How An Eclipse Ceremony Helped Me Feel Less Scared About The World

A year ago, I was not someone who got too worked up over stuff like eclipses — and I definitely wasn't someone who would see an eclipse as an opportunity to make a spectacle of myself by bringing crystals to a public park, taking off my shoes, and meditating, all in front of a bunch of families trying to enjoy some wholesome natural phenomena in a hippie-free atmosphere.

But I'm not the person I was a year ago, and I bet you're not, either. Living in our present world — where every day feels like a non-stop stream of disheartening political news, tragic violence, apocalyptic threats, and Donald Trump licking a frozen flagpole because an older boy told him to — I've found that pretending to be cool (a lifelong passion of mine) feels suddenly less important than, well, literally anything else. This has left me open to a lot of stuff I would have been scared to try in the past, which is how I came to decide to perform an eclipse ritual.

Since the eclipse is such a potent symbol in so many histories and spiritual practices, pretty much anyone can find something that clicks for them, even if, like me, you're still in the beginner stage of learning literally anything about any form of spirituality. You could make eclipse water; or engage in a quiet contemplative meditation; or plan something more tied to classic new moon rituals, since the eclipse was also a Leo new moon; or take part in something elaborate that involved advance spiritual purification and preparation.

However, I, an eternal last minute shopper — a person who didn't care about the eclipse until Thursday, and then decided that I really cared, and thus paid $60 for an eclipse telescope that didn't work — did not realize that I wanted to engage in any kind of eclipse ritual until a day or two before the big event, and was hesitant to try anything too complex. So I decided to try an intention-setting ritual, as described by Joy Arnold of Bad Yogi.

According to Arnold, "The sun represents fire, desire, goals, and focus. A solar eclipse is the time to get serious about what you want. What are your goals and dreams in your life?...This is a powerful time to set those intentions on Monday and plant those seeds by creating a sacred ceremony for this heavenly event." Arnold then described her own full moon practice, which she was using for the eclipse:

I write down on a piece of paper what I’m wanting to manifest, create, or release. Because this is a solar eclipse and the spiritual essence is power and career, I will write down what I want to manifest in my career over the next year or so.
I then fill my abalone shell with loose sage, rose petals, and Palo Santo. I light this sacred blend and place my paper in it.
Then I go outside and sit on the earth. No shoes. No chair. Just my bootay sitting on Mother Earth. As I watch it burn I repeat an affirmation (it’s different each time depending on my intention). Just find a sentence or two that resonates with you. Or you may want to skip this part. This is your ceremony after all. Do what you like!

The first part wasn't too tough — I knew exactly what I wanted to get out of this ritual, which was to release my tendency to worry about things both pointless and unimportant until I am literally nauseated. However, I was definitely not in possession of sage, rose petals, cool shells, or anything that wouldn't smell like burning plastic open coming in contact with a match.

So, I improvised. Eclipse rituals aren't about getting every single thing exact, they're about creating a situation that's spiritually meaningful for you, right? Anyway, all of this is to explain how rather than utilizing a giant sea shell filled with mystical incense, I ended up placing my intention paper in something extremely different, yet filled with a lot of personal meaning for me...a photograph of Stephen King.

Told you I wasn't pretending to be cool anymore!

My tools assembled, I headed outside, where I acted very casual for a few minutes of eclipse observation, before slipping off to chant around my crystals.

As I sat on the lawn of a public park near my office, I worried that I was somehow already doing this wrong, in that instead of doing this in a silent grotto, I was meditating about 10 feet away from a pooping bulldog. But hey, there's that worry again! So I took off my shoes, put in my headphones, held on to my crystals, and chanted to myself, "My worry doesn't help me, I release it to the universe."

After a few minutes, I got up, packed up my things, and — even though I know this is not how things work in life, be they new exercise routines or doses of cold medicine or half-understood spiritual practices — checked to see if anything felt different.

And, I'm shocked to say, things did. I had been confused by my own seemingly-random obsession with the eclipse, but now it made sense to me. An eclipse is the kind of event that allows you to draw a line, establish a "before" and an "after" — it's the same reason we all go out for New Year's Eve every year, even though we usually just end up wearing uncomfortable shoes at a too-expensive bar. The promise of being able to draw a line is just too enticing.

And not just because it offers a fresh start — there's also weight to drawing that line, in saying "I have the power to decide that was then, this is now." The election had been a line drawn across me — something out of my control that turned many of my hopes for the future into "thens," and dragged me into a "now" I wasn't prepared to grapple with. It was a line that changed me, in some ways that seemed positive, but in many that made me feel unhinged, depressed, plagued with endless worry. I hadn't expected the eclipse to do any heavy lifting on this front — I had gone back into therapy, and dedicated much of the last nine months to learning more about the world so that I could be active instead of cowering in terror. I had, over the course of several months, already begun feeling better, stronger, less afraid.

But I wanted to draw that line. I wanted to say, that me — the scared, catatonic me that existed in the months after the election, and the too-cool idiot that had inhabited my body for the prior two decades — was "then," that there is a new "now."

So I can't speak to whether the eclipse actually has mystical powers, or if people truly felt a spiritual shift yesterday, or if the eclipse water I made on the fire escape is actually just a bunch of warm tap water that now tastes like plastic . But I do know that it helped me draw a line that felt real — and while it's too early to say for sure, I do feel like I'm finally, fully, on the other side.