The last three articles in this series introduced annual profections, those of smaller periods, and the combination of profections with other predictive techniques. In this article, the focus is on a more advanced use of profections. This technique is only found in the Anthology of Vettius Valens (2nd century CE). It is introduced in Book IV, Chapter 11 of his Anthology, with further discussion in some ensuing chapters and later books.
Download a Free Translation
The only full English translation of Valens’ Anthology is available for free download from its translator, Mark Riley. You can find it on his website in pdf format at this link (c.f about p. 77-82 for reference).
Three Points of Emphasis
The type of profections that Valens used adds three things to basic profections: 1. Profections of the Sect Light (i.e. Sun for a day birth, Moon for a night birth) can be more important than that of the Ascendant. This is especially so 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.
One: Importance of Profecting the Sect Light
Valens makes it very clear in Book V (Ch. 7) that he finds the profection of the sect light to be the most significant, even more so than the Ascendant:
The aphetic points of the years are operative when starting from any star, but the following aphetic points are most effective: for day births the sun, for night births the moon, especially when they are at the angles. Next <in effectiveness> is the Ascendant. (Riley, 2010, p. 108)
In fact, any planet or place can be profected, and we will discuss the significance of them below. However, the sect light and Ascendant have special general significance for the key events of the person’s year as a whole, so we may regard the planets that they transmit to as very important time lords of the period.
How to Profect the Sect Light
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 23 year old with Scorpio Rising, then the annual profection of the Ascendant would be to the 12th place, Libra. This is because Libra is one before the 1st place, as 23 is one year before 24. 24 is a multiple of 12 and multiples of 12 are 1st place years.
If the person was born during the day then the Sun would be the sect light, and we would profect that too. The Sun would profect to the 12th place from its own position. If the Sun were in Virgo, then the 12th place from the Sun would be one sign back, in Leo. Thus the annual profection of the Sect Light would be to Leo. Both the profection of the sect light and that of the Ascendant would be considered important.
Two: Occupants are More Important than Rulers
In the previous posts on profections, it was noted that it is as if the Ascendant is the person entering a new house of the chart each year. In that metaphor, the planet ruling the house is a “lord” of the time period. It is as if it were handed some responsibility concerning the place where the native is now dwelling or active. It was also noted that any planet or planets in the place of the profection are very important, perhaps more directly so, as the Ascendant becomes “co-present” with them in that place. The planet or planets are like alternative or additional lords of the period.
Valens on Occupants
For Valens, the planets occupying the place are preferred to the ruler. They are the ones that responsibility gets handed over to, and they are said to 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. The occupants take priority over the ruler. Also, solar return transiting occupants (“the stars in transit”) may be preferred to the ruler (more on that below). Additionally, Valens appears to suggest profecting the ruler of an empty house and finding which planet it transmits to, taking that planet over the ruler itself.
Example of Occupants Receiving Transmission
Let’s return to our example of a 23-year-old, born in the day, with Scorpio Rising and Sun in Virgo. All annual profections go to the 12th place from their natal positions. The Sun profects to Leo, which is occupied by Mars, and thus Mars receives the transmission of the Sect Light, becoming an important time lord of the year. The profection of the Ascendant is to Libra which is both ruled by and occupied by Venus, so Venus is the time lord for the Ascendant.
Solar Return Occupants
However, if we prefer solar return transits over rulers, then the picture changes again. Mercury occupied Leo at the solar return and is conjunct natal Mars within a degree. If we take the transiting occupant over the natal occupant then it would be Mercury that receives the transmission of the Sect Light.
Now let’s look at the Ascendant. The Ascendant, Scorpio, profects to Libra, which is occupied by both the Mars and Jupiter. Preferring the return planets, it is Jupiter and Mars rather than Venus which would be the Ascendant time lords. However, as noted below, Valens actually appeared to prefer natal occupants for occupied houses.
Different Time Lords
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, Venus, ruler of the sign of the Ascendant’s profection, is Lord of the Year. By contrast, in the Valens technique it is still Venus for the Ascendant profection, but we should look to Mars as even more significant as it receives the transmissions of the Sect Light. If we prefer solar return occupants then things get even more complicated with different results again.
It is important to acknowledge that this method of profections does yield different indications and was not a widespread technique in Hellenistic astrology. However, this does not mean it is ineffective. Many modern traditionalists who have explored the method have been very satisfied with the results. We will return to our example chart below.
Three: Profect It All
Valens sees significance and usefulness in profecting every planet and 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 indicates what is affected. The one receiving the transmission provides the form of the effect and responsibility for its completion. The significations of the planets and places profected are 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 four principal lots. Therefore, it is a general method applicable to any significant chart point as a means of understanding its changing state and the activations of its relationships within the chart. However, take the natal significations of the profected point, rather than restricting yourself to the significations given above. For instance, if Venus strongly signifies your sister in your natal chart and Venus transmits to a Mars in sect in your natal chart, then one indication may be that your sister starts taking self-defense classes or joins the military.
Cumulative Effect and Priority
Valens instructed us 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. Benefics indicate a good year, while malefics a bad one. If a near even mix of both then the year will be very changeable in terms of fortune.
Lights and Ascendant Show Dominant Influences
The transmissions of the sect light, Ascendant, and even the non-sect light 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)
Example: River Phoenix
Let’s return to our example. We noted that the Ascendant transmits to Venus and that the Sun transmits to Mars. We’ll keep the solar return out of things for now. Examining the other light (the Moon), we find her in Taurus, so she transmits to Aries. Aries is empty, so the Moon also transmits to Mars.
Let’s examine some other profections. Jupiter is with the Ascendant so it transmits to Venus. Mercury is with the Sun, so it also transmits to Mars. Saturn and the Descendant are with the Moon so they also transmit to Mars. Venus in Libra profects to Virgo so she transmits to the Sun and Mercury. The lot of Fortune is in Leo so it profects to Cancer which is empty, thus it transmits to the Moon.
Mars Dominates; Venus is Important
Two of the three main signifiers (the Sun and Moon) transmit to Mars, and a number of the other signifiers do as well, including Mercury, Saturn, and the Descendant. Some transmissions go to the Sun, the Moon, and Mercury, but all of their own transmissions are to Mars. The next most significant transmissions are those to Venus which most importantly pertain to the Ascendant and Jupiter.
What do we make of all this? Mars is the out-of-sect malefic and it is dominated (right-side square) strongly in the natal chart by Saturn. Mars rules the 1st house of the body and the 6th of disease and accidents so its most dangerous indications pertain to harmful accidents. Valens’ technique is telling us that Mars will affect some major areas of life in significant ways.
I would still use the Ascendant’s profection as the one that sets the self’s location and circumstance as was the typical practice in Hellenistic astrology. Venus is the lord of the year and the occupant of the profectional Ascendant. She is in Jupiter’s term in an air sign in the twelfth-house, out of sect, and only aspected by Mars. We see artists and artistry prominent, as well as the use of intoxicants (one of Venus’ significations). Jupiter indicates good times, success, and friendships, as well as bountiful opportunities for abuse of substances.
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, Valens clarified 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)
Breaking It Down
My understanding from reading Valens is that we prefer the natal occupants as receiving the transmission. If there are no natal occupants, then we prefer a planet that is an occupant in the solar return. If there are no occupants in the solar return, then we prefer the ruler.
So, in our example, we end up with mostly the same transmissions. This is because the important transmissions (Sun, Moon, Ascendant) are to places already occupied in the natal chart, or ones that remain empty in the return (Aries). There is a an exception that is worth noting though. Mars receives many transmissions so its transmission is worth looking at. Mars transmits to Cancer, and it is occupied by Venus in the return, so Venus receives the transmission rather than the Moon. In the natal chart, Mars signifies harm, among other things, while its transmission to Venus indicates the harm takes a Venusian form (pleasure, intoxicants).
The Death of River Phoenix
River Phoenix died on Halloween 1993, at age 23. Within a year of his death, two movies he starred in were released and he was involved in about a half dozen other film projects. Aside from a prolific and noteworthy acting career, he was also an animal rights activist and a singer songwriter.
He died a little over 2 months from his birthday. In those two months, he was known to be active with musician friends of his, and to be abusing drugs. This is reflected in the Ascendant’s profection to Libra, in the 12th place of undoing and social ills, ruled by and occupied by an out-of-sect Venus which seeks sensory indulgence and the arts. The year before was a prolific acting year (Mercury rulership and occupancy) which came with a lot of recognition (Sun’s occupancy).
Mars-Venus and Age 23
As noted in the article on planetary years, Mars has 15 years and Venus has 8. Therefore, age 23 is an activation of Mars-Venus relationships in the natal chart. Mars and Venus are both out of sect in the chart (they are nocturnal planets but in a day chart), and Venus is additionally in the 12th place and only aspected by Mars. Venus also has her twelfth-part in the 6th house (Aries) of illness and accidents, ruled by Mars.
Mars is in the 10th house of actions, recognition, and authority, where he dominates the Ascendant and Jupiter, which he rules, afflicts the 7th house Moon and is dominated by Saturn with a close aspect. The twelfth-part of Mars is in the 7th place, further emphasizing the relationship with Saturn and the Moon (occupants of the 7th) and with Venus (ruler of the 7th). Mars rules the 6th place of illness and accidents, and aspects the twelfth-part of the Moon in that place within a degree.
He died of a drug overdose at the Viper Club (partly owned at the time by Johnny Depp) on 10/31/1993 at 1:51 am pacific time. The solar return for the year (below) had Mars and Jupiter both in the sign of the profection. Additionally, Mercury, the ruler of the 8th house of death, was transiting conjunct natal Mars.
The Moon was transiting in the 1st, reinforcing its signification of the body, and it was ruled by and dominated by natal Mars, while applying an opposition to natal Saturn. This reinforces the natal Moon-Saturn configuration (also worth noting is that the Ascendant directed to the opposition of Saturn at the time of death). It also sets off the natal Saturn-Mars square as important for the year.
Venus Returns to the 12th House
River died during his Venus return. In fact, Venus returned exactly to its natal position less than a week before birth. This marks out the period as particularly important in relation to what Venus promises in the natal chart. She is a planet that gravitates toward sensory pleasure in a bad place and out of sect, and aspected only by Mars who overcomes her (right side aspect). Therefore, she easily slips toward over-indulgence and harm, particularly that associated with natal Mars. The twelfth-part of Venus is in the 6th (Aries), a house of illness and accidents, ruled by Mars, further emphasizing these themes.
The Moon Returns to Saturn
River also died on the day of his lunar return, emphasizing the natal Moon-Saturn conjunction, which was also emphasized by the Moon’s position in the solar return. In fact, the Moon was at 16 degrees Scorpio in the return, opposing natal Saturn, while it was at 17 degrees Taurus at the time of death, opposing its return position and conjoining Saturn.
Mars-Saturn All Around
The time of death shows transiting Saturn square to natal Saturn and opposing natal Mars, while transiting Mars squares natal Mars and opposes natal Saturn. Therefore, this dangerous active configuration of the malefics is active at the time of death. Additionally, Mercury (ruler of the 8th of death) was with Mars at the time death, and both were transiting in the 1st house where the signified most directly concerning the body. Note that a Mercury-Mars combination was signaled as important in the solar return where return Mercury conjoined natal Mars.
Vettius Valens emphasized the role played by the prenatal syzygy in matters related to health. The prenatal syzygy is the New or Full Moon which most directly preceded the birth. River Phoenix was born with a waning Moon so prior to birth there was a Full Moon. The Full Moon preceding his birth was at 23°48′ Aquarius. Note that it is in partile (same-degree) opposition with natal Mars and is in a tight square with natal Saturn. The transiting Mars-Saturn configuration noted above brings in the prenatal syzygy.
Saturn is Ruler of Days
The article on planetary years also includes a discussion of a technique for dividing up the year such that each planet rules a set of days. In the technique we start with the lord of the year (ruler of profectional Ascendant), then move to each successive planet in the natal chart in zodiacal order. Phoenix died about 70 days after his solar return. Venus got about 23 days, then Jupiter about 34 days, and then Saturn got the next 85 days. Therefore, Saturn was the lord of days at the time of death. Saturn is the natural significator of death, afflicts the natal Moon (natural significator of the body), and rules the prenatal syzygy. Transiting Saturn’s configuration with these elements and the transiting Moon’s application to them were discussed above.
The context for River Phoenix’s year was best characterized by Venusian activity, with strong connections to the particular indications of Venus in his natal chart. This supports the typical use of annual profections of the Ascendant in which the house and its ruler are most active. Additionally, the most important period of the year came during the time when the lord of the year, Venus, returned to her natal position. However, with both Venus and Jupiter in the activated 12th house at the time of death, one might suppose protection and fortunate circumstances would be more appropriate for the particular period.
The fact that the period is a dangerous one is clearer when we consider the Valens profections. Both lights transmit to Mars and Mars tends to dominate a lot of other important profections. Mars is even in Libra during the solar return. With the information from the Valens method we can take the presence of Mars in Libra in the return as a serious concern. The solar return Moon and the primary direction of the Ascendant also indicate difficulty with Saturn for the period. The timing of death comes as transiting Mars and Saturn are activating the square and the Moon is entering their configuration.
Sorting Things Out
Of course, we may quickly find ourselves dealing with a soup of indications to sort out. However, we have some means of sorting them out. This technique is discussed solely in terms of annual profections. If transits are examined they are generally the solar return ones. We can continue the common practice of looking at the Ascendant’s profection to find a lord of the year and to see the overall setting for the year’s events. Rather than using the other profections as alternatives or to tack on more time lords, use them for additional information. The lights, especially the sect light, will transmit to planets that are influential in major events. From there we can profect individual factors when they are of particular interest.
Taking It Further
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 later sections of the Anthology. Vettius Valens has given us a broad range of new uses for profections. I plan on returning to Valens-style profections in many future articles.
A final note. Valens profections provide a good context for understanding Persian degree-based profections (the subject of the next article). Persian degree-based profections also involve the profection of all the points in the natal chart. They are very similar to Valens profections but used more for timing than for delineating broad themes for the year.
Note: this article was significantly revised and expanded in April of 2018. Changes included extensive editing as well as the addition of the River Phoenix example.