Forecasting the Future

There are 3 major general techniques used to forecast the future in western astrology and several additional ones that are used in Vedic astrology.

The 3 major techniques are:

  • Transits
  • Progressions
  • Returns

Some astrological forecasting does not involve predictions for an individual. Some astrologers make predictions for companies, for example. This is done in almost the same manner as predicting for an individual; instead of using the birth chart of a person, the chart of the time that the business was incorporated or in some other manner became a legal entity is used. Some astrologers make predictions for countries or other politically defined areas. This is often done by analyzing the chart of the time that the country or city became a legally independent entity. Charts of major political figures are also sometimes used as they can influence the destiny of the country or other geographic area that they administrate over.

Forecasting The Future

Other kinds of predictions are predictions of weather or natural phenomena such as earthquakes. This kind of prediction is different from forecasting for individuals, companies, and countries in that no birth chart is involved; generally the astrologer analyzes the positions of the planets in the sky, particularly at critically important times such as new moon, full moon, or when the Sun enters a new zodiac sign.

Some astrologers claim to be able to predict specific events in the future; this is a fairly common practice in Vedic astrology, for example. Most western astrologers, however, talk only about trends and not definite events. For example, an astrologer may predict that during a certain time period you are likely to attract erratic things into your life and there is a good possibility that you will be in an accident, but this can be avoided by being extra careful. Most astrologers feel that the astrological influences can be handled by the individual with varying degrees of success and it is up to the ingenuity of the person and the person’s free will to determine the ultimate outcome of how the astrological influence will manifest itself.

What are Transits?

Transits are perhaps the most intuitively obvious of the 3 major predictive techniques (transits, progressions, and returns) to understand. If I want to predict what will happen today to a particular person, then I compare the positions of the planets in the sky today with the positions of the planets in that person’s birth chart. The positions of the planets in the sky today are called the transiting planets. For example, if Sally’s natal Venus is at 10 degrees of Gemini and transiting Jupiter (the position of Jupiter today) is also at 10 degrees of Gemini, then transiting Jupiter is conjunct Sally’s natal Venus. Consequently, today is a Jupiter-Venus day for Sally, a good day to entertain people, go to parties, and generally have a relaxing, good time.

In addition to looking at aspects formed by the transiting planets to the natal planets, you can also study the placement of the transiting planets in the houses of the birth chart. Some astrologers also compare the zodiac signs of the transiting planets to the zodiac signs of the natal planets.

Some astrologers rely heavily on transits through houses while others do not. Almost all astrologers use transiting planets to natal planet aspects, and the great majority of astrologers believe that transits across the angles (that is, crossing the Ascendant, Descendant, MC, or 4th house cusp) is very important. Some astrologers also use midpoints and some use asteroids. Some astrologers also look at transiting declinations; in other words, the time when a transiting planet has the same declination as a natal planet is considered to be important.

Note that transits calculated according to the sidereal zodiac occur at a different time from transits calculated according to the tropical zodiac. If a person is about 72 years old, then the transiting planets are about 1 degree earlier in the tropical zodiac because over the 72 years of the person’s life, the sidereal zodiac zodiac and tropical zodiacs have moved 1 degree apart. The outer planets (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) move very slowly so a difference of 1 degree can make a difference of a month or more in the life of a person who is 72 years old. Even at 36 years of age the difference is 1/2 degree which can make a difference of a few weeks or more.

Some astrologers refer to sidereal transits as “precessed transits” because a transit calculated in the sidereal zodiac is different from transits calculated in the tropical zodiac according to the amount of precession that occurred since the person was born. Precession is the retrograde movement of the tropical zodiac through the sidereal zodiac at a speed of 1 degree in slightly less than 72 years.


Example of transit-to-natal aspects:is:

June 1: Sun trine Jup
June 3: Merc sqr Ura
Ven conj Sat
June 4: Plu opp Sun

This listing shows that transiting Sun is trined to natal Jupiter on June 1. Astrologers invariably list the transiting planet first and the natal planet second when referring to a transiting planet to natal planet aspect. Many astrologers would say that on June 1 this individual has opportunities for advancement or at least enjoyable activities and contacts on June 1.

Notice that in this listing there is nothing listed on June 2. On some days more transiting influences will occur on other days. The number of transiting planet to natal planet aspects of course depends on how many aspects one uses. In this sample listing, the major aspects (conjunction, opposition, square, trine, sextile, and quincunx) are used and on some days no aspects occur.

In this sample listing there are 2 aspects on June 3: transiting Mercury is square natal Uranus, and transiting Venus is conjunct natal Saturn. On June 4 one aspect occurs: transiting Pluto is opposition natal Sun.

The faster moving planets, like Sun, Mercury, and Venus make many more aspects than the slower moving planets, like Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto for the obvious reason that they simply move through a larger period of the zodiac giving them more opportunity to aspect the natal planets. The transiting Moon moves much faster than any other body and it forms so many aspects to the natal chart that most astrologers ignore the transiting Moon except when studying in detail a specific time period of a few hours or less. The slower moving planets form very few aspects, but when they do, they have a more powerful impact on the person than the inner planet transits. Many astrologers use only a 1 degree or 2 degree orb for transit to natal aspects; using these orbs a transit of Sun, Mercury, or Venus lasts about 2 to 4 days on average while a transit of one of the outer planets (Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto) lasts for many months. The long-lasting outer planet transits therefore can make major shifts in a person’s life. Probably the great majority of astrologers agree that the inner planets are more personal so consequently an outer planet transit to an inner planet is an extremely powerful influence, so, for example, if transiting Uranus (or Neptune or Pluto) is square (or any other major aspect natal Moon (or Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars) then the affect on the person is extremely powerful. Transits to the natal Ascendant, MC, 7th house, and 4th house cusp are also very important, and some astrologers feel that these transits can have even more powerful life-changing effects than transits to the inner planets.

Note that the beginning and ending dates depend on the orb used. From the point of view of interpretation, the beginning and ending dates are not as precise as the exact date of the aspect because an aspect very gradually begins to make its influence felt and then very gradually becomes more conspicuous until it reaches maximum influence and then very gradually fades, so the point at which the influence is considered insignificant is not a black-and-white issue. Many astrologers use relatively small orbs when analyzing transits so that only dates when the influence is definitely significant are given.

Some astrologers also like to view transits by looking at a BiWheel that has the transiting planets in the outer wheel and the person’s birth chart in the inner wheel.

What are Progressions?

There are several kinds of progressions. The most commonly used kind of progression is the day-for-a-year progression, also known as a secondary progression. A secondary progression is calculated by adding one day to the person’s birth date for each year of life. For example, suppose a person is born on June 15, 1982. On June 15, 1992 this person is 10 years old so you would add 10 days to the birth date to determine the influences 10 years later. Therefore, the secondary progressed chart is a chart calculated for June 25, 1982. When the person is 20 years old (June 15, 2002), the secondary chart is calculated for 20 days after the birth date, which is July 5, 1982. The secondary progressed chart moves gradually so that the progressed chart for December 15, 1992 when the person is 10 1/2 years old is calculated for 10 1/2 days after birth.

A few astrologers also use a day-for-a-month, also known as a tertiary progression. In this kind of progressed chart, one day is added to the date of birth for each month of life.

Similar in concept to the tertiary progression is the minor progression, a chart that has one month added to the birth date for each year of life.

Another kind of progression that is more widely used than the tertiary and minor progressions but not as popular as the secondary progression is the solar arc direction. A solar arc direction is actually derived from the secondary progressed chart. The formula for calculating solar arc directed planets is to subtract the natal Sun from the progressed Sun and add this angle to all of the planetary positions. For example, suppose the progressed Sun is at 10 degrees 40 minutes of Gemini and the natal Sun is at 9 degrees 10 minutes of Taurus. The progressed Sun is, therefore, 31 degrees 30 minutes ahead of the natal Sun. This angle is called the “solar arc”. By adding 31 degrees 30 minutes to all of the natal planets you have the positions of the planets in the solar arc progressed chart. Note that the secondary progressed Sun and the solar arc directed Sun are identical, but all of the other planets have different positions. All planets in the solar arc directed chart move at the speed of the Sun, about 1 degree per year of life. Most astrologers prefer to use the word “direction” for solar arc directions rather than “progressions” because all planets are moved forward at a constant speed, but you may sometimes see the term solar arc progressions appear in astrological literature.

Most astrologers calculate a progressed chart for the place of birth, but some prefer to calculate it for the place of residence.


Many astrologers look at both progressed planet to natal planet aspects and progressed planet to progressed planet aspects. Opinions about how progressed-to-natal versus progressed-to-progressed planet aspects differ or which is more important vary. The use of progressed to natal planet aspects is probably considerably more common than use of progressed to progressed planet aspects.

What are Returns?

A return is the moment that a transiting planet returns to the position it occupied at birth. For example, suppose that a person’s Sun position is 14 degrees 20 minutes of Cancer. At about the time of the person’s birth day each year the Sun will return to precisely this position of 14 degrees 20 minutes of Cancer. A chart constructed for this exact moment when the Sun returns to 14 degrees 20 minutes of Cancer is the solar return chart.

Similarly, the Moon will return to the position it had at birth approximately once a month. A chart constructed for this time is the lunar return chart.

The solar return and lunar return charts are used by many astrologers. Some astrologers have also experimented with charts of the times that other planets return to their natal position, so there is a Mercury return chart, a Venus return chart, etc.

Note that a return calculated with the sidereal zodiac occurs at a different time than a return calculated with the tropical zodiac. The reason for this is that the tropical zodiac and sidereal zodiac are moving in relationship to each other so that over the course of one’s lifetime they have separated further. Some astrologers like to use a hybrid of the two systems in that they like to use the tropical zodiac signs but they wish to determine the time of the solar return as it would occur in the sidereal zodiac. This is known as a precessed return because it is adjusted for the amount of precession of the equinoxes that has occurred since birth.


The solar return chart occurs once a year at about the time of one’s birthday. In order for a solar return chart to be calculated precisely, it is necessary for the Sun to be calculated with extreme precision, to within 1 second of arc instead of the usual 1 minute of arc that is used in astrology. For example, if a person’s Sun is known to be at 14 degrees 20 minutes of Cancer, this is not sufficient information to construct a solar return chart. The position needs to be known to the nearest second of arc, so that, for example, if the position is known to be 14 degrees 20 minutes 33 seconds of arc, then the solar return chart can be calculated (assuming that the Sun at the time of the return is also calculated to within 1 second of arc).

The solar return generally does not occur at the time of one’s birth. If you were born at 8:10 AM, then it is unlikely that the solar return will also occur at 8:10 AM. It takes one year for the Sun to return to the its position at the time of birth and there are approximately 365 1/4 days in a year; the extra 1/4 day means that the solar return on the person’s first birthday will occur about 6 hours later than the birth time. If the person’s birth time is 8:10 AM, the solar return that occurs on the first birthday will be about 6 hours later, actually a little less than 6 hours later because the number of days in a year is a little less than 365 1/4 days. The solar return may also occur the day before or the day after the birthday.

Some astrologers prefer to calculate the solar return chart for the place of birth, but there are 2 other possibilities: the chart could be calculated for the place where the person is at the time of the return or it could be calculated for the place of residence. For example, suppose that Sally was born in Denver, Colorado, she lives in Orlando, Florida and at the time of her solar return on her birthday she is visiting her sister in Atlanta, Georgia. Many astrologers believe that the location where she is at the time of the return (in this case, Atlanta, Georgia) is the most important place for the chart to be calculated. Many others prefer that the return be calculated for birth place, and there are some astrologers who believe that the place of residence is very important. Note that if one uses the location of the person at the time of the return, it is difficult to calculate the solar return chart ahead of time because the precise location of the person at the time of the return may not be known ahead of time. This is also a problem with using the location of residence but people obviously do not relocate as often as they move around so the problem is not nearly as severe.

The solar return chart can be interpreted by analyzing it in similar fashion to analyzing a birth chart, or it can be compared to the birth chart. The solar return will affect a person from the time of one solar return to the time of the next one, so it lasts for one year, starting approximately on one’s birthday and lasting until the next birthday.


Some astrologers use the lunar return chart that occurs about once a month to make predictions for the coming month. Some astrologers feel that the lunar return chart especially influences matters ruled by the moon, such as one’s moods, domestic life, etc.


Some astrologers analyze Mercury Returns (the time that Mercury returns to its natal position), Venus Returns, Mars returns, etc. These returns are sometimes referred to as planetary returns, to distinguish them from the more commonly used solar and lunar returns. Because the planets can turn retrograde, it is possible for a planetary return to occur several times within a relatively short time period as the planet retrogrades over the natal position. For example, Mercury and Venus returns typically occur either once a year or three times a year. If Mercury, for example, retrogrades over the position of the natal Mercury, thus making a second Mercury return, then it must also eventually turn direct and cross this position a third time. The same is true for the other planets. Mars will return to its natal position approximately ever 2 1/2 years, Jupiter every 12 years, Saturn every 29 1/2 years, Uranus every 7 years, Neptune every 14 years, and Pluto every 21 years. These are average numbers and the actual time period can vary considerably from this average.

Calculating the precise time of a planetary return can, in some cases, be impossible! The reason why this is a problem is that the slower the planet, the more accurate the calculations must be to determine the precise moment of the return. The greatest problem occurs when the planet is turning retrograde or direct because at this time the planet appears to be moving very, very slowly. When a planet changes direction from direct to retrograde, or retrograde to direct, it is referred to as being stationary because, for an instant, it is not moving at all, and for some time around this moment it is moving extremely slowly. The slower a planet is moving, the more difficult it is to determine when the return occurs. If a planet is stationary at the time of the return, it is impossible to determine the time of the return with great accuracy.

Some astrologers also like to calculate “half returns” or “quarter returns”. A half return occurs when the planet returns to the point opposition its natal position; for example, about half-way between 2 birthdays, the Sun reaches a point that is opposition its natal position.

It takes Uranus about 84 years to return to its natal position, and Neptune and Pluto are even slower so outer planet returns are generally not used by astrologers. Very few astrologers use planetary returns.

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