Any astrologer who has tried to rectify a birth chart knows what an arduous task it is. I know astrologers who have spent years trying to rectify their own charts, and nearly every time a new major event occurs in their life they are forced to adjust their rectified birth time. A glance through AstroDataBank at charts of celebrities with unknown birth times will reveal that many astrologers have attempted a rectification and come up with different birth times, often hours apart. Even the historical literature has examples of charts that were “rectified” to times many hours removed from the recorded birth time. The case of King Henri II of France is a good example, which I have discussed elsewhere. Another case in which the rectified birth chart falls far from the accurately recorded birth time is that of King Sebastian of Portugal. My own view is that rectified charts are highly suspect when the rectified time differs substantially from the recorded birth time.
Recently I was talking with an astrological colleague from Argentina who swore by the exact predictions available via topocentric primary directions which would enable a very precise rectification of a birth chart. Skeptical of such a claim, I decided to read more about this method and I began reading works by Alexander Marr and Juan Estadella. My own experience with primary directions is that they identify a general period of several months, somewhat like time lords or dasa lords, but are only exact in timing events on occasion. The proponents of the topocentric system claim that if the birth time is correct, then the primary directions will identify the time of events within a week or two. I find this hard to believe.
Reading a book on prediction by Alexander Marr and another on rectification by his disciple Isaac Starkman, I attempted to work with the Marr method of rectification of the chart of Elizabeth Taylor, who has a well-documented birth time. The Marr approach comes up with a birth time that is quite different from the birth certificate, and I am more inclined to believe the official record. Judging from the primary directions for 23 March 1958 when her husband Mike Todd died in a plane crash, the topocentric primaries suggest a birth time of around 2:13:54 AM (when the directed MC without latitude reaches the position of natal Neptune at the Naibod rate) but the birth certificate gives a time of 2:30 am, some 16 minutes later. If we take the same event (the death of Mike Todd) and try to rectify the chart with Placidan semi-arc primaries with latitude, we come up with a birth time of 2:29:06 AM, less than a minute different from the birth time recorded by the nurses in the delivery room. At 2:29:06 AM the directed square of Mercury (ruler of the natal 7th of her husband and natal 9th of plane travel) reached her natal Moon, in fall in Scorpio and in her whole sign 12th house of grieving and dissolution.
The Marr approach appears to use Placidian directions “under the pole” rather than the proportional semi-arc method which Placidus felt was superior in accuracy and was an accurate rendition of the method of Claudius Ptolemy. Because the mathematics of Placidus semi-arc directions was so complicated, he also published tables to help mathematically challenged astrologers to approximate true Placidian prmary directions using circles of position and poles of significators. This method of Placidian directions “under the pole of the significator” produced results that were accurate to within a few months of the true semi-arc directions (Gansten, 2009, p.93). In addition, Marr uses the key of Naibod and, as far as I can tell, does not take planetary latitude into account in calculating primary directions.
I next turned to a book by Juan Estadella who describes the method of Alexander Marr. One of Estadella’s chief examples is the chart of Jackie Kennedy, which has a suspect birth time because it was given by Frances McEvoy who had a reputation for rectifying birth charts and then claiming that the source of the birth time was a mutual acquaintance of the famous person whose chart she had rectified. Mr. Estadella, using McAvoy’s data which was probably already rectified by McEvoy, notes that the primary direction of the MC to the 9th house Sun perfected on June 18, 1953, just 6 days before she announced her engagement to Jack Kennedy on June 24, 1953. He cites this as evidence of the immense accuracy of primary directions, an accuracy that is not obtainable with any other astrological predictive technique.
Transits, Estadella claims, are only able to be accurate within a period of many weeks or even several months and do not have the pinpoint accuracy of topocentric primary directions. However, if we look at the transits to Jackie Kennedy’s chart for June of 1953 we find that Jupiter in the 7th house of marriage returns by transit to its natal position (Jupiter conjunct Jupiter) on June 19, 1953, just 5 days before her engagement (even more accurate than the primary direction). Then, on 24 June 1953, the date of the announcement, transiting Jupiter perfects a semi-square to her natal Moon which rules her 9th house of the dissemination of information. Rectifying what is most likely an already rectified chart is hardly convincing.
My guess is that Frances McEvoy used the transits of Jupiter to rectify the chart initially and then passed the rectified time off as the recorded birth time of Jackie Kennedy. In fact, the hospital record does not contain the birth time, although there is mention in the nursing notes that at 5 pm that the baby was being monitored, so we know she was born some time before 5 pm.
So far the evidence in favor of the alleged extreme accuracy of the topocentric system of primary directions is not convincing. I’d like to see a rectification which is then verified by hard historical evidence, for example, one that was not previously rectified and was otherwise unknown to the astrologer. Nonetheless, I will keep an open mind and continue to study the topic.