Fast and Easy Primary Directions

Primary directions are one of the oldest predictive techniques in Western astrology.  Although they were widely used in classical and traditional astrology, they fell out of popularity in modern times because they were considered rather difficult to calculate in comparison with the more recent secondary progressions (introduced in the 17th century).  Modern software programs have now made primaries more accessible and they are regaining popularity.

The fact that modern computer programs often have a “chart animate” feature allows the user a quick and easy way to visualize how the directed chart will appear as the client ages.  The rule of thumb in primary directions is that each degree on the Equator (measured in Right Ascension) that crosses the MC equals one year of life.  Because it takes almost 4 minutes for one equatorial degree to pass over the MC, each 4 minutes added to the birth time advances the chart by about one year of life in the system of primary directions.

Using the “chart animate” feature, you can advance your birth chart by 4 minutes for every year of life to get a sense of how the primary directed chart will look on each subsequent birthday.  Most important are conjunctions of planets to the horizon or meridian.  Also important are years when there is a change of sign on the Ascendant or MC, or for that matter on any of the house cusps.  Finally, if you set up the chart to shown the bounds, you can see how the system of “distributions” unfolds over time as the bounds of the natal signs below the ascendant rise to the horizon during your lifetime.  Planets that closely aspect the directed ascendant in a given year are also significant.

[A technical note: more precisely, one degree of Right Ascension equals 3 minutes and 59.34 seconds.  This figure is arrived at by dividing the length of the sidereal day (23.934444 hours) by the number of degrees in a circle (360 degrees).  If you want to use the more precise figure, you multiply your current age by 3 min 59.34 secs [3.989074 minutes] and add that result to the birth time to calculate the primary directed chart for your current age.  Here the idea is that one rotation of the earth is equivalent to one year of life.  A sidereal day is used because it measures the time the Earth takes to rotate exactly once on its axis relative to the stars.  The sidereal day is almost four minutes shorter than the solar day because of the Earth’s orbital motion around the Sun.]

An example will make this procedure clear.  Let’s consider the chart of actress Shirley Temple.  Her birth data, rated AA, from is

23 April 1928 at 21:00 (= 9:00 PM )
Place Santa Monica, California, 34n01, 118w29
Timezone PST h8w (is standard time)

Here is her natal chart:


Now let’s consider a major health crisis.  In November of 1972 at the age of 44.53 years (3 Nov 1972) she was treated for breast cancer with a radical mastectomy.  The possibility of surgery for breast cancer is indicated in the “natal promise” of her chart in that she has Pluto in Cancer (breasts) in the 8th (life-threatening experiences) in close square to 6th house ruler Venus in her fall in Aries.   One might expect that when Pluto is activated by primary direction, that is, when Pluto arrives at the western horizon by primary motion, this natal promise might manifest.

To direct her chart at a rate of one degree of R.A. over the MC equals one year of life, we can multiply 4 minutes for year year of life by 44.53 years, which give the result 178.12 minutes.  If we use the more precise figure, we multiply 3.98907 minutes times 44.54 years, which gives a result of 177.633 minutes to be added to the birth time.

Her birth certificate says she was born at 9:00 PM.  To this time we add 177.633 minutes (which is 2 hours and 57 minutes and 38 seconds, so the the “primary directed birth time” for age 44.54 years becomes 11:57:38 PM.  Here is the chart set for this adjusted birth time:

shirley dirThe above chart is basically the natal chart advanced by primary direction (at a rate of 3.989074 minutes crossing the MC equals one year of life) to age 44.53 when she had her breast surgery.  Pluto, which occupies the Cancer 8th house (Pluto-Cancer-8th suggests radical breast surgery), is now on the Descendant and has just recently opposed the directed Ascendant, which lies in the Venus bound of Capricorn at 15 Cap 26.  Hence, by the method of distributions, the divisor for this period of her life is a fallen Venus in Aries, and its participating planet is Pluto which lies in opposition.  The symbolism fits perfectly with the natal promise of surgery for breast cancer, and the timing by primary direction is extremely close to the date of the surgery.

Finally, here is a list of her Placidean zodiacal primary directions calculated in Solar Fire for the year 1971:


There is a strong emphasis on Pluto in Cancer in the 8th house this year, which begins with the Sun by primary direction forming a trine to natal Pluto.  As you can also see in this list, Pluto came to the horizon in July of 1972, about four and a half months before the radical mastectomy.  This corresponds to the period of detection of the breast cancer, the initial surgical removal of the lump which she discovered in May of 1972, and further consultations with her doctor to decide on the best final treatment.

She discovered a lump in her breast six months before the surgery when Jupiter by primary direction was square in Moon’s Nodes, and at that time she underwent a simple mastectomy.  The radical mastectomy surgery occurred on Friday 3 Nov 1972 when the direction of Venus (ruler of the natal 6th of health issues) trine the Moon (ruler of the 8th of life-threatening conditions and surgery) came to its perfection.


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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3 Responses to Fast and Easy Primary Directions

  1. Jon says:

    What iteration based on a target date is ideal for project completion (e.g., Lets say target date is 11/23/2019). Today is 07/21/2019. What is the algorithm leading up to target date for working and attempting work on said project. Some suggest that squares are indicative of change (i.e., what you start now will manifest 6 months from now). Is there a fixed pattern or purely set out by relative motion of planets?

  2. Jon, I think you are referring to electional astrology, which is a complex topic and requires a good understanding of the natal chart and its promise, as well as the current and upcoming astrological conditions and how they relate to the natal chart. There is no simple answer.

  3. Jon says:

    So . . . there is an intersection between thoughts and biology, but none easily ascertainable. Interesting!

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