, Ascendant, MC, you know, the cross of matter in other words. Venus, Mercury, Mars. Once you get into Jupiter and Saturn you’re looking at the social planets there, and of course they are not as sensitive as the inner personal points. And once you go into the outer planets—Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto—you’re looking at a generational statement. So you could have an eclipse directly hitting your Neptune, but everybody born roughly in your year would have the same thing. And it might not affect you, but you could watch for it in the news; there might be a few famous people born in the same year as you, and you might see it in them. Because I think what fame does is it removes some of our—I use the word with great caution—free will, and famous people become more puppet-like to the Cosmos, more expressive of it; that’s what I’ve found anyway.
So look for it in those sorts of charts rather than thinking that it’s going to affect you personally if it’s hitting your Neptune or Uranus or Pluto. And then look at really tight orbs, as you’ve already mentioned, 2°-3° at the most, and just use a bit of common sense here, Chris. Like a Sun, Moon, and Ascendant, MC, you might use 3°, but Mercury, Venus, Mars, you might only use 2°. Keep it tight. And I’m always coming from the predictive astrologer’s point of view, if I want to tell someone something in advance; I’ll sit down and say, “Okay, we’re looking at this sort of thing happening, and this is the nature of it, and it’ll happen in this month, this eclipse season.” I want to be right to put it quite bluntly.
BB: I want to be able to make that useful information for the client so that they can relate to it. Now by using a really tight orb then I’m certain of it—you know, I’ve got clarity there—whereas if I use an orb of 5° or 6° it may not work for that person. People have different orbs—I’m sure you’ve noticed the same thing—and some people have big orbs and some people have little orbs in terms of how they’ve lived their life. And you don’t necessarily know the client, so if you take a tight orb you’re going to be right. Now with your own chart, you can sort of watch and think, well, it’s 4°-5°. It’s a bit wide. It probably won’t happen, but I’ll just watch it and see ‘cause you can do that with your own stuff. You can play around with it and start to explore your own orbs so to speak. But in the consulting room, keep it tight because you want clarity when you’re doing consultancy work.
CB: Right. And if you’ve seen an eclipse falling exact to the degree and the minute on a very personal planet, or like on the Ascendant or Midheaven of a person’s charts…
BB: That’s important, yeah.
CB: …that’s like once-in-a-lifetime.
BB: Yeah, absolutely.
BB: I’d look up the Saros series. I’d think about the Saros series before the client came. I would then sit down, I’d explain to the client about this big cycle, keeping it brief. But people are not stupid; they like to understand their relationship with the Cosmos. I’d talk about how it’s landing in their chart and give them an idea into the context. Always you’re looking at an eclipse, but you’re also looking at what’s going on in the whole time map there; for me that’s transits and progressions and what else is going on. So if someone’s got an eclipse, and they’ve got transiting Pluto conjunct their Venus, you know, it’s going to sort of agitate that to no end; whereas if things are pretty calm in their chart that’s gonna lower the intensity of the eclipse rather than ratcheting it up. We don’t live in isolation. We live as an organic package of things happening in different ways, and the eclipse is one of the predictive components that comes in.
BB: Just to wrap it up, what I find interesting is it’s NASA that’s called this the ‘Great American Eclipse’. It’s NASA that’s named it that, which I find interesting that they’ve hyped the public up. They’re doing that because of the spectacle of it, but of course astrologers latched onto it thinking it’s a great eclipse. And it’s not necessarily a ‘great’ eclipse in the astrological use of the word and that’s important; it’s NASA that’s done that. And is it any coincidence that two days ago the Pope came out condemning astrology? Is it because of the great eclipse and NASA calling it that that he’s agitated? There’s too much astrology happening at the moment. So that’s also part of the eclipse package itself, that people are getting all hyper about it—not necessarily the astrologers. NASA and the Pope are getting very agitated about astrology at the moment. So all of that’s just interesting into the mix of this eclipse season.
CB: Yeah, definitely. And, you know, astronomers often do take those times when there is some major astronomical event that’s drawing public attention to use it to draw attention to and hype up astronomy, in order to draw interest in and get people, you know, more excited about the topic from an educational or other standpoint. But sometimes then people naturally wonder, you know, and they think about it as an ominous phenomenon, and does that have any meaning for the world in general, or for me in particular, and that certainly leads to some interest and some questions in terms of astrology. And this discussion that we’re having today might be some people’s first public exposure to astrology just by doing a search and wondering what does an eclipse mean in astrology, so that’s why I wanted to talk to you today. And I’m actually really glad we had this discussion ‘cause I think it was a great way to introduce a lot of people to that topic.
BB: Excellent, excellent. Thank you. Well, hopefully our ramblings and conversations and expansions on Mesopotamia right through to the contemporary situation has been useful for people and helpful for them in understanding that astrology’s not just a single thing. It’s actually this huge cultural narrative that’s been running for a very, very long time, which is beautiful, complex, and interesting for us.
CB: Yeah, and you can really understand then from that perspective why studying that—whether you’re an astrologer, or even if you’re not an astrologer—from a historical or cultural perspective is important, and that’s really what you’ve been focusing a lot of your career on over the course of the past decade or so. And if people wanted to do that and study, they could actually join you in that program that you teach, where you’re doing this in a university setting, right?
BB: Yeah, absolutely. It’s the Master’s degree in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology, and it’s coming out of the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David. And if people just Google that, or Google the Sophia Centre, or Google Nick Campion, he’s the director, just generally look at those things on the Web, you will find us. But basically it’s the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, and it’s the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology. And it’s a fantastic program. We do it all online. We have students all over the world. And it’s really exciting because they push us as well. And the dissertations they do are just extraordinary in all the different fields of cultural astronomy; from this sort of stuff that we’ve been talking about, Chris, right through to looking at megalithic sites and looking at their relationship to the sky. And indeed, that’s the whole thing, cultural astronomy, which astrology is. Astrology is a form of cultural astronomy. And that doesn’t diminish astrology at all; it just shows you the breadth of the subject. Cultural astronomy is the impact that the sky has on human life, and it’s astounding how broad the subject is.
And getting back to this eclipse, to focus it back on this topic, when anything happens in the sky people ask questions about what it means for countries, for the world, and for them. The sky is the thing that holds so much power in our lives. So when something happens in it, there’s questions between astronomers, religion, astrologers; they all compete for the voice. Which is of course what’s happening now, particularly when the Pope starts coming out. I feel like, “Oh, yeah, he’s on cue,” right? This contest—who wants the power to speak for the sky? Do the astrologers have it? Do the religious leaders have it? Do the astronomers have it? There may never be an answer to that; it’s just that they all have it in different ways.
CB: Definitely. All right, well, I can’t recommend any more highly your book, The Eagle and the Lark: A Textbook of Predictive Astrology, and especially your chapter on the Saros cycle and eclipses in general; it goes into everything related to eclipses. And you also have an article on your website, which I think you originally wrote for The Mountain Astrologer, but it’s available as a PDF titled “The Saro Cycle: Eclipses Come in Families.” And that is sort of like an abbreviated version of that chapter essentially, right?
BB: Yeah, and that’s just BernadetteBrady.com, so people can find that easily now. And there’s YouTube and stuff there. Yes, yes, absolutely.
CB: Okay. And I’d recommend checking out your website, which is Astrologos.co.uk, where you also have some different master classes and workshops that you’ve recorded on this approach to eclipses, as well as other things, like fixed stars and things that you’ve researched.
BB: Yes, absolutely. We run master classes. About once a month we’ll run master classes online and they’re very, very popular. But yes, we’ve got the whole timetable there, and it’d be great for people to join us in different master classes.
CB: Okay, brilliant. All right, well, thanks so much for joining me today, I really appreciate it. And yeah, I hope everyone enjoyed listening to this conversation.
BB: Great. Okay, thank you, Chris. And yeah, goodbye to everybody who’s joined your podcast, and thank you for asking me. It’s been great talking, really great. I’m glad that we could get it all working and get it happening, thank you.
CB: Yeah, it was an honor. So thanks for joining me on this momentous occasion, the ‘NASA-designated Great American Eclipse’. All right, well, thanks everyone for listening, and we’ll see you next time.