The Shadow of the Future Cast at Eclipse

The painting of The Annunciation  by renaissance master Leonardo Da Vinci depicts a sublime moment of exchange between the human kingdom and the divine, with the archangelic being Gabriel bowing gracefully before the Virgin Mary, offering a lily, long a symbol of spiritual communication, as a question sent from God. And what’s striking about it is that Leonardo painted not only Gabriel and the lily, but also, the archangel’s shadow.

The Feast of the Annunciation is observed in the Christian calendar on March 25 each year, the date of this year’s Vernal Full Moon. Not only that, the Moon will also be eclipsed, which means it’s passing through the Earth’s shadow. Or, you could say, the Moon will reflect our shadow to us.

In Dante’s Divine Comedy, which some say began at the Feast of Annunciation on account of that also being the day on which the world was created, the pilgrim passes through the three regions of the afterlife. Throughout these regions, the many characters he encounters are confused by the fact that Dante’s figure casts a shadow. The poet uses the shadow to indicate that he has been granted passage through these realms without having to die first.

Dante’s shadow is evidence of human life in the divine kingdom. The Archangel Gabriel’s shadow is used as evidence of divine life in the human kingdom.

Which brings us to this week’s Full Moon at the Feast of Annunciation, which marks the onset of the spiritual new year. This Moon will be eclipsed, reflecting Earth’s shadow back into our midst. Or to paraphrase from Percy Bysshe Shelly, this phenomenon suggests that now, the world becomes the mirror upon which the gods cast the shadow of the future.

Fire-red behind our backs the sun was pouring

Light on the slope before us, broken where

I blocked the rays, my shadowy outline scoring

Black on the ground ~ I whipped about in fear,

Abandoned, as I thought, beholding how

I, and I only, made a darkness there.

My Comfort turned and faced me: “Why wilt thou

Always mistrust? Believ’st thou not I come

Still at thy side and lead thee even now?”

~Divine Comedy, Purgatory, Canto III, lines 16-24

Reading the future with you, in the shadow,


Hear this episode of The Storyteller’s Night Sky on Interlochen Public Radio Monday, March 25 (eclipse day!), and on podcasts anytime. Cover image of The Annunciation by Leonardo Da Vinci, 1472, Uffizi, Florence.