Monday's solar eclipse is generating feverish excitement across the US, but some witches say it may foreshadow political and social events to come. "It spells trouble for leaders, generally," explains Helen Berger, a sociologist at Brandeis who has studied Paganism and Witchcraft for over two decades. "The Greeks and Romans viewed the eclipse as a negative omen, especially for those in power."
Witches and pagans have long believed celestial events can have real world implications, a notion shared by ancient civilizations. The word eclipse is actually rooted in a Greek word that means "abandonment," or "forsaking." Indeed, when the sun has fully shrunk and become a gleaming void, it can feel as if the whole universe has been swallowed up.
But when, this coming Monday, the moon blanches the sun's rays, don't expect to see all Wiccans or witches pointing sticks towards the sky, as some say the energy is too volatile to harness for most spells. "It takes both a disciplined and experienced witch to harvest the power of the eclipse magic and is certainly not advisable for beginners," one Wiccan website advises. On Reddit, another witch urged a novice to only practice spells over water charged by full moons since "traditional eclipses meant discord and witches didn't cast spells these days."
Instead of channeling the energy into spells, some witches say they will use the eclipse's energy to charge their crystals, let go of negativity, and visualize a more just and peaceful world. "Plant a new 'seed reality' made of light and love," instructs one Pagan blog. "Imagine clean technology, sustainable living, and governments that prioritizes the good of the planet."
In the "Bind Trump" Facebook group, originally founded by Wiccans and Pagans to cast a "binding" spell on President Trump so that he would fail at his job, some users responded with enigmatic turns of phase when asked what they were planning for the eclipse. "The collective attention of humanity will be on the eclipse — you can probably imagine the opportunities that presents," replied a member named Nick Dickinson. When asked to elaborate on whether he thought the eclipse could result in "bad things" for world leaders, Dickinson responded, "I think it's a very complicated answer. And entirely subjective."
Daniel McGowan, another group member, directed me towards a nine-page solar eclipse ritual he'd uploaded to the Facebook group as a PDF. Beginning with a depressing analysis of our current political moment, the document goes on to propose a ritual to counteract our confusion and "refocus our national consciousness toward unity and harmless individual liberty." This involves chanting a lyrical poem that features Norse mythology and timed to the various phases of the eclipse.
"I'm working under the assumption that the two eclipses might be the bookends of a micro-epoch in the story of the US"
"It was inspired by a concept I had called the Glare Age, a time when all information is infinitely mirrored so one can never discern truth," McGowan told me. In the ritual he created, the sun is the source of this Glare Age and it is swallowed by two wolves in the course of the eclipse. When the totality is complete, the sun is regurgitated and its light more properly illuminates the world around us, allowing us to see through the lies and confusion of our current administration. Or at least that's the hope.
"I can't help but notice that [the second eclipse] would be in the last year of a second Trump term," McGowan says. "I'm working under the assumption that the two eclipses might be the bookends of a micro-epoch in the story of the US," he added.
Other members of the group have planned less elaborate ceremonies that fit with their work schedule. Angela O'Conner says she'll be tending to patients during the eclipse as a nurse, but she plans on binding Trump either in her car or in a utility closet at work in between her shifts. "I can't say that I want forty-five impeached because the entirety of what that could bring terrifies me," she says. "My focus will be more on sending both binding energy at the whole lot of 'them' while sending out hope that more people will wake up and gain the courage and motivation to fix and save our world."
Member John Stone's plans are both grand and explicitly political: he said he was going to draft a new GOP platform with a friend to send to conservative politicians because he was tired of the path his party had taken. "We feel that unless the party adapts to the times, it's going to die," he said. He said he'll be wearing a monk's cloak, at least during the rituals.
"I'll have to be sure to remove any ceremonial garb during that last effort, though," he said. "Typing up political documents while wearing [a cloak] feels a little too Unabomber-y."
F. Jennings of Catland Books says he'll also be utilizing mystical rituals to try to "dislodge and disrupt the fundamentalist and fascist elements that have taken root in power structures.'
"Magic is about liberation, and seeding change," he adds. "If there's a silver lining to the ominous, apocalyptic portents that eclipse myths carry, it's the flushing away of abhorrent structures. The eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and so it's a prime moment for removing obstacles and opening the way for human growth and liberation."