Introduction to Predictive Astrology – 2:
Progressions, Directions and Returns
– Written by Philip Graves, February 04, 2003
– Reformatted for WordPress, June 9th, 2016
What are progressions?
Progressions, sometimes also known as secondary progressions or secondary directions, but not to be confused with solar arc directions, are a less immediately obviously logical mode of operation of predictive astrology than transits, involving the substitution of one length of time for another in consideration of passing trends in life. The influences of progressions are generally much longer-lasting than those of transits because of the time substiution applied.
There are various types or series of progressions relating to different time substitutions. The most common method, yearly progressions, regards the astronomical conditions each whole day elapsed after the time of birth as astrological factors applying to the birth chart each corresponding whole year after birth. Monthly progressions , sometimes also termed tertiary progressions, take the astronomical conditions each whole day elapsed after the time of birth as astrological factors applying to the birth chart each corresponding whole month after birth. Weekly progressions, which are a more tenuous system since a week is an astronomically meaningless artificial length of time devised by human beings, take the astronomical conditions each whole day elapsed after the time of birth as astrological factors applying to the birth chart each corresponding whole week after birth.
There have been differing opinions on the method to be applied to the progression of the natal angles and house cusps. Since each house cusp moves through the entire zodiac in a day, if it were to be yearly progressed at the same rate as the planets, then for each year of life it would complete an entire cycle through the zodiac and aspect every point in the birth chart in all the possible ways; while it would progress by one whole sign every approximately 30½ days of life. However, since astrologers using progressions are after data on more long-term trends in life they have regarded as being unsatisfactory this like application of the method of progressing planets as a method of progressing the angles and house cusps. They have therefore adopted a variety of substitute methods for directing the angles and house cusps at a much slower rate still than the day to a year substitution dictated by yearly progressions.
The consensus favors directing (both forward and backwards) the Midheaven (M.C.) at exactly the same rate as the Sun – whose mean daily motion through the zodiac is 59′ 8″, slightly less than one degree – for each year of life. However, since 59′ 8″ is simply an average measure of the Sun’s daily motion, for each day after (and before) birth the exact daily motion of the Sun should be calculated by subtracting the Sun’s zodiacal position at the beginning of that day from its position at the end of that day, with the start and end times of the day under investigation being preset to exactly match the time of birth on the day of birth. For each day thus delimited, the Sun’s motion thus calculated can then be applied to the progressing of the Midheaven by the same distance for the year of life corresponding to the day concerned. The ascendant and other house cusps are then derived in the conventional manner from a table of houses for the Midheaven degree calculated and the latitude of the place of birth.
It is important to note that since the progressed angles and other house cusps are being calculated by an entirely different method from the rest of the progressed chart, it is completely inappropriate to attempt to relate the progressed planetary positions to the progressed houses and angles and to draw interpretative inferences therefrom. The progressed angles and house cusps are significant in relation to the aspects they form to the natal planetary and luminary positions, while the progressed planets and luminaries are significant in relation to each other and to the natal planets, luminaries and and house cusps, but not in relation to the progressed angles and houses.
Once the positions of the progressed planets, luminaries and house cusps have been calculated, they can be regarded as factors on two levels. Firstly, especially in the case of yearly progressions, they operate in effect as an additional, weaker, secondary tier of birth chart, affecting the individual quasi-autonomously from the true birth chart, by way of the sign and house placements and aspects within the progressed chart. It is often thus talked of how the Sun progresses into a new sign once every thirty years or so (since the Sun takes thirty days to pass through each sign); when it does so, the influence of the progressed Sun sign adds a new cast to the personality of the individual affected for the next thirty years of life, although this cast is no more than a ghost in strength compared with the radical (natal) Sun sign, which continues to predominate throughout life. Secondly, the aspects they throw to the birth chart are influential, and in this respect they are treated much the same as transits and can be considered alongside transits when assessing the passing influences affecting the life of any individual or other entity. It is said that when aspects by transit are exact their influences are modified by those of the longer-term trends caused by aspects formed by the yearly progressed planets to factors in the birth chart; the combined influences at work are likely to indicate the nature of the events experienced.
Because aspects to the birth chart formed by progressed planets last many times as long as those formed by transiting planets, 365 times as long in the case of those made by yearly progressed planets, their influences may be a lot more major in terms of their experienced effects on the individual’s life than the equivalent aspects by transit. An aspect formed by the transiting Moon to a natal planet will be within a one degree orb of being exact (and therefore significant) for just four hours. The same aspect made by the yearly progressed Moon to the same natal planet will be within a one degree orb of being exact for 1460 hours, which is 60.83 days, or almost exactly two months. Similarly, an aspect formed by the transiting Sun, Mercury or Venus to a natal planet will be within a one degree orb of being exact for just two days on average (depending upon the speed of motion in the cases of Mercury and Venus). But the same aspect formed by the yearly progressed Sun, Mercury or Venus to the same natal planet will be within a one degree orb of being exact for two years. Thus it can be seen that aspects to the birth chart made by yearly progressed planets and even the progressed Moon are very significant medium-to-long-term influences, while those made by monthly progressed planets are still 29 times as substantial as transits in terms of duration.
Another implication of the slow rate of change of the progressed horoscope and the long duration of aspects within it and aspects thrown from it to the natal horoscope is that minor aspects are much more significant than they are where transits are concerned. Semisextiles, quincunxes, semisquares and sesquiquadrates are all very important and not to be underestimated.
The substitution of time involved in progressions can be applied equally to a reverse movement through time prior to the moment of birth, whereby for each whole year (or month) of life the astronomical conditions one whole day elapsed before birth are considered as factors influencing the individual at that time in life. This method is known as converse progressions; and the converse yearly progressed positions of the planets are often considered in addition to their regular forward progressed positions by serious predictive astrologers, and made use of in the same ways as the forward progressed positions as clues to passing influences and events, but with the interpretative distinction that the converse progressed horoscope is connected to preconditioning by the past while the forward progressed horoscope is connected to opportunities for development and breaking free from the past.
When listing the aspects formed from and within the yearly progressed charts at a particular time in an individual’s life, the following abbreviations are commonly used to spare confusion over the identity of the horoscope to which a specified planet or other such point is being attributed: r. = radical (natal); p. = (forward) progressed; c. = converse (progressed).
According to the late Ronald Davison, angular progressed aspects – in other words, forward and converse progressed aspects involving the Ascendant and Midheaven – are the most significant ones to interpret in terms of their influence upon life; and indeed ‘no major event will come to pass unheralded by a strong progressed aspect involving either the Midheaven or the Ascendant’. Solar progressed aspects: those involving the Sun: rank second in importance, and according to Davison are ‘nearly always involved’ in major events. He also points out that for any major event to occur there will usually be a concurrent grouping of at least two or three progressed aspects of compatible indication that when taken together are sufficient to signify an event of the particular type suggested by that indication.
Only minor events are to be expected under interplanetary progressed aspects, which may be those between progressed planets or those between progressed and natal planets (excluding the Sun). But those planets which, in the natal chart, are in angular houses will have a stronger impact when involved in any aspect by progression than those posited natally in the succeedent and cadent houses. And those interplanetary progressed aspects one or both of whose planets ‘is also, at the same time, in aspect with either the radical or the progressed angles of the horoscope’ will be much strengthened.
Davison remarks also that all aspects thrown from the progressed Moon are less powerful even than interplanetary progressed aspects, and that their perceptible effects are likely to be limited to bringing to the fore concurrent longer-term progressed aspects. However, he adds that the areas of life corresponding to the house and sign through which the progressed Moon is passing at any time will be accentuated in prominence in the individual’s experiences during that time.
Where a progressed angle or planet forms any aspect to a natal chart factor with which the equivalent radical angle or planet was in a different aspect in the natal chart, then regardless of the type of aspect formed by the progressed angle or planet, the nature of the type of aspect between its radical equivalent and the birth chart factor it is aspecting will be brought out. Thus, a progressed square can activate a natal trine, or vice versa. The general status of the natal chart factor being aspected on the benefic-malefic scale is also significant, an easy progressed aspect to a natal malefic often exciting the negative potentials of that malefic.
When a progressed angle arrives at the midpoint of two planets it will stimulate events of a quality corresponding to the combination of these planets, especially if the two planets concerned are themselves in mutual aspect in the birth chart.
Aspects thrown from progressed planets and luminaries to radical house cusps other than the Ascendant and Midheaven, and from progressed house cusps other than the Ascendant and Midheaven to radical planets and luminaries, are somewhat significant secondary influences, promoting events in connection with the area of life governed by the house concerned; but such events are not likely to transpire noticeably unless these aspects are concurrent with progressed aspects involving the Midheaven and Ascendant of compatible indication. Aspects formed between the progressed angles and natal intermediate house cusps or between the progressed intermediate house cusps and natal angles will also stimulate events involving the area of life governed by the intermediate house cusp concerned.
It is important to remember that the influence of any planet or luminary in the progressed horoscope will be filtered through the lens of the condition of the same planet or luminary in the natal chart, including its sign and house placement there, and even the identity of any houses it rules by virtue of the signs on their cusps. Any aspects it forms in the progressed horoscope will affect the life primarily in areas suggested by its natal house placement, house rulership(s) and sign placement, and secondarily in areas suggested by its progressed house and sign placements.
Other methods of predictive astrology
Primary Directions are computed by an entirely different method from secondary directions, involving the substitution of the passage of one degree of right ascension over the meridian for one year of life. Since a full day consists of the complete rotation of the Earth on its axis, it involves the passage of 360º of right ascension over the meridian. A horoscope progressed by primary direction therefore changes at 1/360th of the rate of a day-for-a-year progressed horoscope. In seventy-two years of life, it will progress by only two tenths of a day from its natal position. Therefore only the progressed angles and house cusps are worthy of any consideration when undertaking the technique of primary directions, since even the Moon will progress by only about one degree in thirty-six years of life by this method, while the Sun and planets will be to all intents and purposes stationary.
Solar Arc Directions move forward not only the Sun, angles and house cusps but also the Moon and planets by the arc of longitude travelled by the Sun in one day, for every year of life. On this basis, the relative positions of the planets and luminaries within the Solar Arc chart are constant; only aspects from them to the radical positions of the angles, luminaries and planets yield valuable interpretative information. A crude approximation to solar arc directions is the One Degree Method, whereby every planet, luminary and point in the chart is progressed by exactly one degree for each year of life – whereas the true mean daily motion of the Sun is marginally less.
Solar, Lunar and Planetary Return charts show the astronomical conditions at the precise moment when the Sun, Moon or relevant planet (respectively) forms a conjunction by transit to its natal position. Such charts are treated as autonomous additional secondary tiers to the natal horoscope that cast influences, as indicated by house and sign placements and aspects, over the individual throughout the period until the next such conjunction by transit. All factors indicated by a return chart for the Sun, Moon or a planet should be interpreted especially in the context of the solar, lunar or relevant planetary principle (respectively) in the native’s life, considering the natal sign and house placements and aspects formed by the luminary or planet concerned.