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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.

Traditional Astrology of Death | Marvin Gaye

I was about halfway through a post on the death of Donna Summer when astrologer Ile Spasev brought Marvin Gaye’s 1984 death at the hand of his father to my attention.  Once I started getting into Marvin Gaye’s chart and death, I found it too fascinating in terms of the importance of the planetary years, solar return, profection, and transits to not share it first, before finishing my Summer article.  This day preceding both an ingress and an eclipse has been a strange one altogether for me.  What’s going on!?

One of the most interesting things about Gaye’s death is that it occurred on the exact day of his solar return, as well as a day of the New Moon (conjunction of the Sun and Moon).  While it occurred the day before his calendar birthday, in astrological terms, it didn’t occur on the eve of his 45th birthday, but rather on the day of his exact real natural “birthday” (solar return), and just a few hours after the exact point of return in his annual cycle.

Marvin Gaye’s Natal Chart

According to AstroDatabank, which has given the Gaye birth data an A rating for accuracy, Marvin was born on 4/2/1939 at 11:58am in Washington D.C.  According to news releases he was pronounced dead on the afternoon of 4/1/1984 at 1:01pm in L.A., California.  His death followed his intervention in arguments between his mother and father both the day before and again directly preceding the circumstances of his death in which his father shot him in the heat of anger.

His birth chart is shown below with the twelfth-part positions depicted along the outer wheel.

Marvin Gaye Natal Chart w/twelfth-parts
Marvin Gaye Natal Chart w/twelfth-parts

In ancient astrology, Saturn, the Sun, and the 4th place (Valens adds the 9th place) are particularly relevant for the father.  In Gaye’s chart, the Sun in the bound of Venus in the 10th is more pertinent to his fame and honors than his father, as the Sun also naturally signifies honors as does the 10th place, and the Sun adhering (applying conjunction within 3 degrees) to Mercury (vocal) and in the bound of Venus (arts) has particular relevance to his singing fame.  The Sun additionally has no “dignity” in the 4th, in that it has little say over the 4th of father, family, origins, and property.  Saturn on the other hand, is also in the 10th (a “stake” of the 4th) and also naturally signifies fathers, but additionally is the exaltation and first triplicity lord of the 4th place of fathers, therefore Saturn is considered to give the strongest testimony regarding matters concerning the father.

Saturn does a good job of describing the father and death as well.  Saturn is in a cardinal or changeable/moveable sign, which are known for initiating major changes through abrupt action.  Saturn is also in a sign and the bound of Mars, which is the planet with dominion over acts of violence.  Saturn is additionally dominated by Mars (in a right hand whole sign square), which gives Mars substantial influence over Saturn, giving symbolism of the father becoming dominated by rage and violence.  Saturn afflicts Mercury, the Sun, and the twelfth-part Ascendant, bringing in a sense of argumentation, publicity, and harm to Gaye’s self.

Importantly, Saturn is the planet with the greatest testimony over the place of death in the chart, the 8th place or house, Aquarius.  This is because Saturn rules Aquarius, is the first triplicity lord there, regards the place, and is a natural significator of death – therefore, Saturn’s testimony with regards to death is very strong in his chart.  The Sun also has some testimony over both the father (natural significator of the father in a stake of the 4th) and death (rules the 8th from fortune, Leo, and the twelfth-part of the Sun is in the 8th from fortune), and shows a repeat connection between the father and death.

Both Venus and the Moon give testimony regarding the mother, even though neither of them regard the 4th of origins.  Venus does so because she rules the 4th and is a feminine natural significator of mothers, while the Moon does so because she is a natural significator of mothers and is in the 3rd, her joy, which Valens also asserted as the place of the mother.

The Moon and Jupiter provide some of the strongest testimony in terms of Gaye himself and his temperament, as they both regard the 1st and have a lot of lordship over the actual Ascendant.

Planetary Years

I discussed the use of planetary years for prediction in a past post, which you can read here for reference.

Marvin’s death occurred exactly at the point of his 45th year.  Very rarely do planetary years culminate at such an exact point.  Fascinatingly, 45 is indeed the activation of Saturn-Mars relationships in the natal chart, as Saturn has 30 and Mars 15, yielding 45.  This signifies a very major event as it activates three major Saturn-Mars configurations in his chart: the Mars-Saturn square with Mars dominating, Saturn in Aries (domicile of Mars), and Mars in Capricorn (domicile of Saturn).

Thus planetary years show strong activations linking the father with violence and death.

Furthermore, according to the technique of planetary days discussed by Julius Firmicus Maternus (4th Century CE), the ruler of the year gets the first set of days in the year.  Therefore, Mars was the planet in charge of signifying both the plan for the year and the days at the time of death.


Those unfamiliar with profections, which involve the movement of positions in the chart into a new house at set intervals, typically annually, can learn about profections in my series of posts on the topic.

As the death happened just after the turning of the 45th year, the annual profection of the Ascendant moved to the 10th place, Aries, on that day for the year.  Therefore, the profection was highlighting those planets in the 10th place, Saturn, Mercury, and the Sun, with Mars, the ruler of Aries, as the lord of the year.  In other words, the profections show yet another activation of Saturn and Mars, specifically Saturn in Aries, ruled by and dominated by Mars.

Solar Return and Transits

I have been meaning to expand on my series on solar returns, which I started here.  For now, it suffices to look at the non-precessed solar return here as a set of transits to the natal chart, depicted along the outside of the natal below. In addition, I have posted the natal chart with twelfth-parts again, as there are fascinating connections between the return, which is also the transit chart for the day of death, and natal twelfth-parts.

Gaye's Final Solar Return which is on the day he died
Outer positions are from Gaye’s Final Solar Return which is on the day he died
Marvin Gaye Natal Chart w/twelfth-parts
Marvin Gaye Natal Chart w/twelfth-parts

First, it is noteworthy that the return, and death, occurred on the day of a New Moon in Aries.  This is a further activation of the sign Aries and its occupants, including Saturn, and its ruler Mars.

Second, as Mars is lord of the year and of days, the position of Mars in the return is of pivotal importance.  In the return Mars is in Scorpio, one of his own domiciles, and is with Saturn and in Saturn’s bound again echoing the Mars-Saturn significations.  Additionally, Mars is at 28 Scorpio, conjunct the twelfth-part of natal Saturn in the very same degree! The twelfth-part of transiting Mars was itself at 9 Libra, opposing Gaye’s Sun.

In addition to Mars transiting right over the natal twelfth-part Saturn at the time of death, the twelfth-part of transiting Venus was at 27-28 Scorpio, right with that transiting Mars and natal twelfth-part Saturn.  I take this Venus transit to represent the connection with the mother, who Gaye was arguing on behalf of at the time of the incident.  Transiting Venus at 22 Pisces with Gaye’s Jupiter, symbolic of himself, and opposed to his Moon, symbolic of both himself and his mother.  Fascinatingly, this Venus transit was also right over the natal twelfth-part of Gaye’s Mars, which is at about 21-22 Pisces, showing them both coming into contact with the father’s rage and violence.

At the time Gaye was pronounced dead, the Moon was at 16 Aries adhering to Gaye’s Saturn.

Primary Directions – Distributors

It is also worth noting important primary directions around the time of death, as I did for the death of Whitney Houston.

Marvin Gaye's Distributors of the Ascendant and Sect Light
Marvin Gaye’s Distributors of the Ascendant and Sect Light

First, we look at the distributors.  Amazingly, both the Ascendant and the Sect Light (the Sun) were directing through the bounds of Mars, the out of sect malefic during the period in which the death took place.

However, the aspectual directions are not as striking to me for the most part, which may be indicative of slight inaccuracy in the birth time (directions involving the Ascendant and MC can be altered by many months for each one minute inaccuracy in birth time).  One of the more interesting directions occurring within 6 months of his death is that of the star Algol (associated with death and violence) directing to Gaye’s MC.

Algol Directed to Gaye's Natal MC
Algol Directed to Gaye’s Natal MC


While death is not a pleasant topic to analyze, it is one of the most definitive events in every individual’s existence, and therefore one of the most important events to look at from an astrological standpoint.  In seeing that there is or are some higher intelligences at work in this universe such that they can express symbolism reflecting events such as an individual’s death is both beautiful and hard to get one’s head around, especially in relation to such an almost universally loathed facet of the way things work in story we take part in as human beings.  Perhaps our analysis will bring us closer to accurately spot death or even averting death for a time.  Perhaps Urania will simply whisper indications more quietly when we forsake her secrets.  In any case, even in hindsight, looking back on the pertinence of the symbolism when using the ancient techniques is always thought-provoking and stirs up our religious and spiritual functions of seeking the truth with humility.

Traditional Astrology of Death | Whitney Houston

The singer Whitney Houston recently passed.  Glancing briefly at some of the predictive factors leading up to her death I’ve found that there was a strong emphasis on Saturn, both natal and transiting, as Saturn transited through her 8th, occupied natally by Mars.  There was also a highlighting of transiting Mars in her 7th by monthly profection.  I give a very brief look at her natal chart, last solar return, last lunar return, and transits of the day of death below.

Planetary Years: Sun & Saturn

Whitney Houston's Natal Chart
Whitney Houston’s Natal Chart

A popular technique among Hellenistic and Persian astrologers for timing involved the use of the planetary years and their combinations (and sometimes also divisions) for signifying times when natal planets and combinations particularly become expressed.

Whitney was 48 1/2 at the time of death, and one of the more interesting combinations due at about that age is the combination of the Sun (19) and Saturn (30), at age 49.  It is interesting given Whitney’s Sun-Saturn opposition across the health and loss oriented 6th and 12th houses. Sun-Saturn is particularly significant of death, as Saturn, the natural significator of death and general lack and coldness is opposing the Sun, natural significator of vital powers and the heart.

Whitney Houston’s natal chart is pictured, and is Rodden-rated AA for accuracy.  Information about her death tends to be updated regularly in her Wikipedia entry.

Monthly Profection and Transiting Mars

As she had turned 48 at her last solar return, and 48 is a multiple of 12, Whitney was in a 1st Place, Pisces, annual profection, and all points in the chart profect back to their natal positions.  Jupiter is the lord of the year and is a planet with a particularly broad range of signification in the natal chart from benefic to malefic, as Jupiter is naturally of a very benefic nature, particularly in connection with money, and is here in the house of money, as well as self and career (Jupiter rules 1st and 10th), but Jupiter is also in a dark place (2nd), out of sect (it’s a night birth), overcome by Saturn which is in the 12th and out of sect, and opposed by Mars in the 8th (which also opposes the Moon, significator of the body).

The monthly profection of the Ascendant for the month of death (Feb. 9th to March 9th) is her 7th Place, Virgo, ruled by and occupied by natal Mercury (side note:  her natal Mercury is also conjunct her natal modern planetoid Pluto within a degree).  The reader interested in a primer on annual and monthly profections of the Ascendant can find one in a previous blog post.  The 7th place, the place of the setting Sun, was one of a few places associated with death in ancient astrology (though less so than the 8th).  Of the 7th, Manilius (1st Century CE) said, “…wonder not if it is called the portal of sombre Pluto and keeps control over the end of life and death’s firm-bolted door. Here dies even the very light of day, which the ground beneath steals away from the world and locks up captive in the dungeon of night” (Manilius, Astronomica, Book 2, 951-954, Goold trans., p. 157-159).

Interestingly, she (symbolized by the profecting Ascendant) was entering the House (7th) occupied by transiting Mars (20 Virgo – see death transits below) at the time, and Mars is her natal occupant of her 8th House of death.  The monthly profection is congruent with the significations that the month beginning Feb. 9th may bring her into contact with danger that associates readily with death.

Last Solar Return: 8th House Saturn Rising


Whitney Houston 2011 Solar Return (non-precessed)
Whitney Houston 2011 Solar Return (non-precessed)

While I find considerable significance in both precessed and non-precessed solar returns in my own practice, and lean more heavily on the significations of precessed returns for in depth reading, it is Whitney’s final non-precessed solar return that is most striking, with Saturn, natural significator of death, conjunct the Ascendant, significator of self, within less than 3 degrees in her natal 8th House (house of death), Libra (and dominated by Mars in Cancer). Note: I do not relocate solar returns – I find that non-relocated return charts give the strongest significations.

Also note that Jupiter, lord of the year, is placed in the solar return 8th house.

Last Lunar Return: 8th House Saturn Rising

Whitney’s final lunar return took place on January 28th, 2012, and is pictured.

Houston's Final Lunar Return
Houston’s Final Lunar Return (non-precessed)

Her final lunar return echoed the solar return with Saturn in Libra rising once again, strongly advancing toward the return Ascendant within 6 degrees.

In this case, Saturn was additionally in the bound of Mars, natal occupant of the 8th of death.  Saturn also opposes the Moon, significator of the body, and opposes Jupiter (lord of the year) out of sign but within 3 degrees and thus considered “scrutinizing” within the Hellenistic aspect doctrine, with Jupiter again in the 8th of the return.

Death Transits: The Moon Arrives, Saturn in Focus

On the day of her death in Beverly Hills in the early afternoon of Feb. 11, 2012, the Moon was transiting through Libra, Whitney Houston’s 8th House pertaining to death, occupied by natal malefic Mars, and transiting malefic Saturn.

Transits to Houston's Natal at Time of Death
Transits to Houston’s Natal at Time of Death

In addition to the transiting Moon’s co-presence with natal Mars and transiting Saturn, natal Saturn is also in focus by the Sun’s transit through Aquarius and recent conjunction with natal Saturn, still fresh within 3 degrees of orb at the time of Whitney’s death.



Manilius, M. (1977). Astronomica. (G. P. Goold, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library.

Astrological Predictive Techniques | 4. Profections in the Style of Vettius Valens

For those unfamiliar with the basic technique of annual and monthly profections, please review the last three posts of the series which introduce annual profections, those of smaller periods, and some ways the profected Ascendant or “terminal sign”, and its ruler, are combined with other predictive techniques.

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.

Anonymous Natal Chart
Anonymous Natal Chart

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

Astrological Predictive Techniques | 3. More Basic Profection Examples

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.

Technique Brief

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.

Examples Brief

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.

James Randi’s Cancer

I’ve looked at his chart in terms of belief in the past, and in the first post of the series, I also looked at the particular event of him announcing a diagnosis of cancer to fans in early July of 2009, based on a June 2009 diagnosis (currently, Randi’s cancer is believed to have been successfully treated).  Let’s re-examine this last event, with a particular emphasis on the month lord at the time he received the diagnosis, June 2009.

Cancer Announcement transits (outer wheel) to natal chart (inner wheel)
Cancer Announcement transits (outer wheel) to natal chart (inner wheel)

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.

Randy's 2008 Solar Return (precessed)
Randy’s 2008 Solar Return (precessed)

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).

Carradine's natal chart with transits at time of death on outer wheel
Carradine’s natal chart with transits at time of death on outer wheel

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.

David Carradine's Last Solar Return (precessed)
David Carradine’s Last Solar Return (precessed)

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.

Astrological Predictive Techniques | 1. Profections Intro

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.

Introducing Profections

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's Natal Chart (twelfth-part positions along the outside)
James Randi’s Natal Chart (twelfth-part positions along the outside)

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).

Randi's 2008 Solar Return (non-precessed)
Randi’s 2008 Solar Return (non-precessed)

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.

Cancer Announcement transits (outer wheel) to natal chart (inner wheel)
Cancer Announcement transits (outer wheel) to natal chart (inner wheel)

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

Solar Eclipse Nov. 25, 2011 in Astrological Images

Nov. 25, 2011 Eclipse
Eclipse from NZ. Credit: Mike Nicholson Source: SpaceWeather.com

Sorry, I won’t be offering any interpretation or predictions. :-)  Just some images and notes.

There was a partial solar eclipse last night.  It was visible across Antarctica, and in New Zealand near sunset.  More about the visibility and astronomy of the eclipse can be found on Wikipedia.

Chart from D.C.

November 2011 Solar Eclipse DC (ctrl+click to enlarge)

Eclipse is in the sign and bound of Jupiter, at night, with Jupiter as first triplicity ruler of the eclipse.  Mercury and Venus in the sign of the eclipse.  In DC, Mars is in the 1st, rules the bound of the Ascendant, is the participating triplicity ruler of the 1st, has the Moon applying to it, is in sect, in a good place, and overcome by Jupiter by trine.  Mars also rules the bound of the MC.  Mercury is domicile and exaltation lord of the 1st, scrutinizes the Ascendant, is in the 4th, is in phasis, conjunct the IC, in 2nd station (just stationed retrograde), in its own term, in sect, assembled with Venus and the eclipse (Sun and Moon), dominated by Mars, and overcome by Saturn.  Mercury also rules the 10th and is the 1st triplicity ruler of the 10th.

Eclipse Path Map

November 2011 Solar Eclipse Map
November 2011 Solar Eclipse Path Map