Solar Eclipse: Its Symbolic and Spiritual Meaning

A Celtic inspired design representing the symbolic and spiritual meaning of a solar eclipse. Includes golden circular images of the Sun and Moon overlaid repeatedly within one another.

From our vantage point here on Earth, gazing upon the universe above is like watching the gears of a magnificent cosmic clock.

The stars, planets, Sun, and Moon all appear to move on different hands of time, playing out a well-rehearsed celestial dance.

Yet for a few fleeting moments, the clockwork of the heavens align just so to beckon one of nature’s most awe-inspiring events – a solar eclipse.

Whether it be ancient people who explained such sightings through myths and omens or modern astronomers measuring its precise duration of totality, solar eclipses have long inspired an inner connection between humanity and the mysterious cosmos of which we remain a tiny but curious component.

We’ll trace the symbolic and spiritual meanings of the solar eclipse throughout historical times into our present day.

The Solar Eclipse
in Culture and History

Solar eclipses have played significant roles in the beliefs and folklore of various ancient cultures throughout history. Across the globe and through the ages, as the moon blotted out the Sun’s glowing gaze, humanity rushed to craft meaning from the darkness.

Myths, Legends, and Prophecies

The Incas

A solar eclipse in the sky above an ancient Inca temple.
An Inca Temple with a total solar eclipse overhead in the sky.

The Incas, an ancient culture of South America, held a special reverence for the Sun. Like many historic cultures, it was central to their cosmology and daily life. To the Inca people, a solar eclipse was viewed with great concern and seen as the wrath of their Sun god, Inti.

It was believed that during an eclipse, Inti was angry or in distress. To appease Inti and restore order, the Incas would engage in rituals, often including human sacrifice.

These practices were part of their efforts to maintain harmony and balance between the natural and divine worlds.

Hindu Mythology

A Hindu temple with an annular eclipse overhead in the sky.
A Hindu temple with an annular eclipse overhead in the sky.

In ancient Hindu mythology, the demon Rahu is linked as the primary reason for an eclipse.

Rahu, a shadowy figure, created an eclipse by gulping down the Sun or Moon. This relationship between Rahu and eclipses began in the story, ‘churning of the ocean of milk‘ – a well-known Hindu legend.

As the story goes, during this churning of the milk, the gods and demons worked together to get amrita – the nectar of immortality. When it was finally produced, Lord Vishnu disguised himself as Mohini, a beautiful woman, to hand out the nectar to the gods but keep it from the demons.

However, Rahu, a demon, sensed this trickery and disguised himself as a god, managing to drink some of this nectar of immortality.

The Sun and Moon recognized Rahu in disguise and told Vishnu, who then used his discus to decapitate Rahu’s head.

But it was too late since Rahu had already drunk the nectar. His head and body had become immortal.

Rahu's decapitated head, a Hindu demon, chasing the Sun and Moon.
Rahu’s decapitated head, a Hindu demon, chasing the Sun and Moon.

Since then, Rahu, holding a grudge against the Sun and Moon, chases them endlessly across the sky.

When he catches and swallows them, an eclipse occurs. However, since he does not have a body, the Sun or Moon soon emerges from his severed neck, ending the eclipse.

This mythological story is an integral part of the traditional explanation of solar and lunar eclipses in Hindu culture.

The Chinese Dragon

A partial solar eclipse occurring over a Chinese temple.
A partial solar eclipse in view above a Chinese temple.

Much like the Sun being eaten in Hindu mythology, in ancient China, solar eclipses were thought to be the result of a celestial dragon devouring the Sun.

Dragons were seen as powerful and mystical creatures in Chinese mythology and symbolism, often used to explain various natural phenomena.

A Chinese celestial dragon attempting to eat the Sun.
A Chinese celestial dragon attempting to eat the Sun.

According to the myth, a solar eclipse occurred as a celestial dragon, which resided in the heavens, began to eat the Sun.

The Chinese thought this to be an ominous sign, so they would perform rituals by making loud noises, such as banging pots and drums, to scare the dragon away while saving the Sun and restoring its light.

These practices were passed down through generations as a cultural response, a way of understanding and still feeling a sense of control during these rare cosmic events.

The Ancient Egyptians

A total solar eclipse in totality over the Egyptian Pyramids.
A total solar eclipse in totality over the Egyptian Pyramids.

Very similar to the Chinese, the ancient Egyptians blamed a serpent named Apep (also known as Apophis) as the reason for solar eclipses.

Apep was considered an evil and powerful force, often referred to as a serpent or dragon. In Egyptian mythology, Apep was the eternal enemy of Ra, the Sun god.

Each night, as Ra traveled through the underworld in his solar barque, Apep would attack and try to devour him. A threat to the balance of the natural order.

The daily rising of the Sun was taken as Ra’s victory over Apep, a symbol of balance prevailing over chaos.

Ra, the Egyptian Sun god on his nightly ride through the underworld.
Ra, the Egyptian Sun god, on his nightly ride through the underworld.

But during a solar eclipse, it was believed that Apep had gained the upper hand and was swallowing Ra.

In turn, Priests would perform rituals, prayers, and spells to help Ra defeat Apep, tipping the scale and ensuring the Sun’s return, restoring the balance of the gods and natural order.

Solar Eclipse Prophecy

An image depicting what the solar eclipse prophecy may be describing during end times. A darkened Sun with meteors falling from the sky.
A depiction of a solar eclipse prophecy.

Ancient civilizations feared the eclipse as it stole the light from the sky, from their natural order of day and night. It could only mean doom—the end of the world.

This “end of the world” or “end times” solar eclipse prophecy crossed into numerous cultures and religions.

Edwin Krupp, the director of the Griffith Observatory in California, was quoted in an article by the BBC:

“In antiquity, people regularised their lives by the order of the world around them, half of which was the sky. And events like an eclipse were an intrusion of chaos into that order.”

Edwin Krupp, the director of the Griffith Observatory in California, quoted by the BBC.

In the Bible, an association of an eclipse is used within a description of end days. A line within Matthew 24:29 says that “the Sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light.”

This verse, along with similar references in Mark 13:24 and Luke 21:25, is often associated with the prophecies of the end times.

There are people within cultures who still believe in traditions created hundreds of years ago. Some women in India still avoid going outside while pregnant during an eclipse.

Even today, for some, science can’t completely replace that uneasy feeling connected to these celestial events.

Ancient Understanding of Solar Eclipses

Chinese astronomers making celestial observations.
Chinese astronomers making celestial observations.

Over time, many cultures developed a better understanding of these celestial events and began to see patterns after documenting them over long periods spanning generations.

For example, two of the earliest known solar eclipses recorded in China dates to 1302 BCE and the 8th century B.C.

Ancient China became quite advanced in their astronomical observations and developed several methods to help predict eclipses.

One notable method was the ‘Saros cycle,’ a period of about 18 years, 11 days, and 8 hours, after which eclipses (both solar and lunar) tend to repeat themselves with similar characteristics and locations.

Celestial Charts
Celestial Charts

Their ability to predict eclipses was not just a scientific endeavor; it held significant importance in governance and society.

Eclipses were often seen as omens that could affect the ruling dynasty, so accurate predictions were essential for preparing rituals and for political stability.

If the people were forewarned of these events, it gave the dynasty credibility of a connection to the heavens.

The Chinese court employed astronomers for the specific purpose of tracking celestial movements and forecasting such astrological events.

Solar Eclipses in Modern Day Celebrations

Today, although we clearly understand what a solar eclipse is, it continues to hold symbolic and spiritual significance for many people worldwide.

In some Indigenous cultures, such as the Navajo nation of North America, solar eclipses are still seen as times of renewal and rebirth, opportunities to honor traditional rituals and ceremonies. The Navajo believe the eclipse is a time of prayer, fasting, or staying indoors.

Across societies, solar eclipses provide unique opportunities to unite communities in appreciation for the beauty of the natural world.

Much like the Great American eclipse of 2017 and the total eclipse of 2024, these modern-day celebrations of the eclipse often include gatherings leading up to the astronomical event accompanied by music, dancing, and food.

The Symbolic and Spiritual Meaning
of Solar Eclipses

An image of person's inner energy transcending and connecting to the cosmos.
Human energy transcends into the cosmos.

The symbolic and spiritual meaning of a solar eclipse, born across various cultures over the millennia, is a way for human beings to connect the outer cosmos to the inner self.

These celestial occurrences have been associated with the need for introspection, guidance, and human actions, often reflecting societies’ fears, hopes, and beliefs.

We’ll unravel the tapestry of interpretations and rituals solar eclipses have inspired within humanity.

Balancing the
Energetic Bodies

Solar Eclipses have long been associated with the concept of balance between the energetic bodies.

As the Moon’s shadow obscures the Sun, the energies of these celestial bodies align, creating a rare and powerful time for personal growth.

Solar Eclipses symbolize the interplay between our own inner light (intuition) and the physical world (Earth).

This period encourages reflection and introspection, allowing us to recalibrate our energies and connect with our inner selves and the divine.

An image of a person standing near water in the forest under a solar eclipse. Reflection, Renewal, and Rebirth during a solar eclipse.
Reflection, Renewal, and Rebirth during a solar eclipse.

Reflection, Renewal, and Rebirth

Eclipses represent both endings and new beginnings in the spiritual realm. The darkness brought by the solar eclipse signifies it’s a good time to release the old, let go of the past, and embark on a journey of renewal and rebirth.

This transformative event helps us to embrace change and evolve our perspectives, sometimes resulting in a spiritual awakening.

By harnessing the hidden energies of these cosmic occurrences, we delve deep into our consciousness and allow for the growth of our spiritual selves.

Personal Growth and Relationships

Beyond the spiritual implications of Solar Eclipses, their transformative nature also extends to personal growth and relationships.

The eclipse introduces a perfect time of cultivation, release, and emotional healing.

Partnerships and relationships may be affected as individuals find themselves in a period of higher self-awareness and introspection.

During this time, being mindful of your thoughts, actions, and emotions is essential.

Embrace the opportunity for growth with open arms, and remember that change is a natural and necessary part of the physical world and your inner life.

By allowing the solar eclipse energy to flow through you, be prepared for significant transformations in both your inner and outer worlds.

Solar Eclipses in Astrology

Solar and Lunar cycles are an important component throughout astrology. An image of phases of the Moon and Sun connected  in an astrological circle.
Solar and Lunar cycles are an important component throughout astrology.

Solar eclipses hold a special place in astrology as symbols of change and personal development. How they affect each zodiac sign depends a lot on the unique details of the eclipse and other related cosmic activities and alignments.

Eclipse Season in the Zodiac Cycle

The lunar cycle and the solar year form the backdrop of the zodiac cycle.

Eclipses hold the power to change the course of events as the SunMoon, and Earth align perfectly, causing disruptions in the usual flow of energy.

In astrology, eclipse season refers to the periods when lunar and solar eclipses occur. 

  • Heightened Intuition: During an eclipse, individuals often experience increased awareness and insight and obtain a deeper understanding of themselves and their life path.
  • Cosmic Event: Solar eclipses are powerful cosmic events that influence the planets and zodiac signs and act as catalysts for personal and global transformation.

The interaction between the lunar nodes of destiny, known as the South Node and North Node, plays a major role in the timing and meaning of each eclipse.

These nodes represent our past (South Node) and future (North Node) selves and help us analyze our spiritual growth.

Impact on Individual Zodiac Signs

Every solar eclipse impacts each zodiac sign differently, depending on the positions of the planets, the context of the lunar cycle, and the aspects formed between the planets present a different astrological point of view.

Here are some influences of solar eclipses on a few specific zodiac signs:

  • Taurus: Taureans cherish stability and may feel a bit shaken during solar eclipses. As the eclipse urges them to reevaluate their values and priorities, they can nurture their growth by welcoming the unavoidable changes.
  • Libra: Librans may experience a heightened need for balance and harmony in their lives. During a solar eclipse, they are urged to ground themselves in inner peace despite external upheavals and use the transformative energy to develop stronger relationships.
  • Jupiter: People with Jupiter in their charts should expect
    significant spiritual shifts during solar eclipses. These individuals will likely experience powerful moments of self-realization as their awareness expands.

Every individual, regardless of their zodiac sign, should embrace the transformative energy of solar eclipses in astrology.

By using the eclipses as an opportunity to reflect and gain clarity, one can refine their path and continue to grow spiritually.

Manifesting During a Solar Eclipse

A solar eclipse presents a powerful axis of change that we can use to facilitate fresh starts and new goals, a focus on manifestations, meditation, and rituals.

This period offers a unique opportunity to harness the energy for personal growth and transformation.

New Intentions
and Goals

The eclipse of the Sun is often seen as a symbol of transformation and new beginnings. It is an ideal time for setting new intentions, focusing on desired goals, and manifesting personal aspirations.

During a solar eclipse, one can take advantage of the powerful cosmic event to initiate a reset in their life. It may include:

  • Setting new goals: List your objectives and prioritize what you want to achieve in various aspects of life.
  • Refining existing projects: Use the eclipse’s transformative energy to reassess ongoing projects and refine your approach to ensure success.
  • Embracing change: Allow yourself to be open to new ideas, perspectives, and opportunities that may present themselves during this period.

Mediation and Rituals

One can engage in meditation and rituals specifically designed for a solar eclipse to further enhance the manifestation process.

These activities can help harness the cosmic energy and create a deeper connection with personal intentions and desires. Some ideas to consider include:

  • Meditation: Use guided visualization and mindfulness techniques to focus on your goals and aspirations during the solar eclipse.
  • Rituals: Perform rituals that align with your beliefs, such as lighting candles, using crystals, or writing down intentions and burying them in the Earth.
  • Energy clearing: Cleanse your personal space, mind, and body to create a fresh environment for manifesting intentions.

Manifestation plans for future Solar Eclipses

The best way to prepare your manifestations for an upcoming solar eclipse is to make notes and plan how you will implement your intentions. Check future eclipse dates on this NASA site, Solar Eclipses: 2021 – 2030.

Beyond the total eclipse of April 8, 2024, another total eclipse will not be seen within the contiguous United States until 2044.

According to NASA, several eclipses will still appear in the States before the decade ends. A partial eclipse will occur on August 12, 2026, January 26, 2028, and January 14, 2029. There will also be a total eclipse occurring over Europe in 2026.

Solar Eclipse vs
Lunar Eclipse:
Science and
Symbolism

Solar and lunar eclipses are celestial events that have long fascinated humanity. Both involve the interplay between the Sun, Moon, and Earth but differ in several ways.

In this section, we will briefly compare solar eclipses with lunar eclipses, highlighting their main differences in science and how they are perceived from a symbolic and spiritual perspective.

Solar Eclipse

solar eclipse happens as the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, temporarily blocking part or all of the Sun’s light. There are three main types of solar eclipses: total, annular, and partial.

Total Solar Eclipse

An image of a total solar eclipse with the the corona in view.
The corona of the Sun can be seen on the outer edges of a total solar eclipse.

During the phase of totality of a total solar eclipse, the Moon obstructs all the light of the Sun, creating a spectacular moment of darkness and revealing the Sun’s ethereal outer atmosphere, the corona.

Annular Solar Eclipse

An annular eclipse of the Sun, known as the "Ring of Fire."
An annular eclipse of the Sun is known as the “Ring of Fire.”

On the other hand, an annular eclipse of the Sun takes place when the Moon does not completely cover the Sun. The complete circular silhouette of the Moon can be seen within the disk of the Sun, but the Moon does not match the Sun’s circumference or apparent size, leaving a bright “ring of fire” visible around its edges. 

Partial Solar Eclipse

An image of a partial solar eclipse.
A Partial Solar Eclipse.

Lastly, a partial solar eclipse happens when only a part of the Sun is obscured. This is the most common solar eclipse, as it is seen within all three types of solar eclipses during portions of the five stages of a solar eclipse.

There is also a fourth type of solar eclipse, which is very rare, known as a hybrid eclipse. It involves the shifting between two types of solar eclipses, the total eclipse and the annular eclipse, as seen from Earth. For a deeper explanation regarding the scientific aspect of solar eclipses, check out my article, “What is a Solar Eclipse?

Lunar Eclipse

Lunar eclipses, in contrast, occur when the Earth lies between the Sun and the Moon, casting its shadow on the Moon. These celestial events are less rare than solar eclipses and can be witnessed by more people at once.

There are two main types of lunar eclipses: partial and total.

Total Lunar Eclipse

An image of a total lunar eclipse with it's iconic reddish tint.
A Total Lunar Eclipse.

A total lunar eclipse happens as the Earth’s shadow fully covers the Moon, often causing it to appear red or copper in color, known as a “Blood Moon.”

Partial Lunar Eclipse

An image of a partial lunar eclipse.
A Partial Lunar Eclipse.

A partial lunar eclipse occurs as the Earth’s shadow covers only a portion of the circumference of the Moon.

Spiritual and Symbolism

From a spiritual and symbolic standpoint, solar and lunar eclipses have inspired a wide spectrum of emotions, such as fear and fascination, throughout human history.

Solar Eclipse

Solar eclipses have traditionally been viewed as powerful omens of change, rebirth, and transformation.

The temporary darkening of the Sun symbolizes a momentary pause or reset, allowing for new beginnings and growth.

In ancient cultures, solar eclipses were sometimes regarded as omens of the death of a king or major political upheaval.

Lunar Eclipse

Lunar eclipses, however, are often seen as a time of emotional and spiritual cleansing.

The Earth’s shadow cast on the moon represents the process of confronting and releasing hidden fears, desires, and emotions.

The red hue of a total lunar eclipse, or Blood Moon, has been associated with themes such as fertility, power, and passion.

Both the solar and lunar eclipse have captivated humans throughout the ages, serving as powerful symbols of transformation and renewal. Their spiritual and symbolic meanings are forever in our culture and consciousness.

The Arts Inspired by Eclipses

The visual drama of an eclipse will often stir and inspire creative souls to turn to their brush, pen, camera, or hands to interpret what they feel or see as a powerful symbol in storytelling.

Here are a few exceptional examples throughout the eras.

An image of two paintings which both have the vision of solar eclipse in the subject matter.
On the left a painting titled "The vision of St. Benedict" by Cosmas Damian, 1735. St Benedict is gazing into the sky during a total eclipse of the Sun.
On the right is the image of a painting titled"Eclipse of the Sun" by George Grosz, 1926. The image of a total Solar Eclipse hangs above a man with no head sitting at the table amongst other unusual characters.
(Left): “The vision of St. Benedict” by Cosmas Damian, 1735. (Right): “Eclipse of the Sun” by George Grosz, 1926(2)

Solar eclipses were often depicted in religious paintings during the Renaissance to symbolize important biblical events or divine interventions, as seen in “The Vision of St. Benedict” by Cosmas Damian, 1735.

In George Grosz’s painting titled “The Total Eclipse of the Sun” 1926, the eclipse of the Sun was used in this political satire to symbolize the U.S. financial investment in Germany’s post-WWI economy.

The eclipse overlaid with an American dollar sign, can be seen in the upper left corner of the painting.

An image of a painting capturing a large crowd of people standing in a field to watch a total eclipse of the Sun in Austria during July of 1842.
“The Total Eclipse of the Sun” by Johann Christian Schoeller, 1842.

Johann C. Schoeller used his brush and canvas to capture the crowds and the scene of excitement during the total eclipse event on July 8, 1842 in Vienna, Austria.

Writers and poets used words to express the impact of their eclipse experience on their thoughts and feelings.

Here is an example with an excerpt of “The Eclipse of the Sun” written by the English poet, William Wordsworth in 1820.

High on her speculative Tower
Stood Science waiting for the Hour
When Sol was destined to endure
That darkening of his radiant face
Which Superstition strove to chase,
Erewhile, with rites impure. - William Wordsworth (1820)

Conclusion

Experiencing a solar eclipse is an unforgettable moment whether you understand the science or not. It evokes many of the same feelings today as it had for observers thousands of years ago.

The ancients made connections to the cosmos, observing these celestial moments and passing wisdom via symbols and stories to future generations.

Scientists and spiritualists often agree there is an energy within the universe that we are still trying to understand.

Like ripples of water from stones tossed in a pond, the motion of planetary bodies moving, pulling, and aligning affects its energy, creating vibrations of molecules within space, within us.

A Cityastronomy logo of a cityscape under a starry night with the Cityastronomy name worded across the circular picture.
Written by Darin Anthony

Astronomy has peaked my curiosity and imagination from an early age. I am always thrilled to read about the latest galactic discovery or planning my next celestial observation. More about me [..]

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