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The Great American Eclipse: the Monster that Ate the Sun
A run-of-the-mill explanation of a total solar eclipse would say simply that the shadow of the Moon passes over the Earth. But a total solar eclipse is hardly a run-of-the-mill thing, and any of the 7 billion of us Earthlings will be fortunate to have the chance to view just one of these in our lifetimes.
This scarcity of opportunity is despite the fact that total solar eclipses occur on average once every 18 months. But there are often obstacles to viewing, such as clouds, finding oneself on the wrong side of the Earth, the fact that the full shadow – the totality – is a relatively tiny 70 miles in diameter as it treks across the planet, the fact that the totality only lasts 2 to 7 minutes, and the fact that the full shadow often passes over remote or inaccessible areas.
The total solar eclipse coming on August 21, 2017, however, is conveniently accessible. It is estimated that 80% of US residents will be within 5 hours driving distance of the totality. And this particular eclipse is more than just accessible; it is a scientific opportunity, a capitalistic cash cow, a prop for astrological speculation and pregnant with portent.
Rahu is the monster who ate the Sun. Perhaps I should say that Rahu is the monster who eats the Sun as this is a recurring act, never fully consummated. Rahu and his other half, Ketu, are immortal demons who are responsible for solar and lunar eclipses. In the case of the Sun, this feast lasts for only a few minutes as the demon disgorges himself and the Sun emerges whole again – so far.
NASA will provide two WB 57F jet planes to chase the path of totality so that the invited scientists will be able to observe this prolonged bulimic act for themselves. The totality, from the vantage point of the aircraft, is expected to be stretched from 2 minutes to over 7 minutes. This should be ample time for the scientists to observe the savaging of the Sun. In Chinese tradition, the Sun is devoured by, who else, but a dragon. But the dragon fares no better than Rahu or Ketu and must regurgitate his snack.
The demons are also responsible for attacking the other celestial luminary, the Moon. This time around, the lunar and solar eclipses are linked. They occur within 2 weeks of one another. The lunar eclipse needs a full moon for its effect and the solar eclipse needs the dark new moon which arrives 14 days later.
The entire face of the Moon is red with blood when Ketu attacks it during a total lunar eclipse. Because of the ruddy color of the Moon and the diminished light, among other things, a lunar eclipse is considered a bad omen. And if you should be so unfortunate as to be born during a lunar eclipse, it can presage bad things in store for you, or perhaps a mixed bag of very good and very bad, something like the poem by Longfellow “there was a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead.” Poetry Foundation
President Donald J. Trump was born during a lunar eclipse. What’s more, his astrological ascendant sign (rising sign) is Leo, the constellation where the solar eclipse will occur. Leo, of course, is the sign of the king, or president. Couple this coincidence with the fact that the total solar eclipse will occur only in the contiguous states of the US, and you have a scenario worthy of a Rod Serling introduction to the Twilight Zone.
Two weeks before and for 6 months after, the celestial influences will have their sway, say the Vedic Astrologists. Even as this piece is being written, it appears that Mr. Trump and the US (and indeed, the world) are experiencing some effects of the ‘horrid’ side of the lunar and solar eclipses.
Nearly 18 million people (12 million already in the path of totality with 5 to 7 million forecast to join them) are expected to turn this Great American Eclipse into one of the events of this young century. Many will have to travel to a spot where they can witness the totality. And the Great American Capitalists will be waiting. Homes, it is said, are renting for as much as $3,000 per day or more, and motel rooms are available in some places as cheaply as $1,200 per night. Even churches are offering spaces in their parking lots and on their lawns – in exchange for a generous donation to the One who made the celestial spectacle possible. Most umbra chasers would be advised to pack a lunch and avoid the $50 hamburgers. Beer and other beverages are sure to fetch a fine premium, as will the T-shirts that proclaim: I saw the Great American Eclipse 2017 – with Stupid!
But not everyone will be cavorting in the sun. Vedic Astrology says that one should be in a quiet mode on that day. One should practice meditation. The attention should be turned inward. Other traditional cultures say the same with many prescribing fasting, and above all, staying inside and not directly observing the event.
Technically, the astronomers riding in the NASA jets will be inside. But their attention will be outside as they urge the pilot to keep pace with Rahu, to prolong the totality, to stay in the shadow of the Moon. But Rahu will easily outpace the jets and the Totality will eventually come to an end. The adult astronomers will murmur out loud a mild disappointment, but deep within their psyches, the suppressed 6-year-old future stargazers will be silently delighted that the Sun has returned, unharmed.