Secondary progressions are a popular predictive technique in modern astrology. For the technique, the transits of each day following the birth are symbolic of each year of life. In other words, a day symbolizes a year.
Secondary vs. Primary
They are called “secondary” to distinguish them from “primary” directions. The primary motion is the earth’s rotation. Due to the earth’s rotation, celestial bodies have a 24 hour cycle of rising and setting. In primary directions, every degree of earthly rotation (1 degree of right ascension; 4 minutes of clock time) after birth is associated with one year of life.
The secondary motion is the motion of celestial objects through the zodiac. The planets do this at different rates. For instance, the Moon takes about a month to travel through the zodiac, while the Sun takes a year.
Primary directions can be traced back to the early strata of Hellenistic astrology. On the other hand, secondary directions are typically believed to have been invented by Placidus. Placidus was a 17th century astrologer, monk, and mathematician.
Hellenistic Secondary Progressions?
Surprisingly, secondary progressions were also discussed by Vettius Valens. Valens was a 2nd century Hellenistic astrologer. Therefore, his discussion is over 1500 years prior to the independent invention of the technique by Placidus. However, unlike primary directions, secondary progressions were not widespread in Hellenistic astrology. Like many other predictive techniques, evidence of their use in that era survives only in the work of Valens.
Clear Secondary Directions in Valens
Valens discussed two methods of secondary progressions in Book IX, the final book of his Anthology. The first is the standard method in which one determines the age of the native, and then adds that many years in days to the birth date and looks at the transits to the natal chart on that day.
It is necessary to calculate as follows: add a number of days to the birth date equivalent to the age (in years) of the native. Then, having first determined the date, whether in the following month or in the birth month itself, cast a horoscope for that day. <See> which star, if any, is in the Ascendant or is coming into conjunction with another star, and whether it is moving from an angle to a point following or preceding an angle, or from a point <following or> preceding an angle to an angle, or whether it was rising at the date of the delivery but is now setting or coming to some unrelated phase, or to something better. You may consider these to be the periodic forecasts. (Valens, Anthologies, Book IX, Ch. 3, Riley trans., 2010, p. 154)
The second method is more unusual. I call it the secondary return, as the method is akin to a solar return of the secondary direction chart. It starts the same as the first technique. Initially, you find the date that is the same number of days after birth as one’s age. For instance, if you are 25 and were born on April 4th, then the date for the secondary progression is April 29th. However, in this approach, you look at the transits to your natal chart that occurred on April 29th of this year, rather than the year of birth.
The following procedure seems valid to me: we add the age in years to the birth date and calculate in which month the new date falls. Then chart the <transits> of the stars of the current year and make the forecast as described. As for the previously explained <previous paragraph> method for the stars: we will not find much change in position for Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars. These stars have an imperceptible motion and stay in the same place. In the latter method <this paragraph> we will find that they come to be in square, trine, and in opposition. (Valens, Anthologies, Book IX, Ch. 3, Riley trans., 2010, p. 154)
According to Valens, this technique is really for looking at the progression of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The more usual secondary progression should probably be preferred for the other planets. It is also worth noting that Hellenistic astrologers tended not to track transits throughout the year. By using the solar return and the secondary return, we see the transits that matter most for the year.
It is pretty cool to see Valens using this symbolic rationale of equating smaller units of astrological time with larger units of time in one’s life. It opens the door for validating the basis of other modern symbolic progressions. Symbolic progressions abound in modern astrology, including tertiary progressions (1 day = a lunar month of life) and solar arc directions (everything progresses at the same rate in one year as the Sun does in a day following the birth).
Secondary Progressions in Free Software
The basic secondary progression as described by Valens can be accomplished in the free open-source astrological program, Morinus. Just select “Secondary Directions” from the “Chart” menu or pressing CTRL+SHIFT+F4 while a chart is open. As we’ll see, this type of progression is a useful predictive device.
Secondary Progression Examples
Progressed Sun to Natal Saturn at Cobain’s Death
In Kurt Cobain’s natal chart, the Sun, which moves about a degree a day, is about 27° behind Saturn. Kurt died at Age 27. As we can see from the chart of the secondary progression, he died when the Sun progressed to Saturn. In other words, the Sun conjoined Saturn 27 days after he was born which is symbolic of Age 27. In the chart for 27 days after birth, the Sun is at 28°49′ of Pisces, which is in the same degree as his natal Saturn. The disc of the Sun (half a degree wide) actually spans over that exact Saturn position.
Cobain’s Secondary Progressions at Age 27 – Progressed Sun conjunct Natal Saturn.
Tracking the SP Moon
The Valens method looks at the transits so many days after birth as years in age. It is a good method for most purposes, as SP planets generally won’t move more than about a degree or two each year. However, the Moon moves about 13 degrees in a day; about 13 degrees/year for the SP Moon. Therefore, its position can differ considerably after just half a day, symbolic of half a year. For this reason, we might want a more precise measure of secondary progressions in order to find exactly where the progressed Moon would be months after the birthday.
One way to do this is simply to add about a little over a degree to the position of the SP Moon for each month after the birthday. On average, the Moon travels a little over a degree each twelfth of a day (symbolic of each month). Therefore, that method will allow us to know the approximate month that the SP Moon will complete an aspect to a natal factor. Also, some software programs will calculate the SP Moon position for a particular day after birth. This can be useful as the SP Moon can be very significant in predictive timing.
Carradine Sun-Saturn Intensifications from SP Sun and Moon
David Carradine died when Age 72, but about halfway through the year. His death was in June, while his birthday was in December. Looking at the exact SP positions for the day of death, the SP Sun and Moon stand out.
First, we note that the SP Sun finally moved into Pisces. Pisces is his first house of self and body. This is significant because it is an important planet moving from a cadent house to the most important angular one. Note in the Valens quote above that he attached particular important to SP planets entering the rising sign. Additionally, the first house is occupied by Saturn in Carradine’s chart.
Carradine’s secondary progressions at the time of deathSecondly, we notice that the SP Moon enters into his natal Sun-Saturn square configuration. The SP Moon applies a square to his Saturn (while separating from Mars). It applies an opposition to his Sun. All of this in an extremely tight configuration that also includes SP Venus, the planet of sexuality.
Secondary Return Example
Valens was concerned about the fact that Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn move very little by secondary progression. To remedy this he proposed the secondary return technique I discussed above. I have not experimented with this latter technique as much, but there have been intimations that it may be useful. We can abbreviate secondary return positions with R2 to distinguish them from SP (secondary progressed) and SR (solar return) positions.
For example, please return to Carradine’s age 72 SP date, February 18th, but look at that date on the year of his death (2009). We find 2R Jupiter, the ruler of his 1st house, in the 12th house of the bad spirit and conjoined to 2R Mars, the out of sect malefic, in the bound of Venus and the domicile of Saturn. 2R Saturn also opposes his natal Saturn. See also the indications from the Saturn-Saturn opposition at the solar return which were even more revealing.
Secondary progressions were almost absent from ancient astrology. They appear almost as an afterthought in the last book of Valens’s Anthology. But they can be considered a Hellenistic predictive technique. More importantly, they can be an informative addition to our arsenal of annual techniques for prediction. Take some time to explore them for yourself.