There are two types of eclipses; a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse. To understand the eclipses of the luminaries requires us to know about the alignment of the Earth, Moon and Sun from the geocentric point of view. In particular, where the earth's ecliptic orbit around the Sun intersects with the lunar orbit of the Moon around the Earth, is where the so-called Moon's nodes are found at any given point in time. These points are calculated and from the Earth these imaginary points are 'seen' to move backwards, or in retrograde motion, in the zodiac.
The ancient mythology of eclipses
The two cycles of the Moon
To understand this astronomical phenomena we must consider the two different cycles of the Moon that together determine the pattern of eclipses over time.
- First, we need to consider the monthly lunar phase from new to full Moon and back to new Moon again, which takes 28 ¼ day to complete.
- Second, the Moon's orbit around the earth needs to be considered in terms of the Earth's orbit around the Sun - along the ecliptic. In the following image, where the orbital planes are shown from a geocentric point of view, the lunar orbit is tilted at about a five-degree angle to the Earths orbit and the nodes are found at the intersection points of these two planes.
The retrograde motion of the nodes
A lunar eclipse may occur only at the full Moon, as the Earth passes between the fully visible Moon and the bright Sun. In this case, the Moon passes into some portion of the Earth’s shadow, resulting in a full or partial lunar eclipse, making the otherwise bright Moon darkly visible. Importantly, this can occur only when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are aligned exactly, or very closely so, with the Earth in the middle.
A solar eclipse may occur only at a new Moon, when the Moon is in its new and dark phase due to its conjunction with the brilliant Sun. As the Moon is then passing between the Earth and the Sun, the Moon may obscure the rays of the Sun and cast its shadow on the Earth, fully or partially obscuring the light of the bright Sun. Between two and five solar eclipses occur each year on Earth, with upto two of them being total eclipses.
These two cycles, the lunar month and the eclipse year have no immediately apparent relation. However, at a deeper level there are clear regularities at work in both cycles. Babylonian astronomers discovered that 223 lunar months, a period of 18 years 11 days, was equivalent to 19 eclipse years (346.6 days each), at which point the two cycles repeat.
In the ancient astrology of the Hindus, which relies on the sidereal zodiac, there is a central importance given to the concept of the Moon’s nodes, Rahu and Ketu. Although invisible, these points are considered the equivalent of planets in the Zodiac in terms of their influence on life on Earth. Moreover, their karmic nature is considered to be mostly malefic, such that they tend to unleash negative karmic energy on either points or planets in the degree the nodes inhabit at any given time. While the nodes travel in retrograde manner, they are observed to slow down and become stationary for almost three months at a time, two to three times a year, in terms of their true (not mean) calculations. As the nodes slow down in speed and become stationary, their influence becomes intense for any planet or sensitive point on the affected degree. It is the stationary nodes, which carry the karmic energy of untoward incidents in the life. The eclipses, however, which occur only when the nodes are stationary, may add to the adverse energy. This may be because the alignment of the Sun, Moon and Earth is closest at such times. Further, the truly adverse events are then explained by conjunctions of Sun and the planets with the stationary nodal axis at such times.
The involvement of Sun and planets
At the time of the eclipse, we have noted the fact that the Sun and Moon become conjunct or opposite each other. An additional fact is that the Moon’s nodes are always stationary around the time of a Solar eclipse. As the Moon’s nodes are not far off from the Moon, the Sun normally becomes conjunct one or the other transit stationary nodes shortly following the eclipse. Moreover, the planets Mercury and Venus, which are normally not far off from the Sun, also tend to become conjunct the stationary nodes.
According to the Systems' Approach the nodes have the following meaning:
- "Rahu is personified as a diplomat and a shadowy planet and a legendary deceptor when disposed beneficially. Indicates diplomatic jobs, jobs requiring manipulations with facts, deals in poisons and drugs. It signifies cheats, pleasure seekers, insincere and immoral acts, etc. It is phlegmatic in nature and gives malignant growth. When afflicting, causes malignant growth, disease of phlegm, intestines, boils, skin, ulcers, spleen, worms, high blood pressure, etc. It gives smoky and unpleasant appearance due to habits of overeating, resulting in foul smells and unclean body and nails." Rahu is related to crisis due to manipulation. In mundane astrology, Rahu rules over diplomats, salesmen (along with Mercury) and winemakers, etc.
- "Ketu is dry and fiery in nature. Its affliction causes wounds, inflammations, fevers, intestinal disorders, aberrations, low blood pressure, deafness, defective speech and gives emaciated body with prominent veins. It is personified as a saint and inclines a person more towards mystic science and spiritual pursuits." Ketu can bring about sudden, explosive events. In mundane astrology, it is related to spiritual people and people that become isolated from others, for a number of reasons.
It is these natal and transit phenomena involving the stationary nodes which explain why people have tended to become concerned about adverse happenings following a Solar eclipse. The same logic applies for lunar nodes, but there the conjunction of Sun or planets should take place closer to the time of the eclipse.
A graphical representation
Importantly, the ancient vedic astrology has developed faith healing remedies to counter the adverse karma seen at various times in the lives of all people. Such faith healing operates in the domain of divine grace in terms of the expression of accumulated human karma that propels us all towards a more perfect understanding of the meaning of God in our life.
 See for instance Richard Houck, 1994, “The Astrology of Death”, Groundswell Press and Celeste Teal, 2006, “Eclipses: Predicting World Events & Personal Transformation”, Llewellyn Publications.