Seeing in the future: solar returns, profections, directions

If the primary directions were surely the favourite tool of the traditional astrologer, they generally were used together with solar returns and profections. Only combining the three tools together a prediction is possible- something very far from the modern use of transits.

If solar returns are still in use, not the same we can say about primary directions and profections: both are based on some movement; the first one of the movement of primum mobile, the second progressing the nativity and the main significators (especially the Ascendant which is the sign of the year) by 30 degrees a year.

Generally in the traditional entourage is mentioned the fourth book of Vettius Valens, which is dedicated to profections:

all of the remaining matters that happen to be concluded in life at a certain time will occur in accordance with the handings over (the profections) but they will be different through the general time-descriptions and the renewed nativities  (the solar returns) and the ingresses and phases of the stars, as well as the dissimilar figure-description in relation to each. For when the stars of that time make natal ingresses to the ones handing or taking over, or onto the pivots, they also contribute from their own nature and themselves either make the effect good or foul or else more active or preventative. (( 1. Vettius Valens, Anthology Book I,II,III,IV,VII (cura Robert Schdmit) (The Golden Hind Press) ))

But as usually less known we can find something in Ptolemy too:

the times in each prorogation (the primary direction)  will be governed by the planet occupying or configurated with the actual prorogatory degree itself: if, however, there be found no planet thus constituted, the nearest preceding planet will govern the times until another, which may be in aspect to the degree following in the order of the signs, shall take them; and this one, again, will do the same until the next in succession shall take them. The like rule obtains with respect to any other planets received into dominion, and with respect to those in occupation of the terms…..

The arbiters of general times are to be determined by the foregoing method; but arbiters of annual periods as follows: viz. after the number of years which have elapsed since the birth has been ascertained, the amount is to be projected from each place of prorogation, in the succession of the signs, at the rate of one sign for a year, (the profection) and the lord of the last sign  is to be assumed as arbiter…..It is, however, necessary to notice the ingresses (the solar return) made on places allotted to different periods; for they take effect in no small degree on the events of the period. (( Ptolemy, IV, 10-  the author of this blog has read Tetrabiblos in Bezza Italian translation ))

Before going to examples we should mention Albumasar’ On Revolutions of nativities.   This book together with Valens’ anthology was mentioned – in many Renaissance astrological treatises, for example Francesco Giuntini’s Speculum Astrologiae, which dedicate many pages to the subject of solar returns combined with profections.

Table of profection in a sample chart in Francesco Giuntini, Speculum Astrologiae
Table of profection in a sample chart in Francesco Giuntini, Speculum Astrologiae

The use of the table is almost obvious: at the right are the different years of the native, at left the profections of the Ascendant, the significators and in general all the planetary bodies.

The meaning is obvious too, if one knows a little the main rules of astrology:

if the profection of the Ascendant arrives to the sign where are the radical malefics, it signifies the worst, especially Saturn in the night and Mars in the day (like in Vettius Valens in fact planets should respect their hairesis, day planets harm in the night and the opposite) dangers for the body, risks  and misfortunes in life, troubles, fears, accusations, disorders, accidents and damages… (( Francesco Giuntini Speculum astrologiae … / autore Francisco Iunctino … ; accesserunt etia[m] Com[m]entaria … in duo posteriores Quadripartiti Ptolemaei libros, Lugduni : in Officina Q. Phil. Tinghi Florentini apud Simphorianum Beraud, 1581))

Generally speaking, not all the significators signify on the same subject and have the same importance. Albumasar list them as follow:

1. the sign of the year and its ruler

2. the division and its divisor

3. the star participating with the divisor

4. the star which rules the firdaria and its associated,

5. the ruler of the cycle

6. the horoscope of the return and its ruler

7. the Moon and the planets she applied inside the sign, and if the Moon is void of course, take  her ruler

8. the planetary ingresses in the radix and their changes

9. in which of the signs of the return is the cronocrator

10. the places of the stars from their domiciles, and the place of domiciles from them

11. the cycle of a star and of the 12th places

12. when the ruler of the year or the horoscope of the solar return is in the place of some radix star

13. when  a radix planet is in some place, and in the return in some other place

14. the mutual receptions of stars

15. when a star moves from a place to another in the year

16. the meaning of the stars which are in the sign of the year

17. a star in its domicile or in someone else domicile, in its term or in someone else term

18. the meaning of ascending and descending node. (( Albumasar, On revolutions of the years in Giuseppe Bezza, Arcana Mundi: Antologia Del Pensiero Astrologico Antico (Milano: Biblioteca Universale Rizzoli, 1995).))

So in practice we should at least consider the Ascendant of the Solar return, the ruler of the year (the ruler of the profected Ascendant),  the profected significator of the matter we would inquire, the divisor (the ruler of term to which the radix Ascendant is arrived by direction) the planet(s) to which the Moon is applying, the ingresses of transiting planets .

the divisor in the 12th houses
Francesco Giuntini: the divisor in the 12th houses according their traditional meaning

It is a steady tradition, from Albiruni:

In every anniversary become manifest the progressions- intihaat- directions – tasyrat, the ruler of the cycle, the divisor or cronocrator, the mudabbir participating in ruling, the rulers of the week and the firdaria. ((Albiruni- L’arte dell’astrologia, Mimesis, 1992 ( Italian translation from R, Wright original translation))

to  Andrea Argoli, as translated with the precious help of Lucia Bellizia, dottoressa  in Lettere Antiche,  in a previous post:

Arab doctrine states it is necessary taking into consideration the lord of the year of the Return, and its divisor. The lord of the year is the ruler of the sign where the profection of the Ascendant falls in that year. Truly the divisor is the lord of the terms of the place where the direction of the Ascendant in the same year. If the direction of the Ascendant arrives at 10 degrees Aries, which are Venus terms, so Venus will be the divisor; and we should take into consideration those divisor and lord of the year not less than the Lights and the Ascendant. (( De diebus criticis et aegrorum decubitu libri duo: ab auctore denuo recogniti ac altera parte auctiores paeneq[ue] noui.  Patauii : apud Paulum Frambottum , 1651-1652.))

The case study is inspired to my visit to Caravaggio exhibition I attended a week ago.

Caravaggio, Judith Beheading Holofernes
Caravaggio, Judith Beheading Holofernes (1598-1599)

Caravaggio painted this painting, shocked by the public execution of Beatrice Cenci, a girl at the centre of the one of most famous trials of Rome history.

Beatrice was Francesco Cenci’s daughter, famous his violent temperament and for his sexual depravity. Tired of years of violence, incest, mistreatments, unable to have justice from the Pope,  Beatrice with the step mother and her three sons, decided to kill the nobleman. The third time they poisoned him with opium, they broke his legs and then they throw him from the window of their castle, where the family was kept almost in prison by Francesco.

The murder was soon discovered, and the members of Cenci family arrested and tortured. Eventually both Beatrice and her brother and stepmother were killed, the brother quartered with a mallet, the women beheaded with a sword in Castel Sant’Angelo.

The execution was awfully slow, Beatrice had long hair and so a great breast so the  executioner cannot easily do what he should do. Mob desired save the beautiful girl, and just the soldiers could avoid a popular revolt.

Even in our modern times the ghost of the woman – one of the most famous ghosts of Rome-  with the head in her hand is seen walking around the same place she died every 11th September, the date of Beatrice’s death.

Castel SantAngelo
Castel Sant'Angelo

Shelley wrote about her in the preface of his tragedy about this sad story:

Revenge, retaliation, atonement, are pernicious mistakes. If Beatrice had thought in this manner she would have been wiser and better; but she would never have been a tragic character: the few whom such an exhibition would have interested, could never have been sufficiently interested for a dramatic purpose, from the want of finding sympathy in their interest among the mass who surround them. It is in the restless and anatomising casuistry with which men seek the justification of Beatrice, yet feel that she has done what needs justification; it is in the superstitious horror with which they contemplate alike her wrongs, and their revenge, that the dramatic character of what she did and suffered, consists ((  Percy Shelley,The Cenci. Vol. XVIII, Part 4. The Harvard Classics. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909–14;, 2001.  ))

Beatrice Cenci was born in Rome, 16 February 1577 (greg.) at 4.40 pm (( Astrodatabank source)), one hour before the setting of the Sun, but if we rectify a little  moving the birth around 5.00 pm – still before the Sun setting- we find Algol on the MC. How much does it fit with this story?

Beatrice Cenci, 6th February 1577, h.17.10 Rome, Italy
Beatrice Cenci, 6th February 1577 OS, h.17.o0 Rome, Italy

in this I generally take stars as they are in the real sky, not in longitude because as Albumasar says

Fixed stars have a great influence in nativities; especially the ones near the equinoctial circle have great strength at the Ascendant.
But the ones who are far from the equinoctial circle have weak effects
(( Graziella Federici Vescovini, I segreti astrologici di Albumasar / Sadan (Torino: Aragno, 2001).  ))

Algol transiting at MC

I would say she could be a Saturnian temperament with the Moon in Libra, Saturn exaltation and triplicity,  with the Moon separating from Saturn and the Sun ruler of the Ascendant in Aquarius, in Saturn triplicity and term, and with Algol at the MC, which is a star of Saturn too. A woman who nurses many ghosts in her head…

The planet Saturn, if he be not in glory, cosmically, and as regards the angles,  he will debase the mind, making it penurious, pusillanimous, ill-disposed, indiscriminating, malignant, timorous, slanderous, fond of solitude, repining, incapable of shame, bigoted, fond of labour, void of natural affection, treacherous in friendship and in family connections, incapable of enjoyment, and regardless of the body. ((Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos))

The profection and the solar return for the death, on the 11th September 1599,  are:

inside the birthchart, the middle wheel is the profection, outside the solar return
inside the birthchart, the middle wheel is the profection, outside the solar return

The profected Ascendant is arrived to Gemini, sign of the 8th house in the solar return, and Mercury, its ruler, is at  return chart IC, the house of the grave,  in the sign of its detriment and fall.  In the 8th house of the Solar Return we find Jupiter which rules the radical 8th.

The profected Moon is in the 12th radical house, with the South Node of the return.

The Moon of the solar return in the 12th is with profected Saturn while the radical Moon is with Saturn of the return.

Profected Mars is on the radical Sun, while Mars of the return chart – ruler of the return Ascendant- is in radical 6th house.

Lastly, Jupiter ruler of the radical 8th arrived to Ascendant (zodiacal direction, Ptolemy key)  exactly on 7th September 1599 . She died 4 days after, may her soul rest in peace, poor Beatrice .

Written by Margherita Fiorello, CIDA certified member, for heaven astrolabe blog @ year 2010. If you want to be notified the next time I write something, subscribe to my RSS feed.



this is the VERY revised version of an article for one of the most important Italian astrological sites, Armonics. I should thank the astrologer Grazia Bordoni for the opportunity she gave me.

Thanks to Tom Callagan and Marybeth Beechen for the help they gave me in understanding some extracts from Morin de Villefranche- Astrologia Gallica XXIII.
Giuseppe Bezza, La «profezione». Come si calcola, come si interpreta. Linguaggio Astrale n.104, 1996

Steven Birchfield, Predictive Techniques in Classical astrology: Profections, directions and the Solar returns”

Enzo Barillà e Lucia Bellizia, Tecniche previsionali degli astrologi antichi, Ricerca 90, n.55


8 thoughts on “Seeing in the future: solar returns, profections, directions

  1. Dear Margherita

    thank you for this really interesting piece. It is only a shame that I will not be able to read the whole article. Are you planning on translating it in the future?

    Profections are a fascinating subject. After my web log entry on Rensberger’s profections created a hughe amount of interest, I am planning on translating the whole chapter from Rensberger’s Astronomia Teutsch to publish it.


  2. Thanks so much Nefeli (this is your name? – your blog is very nice, I’m going to add to my favourite ones) and Peter.

    We are talking about Giuntini work? Latin is difficult for me too, but I’m managing to find the French translation. If I’m lucky in a week I will have on my desktop. Maybe I will translate something comparing both versions.

    I just re-read your Rensberger article, I look forward to read the rest. For what I understand the use of profections and solar returns was almost standard from Vettius Valens on.


  3. Dear Margherita

    You are of course correct in your statement that profections were used since classical antiquity. Nevertheless they seem to have been forgotten by astrologers after the end of the 17th century and the interest in them has only been rekindled since the recent renaissance of traditional astrology. (I am not even going into the mess moderns like Leo made of it…)
    Interesting in this respect as well Dr Dykes’ new translation ‘Persian Nativities’ vol1.

  4. Hi Margherita, fascinating stuff! I have a question about the sources you refer to: you mention “Steven Birchfield, Predictive Techniques…”.
    Is this a book or an article? Either way, could you share where to get this information? In a few months, I ‘ll have to enlighten my students on classical predictive techniques so I am very eager to find more material (especially when written by Steven Birchfield, lol).

    Enjoying your website as usual,


  5. Hello Herman, happy to have here again 🙂
    As soon you will write your blog in English, it would be my pleasure to add it to my links.

    The text by Steven Birchfield comes from InterpresStellarum list, I believe if you write him he will happy to share with you.
    Anyway almost nothing of what I wrote come from that paper, because Birchfield text is about Vettius Valens and Albumasar. To be honest about Hellenistic astrology I’m not so freaked, I like more Renaissance texts and then I don’t like quoting what it is quoted in every corner of the net.
    About Albumasar I have the translation made by Giuseppe Bezza in Arcana Mundi. I follow mostly his method, which is explained in the article quoted in bibliography. Anyway I don’t take profections in the motion of the sphere as he does…
    There is even the interesting article of Peter Stockinger if you want to give a look
    It’s very interesting too.
    Hope you will come back soon,

  6. Thanks Margherita, I ‘ll sure contact stephen or look for the text on the group; now I am off to read Peter’s article!
    (btw: the english version is coming, only I don’t know when – it aint’ as easy as I thought… :-()


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