Astrological Predictive Techniques | Progressions | 1. Valens on Secondary Progressions


Secondary progressions are a popular predictive technique in modern astrology in which the transits of each day following the birth are symbolic of important events in each year of life (i.e. a day symbolizes a year).  They are called “secondary” to distinguish them from “primary” directions, in which every degree of earthly rotation or as its called, primary motion (i.e. degree of right ascension), after birth was associated with one year of life.  Primary directions can be traced back to a very early strata of Hellenistic astrology.  On the other hand, secondary directions are typically believed to have been invented by Placidus, a 17th century astrologer, monk, and mathematician.

Therefore, it has been surprising to find that secondary progressions were also discussed by Vettius Valens, over 1500 years prior to their independent invention by Placidus.  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.

Valens discussed two methods of secondary progressions in the final book, Book IX, 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)

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, and it certainly opens the door for validating the type of thinking that goes into other similar symbolic progressions, such as tertiary progressions (each day after birth represents a lunar month of life) and solar arc directions (each planet and point progresses at the same rate in one year as the Sun does in a day following the birth).

The basic secondary progression as described by Valens can be accomplished in the free open-source astrological program, Morinus, by selecting “Secondary Directions” from the “Chart” menu or pressing CTRL+SHIFT+F4 while a chart is open.  This type of progression is a useful predictive device.

Progressed Sun to Natal Saturn at Cobain’s Death

For instance, note that in Kurt Cobain’s natal chart the Sun, which moves about a degree a day, is about 27 degrees before Saturn in the chart.  Kurt died at Age 27, and as we can see from the chart of the secondary progression it was when his Sun progressed to his Saturn (i.e. 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 with the disc of the Sun actually spanning over that exact Saturn position. This fits with some of the other things noted for Cobain’s death (also see Kurt’s synastry with Courtney Love), especially the Sun-Saturn conjunction at his solar return for the year.

Cobain's Secondary Progressions at Age 27
Cobain’s Secondary Progressions at Age 27 – Progressed Sun conjunct Natal Saturn

SP Moon Mid-Year

While the simple method of looking at the transits so many days after birth as years in age is a good method for most purposes, it should be noted that the Moon moves about 13 degrees in a day, so its position could differ somewhat after just half a day.  For this reason, we might want a more precise measure of secondary progressions sometimes to measure exactly where the progressed Moon would be after so many months, as twelfths of a day, has passed in addition to years as days.  One way to do this is simply to add about a degree to the position of the SP position of the Moon for each month after the birthday, since the Moon travels a little over a degree each twelfth of a day.  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

For instance, David Carradine died when Age 72, but about halfway through the year, in June, following his birthday in December.  Looking at the exact SP positions for the day of death, we see two things.  First, we note that the SP Sun finally moved into Pisces, his first house of self and body, a few months after his birthday.  This is very significant because it is an important planet moving from a cadent house to an angular one, and the most important angular one at that, which happens to be occupied by Saturn in Carradine’s chart (note in the Valens quote above that he attached particular important to planets entering the rising sign by secondary progression).  Secondly, we notice that the SP Moon enters into his natal Sun-Saturn square configuration, as the SP Moon applies a square to his Saturn (while separating from Mars) and an opposition to his Sun, all in an extremely tight configuration that also includes SP Venus (planet of sexuality).

Carradine's secondary progressions at the time of death
Carradine’s secondary progressions at the time of death

Valens was concerned about the fact that Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn move very little by secondary progression.  To remedy this he proposed that we also look at the date of the secondary progression but for the current year, taking special note of the aspects they make and such.  What this does is to give us another particularly important symbolic day of the year besides our solar return, in that we look at the day which is about the same number of days after our solar return as we are old.  For instance, if you were born December 4th and turned 15 years old in 2011, then you would be interested in December 19th, 2011 and the transits on that day to your natal chart, especially as they concern Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

I have not experimented with this latter technique as much, and my experimenting with it so far has not been very inspiring, but there have been intimations that it may be useful.  For instance, when we return to Carradine’s age 72 SP positions (February 18th) and look at them for the year of his death (2009), we do find the ruler of his 1st house (Jupiter) in the 12th house of the bad spirit and conjoined to the out of sect malefic Mars in the bound of Venus and the domicile of Saturn. While Saturn also opposes his natal Saturn, the indications from that were more revealing at the solar return than at this secondary chart.

Carradine's Secondary Progressions but using year of death rather than year of birth
Carradine’s Secondary Progressions but using year of death rather than year of birth –

While secondary progressions are almost wholly absent from ancient astrology, appearing as almost an afterthought in the last book of Valens’s Anthology, they can be an informative addition to our arsenal of annual techniques for prediction.  Take some time to explore them for yourself.

Valens, V. (2010). Anthologies. (M. Riley, Trans.) (Online PDF.). World Wide Web: Mark Riley. Retrieved from


Blogger interested in all things astrological, especially Hellenistic, medieval, Uranian, and asteroid astrology.

3 thoughts on “Astrological Predictive Techniques | Progressions | 1. Valens on Secondary Progressions

  • September 9, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Hello Anthony,

    First let me say how really sorry I am for what Zoller did to you. Last I know of him (through the emails I receive from his website) he is preparing audio recordings for his course in Mundane. I hope he makes it up you with the Mundane materials! You least of all people deserve such treatment.
    About secondary progressions, Robert Schmidt says that an Astrology practitioner named Salmasius in the 17th century wrote about this technique and Schmidt assumes this guy knew about Valens.
    So it was Salmasius and not Placidus and on top of that, after doing some research, it turned out that Placidus published his book after Salmasius wrote about this. So Placidus, who is considered holly by the Italians, obviously plagiarized. Some would of course say he was preserving the tradition :d.
    I have Salmasius’s book but it is in Latin. It is a big one, about 800 pages. Since there is no copyright it occurred to me that I might send it to someone like Ben Dykes or another who could translate it, but I never followed through with this.

    You say you dislike Bonatti or least prefer the purer materials coming from the first 10 centuries of the new era. That is understandable. I too prefer to read Ptolemy and Dorotheus etc and not how they were misinterpreted.
    However, and you know this as well as me because you have also taken Zoller’s DMA, what would you do without Bonatti in regards to the Financial Significator (FS)? Or do you happen to agree that the Lot of Fortune is always the FS. The ruler of the second sign, its trigon rulers or the trigon rulers of Fortune are too broad. So what does one do?
    I am not defending Bonatti. In fact I disagree with him on some points. For example, he says/Zoller teaches that squares and oppositions from planets not having dignity in the FS are afflictions to the FS. That, as you know, goes against the Hellenistic tradition where squares and even oppositions from benefics are considered beneficial, especially in aspects by zoidia. Moreover, Bonatti/Zoller says to use a 5 degree orb for aspects to Lots and in the Hellenistic materials orbs are not mentioned for Lots. Therefore say one has Fortune in Aries at 25 (unafflicted) and Mars in Aquarius at 18. Bonatti would say that Mars does not aspect Fortune and if the other 4 rulers of Fortune do not aspect it, it is not the FS, while Valens would say that it is. So how do you reconcile all of this?

    Best Wishes,

  • September 8, 2012 at 7:38 am

    An another interesting post, so Placidus wasn’t the first who used secondaries.

    Generally speaking, it’s a brilliant site! It’s been long time since I read something so good on astrology. I’ve just devoured the entire blog. Don’t stop posting, Anthony. You’re making a very valuable contribution to the community.

    I started my interest in traditional astrology from Morinus. Lately, I was considering taking Robert Zoller’s DMA but there’s a big controversy because he’s not involved anymore. And you’ve convinced me to turn to the hellenistic direction. I’m going to take Chris Brennan’s course. Thanks a lot!

    • September 8, 2012 at 8:34 am

      Thank you for the very kind remarks!

      As someone who has been through the Zoller materials a few times, and the Bonatti material from that in a clearer translation (the one by Dykes), I can’t say that I recommend one to spend all that money to lag through mostly some confusing, error-ridden translations of passages by Bonatti on natal techniques. I am a little biased though because I was upset with Zoller for not publicly announcing his lack of involvement with the New Library people. I went through that course, then was told he wasn’t involved, was able to get into contact with him by phone and he complained about not getting a penny from it for many years, and he said he was doing good health-wise and could tutor me for $500. After sending him $500 he sent me the exact same material as the New Library stuff I already had and then basically dropped off the face of the earth and was unreachable. My bitterness aside, I think Zoller has made very valuable contributions to astrology. It’s interesting to me that he published his first book in 1980, as that was the year of the shift of the triplicity into Air from Earth, and in my mind that kicked off the shift from the age of physicalism to the age of information and with it a whole lot of renewed interest in ancient astrology. Zoller was particularly known for his mundane work, not his natal work, so it is a shame that his public offering was in the form of a natal course and not a mundane one, especially given the lack of good ancient mundane material available.

      Needless to say, I’m not a huge fan of Bonatti’s astrology. Things became much clearer and richer when Dykes began to translate Bonatti’s sources in the Persian Nativities series. If you want the best in medieval natal astrology, then I highly recommend picking up all three books of Persian Nativities and working through them topically, using the study guide that Dykes has available on his site (I think it is also printed at the end of PN3). While I think that the Hellenistic tradition is even richer and the fundamentals are more in tact, the advantage to starting your studies with the early medieval Persian stuff is that they compiled many authors, give additional insights, and have well-organized works (many Hellenistic works are very sloppy in organization). I feel that while some very valuable things were distorted by the Persians and there were some bad new additions and a huge amount of lost material, they also added a lot of valuable material too, probably because of the richness of their own traditions (not unlike the Indians). On the other hand, the Europeans were intellectually in rather poor condition prior to the High Middle Ages and the discovery/rediscovery of all of the great Greek, Persian, and Arabic works in philosophy and science (including astrology) so I really feel that with Europeans at that time we get another cycle of corruption but without the same redemption in the form of great new additions. This is one reason that I try to focus on astrological material transmitted prior to 1000 CE, and even then I tend to turn a blind eye to some of Omar’s complex almuten techniques and stuff like that which seems to me to be a misuse of fundamental techniques.

      Overall, I think that one is best off with the Introductions to Traditional Astrology book by Ben Dykes and Chris Brennan’s Hellenistic course for a foundation, while keeping in mind that the tradition is much richer and more varied than it might seem from those works and the overall sentiments within the community. In my opinion, it’s best to use those works to springboard into primary sources. If you are into natal astrology, then besides the PN series, you will want to get your hands on Dorotheus, Maternus (Holden trans.), and Porphyry (Holden trans., because it’s a source of the definitions of Antiochus), as well as to study Valens and Ptolemy which are online (pdf and website respectively). There are other very important works, but those 5 are particularly important.

      Best wishes,



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