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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.