You may have heard that "eclipse season" is upon us. Indeed, on Monday, August 21st The Great American Eclipse will pass over a wide swath of the United States. In the parts of the country that fall under the path of totality (mostly in the middle of the country), the light of the sun will be completely blotted out as the moon passes over it, and the sky will fall into darkness in the middle of the day.

Eclipses bear a special significance in astrology. This particular eclipse is one that has been talked about by astrologers for a long time, because it happens to fall on President Trump's ascendant, in the sign of Leo - which is also the sign of rulers, kings, and leaders. We talked with popular feminist astrologer Chani Nicholas, who has been studying the theory and application of astrology for over 30 years, about how we as individuals can use eclipse season to better ourselves, and why astrologers think The Great American Eclipse spells trouble for 45.

PAPER: Thanks for chatting with us today, Chani! Why are eclipses so important in astrology?

Chani Nicholas: In astrology, the sun and moon are incredibly important planetary bodies. The sun emanates light and warmth and therefore produces life on the planet, so the sun is the representation of one's life. And the moon reflects that light. The moon is the second luminary in the sky, and so the moon becomes a representation of the reflection of the light of the sun, which is the soul's purpose in a sense. The moon is representative of the body and of daily life. The sun and the moon represent life in astrology. If the sun represents life, and an eclipse comes along and the moon blots out light or life, it's a big deal.

Historically, many cultures and many different astrologies have thought of an eclipse happening because a dragon has wrapped itself around the world and eaten the light of the luminary. In ancient times we thought this monster or this dragon came and devoured the light momentarily. And that freaked us out, that's an ancient perspective.

In astrology, eclipses tend to denote important times. Because eclipses happen every six months, they bookend a year in a sense, and depending on what sign they're in and depending on where they're happening in our own personal astrological chart, certain ones will bear more significance for us than others. Of course we don't go through the most incredible life-changing thing every six months, because each eclipse will fall differently in each person's chart. But when an eclipse falls or is next to something in your chart like your sun, your moon or your ascendant - something important in your chart - you'll notice a definite uptick in activity. So this eclipse, and a lot of people have written a lot about this, is falling on Donald Trump's ascendant.

PAPER: What does that mean?

Chani: So when Donald Trump was born, when you looked over to the horizon where the point of sunrise would be, there was on that horizon 29° of Leo. And so that becomes your ascendant. (Whatever sign is rising on the horizon when you take your first breathe becomes your ascendant.) And so this eclipse is happening at 28.59° of Leo, it's happening right at the same point in the sky that was rising when Donald Trump was born.

The sun and moon and ascendant are places that we look at to determine the quality of somebody's life. When something really important [like a total eclipse] happens at one of those points in the current sky, then we superimpose the current sky onto the chart of the sky when we were born, and if they line up, then we see that something really important is happening in that person's life. We don't necessarily know what, but we just can note that this is a time that will mark something important in the unfolding of that person's fate.

This is a very fateful moment for the president, for forty-five. How he deals with it is up to him. How it impacts the country because he's the leader of the country, is also really significant. This eclipse is called The Great American Eclipse because its shadow falls across the mid section of America.

PAPER: That's eerie.

Chani: Not all eclipses are total, but this is a total solar eclipse. This is a complete blotting out of the sun. And what eclipses do is they create a shadow. And so if we think symbolically of shadow, then we think of the fact that we all have a shadow side. A side that we don't necessarily know about - or the side that we want to hide or pretend isn't there. The shadow of this quote unquote Great American Eclipse is falling across the mid section of America, revealing also the shadow side of America itself. Which is, slavery, genocide, bigotry, racism, white supremacy, white terrorism. And that is being revealed not only in the country, but also on forty-five's ascendant, which is also his connection to those systems of power and how he's benefitted from them.

PAPER: That's insane.

Chani: Isn't it?! I mean this could make believers out of a lot of people. The other thing is that this eclipse is happening in Leo. Leo is a sign that is ruled by the sun. The sun is the ruler of our solar system. So anything that happens in Leo was always thought to have something to do with kings or rulers or leadership. Not only that, but this eclipse is happening next to the fixed star Regulus - the star of royalty. Regulus can create or destroy leaders.

So to have an eclipse right next to the fixed star that is supposed to be the marking of the creation or the downfall of a leader, happening on the leader of this nation's ascendant while it's passing its shadow across this nation is pretty much just lining up to say, this should be a pretty dramatic display of all of the things that we need, they need, and he needs to deal with.

PAPER: So by going dark, blotting out the sun and revealing the shadow side, does that mean the eclipse inherently has to be a negative event?

Chani: No, because all of us, every single one of us, has a shadow. We are all unconscious to something about our selves. It's just the nature of being alive. If there's light, light will always create shadow. And so we have to understand both sides of life.

Eclipses are tremendously important periods of time that help us to integrate the parts of ourselves that we might normally not spend much time with. If I don't know that I'm not equipped to do something, for instance, then I won't know that I need to develop that skill. When we get shown the parts of ourselves that we might not be as familiar with, we also get the opportunity to say like hey, that's something I could develop. I'm not stuck in one position, I have agency to be able to develop certain aspects of myself.

If I have the tendency to be greedy or envious, or let my anger or rage get the best of me, when I witness that, I then have the opportunity to say, "I wonder how I could heal that? I wonder how I could do this differently. I wonder how I could be a more conscious person." And that's incredibly powerful, because that's actually what moves us. That's what helps us take quantum leaps in life. And that's what eclipses are about. They're about leaping from one place to another, or beginning something new or having something end. They're these turning points that we can look back on and be like, oh yeah, I met those people at this eclipse and that started me on this path, and then that thing happened and this part of my life ended, but then six months later maybe something else began with the next eclipse. And we can look back and piece things together in that way. Some of them will be more dramatic than others, depending on how they land in our chart.


PAPER: What does 'eclipse season' mean?

Chani: 'Eclipse Season' means they'll be two or three eclipses in a row every six months. Every six months there's a lunar eclipse and then a solar eclipse. And possibly another one of each of those, but usually it's just two, and it'll be on a new moon and a full moon. The two weeks in between those two eclipses are definitely what we could call eclipse season, but the weeks before and after are also part of it. And this eclipse in particular is lasting for about two hours. Some astrologers say that the effects of the eclipse last for however many hours it is - you replace with years. So if the eclipse is two hours long, then the effects of the eclipse will last two years in our lives.

This is a really important time to set the patterns that they want to have existing for the next couple of years. It's a good time to take a look at our lives and see where we are off-track and clean it up and clear it up and kind of reset ourselves so that this new thing that's coming in can be from a place that feels aligned with what it is we're wanting to create in our lives.

PAPER: So setting intentions and evaluating behavior?

Chani: Yes, and because this eclipse is in Leo, it's about personality and how we perform our personality. It's about how we're also all our own leaders. This is a moment where leadership is really highlighted. And so this is a really important piece: all of the statues are being brought down of the old, bigoted leaders. Those murderers and rapists and bringers of genocide. They are being toppled, physically. That's an eclipse on Regulus, that's an eclipse on Leo, that's an eclipse that speaks to, what the hell is leadership? Well, we're all leaders. We don't need those old idols. They need to come down. So you see it happening, you see them being blotted out.


PAPER: Speaking on tracing patterns from eclipse to eclipse, when would the last major eclipse have been?

Chani: The last total solar eclipse at 28° of Leo was when Bill Clinton was impeached. Bill Clinton's sun is at 28° of Leo. So though he didn't actually get kicked out of office, he still had to go through that whole situation. And everything got exposed and he got taken down. That will never be removed from his reputation.

PAPER: And Trump is also at 28° Leo?

Chani: His ascendant is. So Trump's ascendant is the same degree as Bill Clinton's sun. And then the time before that, there was an attempted assassination on Reagan. And this is something a lot of astrologers are talking about right now.

PAPER: Going back to what it means for us as a country, what would you say to people who are grappling with this stuff from a place where they really do need to make a big change, do you think that this shift in our solar system can help with that?

Chani: Astrology can be very polarizing. Because it's about dark and light, it's about the light and the shadow. So things become, the contrast can become stark. So within that, there can be an important distinction. Like, those people are not "alt-right," they are neo-Nazis and white supremacists. That's one of those kind of stark things, you're either with them or against them. So that kind of precision that needs to happen.What I think this is eclipse is pointing to and touching on is ego stuff. If we are overly committed to a certain identity about ourselves, this eclipse is going to stoke those fires, both by possibly having people become even more committed to the identities that they claim, however we see that, good or bad, and also really provoked and challenged in those identities. It's not about August 21st the day, although everybody's interested to see what's going to happen on that day. But it's really about the events leading up to that day and the couple of years really that follow this eclipse in terms of how the country's identity is being shaped and reshaped. If we're talking about identity and we're talking about the personality, the Leo-ness of something, if we're going to be U.S.-centric, we're talking about America's identity. And how we're all participating in the creation of that identity.

PAPER: I think there's a misconception about astrology that it's predictive, but it sounds like it's not so much about 'this is what's going to happen' but more about being more conscious of what's already in motion.

Chani: And more aware of, this is a time where something's gonna happen that's going to have these qualities to it. So every astrologer for the last six months to a couple years has been like, okay, August 2017. As soon as Trump was elected we were all like, oh wait, that eclipse is going to land on his ascendant.

PAPER: So this has been on the radar for awhile?

Chani: Oh yeah. Astrologers have been talking about this for a really long time. But specifically about Trump and America since November, since he was elected. Because we knew that this eclipse was coming, and so we all were like, what's going to happen in August? And again, not that everything is going to occur in this moment, and certainly he's had a gazillion catastrophes, but this feels as you and I are speaking in this moment, this feels like a real tipping point in a way. There's something brewing in the country right now that is like, very exposing.

PAPER: It's definitely heightened.

Chani: None of us knew exactly what was going to happen, maybe some astrologer predicted something like this, but it's really about going, ooh, that's the hotspot. Everybody look out for August and look out for leaders and look for egos and look out for identity stuff, and all these things that I've mentioned.


PAPER: So hopefully this will be a time of raising consciousness for the country, but do you think there's any hope of that for Trump?

Chani: I have no hope for him. I think he is a deplorable human being. I think he's the epitome of evil and greed and narcissism and must be taken down. I see no hope for him in terms of him becoming a good person.

PAPER: Do you see any of that reflected in his chart? Is it possible to see good and bad in someone's chart, or is it inherently neutral and it's just how you act on it?

Chani: Those are really good questions. I think that there are other people who were born at the same moment in the same city as Donald Trump and they are not on his level of incompetence and evil. And so they've made different choices. They've also had a different set up in a sense. There are distinct qualities in each chart, but I believe as individual people we are given the right to choose how we use those qualities. But in Trump's chart, he has a set up, where you can see that there's a certain kind of protection to him, that gives him a kind of astrological unfair advantage to some degree.

PAPER: Can you explain that a little more?

Chani: It's a little technical, but the way in which the planets were collected in the sky, there was a kind of specific bit of celestial protection we might say, that he hasn't earned, it's just there. And that's also part of astrology is sometimes you see the inequity in what roles people are given. It's not necessarily fair. But maybe he's here to help us make the undeniable realization of what it is we have to heal. Both in this country and the world at large. Because anti-black racism and white supremacy and colonialism and all of those things are not unique to America.

PAPER: And certainly not new, either. How long has your work been focused on issues like racism, classism, sexism?

Chani: Always. From the very beginning, I started writing because those are the intersections of my interests. I never thought anybody would read my stuff or be interested in what I wrote, because I was writing from an explicit viewpoint, which was to say that these things existed and they need to be eradicated.

PAPER: At least a portion of America was shocked that Trump was elected, but from your vantage point, is it something that you saw coming?

Chani: I saw the distinct possibility for it, because I could see that he was actively stirring the imagination of white supremacists and racists the nation over and the world over. I'm also a Jew, so I'm trained to spot fascism when it's rising. The entirety of my religion is based on: never forget, these things happen over and over again. My culture tells me so.

Also, seeing his chart and seeing that there was something about him that could do things that he shouldn't necessarily be able to do. The other thing that's really important to note is that Trump is born on a total lunar eclipse. This is a total solar eclipse, but that man is an eclipse baby. Because eclipse are times of disrupting the light or taking something out, people that are born on eclipses can tend to have that kind of quality to them. He was also elected during a Mars Retrograde, so his ability to incite the anger and rage and self-importance of bigots is very much in line with the astrology under which he ran.

PAPER: How does his being a Gemini come into play?

Chani: I don't want to throw shade at Geminis because one-twelfth of the world are Geminis, and it's not about his sign, but Gemini's shadow is duplicity. Obviously the man speaks out of all sides of his mouth at all times. There's no consistency in him, the shadow side of Gemini is to be inconsistent and all over the place. And to be really very interested in understanding things on a surface level, like how he's really never read a book. But Geminis are very - they want wisdom, they want knowledge. So it's not Gemini per se.

PAPER: But the shadow side of that sign.

Chani: Yes, the superficial shadow of Gemini. It's somebody who has a hard time being one person.

PAPER: What's it been like to see a resurgence of interest in astrology in the culture?

Chani: It's really wild. The internet has changed astrology greatly, it's given it to more people, it's made it more readily available. When I was coming up, you had to get books, and the books weren't always available and a lot of them went out of print. I always say - it wasn't easy to learn about feminism or astrology. Those two things were like, fringe. And now they've kind of moved into pop culture which is on the one hand great, and on the one hand problematic, like everything that moves from the fringe into more of the center. You lose the depth of it, but you also have more access to this knowledge if you search it out.

PAPER: I imagine you see a lot of bad astrology out there.

Chani: [laughing] Like, all the time. I see a lot of half-baked knowledge or half-studied theories or really, people that want to get more likes by throwing shade at a sign. I see consumerism intersecting with wisdom traditions like astrology, and there's nothing wrong with making money off of a wisdom tradition, but I think that it's very problematic when it's not something that you've studied and devoted your life to and you're selling it because you know people will buy it. I see it being marketed in terms of like, women's groups and girl power and all of that kind of feminism, which isn't really feminism to me. Like moon gatherings, but I don't know what the hell they are.

PAPER: What do you hope individuals will take from eclipse season?

Chani: I really hope that people will take from this season what they need.Those of us white folks that were really shocked to find that they lived in a country that was so racist - I hope they take that in and consider what their part in these systems are and how to disrupt them.

And I mean that on a personal level because it takes a commitment and a willingness to develop the muscles to speak about something that is very charged and will bring you some difficulty and will bring you some conflict, and will challenge you to clarify yourself on the topic. Those kinds of endeavors take a commitment to developing a kind of personal strength and a willingness to use one's own privilege as a vehicle to bring about some sort of justice.

On an emotional, personal level, I hope that people are able to give themselves what they need and I hope that people see within themselves the ability to be part of a collective leadership of people. I hope people will be able to go in and do the inner work that they need to do, that we all need to do, that we all will continually, forever until we take our last breath need to do, in order to show up in the world in whatever way we can and whatever is suitable for us.

We need to be reclaiming power from leaders that do not have our best interests at heart at all, and to have our own best interests at heart and have the best interests of our family and our community and our towns and our cities and our collective. So that's what I hope we awaken to being able to give ourselves, and at the same time simultaneously, to be of service to the world in the best way that we can.

To learn more about how your chart and the eclipse interact, check out Chani's online workshop out this month.

Image via Texas Isaiah