Solar Arc Directions
Secondary Progressions are my most-used technique for looking at current patterns and projecting into the future, but there are many other useful ways to see the issues we are facing at different times in our lives. Transits are, of course, the most universally used technique—observing the planetary positions at the time we seek to understand. But, except for the outer, slow-moving planets, transits go by quickly and are not as helpful in dealing with extended periods of time. Also, transiting angles are moving about one degree of longitude for each four minutes of time as the earth rotates on its axis, making a complete circle in 24 hours. So transiting angles are mostly helpful when we are looking back at an event which occurred in a known minute of time which we are trying to understand in hindsight. They are rarely helpful in foresight, and not helpful for issues which last for extended periods.
Unlike Progressions, which compare a set of patterns in the sky during one's lifetime with the situations and issues present during a different period in the life, Directions produce patterns which never exist in the sky during one's life. But, they do provide useful information about the situations and issues during specific periods in the life. The technique of Directions turns the whole chart like a wheel, maintaining the natal angular distances between all the chart factors but adding the same set amount to each of the factors: planets, angles, etc. The most commonly used Direction adds the distance which the Sun has moved in Secondary Progressions which look at the sky one day after birth for each year of life. Since the transiting Sun moves about one degree per day, Solar Arc Directions add approximately one degree to every factor in the chart for each year of life. The Sun is slightly slower in the northern hemisphere summer and slightly faster in the winter, so the precise solar arc (difference between the natal Sun and the progressed Sun) will vary slightly, but one can spot the approximate periods for major aspects by adding one degree for each year of life.
Conjunctions are the most important aspects, and the cardinal quality is especially likely to be emphasized at times of major events. The greater the number of factors in a set of aspects, like a T-square, and the more they include cardinal planets (Mars, Moon, Saturn), cardinal signs, and the major angles of the chart (the MC axis and Ascendant axis), the more likely they are to point to times of major events in the life. So, one can often spot such times of action by observing the number of degrees separating the factors in aspect networks. This technique is especially favored by Cosmobiology and Uranian Astrology which are more intent on predicting events in the life than on understanding the character to help people produce better events. But life and astrology are inclusive. Since no one has much choice in the early years of life and no one can alter the destiny of other people in one's life, even astrologers who are devoted to the psychological approach can gain information by using Solar Arc Directions.
A client I saw recently has given me permission to discuss his chart as a way to illustrate Solar Arc Directions, but to protect his privacy, I will not give the birth data. As mentioned above, when we are looking for events, we especially consider the cardinal quality and the planets are always the most important. We can see that Mr. U has an exact square between Saturn (a cardinal planet) and Mercury (in a cardinal house). Mars (a cardinal planet) forms a T-square to them. The interval between Mars and the other two planets is 3 to 4 degrees. Mars is also quincunx the south lunar node with a 4 degree orb, and the East Point is 4 degrees from the north lunar node with the East Point and the nodes in cardinal signs. Venus opposes Neptune with a 4 degree orb and they are in cardinal houses. The directed Ascendant reached Pallas shortly before the age of 4. The angles are always cardinal and Pallas is in a cardinal house. Though they are not cardinal, Ceres and Pluto are closely conjunct 4 degrees from Juno, the Sun holds a 4 degree square to Ceres and Pluto, and Chiron opposes Vesta with a 4 degree orb. We can anticipate some sort of major event around the age of 4 to 5.
Mr. U reported that at the age of 4, he was raped by the teen-aged son of his baby-sitter. Would there be any point in trying to guess the nature of the event if we had done this chart for the parents of the child when he was born? We could say that the chart shows a power issue with Mars opposite Saturn, square Mercury in the Saturn house, and quincunx the node in the Saturn sign, plus Pallas in the Mars house square Venus in the Saturn house. One-ten conflicts involve personal will and power in conflict with the limits of personal will and power. But the consequences of a power-struggle character (habits) can range from personal disabilities (at birth or occurring as a result of accidents, burns, surgery, etc.) to struggles with peers or authority figures, to falls of all kinds from literal physical tumbles to many ways to "fall short" of our ambitions, to self-blocking due to fear, etc. etc. As astrologers, we could have suggested that the parents of U needed to help him find his own strength but also to recognize that no one can do everything they please—that there are limits to personal will and power. With such a power struggle chart, we would suggest the importance of competitive outlets through sports and games but also the need to learn when to be cooperative, when to compromise.
In addition to the cardinal emphasis which was listed above, these conflict aspects also involve many fixed planets, signs, and houses. Combinations of cardinal-fixed conflict aspects reinforce the likelihood of a power struggle character, and they bring in the issue of physical pleasures and possessions. The chart connects U's mother with these issues with Scorpio in the fourth house and Ceres closely conjunct Pluto plus Juno, another Pluto, just 4 degrees later. Both the signs and houses of the Taurus/Scorpio polarity are emphasized, suggesting a lesson involving the sharing of personal possessions and pleasures or a lesson involving self-indulgence versus self-mastery. In general, fire and earth are uncomfortable with dependency while air and water are willing to live in the head and let others handle the external effort. However, letter two (Venus, Taurus, the second house) wants life to be comfortable and easy, so individuals with a major focus there may be willing to take the easy road. Neptune and its sign and house are similar to Venus in wanting effortless ease and beauty. U's mother is also connected to letter twelve with Neptune in the fourth house and the Moon in the twelfth house.
U described his mother as highly artistic and promiscuous. She lived with a series of men for brief periods in his early childhood. He says he felt ashamed and never told her about the early rape. A deep-rooted ambivalence about sex and sensuality is common when we see both an emphasis on letter six (shown here with a Virgo stellium) and an emphasis on the fixed sides of life which normally delight in sensual pleasures. Hindsight, we can certainly see the potential for the power struggle being manifested in a rape. If it is true that we are born where we fit and given a chance to see parts of ourselves in our parents, U's mother portrayed the uninhibited pleasure potential of the fixed sides of life and he was challenged to learn to handle his sensuality in ways that would be mutually satisfying to himself and to mates and also to learn to enjoy sensuality without overdoing it.
We can continue turning that Mercury-Saturn square one degree per year and see that at around the age of 7 to 8 years it moved into a T-square to Uranus. Simultaneously, the directed Ascendant would trine Jupiter, Jupiter would reach the MC, Juno would quincunx the MC, the Sun would square Juno and quincunx Neptune, and the south lunar node would quincunx Uranus among other aspects. At that time, U lived with his grandparents for two years in a nice home on a lake. He regards that as the only really stable, pleasant episode in his childhood. The MC axis brings in action involving parents and home while the Ascendant axis represents grandparents. The aspects include both conflict and harmony and separation potentials, so, as usual, trying to guess ahead of time exactly what would happen would have been difficult or impossible. But we could have guessed that U's life would change.
Continuing to move the Mercury-Saturn square forward, we can see that at around age 16 to 17, a T-square is formed with the tight Ceres-Pluto conjunction. About the same time, the Sun moves into Cancer where it sextiles Uranus. Mars reaches Juno and sextiles Neptune. Venus squares Mars. The lunar nodes conjunct and oppose Pallas and square Venus. At this time, U had his first sexual experience with a girl with mutual consent. He loved it, experienced a major boost in his self-esteem, and bragged about it to his male friends.
That is as far as we went in our session, but it illustrates the ease of the technique of Solar Arc Directions. U is currently back in school, studying computer programming, which is a good choice for someone with a lot of Virgo. He also has a son now, and says that he loves children, which is not surprising in view of his strong Cancer. He is still learning to cope with the material world—one of the major potentials of that fixed T-square—but certainly has the capacity to earn a good living if he stays focused on his goals. His strong fire along with the Gemini-Virgo squares might tempt him to keep exploring new options, and the major Taurus (house and sign emphasis) added to the air and water wants life to be pleasant and easy. But if he follows through with his Virgo, he can do well. The grand trine of Mercury, Vesta, and the south lunar node in earth signs and houses show the ability to cope with the physical world as long as the individual is willing to work, using the so-called "Puritan" virtues, being thorough, careful, precise, organized, and persistent.
A second chart shows a similar, easy-to-spot action period around the age of 3 to 4. Since she is a client, I will again omit her data in order to maintain her privacy. In her case, the dramatic event was a change of residence and total life situation at that early age. We can see that her MC moved into an opposition to Uranus, Uranus moved into a square to the true lunar nodes, Mars opposed the Ascendant, the Moon reached the Sun, Ceres reached Chiron, Venus came to Vesta, Saturn was quincunx Vesta, Juno reached Mars, and the Sun was quincunx the MC and trioctile Neptune. There were also some harmonious aspects including Venus trine Pluto, Pluto trine Chiron, and Uranus trine Pallas, but the overall network of aspects suggests stress. The movement of Mars into the seventh house is especially important since it reinforced the danger of projecting her personal power into other people and having them use it against her. This possibility was present from the beginning with Neptune, a ruler of the first house, in the seventh house, but Mars in the seventh repeated the message.
At around age four, Ms Y's family moved to a new country. She lost a loving care-taker and had to learn a new language. But the main stress came from her father who was himself under stress in the new place and reacted by beating Y and two siblings, an older sister and a younger brother. The physical abuse continued intermittently until Y was able to leave home at age 19. To cope with the physical pain, Y learned to leave her body, and she is now a professional psychic. But the emotional pain was always present and was compounded when her father persuaded Y's sister that Y was evil, demonic, in her ability to leave her body. When Y was seven years old, her sister turned against her. Y had been trying to help her also learn to get out of her body to escape the physical pain and to get over her fear that they would be killed by their father. When her sister was alienated at age seven, Y says she became depressed, lost her faith in God, and stopped playing. But her father never was able to break her will. Y also fell out of a tree at age seven, but miraculously escaped being paralyzed.
Adding seven degrees to the chart factors brings Pluto into the square to the close Moon-Mercury conjunction, and Neptune is quincunx Moon-Mercury. The directed MC squares the lunar nodes as her father (MC) succeeded in cutting off Y's bond with her sister, leaving her really isolated in the family. Like the Moon, the source of the nodes, they show our need for emotional security which is usually provided by close relationships. Y's mother argued constantly with her husband, but he rarely hit her and she did not protect the kids against his abuse. Additional aspects at age seven showing Y's loss of faith and optimism were directed Saturn square Chiron and Jupiter opposite Saturn. Falls are also traditionally associated with Saturn when we try to do more than is possible. Other aspects included Uranus octile the Sun and Vesta quincunx Mars. The emphasis on fire and earth describes Y's inner strength, but she was too young to mobilize it against an adult so the power-struggle aspects manifested in self-doubts, self-blocking, and others using power against her.
The tightest aspects in the natal chart are the Venus quincunx to Saturn, the Jupiter quincunx to the south lunar node, and the Vesta trine to Ceres with Pluto completing a grand fire trine. Y has much personal power with the fire and earth emphasis in the chart, but unless this drive is channeled into appropriate sports and games, it can invite attacks from others. Y is also strongly water, which is emotionally vulnerable. She kept trying to please her father, to do the "right" thing with her idealistic Pisces rising, but she also kept her core of strength and refused to cry when her father beat her. He said at one time that he was going to break her will, but he never did. Jupiter in double Pisces, (both the sign and the house), and Saturn in double Virgo are the main keys to the father as rulers of the tenth house. Pisces and Virgo are not noted for strength unless the person has faith in a higher power and then individuals with that emphasis are often healers. But weak, fearful people are typically threatened by a strong person, and if they are in a power position (as an adult dealing with a child), they may try to gain a sense of personal power by dominating the more helpless person. Failure to succeed can increase their sense of personal inadequacy and drive them to greater efforts.
The summer that Y was 17, she was raped by her supervisor when she was working as a lifeguard—again, abuse by an authority figure, an older man. It was her first experience with sex, and, as is commonly the case, she felt guilty and did not tell anyone about it. Adding seventeen degrees to the natal chart factors brings the Sun into a square to Saturn, Juno is on the south lunar node and quincunx Jupiter, Mars is trioctile the Sun, the south node is quincunx Moon-Mercury and the north node is quincunx Mars. There are two ways to calculate the lunar node and both seem to work, as in this case. Other aspects include Pluto and Vesta sextile Uranus, the Ascendant opposite Neptune, the MC quincunx Pluto, Neptune octile Ceres, and Ceres opposite Uranus.
When Y was nineteen, her father began to beat her for something she had not done and, finally, something snapped. Y grabbed a barstool and hit her father with it. Her mother, sister, and brother came running into the room to stop the fight, Y's father threatened her mother, and Y told him she would kill him if he ever hit her mother again. She also told him that she had talked to the police and the FBI and that if he attacked Y again, he would go to jail. Her father had previously hit her mother and knocked her unconscious and Y was determined not to let that happen again. About two weeks after that, Y was able to move out of the home.
The directed aspects at age 19 included Saturn octile Pluto, Jupiter opposite Mars, the Ascendant conjunct Vesta and forming a grand fire trine to Pluto and Ceres, The Antivertex quincunx Juno, Mars opposite Venus, Pluto opposite Jupiter, the true south lunar node quincunx the Sun, the Sun trine Neptune, Uranus sextile Moon-Mercury, Juno trioctile Moon-Mercury, Vesta quincunx the south node, Pallas opposite the Sun. There were also major aspects involving all of the local angles in Y's current residence. The oppositions and quincunxes are typical aspects for separations.
Though this article is focused on Solar Arc Directions, I want to point out one of the useful techniques offered by astrology. Much of the time, an aspect will occur repeatedly at different times in the life when you use the different systems. Normally, the events at such times will be quite different, but the principles, the psychological issues, will be the same. Comparing the events and how we handled them at different ages can be quite instructive. Y's directed Mars crossed her Descendant at age four to five. With Secondary Progressions, P Mars remained opposite her Ascendant, East Point, and Antivertex from age sixteen to age twenty-six. For two years out of that time, P Mars was also square her MC. That whole period of ten years could have been a challenging one as Y tried to recover her projected personal power. Typically, when we have keys to letter one in the seventh or eighth signs or (especially) houses, we have six options. I have written repeatedly about this principle. We can give in and try to please others. We can try to keep all the power ourselves. We can retreat and avoid closeness. Or, we can learn to cooperate to share the power. We can engage in healthy, game-playing competition, and we can help others. There is also some danger of over-doing the last, of attracting weak people because it feels safer, and ending up being Atlas, doing more than our share.
For those who want to work regularly with Directions, a useful tool is a pair of horoscope wheels with the 360 degrees marked on them and the planets and angles placed precisely on their proper degrees. The wheels are made of different sizes, with the smaller one fastened on top of the larger one which is mounted on heavy cardboard or soft wood. A thumb tack in the center works fine. Then the smaller wheel can be rotated the number of degrees that fits the year being studied and the aspects between the factors on the two wheels can be seen quite readily. When several pairs of factors line up on the two wheels, we know we have the potential for an active year.
Although solar arcs are the most common form of Directions, you can also experiment with lunar arcs, planetary arcs, angle arcs, etc. In each case, the arc, the distance the moving wheel is turned, is derived from the secondary progressions. For example, since the progressed Moon moves about 12 to 15 degrees a year, the lunar arc will be moved an equivalent distance. Many techniques in astrology can provide useful information. As long as you are systematic in what you do, everything seems to work. The only limit is one's personal time.