Symbolic Directions Gone Wild

Recently I’ve been reading through the Spanish-language literature on what Charles Carter called symbolic directions, which are known as “ataçires” in Spanish from an Arabic word al-tasyir meaning to move, shift or displace.  It is apparently the Arabic word used for what Ptolemy referred to as prorogation in the Tetrabiblos.

In any case, the idea is that the astrologer takes all the locations of planets and points on the ecliptic, regardless of the latitude of the planets above or below the ecliptic, and moves all of them at a uniform rate along the ecliptic, noting when they conjoin or aspect the ecliptic longitudes of the original points in the natal chart.  These “hits” are regarded as significant and interpreted according to their usual astrological symbolism.

A popular example of this method is the so-called solar arc direction.  All points and planets on the ecliptic wheel are advanced at the rate of motion of the secondary progressed sun, which is roughly 1 degree per year. Because each planet has its own rate of motion, there is no astronomical justification for advancing all planets at the uniform rate of the secondary progressed sun.  Thus, they are called “symbolic” directions and their interpretation depends of the symbolism of the uniform rate which is being utilized.

In the case of solar arc directions, the symbolism of the sun as the source of life and an indicator of prominence makes sense.  In many other cases, the symbolism appears to be based on little more than the whim of the author.  For example, in the Spanish-language literature the rate linked to the number 13 is supposedly associated with death because the death card in the tarot is numbered 13 and I suspect also that Judas, the 13th guest at the Last Supper, was the guy who betrayed Jesus Christ and brought about his execution.

Charles Carter in his book on symbolic directions gives equally ridiculous reasoning.  For example, Carter (on page 25) advocates directing a birth chart at a rate of 3/5 of a degree per year, which he calls the “Naronic” measure.  His reasoning is based on the teachings of theosophy in which the cycle called “Great Neros” was 608 years.  Thus, if you divide the 360 degrees of a horoscope wheel by the 608 years of the Great Neros, you get 360/608 = 0.5921 degrees per year, which is very close to 3/5 = 0.60 degrees per year and is also close to 4/7 = 0.57143 degrees per year, a rate advocated by astrologer W. Franklin in a now out-of-print book New Measures in Astrology.  Supposedly, by directing at this rate you can identify “periods of depression and expansion in any life” within 20 months of their occurrence if you use a 1-degree orb.  Thus, if there is an exact hit on January 1, 2020 you can confidently tell the client that at some point within the 20 months before or after January of 2020 he or she will experience a period of depression or expansion.  What nonsense!

The basic idea in determining a rate for one of these fantastical symbolic directions is to divide the 360 degrees of the horoscope wheel by some supposedly significant cycle that pops into the mind of the astrologer.

Hispanic astrology has taken this idea and run with it.  In a YouTube video a Colombian astrologer attempts to demonstrate how the rate based on a cycle of 45 years predicted his accident of 28 January 2014. A car hit him while he was riding his motorcycle. He suffered a broken right clavicle and several lacerations.  Why 45?  Because 45 x 8 = 360, so 45 is connected to the 8th harmonic of the chart and therefore linked to all the hard aspects, which can manifest as accidents and hard times in the life.

Thus, 360 degrees divided by 45 gives a rate of 8 degrees per year as the uniform rate of progression.  Here is the natal chart with the symbolically directed chart at 8 degrees per year to the date of the motorcycle accident and broken clavicle (28 Jan 2014).


There are almost NO HITS between the natal chart and the symbolically directed chart to the date of the accident.  The closest possible “hit” is the directed Ascendant at 1 Scorpio 28 semi-sextile natal Uranus at 1 Libra 40 in the 12th house.  Semi-sextiles can be quite nasty aspects in directed charts, so this aspect could represent an accident but the timing is not exact, nor is the symbolism of a motor vehicle accident or a broken bone present.  (The d-Asc semisextile n-Uranus became exact on 6 February 2014.)  I would have expected Mars and Saturn to be activated in this instance.  Nonetheless, d-Asc semisextile n-Uranus becoming exact on 6 Feb 2014 does warn of a possible accident or other sudden disruptive event within a few weeks either side of that date.

More telling that this directed chart is the Solar Return for the year of the occurrence of the accident.  Here is the natal chart with the solar return superimposed.

sr moto

This is the year that he turned 45 years old.  Judging from his annual profections, the Lady of the Year is the Moon, which rules his 10th and occupies his 3rd house.  Thus, we might expect significant events related to career and local transport (cars, motorcycles).  Natally, the Moon squares Uranus in the 12th and the moon’s nodes which lies across houses 6 and 12.  Thus, we might expect health problems, possibly related to a transportation accident (Moon in 3rd square Uranus in 12th).

In the solar return, Pluto is highly prominent.  The SR Ascendant lies exactly on natal Pluto near the cusp of the 12th.  Natal Pluto conjoins Mars and Jupiter (ruler of the 6th of bodily ailments).  The SR MC closely square natal Pluto as well.

The natal nodes in houses 6 and 12 lies in square to SR Pluto in the 3rd of transport.  In addition, SR Pluto almost exactly square SR Uranus in the natal 6th house.

SR Mars closely squares natal Venus, ruler of the natal Ascendant (body, vitality).

All in all, the Solar Return for 2013-2014 warns of a significant health crisis, possibly involving the 3rd house of local travel.

With the Moon as profected Lady of the Year, we should consider the secondary progressions of the Moon.  We find that on 27 January 2014 (one day before the accident), the secondary progressed Moon (at 21 Leo 32) perfects a semi-sexile to natal Mars (at 21 Virgo 32).

Tertiary Progression

Pluto is also highly emphasized in the tertiary progression (one day in the emphemeris = one lunar cycle in the life) for the date of the accident.  Within 24 hours of the motorcycle accident tertiary progressed Pluto crosses the IC.  An angular Pluto by progression often marks a dramatic life-altering event.  Here is the tertiary progressed chart for 29 January 2014.


It seems to me that standard and well-tested astrological techniques provide a better predictive model for what happened than the fanciful symbolic directions which are rooted in the whims of their inventors and the supposed numerological significance of certain numbers.





About Anthony Louis

Author of books about astrology and tarot, including TAROT PLAIN AND SIMPLE, HORARY ASTROLOGY, and THE ART OF FORECASTING WITH SOLAR RETURNS.
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