The Power of Primary Directions


Primary directions are one of the most venerable techniques in Western astrology. They are based on the idea that in the hours after birth, as the sky continues to rise in the east and set in the west, the natal planetary positions are carried clockwise around the wheel. When a directed natal position (a promisor) reaches a fixed natal position (a significator), a primary direction is formed which symbolically indicates an event in the life of the native. To time the occurrence of such events Ptolemy postulated that each degree on the Equator that crosses the meridian corresponds to one year of life.

For those who are interested, I have done some videos about primary directions with Levi Cosijn and with Aswin Balaji. Clicking on the links will take you to the sites.

Let me illustrate the technique with a chart from my files. The client gave permission to use his chart and its interpretation, provided that his personal identity not be revealed. This person consulted me about three years ago in December of 2016. At the time he was 37 years old. We spent much of our time discussing the implications an upcoming primary direction of Mars to the natal Midheaven. Here is the birth chart.

Natal chart (Placidus Houses, tropical zodiac, true nodes) of a man whose 8th ruler Mars reaches the MC by primary direction at age 38.

In terms of primary directions I noticed immediately that Mars was about 37 ecliptic degrees from the MC, which corresponded to the man’s current age of 37 years. The MC is one of the most powerful points in the chart, so that directions to the MC always manifest prominently in the life of the client. Looking up the Right Ascension (RA) of the MC and Mars in the natal chart revealed the following values:

RA of MC = 69 deg 34 min, and the RA of Mars = 107 deg 37 min,

The difference in RA between Mars and the MC is 38 degrees 03 minutes of arc, which by Ptolelmy’s measure of 1 degree of R.A. = one year of life corresponds to age 38. (Directions to the Midheaven are measured in Right Ascension.) In fact, the exact conjunction of directed Mars to the natal MC would occur very close to his 38th birthday in 2017 (provided his birth time was accurate). I generally use an “orb” of about 1 degree of the directed planet’s application to and separation from an Angle for the range of influence of the direction. Thus, directed 8th ruler Mars crossing the natal MC would be in effect all of 2017 and well into 2018, marking this as a period in which he was likely to have an 8th house experience.

What does Mars symbolize in this man’s chart? Mars in Cancer lies in the sign of its fall, so this is a debilitated Mars, which is also the out-of-sect malefic in a diurnal chart (he was born during daylight hours). Thus, the experience of Mars crossing the MC is likely to be stressful, somewhat painful and challenging. In addition, Mars rules the unfortunate 8th house, which among other matters signifies human mortality. It was also concerning that natally Mars squares Pluto in Libra in the 2nd house, which is a difficult aspect that can indicate radical change and transformation with a potentially traumatic undertone. This interpretation was further underscored by the fact that Mars, Pluto and the Moon (his emotional life) formed a natal T-square. It appeared that the coming year or two (ages 37 and 38) could be a significantly emotionally trying time.

Looking at his annual profections, he had turned 37 years old in September of 2016 and would thus be in a second house profection until September of 2017. His second house is ruled by Venus and contains Pluto therein, with Pluto squaring natal Mars and the Moon. Natal Venus conjunct his natal Ascendant indicated that he would experience this year very personally. Because Venus is a general signifier of women and wives, and in this chart Venus is the exalted ruler of the 7th of the spouse, I asked him if he had concerns about his wife or his mother. Venus and the Moon were active and can signify important women in his life.

He responded that his wife had been not feeling well lately and was undergoing some medical tests to determine the reason for her fatigue and lack of energy. I noted to myself that the 2nd house is the 8th house of the 7th spouse, but I did not bring this up with the client to avoid causing any unnecessary worry as his wife was already undergoing medical tests. My concern was that Mars, ruler of his 8th, would be crossing the MC at the same time that the 2nd house, the profected Ascendant of the year (Sep 2016 – Sep 2017) and the 8th house of his spouse, was being activated.

I also looked at the Solar Return which would become active in September of 2017 and cover the period until September of 2018. Here is the natal chart with the Solar Return superimposed.

Natal chart with Sep 2017 – Sep 2018 Solar Return superimposed

The 2017-2018 Solar Return was of concern. Return Neptune conjoins the 7th cusp of the client’s wife. Return Pluto conjoins both Return and natal Moon, opposes natal Mars and very closely squares natal Pluto in the natal 2nd, which is the profected Ascendant of the year. Return Saturn squares natal Saturn at the Ascendant from the natal 4th house of home and family. In addition, the Return Lunar Nodes fall almost exactly on natal 7th ruler Jupiter in the 12th, suggesting sudden unexpected events of a 12th house nature related to the wife. In addition, there was a preponderance of Solar Return factors clustered in the natal 12th house of hospitalization and confinement.

The outcome was unfortunate, as the chart had intimated. The result of the wife’s workup was that she had developed a form of cancer, which would require chemotherapy and a period of hospitalization in 2017. She initially did well and the doctors thought she was in remission but later in the year, after the client’s 2017-2018 Solar Return became active, his wife had a relapse and she died of her illness in the early months of 2018.

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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5 Responses to The Power of Primary Directions

  1. Lulu says:

    Thank you.
    What if one’s natal chart has all the personal planets gathered tightly around the MC? Would the native have all prominent events in his life occurring during his childhood?
    If, for example he has Mars in Capricorn in the 9th in a day chart, where Mars rules 7th and 12th houses, and makes an exact 135 degrees aspect to natal Pluto, what would one expect to manifest when this directed Mars comes to the cusp of the 7th? Divorce maybe?

    • Directions need to be viewed in the context of the entire chart, other predictive techniques, and the dignities of the planets. In the situation you describe Mars is exalted in Capricorn, so its direction to the 7th cusp (an Angle) should be noticeable in the person’s life and relate to 7th and 12th house themes (in addition to any aspects which involve Mars in the natal chart). Since Mars is exalted, it’s coming to the 7th cusp could indicate a marriage or business partnership, not necessarily a divorce. The 12th house could indicate a spiritual experience or retreat, etc. Because Mars occupies the 9th, its conjoining an angle could indicate a trip abroad or study at a university, etc. These are only possibilities that must be interpreted in the context of the entire chart and its unfolding. A prediction cannot be made based on a single factor in a chart.

      • Lulu says:

        Thank you for your prompt and informative response.

        The chart in question will have its solar return in less than two months. The solar return chart has Saturn and Pluto tightly conjunct right on natal Mars in the 9th. This is heavy. I also cast a horary chart asking how Mars’ direction to the Dsc will manifest. The horary chart has Aldebaran rising and Antares setting, the two fixed stars associated with the military. It also has Mercury L1 in the 6th, at the end of Scorpio, and Moon in Taurus (conjunct Uranus) applying opposition Mars L6 and co-ruler of 11th, in Scorpio (military organization?) in the 6th. This whole mix smells like the native is to be court martial-ed. I’ve read in a basic astrology book that Mars in Capricorn is beneficial for a military career (but the native gave up the military career many years ago). 😓😱

  2. Transiting Saturn/Pluto conjunction natal Mars can certainly be a trying transit, but one cannot do justice to a chart by focusing on a single factor. If the native is concerned about this upcoming configuration, it would be best to schedule a personal consultation with an astrologer whom the native trusts to review the entire chart and how this particular configuration might play out in the context of the native’s life. If you are able, please update us with what actually happens in a few months so that we can all learn from this experience.

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