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Secondary Progressions: A Reformer's Approach to Astrological Prediction

Currently, I’m knee-deep in copies of early English treatises that pick apart astrology’s Ptolemaic foundations. I’m particularly enamored with one so-called “reformer” who advanced a theory of Copernican heliocentrism in astrology, proposing a hypothetical system that replaces the glyph of the sun with a solid black dot (which stands for the earth) and reverses astrological aspects in an effort to put the sun at the centre of astrological thinking. Never mind that I can’t figure out how the model works in nativities or interrogations; for seventeenth-century reformers, aligning astrological theory with emerging “science” seems to have been as good an approach as any to legitimizing the long-standing tradition of “prediction through astronomy,” which dear old Ptolemy first set out in the second century.

Back in school, I learned that titans like Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler were among those to whom we owe gratitude for advancing our knowledge of the heavens. These were the secular mathematicians and astronomers who — so the narrative goes — defied the Church fathers and worshipped at the temple of evidence, measurement and observation. There was no room for superstition in the learning that these avatars advanced. To think that they were somehow tied to the history of astrology is nigh impossible.

Imagine my shock when, as an astrological neophyte, I began exploring predictive techniques only to find that one of them is attributed to none other than Mr. Kepler! Beyond transits, my Hellenistic learning took me deep into the realms of annual profections and zodiacal releasing. I delved into time-honoured Persian astrological techniques, like solar revolutions (thank you, Abu Ma’shar) and firdaria. Finally, I came across a technique that I absolutely love: secondary progressions. Who would have thought that the venerated Johannes Kepler — a father of the scientific revolution — devised this clever, symbolic approach?

In A History of Western Astrology Volume II: The Medieval and Modern World, Nicholas Campion writes that, “Of the astronomers responsible for the astronomical revolution, Kepler’s astrology is the most well known, though it is largely ignored by scholars of his work” (p. 139). Kepler, a “committed astrological reformer,” appears to have nevertheless believed in the theoretical basis of astrology. From him, we obtained new aspects — the biquintile, semisextile and decile, among others — and, of course, the predictive technique that I’ll briefly detail for those who have yet to incorporate it into their astrological arsenal.

What are secondary progressions?

If you don’t know how to read an ephemeris, then might I suggest that this is one of the best places to start!? Sure, no shortage of astrological software or websites will calculate your chart by secondary progressions, but for this technique “old school” worked best for me because I got a real feel for the movement of the planets in the visible sky.

Taking an ephemeris and your current age, count out one day for each year you’ve been alive. The day you were born counts as the first day of life, the second day the second and so on. By the time you reach the number of days after birth equivalent to your current number of years, you have arrived at the symbolic position of your inner sky at the present moment. What you may notice, depending on your age, is that your moon is likely to have booted its way around the zodiac at least once, while your sun may have only changed one or two signs. This is because the cycles of the planets are correspondingly drawn out. The moon changes signs every two-and-a-half days on average, while the sun shifts signs every thirty days. From the perspective of secondary progressions, if you’re under thirty and born under a sun at zero degrees, then the sun may not have changed signs, but your moon will have made several changes, moving signs every two- to two-and-a-half years. Depending on the degree placements of other planets, they may or may not have changed signs too, and unless the outer planets (for this exercise “outer planets” means Jupiter and Saturn, not Uranus through Pluto) are at the end of a house cusp or about to station direct or retrograde, you’ll likely notice nothing significant about their movements, so, in my case, I don’t use them.

So, What Do I Look For?

Good question! I tend to focus on planetary ingresses, conjunctions, squares and oppositions — in short, the hard aspects, since they’re more likely to have a prominent story to tell. If we think about the standard planetary shorthand we apply to natal interpretation, we’ll be well-positioned to appreciate the significance of a sun shifting from Aquarius to Pisces or a Moon moving from Aries to Taurus. These will coincide with moderate to significant turning points in our lives, influenced not only by the condition of the planets in the signs they find themselves — for this, I use the traditional rulership and dignity schemes— but also the topics of the houses that the progressed planets find themselves in. A sun-Venus conjunction may signify a new relationship, while a New Moon in a particular house may represent the beginnings of a new phase of life — the interpretations are that elegantly simple.

Unlike transits, which are more event-focused, secondary progressions are often interior in nature and symbolic. Your friends and family may not recognize the shifts, but you certainly will. Changes to Mercury’s placement by sign or aspects to it could represent developments in the way we think, or, alternatively, a change in the way we communicate or even earn money. Venus, the planet of relationships, needs very little said about how it could represent changes in friendships and romance. Mars could represent actions, conflicts, struggles or strategic endeavors — again, defer to sign placement to understand the area of life that these changes are occurring and to traditional dignity schemes to understand the nature of those changes. A Mars in fall could represent a sudden and drastic turn of events where we might not be able to get something off the ground no matter how hard we try. I often add other Hellenistic principles, like sect, to my interpretations, looking to any aspects that are made to my malefic contrary to the sect, since this could be a particular time of upheaval in my life.

Can I use secondary progressions with other predictive techniques?

Yes, you can! Now, here’s where I cheat and use software. I have definitely drawn up tri-wheels of my natal chart, secondary progressed chart and current transits to see if anything is hitting sensitive placements. If you use the dodekatemoria as another technique, then sometimes you may wish to look for aspects to these points from secondary progressed or transiting planets — the same could be said for pre-natal syzygys if that happens to be your bag. Recently, I asked a Hellenistic astrologer in a lecture if I could use antiscia with this and the answer is a resounding “yes” if you know the antisicia points of your natal planets. In Stephen Forrest’s Book of the Moon, he even advocates for considering the out-of-bounds Moon as another layer of wild and wacky things that could happen to us by secondary progression, and this definitely goes for any out-of-bounds planet.

All in all, I’d suggest giving this technique a try if you aren’t already familiar with it. As a baby astrologer, I found this one of the most accessible predictive approaches, next to annual profections, that yielded considerable psychological insight into my emotional state.

Have you used secondary progressions? What were your experiences? Drop me a line and let me know!

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