UNITED STATES –In less than two weeks, the shadow of the moon will cross the United States from coast to coast during the most significant total solar eclipse to touch the country in nearly a century. The 70-mile-wide path of totality will run from Oregon to South Carolina, touching 14 states and allowing the curious to witness an eclipse that will last about two minutes.
No one in any other country will be able to see the eclipse in totality, earning it the nickname of “Great American Eclipse.” Pagans, among the millions of people planning on traveling to see this astronomical event, may view it with a mix of mystical reverence and scientific admiration.Viewing of this uncommon event may be better in western states, as the chance for clear skies is higher, but it’s likely most of the curious will travel to the closest possible spot and hope for the best. According to data compiled at greatamericaneclipse.com, nearly 90 million Americans live within a day’s drive of the event, and as many as 7.4 million people will travel to view the eclipse.
It’s likely too late to find a hotel room or campground reservation nearby any longer, as this eclipse has a number of factors boosting interest: it transits much of the country, takes place before school opens in many locales (and some schools will be closed specially), and social-media hype is raising awareness of the event.
Holli Emore lives in South Carolina, which is where people from the East Coast mostly plan to view the eclipse. Her hometown of Columbia could have its population briefly triple.
“It’s a big deal,” Emore said. “Around here, all of the hotels are sold out.” That’s why she’s glad travel is not necessary for her, saying that it “really feels like it’s an honor that I get to be right here; [there are] people from all around the world here, but I get to go to my back deck and watch it.”
Driving three or four hours is what Kirk Thomas intends to do to see it in Oregon. “I have a friend who has a friend, and this friend has got land in the line” of the eclipse, he said.
While the chances of cloudy skies are lower in his state, Thomas has a plan in case the weather is uncooperative: “Laugh sorrowfully.”
Warnings not to look at the sun, even during an eclipse, are not hyperbole. During a 2005 partial eclipse, an English schoolboy was blinded in one eye because he looked directly at it, rather than using a pinhole camera or eclipse glasses.
Even eclipse selfies can be dangerous.
A safer, and more convenient, option might be to watch as the eclipse is streamed live on the NASA web site. While technically interesting, witnesses of past eclipses often say that the experience is indescribable; emotional outbursts are not uncommon.
Being there also affords the opportunity to observe animal behavior, as well as the stars.
Emore is fascinated by the notion that hiding one star can reveal others. It’s a rare moment when what is normally hidden and what’s in plain sight switch places.
“I’m reflecting on what it means when hidden things get revealed, once in a lifetime. I’m still pondering it.”
The question of the stars is looked at astrologically by Diotima Mantineia. In the chart, she sees fire and transformation. “We’ll have plenty of inspiration to work with, but some of us may get carried away with enthusiasm — or anger. Both are very much in the air,” Mantineia said, as “is transformation, and it will help to keep in mind that sometimes, when you’re in the middle of a transformative event, things can get pretty scary.”
That same fire can be a source of courage or fearlessness, she said.
“Politically, we can expect some major firestorms. The interactions of this eclipse chart with Donald Trump’s natal chart are stunning, and, when cast for the USA, the chart suggests tremendous legal and religious dramas on a national level,” Mantineia continued.
“The chart of this eclipse will be in effect for many months to come (think of it as a tide, not a single event). How it affects each of us personally will depend on our individual natal charts, but the fiery energy will be a bit part of the zeitgeist for awhile, so stay aware and keep the cauldron fired up, as a teacher of mine was fond of saying.”
Rev. Selena Fox also intends to watch the event. “Eclipses are great opportunities for deepening our understanding of science and the cycles of nature,” Fox said.
“[They] also can be powerful occasions for transformation rituals and for celebrating nature’s wonders with other humans.”
Ritually, some Pagans may choose to let the viewing stand alone as the awe-inspiring event it’s expected to be. Emore did not share that she intends any religious work, and Thomas explicitly said he is not. That doesn’t mean that the esoteric properties of the eclipse will be ignored, however.
Tara Nelson said in a Southern Illinoisan interview, “The male and female energies associated with the sun and moon are powerful symbols to experience. With the total solar eclipse it will be easy to connect [to] and witness how the balance of the sun and moon, male and female energies are around us every day.”
According to an eclipse magic essay posted on Pagan Path, this one being in the waning year might make it ideal for “to rid yourself of unwanted energies, bad habits, unhealthy patterns of thinking and acting, negativity, and other baneful things in your life. You can work with both the new moon energy, and the waning year energy, in addition to the energy of the eclipse.”Nelson appeared to be on the same page, saying in her interview that for viewers the eclipse will be “a powerful time to look at their lives and allow for the energy of lightness to darkness and the return to lightness again to be used as an opportunity to decide what aspects of their lives are no longer welcome.”
For those unwilling or unable to make the journey, the Pagan Path essay does include assurances that it’s possible to work with the eclipse magically at a distance. That might be all the easier since it will be possible to have the event stream live from any handy screen.
The eclipse will become total at 10:15 local time at the Oregon coast, and travel swiftly across the country to leave American soil at 2:39 Eastern time in South Carolina. Check local listings or this site for details.