Tag Archives: Hellenistic astrology

Astrology with Free Software | Valens is the Best Morinus Yet

Why Free Software?

I try to rely on free and open source software options as much as possible in my work.  Good free software has a very beneficial and democratizing effect on the practice of astrology.  I try to use free software for everything I do on the blog because it allows my readers, of just about any income level, to replicate the charts and information that I use for themselves. Furthermore, there is a wealth of free birth data online, particularly on Astrodatabank, so access to free software which allows for easy calculation of relevant charts and tables also gives readers the ability to test out techniques for themselves, against a wider range of data than I can possibly present in any article.

What is Morinus?

As readers of the blog will know, my favorite free software program is Morinus. I have used the Traditional Morinus for the examples in almost all blog posts, and I’ve discussed using it in previous posts in this series.  Morinus is not just a free traditional astrology program, but it is a great program, as it will allow you to do many things that even some of the most costly programs won’t do (for instance have a wheel in which the terms of the signs, the 7 Hellenistic lots of Paulus Alexandrinus, and the twelfth-parts of the planet are all immediately visible; with quick access to primary directions and zodiacal releasing information). Additionally, Morinus is open source, so it is truly “the community’s software”, in that members of the community with coding experience are free to check out the source code and adapt it to meet their needs, developing their own “versions” of the program which expand upon it.  In this sense, the developers (thanks Robert!) have given the astrological community a truly valuable gift and we’d be fools to pass it up for commercial products with less community potential.  Check out this post for more information on Morinus and free software in general, and this post on how to calculate primary directions with Morinus.


Over a year ago, in early 2014, a new version of Morinus emerged without much fanfare, which is specifically tailored to Hellenistic astrology.  It is called “Valens“, after the 2nd century Hellenistic astrologer Vettius Valens, as it was inspired by Chris Brennan’s course on Hellenistic astrology, in which some of Valens’ timing techniques, especially Zodiacal Releasing, figure prominently.  In addition to the inclusion of Zodiacal Releasing, this version of Morinus also features the ability to easily insert the prenatal syzygy and the 7 hermetic lots (one lot for each planet as discussed by Paulus Alexandrinus and sourced from an early text attributed to Hermes).

I’m a little late to the game, but after trying out the software, I firmly believe it is the best yet for Hellenistic techniques, and will serve readers well as they read the posts on this blog.

You can download the software here (for Windows scroll to the bottom of the page and download the Valensexe.zip).  Follow the installation instructions that you find on that page, as there is one additional step after you unzip the zip file (you will need to install the “Valens” font, located in the “Res” folder, by double-clicking it, or the chart will have letters in place of symbols).

A Few Optimizations

If you want your charts to look like the ones on this blog, here are a few tips. First, right click on the chart and choose “B&W” to make your chart black and white. I prefer the clean look of a black and white chart, though this is a personal preference that does not impact practice. Secondly, you’ll want to set the Moon’s node to the “true node”, which you can do by holding the SHIFT key and pressing ‘W’.  Thirdly, get rid of any quadrant divisions if there are any by holding SHIFT and pressing F1. Finally, let’s go into the appearance options (Appearance from the Options menu or hold SHIFT and press ‘A’).  For typical use, I would set my appearance options as shown in the table below, as I do like to see the two main Hellenistic lots (Fortune/Moon and Spirit/Sun – click for more information on the Hellenistic lots) as well as the prenatal syzygy, and the twelfth-parts (click for more information about the twelfth-parts), but I don’t use the hermetic lots of the planets all that much and I find a round chart easier to read, and generally more intuitive, than a square one. Oh yeah, also hold SHIFT and press U, so that your options will be saved automatically (I think the chart may still revert back to color when you reopen though).

Appearance Table in Valens

You should end up with a chart that resembles the one below:

Prince Charles

For more information on how to use Valens, please see the documentation on the site for the software and check out other articles on this site which explore specific techniques, such as lots and primary directions, as linked to above.

I hope you’ll start turning to the Valens program as the first one that you use to pull up charts. Please spread the word!

Traditional Astrology of Death | Donna Summer

Like so many people around the world, I felt sad to hear that Donna Summer passed away on Thursday, May 17th after a battle with a lung cancer.  Donna Summer was a musical icon and will be dearly missed.

I missed out on the heyday of disco in the mid-’70’s but I remember as a child in the early ’80’s dancing to songs by Donna Summer, Michael Jackson, and other fun pop, funk, and disco artists of the era.  There was something magical about all the new electronic instrumentation that would come to characterize the weirdness of the eighties.  While I tried to distance myself from pop music as a young adult, there has always been something childishly innocent about eighties pop stylings that as an adult I can now appreciate – making me feel like a kid again!

I’m probably in the minority of traditional astrologers in that I don’t believe there is a single method out there, such as a hyleg/alcochoden technique, that on its own allows one to make accurate predictions about the length of someone’s life.  Rather, I ‘m someone who thinks that if you throw a lot of techniques together, then you may be able to see it coming, but it’s quite difficult.  Looking at it in hindsight is always easier, and that’s largely what this series is about.

I’d like to look at some of the “signs” around the time of Donna Summers death and how they relate to death.  By exploring the connection between deaths and natal predictive techniques, we sharpen our ability to recognize when the astrological language of death and appreciate the intricate beauty of even such a dark and sorrowful event as death.

Donna Summer

Donna Summer was born on New Years Eve, 1948 (12/31/48) at 9pm in Boston, MA (source: AstroDatabank).  For the reader unfamiliar with her life and work, a good source for a quick brief is the Wikipedia article on her.  Her chart with twelfth-parts is shown below.

Donna Summer's Natal Chart with Twelfth-Parts
Donna Summer’s Natal Chart with Twelfth-Parts

It is hard to imagine a chart more oriented toward artistic performance. First, Venus is the significator of profession, as she is in a stake of the chart (the 4th) and strongly advancing, while having triplicity at the Ascendant and possibly bound, depending on how precisely accurate the birth time is, and Venus receives the next application of the Moon and is with the twelfth-part of the sect light (the Moon is the sect light as she was born at night).  My approach to the technique for professional significator can be found here.  Secondly, there is a whopping 5 planets, including the Sun and Moon, as well as the ruler of the 1st (in the bound of Venus), in Capricorn, the 5th House, which is the Joy of Venus and is performance-oriented. Finally, the ruler of the 5th is on the Ascendant, and thus is extremely prominent.

Mercury also crops up as important for the profession as Mercury rules the 1st and 10th signs and the bounds of the Asc and MC, and has its twelfth-part in the Ascendant.  Venus and Mercury as co-significators of profession, with Venus more dominant, combines artistry/beauty (Venus) with vocalization (Mercury), being quite common for singers.

In death analysis, we are most interested in the more potentially difficult elements of the chart.  In my opinion, one of such difficult configurations is the conjunction of the Ascendant (significant for the body and self) with the out of sect malefic, Saturn (significant for death, loss, struggle, isolation).  Another is the close (but separating) conjunction of the Moon and Mars (lord of the 8th of death, Aries) in the bound of Mars within 3 degrees of each other, and under the domicile rulership of Saturn.

Planetary Years

For an introduction to planetary years, please see the introductory post on them.  Donna Summer was in her 64th year at the time of death and was 63 years old.  Therefore we are particularly interested in combinations of planetary years that add to 63 or 64, which may involve multiples, as there are not two distinct planetary minor years that sum to more than 55.

There are only two combinations of three planets’ minor years that work without any multiples.  They are Saturn-Mars-Sun (30+15+19=64) and Saturn-Venus-Moon (30+8+25=63).

Possibilities involving multiples with one and two planets are below:

One Planet: Venus (64)

Two Planets: Venus-Mercury (24+40=64), Mars-Sun (45+19=64), Jupiter-Mercury (24+40=64), Sun-Moon (38+25=63).

Of these, I regard some as less important because the planets in the relationship are not all configured together with each other by either rulership or aspects.  For instance, Saturn-Venus-Moon is less significant to me because while Saturn aspects Venus and the Moon, Venus and the Moon are in aversion, and Venus is not ruled by Saturn.  Similarly, Venus and Mercury are in aversion.

In conclusion, the four most important activations are Saturn-Mars-Sun (Mars and the Sun co-present and ruled by Saturn which overcomes them by trine), Mars-Sun (Mars and the Sun together), Sun-Moon (the Sun and Moon co-present), and Venus.  Of these, I take Saturn-Mars-Sun to be the most important, as it involves no planetary multiples and it is reinforced by an activation of Mars-Sun involving multiples of Mars.

This Saturn-Mars-Sun activation is also the most significant one for the matter of death, as it includes both malefics (which each directly afflict significators of the body in the chart) and the Sun, which can be symbolic of vital power.

The importance of the Saturn-Mars-Sun activation is confirmed by transits on the morning of the death, in which we see the transiting Sun applying to natal Mars within a degree, and transiting Mars with natal Saturn and applying to natal Sun within a degree (transiting Sun also scrutinized, by opposition, natal twelfth-part Mars at 25 Scorpio).

Transits to Natal - Morning of 5/17/12 in Naples, FL
Transits to Natal – Morning of 5/17/12 in Naples, FL

Zodiacal Releasing

One important time lord technique in the Hellenistic period for matters of bodily health involves the use of the Lot of the Moon, also known as Fortune (glyph looks like an X in a circle).  It was discussed by Valens in Book IV of his Anthology (only complete English translation the entire work is available here), and involves allotting the ruler Fortune the first time period which is of the length of its minor years, then transitioning to the next sign in succession activating that sign and its ruler for the number of planetary years of the ruler, and so forth.  There are also minor periods that are 1/12 the length, and some additional nuances.  I will feature a post on the technique at some future point, but for now, the interested reader can get a thorough education on the technique through Chris Brennan’s Hellenistic course, or simply his module on Zodiacal Releasing, and software to calculate these time lords down to the fourth level, designed by Curtis Manwaring, is available for free.

The two highest level periods are particularly important in zodiacal releasing.  I give four levels below:

  1. Sagittarius (Jupiter) – occupied by Venus and the twelfth-part of the Moon, ruler is cazimi the Sun in 5th, Capricorn.  This is about a 12 year period beginning in 2010.
  2. Capricorn (Saturn) – occupied by 5 planets, including Sun and Mars, with ruler in 1st, Virgo.  This is about a 2 year period beginning in February of 2011.
  3. Scorpio (Mars) – occupied by the twelfth-parts of the Ascendant, Saturn, and Mars, with ruler in 5th, Capricorn.  This is about a 5 week period beginning on May 9th, 2012.
  4. Capricorn (Saturn) – see #2.  This is about a 5 day period beginning on May 15th, 2012.

As mentioned, in interpreting the releasing of Fortune, Valens paid special attention particularly to the first two levels.  One interpretive principle commonly used is that the Lot or its ruler in an angle of the chart (1st, 10th, 7th, or 4th place) shows strength, while if cadent from an angle (12th, 9th, 6th, or 3rd place) it will show weakness.  This rule can get difficult to use in practice, as Valens also suggests at one point that we can use the angles of the Lot of Fortune.  If using both the angles and the angles of Fortune, with the released Lot and its ruler, then there are simply too many points and too many strong places in the chart to derive much meaning from it.

Some people sidestep this dilemma by considering only the angles and cadents from Fortune, and not from the Ascendant.  Using that approach, the Capricorn periods would be somewhat vulnerable as the Lot would be in the 6th from Fortune (a cadent place), as would be those periods ruled by a planet that is in Capricorn.  The place of the Lot was thought to show the start of things and the ruler the development.  So Level 1 in Sagittarius would start out not particularly strong or weak (as it is not an angle nor a cadent) but in the development of the period weaknesses could result (as the ruler is in the 6th from Fortune).  Level 2 in Capricorn would start out weak, and would not develop strong towards strength or weakness (as ruler is not in an angle or cadent of fortune).  Level 3 would start strong but end weak (Lot in angle, ruler in cadent).  Level 4, like Level 2, would be weak and not strongly improve.  Therefore, the overall stress of all 4 periods being placed on Capricorn, which is a cadent from Fortune, would seem to show some vulnerability when looking at this element of interpreting releasing.

Valens discusses other principles of interpreting releasing from Fortune which I feel are a bit easier to delineate.  One thing is that he does is view the 1st two levels as if the ruler of Level 1 is transmitting or passing off to the ruler of Level 2, almost like the ruler of Level 1 is running into some type of thing signified by the 2nd level ruler.  For instance, a benefic transmitting to a malefic, as in the case here with Jupiter transmitting to Saturn, shows overturn.  Additionally, the transmission of the Sun or Moon to Saturn is particularly dangerous for health (Saturn to the Sun or Moon indicating the opposite, vigor).  According to Robert Schmidt of Project Hindsight, the original meaning of a cazimi planet is that it takes over signification for the Sun.  If this is correct, then we might treat the transmission of Jupiter to Saturn, as more akin to a transmission of the Sun to Saturn because of the cazimi status of Jupiter.

… the sun and moon when transmitting to Saturn are indicative of setbacks and anxieties, and they bring hostility […] as well as bodily disorders and dangers, shipwrecks, sudden collapses, and very many crises …         (Valens, Anthologies, Book IV, Ch. 5, Riley trans., 2010, p. 73)

If we were to consider the other levels in this type of consideration then we have Saturn transmitting to Mars (Level 2 to 3) and Mars transmitting to Saturn (Level 3 to 4).  Valens regarded transmission from a malefic to a malefic (Saturn to Mars and vice-versa) as particularly dangerous, much like a situation that goes from bad to worse.

Interestingly, in the zodiacal releasing method for health we find that the emphasis is placed again on Saturn, Mars, and the Sun (as Jupiter is cazimi the Sun) both in terms of the planets themselves and the repeat activations of the 5th house.


Next, I would like to look at distributors, as they are time lords which tend to rule over more than a one year period and can be very significant for health matters.  The distributor is typically the bound lord of the directed (with zodiacal semi-arc non-latitudinal ptolemaic-key primary directions) Ascendant, though some later Persian astrologers used the sect light rather than the Ascendant (and in fact optional use of the sect light as an alternative to the Ascendant is common in many Hellenistic techniques as well).  The distributor is a time lord, but typically a planet actually applying an aspect to the directed angle or sect light (within 3 degrees presumably, as that was the definitive range for applications and separations, as distinct from regards, in Hellenistic astrology) would take over the lordship or at the very least share it.  The obsession with direct hits by primary direction, rather than use of it for time lords, was a later post-Hellenistic development.  I touch on some of these issues in my introductory post on primary directions (and there’s another post on calculation).

Distributors of Ascendant and Sect Light for Donna Summer
Distributors of Ascendant and Sect Light for Donna Summer

From the table of distributors we can see that the distributor of the Ascendant was Venus and that of the Moon (sect light) was Mars at the time of death.  And what of any aspectual co-rulers of the distributions?

One of the very useful features of the primary directions module in Morinus is that of pulling up the actual primary directed chart for a given day.  For the day of Summer’s death that chart is below.

Chart of Summer's PD Positions on 5/17/12
Chart of Summer’s PD Positions on 5/17/12

Reading a PD chart is a little counter-intuitive for those used to looking at secondary directions and transit charts, and I won’t be clarifying it much here, but it is helpful to take the PD chart as the base and the natal as the aspects to it – as the PD chart is telling you the degrees of the zodiac that are passing over the natal positions and the natal chart is telling you the degrees of the zodiac that the directed planets are sort of “glued to” as they travel by primary motion. In other words, it is as if the PD chart gives you the zodiacal positions of the significators and the natal gives you the zodiacal positions of the promissors.

The PD Ascendant (significator) is at 25 Libra, and it is applying a square to natal Mars (promissor) within 3°, and actually within 2° (or it could be conceived in the opposite way, that Mars has revolved under the Earth and is applying a square to the static natal Ascendant – the scenario is the same in both cases with the Ascendant as significator and Mars as promissor).  The PD Moon is at 23 Pisces (or the 23 Pisces has directed over the natal Moon) with no applying aspect within 3°.

In conclusion, Mars is the distributor of the sect light.  Mars also became the distributor, or at the very least the co-distributor, of the Ascendant starting about a year prior to death, becoming more significant than the bound lord distributor, Venus, due to applying aspect. 

These time lords by primary direction are extremely important for matters of health and general circumstance, and here we see an emphasis placed upon Mars in the natal chart, which is the ruler of the 8th house of death, and is in the 5th afflicting the Moon, Sun, and Ascendant lord.

There is one very close aspectual primary direction within about a month of the death that is very symbolic of death.  It is the direction of Saturn (promissor) to oppose the prenatal syzygy (significator).


Profections and Solar Return

If unfamiliar with profections, please see the introductory post on profections.

At age 63 the Ascendant profects to the 4th house, which in Summer’s case is Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter, which is cazimi the Sun, in the 5th with Mars, and ruled by Saturn.  Being the lord of the year, Jupiter is a particularly important planet to examine in the solar return.

As it turns out, Jupiter is in separating opposition to Saturn in the return (within 3°, i.e. scrutinizing, note: application/separation is a separate concept from regard in Hellenistic astrology – regard pertains to sign relationships, whereas application/separation pertain to degree relationships particularly within 3 degrees, termed “scrutinizing”, regardless of sign boundaries).  Saturn is the out of sect malefic, and Jupiter can take over signification from the Sun, so this can be a dangerous configuration.

Donna Summer's Pre-Death Solar Return
Donna Summer’s Pre-Death Solar Return

Additionally, return Saturn is at 28 Libra, in dominating scrutinizing square to the natal Mars-Moon conjunction at 27 and 29 Capricorn.  Furthermore, return Mars is transiting through the natal 1st, pertaining to the self and health, and is applying to natal Mercury, its ruler, and this is affliction of the Ascendant lord by Mars is even more apparent in the return chart itself (above) in which return Mars is in dominating square to return Mercury in the same degree! This is particularly significant because return Mars and Mercury transit through angles of the natal chart and because return Mercury transits through the sign of the annual profection.

Donna Summer's Pre-Death Solar Return
Donna Summer’s Pre-Death Solar Return on Outside of Natal Chart

Natal Venus is in the sign of the profection.  Natal Venus in the natal chart is dominated by Saturn.  Return Mars also dominates natal Venus.  Return Venus is placed in Aquarius, the 6th house, which is a weak house in aversion to the Ascendant which can be significant for sickness and is here ruled by Saturn.

The return Moon transits through the 8th of death, under rulership of Mars, echoing the Mars-Moon conjunction and its potential significance for bodily harm. The monthly profection of the Ascendant at the time of death was to Aries, the 8th house, ruled by Mars, and occupied by the Moon in the return.

Valens-Style Profections

I discussed Valens-Style profections in a past post you can read here.  As mentioned there, in addition to profection of the Ascendant, the profection of the Moon was particularly important for matters of the body.

In Summer’s case, the Moon profects to Aries (the 8th), which is empty, so it is a case of the Moon transmitting to Mars.  Again, this places emphasis on themes of death (the 8th, malefic ruler) and affliction of the body (Mars-Moon conjunction, Moon ruled by Mars).  The solar return transit of the Moon through the 8th is also a repetition of this theme.

Ruler of Days

Some Hellenistic astrologers used daily profections, which I don’t make much use of.  I’ve also discussed the small periods of zodiacal releasing above.  Additionally, I like the ruler of days technique discussed by Julius Firmicus Maternus.  In this technique we start with the lord of the year, and assign days to the planets according to their planetary days in zodiacal order, thus dividing up rulership of the year to each of the 7 planets.  The lord of the year is Jupiter for Donna Summer, so the planetary days are as follows:

  • Jupiter – 34
  • Mercury – 56 2/3
  • Mars – 42 1/2
  • Moon – 70 5/6
  • Saturn – 85
  • Venus – 22 2/3
  • Sun – 53 5/6

Using a date calculator, we find that Donna Summer died in about the 138th day following her solar return.  The Moon took over days about 133 days after the return, so the Moon was ruler of days at the time of death.

Day of Death

Finally, let’s return to the transits at the day of death.  We’ve already established that there is substantial importance placed on the malefics and the lights in the time lord techniques. Additionally, we established that Mars is of particular importance and that the Moon-Mars themes with the 8th crop up repeatedly when we narrow in on the year.  Finally, we determined that the monthly profection is to the 8th, Aries, which was occupied by the Moon in the return, that the Moon became ruler of days less than a week before the death, and that zodiacal releasing minor periods place considerable emphasis on Mars and the 5th. Now let’s separate some of these out in the transits:

  • The Moon: Shockingly, the Moon was transiting through Aries, the 8th, that of death, at the time of death, echoing both the solar return and the Valens-style profection of the Moon, in the house of the monthly profection.  The transiting Moon was likely making her next application to transiting Saturn, in opposition, at the time of death.  The transiting Moon applied a scrutinizing square to natal Mercury, the Ascendant lord, at the time of death.  Transiting Venus and Saturn were possibly in exact to the minute aspect, while receiving the application of the transiting Moon, at the time of death.
  • Mars: Mars was transiting at 9 Virgo through the 1st house.  Mars had stationed direct at 3 Virgo, in adherence to Donna Summer’s Ascendant (4 Virgo), about a month prior.  Transiting Mars was applying to the natal Sun-Jupiter conjunction within a degree at the time of death.  The transiting Sun and Jupiter was applying to natal Mars within 3 degrees at the time of death, while both conjunct the natal twelfth-part of Venus and opposed to the natal twelfth-part of Mars within 3 degrees. The transiting Sun-Jupiter conjunction by degree itself echoing the natal Sun-Jupiter conjunction.
Transits to Natal – Morning of 5/17/12 in Naples, FL

There are additional connections, but I think this suffices to show how the transits at the time of death were reflective of superficial activation of much more important repeat themes through time lord techniques of death and harm to health which pertain to the relationship between the malefics and the Sun, malefics and Ascendant, as well as the Moon-Mars conjunction and the 8th house.

Excerpt on Pre-Hellenistic Use of Twelfth-Parts

Some readers may be interested in a brief passage by historian Francesca Rochberg on the pre-Hellenistic use of twelfth-parts by Babylonian astrologers which dated back to at least the 5th century BCE.

In the passage she notes that the Babylonians were using the twelfth-parts of the zodiac in the context of their omen lore, hundreds of years prior to the advent of Hellenistic astrology. They came to be considered an important division of the signs by numerous notable Hellenistic astrologers as well (click for an introduction to the use of twelfth-parts).

You can read the entire section on twelfth-parts in Google Books by following the link below:

Francesca Rochberg on Babylonian Use of the Twelfth-Parts

Those unfamiliar with Rochberg may be interested in U.C. Berkeley’s introductory interview with her which can be read here:

Interview with Francesca Rochberg

Astrological Predictive Techniques | Returns | 1. Hellenistic Basics

Returns: What Are They? 

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. 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).

A Few Examples

For these examples, I’ll be using the free open-source astrological software, Morinus.  You can download the traditional version of Morinus here.

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
Example 1 (CTRL+Click to enlarge)

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 (CTRL+Click to enlarge)
Example 2 (CTRL+Click to enlarge)

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.


Example 3 (CTRL+Click to enlarge)
Example 3 (CTRL+Click to enlarge)

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.