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

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Secondary Progressions

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)

Secondary Return

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.

Symbolic Time

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

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

This fits with some of the other things noted for Cobain’s death (also see Kurt’s synastry with Courtney Love). Particularly noteworthy is the Sun-Saturn conjunction at his solar return for the year.

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 death

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.

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

Conclusion

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.

References
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
The featured image is cropped from Eos, Phosphoros, Hesperos, Helios by Stanislaw Wyspianski (1897) which is in the public domain.
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Anthony

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

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

  • Pingback:Traditional Astrology of Death | Special Techniques for Length of Life | Seven Stars Astrology

  • March 15, 2019 at 2:34 pm
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    Hello, What is the traditional method of calculating secondary progressions? Thank you.

    Reply
    • March 15, 2019 at 2:58 pm
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      It’s explained in the article. It is essentially the same as the modern secondary progressions. Each day after the birth is equivalent to a year of life. Among the Hellenistic astrologers though it only survives in the text of Valens (2nd century CE).

      Additionally, Valens added another technique for the traditional outer planets (Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) as they don’t move much by secondary progressions. For them, he suggested looking at where they were by transit this year X number of days after your last birthday.

      For instance, if born on April 2nd, 2000, then you’d be 18 years old. You’d look at the chart 18 days after birth, on 4/2/2000 as the “secondary progressions”. The chart 18 days after your last solar return (assuming it was on the birthday) would be 4/20/2018, and the transits of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn on that day would also be considered significant for the year. He used these all as transits to the natal chart (not calculation of a chart with Ascendant, etc.).

      Additionally, Valens would have looked at the solar return chart as transits to the natal chart. He calculated the lunar return that occurs while the Sun is in your Sun sign, as being an important chart in its own right, with Ascendant and sect of it and so forth looked at.

      Best wishes,

      Anthony

      Reply
      • March 17, 2019 at 2:39 pm
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        SA in Long, or SA in RA? Thanks.

        Reply
        • March 18, 2019 at 2:01 pm
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          Not sure what you’re asking. Secondary progressions are in longitude but by a temporal key. Solar arc directions (a modern technique) also are in longitude by the same temporal key but only looking at the Sun’s motion and then applying that arc length to all the positions in the natal chart. Primary directions are in right ascension, as they concern things moving by the primary direction of the chart (rise, culminate, set, anti-culminate) which is measured in RA at the key that 1 degree is symbolic of a year of life.

          There is no such thing as an SA in RA, as far as I know – the Sun arcs in the primary direction very nearly at the same rate as every other planet, as it pertains to the rotational speed of the Earth. If you are talking about looking at the amount of RA or long. traveled by the Sun in a day in order to exactly compute the secondary progression, then I’d say that is overcomplicating things. It is time, not RA or long that is essential. If you are exactly 20 1/2 years old then you need to know the positions of the planets exactly 20 1/2 days after birth.

          As an aside, there was some confusion between primary and secondary matters later in the traditional period, which is why different primary keys come about, such as the Naibod key (16th century). The Naibod key takes the Sun’s average daily motion in longitude (59’8″) as representative of a year, then uses that as key for a year in right ascension. About the first 1500 years of tradition took one degree of right ascension as symbolic of a year of life for primary directions (whereas a day for a year is symbolic of secondary progressions), so the Naibod thing is a weird mish-mash showing confusion between primary and secondary directions; between solar movement in RA and longitude. Primary directions has nothing to do with the Sun’s average daily motion. It has to do with the rotation of the Earth, with a key that 1 degree of rotation (about 4 minutes of clock time) is symbolic of a year of life. The square in right ascension (90 years of age) was sometimes taken to be a critical period that few lived past.

          As a further aside, familiarity with the Naibod key and secondary progressions in the modern period but a hazy understanding of primary directions gave rise to solar arc directions. In solar arc directions everything moves at about the same rate (like as in primary directions) and the key is the Sun’s motion in one day equals a year (similar to the Naibod key) but we are looking at the movement of the Sun in longitude each day (like secondary progressions) and then applying that to every planet. I have found solar arc directions to be useful, though they are a modern technique and could just as well be effective because of the symbolic significance of the number of degrees between things. I would suspect that if Valens were to do something like solar arcs then it’d be more about counting degrees of longitude between aspects (i.e. your Sun is applying to Saturn in 7 1/2 degrees – what happened when you were 7 1/2?), rather than about the exact solar arc. After all, at certain points Valens does just that sort of thing for the number of signs encompassing an aspect (i.e. there are 5 signs inclusive from Sun in Aries to Jupiter in Leo, so ages 5, 10, 15, 20, etc. are significant for that aspect – you may have to do some digging but I promise that is an actual technique in Valens).

          Best wishes,

          Anthony

          Reply
  • September 9, 2012 at 3:34 pm
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    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,
    Alex

    Reply
  • September 8, 2012 at 7:38 am
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    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!

    Reply
    • September 8, 2012 at 8:34 am
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      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,

      Anthony

      Reply

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