Aug 8th-22nd (♌III): Bright Masks and Dark Mirrors

Astrology Aug 12th-22nd (♌III): Bright Masks and Dark Mirrors

In the third face of Leo, which the Sun enters on August 12th, appears a figure sitting on a carved throne.  Above them, emblazoned with proud sigils, flies an immense banner.  Looking more closely at the one sitting on the throne, a variety of faces flash by.  Accounts vary as to their visage.  In the past, some saw a crude man, his mouth full of meat and delicacies gripped tight in his fist.  Others, such as Agrippa, saw a man young and cruel, with a whip in his hand.  Yet another account, found in the Yavanjataka, portrays a cunning and intelligent woman seated atop a throne of ivory, contemplating the murder of her enemies.  Above them all flies the banner of their house, their principle, their allegiance.

It is a martial decan, ruled by Mars in one system and Mars in the other, and it signifies contest and sovereignty challenged.  A ruler embattled, their throne unsteady.  Yet the reasons why are unclear.  Is this karma having ripened?  Did the ruler, in their strength, abuse the people?  Or is it evil rising up against the righteous?  This face shines down on just and unjust alike, rattling thrones and testing the sovereignty of spirit over matter.

Regardless who the one on the throne is, and irrespective of their righteousness, an army assembles before them, marshalled by a crocodile-headed general, whose name may or may not be Sobek. The troops are ragged, their stores depleted.  No advantage of strength of arms or numbers is theirs.  Their condition is reflected in the RWS Tarot card attributed to this decan, which depicts a man embattled and struggling against an onslaught of batons.  If he, and they, would prevail this day, it must be a triumph of courage and spirit, for they have no material advantage to lean upon.  Yet it is possible, for as Napoleon said, “There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit.”  Yet how does one summon spirit?  How does one conjure esprit de corps?

The invisible can only be evoked by means of the visible.  The projection of a symbol which inflames the heart.  A flag, a banner.  Here is the power of heraldry, the strength of a name, the might of a family crest.  Such symbols always return to the primordial language of animals, colors and the declaration of allegiance to principle.  It is through these symbol sets, whether they are collective or individual, that we rally courage at daunted moments and discover in times of stress that there is indeed steel within us.

This year, the crocodile headed marshal rides a horse on to battlefields both personal and collective.  He holds aloft a banner with the emblem of a solar eclipse upon it.  He waves it powerfully but lazily, and as he does so, the Sun disappears from the day-time sky.  At totality, it looks as if some strange god had replaced the Sun with a great obsidian mirror.  Forms and colors twist and whirl on the surface of that mirror, obscure but seemingly rich with meaning.  These visions coalesce into faces, which then rain down on the field below as grand multitude of stylized theatre masks.

The much-discussed Great American Eclipse occurs within this decan, on August 21st.  While this grand absence above dominates the sky, a retrograde Mercury plies the tunnels beneath the field of contest, burrowing through reams of buried data, searching out secrets to clarify the confusing situation above.  It is these two configurations which define the Sun’s 10 days in the third decan of Leo.

Mercury Retrograde

Mercury stations retrograde on the first day of the decan, Saturday, August 12th, at 11 Virgo.  The swift planet will continue backwards through our sky until September 5th, when it stations direct at 28 Leo, the same degree in which the Solar eclipse occurs.

This retrograde partakes of all the features common to Mercury retrogrades.  Expect the same closed roads, lost phones, unexpected messages and delayed decision-making as per usual.  But in addition to these common features, this retrograde has its own unique qualities, owing to the fact that Mercury’s retrograde station in Virgo is just shy of perfect opposition with Neptune in Pisces.  Mercury is ever the clarifier, and plays that role to the hilt when within Virgo, the sign which it both rules and is said to be exalted within.  Neptune, on the other hand, is infamous for muddying the waters and blurring the edges, making distinctions hard to draw.  Like Mercury, Neptune is also in a sign which lends it exceptional strength— Pisces.  This suggests that this part of Mercury’s cycle has a particular emphasis on clarifying the various illusions, half-truths and visions which emanate from Neptune.

This retrograde thus sees scalpel-wielding Mercury attempting to cut through the bullshit, the blade of Occam’s razor bare and flashing.  Though there are indeed some delusions which need to be cut down to size, it is important when wielding such a sword not to slice at dreams indiscriminately.  That eclipse season and Mercury’s retrograde overlap is significant, but it is even more significant that the degree of Mercury’s direct station in September takes place the same degree in which the Solar eclipse is to occur.  This ties the two phenomena together more tightly, as eclipse degrees remain sensitive or “hot” until the next set of eclipses arrives.  Yet the connection may be not clear for some time, as it will take a pair of weeks for the Sun and Mercury’s trajectories to converge.

Total Solar Eclipse in Leo

A total solar eclipse, dubbed “The Great American Eclipse” takes place at 28 Leo on August 21st.  Though much hyperbole has come to surround it, there are indeed several facts which make this eclipse particularly relevant to the United States.  The first, of course, being that the totality of the eclipse will occur entirely over the continental United States.  Though eclipses occur every 6 months, there has not been one so visible in the United States since 1918.

The second factor which links this eclipse to the United States, in particular, is the matter of the sign in which the eclipse takes place— Leo.  The eclipse cycle sees solar and lunar occultations occur in an 18.6 year cycle.  The United States came into during the same portion of this cycle, we are now in, when eclipses occur in Leo and Aquarius.  Therefore this eclipse, as well as the others within this series, activate a core chart-pattern for the United States concerning leadership.  In particular, crises of leadership. The two previous installments of in this eclipse series, for example, coincided with the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan.

It is important to note that these events are signified by 18 monthish series of eclipses in a given pair of signs.  Although the total solar eclipse which occurs on the 21st is the most dramatic member of the Leo-Aquarius series this time, there are 4 more eclipses due to land in this pair of signs over the next year and a half.

The third reason which points this eclipse particularly toward the United States is that it occurs very close to the Ascendant and Mars of its current president, Donald Trump.  This is similar, though not identical, to the solar eclipse at 28 Leo on August 21st, 1998, which was tightly conjunct the Sun of the president at the time, Bill Clinton.

Such a collection of factors makes it difficult not to speculate wildly as to what the actual sequence of events will be, but we must remember a few things when considering the eclipse as portent for the United States.  First, although important events do often occur on the day of or in the days surrounding an eclipse, in many cases the significance of those events is not clear until much later.  Second, eclipses are indeed harbingers of change, but according to traditional methods, the shift promised may take up to 6 months to arrive.  To use Bill Clinton as an example, though the eclipse was atop his natal Sun, the actual vote to impeach him did not occur until almost 4 months later, in December.  Third, in so far as we are speculating about what the eclipse signifies for the United States, we must remember that the current president is not the United States— they are at best an important but temporary component.  The crisis of leadership in the United States has been years in the making, and will not be resolved by either the current president’s departure or continuation

As fascinating and/or repulsive as the collective implications may be, this eclipse also has important things to say about the individual lives.  This eclipse, in particular, suggests significant shifts of identity.  The dragon which devours the Sun and the Moon is also the dragon which, like a snake, sheds its skin to begin anew.  Individual scales fall from the sky, and upon inspection are found to be a million theatre masks.  So too do masks falls from faces, prompting their owners seek mirrors, only to find the primal void, the black mirror from which identity emerges and to which it returns.  If you catch such a glimpse of yourself, fear not.  Instead remember that only an immense emptiness, a huge open-ness, such as this could possibly contain all of your permutations.  If it has come to trade one mask or costume for another, then so be it.  You have taken on and shed skin many times before, and with each transformation emerged renewed.  For you are a being whole and complete, with a gallery of masks that encompass every possible expression. 10,001 skins are necessary to cover your entire expanse, for your variations are a world unto themselves.  So wander the immensity of your wardrobe, and let yourself be costumed properly for whatever drama, comedy or adventure comes next.


Horoscopes are not a real chart reading by an experienced astrologer. They are fun and can be reasonably accurate, however. In addition to referring to your Sun sign, read from your Ascendant and Moon if you know them. If you don’t, find out! I’m a long time fan of the free chart generation software at
Aries: The Ram

Mercury’s retrograde station on the 12th points towards the physical details of your life, starting with your body and extending all the way to that stack of bills on the counter. Keep an eye out for little mix-ups, but reserve some of your gaze for an audit and edit of your habits. The actions you routinely take, although small, have a powerful cumulative effect on both your financial and physical health.
Meanwhile, the total solar eclipse which occurs on the 21st shines its dark face down on what you allow yourself to create. Care less about what people think. It is your life, and that life is your art. Splatter the walls with the paint that pleases you. Decorate its halls like a lunatic, with the faces of the gods and demons you know best.

Taurus: The Bull

Mercury’s retrograde through Virgo points to the many activities in which you invest yourself, and asks that you consider whether these particular allocations are an efficient use of your energy. Allow yourself to become ambivalent about this project or that, and to imagine other arrangements, if only as a thought exercise. Your energy and focus as just as precious as your time, and should be treated accordingly.
Come the 21st, the eerie light of the solar eclipse shines into your basement, illuminating the roots of your family tree. Within that x-ray image dance reflections of you from an earlier time, phantoms of childhood roles and identities. Have these ghosts moved on to a happy afterlife, or do they still cling to you, pulling you to play out patterns that no longer fit? As you exorcise these phantoms, you clear room to build the home you desire according to your design and desire, not that of childhood’s bossy architects.

Gemini: The Twins

Mercury’s retrograde, which begins on the 12th, sees your patron planet conduct an inspection of your home and familial relationships. The retrograde might merely trigger the urge to re-arrange your furniture and call your brother, or it may entail a grander rethinking of what home and family truly are.
The strange light of solar eclipse, which arrives on the 21st, falls upon the times and dates of your calendar. The boxes glow as if under a black light, offering a rare vision of the architecture of your time. There is a power to be found, to be seized, here. The life, and self, you desire can be built from these little calendar boxes, if only you can arrange and sequence them correctly.

Cancer: The Crab

Mercury’s retrograde motion through Virgo sees the planet sweep across your calendar, calling your schedule into question. Though there may be disruptions in the short term, this retrograde is an excellent period to rethink the way that you’re designing your time. Look to edit the wasted time out and to take note of the unrealistic timeline expectations you’ve been guilty of. Creating cleaner divisions between work, play and rest may be particularly helpful. Sorting out muddied half-this and half-that will make you feel like you have half-again as much time.
On the 21st, the solar eclipse is due to sweep across the vault of your possessions, and through the numbers of your bank account. It is due to reveal value you have yet to account for, the gold which only glows in the half-light of midnight at noon. Though this eclipse has financial implications, it also speaks to the value you place upon yourself and your labor. See what shines, both within and without, and make a note of it your ledger.

Leo: The Lion

Mercury’s retrograde through Virgo picks through your pockets, rustling up loose change and revealing assets you forgot you about. This part of Mercury’s motion will be for you primarily financial. Look to correct the miscalculations which arise and set balances right. Yet do not rush to fix before you clarify the situation as it is. A prescription without an accurate diagnosis may do no good at all.
Though Mercury’s retrograde is primarily material, the eclipse is personal. It comes before you like a dark mirror, dancing with your reflection. Yet It does not offer one image, but instead a chain of them, the selves you’ve been, the ego-skins you’ve worn, each animated by the same solar core. The past thus presents as a line of figures. Look further down this procession, and see what lies ahead. There is a future self, another skin and mask, waiting to be worn, waiting to be born.

Virgo: The Virgin

Together, Mercury’s retrograde and this solar eclipse are both very interested in helping you recover lost bits of yourself and integrate them into your identity. While Mercury’s reversal calls into question the way you’ve been thinking about yourself, the shadow of the solar eclipse falls across a set of issues which encompass pride, personal glory, and an aversion to vanity. Somewhere within you, in some deep psychic vault, there is an image of yourself, suffused with glory, simultaneously human, demonic and divine. It is a painting locked away, a vision you’ve dared not gaze upon, lest a monstrous egotism grow inside you. Dare to unwrap and look upon it. Though you may not want to start dressing in the outrageous fashion depicted, the image may very well deserve a place on the walls of your gallery, beside the more humble portraits you have hanging there.

Libra: The Scales

Mercury’s retrograde, which begins on the 12th, invites you down into a labyrinth of gears, the clockworks of your subconscious. The intricate mechanisms there may require a little oiling and maintenance. Something might well be caught in those, a small monkey-wrench which is disrupting an otherwise smooth process. During the retrograde, you’ll want to allocate a little more time to sit with your thoughts than you usually do, as it will be necessary need to cut down on the incoming stimuli in order to accomplish the interior maintenance work.
The shadow of the eclipse, its strange blacklight, is due to fall across your terrain of your social sphere, illuminating the web of relationships you are embedded within. As you watch the stories of friends and colleagues go through their own eclipse tunnel, contemplate the role you routinely play, and whether you’d like to continue on in the part, or not. Perhaps it will only be a change of costume you require, but what you see might also suggest a complete re-rewrite of your role.

Scorpio: The Scorpion

Mercury’s retrograde, which begins on the 12th, occurs primarily within your social sphere. Look, especially, to how you communicate with the people in your life, whether they be friends, foes or something else entirely. You may find you need to edit yourself a bit more thoroughly in some contests, while in others you need to speak up more consistently.
The total solar eclipse on the 21st places an obsidian mirror in the sky above your professional life. On its surface dance visions of the jobs you’ve had- the roles you’ve played. Consider the costumes and uniforms you’ve worn before, and look down, at the one you wear now. Is it something you have chosen, or merely what you ended up in? This eclipse will press you to take greater control of, and responsibility for, your professional role.

Sagittarius: The Centaur

Mercury’s retrograde, which begins on the 12th, takes place primarily within your professional life. Don’t be surprised if Hermes pulls a couple pranks here involving miscommunication or technical difficulties. Additionally, you may find yourself re-thinking or re-arranging your professional life, taking apart the pieces in your mind and putting them back together in different combinations. As you do so, give yourself enough time to work through the different options, as you don’t want to initiate any big re-arrangements prematurely.
The 21st’s solar eclipse is due to offer you a rare moment of piercing clarity in regard to the over-all direction you are taking your life. Indeed, you might catch a fleeting glimpse of the fabric destiny of destiny itself. Yet fate’s tapestry, no matter how complex, is always incomplete. Look to those empty or half-done bits, and consider what you would fill them with.

Capricorn: The Goat

Mercury’s retrograde, which begins on the 12th, highlights your long-term goals. You may find yourself rethinking the details of some of your plans, perhaps growing skeptical of what last month seemed just fine. Give yourself the time to chew over what you really want, and how to move most efficiently toward it. Let data present itself, and various trajectories unfold and compete— don’t push yourself to make decisions or commitments yet.
The solar eclipse on the 21st casts a strange light over the exchanges of time, money and energy in your life, revealing their deep structure. This eclipse is part of a series which pulls you to consider the back and forth between yourself and others, your ability to see what others really need and your willingness to ask for the support you most require.

Aquarius: The Waterbearer

Mercury’s retrograde, which begins on the 12th, begins with questions about resources you share— the time, money and energy you exchange with people. Take a second to look at the details of those transactions, as there may be some ambiguity which needs clearing up. By stating your expectations of others clearly, and listening acutely to them in term, you clarify your exchanges, making it easier to build trust and mutual support.
The solar eclipse waiting for us on the 21st reveals a rare vision of who you are in relationships, both monstrous and divine. The image of this totality may be un-nerving, or unpleasant, but it is whole, and honest. If you would like to change or improve your part in relationships in the future, you’ll need to start by accepting what you have been before. This eclipse, although dramatic, is actually just one in a series which will entail you shedding worn-out parts of your identity and becoming more conscious of yourself as a partner, lover and friend.

Pisces: The Fish

Mercury’s retrograde highlights communication dynamics in your relationships. Look not only to the words you exchange, but at what lies behind them. Are those words a sufficient bridge for what you are trying to convey, or are they a bridge plagued by bandits, who hijack the meaning you’re trying to get across? Make sure your heart’s cargo is getting delivered properly.
The solar eclipse on the 21st asks you to move more of your attention to the concrete details of your life. This eclipse is part of a series which will oversee a shift of priority from invisible problems to visible ones. Look especially at your habits, for they are the easily ignored source of both physical and fiscal health. Bring your spirit more fully to bear on this boring but crucial part of life, and envision what might be woven out of more consciously engineered patterns.

Austin Coppock is a writer, esotericist and astrologer based in Ashland, OR. He published paperback Almanacs from 2011-15 but began posting his prognostications online last year, referring to his collection of weekly, monthly, yearly essays and daily delineations as “The Online Almanac”. This work is made possible by his supporters on Patreon. Austin was President of the non-profit organization “Association for Young Astrologers” from 2012-2016. His most recent book is “36 Faces: The History, Astrology and Magic of the Decans”, published by Three Hands Press.


  1. Rob 2 years ago

    Thank you Austin, your words are always insightful and stirring 🙂

  2. Leslie Trimble 2 years ago

    Hi Austin! I just listened to the podcast episode of Exploring Astrology you were on, really wonderful information! I am looking for a Raju mantra for the upcoming eclipse, for whcih youtube is filled and they all vary. Are there any on there prefer most? Thank you!

  3. Amy McLeod 2 years ago

    Once again, bravo Austin! I finally got around to reading this. I was dealing with some Taurus family tree head things. I have to say, this couldn’t have been more spot on for the eclipse. There was some intense Leo energy in my house that day. Our one cat has been in heat… It was a weird one for sure. Feeling a lot clearer as we enter into Virgo season. House is clean. Ready to do this, and create some cool things for our website.
    Thank you Austin. This was much needed.

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