Profections are one of the oldest, most important, and easiest predictive techniques to learn.
Activating the Natal Chart and Transits
Prediction starts with a proper understanding of the birth chart. Most people today are familiar with transits, which are the relationships between the celestial configuration (i.e. the “transiting” planets) of a given time, such as today, relative to the configuration at birth. Transits are by far the most common predictive technique used today. However, in traditional astrology, they were viewed as rather superficial and insignificant in themselves, unless they involved planets that in some way were activated during that period. Activated planets were those which were Time Lords. These were not the type of Time Lords that fly around the universe in a telephone booth, but rather the type that have a greater bearing or influence over a certain period of time, potent for releasing natal significations.
There are many types of Time Lord systems. In fact, there are many Time Lord systems that are found in the gigantic Anthology by Vettius Valens of the 2nd Century CE, that are not found elsewhere. Valens was a traveling astrologer who seemed to have picked up techniques from a great many different groups of astrologers in his time, and the bulk of his huge Anthology is devoted to natal predictive techniques of all sorts, which astrologers are still exploring, testing, and coming to understand.
While most Time Lord systems that will be discussed on this blog were introduced during the Hellenistic period (and most are reported from Valens), there are also some Time Lord systems that were introduced by the Persians, such as the Firdaria system. In any Time Lord system, the emphasis is on activation of the natal chart. Some astrologers may take a cookbook approach to Time Lords, such as on the Firdaria site that I linked to in a previous sentence, but the real value of these Time Lords is that they “turn on” or “potentiate” certain significations of the planets in the specific birth chart. Similarly, there are Time Lord techniques that activate signs, places, and particular aspects in the chart. Transits and other predictive techniques, such as solar and lunar revolutions (i.e. returns), become more focused and clear with the prior use of Time Lord techniques.
While there are other important Time Lord techniques, I find profections to be one of the most valuable and the easiest to use, so I’ll explain profections in the next few posts on predictive methods. Then we will get into other Time Lords and predictive techniques, to eventually consider how techniques can be prioritized and integrated into one’s own particular predictive system. In this first post we’ll look at who used profections and the basic idea behind the technique.
Hellenistic and Persian Astrologers on Profections
There are few Time Lord systems, or even predictive techniques, more ubiquitous and universal in Hellenistic and Persian astrology than profections. A sampling of some of the Hellenistic and Persian astrologers that definitely used this technique (which is nearly all of them) included Marcus Manilius (1st Century CE), Dorotheus of Sidon (1st Century CE), Vettius Valens (2nd Century CE), Claudius Ptolemy (2nd Century CE), Paulus Alexandrinus (4th Century CE), Julius Firmicus Maternus (4th Century CE), Hephastio of Thebes (5th Century CE), Masha’allah ibn Athari (8th Century CE), ‘Umar al-Tabari (8th Century CE), Sahl ibn Bishr (9th Century CE), Abu ‘Ali al-Khayyat (9th Century CE), Abu Ma’shar al-Balkhi (9th Century CE), and al-Qabisi (10th Century CE). As you can see, this was one of the truly vital predictive methods of ancient astrology, discussed even more frequently than transits.
Paulus gave one of the clearer expositions of the basic technique (Ch. 31, from Greenbaum trans., 2001, p. 65, bracketed passages added by me for clarification):
As many years as the nativity should spin out, we pass these through from the hour-marking zōidion [sign], giving the first year of engendered time to the Hōroskopos [ascending sign] and the second to the post-ascension of the Hōroskopos [2nd place], and so on for the rest in the following zōidia [signs], until the 12th number should be completed.
Basic Technique: Annual Profections of the Ascendant
The quote above from Paulus illustrates the most basic, and in my opinion, most important, form of profections, which is the profection of the Ascendant from one sign to the next for each year of life. Paulus goes on to give examples, of how the profection each year comes to the next sign or place of the chart, and the ruler of that place becomes the “lord of the year”. The technique is easy and requires no fancy computer software, as there are no specific degrees involved, but rather just discrete hops from one place in the chart to the next at intervals of time. In fact, the technique is called a “circumambulation”, meaning a “walking around” the chart.
To illustrate, if someone was born with Pisces rising, then Pisces is the 1st Place or House, and Jupiter is the Lord of the Year for their first year of life, age 0. On the solar return at age 1 (typically the birthday, but the exact moment the Sun returns to its natal position), then the Ascendant profects to the 2nd Place, Aries, and Mars becomes Lord of the Year. It continues like this, from one place to the next on the solar return/birthday, until the start of their 13th year, which is the 12th birthday, at which point we return back to Place 1, Pisces, with Jupiter as the Lord of the Year again.
Another example. Let’s say someone has Leo rising. Then ages 0, 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, 84, 96, and so forth are 1st Place/Leo years with the Sun as Lord, while ages 1, 13, 25, 37, 49, 61, 73, 85, 97, and so forth are 2nd Place/Virgo years with Mercury as Lord. Where will the Ascendant profect when they are 18 years old? 18 years old is their 19th year, so take the remainder of 19/12, which is 7, and this is the Place of that year, the 7th Place, Aquarius, with Saturn as Lord. What about at age 44? 44 is the 45th year, so take 45/12 which leaves a remainder of 9, so it is a 9th Place/Aries/Mars year. If 0 is the remainder, then you’re dealing with the 12th place (sorry, if I’m making this more confusing).
Another way to find profections is to simply use the age itself and count forward or backwards from a multiple of 12, as all multiples of 12 will be the 1st Place. So if you are looking at age 25, then you know this is one year past 24, so it will be the 2nd Place. If it is age 35, then this is one year back from 36, so it will be the 12th place.
Take a number of charts and simply try finding the place of the current profected Ascendant for all of them. After a short time you should be able to do this very easily in your head knowing nothing more than the person’s rising sign and age.
Usage of Annual Profection of the Ascendant
The annual profection of the Ascendant is interesting from a symbolic viewpoint. First, the sky is sometimes generally conceptualized as the soul or mind, while the earth is conceptualized as the body, and as the Ascendant is the point where the sky with the Sun and planets within it appears to stream up from the earth at the eastern horizon, the Ascendant is like a soul peering out through a body. The Ascendant, and the rising sign in general, are representative of the self, or the locus of the actual physical discrete person in the horoscope. As the Ascendant profects to the next house of the chart, it is as if the person pays a visit to a new house each year and the goings on there thus become awakened in the life. While the Lord of the Year is given a lot of attention, in some ways the planets in the sign itself are even more important, being directly encountered during this visit, while the lord of the chart particularly presides over and takes responsibility for the affairs.
Paulus on the Lord of the Year (Ch. 31, from Greenbaum trans., 2001, p. 65):
[…] falls to Virgo. Hermes is the lord of the year. We examine the [star] of Hermes, how it lies in the nativity, and which of the stars make a baleful aspect to it, and which look ahead at the zōidion where the year has chanced to be, and which were configured with it in the nativity.
There are profections for months also, and days, as well as other types of profections of planets, all following this same principal of moving something into a new house at each new time interval. We will address other uses and varieties of profections in future posts. However, the annual profection of the Ascendant has a particularly special significance. Not only does it establish a sort of main “lord of the year”, and highlight a sign and place, but it is also incorporated strongly into other predictive techniques. For instance, in Abu Ma’shar’s particular predictive system he pays special attention to the sign of the profected Ascendant and its lord in the solar return chart. Additionally, I find it particularly helpful to pay attention to the transits from and to the lord of the year, and through the sign of the profected Ascendant.
Examples of Use with Transits
To simplify, I’m going to give an example of using profections to highlight important transits, as this will be the easiest way for the beginner to start working with profections. However, I caution against trying to predict on the basis of an annual profection and transits alone. There are many other factors, and in time we will explore them and learn how they fit together.
It is very difficult to find examples to just use transits emphasized by just the annual profection but I know of one particularly striking one which I’ll share. We’ll explore this example and others in more depth with other predictive techniques as we delve deeper in later posts of this series.
James Randi Publicly Announces Cancer Diagnosis
[Note: this section corrected 6/27/12 using input from reader, Erna]
I’ve addressed Randi’s chart before in terms of belief, so I won’t do much analysis here. Suffice it to say, I admire the guy, I think the chart info that he has provided for himself is honest and accurate, and his chart has a lot to say. In this case we’ll be looking at the malefics in Randi’s chart, Mars and Saturn. Mars is a malefic, and Mars is here the ruler of the 6th of disease, and is in the 12th of loss, oppression, hidden enemies, and such. Both the 6th and 12th are largely regarded as the worst of the bad places in ancient astrology, so malefics in these places have the capacity to signify quite difficult matters when activated. Saturn is the out of sect malefic in Randi’s chart, and as such tends to signify in a way that is both difficult and seems disloyal to Randi’s self and purpose. Randi was diagnosed with intestinal cancer in mid-2009 and it looks to have been successfully treated, but it was certainly difficult period.
James Randi was born in August of 1928, so when he was diagnosed with intestinal cancer in June of 2009, as well as when he announced that cancer treatment was underway on or about July 9, 2009, at the Amazing Meeting that year, he was 80 years old. Age 84 would be a 1st place year, so age 80 would be back 4 places at the 9th place, Aquarius, with Saturn as Lord of the Year. Generally, Saturn would be regarded as the more difficult of the malefics because Randi was born at night and Saturn is loyal to those born during the day. Saturn’s ability to signify difficulty is also shown in its position in the sometimes antagonistic 7th house and the location of Saturn’s twelfth-part in the 12th house which is a dark place called bad spirit as it was particularly associated with problems (especially mental/social ones shown by the word “spirit”).
Note: Using Valens-style profections, in which the planets are also profected, Saturn profects 9 places to the 3rd house, where the Sun and Mercury are located. Saturn to the Sun is particularly symbolic of health issues, as is Saturn to the ruler of the Ascendant (Mercury).
Looking at the (non-precessed) solar return for that year which was in August of 2008, we find that the Ascendant was 17 Virgo, with both Saturn and Mars (with Venus) in the rising sign (which is the 4th house of the natal; see above). At the time of Randi’s cancer announcement transiting Saturn was also at 17 Virgo afflicting the solar return Ascendant (see Saturn in outer wheel of chart below).
As mentioned, Mars is a malefic, in a bad place, and Mars also dominates Mercury, ruler of the Ascendant. In June and the first half of July, 2009, Mars was transiting through Taurus, Randi’s 12th place, where Mars is also located natally. The twelfth-part of Saturn, lord of the year, is also located there.
Fascinatingly, James Randi publicly announced the cancer during his exact Mars return. The Mars return occurs about every 2 years due to the apparent speed of Mars through the zodiac (which is about half a degree per day), so this is not an event that happens every day or often. Not only did the return of Mars coincide with the announcement but Mars was most likely in the exact same degree of the zodiac that Mars held at birth when the announcement took place, a degree it would occupy that year for only those first couple days of the July 2009 Amazing Meeting. The last time Mars returned to that degree (i.e. his last Mars return) had been in August 2007, and the next Mars return was not until June of 2011.
I’ve provided the transit chart (relative to natal) so that you can confirm the positions of the planets, and particularly of Mars on the day of the Amazing Meeting during which Randi publicly announces the cancer. I’ve also provided the chart with transits around the edge, and with the Mars return highlighted for better visual understanding.
To recap: It was a Saturn year for Randi, and Saturn is a planet that is able to signify the most difficult circumstances in Randi’s life, as well as one which has its twelfth-part position with Mars, the other planet that signifies difficulties, both in the 12th house which can show health difficulties, and with Mars ruling the 12th even more particularly showing health difficulties. The combined influence of Saturn and Mars was highlighted in the solar return, which featured both planets in the rising sign, symbolic of the self. At the time of the events, Saturn transited in the very degree of the solar return Ascendant, while Mars returned to its natal position in a difficult house. While this example brings in other techniques besides basic annual profections (returns, twelfth-part positions, Valens-style profections, transits), it illustrates how annual profections help to form the backdrop to other predictive techniques and structure their meaning.
Using annual profections of the Ascendant simply to recognize periods when natal significations will be more active is a good exercise. However, we don’t experience the same fate at age 12, as at age 24, and at 36, etc. Paying particular attention to transits of and to the lord of the year, and through the place, in addition to the natal significations, particularly those that renew a natal signification, can sharpen up your use of transits.
I would like to add that profections are thought of as a handing off of responsibility. A new planet is taking some responsibility for your well-being, when you, signified by the Ascendant enter into the planet’s house. The Lord of the Year, has some responsibility for carrying out some of the big yearly plans for you. As we look at the Lord of the Month in the next post, you’ll see similar themes, where a certain plan has increased responsibility for the big monthly plans that pertain to you.
If you’re new to profections, then I hope this post has been informative and that you have fun with this great, simple, and effective technique that was a staple of the ancient astrologer’s repertoire.
Alexandrinus, P., & Olympiodorus. (2001). Late Classical Astrology: Paulus Alexandrinus and Olypiodorus. (D. G. Greenbaum, Trans.). Reston, VA: Arhat.
James Randi. (2011, November 28). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:29, December 3, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=James_Randi&oldid=462839271