I understood the word "returns" long before I knew about astrology, as most of us did. Returning home, returning to school, returning money, returning clothes, returning compliments (or insults), or even returning tides (I grew up on a boat, where tides and the Moon had a lot of influence). Returns later meant cycles of civilizations and culture, and their repetitions, as my schooling passed from reading and writing to history, Latin, and Greek.
I didn't run into the astrological reference until my recording studio hosted Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention, and I made a deal for legendary astrologer Al H. Morrison to do my clients' charts in return for his office space above the studio. It was a beginning of a career for me, and the end of another one, although I didn't realize it at the time.
Thanks to Al's tutelage, and later Charles Jayne's, a new understanding of returns came into view—Solar; Lunar; even Mercury, Venus, and Mars returns; and more. All were considered snapshots of the future, which some astrologers thought overly important (William Lilly in the 1600s warned against overusing the Solar return), while others dismissed them. Over the years, for me, they became about revisitation—coming back, visiting home, and moving on. They are pivot points of ever-renewing cycles.
If you look up the word "return" in the dictionary, you'll find it's a double entendre. It's about coming back to some place (home, or another meaningful place) but it's also very much about exchange. You return a gift after the holidays, but then you also want a return on investment (ROI, as they say these days) if you make a commitment. And then there are tax returns and election returns. It's giving and getting, changing the scenery, inside and out. It's about achieving consistency (or better, constancy) and balance in an ever-changing and inconstant world. Endings and beginnings all wrapped up together.
When I return to places that are especially precious to me (childhood homes, in New York or Coconut Grove, or my spiritual fountains like Glastonbury or Lindisfarne), I think on what they gave me and what I am able to give because of them. When you experience an astrological return, perhaps you should do the same. You've come full circle, be it a big one or a small one, so what's next? It's a rebirth, a coming of age. What do you have to offer, where can you move on to? It's the time to refine and re-chart your course, sort out what you truly own from what you must give, and maybe even find they are the same…
So perhaps when you look at a Solar or Lunar return, or any other event that recycles your life, it should be about both looking forward and looking back. Don't just eye the future possibilities, but review what you have done to earn them. It's a little like passing "GO" in Monopoly. You get an automatic credit, but what more did you provide yourself to work with for the next go-round? Is it time for you to make another step, or time to step back and let someone else step with you, and for you? It's about making turns, and taking turns. Is home a better place each time you revisit, or do you need home to revisit you? Just remember, there is not a revelation—whomever's turn, or return, it may be—that you don't already know in your heart.
In 1973 John Townley introduced the composite chart technique in his book The Composite Chart. Since then he has pioneered various techniques for astrological cycle analysis. He is also the author of Planets in Love, has ...