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Interpreting the Solar Return

This article was written by Celeste Teal
posted under Astrology

Your birthday horoscope is a wheel-shaped chart indicating the positions of the planets in relation to the earth at the time of the yearly return of the Sun to the exact position it held when you were born. This chart shows what is in store for the coming year. It's rather like an auxiliary of your birth horoscope, painting a picture of this one-year period. Also called a Solar Return, astrology programs calculate these to the precise moment that the Sun in the sky returns to its natal position. Like taking a snapshot, the configurations in the sky at that moment become your blueprint for the year.

Because it is so precise, you'll usually have a different sign rising than you did at birth. However, having the Solar Return rising sign the same as your birth and near the same degree indicates a very important year.

Calculation
Using the location of your residence at the time of the birthday is recommended. In fact, if one moves during the year, the Solar Return should be relocated as well. There are subtle shifts of energy as the planets may change astrological house position. Some people actually travel for their birthdays in order to produce the most beneficial rays possible for the year. This is a fine way to start the year but not really a way to avoid issues, as the configurations for the residence are waiting when one returns home.

If you're using an astrology program to calculate your Solar Return, select the Tropical zodiac and Placidus house system. Astrologers have long debated the need to precess the return chart, which adjusts for the slow change of the earth due to its wobble on its axis. This topic is discussed at length in Identifying Planetary Triggers, where you'll find that:

"The two charts are actually in agreement. It is as if one has the advantage of two eyewitness accounts or two expert opinions on an issue. Sometimes, what may not be accentuated in one account is highlighted in the other. An optimum solution is to calculate and use both return charts."

The guidelines in this article can be applied to either the precessed or the non-precessed version of the return.

Reading the Chart
Reading the return chart is similar to a natal chart reading, except that all the themes will play out within a year instead of within a lifetime. Look at the chart to see what stands out the most. Are there lots of planets on the angles? The angles are the cusps of the first, fourth, seventh, and tenth houses. These angles furnish an excellent outlet for energies and each of the planets carries a specific kind of energy. You can anticipate activity in keeping with a planet's nature if it falls near one of these angular cusps.

Are most of the planets in the upper part of the chart? This shows outward motivations and a striving to grow through interchange with others. If most of the planets are below the horizon, it is a period of personal or familiar concerns. The latter implies something of an introverted tendency while the former shows an extroverted nature. Are most of the planets on the left side of the chart? This gives you greater capacity to take control, to lead and to initiate changes. With most of the planets on the right side of the chart, other people and their interests will be an important consideration in your decisions and activities.

Is the chart a reverse pattern of the natal chart with the Descendant now on the Ascendant? This flip-flop version of the natal horoscope may see some element of life turned upside down. It seems that control has been given over to others. This appears to show an accidental debilitation, perhaps a fleeting moment of bad judgment that carries wide ramifications.

Is there a Stellium in one house? A Stellium is a group of planets in one sign or one house, showing a concentration of powerful energy as each of the planets boost the potency of the others. Stelliums are multiple conjunctions, so the natures of all in this grouping are undeniably bound together. The sign where the grouping falls describes much about how these planets express themselves. This may also be a Stellium of planets from the natal chart. Depending upon the planets involved, the Solar Return house that holds a natal Stellium shows an area of exceptional concern, activity, or satisfaction in the coming year.

The natal planets must always be written into the return chart, because the interplay of natal potential upon this new springboard reveals much of the details about the coming year. Check especially to see if any natal planets fall on one of the angles of this new chart. Again, that natal potential has a perfect place to manifest.

The difference between a return or natal planet in a Solar Return house is subtle and is discussed in detail in Predicting Events with Astrology. The natal planet shows energy you bring into the new period while return planets show what the world is serving you. Thus, natal Pluto in the return shows an area where strength may be required but where it is also available. Return Pluto shows a place where outside circumstances may force a resolution or declaration.

The Solar Return rising sign should be carefully considered since the personality will take on many of the characteristics of the sign, and endeavors will show an expression of the attributes of that sign. Also, in judging the doorway of the Ascendant, find the natal house that holds the Solar Return rising degree. The natal house that is brought to the Solar Return Ascendant should be given special consideration. Since the Ascendant is an area of energy manifestation, conditions and environment provide an ideal outlet for events and issues associated with this natal house. The people, issues, and affairs of that house will occupy your attention to a great extent.

Solar Rays
As a focal planet in the Solar Return, the Sun furnishes a great deal of information about the coming year. The Sun reflects upon your will to achieve, creative ability, sense of independence and enterprise, power of leadership, and the potential for advancement. Opportunities may come through determined effort, ambition, merit, or the support of superiors. As the vital life force and symbol of the higher self, the Sun illuminates and vitalizes any planet that falls within its rays. Conscious will can more easily be applied using the solar forces of the Sun. Along with the Sun, having Jupiter or Venus well configured on an angle of the chart generally indicates a year to anticipate special events and a favorable period. Having the chart ruler well configured is similarly fortunate.

The Sun also reflects upon the potential to become better established through domestic security, investment or consolidation. If there are threats of loss in any of these areas, it will be shown in the Solar Return along with the source of the problem. Such problems may come from a false sense of pride, misfortune, damage to property, or the failing fortunes of superiors. The Sun also shows the health and fortunes of the father or husband and points to your own vitality or lack thereof.

In a general way, the house position of the Sun may be used to discover the busiest period of the year. If it is in an angular house, the beginning of the year will bring the greatest activity. Pivotal circumstances and events correspond with the Sun in an angular house. These positions of the Sun incline to turning points and exceptional activity. If it is in a succedent house—houses two, five, eight or eleven—the middle portion of the year may prove to be the most productive. These positions of the Sun represent issues involving resources and/or personal values. In addition, they usually represent conclusions, finalities and the opportunity for stabilization. If the Sun is in a cadent house—houses three, six, nine or twelve—the last portion of the year may show the most forward movement as most of the year has been spent in preparation and adjustments. Often, a great leap of progress commences with the next birthday after such a year of regrouping. While the house position of the Sun may be used as a general guideline in regard to timing, a prominence of planets in one of the three sectors may modify your findings.

How Linda Used her Birthday Horoscope to Manage her Life
The importance of the Sun's position is illustrated in Linda's Solar Return. Here, both the precessed and non-precessed versions of her chart are shown and together with her natal planets, there's a heavy concentration of planets in the cadent houses and mutable signs. This indicates a year of preparation and tending to details as she also gets more in touch with precisely what her longer-range goals are. Indeed, there are revisions in her methods and through a reevaluation of her ideals; some of her goals will change. By tidying up loose ends, which will take all year, she creates a vacuum for new experience.

With three real estate properties in need of repair, this is one of the areas pinpointed that needed to be handled. Saturn in her second house suggests consolidation while the second house Moon is directly tied to real estate expenditures. Once the repairs were done, she'd have to decide which to keep and which to sell. This Moon-Saturn conjunction (in Gemini and in the second and eighth houses of the precessed and non-precessed Solar Return charts respectfully) also forewarned her that responsibilities would seem heavy and that she shouldn't despair when the going got rough. Her mood would lighten up as the New Year matured and things would begin to progress in a more forward and flowing motion about early summer. In the meantime, she had many responsibilities to manage. Attending school while also working at a hectic-paced job would keep her busy. She had, in fact, contemplated moving as well as getting another job.

With her Solar Return Moon in Gemini and her natal third house rising in the return, a move was definitely a promising possibility. And, with the influence of Gemini within her second Solar Return house, there's the promise of earned income from two or more sources during the year, underscoring her intuition about a job change.

Still, there were other things to attend to first and you'll notice the stress of Pluto and Saturn across the second and eighth houses. This answered Linda's question concerning whether it would be a good time astrologically to file for bankruptcy. With Pluto and the Moon influencing her financial sectors, a change in her monetary support systems is noted and there are indications of the legal proceedings needed in order to square away her financial matters as well as her real estate concerns. Her natal ninth house rises in the non-precessed chart, showing such a legal emphasis. With Jupiter's influence in the fourth and ninth houses, these actions would bode well for her, although the T-square with Mars and the Sun reveals challenges in restructuring her finances, while retrograde Mercury reflects the time-consuming details involved. All the paper work and legal details would need to be handled with great care. The same T-square configuration reflects the impact of having lived beyond her limits, but the Part of Fortune influencing her ninth house is a good indicator to carry on with these legal proceedings and it is actually the recipient of an eclipse, bringing a window of opportunity to benefit by tending to these matters.

Romance was another question for Linda with her sensitive and yearning natal Moon falling in the fifth house of the Solar Return (SR). We see the trine of SR Venus to SR Mars, which is a signature aspect for a romantic encounter during the year. In fact her natal Venus is also closely trine SR Mars. Her natal Moon in the fifth is, however, opposed by Uranus, showing a tumultuous situation in one romance. Neptune's input by its position on the eleventh house cusp indicates the dissolution of a friendship. Lilith in the fifth is another indicator of a disruption in this area and agreement comes from the T-square between Sun, Jupiter and Mars. However, she also has her natal North Node in the SR fifth, so there's promise of a timely and destined meeting. Uranus in the eleventh presents fresh new opportunities and the trine of Sun to Saturn and to Uranus suggests that a more promising and stable romance is simply delayed and may come into her life at an unexpected moment. Realizing that she'd recently entered a relationship with all the earmarks of disaster, Linda took the initiative to dissolve that romance herself, now fortified with the patience to allow a relationship with an even newer and more promising acquaintance to develop at a natural pace as she handles more serious priorities.

Overall, Mars is angular and elevated in the Aries rising chart, showing new initiative and quite possibly new ventures in her career sector. However, due to the configurations it is involved in, Linda is aware that to rush into anything that isn't well thought out is not in her best interests as Mars, Jupiter, and Sun in such conflict often point to an opportunity that not only fizzles out but also ends in loss. The same goes with her relationships because Mars is the primary ruler of the men in her life. Understanding that with the cadent houses spotlighted, opportunities that are most promising will not come until just before her next birthday. Transits underscore these themes as Saturn moves out of her fifth and Jupiter enters her seventh.

Linda still has choices to make all along the way but she feels better equipped to make them wisely through the observation of her Solar Return. She's also comforted that the burdens she feels are only temporary. With the knowledge that SR Chiron is square her Pluto and approaching several natal contacts including her Chiron square, she also recognizes a period of processing painful emotions about the lack of affection she feels from her parents. Experiences and encounters will invite spiritual progress through which her awareness will rise to a higher level. Taking care of practical matters and remaining grounded will assist the process. These themes underscore the inner processing involved with her SR Sun in the cadent houses.

House Polarities
Linda's chart illustrates the need to consider the house polarities when working with the Solar Return, especially when a planet falls precisely on a house cusp. The presence of Neptune on the eleventh house cusp stimulates the axis of the fifth house as well. While her natal Moon and return Lilith occupy the fifth house in this chart, in the non-precessed Solar Return her natal Moon lies precisely on the eleventh house cusp while several natal planets fall within, including natal Venus.

Aspects
In regard to aspects, you can use a similar orb as you would to interpret a natal chart, although the closer to exact an aspect is, the more pronounced the theme suggested by the natures of the aspect and the planets involved. Another thing you can do is add twelve degrees to the Moon position. The Moon will progress at the rate of about a degree per month so during the course of the year, it will travel forward twelve degrees. If it forms an aspect to another planet, especially a conjunction, watch for associated activity during that month.

Domestic Themes

Speaking of the Moon, there's much you can learn about domestic conditions for the year by checking the sign and house position of the Moon. For example, a move may take place if the SR Moon is in Gemini or the third house. Travel or a move by a family member may take place during the year it is in the ninth house or Sagittarius. Furthermore, a close aspect from a return planet to the natal Moon allows a deep look into the chart. Especially by conjunction, the energy vibrations from other bodies easily influence the Moon. Since the Moon reveals our private domain, personal affairs and emotional well being on a daily basis, a planet linked to it in the Solar Return shows a trend for the entire year. Conditions and circumstances reflecting the nature of such a planet will have an impact on daily personal affairs, family and domestic affairs. Identifying Planetary Triggers covers the Solar Return Moon in depth.

The Lunar Return is another handy way to keep track of monthly themes and this chart is read the same as the Solar Return except it shows a one-month trend.

How Carol Played her Cards
This illustration was contributed by a fellow astrologer due to the case in point of "afflicted benefics on the angles," which is discussed in Predicting Events with Astrology:

"When there are benefic planets on the angles of a return chart, a good period can usually be anticipated. These are the traditional Jupiter and Venus, or greater and lesser fortunes, and also the Sun, unless it is badly afflicted. If any one of these is on an angle and making positive aspects, a fortunate return period can be anticipated. In general, these three bodies can provide health, wealth and good times in amounts relative to a summary of the chart.

"If, however, there are badly afflicted benefics on the angles, it can show all kinds of upsetting circumstances, quite often indicating a health problem, distress or grief. Venus against Jupiter especially indicates grief if combined with similar indicators. Venus against Jupiter without other major afflictions usually shows excess of some sort. Jupiter against Mars can show accidents, carelessness, extravagance, or going overboard in general."

The benefic planets in an angular position suggest ease but when afflicted you know there is a disturbance to such ease. Carol recognized such a case that would affect her quite personally and thankfully, that it is a Lunar Return means this theme was only for one month and not for the whole year.

Carol saw Jupiter, Venus, Sun, and Moon combined in harsh aspect on the angles. Knowing it showed material losses and more money going out than coming in, it alarmed her over an upcoming trip to Vegas. That trip and expenditure had been unplanned but it was a chance to connect with her son, who would be there for three days. Living fairly close to Vegas, the opportunity had been too good to pass up because her son lived across country and visits were infrequent. Her husband had been recently laid off so this chart was not encouraging that he'd return this month due to the involvement of the Sun in the afflictions. They had some savings but were trying to make it last. Still, the chart showed excess and expenditures, so there was more to this than that.

Controlling what she could, they did watch their expenditures in Vegas, gambling just a little and coming home no worse off than they'd left other than the flight expenses. Alert to the fact that more expenses would come up, Carol was watchful for ways to be frugal as the days went along. A week later came an unexpected car repair of $2,500. Out of warranty but still unpaid for, this was a double whammy and a real "ouch" to the pocketbook. A week later a family emergency necessitated a long distance flight and yet another expense of nearly a thousand dollars (Uranus shows unexpected travels through its position near the ninth house cusp).

The final event for the month came when her sister-in-law gave them a practically new refrigerator. She just wanted a new color that matched the new kitchen she'd renovated. Well, Carol figured, it was newer than her own refrigerator, probably worth the switch although there was nothing wrong with hers. She decided it would be nice to have a few frills in the newer model and they could sell the older one. Well, as it turned out, the actual switching involved days of inconvenience and problems because of a leak, problems with leveling, new filters required, light bulbs, cleaning, etc. By the time it was over, the expense was about equal to what the old one could be sold for! At least Carol has a sense of humor and a good spirit about it all, because she was forewarned in her Lunar Return, which enabled her to play some of her cards right. She said it seems even gifts are costly with these afflicted benefics.

What Do the Planets Have to Say?
Each of the planets have something to say about the house they reside in whether angular or not. For example, Mars shows dynamic activity and sometimes conflict. The fifth house governs children, romance, sports, gambling, and entertainment. So if Mars falls in the fifth house of the return and you have children, you'll know that this will be a year of increased activity surrounding them. Maybe your five-year-old will learn to ride a big bike or your twelve-year-old joins a league. If Mars is afflicted, one of them could get hurt so precautions should be taken. If you're single, you might meet a new romance with this fifth house Mars. If you're a single parent, both events could happen.

The following brief descriptions may be used as a general guideline to interpret the energy of a planet in a house or by its exceptional prominence in the Solar Return chart.

  • The Sun shows an accent on authority, prestige, honor, limelight, established or settled conditions, achievement of goals, patronage, individual consciousness, power of creation, pride, the father, husband or male element.
  • The Moon brings an accent on publicity, personal popularity, restlessness, feelings, fluctuations and change, instinct, sensitivity, cherishing nature, the mother, wife or female element, the domestic life and home.
  • Mercury denotes an accent on movement, travel, reading, writing, speaking, spreading of ideas, study and detailed work, ability to fathom concepts, brothers, sisters, relatives, young people and children.
  • Venus symbolizes an accent on love, marriage, romance, pleasure, financial gain, harmony seeking propensities, aesthetic sensitivity, accommodating instincts, young women and the wife.
  • Mars signifies an accent on energy, enterprise, passion, initiative, hard works, impatience, fire, inflammatory conditions, quarrels, antagonism, destructive tendencies, young men, the husband or masculine types.
  • Jupiter indicates an accent on increase or honor, expansion, advancement, patronage, financial gain, joy, charitable instincts, travel, legal ceremonies or legal matters, religion and philosophy.
  • Saturn shows an accent on consolidation, contraction, crystallization, the need for self-discipline, loss, delay, hindrance, limitation, disappointment, lack of appreciation, hardships, integrity, hard work, responsibilities, selfishness, the father, authorities or old people.
  • Uranus announces an accent on unusual developments, the awakening of new interests, new and cataclysmic connections, mental stimulus, enlightenment, unexpected or sudden changes.
  • Neptune suggests an accent on the removal of barriers, loosening of bonds, dissolve, long distance travel, especially by sea or air, ecstasy, the manifestation of long held dreams, restless dissatisfaction, disappointment, deceit, treachery, abandonment, self-sacrifice.
  • Pluto signifies an accent on new beginnings, transformation, rebirth, elimination, compulsion, refusal to compromise, death, reorientation, destruction.
  • The North Node accentuates the nature of any planet with which it forms a conjunction. Like an exclamation point, study the aspects to such a planet, for it will function quite dynamically this year. Similarly, an eclipse that falls on a sensitive place in the return may show dynamic events and a window of opportunity to handle specific matters during the course of the year.
  • Eclipses and other specialized topics are discussed in Predicting Events with Astrology, which includes a table of eclipses through 2054. Identifying Planetary Triggers includes separate chapters for interpreting each of the planetary returns; Lunar, Solar, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. It also includes material on the Anlunar Return, which is the return of the Moon each month to the position it held in the Solar Return.


Predicting Events with Astrology and Identifying Planetary Triggers by Celeste Teal are both © Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. All quotes are used by permission.

Celeste Teal
  Graduating from the West Coast College of Astrology in the mid 80s, Celeste Teal (Arizona) actually began her journey into the field of astrology as a complete skeptic. The first time she opened a book on the subject, in 1975, it was to discredit...  Read more

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