Secondary progressions are a popular predictive technique in modern astrology in which the transits of each day following the birth are symbolic of important events in each year of life (i.e. a day symbolizes a year). They are called “secondary” to distinguish them from “primary” directions, in which every degree of earthly rotation or as its called, primary motion (i.e. degree of right ascension), after birth was associated with one year of life. Primary directions can be traced back to a very early strata of Hellenistic astrology. On the other hand, secondary directions are typically believed to have been invented by Placidus, a 17th century astrologer, monk, and mathematician.
Therefore, it has been surprising to find that secondary progressions were also discussed by Vettius Valens, over 1500 years prior to their independent invention by Placidus. Unlike primary directions, secondary progressions were not widespread in Hellenistic astrology. Like many other predictive techniques, evidence of their use in that era survives only in the work of Valens.
Valens discussed two methods of secondary progressions in the final book, Book IX, of his Anthology. The first is the standard method in which one determines the age of the native, and then adds that many years in days to the birth date and looks at the transits to the natal chart on that day.
It is necessary to calculate as follows: add a number of days to the birth date equivalent to the age (in years) of the native. Then, having first determined the date, whether in the following month or in the birth month itself, cast a horoscope for that day. <See> which star, if any, is in the Ascendant or is coming into conjunction with another star, and whether it is moving from an angle to a point following or preceding an angle, or from a point <following or> preceding an angle to an angle, or whether it was rising at the date of the delivery but is now setting or coming to some unrelated phase, or to something better. You may consider these to be the periodic forecasts. (Valens, Anthologies, Book IX, Ch. 3, Riley trans., 2010, p. 154)
It is pretty cool to see Valens using this symbolic rationale of equating smaller units of astrological time with larger units of time in one’s life, and it certainly opens the door for validating the type of thinking that goes into other similar symbolic progressions, such as tertiary progressions (each day after birth represents a lunar month of life) and solar arc directions (each planet and point progresses at the same rate in one year as the Sun does in a day following the birth).
The basic secondary progression as described by Valens can be accomplished in the free open-source astrological program, Morinus, by selecting “Secondary Directions” from the “Chart” menu or pressing CTRL+SHIFT+F4 while a chart is open. This type of progression is a useful predictive device.
For instance, note that in Kurt Cobain’s natal chart the Sun, which moves about a degree a day, is about 27 degrees before Saturn in the chart. Kurt died at Age 27, and as we can see from the chart of the secondary progression it was when his Sun progressed to his Saturn (i.e. the Sun conjoined Saturn 27 days after he was born which is symbolic of Age 27). In the chart for 27 days after birth, the Sun is at 28°49′ of Pisces, which is in the same degree as his natal Saturn with the disc of the Sun actually spanning over that exact Saturn position. This fits with some of the other things noted for Cobain’s death (also see Kurt’s synastry with Courtney Love), especially the Sun-Saturn conjunction at his solar return for the year.
While the simple method of looking at the transits so many days after birth as years in age is a good method for most purposes, it should be noted that the Moon moves about 13 degrees in a day, so its position could differ somewhat after just half a day. For this reason, we might want a more precise measure of secondary progressions sometimes to measure exactly where the progressed Moon would be after so many months, as twelfths of a day, has passed in addition to years as days. One way to do this is simply to add about a degree to the position of the SP position of the Moon for each month after the birthday, since the Moon travels a little over a degree each twelfth of a day. Also, some software programs will calculate the SP Moon position for a particular day after birth. This can be useful as the SP Moon can be very significant in predictive timing.
For instance, David Carradine died when Age 72, but about halfway through the year, in June, following his birthday in December. Looking at the exact SP positions for the day of death, we see two things. First, we note that the SP Sun finally moved into Pisces, his first house of self and body, a few months after his birthday. This is very significant because it is an important planet moving from a cadent house to an angular one, and the most important angular one at that, which happens to be occupied by Saturn in Carradine’s chart (note in the Valens quote above that he attached particular important to planets entering the rising sign by secondary progression). Secondly, we notice that the SP Moon enters into his natal Sun-Saturn square configuration, as the SP Moon applies a square to his Saturn (while separating from Mars) and an opposition to his Sun, all in an extremely tight configuration that also includes SP Venus (planet of sexuality).
Valens was concerned about the fact that Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn move very little by secondary progression. To remedy this he proposed that we also look at the date of the secondary progression but for the current year, taking special note of the aspects they make and such. What this does is to give us another particularly important symbolic day of the year besides our solar return, in that we look at the day which is about the same number of days after our solar return as we are old. For instance, if you were born December 4th and turned 15 years old in 2011, then you would be interested in December 19th, 2011 and the transits on that day to your natal chart, especially as they concern Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
I have not experimented with this latter technique as much, and my experimenting with it so far has not been very inspiring, but there have been intimations that it may be useful. For instance, when we return to Carradine’s age 72 SP positions (February 18th) and look at them for the year of his death (2009), we do find the ruler of his 1st house (Jupiter) in the 12th house of the bad spirit and conjoined to the out of sect malefic Mars in the bound of Venus and the domicile of Saturn. While Saturn also opposes his natal Saturn, the indications from that were more revealing at the solar return than at this secondary chart.
While secondary progressions are almost wholly absent from ancient astrology, appearing as almost an afterthought in the last book of Valens’s Anthology, they can be an informative addition to our arsenal of annual techniques for prediction. Take some time to explore them for yourself.
Valens, V. (2010). Anthologies. (M. Riley, Trans.) (Online PDF.). World Wide Web: Mark Riley. Retrieved from http://www.csus.edu/indiv/r/rileymt/Vettius%20Valens%20entire.pdf
Many modern astrologers may not realize that each of the planets has certain numbers of years assigned to it. Even in today’s traditional astrological circles the years of the planets are underutilized in predictive techniques, as most of the ways of using them disappeared in the middle ages. However, in Hellenistic astrology, especially in the techniques of Vettius Valens (2nd Century CE) and Julius Firmicus Maternus (4th Century CE), planetary years are the basis of a large number of predictive techniques. In this post I introduce the most commonly used figures for the planetary years, which are also known as the Minor Years of the planets. I discuss how they can be used as indicators of when a certain configurations in the chart will “ripen”, and I also discuss their mathematical relationship to the length of the year and how they can be used to divide the year into rulership by different planets in the natal chart.
The Minor Years of the Planets
Let’s start by simply noting what the minor years of the planets are. They are given in many different texts, with consistent values, and one such source is at the end of Book III of Valens’ Anthology. Here I give the planet, the number of years. The rationale for these numbers concerns times when the planets return to the same positions in the sky with the Sun, based on synodic cycles, except that the Sun’s number, 19, is based on the metonic cycle which is when the Sun and Moon meet at the same position every 19 years, and the Moon’s number, 25, is based on a relationship between the lunation cycle and the Egyptian calendar that repeats every 25 years.
Saturn – 30
Jupiter – 12
Mars – 15
Sun – 19
Venus – 8
Mercury – 20
Moon – 25
Minor Years as Ripening Planets
In various areas of The Anthology by Valens, especially in Book VII, Valens uses the years of the planets as signalling ripe times for their effects to manifest. He actually combines minor years of planets in configurations with each other, combines minor years of planets with the minor years of their sign ruler, combines rising times of signs with planetary years, he mixes and sums planetary years, planetary months (i.e. 1/12 of the planetary years), and rising times of signs for various configurations, and gives instructions relating to using fractions of planetary years and rising times.
For our purposes let’s focus first on just using planetary years and their combinations. The basic idea is that a planet’s effects are likely to manifest or ripen near to the number of years of the planet, as well as multiples of that, and combinations of the planet and its ruler. Additionally, to time out the ripening of configurations we combine the years of the planets involved.
Example number 1 is the death of Whitney Houston. In a prior post on the death of Whitney Houston, I noted that she died in her 49th year, and discussed how Sun-Saturn configurations ripen near age 49. Whitney had a Sun-Saturn opposition across the 6th and 12th houses of her natal chart, which are considered the most difficult houses of the chart, and have relevance for health crises and other difficult events. Given Saturn as natural signficator of death and the Sun as natural significator of life, the activation of this configuration at approximately 49 years, the sum of the years of the Sun (19) and Saturn (30) is very significant.
Example number 2 is Hitler’s rise to power. In summer of 1934, Hitler became leader of Germany after the passing of President von Hindenburg. This saw the realization of his scrutinizing (i.e. within 3 degrees) Mars-Saturn square from Taurus to Leo, from the 8th pertaining to death to the 11th pertaining to organizations, where Saturn in Leo advancing toward the MC promised leadership and Mars in the 8th pertained to death. Hitler was 45 years old, the sum of the years of Saturn (30) and Mars (15). Hitler was able to eliminate all that stood in his way and seize supreme unimpeded power over Germany’s direction by early 1938. At the time, Hitler was in his 49th year, nearing his 49th birthday. This is the realization of his role as a culminating Saturn in Leo, at the combination of the years of Saturn (30) and its ruler the Sun (19) the Sun also dominates Saturn from the 8th, so it also is the activation of the Sun-Saturn square.
Example Three is the 1st edition of Alfred Witte’s Rules of Planetary-Pictures, the definitive pronouncement of the basic planetary combinations and rules of Uranian astrology. Alfred Witte turned 50 in 1928, the year of the first publication, which would have coincided with the ripening of Mercury-Saturn configurations (20+30) and those of the Moon itself (25+25). Witte was born with Mercury in Aquarius (ruled by Saturn), and that Mercury was also conjunct the Moon, so both Mercury in Aquarius and Witte’s Moon ripen at the time of the publication. Mercury in Aquarius is in the 5th house of Witte’s chart, that of creative output, children, and entertainment – Mercury there being significant of teachings and publications, and Saturn of structure and foundations. An interesting tidbit about Witte’s Mercury at 27 Aquarius (and Moon at 28 Aquarius for that matter as they are conjunct within a degree and a half) is that it closely opposes the modern planet Uranus (father sky) at 26 Leo and the asteroid Urania (muse of astrology) at 25 Leo.
I’d like to leave it to the reader to find some additional interesting examples, either from their own charts or those of celebrities. Feel free to share interesting cases that you find in the comments section.
Planetary Days and Their Eerie Sum
One of the most fascinating things about the minor years is that if you take the sum of each’s double, half, and third, they all add up 365.5, almost exactly the number of days in a year. These sums of double, half, and third may be referred to as the days of each planet. They are given in Book II, Chapter 29 of the Mathesis by Firmicus Maternus (“The Division of the Year”) with a couple minor errors, and a more precise list is given by Vettius Valens at the beginning of Book IV of his Anthology. The list of the planetary days is given below:
Saturn – 85 = 60+15+10
Jupiter – 34 = 24+6+4
Mars – 42 1/2 = 30+7 1/2+5
Sun – 53 5/6 = 38+9 1/2+6 1/3
Venus – 22 2/3 = 16+4+2 2/3
Mercury – 56 2/3 = 40+10+6 2/3
Moon – 70 5/6 = 50+12 1/2+8 1/3
Sum of all the planetary years = (85 + 34 + 42 1/2) + (53 5/6 + 70 5/6) + (22 2/3 + 56 2/3) = 161 1/2 + (124 2/3 + 79 1/3) = 161 1/2 + 204 = 365 1/2 days. Spooky, isn’t it?
Dividing the Year
These planetary days are used in a few different time lord techniques in Hellenistic astrology. Probably the simplest and most intuitive use is given by Firmicus Maternus in Chapter 29 of Book II of the Mathesis, and divides the native’s year following one’s birthday. As Firmicus explained it, it seems that we start with the ruler of the annual profection (explanation of profections can be found here), also called the lord of the year, and proceed from one planet to the next based on their order in the natal chart from that planet.
I will only use one example of this technique, as it can be time consuming to lay out. However, once you’ve laid out the days the planetary rulership switches over the course of year it is done and can be referred to throughout the year, giving a nice understanding of the timing for the manifestation of different planets and their indications for that year.
My one example is that of Bernie Madoff. He was arrested at age 70, on December 11, 2008. Mars, the out of sect malefic in his chart is in Gemini, ruled by Mercury, planet of commerce, in the 11th which pertains to groups and networking. This Mars is particularly relevant to his capture, as he was arrested in an 11th house, Gemini, annual profection, which came to that Mars, and was ruled by his Mercury. Interestingly, the year 70 is also a year of the ripening of Mercury-Mars relationships (20+20+15+15), activating his Mars in Gemini, as well as his Mercury in Aries, and their sextile relationship. Additionally, on the morning of his arrest, December 11, 2008, the transiting Moon was in early Gemini, conjoining his natal Mars.
The breakdown of the days of the year is also interesting. It starts on or around his birthday April 29th. His arrest is December 11th. To calculate the number of days between them we can use a duration calculator (click to go to calculation site). Using the calculator we find about 226 days between Madoff’s birthday and his arrest. We begin the year with Mercury, and then proceed in the order of the planets in the natal chart as follows:
Mercury 56.666+ Moon 70.666+ Sun 53.8333+ Venus 22.666 = 203.83, so approximately 204 days after his birthday, the rulership went from Venus to Mars. The period of Mars is 42.5 days, so it went from about 204 to about 246 days after his birthday. Therefore, at the time of Madoff’s arrest it was Mars that was the active planet pertaining to those days.
I leave you with a quote from Firmicus Maternus on the interpretation of the day activations from Mathesis, Book II, Ch. 29, #2 (Holden trans., 2011):
“when illnesses, when debilities, when gains, when losses happen, when joys, when sorrows. For when the benefic stars receive the days, we are freed from all evil; when malefics, the sudden blows of misfortune strike us.”
Have fun experimenting with the basic use of the minor years of the planets and the planetary days! Feel free to share experiences in the comments.
Maternus, J. F. (2011). Mathesis. (J. H. Holden, Trans.). American Federation of Astrologers.
A return, also called a revolution, is the arrival of a transiting planet to the same position it held at the time of one’s birth. The solar return, or return of the Sun, which occurs approximately at a person’s birthday, was regarded as important even in the first strains of horoscopic astrology, in the Hellenistic world. The basic idea is that the transits occurring at the time of the return give signs of the major events for the year. The transits at the time of the Moon’s return, or lunar return, were later also considered important for giving signs of the important events for the month.
I have personally come to regard solar and lunar returns as among the most important and informative predictive tools at the astrologer’s disposal. In this thread, we will start with some Hellenistic basics of return interpretation , and from there add additional ways of interpreting returns from later authors.
For the most part, it appears that in early Hellenistic astrology returns were not regarded as a separate chart in their own right, but rather those transits occurring around the time of the birthday, when the Sun returns to the position it held at birth. Therefore, in this post, I address Dorotheus-style returns, in which we examine the rules for interpreting returns as a series of transits about the natal chart. As the rules for interpreting returns in Dorotheus do not heavily rely upon exact timing of the return and do not seem to use a return chart in its own right, questions of precession and relocation of the return chart are largely irrelevant. To find the transits of the return, we look to “…when the Sun enters the beginning of the minute in which it was on the day of the native’s nativity” (Dorotheus, Book IV, Ch. 1, #4, Pingree trans., 2005, p. 245).
Dorotheus on Returns
The 1st Century Hellenistic astrologer Dorotheus of Sidon gave some guidelines and aphorisms for the interpretation of the transits “on the day on which that native was born” or “in the turning of the years” in Chapter 1 of Book IV of his Carmen Astrologicum. His entire exposition of this matter focuses on the occurrence of transiting planets into signs occupied by natal planets, and certain places or houses of the natal horoscope. For a complete understanding of the guidelines given by Dorotheus, I urge the reader to pick up a copy of his work (click here to purchase on Amazon), which is essential reading in Hellenistic astrology, and one of the most influential works on later Persian and European medieval astrology. For the reader’s convenience, I summarize some of his guidelines below:
Being in whole sign opposition to natal position shows difficulty. For instance, if Mars were in Capricorn in natal but in Cancer when the Sun returns to its natal position near the birthday.
Out of sect malefic in natal chart reaching the place of the natal sect light or sect benefic shows great difficulty. For instance, if a person was born by day with Sun or Jupiter in Sagittarius, and at the time of the return Mars is in Sagittarius. From Dorotheus (Book IV, Ch. 1, #188, Pingree trans., 2005): “It is worse for this [native] and more difficult in its maleficence if Mars is reaching the place in which Jupiter or the Sun was by day, or [if] Saturn is reaching the place in which the Moon was by night.” Generally, there are many guidelines that relate to the bad indicated when a return malefic is with, dominating (superior or right-hand square), opposed, or in inferior square to itself or an important natal position and the good indicated when a return benefic is with or trine to itself or an important natal position (and even good when dominating a malefic, see below).
Overall, it is good when a malefic (i.e. Saturn or Mars) is in a whole sign trine to its natal position, and bad if it is in a whole sign opposition or square to its natal position, particularly if dominating (right-hand whole sign square) the natal position. It is also good if a return benefic (i.e. Jupiter or Venus) is in a dominating position to a natal malefic (or even a return malefic?). Similarly, it is good when the benefics are trine their natal positions. However, it is difficult when the malefics are trine the natal positions of the benefics. For instance, if one was born with Mars in Gemini, then it would be good for Mars to be in Libra or Aquarius at the return, and especially so if Venus were in Pisces because that sign is in a dominating position to Gemini.
It is difficult when a return planet is in a place (i.e. house) of the nativity which is bad, especially if it possesses such a place natally as well. According to Dorotheus (Book I, Ch. 5), the best places are the 1st, 10th, 11th, 5th, 7th, 4th, and 9th, in that order. The worst places are the 6th and 12th, and after these the 8th, 2nd, and 3rd, in order from the worst of them. For instance, if one were born with Aquarius rising and Mars in Capricorn, then it will be particularly bad if Mars is in Capricorn (natal 12th) or Cancer (natal 6th) in the return (Cancer would be particularly difficult as it would also evoke rule 1 above), and also could be difficult if Mars is in Virgo (natal 8th), Pisces (natal 2nd), or Aries (natal 3rd).
Whole sign place occupied by the return Moon is particularly important, as are return planets reaching the place of the natal Moon. Overall, the idea is that the return Moon with benefic natal planets shows good things,while with malefic natal planets shows bad things (particularly to health, and it is also so when return malefics reach the place of the natal Moon). Some other notes include that the return Moon with natal Mercury shows work pertaining to the signification of natal Mercury, return Moon in natal 1st can show health danger, return Moon in natal 10th shows public events which are good or bad in accordance with influence of benefics and malefics, return Moon in natal 7th shows success over enemies, while return Moon in natal 4th shows secret matters and/or success with writing a will. Overall, these four whole sign places, also called the angles or stakes of the chart (the 1st, 10th, 7th, and 4th), give indications regarding more important matters in the native’s life. For instance, if one were born with Pisces rising and Saturn was the out of sect malefic in the natal 10th, Sagittarius, then the Moon transiting in Sagittarius in the return could be indicative of some difficult public event, and even of cold or depleting health conditions.
Planets in or transiting to the sign of the natal annual profection of the Ascendant, as well as the ruler of the profected Ascendant, are particularly important. That is, solar returns tended to be used together with profections as part of a suite of annual predictive techniques. The fourth book of Dorotheus thus explains both profections and solar returns. For example, Dorotheus noted, “If the year reaches the sign in which Saturn was and Saturn is in it or aspects if from trine or quartile [i.e. square] or the seventh [i.e. opposition], then the native will have a bad reputation, and there will reach him folly and injury and hostility from men …” (Book IV, Ch. 1, #23, Pingree trans., 2005).
I will examine the return by look first at the annual profection and indications related to it from the natal and return, then the impact concerning the angles of the chart and the lights, especially the Moon. For each example, ignore the numbers on the outside of the chart, as those are for the house positions in the return chart itself, which we will for now ignore.
Example 1 (above) is the 1958 return of someone born in 1935, and thus is that of someone who has turned 23, signalling an annual profection of the Ascendant to the 12th place, Gemini, ruled by and natally occupied by Mercury (see here if you don’t know how to figure out profections). Mercury in the return is transiting in the natal 2nd, which is considered one of the bad places. Natally, Mercury is in the 12th, which is considered one of the worst places, so by rule #4 above, we are getting the sense that the year could be difficult for this native, relating to Mercurial themes of movement and communication. Furthermore, the out of sect malefic Saturn, is transiting through the 6th of the natal, opposing Mercury, which is difficult in itself given Mercury’s status as lord of the year, but also emphasizes the natal configuration of Saturn dominating Mercury. Natally, Saturn dominates Mercury, with Saturn in the 9th, concerning religion and foreign influence. Saturn transiting in the 6th in the return dominates natal Saturn (see rule #3 above), exacerbating the maleficence of Saturn. The transit of Venus through the sign of the profection, Gemini, is mixed, as she is a benefic with influence upon the lord of the year, but Venus is transiting through one of the worst places (the 12th), and occupies a bad place natally (the 2nd) – she rules the 4th of land and origins and the 11th of friends and aid, so she connects the native with those themes.
Both Jupiter and Mars are transiting in natal angles. Jupiter in the 4th, where natal Mars is, signifies some degree of fortune as concerns land, origins, and workings in secret, but Mars is opposed to it and opposed to its natal position (see rule #1 above), setting off the difficulty pertaining to Mars in the 4th and with Mars in the rather public and status-oriented 10th, it is bringing violence to the fore. Additionally, return Mars is in a dominating position to the natal Sun, signifying the threat of violence to the native. The return Moon is in the 9th of foreign influence and religion, with Saturn, the out of sect malefic – this is both a sign of great difficulty and both the Moon and the 9th naturally signify journeys, so it connects that difficulty with journeys.
Example 1 is the chart of the 14th Dalai Lama (chart rated A for accuracy) and the return is that which preceded his fleeing the country he ruled in fear of his life to his exile in India, amid the spring 1959 Tibetan uprising.
Example 2 is the chart of someone turning 72, and as 72 is a multiple of 12, the annual profection was to the 1st place, Pisces, occupied by natal Saturn and ruled by Jupiter. Jupiter, the lord of the profection is returning to its natal position in the 11th, which is a great place and significant for popularity, friends, aid, and so forth. This person is a movie star and did in fact have a dozen films in the works in the year under consideration.
Deeper inspection reveals that not only is natal Saturn highlighted by the profection to the 1st, but Saturn is also transiting in an angle, the natal 7th, which is opposed to its natal position (see rule #1 above). Looking at other angular factors, we also find that Mars is not only in the 10th, but actually conjunct the Sun within a degree. The Sun is additionally dominated by that angular Saturn. Given the affliction of the 1st, profection, and the Sun by both malefics, we are seeing some major indications of danger to the health, and public violence (Mars in the 10th). Examining the Moon we find that it is in the 2nd, ruled by Mars, which is both opposed to its natal position (see rule #1) and also a bad place while in the natal it occupies the 8th, similarly a bad place pertaining to death, where she is with Mars, the out of sect malefic. Therefore, we have strong indications of threat to health in the chart.
Example 2 is the chart of David Carradine (chart AA rated for accuracy) and his 2008 return which preceded his death of autoerotic asphyxiation, which had particularly damning effects upon the public image he left behind.
I will briefly touch on one more chart to emphasize something that came up with Example 2. Example 3 is the 1994 return of someone born in 1967, thus 27 years of age, in a 4th place profection. From the profection alone, the indications appear to be largely positive. Jupiter, lord of the profection, may be transiting in one of the bad places (the 3rd) but it is the least bad of the bad, and natally Jupiter is in its joy in the 11th. However, what is striking about the return is the occurrence of a conjunction of transiting Saturn to the Sun within a degree in an angle of the chart (and Saturn is returning to its natal place). This theme of a close conjunction between a malefic and a light occurs with some frequency in returns that precede death, as it strongly signifies threat to health. For instance, Ilya Zhitomirskiy, one of the founders of Diaspora, had a similar tight Sun-Saturn conjunction in the return preceding his own suicide (I blogged about this briefly here). The 4th itself, place of the profection, also can signify death.
Example 3 is the chart of Kurt Cobain (rated A for accuracy) with the transits from his 1994 solar return, which preceded his suicide.
So far, I’ve only looked at a few solar return examples, and very briefly. I will be examining more solar return examples and further techniques for interpreting returns and integrating them with other techniques in the future. Overall, from Dorotheus we learn that returns can be significant as a set of transits to the natal chart itself, with the natal angles, lights, and the annual profection helping to guide us to which significations are most important. Dorotheus looked at the overall influence of the benefics and malefics in this sense, and paid particular attention to the role of natal sect, natal and transiting place (i.e. whole sign house), and type of whole sign regard in modifying indications for better or worse.
Dorotheus of Sidon. (2005). Carmen Astrologicum. (D. Pingree, Trans.). Abingdon, MD: Astrology Center of America.
In the first post of this series, I discussed a little bit about the history and use of primary directions. One point that I made was on the primacy of the Ascendant. This primacy of the Ascendant persisted in the Persian period. In fact, the entire Book III (Distributions) of Abu Ma’shar’s On the Revolutions of the Years of Nativities is devoted to primary directions involving the Ascendant, from the jarbakhtar technique, to looking at planets (and Lots and even Twelfth Parts) conjoining or aspecting the Ascendant by primary motion as partners with the jarbakhtar, and then even an exposition of how to direct the Ascendant through the Indian Ninth Parts and their subdivision into thirds (Abu Ma’shar claimed that this was how the Indians directed the Ascendant, and so he recommended it as an alternative approach to be used). Other directions are used in Hellenistic and Persian predictive literature, but directions to the Ascendant, and particularly those of the bounds, have an immense primacy in early directions literature that tended to be lost in the resurgence of directions in the Renaissance.
In that first post, I discussed how to roughly estimate directions involving the Ascendant with the use of ascensional times, how to play with astro-clocking, and finally how to calculate directions through bounds with the free astrological program, Morinus. This is going to be a very short post in which I’m going to show how other primary directions can be found with the Morinus software, and what a couple of the settings mean. All that we will be doing is adjusting settings in Options->Primary Directions within the program. The Primary Key and the use of only Direct in the Tables->Primary Directions settings, should remain as discussed in the last post, for the reasons noted in the last post.
Basic settings for looking at aspectual directions will be very much the same as those discussed in the last post. We’ll just add in the traditional aspects, the points we want to see directed and directed to, and consider a few settings. Below is how I would look at directions to the Ascendant.
The Ascendant would be the significator, as a point that we want to stand still relative to the location and have everything else (the promissors) rotate through by primary motion. So I check the Ascendant as significator, and all the planets and other points I might want to direct to it. I then check all the classical planets that I want to direct, and in this case also the Lot of Fortune and the Node. Semiarc and Zodiacal without latitude are standard means of directing until about the 15th century. In zodiacal options, the first option should definitely be checked, but the second is more controversial. Traditionally the second option would not be used as you would direct aspects of promissors to the significator but would not direct to aspects of the significator. Some may opt to include those though as it still involves regular primary motion but the difference between the two pertains to a notion of what aspects what, and from what direction (Ptolemy called these direct and converse, but they are different from the modern direct and converse notions that more frequently show up, such as in the tables settings in which converse is actually everything moving backwards – for more on this see the last section of Chapter 1 of Martin Gansten’s 2009 book, Primary Directions: Astrology’s Old Master Technique). Basically, if you check the second option then besides looking at when a planet or its aspects direct to the Ascendant, you will also be looking at when a planet directs to a degree that aspects the natal Ascendant degree.
For the third option in the bottom right, I can see good arguments for or against treating the Asc and MC as promissors, but I do not think they were treated that way traditionally. In any case, if you check this, then what you are doing is also treating the zodiacal point of the Asc and MC as being able to rotate with the primary motion and enter into aspects with other planets and points that way. The argument against it might be that these are very different from directions to an actual angle, as here we are looking at directions that the degrees on the angles make to other things as they are carried from east to west in the primary motion. If you do use them, then you should recognize that the direction of the Ascendant degree to a planet is not likely to be as significant as the direction of a planet to the Ascendant (eastern horizon).
The second thing that I’ve highlighted is accounting for the secondary motion of the Moon. When we use the astro-clocking method we are accounting for secondary motion. Secondary motion is very slight in the few hours following birth for all planets but the Moon. There is a sense that the spirit of the technique is to look at connections made by the planets, especially to angles, after birth, in a more natural manner, with the hours after birth as symbolic of the lifetime (every 4 minutes as a year). It doesn’t appear that secondary motion was accounted for in the traditional technique, especially when ascensional times were used, but an argument can easily be made for accounting for the secondary motion of the Moon so that directions more accurately reflect the reality in the relevant times after birth. If you do use this option, then you’ll have to figure out what the three different iterations mean, because I’m not sure (could pertain to accounting for some combinations of secondary motion, parallax, and refraction that affect lunar positioning). There is more on this topic of secondary motion in Chapter 7 of Martin Gansten’s aforementioned work, Primary Directions: Astrology’s Old Master Technique.
From here, if you want to look at directions to additional signficators, just check their boxes. As mentioned in the last post, in order to pull up the table of directions just click Tables->Primary Directions, choose only Direct, select the age span, and hit OK.
I would caution against starting with too many significators. Ultimately, you want to stick with a very limited number of significators, such as the Asc, MC, and the lights (Sun and Moon). Directing through the bounds is most important for the Ascendant and the sect light.
Eventually, I hope to show some ways that primary directions were used in practice by Hellenistic and Persian astrologers.
Few techniques are more hyped in traditional western astrological circles than primary directions. This is probably because they became a very popular predictive technique in Renaissance and late classical or early modern traditional astrology, during a time when the complexity of an astrologer’s mathematical abilities were more important than the veracity of her predictions. I frequently encounter the beliefs today that with primary directions one will have the number one key to predicting the timing of a person’s death, that some specific type or combination of types of primary directions will time out the major events in a person’s life to the very day that they occur, and that, because of the last belief, birth times need to be rectified, even if recorded with a stopwatch at birth, such that the important events in life line up with certain primary directions to the very day.
While primary directions are a bit over-hyped, they were used by various Hellenistic and Persian astrologers, and can be an important addition to the astrologer’s predictive toolbox. Directions through the terms and directions to angles, especially the Ascendant, are particularly powerful and useful, and are the earliest types used. I feel that it is best to start from the beginning, with the way it seems that primary directions were used in early Hellenistic astrology, and progressing gradually from there. I will not be getting into the incredible diversity in direction approaches that arises after the first millennium, but I’m of the rather cynical opinion that the reader will be better off for that. In fact, according to Martin Gansten (2009) who wrote the definitive text on Primary Directions, prior to the 15th century directions were always in the zodiac (in zodiaco as opposed to in mundo), without latitude, using semi-arc proportions, and without any relationship to particular systems of quadrant house division (p. 61).
What are Primary Directions?
As you’ve probably heard, the Earth spins, and it takes 24 hours for it to make one such spin. The planets rise, culminate, and set with this spin. But what if we were to freeze the positions of the planets in the sky relative to the Earth at birth, and then watch the planetary conjunctions and aspects that occur in the sky relative to this as the day goes on with the planets continuing to rise, culminate, and set? If we did this we would see the primary directions, and the clock time that it would take for these conjunctions and aspects to occur would be the timing of these directions (for instance we may equate 4 minutes of elapsed time with 1 year of life).
The 24 hours of spin is given a constant measure called Right Ascension (RA), such that 30 degrees of RA passes over the Meridian of the location in exactly 2 hours of clock time; 360 degrees = 24 hours; 24 hours = 1,440 minutes; each of the 360 degrees corresponds to about 4 minutes of clock time (i.e. 1,440/360=4). In other words, if a planet were to culminate 8 minutes after birth, then we’d convert this to degrees of RA as being a direction to the MC 2 degrees (of RA) after birth.
Annual Key: To convert these degrees of RA into a point in the life, we use the key 1 degree of RA = 1 year of life. This key is sometimes called the Ptolemaic key, even though it was not Ptolemy that originally used it. This is the annual key used for primary directions until about the Renaissance, and thus it’s the only one we’ll use. Remember, 1 degree of RA = 1 year of life = 4 minutes of clock time.
Smaller Units of Time: We now know that 1 degree of RA is symbolic of 1 year of life, but there are 365.25 days in a year, so how much RA is a day? 1 degree is equivalent to 60 minutes of a degree which is equivalent to 3,600 seconds of a degree. By dividing 3,600 by 365.25 we get that a day is about 9.86 seconds of a degree of right ascension. We really don’t need that sort of precision, as primary directions are not really the appropriate technique for timing to the day anyway. We’re especially not concerned with precision at this point, and when we do want greater precision we can let a good software program do the calculation for us. It was common practice in the ancient world to use approximate the year as 360 days, giving an even approximation of 10 seconds of a degree for one day (i.e. 3,600/360=10) and 5 minutes of a degree for one month (i.e. 10 seconds * 30 = 300 seconds = 5 minutes).
Estimating Primary Directions to Angles with Astro-Clocks
Because about 4 minutes of clock time is equal to a year of life in the system of primary directions, one can actually use an astro-clock to look at the time it takes from birth to when a planet conjoins or aspects an angle of the chart. Take the time, divide by 4, and you will get a rough approximation of the year (and quarter) when an event is likely to occur. Out of all primary directions that are aspect-based (as opposed to the very important time lord discussed below), these directions to the angles are most pivotal, especially the direct hits, so it is handy to be able to approximate these with one’s astro-clock or by manually time adjusting a chart.
For instance, the divorce of Kurt Cobain’s parents when he was seven years old is often cited as a very influential event in his life. Looking at his natal chart we see that Jupiter is the ruler of his 4th of family, and that Venus (a significator of the mother by day) is conjunct Saturn in his natal chart. This Venus-Saturn conjunction was a particularly significant combination in his musical career, his marriage to Courtney Love, and his suicide.
Sure enough, about a half hour (about 30 / 4 = about 7.5) after Kurt’s birth Jupiter, ruler of the 4th, exactly aspects the Descendant, and Venus conjoins the Descendant. The setting of Venus is more significant here because it is a direction to the horizon itself, rather than a direction of an aspect of a planet to the horizon (the Jupiter direction is from the trine of Jupiter to the horizon). While a traumatic parental separation may not strike one as a particularly Venus and Jupiter type of event, Jupiter, in Cancer and ruling the 4th shows the emphasis on parents, and Venus, being conjunct Saturn, shows the effect on his sense of relationships, and the loss and weight associated with that.
At age 12 his mother granted full custody to his father. Age 12 would correspond to about 48 minutes after birth (4*12=48), and sure enough Saturn sets in the chart about 48 minutes after birth, rounding out the impact of this very powerful Jupiter-Venus-Saturn configuration coming due by direction to the Descendant.
I invite the reader to take a few minutes to play around with this on one’s own chart and other working charts to get a rough idea of when directions to angles occur in the life, especially those that are complex configurations involving a series of hits over a few years. Think in terms of natal significations that could be unlocked by the prominence that lining up with the axis (horizon and meridian) of your birth location can bring.
Early Primary Directions
According to Gansten (2009, p. 11) there is evidence of use of primary directions dating back to at least the 1st century CE, in the Carmen Astrologicum of Dorotheus and possibly also in a paraphrase of the early 1st century CE astrologer Balbillus.
There are three things that you should know about the earliest primary directions:
There is an exclusive focus on the Ascendant (though Dorotheus in his length of life technique appears to advise to direct from various points, so Gansten may have overstated this point).
The rising of the bounds of a sign give rise to a time lord of the period as bound lord which sets the tone.
Directions of planets to Ascendant and planetary aspects to Ascendant mark more transitory events.
This second point about directing the Ascendant through the bounds is often overlooked in today’s traditional circles where primary directions tend to used more like some a suped-up set of transits than a system giving time lords. However, this was a critical facet of this technique from the beginnings in the Hellenistic period right on through the Persian period, where the bound lord is given the technical term, jarbakhtar (distributor of time, much like the Greek chronocrator). Of course, you can try to rough estimate these by astro-clocking as well, noting when the Ascendant passes into another bound. The bounds used were the Egyptian bounds (the “Egyptian” bounds were the only set widespread and independently attested in multiple Hellenistic sources, in addition to appearing to be rooted farther back in Mesopotamian astrology). You can find a table of Egyptian bounds online at Altair Astrology’s blog here, or download a free pdf of the bounds and more from Project Hindsight here. This is arguably the most important use of primary directions, and appeared to have been given more stress than the aspectual ones, so the time has come to show we can obtain this important time lord quickly and easily with free software … but first, let’s talk ascensional times.
Estimating Ascendant Directions with Ascensional Times
The ecliptic is at an angle to the horizon, so signs rise somewhat diagonally, which is why they take more or less than 2 hours to rise, rather than a steady 2 hours per sign for all 12 rise in a 24 hour day. The length of time it takes for a given sign to rise depends on the latitude of the location, and this length of time is measured in Right Ascension (RA). You will recall that 1 degree of RA is basically 4 minutes of clock time. Therefore, if a sign rose uniformly, then all 30 degrees of the sign would rise in 30 degrees of RA or 2 hours (30 degrees RA * 4 minutes clock time = 120 minutes clock time). If the sign took longer to rise, called a sign of long ascension, and let’s say it rose in 3 hours, then we’d call this 3 hours its “ascensional time” for that latitude, but we’d want to convert it into RA. 2 hours of clock time is 30 degrees RA, so 3 hours of clock time would be 45 degrees RA, and the ascensional time for such a sign at that latitude would therefore be 45 degrees.
The ascensional times of the signs at the latitude of birth is an important thing to know in multiple Hellenistic predictive methods. The ancient key of 1 year for each degree of RA was used in multiple ways in Hellenistic astrology. For instance, an activation of the sign in the chart was thought to occur around the same number of years as the ascensional time of the sign. In our 45 degree sign example, we might expect some special activation of that sign around the time that natives of that latitude turn age 45.
Additionally, the ascensional times were used to estimate primary directions pertaining to the Ascendant (and sometimes also for a sort of rough symbolic direction of other points, even though it is not astronomically correct to use it for directing other points). Gansten (2009, p. 14) mentioned that at least Valens and Paulus Alexandrinus employed this short cut method. The method is as follows: Take the ascensional time of the sign, divide it by 30, and use that as a conversion unit for converting zodiacal degrees into right ascension.
To better understand how this is done, the reader will have to first obtain a table of sign ascensional times for the latitudes. One such table is available from Project Hindsight for free as the last pdf link on this page. Please download that table at this time and refer to it for the discussion in the next few paragraphs.
Let’s return to Kurt Cobain. He was born at about 47 North, for latitude, and his Ascendant is Virgo. At the intersection of latitude 47 and the sign Virgo, you will find the ascensional time of 40°29′. Dividing by 30 we get 1°21′ or 1.35°, which is our conversion factor. In other words, while the Ascendant is in Virgo, we pretend that 1° of zodiacal longitude is equivalent to 1.35 years of life (about 1 year, 4 months, and 1 week). Kurt’s Ascendant is at 20 Virgo in the bound of Jupiter but the bound switches to that of Mars in a degree, and thus at about age 1 year, 4 months. Mars rules that time in the life until the Ascendant enters the bound of Saturn which starts at 28 Virgo, 8 degrees past the Ascendant, so 8*1.35=10.8 years, or about 10 years and 9 1/2 months old. In other words, from about age 1 1/2 until almost age 11, Mars is the lord of the time, and should be more in focus and setting the tone. This Saturn bound lasts for 2 degrees, or 2.7 years (1.35*2=2.7), until he is about 13 1/2. After that point the Ascendant enters the first bound of Libra, which is another Saturn bound. When entering a new sign we then have to find the conversion factor for the new sign as well. However, in this case it is easy, because Virgo and Libra have the same ascensional times, and thus the same conversion factor. That Mars and Saturn as time lords set the tone during Kurt’s childhood for the other directions is significant, particularly in relation to our speculations about the meaning of the Jupiter and Venus directions above.
We can do the same thing for aspects to the Ascendant. The Ascendant is at 20 Virgo and Saturn is at 28°44′ (about 28.75) Pisces. When 28°44′ Virgo rises this direction of Saturn opposite the Ascendant (same direction we mentioned as occurring around age 12 above on astro-clocking) will be complete. Therefore, we are interested in the age that corresponds to about 8.75 degrees of zodiacal longitude. Multiplying by our Virgo conversion factor for this latitude of 1.35, we get 11.8 years of age, which is pretty close to the estimate we got by astro-clocking – emphasizing a focus on that Saturn at about 12 years of age.
Hopefully, you now have a good idea for how these sign conversion factors can be used to convert zodiacal distance within a certain sign into degrees. This is simply another rough estimate method because of course the conversion factor is not in reality constant throughout a sign, but rather the speed of the signs rise changes continuously, so it is not precisely accurate to equate any arbitrary zodiacal degree of Virgo with the same particular unit of time. Imagine that you don’t have a program that can calculate primary directions or even an astro-clock to estimate important hits and aspects to the Ascendant, then you can at least approximate important directions through bounds and to the Ascendant with nothing more than the ascensional times of the signs under consideration which you divide by 30 for a conversion factor.
Directing thru Bounds with Free Software
In a future post of this series, I’ll give more details about primary directions, their use, and their calculation with free software. However, I want to leave the reader with at least the chance to create and print off tables for the Ascendant jarbakhtar periods of any chart. This is done with the free open-source traditional astrology program Traditional Morinus.
I won’t get into the details of installing the program and entering basic chart data here because I’ve addressed it in this prior post, and further in this one. If you are new to Morinus, please check out those posts, download, install, and get a chart in there, before continuing on.
OK, now that you have a birth chart up, you should have a screen that somewhat resembles the following:
First, let’s set the Key. Click Options, then Primary Keys. Make sure Static is selected and select Ptolemy from the list, then click OK.
Second, let’s set the other Primary Directions options for some traditional Ascendant through the bounds type of directions. Click Options, then Primary Directions. Make sure your selections look as follows by deselecting pretty much everything and then selecting the options shown (remember that semiarc and zodiacal without latitude are pretty much the only approaches prior to about the 15th century) and hit OK:
Now we are ready to calculate the tables. This is done by going to Tables, then Primary Directions. You might as well check 0-100. Make sure only Direct is checked. Converse here are actually not traditional converse primary directions at all, but a sort of reverse primary direction where we imagine that the signs are moving across the sky in reverse (i.e. moving opposite the primary motion), so they are a very weird modern experimental thing which we we’ll ignore, always choosing Direct.
When you hit OK, you should end up with a Table of primary directions of the Ascendant through bounds. Also included are directions of the Descendant through bounds which you should just ignore as they were not a part of the technique (though I’m not sure how to disable them in the software).
For the example below, I pulled up the jarbakhtars for Whitney Houston from Age 25-50.
Remember again that the ones that say Dsc are irrelevant and should be ignored. One thing that we notice is that for the period from April 18, 2009 until March 3, 2013, the Ascendant directs through the Saturn bound of Taurus (22 to 27 Taurus). This tells us that Saturn is jarbakhtar for the period and sets the tone as a time lord, activating potentials related to her natal Saturn, which is located in her 12th House, opposite her natal Sun. For some more on the importance of Saturn in the timing of her death, please see my recent post on that matter.
It’s my hope that I’ve given some insight and encouraged use of some new predictive techniques among readers with little to no background in primary directions or those that have found certain elements of primary directions to be confusing or overly intimidating in the past. When I get around to the next post I’m hoping to diving a little deeper into the way directions were used by various astrologers predictively in the first millennium of the common era.
Gansten, M. (2009). Primary Directions: Astrology’s Old Master Technique. Bournemouth, England: The Wessex Astrologer Ltd.
This is the last planned post exploring the use of profections. Like the previous one, which dealt with degree-based Persian-style profections, this one is presented more for the sake of completeness in discussing the appearance of profectional techniques in Hellenistic and Persian astrology, than intended as endorsement in practice. I have an additional motivation for discussing the great variety of methods and opinions pertaining to profections in ancient astrology as well. I long to convey to the reader the greater degree of diversity and richness that is found in astrology of the ancient period, in order to quell false notions that earlier astrology is more cut-and-dry, conforming in technique and attitude, narrow in scope, and fatalistic in philosophy. The first one thousand years of the horoscopic tradition represent the richest body of astrological technique and opinion we have, which can provide a lifetime of new insights and challenges, deepening our tool-set, and enriching our practice. I discuss this a little further in the series of posts, “Ancient Astrologers Didn’t All Agree“.
In Book 3 of his Astronomica, Manilius (1st Century CE) described two different methods of profection. First (about lines 510-529), he presented a method of profection I have not seen elsewhere, which is the topic of this post. Next (about lines 537-559), he presented a different method attributed to “some who approve of an alternative scheme” (p. 207), which is the familiar use of profecting the Ascendant one whole sign for various discrete periods of time, particularly one year (Goold, 1977). It is interesting that the method first discussed by Manilius which he seemed to favor is the more idiosyncratic one that we don’t see in other sources.
Profect the Sun Annually, Moon Monthly, and Ascendant for Days and Hours
In the method of Manilius for the annual profection we move the Sun (one sign per year), while for the monthly profection we move the Moon (one sign per month). The Ascendant is profected for groups of days and hours, with some confusion as to the time period used. In fact, there are many ambiguities in the discussion and questions that naturally arise with it. Let’s let Manilius explain the basic method and then we’ll discuss some of the difficulties with employing it.
Now I shall assign their special periods of life in classes to the signs; for the signs are also allotted to their own particular years and months and days and hours of days; and during these periods they each exercise special influence. The first year of life will belong to that sign in which at birth the Sun has shone, since the Sun takes a year’s duration to traverse the firmament; the next and subsequent years are consecutively bestowed upon the signs in their order. The Moon shall denote the months, since in a month it completes its course. The Horoscope [Ascendant] brings under its regency the first days and the first hours, and hands the others to the following signs. Thus did nature wish year and months and days and even hours to be duly counted out through the signs, that every period of time might be distributed over every sign of the zodiac and vary its movements through the sequence of signs, according as it made a change to each one as it came round in the circle. (Manilius, Astronomica, 3.510-521, Goold trans., 1977, p. 205)
In this scheme the sign of the year is that into which the Sun profects at a rate of one sign per year from its birth position. For instance, a 31 year old who was born with a Sagittarius Sun, would find oneself in a Cancer year. This is because he would come back to a Sagittarius year at age 36 (and any other multiple of 12), so the 31st birthday, 5 signs before the Sagittarius 36th, would put us at Cancer – (let’s see, Scorpio at 35, Libra at 34, Virgo at 33, Leo at 32, Cancer at 31). So apparently, under this method the annual profection of the Sun marks the sign of the year, and is the main profection at that level. This varies from the predominant view that the annual profection of the Ascendant is most important, as well as that of Valens where the annual profection of the Sect Light and Ascendant are important (often times that of the Sect Light even more so to Valens).
Here’s where things start to really get sticky. Manilius appears to be advising us to take monthly profections from the Moon. This seems to imply that monthly profections are disjointed from annual profections, rather than dividing them up into twelve months, because a profection from the natal Moon has a different starting point, and it is unclear what sort of months are intended. For instance, if one were born December 1, 1980 with a Libra Moon (hypothetical), then we might be tempted to count calendar months to the present day, which is not a difficult task, since the Moon would profect back to the natal sign every December of every year. This being January, the Moon would profect to Scorpio (one sign after Libra, as January is one month after December). However, it is unclear whether calendar months are intended or some other more astronomical lunar month, such as the synodic month of about 29.5 days or the sidereal month of about 27.5 days. If one of these other months are used, over time you will get other indications for the sign of the month.
Daily and Hourly Profections
The daily and hourly profections are the most difficult to understand. It appears that Manilius is separating out two different rates, a daily rate and an hourly rate. The problem is that the system seems to depend on using different points for different rates in a symbolic fashion, but here the Ascendant is used for two very different rates.
The way that Manilius presented the more common profectional technique later in his book suggested that he used planetary hours for hourly rates, in which there are 12 planetary hours in a day based on division of the length of day (sunrise and sunset) and that of night (sunset to sunrise). That discussion also seemed to imply that the daily rate was one sign per day.
My best hypothesis as to how to find the daily profectional sign is to count the number of days since your birth to the present time (it may help to use a date duration calculator online), then divide the number of days by 12 and take the remainder (find the remainder by taking the portion after the decimal and multiplying it by 12) as the number of signs past your Ascendant. For instance, if your Ascendant is Aquarius and the remainder is 3, then the sign of the day is Taurus (i.e. count Pisces, Aries, Taurus).
My best hypothesis for the hour is that every day at your birth time is the start of the hour that pertains to your Ascendant. For instance, if one were born at 3pm with an Aquarius Ascendant, then every day at 3pm would start the Aquarius hour. To do a rough estimate, the sign of the hour would change about every 2 clock hours. So around 5pm would star the Pisces hour of the day. Since it would cycle through 12 in a day, these hours would be in the same order starting from the birth time each day.
Annual and monthly profections of the Ascendant have won me over as to their value time and time again. Many of the other types of profections, including this one by Manilius seem like they could be fun to play around with, and I hope with time they might prove themselves useful. They haven’t yet impressed me, but I definitely advocate experimenting with them and urge you to keep me informed about what you find. Happy journeys.
Manilius, M. (1977). Astronomica. (G. P. Goold, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library.
In this post we’ll be looking at Persian innovation with profections, in which the Ascendant is not profected by whole sign, but rather is profected by degree, such that the Ascendant profects 30 degrees in one year. As far as I know, this style of profection started in the 8th century CE with certain Persian astrologers such as Umar al-Tabari. Abu Ma’shar (active in the 9th century CE) was one of the Persian astrologers who most famously used this type of profection in both natal and mundane work. This style of profection was also followed by the 10th century CE astrology al-Qabisi (Alchabitius), and later medieval and Renaissance European astrologers. However, Masha’allah, of the 8th century CE, used the Hellenistic style profections in which profections are discrete, by whole-sign, rather than continuous, by degree.
To recap the Hellenistic method, if one’s Ascendant was in Aquarius when one was born, then it’d profect to Pisces at Age 1 (second year of life), Aries at Age 2 (third year of life), and so forth. The profections would be in discrete steps, such that the whole second year would be a Pisces annual profection, and there wouldn’t be any sense in considering a “degree” of the profection. In order to capture smaller time frames we could also profect by month, starting with the sign of the year, in discrete steps, such that the month following the birthday would be a Pisces monthly profection, while the following month would be an Aries monthly profection, and so forth. We could even do the same for days, because in each case we are dealing with discrete movements, highlighting specific Signs of the chart, which in whole-sign houses are the different houses of the chart.
In the Persian period there began to be some experimentation with quadrant division of houses, and with this came some new perspectives on how to view the chart, including a greater concern with degree-based aspects and configurations, quantified weighting of essential dignities, and a movement away from sign-based configurations and techniques. So, we start to see the notion that the Ascendant profects 30 degrees in a year, or a house in the “equal-house” system, rather than a discrete sign.
This view of profections changes some things. For one, the profection is continuous, and the profected point will profect into a new sign in less than a year, because it would move at about 2.5 degrees per month. For instance, if one were born with an Ascendant of 25 Aquarius, then the Ascendant would profect to Pisces two months after birth, rather than one year after. Interestingly, in most Persian predictive systems, such as that of Abu Ma’shar, the Lord of the Year is still determined by the ruler of the profected Ascendant at the time of the solar return (also called the solar revolution), so in our example, despite the entrance into Pisces of the profected Ascendant, the Lord of the Year (called the “salkhuday”) for that entire year would remain Saturn (ruler of Aquarius). Therefore, it seems that those who started using this profection weren’t that interested in the early changeover of rulers that would occur by its use – you get the same planets highlighted for the time period as you do when you use whole-sign profections.
Of course, the additional feature of this style of profections that likely inspired its use is the ability to profect any planet or point in a natal chart or return chart by degree in order to time events to the perfection of aspects. For example, let’s say that someone has the Sun at 10 degrees Aries and Mars at 15 degrees Aries, and we want to know when some of the more difficult manifestations of this Sun and Mars conjunction might manifest. We might look to see when Mars profects to conjoin, square, or oppose the Sun by degree. As the Sun is 5 degrees behind the Sun, and the monthly rate of profection is about 5 degrees, we expect the profected conjunction a month prior to the twelfth, twenty-fourth, thirty-sixth (and so forth) birthdays. The opposition will take place a month short of the sixth birthday (and every twelve years thereafter), while the square will take place a month short of the third and ninth birthdays (and every twelve years thereafter). These exact degree based aspects can be difficult to figure out in one’s head, so I recommend using software. The free astrological program Morinus can bring up a chart of profected positions (done by degree), as can many other astrological software packages.
Monthly and Daily Profections
Even though these profections by degree are continuous, it is still also possible to do profections by month and day (and even hour), though they use much faster motion. Abu Ma’shar discussed these minor profections in Book IX, Chapter 7, Section 8 of “On the Revolutions of the Years of Nativities”. For the monthly profections any given point profects through an entire sign (30 degrees) in a single month. In other words, each point moves to each other point at the rate of about 1 degree per day. For the daily profections a point moves at the rate of 30 degrees in 2.5 days, or about a degree every 2 hours. Abu Ma’shar also mentions hourly profections, at the rate of 30 degrees every 5 hours, or about a degree very 10 minutes. One of the technical problems with these types of profections by day and hour is that it makes a huge difference what time of day is used to kick off the profectional movement. It is assumed that the birth time would be used.
I present this type of profection by degree for the sake of completeness in the discussion of various types of profections and their use in ancient astrology. However, I must personally admit that I have not found much use in this particular style of profection. It would seem that it’s main use is in showing timing through exact aspects, but rarely have I seen significant events time out according to exact profectional aspects in my study of event timing. While these are the type of profection your software is likely to perform, that seem more sophisticated, and that dominated later traditional astrology, I have found these profections to be far inferior to the original Hellenistic style of profecting discretely by whole sign. I have not given any real-world examples of great timing by this technique because I haven’t yet been impressed by any. My study of these degree-based profections has been primarily with natal astrology, so perhaps they work better in mundane timing. If you have had experiences with using degree-based profections for timing, whether good or bad experiences, I would love to hear them. I am particularly interested in big events in people’s lives that corresponded to very close profectional aspects to the natal chart. Please discuss in the comments.
In this post the focus is on a more advanced use of profections that is explicated by Vettius Valens in Book IV, Chapter 11 (and some ensuing chapters, as well as in some places in later books), of Anthology. The only full English translation of Valens’ Anthology is available for free download from its translator Mark Riley, on his website, in pdf format at this link (c.f about p. 77-82 for reference).
The type of profections that Valens used adds three main additional principles to using profections: 1. Profections of the Sect Light (i.e. Sun of a day birth, Moon of a night birth) may be even more generally important than that of the Ascendant, especially if the Light is in a “stake” of the chart (1st, 10th, 7th, or 4th place) ; 2. A planet in a place is more important than a planet ruling a place; 3. Any point, place, or planet can profect.
Part One: Important to Profect the Sect Light
Valens makes it very clear in Book V (Ch. 7) that he finds the profection of the sect light to be the most significant, even more so than the Ascendant:
The aphetic points of the years are operative when starting from any star, but the following aphetic points are most effective: for day births the sun, for night births the moon, especially when they are at the angles. Next <in effectiveness> is the Ascendant. (Riley, 2010, p. 108)
In fact, any planet or place can be profected, and we will discuss the significance of them below. However, the sect light and Ascendant have special general significance for the key events of the person’s year as a whole, so we may regard the planets that they transmit to as very important time lords of the period.
How do you profect the Sect Light? Once you’ve gotten the hang of profecting the Ascendant, it will be easy to profect the Sect Light or any other point, as they move forward the same number of signs as the Ascendant does. For instance, if one were a 35 year old with Leo Rising, then the annual profection of the Ascendant would be to the 12th place, Cancer (i.e. one before the 1st place, as 35 is one year before 36, a multiple of 12 – multiples of 12 are 1st place years). If the person was born during the day then the Sun would be sect light, and we would want to profect that also. The Sun would also profect to the 12th place from its own position. If the Sun were in Cancer, then the 12th place from the Sun would be one sign back, in Gemini. Thus the annual profection of the Sect Light would be to Gemini, and that of the Ascendant to Cancer. As the Sun is cadent in our example, it is unclear whether Valens would have considered the profection of the Sect Light or the Ascendant as the more important of the two profections of the year, but certainly both are very important.
Part Two: Planet in the Place is More Important than Planet Ruling the Place
In the previous posts on profections of the Ascendant it was noted that it is as if the Ascendant is the person and the person enters a new Place/House/Sign of the chart each year. In that metaphor, the planet ruling the Place is a “lord” of the time period, as if handed over some responsibility concerning the place where the native is now dwelling or active, which should seem natural to anyone familiar with planetary rulership of other planets and places. It was also noted that any planet or planets in the place of the profection are very important, perhaps even more directly so, as the Ascendant becomes “co-present” with them in that place, and this planet or these planets are like alternative or additional lords of the period. For Valens, the planet or planets occupying the place are preferred to the ruler, and they are the ones that the time gets handed over to, or which receive the transmission. Again, from Valens Book V (Ch. 7):
If one of the stars in transit has entered this place, then it will be transmitting the chronocratorship. If the sign where the count stops happens to be empty, then count from the position (at the nativity) of the ruler of the sign, and examine in the same way the place found, whether using the nativity or the transiting stars. Then forecast the results of all the places and stars. <In other words,> if the count goes from star to star, use the stars for forecasting; if from a star to an empty sign, use the rulers of the signs. (Riley, 2010, p. 108)
The previous excerpt actually hits on a number of topics simultaneously, including the priority for the occupants over the ruler, the fact that the solar return transiting occupants are also preferred to the ruler (more on that below), and also that Valens even suggested profecting the ruler and finding which planet it transmits to, taking that planet over the ruler itself.
Let’s return to our example of a 35-year-old, born in the day, with Leo Rising and Sun in Cancer, with all annual profections going to the 12th place from their natal positions. The Sun profects to Gemini, which is empty, and thus Mercury receives the transmission of the Sect Light, becoming an important time lord of the year (and if we profect Mercury we also find that it profects to Gemini, again highlighting Mercury – but if we prefer solar return transits over rulers, then it is Mars, in Gemini at the solar return, that receives the transmission of the Sect Light – this use of transits is discussed further below). However, the Ascendant, Leo, profects to Cancer, which is occupied by both the Sun and Mercury. In this case it is the Sun and Mercury, located in the place, rather than the Moon, ruler of the place, that receive the transmission. As one can see the profectional method of Valens actually has the effect of changing which planet or planets are considered the most important time lords of the year by profection. In the basic technique of the typical annual profections, the Moon, ruler of the sign the Ascendant profects to, is Lord of the Year. By contrast, in the Valens technique it is the Sun and Mercury which are the most significant time lords by profection, as they receive the most effective transmissions, those of the Sect Light and the Ascendant.
It is important to acknowledge that this method of profections does indeed yield different indications, was not a widespread technique in Hellenistic astrology, and was not widely embraced in the latter periods. However, this does not mean it is ineffective. Many modern traditionalists who have explored the method have been very satisfied with the results. Admittedly, I put more stress on the profection of the Ascendant, but like Valens, and many other ancient astrologers, give a lot of emphasis to planets occupying the place of the profection. Valens introduces many new dimensions to explore with profections, and we’ll just scratch the surface here. I urge the reader to experiment and have some fun on their own journey to better prediction.
Part 3: Profect It All
Additionally, Valens does see significance and usefulness in profecting basically any planet or place in the natal chart. The planet or place hands off to the sign and the planets in the sign (or, if empty, the ruler of the sign) of the place of the profection. Valens discussed this at great length in Book IV, Chapter 11, for instance:
Let us start our exposition from this point: when investigating the current year of a nativity, we divide by 12. Count the remainder from a star which is able <to transmit> to a star which is able to receive. In this way we will discover to what sign the year transmits. What I have said is easy to comprehend but complicated to determine since all the stars, plus the Ascendant, the sun, and the moon, can transmit to and receive from each other. (Riley, 2010, p. 78)
The nature of the star transmitting provides the context, or the nature of what is affected, and the one receiving the transmission provides the form of the effect and responsibility for its completion. The contexts or significations of the planets and places being profected is as follows (quoted material in bullet points below from Anthology of Vettius Valens, Book IV, Ch. 11, Riley trans., 2010, p. 79):
Ascendant – “length of life and bodily or mental activities”
Sun – “rank, preeminence, magnificence, the father, great personages, and whatever other matters are usually influenced by the sun’s nature”
Moon – “dangers to health, diseases, bleeding, or the mother”
MC (10th Place?) – “occupations, livelihood, and work”
Lot of Fortune – “good fortune and success in life”
Descendant – “mortality, change, or trouble”
IC (4th Place?) – “estates, possessions, secret matters, legacies”
Saturn – “bankruptcy, money or property, secret diseases, or family inheritance”
Jupiter – “rank, friendship, alliances, and possessions”
Mars – “military or public matters”
Venus – “women, love affairs, associations, or the category ‘female'”
Mercury – “associations, slave matters, servile matters, giving and receiving, or written matters”
Valens additionally noted that it is important to profect from the other lots of the planets (for instance, the Lot of Daimon/Spirit/Sun, the Lot of Love/Eros/Venus, and the Lot of Necessity/Mercury). Therefore, it is clear that Valens regarded profections as a general method applicable to any chart point assigned a significance as a means of understanding its changing state and activations of its relationships within the chart.
Cumulative Effect and Priority
I have only scratched the surface as to the way that Valens used profections. You will find many more tips in Chapter 11 of Book 4 and in various other later sections of the Anthology.
One additional interesting thing that Valens does is to consider if most of the planets receiving the transmissions for the year (from the planets, angles of the chart, and Lot of Fortune) are benefics or malefics, while if a near even mix of both then the year will be very changeable in terms of fortune. Presumably, the more effective transmissions, those of the Sect Light and Ascendant, are more important in this regard. In fact, at one point in Book IV, Chapter 11, Valens did make explicit that actually both lights and the Ascendant give the strongest indications:
To find the overall influence in any nativity, it will be necessary to count the years from the sun, the moon, and the Ascendant, and if the count ends at an empty place, then they <sun moon Ascendant> will be transmitting to the rulers of these <empty> signs. These three figures have great influence, whether the transmission is to benefics, to malefics, to the angles or operative places, or to places not at the angles. Next it will be necessary to investigate the transmissions of the other stars: if malefics control the year, but the three aphetas have a benefic effect, then the year will be vigorous and distinguished, after some doubt, anxiety, and annoyance. (Riley, 2010, p. 78)
Solar Returns and Transits
In many places Valens noted the effect of transits on places receiving the transmissions, including in a quote from Book V which is above, where he stressed the priority of star to star over star to ruler. It seems that a transiting planet could even be considered to receive the transmission, especially if the place being transmitted to were empty, as Valens noted in Book IV, Ch. 11:
If no star transmits to another, and if the distribution is to empty places, then it is necessary to note the empty places: especially if any stars are there in transit, they will receive the distribution. (Riley, 2010, p. 78)
Presumably, for the annual profections, these transits would be the planetary positions at the solar return. In fact, I think Valens did make it clear that he was most interested in the transits of the solar return chart, again from Book IV, Ch. 11:
Whenever we find a transmission in one cycle, (whether from one or from many), we examine the horoscope recast for that year, particularly the transits of the stars, to see if they have a configuration similar to their configuration at the nativity with respect to the transmitters and receivers, and if they have the same phases with respect to the sun. If this is found to be true, we say that the results are certain. If the configurations are different and dissimilar, the results will not take place in toto: some things will happen overall, others partially. (Riley, 2010, p. 79)
This may provide a helpful context for general transits as well though. Let’s say, the Ascendant profects to Cancer as in our example above, which is occupied by the Sun and Mercury. The transmission is to the Sun and Mercury. However, Venus occupies the place with the Sun at the solar return. Therefore, in this scenario, we treat Venus also as receiving the transmission from the Ascendant. Similarly, the Sect Light profected to Gemini, empty in the chart, but occupied by Mars in the solar return. Thus in the solar return we see an additional influence of Venus upon the significations of the Ascendant, in addition to the strong influences of the Sun and Mercury (and weaker influence of the Moon), and we see an additional influence of Mars upon the significations of the Sect Light, in addition to the weaker influence of Mercury. Additionally, throughout the year, when planets transit through Gemini or Cancer, they may also modify the indications.
Vettius Valens has given us a broad range of new uses for profections. Just as we might be curious about the transit of a planet, Valens allows us to check in on any planet and check out its annual profection, particularly with an eye on how that puts it into contact with occupants, both natal and transiting, of the place it profects to. Of course, we may quickly find ourselves dealing with a soup of indications to sort out, but this is not to say they couldn’t conceivably be sorted out. If his techniques are used with monthly profections as well, then you will certainly be overwhelmed, but it seems that they are discussed solely in terms of annual profections. Not only with profections, but with predictive techniques in general, Valens has provided a wealth of areas to be explored for many years to come. I plan on returning to Valens-style profections with some delineation examples in a future post.
Valens, V. (2010). Anthologies. (M. Riley, Trans.) (Online PDF.). World Wide Web: Mark Riley. Retrieved from http://www.csus.edu/indiv/r/rileymt/Vettius%20Valens%20entire.pdf
For those unfamiliar with the basic technique of annual and monthly profections of the natal Ascendant, please review the first two posts of this series which introduce annual profections and those of smaller periods. It should have become clear in the last post that the use of monthly profections is perhaps not as uncontroversial as it is usually presented. Nevertheless, it is an easy and informative addition to one’s predictive arsenal, so I recommend its use. The main idea behind profections is activation of natal potentials, however, it’s true potential is realized is found in its use in concert with other predictive techniques such as solar returns, direction, transits, and other time lord techniques.
Any point in the natal chart can be profected, but the profection of the Ascendant is particularly important, and there is a logic to that. No other point in the chart is as succinctly symbolic of the person, the self, their experience, in the natal chart as the Ascendant. One may think of the sky as the soul, and the Earth as the body, and the Ascendant is that point where the planets rise, manifesting themselves out from the Earth, where the soul peers out through a body and experience is made manifest. The Ascendant entering houses, is like the person entering houses. Planets in the places will be directly encountered, planets ruling the places will oversee matters, and planets regarding the place may exert some influence. Here we’ll look at some examples with solar returns and transits. The natal chart will show the default condition and the range of potentials possible in this, while the solar return may be thought of as spreading out the overall plan of action for the year, and the transits showing the transient movement of guests around the chart (without telling much about what they’re up to in itself).
I should note that I strongly advocate the use of precessed solar returns, as the solar return Ascendant and its ruler also are important for natal activation (in addition to the particular strengths/weaknesses and determinations of the planets in the return chart relative to those in the natal chart), particularly in the predictive system of Abu Ma’shar, and I find the precessed return to be of many magnitudes more informative than the non-precessed return. For now, I’ll just go ahead and use the precessed returns in this post (I use the birth location for returns), while I’ll compare the precessed and non-precessed in a much more critical way when I get to the posts on use of returns.
I’m just going to give 2 quick examples with annual and monthly profections in concert with solar returns and transits, all on properly sourced charts, simply to illustrate a simplified use of profections with other techniques. This series on predictive techniques will pave the way for more understandable use of predictive techniques in analysis in the future, as uninformed readers will be able to get briefed on the background of the techniques used. The examples are: 1. James Randi receiving a diagnosis of cancer; 2. David Carradine’s death by accidental autoerotic asphyxiation.
As mentioned in the first post, at the time of the announcement, he was in an 11th House, Aries year, with Mars as lord of the year. It is also important to mention that his Moon occupies the natal 11th, and as the sect light and in a good place, it is an important planet for health considerations. The Moon is also one of the natural significators of the body. As noted in the last post, Dorotheus put a lot of stress on the planets in the place of the profection. Valens uses an occupying planet like that as an alternative ruler, as does Abu Ma’shar though in slightly different manner. Therefore, the annual profection puts the spotlight on Mars as Lord of the Year, but also on the Moon.
While the Moon is in the term and sign of Mars and is overcome by Saturn, the Moon is still overall typically more of a significator of pleasant happenings in Randi’s life, being the sect light in the very good 11th place, pertaining particularly to powerful friendships and group alliances. Still, that the Moon has a ruler in bad weak condition, which is called counter-action, allows for some degree of reversals, and the Moon’s location in the term of Mars, and being overcome by Saturn, as a natural significator of the body, provides for her ability to signify bodily problems. However, Mars, as noted previously, can signify the most difficult matters in the life, as a malefic in a bad place, ruling and opposed to the place of health. I had mentioned the exact Mars return that took place around the time of Randi’s announcement (7/9/09) and the transits from around the time of the announcement event are marked along the edge of the natal as pictured.
I do not have an exact date for the diagnosis event, but it has been reported that it was in June of 2009 and not long before the announcement. In terms of personal experience the diagnosis month is more interesting than the announcement at a celebratory event, as one is getting the news that one is sick and could die. As the birthday is Aug. 7th, and it’s an Aries year, June would be two months back, and we can conveniently count two signs back, to the 9th, Aquarius, with Saturn as Lord of the Month, the profection for about June 7th to about July 7th. Aquarius is empty, so our 3 major planets to look at are Mars (Lord of the Year), the Moon (focal planet of the profection), and Saturn (Lord of the Month). I’ve already noted that these three planets are all related together in terms of hardship concerning the body, in the rulership of the Moon by Mars and the overcoming of the Moon by Saturn.
The solar return chart shows the major game plan of the year, and the most important things for us to check out there are where the srAscendant falls in the natal chart (including also its ruler and any planets it highlights), where the Lord of the Year and the profectional Asc fall in the return, important aspects between planets, and generally which planets are strong or weak, with a particular emphasis on whether the benefics or malefics are more strongly placed in a general way.
The srAsc is in the natal 6th, one of the worst of the bad places of the chart, pertaining to disease and accidents. Mars is the ruler, echoing the annual profection, and putting a spotlight on the opposition of Mars to the 6th. The Moon is on the srAsc, again in a sign and term of Mars, and again overcome by Saturn (actually by both malefics). As an aside, with the lord of the year and the srAsc ruler in the 11th, this must have otherwise been a very important year for friends, organizations, and group events overall. The profected Asc is in the 6th of the return so there is again a reinforcement of the indication of important health events occurring. srSaturn is closely dominating natal Saturn, and srMars is also dominating natal Saturn (both from the sr4th which can pertain to hidden/buried matters), which is significant in that Saturn is the strongest planet in Randi’s chart, being located right on his Descendant. Finally, in the return the Lights are extremely strong, the malefics are quite strong, and the benefics are weak (Jupiter retreating in the cadent 3rd and in fall) and/or made malefic (Venus in the 11th assembled with both malefics and in fall). Therefore, we see plenty of repeat indications concerning hardship, particularly with health. Pivotal events come to the fore with important transits of Mars and Saturn, and even the Moon, from the Mars return on the day of the announcement, to the preceding health crisis during the Saturn profectional months with tSaturn meanwhile dominating nSaturn within 3 degrees. Even such a simplified predictive system using only the natal, annual and monthly profections, solar returns, and transits can provide a lot of information about major events and big themes.
David Carradine’s Death
A brief bio of Carradine can be found on Wikipedia here, and his AA-rated chart data can be found on AstroDatabank here. He is reported to have died the evening of June 3, 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand by accidental asphyxiation. Carradine was born with the malefic Mars, out of sect and in the 8th, the place of death, assembled with the Moon, a natural significator of the body, and in a scrutinizing (i.e. within 3*) sextile with the Sun, in which Mars is overcoming the Sun (the Sun is an important life-force signifier, particularly in day charts). Additionally, Carradine was born with Saturn rising, in the 1st place, adhering (i.e. conjunct within 3*) to the Ascendant, and in a partile (i.e. same zodiacal degree/part) square with the Sun. Therefore, in matters of death we particularly expect to see Mars playing a role, as well as to some extent Saturn and Venus (Venus rules the 8th along with Mars and the Moon, appropriate to the sexual nature of the death, as well as the constrictive and violent nature, as Venus is in Capricorn, Saturn’s earthy nocturnal abode, and in a bound of Mars).
His death took place at age 72. As 72 is a multiple of 12, this puts him in a 1st place, Pisces, year, profecting the Ascendant to natal Saturn, with Jupiter as lord of the year. Jupiter in the natal is a little bit weakened by being in fall, but overall is quite benefic and strong, as it is in its joy, the strong good 11th place, and is in sect and in phasis, assembled with Venus. Jupiter is ruled by Saturn and dominated by Mars, so while overall we expect an excellent and popular year from Jupiter with much fortune, Jupiter is subject to the malefics in certain ways, and does not necessarily prohibit danger. Here we see the value of the indications of the planet occupying the place, Saturn, as well as the danger of reading too much into just the Lord of the Year and its natal standing. In the month of death it was 6th place, Leo, Sun profectional month. The 6th pertains most strongly to illness and accidents. This particular year and month set highlight the Sun-Saturn square in the natal chart. Both planets are extremely strong and generally carry positive significations in the natal chart, both in sect, in good places, and in signs of Jupiter. For those who claim that profections of the Ascendant, used solely with the natal, are effective in themselves for prediction, take note, as the indications of profections alone here are quite positive. In fairness though, it was indeed a very positive year for Carradine prior to the asphyxiation accident, apparently having about a dozen films of his in post-production at the time of his death.
Looking at the solar return, we see some very different indications. Perhaps most importantly, srMars is in a partile conjunction (actually within about 2′ of a degree!) with the natal Sun (nSun), and both malefics are strongly advancing while the benefics are the weakest planets in the chart. The solar return Ascendant is in Carradine’s 7th place, Virgo, ruled by Mercury, and the 7th (like the 4th, but to a lesser extent than the 8th) carries associations with death, as it is the place of setting. Significantly, srSaturn is in the 1st of the return, strongly advancing towards the srAsc, echoing that configuration in Carradine’s chart, and srSaturn opposes his natal Saturn, and squares his natal Sun. The solar return therefore strongly speaks of activation and major intensification of the affliction of Carradine’s Sun by Mars and Saturn.
The day of death was Carradine’s lunar return in the 8th place with Mars. On that day, the Lord of the Year, Jupiter was transiting in the 12th, in a very weak spot of the natal chart. Transiting Mars was in partile trine to natal Jupiter, striking Jupiter with its rays. Transiting Saturn was at 15 Virgo, adhering to Carradine’s Descendant (13VIR) and opposing natal Saturn while in a dominating square to natal Sun, both within less than 3 degrees of exact (i.e. both scrutinizing). Transiting Sun was at 12 Gemini, strongly applying squares to natal and transiting Saturn and opposing the natal Sun.
These are just two examples, but we can already see how worthwhile it can be to add basic profections and precessed solar returns to prediction, as transits themselves are rather superficial without them, and just about completely meaningless without any context from a natal chart. I have found myself experiencing some of my best days, all around, during transits that generally would appear to be very difficult, and even may appear very difficult from the standpoint of my natal, such as having the out of sect malefic located in a bad place in my natal chart transit through my 8th and make a dominating square to my natal Sun, during a pleasant time of high productivity and energy. My Saturn return also was a great experience. However, the year that solar return Asc fell in my 12th on my out of sect malefic with that out of sect malefic on the Descendant of the return and in partile opposition to its natal position, was genuinely the worst year of my life thus far, even though the transits in themselves at the time of the worst events didn’t appear ominous.
We see the capacity for someone to have a great year apart from one really horrible event. Someone may have a natal chart that indicates extraordinary luck, popularity, longevity, social mobility, health, and so forth, but still bad things do happen to everyone, so it is important to understand the range of potential in a natal chart. A benefic planet, simply by being out of sect, or in a bad place, or ruled by a malefic, etc. can have some negative potential linked to it. Very rarely does any planet in one’s chart have only the capacity to signify good. This is the great difficulty in natal astrology, and particularly in natal prediction: the capacity for events is largely subject to the potentials in the natal chart, and the potentials in the natal chart are in a sense infinite. By deeply working on the natal chart, understanding things like general strength, general beneficence, and these things particularly in relation to topics, as well as the range or variance, and the specifics that bring out configurations that bring out points within that range, we will be better able to understand the specific indications signified in the predictive techniques.
We are still dealing with an extremely stripped-down predictive system. There will be at least one more post on profections in this series, but it is important to keep in mind that there are many techniques other than profections that played a key role in the predictive systems of people like Abu Ma’shar. There are also many many predictive methods that have been virtually unexplored, particularly those found in Valens. Numerous predictive methods are found in antiquity and many astrologers combine them into their own predictive systems, because no single predictive technique is in itself adequate to signify all of the most important events in one’s life. Just as there are special techniques for natal matters, in which multiple factors are examined, not simply the ruler or rulers of a house, prediction is best when one uses those predictive techniques that have proven most effective, and uses them in concert, with a keen eye to repeat signification, and a good prior knowledge of the natal chart.
This is why such extremes of experience are found in the passage of time, and good is linked to bad, sorrow attends success, and in its inconstancy fortune maintains no steady course: to such an extent is it varied and changing, nowhere remaining the same; and by its commutation of everything in the lives of us all it has forfeited our trust. (Manilius, Astronomica, 3.524-530, Goold trans., 1977, p. 206-207)
In the first post of this series, we looked at one of the simplest, most ubiquitous, and effective of ancient predictive techniques, profections. In this post we’ll look at how astrologers applied this concept of profections to smaller time periods as well, namely months, but also days, and even groups of hours. Therefore, if you are unfamiliar with profections, please read the first post of the series to get acquainted before reading on.
Brief Annual Profections Recap
When a native is born, the lord of the year is the lord of the house [ascendant] in which the native was born. Thus count from the ascendant a year for each sign until you reach the year which you desire; the lord of that house is the lord of the year. Look at the lord of this sign, whether it is a benefic or a malefic, and in the base-nativity how its position was and in which foundation it was. From the base-nativity is known what is concerning him [the native] at the beginning of the year, and the beginning of the year is always when the Sun enters the beginning of the minute in which it was on the day of the native’s nativity. (Dorotheus, Carmen Astrologicum, Book IV-1.1-5, Pingree trans., p. 90)
Dorotheus goes on to discuss not only that the ruling planet (i.e. lord of the year) is important, but also important are the planets in the sign the Ascendant profects to, and the regards (i.e. aspects) of the planets to that sign (especially regard by opposition).
The annual profections will be dealt with in greater depth in many future posts on predictive techniques, but Dorotheus has captured the main idea of the basic method pretty well above.
As we enter into a discussion of monthly profections it should be noted that there is greater diversity of opinion among astrologers when it comes to these, as well as with finer divisions into day periods. Uncontroversially, the monthly profection involves moving (i.e. profecting) the Ascendant one sign per month, starting from the sign of the annual profection, which takes the first month. For instance, if one were 23 years old, born with Aries rising, then the annual profection would be to Pisces (24 would be first place, so 23 would be one back in the 12th place, Pisces), and the first month after the solar return would be a Pisces month, with Jupiter as Lord of the Month, while the next month would be an Aries month, with Mars as Lord of the Month, and so forth. This is the basic idea of monthly profections, and to keep it simple you can even just use the day of the month of your birthday as a marker if you’d like. For instance, if born on the 2nd of August, then you could have the 2nd of August to 2nd of September as the first month, 2nd of September to 2nd of October as second month, and so forth. This is the method I tend to use, as it gives a fairly accurate and easy mental figure of the month ruler and terminal sign (i.e. the sign of the profection), and it was the method that was recommended to me by Robert Zoller in his Diploma Course in Medieval Astrology (2003, Lesson 18, p. 17-18), early on in my studies of profections. But what do various astrologers of the Hellenistic and Persian periods have to say about monthly profections?
Opinions of Astrologers on Monthly Profections
To every sign there comes an hour just once a day, a day twice in the month, a month once in the year, and a year once in twelve annual courses of the Sun. (Manilius, Astronomica, 3.548-551, Goold trans., 1977, p. 207)
This passage is found in Manilius’s (1st Century CE) discussion of an alternative method for profecting through the signs, other than his preferred method which he presents first. In another post dealing with additional profectional variants, I will address the system preferred by Manilius, but for our current purposes, we are focused on the more typical profection of the Ascendant. Aside from the references to smaller units of profections, including two days of a month to a planet (possibly the 2.5 day periods from dividing a month by 12, which are used by some later astrologers for daily profections) and a system of planetary hours, Manilius does make clear that the Ascendant profects to each sign once per year when it comes to monthly profections. This is significant, because there is at least one notable exception in the literature to this rule, occurring about 1,000 years later, of the noted Persian polymath Al Biruni (11th Century CE):
When the signs and degrees of the yearly terms have been learnt, each year is divided into (thirteen) months of 28 days 1 hour 51 minutes and a sign to each given, so that the last month ends at the same degree as the radical ascendant has the same sign as the first, while the first month of the next year has the same sign as the year; similarly a sign is given to each of thirteen periods of 2 days 3 hours 50 minutes, the end of the last of these periods coinciding with the end of the monthly term. (Al Biruni, The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology, 522, Wright, 1934, p. 95).
This 13-fold division of Al Biruni is atypical for profections, and I don’t personally recommend it. However, it may have been an attempt to rationalize and refine some remarks by Ptolemy (2nd Century CE) referring to 28 day monthly profectional periods and 2 1/3 day daily profectional periods:
We shall discover the general chronocrators, then, in the manner described, and the annual chronocrators by setting out from each of the prorogatory places, in the order of the signs, the number of years from birth, one year to each sign,and taking the ruler of the last sign. We shall do the same thing for the months, setting out, again, the number of months from the month of birth, starting from the places that govern the year, twenty-eight days to a sign; and similarly for the days, we shall set out the number of the days from the day of birth, starting with the places which govern the months, two and a third days to a sign. (Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, Book 4, Ch. 10, Robbins trans., 1940, p. 453).
It’s not clear whether this was simply an error on Ptolemy’s part, using an approximation of the orbital period of the Moon (almost 28 days, time it takes to travel 360* in the zodiac) as a month, rather than either the approximate synodic period of the Moon (almost 30 days, time between New Moons) or 1/12 of a year (just over 30 days), which seem to be more commonly chosen.
We will look at other Hellenistic astrologers to explore how they divided the time. However, we will ignore Dorotheus (1st Century CE) in this matter, as he presented totally different methods for finding month and day lords, that don’t seem to be profectional. Valens (2nd Century CE) added much to the use of profections in his exposition in which he advocated profecting all the different planets and points (with particularly stress on the profection of the Ascendant and Lights as being of more importance) to each other, in a system of transmitting and receiving, which I will specifically address in another post as a variant on the basic idea of profections. However, despite the large and complicated exposition of annual profections that Valens provided (c.f. Book 4, Ch. 11-13), he seemed to have used different methods, including those used by Dorotheus (among numerous others), in finding month and day lords. As far as I can tell, Valens did not discuss monthly profections in his Anthology, as odd as that would seem in a huge text simply chock full of dozens of different time lord and other predictive methods, most of which not found elsewhere (though it is possible that I’ve overlooked some mention of monthly profections in this massive text). Julius Firmicus Maternus (4th Century CE) is among those astrologers, including Dorotheus and Valens, that advocated annual profections, but used a different technique for periods less than a year (c.f. Mathesis, Book II, Ch. 27 vs. Ch. 28).
Paulus Alexandrinus (4th Century CE) did discuss monthly profections (c.f. Introductory Matters, II.31), but was not specific about how long the month should be, though he did specify that each daily profection should last one day, rather than 1/12 of a month. This would yield about 2.5 cycles of 1 day profectional periods in a month, rather than the oft-found one cycle of 2.5 day periods. I am not myself an advocate of using daily profectional lords at all, but I can see the logic in using either the 2.5 day or the 1 day periods, so if one is so inclined to use daily profections at all, then one should tinker to find one’s preferred choice.
My conclusions about monthly profections in the Hellenistic period is that they existed, but many, if not most, of the Hellenistic astrologers didn’t use them or at least didn’t write about them, as opposed to the very prominent literature on annual profections. When monthly, and even daily, profections are employed, it is difficult to tell whether they are based on a prototypical conception of the time period (such as 28 or 30 days for a monthly, and 1 day for a daily) or if they should be treated as 1/12 of the greater period (such as just over 30 days for a monthly, and 2.5 days for a daily), with somewhat conflicting indications given in the early texts that do discuss them.
In Persian predictive methods there is a great stress upon the annual profection of the Ascendant and its indicated Lord of the Year, but little concern with monthly profections. For instance, Masha’allah discussed the Lord of the Year from the annual profection first in his discussion of annual methods in Book IV of the Book of Aristotle, and even delineated each planet as Lord of the Year (c.f. Book IV.1-7), but still did not employ profections for figuring month and day rulers. ‘Umar al-Tabari similarly placed a great deal of stress on annual profections (which, he employs in 30* per year, rather than by sign, as will be addressed in a future post) but gave no discussion of monthly profections in Book II of his Three Books on Nativities. The annual profection of the Ascendant (which, like al-Tabari, he employed by 30 degrees rather than by whole sign) is particularly important within Abu Ma’shar’s annual predictive method outlined in his On the Revolutions of the Years of Nativities, receiving a lot of attention and delineation material, particularly in Book II. However, monthly profections get only a very small mention, they are mentioned in Book IV in which he discussed rulers of shorter periods, and though by degrees, he specifically uses a 30 day monthly profectional period, a 2.5 day daily profectional period, and even a 5 hour hourly profectional period, and thus it is clear that he sees division by 12 as the key to deriving smaller profectional periods. However, it should be noted that these profections of periods under a year are one of the last things discussed in his discussion of rulers of periods less than a year, and he doesn’t refer to any corresponding Lord of the Month, Day, or Hour (instead, apparently using them aspectually), so it’s unclear whether he actually used profections of smaller periods in natal prediction, or was simply conveying the idea behind them and the possibility for their use.
In a given annual profection, profect the four chief indicators through the months at a rate of 30° per month. […] For all of these, direct them through the next 30° (representing one month) at a rate of one day per degree, noting the planetary bodies and rays encountered. (Abu Ma’shar, On the Revolutions of the Years of Nativities, Book IX, Ch. 8, Dykes trans., 2010, p. 205-206).
Putting aside the legitimate concern of whether monthly profections should be leaned on heavily in predictive work at all, which truly should hinge on their effectiveness, in the next post I hope to present a couple examples pertaining to use of basic annual and monthly whole sign profections of the Ascendant with transits. Personally, I do feel that adding monthly profections to one’s predictive toolbox is worthwhile, and that their frequent neglect in ancient predictive material is in part owing to a general emphasis on larger time frames and bigger events. Transits are also often neglected in ancient astrology for the same reason, though I feel that they too should not be neglected in the practice of the art in this fast-paced modern era of easy computation.
Biruni, A. (2006). Book of Instructions in the Elements of the Art of Astrology. (R. R. Wright, Trans.). Bel Air, MD: Astrology Classics.
Ma’shar, A. (2010). Persian Nativities III: Abu Ma’shar on Solar Revolutions. (B. N. Dykes, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: The Cazimi Press.
Manilius, M. (1977). Astronomica. (G. P. Goold, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library.
Ptolemy, C. (1940). Ptolemy: Tetrabiblos. (F. E. Robbins, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library. Retrieved from http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Ptolemy/Tetrabiblos/home.html
Sidon, D. of. (2005). Carmen Astrologicum. (D. Pingree, Trans.). Abingdon, MD: Astrology Center of America.
Ancient Hellenistic and Persian Astrology in Practice