Solar Returns, Part I


The author, Georgia Stathis is the owner of Starcycles, a former board member at Kepler College and primary instructor for the Business & Finance Certificate in the Kepler Certificate Program.

Solar Returns are not a new technique.  Firmicus Maternus mentioned Solar Returns in his work. In an article by Maria Mateus regarding Forecasting for the Year, she states,

“In Hellenistic astrology, a study of the current year is a complex undertaking. First, the year is understood within larger time frames, and a series of time lords – planets which govern these time periods – are calculated. Then the two year lords are calculated and subsequently the astrologer continues to calculate the lords responsible for the monthly and daily periods of time within that year. The whole procedure involves a complex array of hierarchically embedded time lords, all purportedly controlling different sized chunks of time.”[1]

Solar returns fell out of use in England, but were picked up in the twentieth century by the Siderealists.  In France, the Solar Return is a central part of the astrological tradition thanks to the work of Alexander Volguine.

Volguine writes that all the great Renaissance astrologers used Solar Returns.  Nostradamus refers to them in his letters, and he cites Antoine De Villon and Junctinus of Florence as the sources for his approach.  There is a huge difference in technique, however, since Junctinus calculated solar returns using profections. That is to say, the year after birth the natal 2nd house becomes the Ascendant; the following year it’s the 3rd house that’s placed on the Ascendant; and so on.[2]

In this short article, we will be applying Modern techniques to the solar return calculations, but it is good to have this historical base

Solar returns do not coincide with the birthdays because a day is not exactly 24 hours long.  It is about 4’ less.  Because of this small differential this adds up to nearly six hours every year (5 hours, 40 minutes to be exact) and this accounts for the change in the Ascendant from one solar return to the next.[3] It is important when looking at a solar return that we always consider the natal chart equally.  James Eshelman agrees with this position, but with a twist…

James Eshelman wrote that we must always look at solar returns twice.  Once as a chart by itself, and, then, in comparison to the natal chart as mentioned above.  He also went on to suggest that the only way that a Solar Return can be read properly was because, “The issue here is not so much one of zodiacs, as of something far more fundamental to the essence of things astrological.”

He states that “one can achieve the desired effects with solar returns by either (1) using the Tropical Zodiac and correcting for precession or (2) using the precession-free Sidereal Zodiac.”[4] He goes on to say “If neither of these methods is used, a Solar Return will be six hours in error by age 18, twelve hours in error by age 36, and an entire day off by the time a person attains the age of 72.”[5] He suggests this because the equinoxes regress along the Ecliptic at the (current) average rate of 50”.27 per year or, roughly 1 º in about 72 years. This is the movement called precession.  Because the starting point of the tropical Zodiac is moving, it is also known as the moving zodiac.”  Eshelman actually refers to the book by Donald Bradley, Solar and Lunar Returns (Los Angeles:  Llewellyn Foundation for Astrological Research, 1948) for much of his material.  This is one opinion of how a solar return should be calculated and read.  It is important for you to experiment with what works for you.

Still the ‘real’ birthday is when the Sun returns to its natal position precisely.  If we are working with the tropical zodiac, then we know the Sun is not precessed at birth and for the purposes of this class, we will not precess the solar returns when we work with them.

In March and McEvers[6] they state that you should calculate the solar return chart for where you reside the most in that particular year.  They also state that their research found that relocating for your birthday for only that one day (thereby avoiding a difficult solar return chart) is not valid.  They go on to state that the solar return Ascendant and its ruler show the potential for your outlook for that year; the scope of your temperament and personality; your possible approach to life and your path to self-awareness; also your appearance and general health.[7]

They also state that the house in the solar return in which the Sun resides is where most of the activity for the year is centered.  It is the area “of your life that can be revitalized now by the expenditure of personal energy; this is where expression of your ego can benefit you and it is here that you want to shine.  The solar return house with Leo on the cusp (the Sun rules Leo) shows where the energy can be applied and how you can shine.  Where the Sun is, is where you most identify with yourself and it indicates the potential for great psychological growth.”[8]

Progressing the Midheaven


According to Ray Merriman, “one of the most accurate significant events and changes during the year is progressing the angles of the solar return chart.  The meridian (MC and IC) is progressed forward through the solar return chart at the same rate as the transiting Sun, or approximately one degree per day.  In other words, if the sun has transited 5 signs and 20 degrees from the time of the solar return, you may move the MC of the solar return forward 5 signs and 20 minutes to see where it is by progression.  By the same token, you can then look up the corresponding Ascendant for that MC degree (using the Table of Houses) and that will represent the progressed horizon (Ascendant-Descendant axis) for that same day.[9]

Another way to express this same idea is that the solar return MC moves approximately one square forward in the zodiacal year.  This is why we see the same modality repeating itself year after year.  A cardinal MC will take more risks, theoretically, versus a mutable MC which will have to juggle many balls in the air all at one time.

In March and McEvers, they state that the wheel moves 1º every 4 days across the Midheaven.  Therefore the wheel moves 7 ½º per month.  15º in 2 months, 30º in 4 months, 60º in 8 months and 90º in a year.  Always check your returns in succeeding years to be sure they haven’t moved more or less than 87º to 93º at the MC each year (unless you are erecting the solar return chart for a different location than the previous year).[10]

Progressing the Cusps


Measure the degree distance for each house.  For those using whole sign houses, (please try other house systems, particularly Koch), there are 30º to each house.  Divide that 30º by 12 months, and you get 2.5º per month.  Say, a house cusp is at 00º Leo and when the solar return happens, Saturn in Leo is at 8º.  There indicates an 8º difference between the solar return cusp and that planet.  At 2.5º per month, this suggests that around 3.2 months from the solar return, that solar return Saturn will be conjoining the solar return cusp, because the house cusp will have ‘progressed’ forward using that measurement.  This might suggest a ‘significant’ period in the solar return year.  ALWAYS remember the solar return is a chart that is only active for one year.

Natal Cusps on Solar Return Cusps


It is also important to note if any of the houses of the solar return align with houses of the natal chart, since we must always take into consideration the natal chart when looking at the solar return. If it isn’t happening in the nativity, then it isn’t happening in the solar return.  So, for example, if the ascendant of the solar return is conjunct one’s natal 9th house, then it is suggested that part of this year’s identity (the solar return’s 1st house) relates to the native’s 9th house affairs.  It is probably good to surmise that 9th house activities will be a large part of the native’s year.  You can apply this to all of the houses of the solar return and how they relate to the natal chart.

[1] Lynn Bell, Cycles of Light, Centre for Psychological Astrology Press, London, England,  2005,  page 2 footnote 1.

[2] Ibid, page 2.

[3] James A. Eshelman, Interpreting Solar Returns, ACS Publications, San Diego, 1985, Page 2.

[4] Bell, Page 3.

[5] Marion March and Joan McEvers, The Only Way To Learn About Tomorrow, Volume 4, ACS Publishing, San Diego, CA, 1988, page 140.

[6]Ibid, Page 141.

[7] Ibid, Page 142.

[8] Raymond Merriman, The Solar Return Book of Prediction, Seek-It Publishing, Birmingham, Michigan, 1981.

[9] March and McEvers, page 178.


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