There’s nothing like a Total Solar Eclipse to bring to the surface polarized views on how to energetically participate in an eclipse event. While the topic of how to watch an eclipse is everywhere covered in the mainstream press (NASA, glasses- protect your eyes!), the energetic aspects of planning ritual or ceremony around an eclipse, is less discussed. The two articles at the top of my searches, call out the same rituals for any waxing moon, with a bit about “shadow work”, but nothing terribly unique to a Solar Eclipse, or detailing which Sacred Plants make sense for smudge ceremony. As a sage grower and one who helps others craft personal ritual with Sacred Plants- I am often asked- “what sages are best to offer for smudge ceremony during an eclipse?”
My short answer: Based on the moon’s phase, offer sages, evergreens, and/or resins that help you; 1) deeply cleanse purify and RELEASE; 2) Set new and powerful intentions for RENEWAL- in 3 days or daily over the next 2 weeks. See my Lists below for Plant Spirits and ideas for Ritual before and after a Solar Eclipse.
First, let me start by saying that conducting rituals around an eclipse is not supported unanimously by all cultures around the world. Certain North American Native Peoples today vehemently oppose not only viewing an eclipse, and also side against doing any ritual whatsoever during the event (see this article about the Taboo on viewing any eclipse in Navajo and other cultures, by The Indian Country Today.)
As a naturalist and ceremonialist, it is always interesting to me to note where exactly these taboo beliefs have come from. My Native American friends all tell stories of grandparents who sternly warned them to stay indoors, fully covered, avoiding windows and averting their eyes, lest harm come to them. Perhaps some of this is due in part to the fear of damage to the eyes– an entirely real and valid concern. For traditions in Mexico, Mayan beliefs refer to the fact that where there is a loss of sun, there is loss of life. This makes sense, of course. In the article noted above, Navajo Rudy Bagay speaks of how merely viewing an eclipse seriously “affects mind and body.” He speaks of the sacredness of the relationship of the earth and moon passing in shadow as an intimate affair- too sacred to gaze upon, supporting the taboo. The article also cites the sky as a place of death to the Navajo, which is a very different view than that held by my Pacific Islander friends and Tsalagi / Cherokee clans, who trace their ancestors directly to the Star People and do not shy away from viewing planetary events or rituals timed with them. But every culture is different.
On an eclipse positive side, from “Your Grandmother’s Cherokee” “Nvdo walosi ugisgo, The literal translation is “Sun/moon frog it-eats-the-round-thing-habitually,” or “The frog eats the sun/moon.” This refers to the traditional belief that the eclipse is caused by a giant frog swallowing the sun or moon. To scare the frog away, people made loud noises for the duration of the eclipse.” Crazy howling, shouting and dancing outside was the ritual. Loud sounds to scare the ones “eating the Sun” were common practices among certain Scandinavian Peoples as well.
Photo: North Pacific Art by Charles Edenshaw
All of my Nyingma Tibetan Buddhist teachers call eclipses “very auspicious!” Khandro net summarizes it this way: “In the view of the traditional medicine of Tibet, China, and India, the subtle energies of the body are diminished and so, out of compassion and concern for our world and all other beings, seen and unseen, we do what we can to help sustain them. It is for this reason that the merit of [prayer and] practice is greatly multiplied during an eclipse.” How much greater? Rinpoche Jigme says that to practice during any lunar or solar eclipse multiplies the blessings generated between 100,000- 1,000,000 times!
As a naturalist and star-gazer, I am always looking to the cosmos for connection; to see and feel my place in the bigger canvas, tiny as it shrinks me down. Leave it to the natural world– it’s giant redwoods, vast oceans, canyons, immense star filled galaxies, and mysterious planetary relationships, to size us all up. Ha! (Secretly, I credit the stellar and heavenly cosmos for the first steps in our human evolution. But that’s another blog post.)
As a biologist who grows and harvests California sages, I live by the seasons and celebrate our cycles in every way possible. Like most, I love the stories of the sun and moon, male-female energies across cultures. Without this celestial relationship kept in the balance, our entire existence and all we experience would be unrecognizable. Yes, this is obvious, but I rarely think about this any other time: what if we had eclipses all the time? There would be no day and night, plants, animals (our food!), no cycles as we know them for our sleep, moon, reproductive and birthing, cycles, or the influence on tides and oceans- which would keep our weather tumultuous. In short, the ebb and flow of life night and day as we know it, would be gone.
Whew! So to me, there is much to celebrate by way of ritual right now. At the very least, in the ways of gratitude practice with sage and evergreens. And now is the perfect time. For this Total Solar Eclipse 2017, here are a few ideas for your smudge ritual, tied with the cycles of Sun and Moon.
Aug 20-21: Waning Moon to Eclipse (New Moon): *Cleanse * Purify *Release
Plant Spirits: Juniper, White Sage, Silver Sage, Mugwort, Yarrow, Pinion Pine
a) Invite your Spirit Guides and Creator to ceremony; Cleanse yourself with Juniper or Cedar.
b) Set new intentions for Release; identify what you want/need to release, naming each in your smudging ceremony (Sages, Mugwort).
*Excellent Shadow Eclipse ritual*
c) Energetically re-charge any “old” smudge bundles that may be laying idle and unused, partially burned from past smudge ceremonies- by simply re-setting your new intentions aloud to re-program them; then burn them up completely over the next 3 days (or 2 weeks of the waxing moon). If you cannot burn them- then crumble and send back to the earth your old bundles during this weekend.
d) Invite your demons and ghosts to ceremony: offer them smudge (Juniper and Sage) too. Introduce yourself and ask them to speak. Journal your results.
e) Express Gratitude: Thank your Spirit Guides and Creator for coming to your ceremony and for all the help they give (Cedar, Sweetgrass).
As with any waning moon ritual, lightening up is a common theme. Add the powerful energies of a total solar eclipse; the moon totally blotting out the sun, save for a small crowned rim of light, and we get the “dig deep into your shadow side” motif. Shadow side of what you may ask? Symbolically the Sun is our identity, the Yang side, what we show the world.
Since the entire universe (or our small earthly corner of it anyway) is soon to be eclipsed by the moon and therefore dealing with shadow BIG TIME, we too benefit by having extra ummph and power to delve deep. We may even find strength to throw down a difficult demon or two. I like this scenario that implies: I’m not alone, the Cosmos is dealing with darkness too; I too can mirror strength, and weather shadows.
Being totally honest with ourselves in a total solar eclipse kind-of-way, to me means asking ourselves: Am I hiding behind anything? Is there any artifice or illusion that’s keeping me from being my ultra real, my authentic self?
And what is this talk of “demons” you may ask. What demons?! Ha!! Shadow work means looking at anything potentially demon-like, or havoc-wreaking that we may be keeping safely buried in the sub-basement below our sunny faced identities to deal with later on “a rainy day”. Or like, NEVER! I am no therapist, but can speak from experience in recommending ritual as a good place to begin asking yourself the tough questions. If (or when) our demons rise up and hurt ourselves or others- ritual is the gentlest way I know of to begin conversing with the dark side: Ritual invites demons ‘up for tea’, or sage ceremony. The territory may not stay gentle forever, but it can be both lightening and enlightening.
Spirit never brings to the surface more than our bodies and minds can handle. Angeles Arrien
For Smudge ceremonies of Release before an eclipse, set intentions to be honest with yourself going forward; to see clearly. Offer up with the Sacred Smoke anything that is difficult. Go ahead, offer up your ghosts too.
Aug. 21: The Eclipse: *Mediation * Stillness *
Rituals: 1) Meditation. 2) Study Shadows on the ground. 3) Star Gazing.
Meditate: During the actual eclipse (2-4 minutes): I am a fan of stillness practice using any type of meditation technique you favor. An “energy soak up” as it were. Meditation is especially good when we want to feel the experience in the most present way possible; unplug, turn off our phones and just feel what one giant celestial body hiding another actually feels like to your small subtle energy body. Choose the background Sun or the timely positioned Moon. Can you feel something inside? They say our pets will be going crazy. Mine will be close. Extra rest is always good when doing shadow work anyway.
Eclipse Viewing: If I do view this year, personally, I prefer the old-fashioned way- through a paper with a pin hole held to the ground. OR, as husband recommends, staring at shadows on the ground- as under a tree and through leaves. I absolutely love the play of light anyway, and so may take my camera out for the last minute of the eclipse- to capture shape and shadow on the ground. (photo: Jet Propulsion Lab-Nasa)
Star Gazing: The Moon will rise and set with the Sun on this eclipse night, and won’t be visible in the night sky for awhile. New Moon blackness. Scientists tell us to expect a very dark night, making it a great time to stare at the sky (after dark only!) to your heart’s content. The night of the Eclipse- I will be outside, lying down; seeing which stars speak to me. (I use app Sky Guide to identify stars and planets in my night sky- shown on the right. This shot was taken this evening before sunset). Look “your star” up and see what the Greeks had to say about them. More chance to revel in the cosmic mythos.
Aug. 21 – 22: New Moon- Waxing Moon.
*Healing * Blessing *Inviting* Renewal*
Plants: Cedar, Sweet Grass, Lavender, Bee sage, Copal, Frank n’ Myrrh
a) Setting intentions for self-love, healing and growth.
b) Invite goodness and blessings to come and expand in your life over the next 2 weeks with the waxing moon, invite in the Sacred Smoke (Bee or Silver sage, lavender, etc).
c) Gratitude practice (Sweetgrass, Palo Santo wood) after the eclipse is gone, thank your guides, the elements, Creator. Star gaze and send out your blessings to the cosmos to include everyone.
d) Pay special attention to dreams this weekend. You will know best what they mean; journal to explore.
New Moon is its usual intention-setting time, but amplified by the power of a Total Solar Eclipse. Consider this a mega, über augmented new moon, when our lovely Moon positions herself just right and fills nearly the entire spotlight in darkness before bowing out. This is a great time in this post eclipse, New Moon smudge ceremony- to invite the blessings you wish to draw, related to the passing of shadow and darkness in your own life. Follow this ritual up with a day or 2 of gratitude smudging-– the best you have to offer- with the stongest intentions for balance; the greatest hope, prayer, and gratitude your heart can hold. I like to offer to the 4-Directions or elements too. But this is optional and personal.
Enjoy! And leave me feedback about your ceremony. What rituals and plants worked best for you? What were your rituals? The great thing about crafting rituals for ourselves, is that we are all: learning, borrowing, trying, adjusting, and adopting. Mindful practice is key. Always follow what you believe. If you don’t know; meditate on it, ask your Spirit Guides, and respecting the power of the Cosmos and celestial bodies- follow your own truth.
PS: Will you be adding Crystals to your smudge bowl for this solar eclipse? Instructor and Crystal therapist Tana Schott says “if you are working with an “illusion-busting” crystal like Black Obsidian- which brings illusions to the mind’s surface quickly- be sure to balance this with a stone of self–love and healing, such as Rose Quartz or Rhodochrosite.” This balance of minerals is always critical for deep shadow work, but especially for a full solar eclipse. Another great combination is Bronzite (excellent for crisis work) combined with Dumortierite.
PSS: I suggest working with the Sages you already have on hand (not all listed here): You don’t have to go buy new Sages or plants. The important point is setting your intentions and refreshing the plant spirits you have with these strong intentions. Simply recharge your existing plants, sages, woods, or bundles that you have on hand is perfect, using the power of your thoughts, words, breath, and, oh yah- a lil’ solar power from the eclipse!! If you do want new sages/woods/resins- you can find them at your local botanical store, or next week from my shop- Sacred Land Sage also on Etsy-SlS.
Thank you for reading!!