Total Solar Eclipse 2024

Tara C. Trapani


The full solar eclipse will occur this Monday, April 8, and up here in Vermont where my family and I have made our home, we will be basking in the path of full totality. Several members of the Forum team will be gathering to experience this exciting event together, and it will indeed be my first-ever full eclipse. 

As most of us are aware, eclipses have often throughout history been interpreted as harbingers of doom, being seen to predict the death of kings, the failure of crops, the end of the world, and much more. Before each visible eclipse, the  internet is always overflowing with the history of human fear at the darkening of the sun. And in other contexts and cultures, it has been seen more favorably, as the cosmic union of sun and moon; as a sign of peace; and occasionally as a favorable portent. What the artist who carved this first image we have of an eclipse approximately 5300 years ago was feeling and thinking, we’ll likely never know.


But whether seen as dark omens or blessings, in astronomy, astrology, history, or mythology, eclipses are almost always  seen as moments of great import (a recent post on the Orion site by Christopher Cokinos, underscores this). The fear, chaos, and confusion that eclipses caused for those in the distant past is understandable. But the vast deep dark is also the birthplace of creativity—the seat of pure potential. I have a somewhat tenuous relationship with Nietzsche, but these short lines from Thus Spoke Zarathustra  still have great power for me: “I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. I say unto you: you still have chaos in yourselves.”

We must have chaos and darkness to give birth to the light—they are our raw materials. Our lives and our world have been abundant with chaos at least since the pandemic (and in truth for far longer), so we’ve certainly got a surplus of that these days. But instead of leaning into the pain and grief of our chaotic challenges, local and global, what if we could harness that chaos? Use that raw material and make something new from it. 

There’s an episode of the award-winning British television series Doctor Who (and yes, I am letting my inner geek show!) where everyone all over the Earth thinks one thought simultaneously at a moment of import, and as a result, true magic occurs, reverses the decay and generates renewal, and the world is saved. Though I have no delusions that we could ever get everyone on the planet to agree to the same thing at the same time, I’ve been wondering what would happen if we started using these moments of import as focal points for our work—for planting collective and communal seeds for what we are trying to grow and nurture together. 

In a way, of course I’m talking about Storymaking–the ultimate creative act, to forge our own tomorrow together by first writing the story and then stepping into it, much as Thomas Berry always encouraged us to imagine The New Story and then help bring it into being. If we can all hold a vision of the future we seek to engender—the ecological civilization that would uplift and benefit all, human and non-human—perhaps these moments of pure potentiality could act as the spark to start the syntropic ball rolling towards that end. 

And in a way, I’m talking about communal ritual and ceremony. As Mary Evelyn Tucker wrote in her introduction to Orion Magazine’s new spring issue:
“We are far from disconnected. We dwell in kinship to one another, to stars in the heavens and sea stars in the oceans. We recognize now that we have descended from them both, Earthlings seeking our way home. Rituals inter-woven with nature’s pulsations provide a vehicle for our journey.”

Through ritual and the power of story, I believe we can reverse the entropy in which we are all entangled together. I propose that eclipses and moments of import, such as this—that were so momentous in the lives of our ancestors—can be one such communal ritual surging with creative potential—a co-creation between ourselves and the pulsing natural world around us. I, for one, will be spending the 3 minutes and 16 seconds of the totality giving this vision my focus and energy and taking all the chaos inside me and harnessing it, to send it out into the Universe. And I invite you, and all those who also hold this collectively-enhancing ecological vision, to join me.


The music of an eclipse


The first ever solar eclipse captured on film (1900)