This week the crescent Moon will lead the way to the place among the stars where the Great American Solar Eclipse is going to happen, and since the stars can become visible when the Sun is eclipsed, now is a good time to get out and learn your way around this region of the sky.
On May 31st, the Moon will appear in the constellation Leo, the Lion, just to the left of the star Regulus. This will be in the southwest about an hour after sunset. The Moon is only going to move through this region of the sky two more times before it completely blocks the Sun here, in August. It’s a fascinating thing to consider.
And while you’re looking for it this week, don’t forget to notice what else is happening: There’s the constellation of Leo, where the Moon will be marking the eclipse point on Wednesday; and exactly opposite, if you turn around, you’ll see the constellation Cygnus, the Swan, rising up in the northeast .
Cygnus appears to be flying along the Milky Way on mighty outstretched wings and is also known as the Northern Cross, one of the most sacred regions of the sky.
It was once believed that when an eclipse of the Sun happens, it’s like everything that lives “under the Sun” reaches its fulfillment. Then, the Sun is completely blocked out, and that break in the Sun’s light causes a cessation of what has been just for a few minutes, and things begin again. There’s evidence that the Druids observed solar eclipses as the total destruction and immediate recreation of the world, not literally, but spiritually. The Druid initiate was the one who knew where the Sun went when the Earth couldn’t see it.
There’s a similar description that comes from the Hindu tradition about Cygnus the Swan that says Cygnus “flaps its wings to the vibration of the wordless hum of the cosmos that creates, sustains, destroys, and creates ceaselessly.”
If you’re looking forward to the eclipse, then get out and find the Lion and the Swan this week, where they adorn the opposite horizons of our world.