The Heavenly Dance of Helios and Selene

On Monday of this week there was a total Solar Eclipse in the United States. I was able to view the eclipse in an area that was not in the path of totality but close to it. I was in an area of the country that was nearly total with slightly over 92% of the sun covered by the moon’s shadow. Although there is a scientific reason for this, this doesn’t in any way diminish the emotional and spiritual impact of the eclipse.

In Hellenic polytheism, Helios and Selene — the Titan Theoi of the Sun and Moon respectively, are the children of Hyperion and Theia (according to Hesiod) along with their sister Eos, the Titan Goddess of the Dawn, who is her brother’s herald, and are the rulers of the celestial luminary bodies. Helios is also the lord of Oaths and is the deity who actually told Demeter who had kidnapped her daughter Persephone.

I can see why the ancient Hellenes looked at eclipses as “evil omens”, but knowing that an eclipse is Selene “visiting” her brother in the sky, I do not see it in that way. I see an eclipse being evidence of the close relationship that the siblings enjoy even if they rarely are noticed in the sky at the same time. It is, in point of fact, this heavenly dance is what determines the times and dates of the sacred festivals of the Theoi in the Attic calendar that many Hellenic polytheists use. A solar eclipse happens when a lunar month begins, and in my way of thinking highlights the festivals which will be occurring during that month in a year where such an eclipse happens.

In 2017, this begins the Attic month of Boedromion. This month is significant in that it includes such MAJOR festivals as the Genesios (a festival honoring our ancestors), the Demokratia (a celebration of Athenian Democracy — and by extension — Democratic governance in general); and, perhaps most importantly to many people, the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries (part of a major initiatory festival cycle). This leads me to think that for Hellenic polytheists, we may be called to look at where we came from, what our values are politically, and to take a look at the deeper areas of our spirituality.

These are just a few of the things that the so-called “Great American Total Solar Eclipse” has brought to mind, but I think they are important to look at.

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