Recently I’ve been reading through the literature on solar returns in preparation for a talk I’ll be giving in June of this year. This post will review some interesting ideas that are not much discussed in the English-language literature.
The notion of the importance of the transits that occur annually on your birthday dates back to Hellenistic times. The astrology program Delphic Oracle makes available the unique method of studying “solar returns” found in Vettius Valens.
In the 8th century Masha’Allah discussed annual revolutions (returns), and his method spread to India where it influenced Vedic astrology. In the following century Masha’Allah’s work was further elaborated by Abu Ma’Shar, who was probably the first astrologer to write about what we moderns now call a solar return, that is, a chart for the moment the Sun returns to the exact position it held in the birth chart.
Solar returns were never interpreted in isolation from the natal chart. In fact, there was an elaborate set of techniques that were used to interpret the solar return. These included progressing the MC at a rate of one degree of right ascension for each year of life and using the term or bound of the corresponding directed ascendant as an interpretive principle. The most recent aspect which the directed ascendant encountered was also significant.
Of great importance was the technique of profecting the natal ascendant at a rate of one zodiac sign for each year of life. The ruler of the profected ascendant was considered the Lord of the Year.
Lesser known in Western astrology is the idea of utilizing the Lord of the Hour of the birth chart as representing the first year of life and assigning each subsequent planetary hour to a corresponding later year of life. The Lord of the Hour was called the Lord of the Orb (or Lord of the Circle of the zodiac). A discussion of this technique can be found in the early 11th century text of Ali Ben Ragel (Haly Abenragel) and in the writings of the 16th century astrologer Junctinus of Florence. On page 69 of Ben Dyke’s translation of Abu Ma’Shar’s On Solar Revolutions, the Lord of the Orb is listed as fifth in importance when interpreting the solar return, and it is even more significant than the ascendant of the solar return according to Ma’Shar.
If I have understood the method correctly, the Lord of the Hour of birth was assigned to the 1st house and to the 1st year of life, the planetary ruler of the next hour after birth was assigned to the 2nd house and to the 2nd year of life, and so on throughout the life of the native. Essentially, this method identified a planet that shared lordship of the solar return year in cooperation with the ruler of the profected ascendant. Each subsequent planetary hour after birth rules a corresponding year of life.
To see how this method might work in practice, let’s consider Donald Trump’s solar return that was in effect when he won the 2016 presidential election. Here is his natal chart with the solar return superimposed.
Donald Trump was born in 1946 and won the 2016 election at the age of 70 during his 71st year of life. The Lord of the Hour of his birth chart (Lord of the Orb) is Jupiter. It is significant that he was born during a Jupiter hour because Jupiter is stationary, turning direct in the 2nd house of income at the moment of his birth. Stationary planets are extremely influential throughout the life of the native. Jupiter forms a very close trine to Uranus in the 10th of career.
At age 70, the profected ascendant is the lord of the 11th Whole Sign house, which is Gemini ruled by Mercury in this chart. Thus, Mercury becomes Trump’s “Lord of the Year” during the 2016 elections. Solar return Mercury is very strong in Gemini in the natal 10th house of career and conjunct the natal MC. The Lord of the Year being highly dignified and conjunct the MC suggests significant career success during the 2016 – 2017 solar return year.
The planetary hour lord at birth is Jupiter, which is assigned to the 1st house and the 1st year of life. Planetary hours occur in Chaldean order (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon). Because only the 7 visible planets rule the planetary hours (giving us a 7-day week), Jupiter in this chart is assigned to the 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd, 29th, 36th, 43rd, 50th, 57th, 64th, and 71st years of life. At the time of the 2016 elections, Trump was in his 71st year of life. Hence, Jupiter was his Lord of the Orb at the time of the elections.
Solar return Jupiter lies in the angular natal 1st house where it conjoins the transiting North Node of the Moon, considered an expansive influence which will increase the beneficial effects of the already powerful Jupiter in his natal chart. Jupiter as Lord of the Orb during the 2016-17 solar return also “activates” the natal Jupiter/Uranus trine from the 2nd to the 10th house, suggesting significant surprising and unexpected career benefits during this period.
The combination of Mercury as Lord of the Year with Jupiter as Lord of the Orb during this solar return year suggests great career success at the time of the 2016 presidential elections.
Below is an Excel spreadsheet showing the annual Lord of the Orb for Donald Trump:
|AGE||Lord of Orb||June of|
|70 (won presidential election)||Jupiter||2016|
All original material in this blog post is copyright Anthony Louis 2019.