Transits of the Planets
© 2005, 2012 Curtis Manwaring
What importance did the founders of astrology place on transits? (as compared to primary directions and various time lord techniques.) It might suprise some to know that transits were the last consideration that ancient astrologers were interested in to see what is going on in the natives life at any given time. Why was this the case? Since we know that astrologers had the ephemerides for calculating positions and knowing where planets were in ancient times, we know that it was never an issue that calculating positions was "not convenient enough". There must have been a philosophical reason, or at least a common sense reason based upon an understanding of what transits are. One might ask the question, "If transits have such power, why isn't everybody doing what the transit chart says instead of their own natal chart?".
If we take a snapshot of planet positions at any given time (transits of the current time), we will have a set of positions, the ascendant or rising sign for a given location, etc. Also at any given time, there may be a dog eating his dinner, a guy across the street doing laundry in the basement, a couple in a town 300 miles away starting a honeymoon, an old man taking in his last breath at a local hospital, etc... If so many different things are happening all at the same time, what does a transit chart represent? There are some things that can be said to be true for a given era for most people, then there are those things that are only true to a given individual (such that someone is getting married). One can look at the backdrop of the outer planets as representing what is true for a civilization at a given time which show the pressures for people to act on something at any given moment in time. But far more important are your individual past actions since these set up pressures for you to act in a given way at a given time that do not exist with other people. This is represented by your own natal chart and its natural unfolding through time (known through various time lord techniques).
Transits were not used in isolation, but planetary relationships were thought of in terms of the "legal paradigm" that Robert Schmidt says is present in the Hellenistic era texts. In this paradigm, Schmidt says that an aspect is a ray directed from the eye of one planet (as in a planet looking at another planet) such that a planet contemplates in its "soul", the nature and appearance of the other planet. Such a planet is said to have "witnessed" the other planet. Now such a planet may never say anything about what it has just witnessed, but if there is a subject matter such as "marriage" as represented by the 7th house lord, lord of the lot of marriage, etc, then that domicile or exaltation lord may "call to witness" such a planet as to what it has seen. If a planet responds, this is called "testimony" and this is what is thought to bring about "actual events". While I will not get into all the technical details here on how this works, suffice it to say that an "event" is not a single instance in time, but can be every instance in time related to a given subject. For instance the marriage is not just the "I Do", but the proposal, the wedding rehearsal, selecting the bridesmaids and best man, finding the church, the honeymoon, having children (or not), the day to day relationship with your spouse and the eventual divorce or death do us part...
Some might say that one does not take the transit chart in isolation, but the natal chart as compared to the transit chart. A flaw with this argument is that it ranks all transit charts in equality to the natal chart, when the natal chart is clearly much more important. It is true that one can do such comparisons, but how do you know which transits are more powerful? Is it simply a matter of taking the closest orb? Such an approach fails to consider that to a given individual, some things are far more important than others. One can have a very tight transit to an unimportant planet that has little emphasis in the natal chart because it has not been activated as a time lord, falls "achrematistikos" (an untelling position), etc, whereas another planet that is in full bloom because it is activated as lord of the times can get a transit with a very wide "orb" and be much more noticable (in fact such a planet does not need a transit at all to become active). This is why time lords and their natal configuration were considered far more important. Each individual reacts differently to the same transits in the sky that are going on at any given time, not just because the positions are different between natal charts, but because there is temporal separation between charts and planets need time to "mature" in a given nativity. Transits are still considered relevant, particularly if natal planets do not testify about a given subject matter and since as Schmidt says, "the planets are in the service of heimarmene", trying to give the native his due, the natal planets may not always give testimony, or testimony may be deferred to the later time.
Valens says that planets are not testifying unless they are active time lords. So transits may be mute if they are not relevant to the testimony of a given subject. This is one of the reasons why I developed the program Delphic Oracle with the transit interface, because at any given time it is important to know if that transit is actually "active". Now one might ask why so many of the transit delineations seem to work? It is usually the case that one of the 7 planets is a time lord in at least one method. It is rarely the case that it is not active at all, but there is another dimension that time lords provide to transit delineations: i.e. context. Having a planet be a time lord for spirit tells you that a transit delineation can be interpreted in terms of ones reputation and ones actions and goals for example. A planet as lord of the decennials tells us whether we have reached the main course that our life is intended for (according to Schmidt). There are also techniques within each time lord method to tell us which ones are the most important and represent major turning points and which ones indicate no change or status quo. All of these have to be interpreted in accordance with what is possible in the context of the natal chart. The reader of these delineations should keep this in mind; because of heimarmene, some things are not possible, for instance that a 6 month old give birth...
This is the largest section of the site, and there are sections on how a transiting planet aspecting the lord of a given house in your chart brings about these affects. Keep in mind that at this point I have not done these delineations through full scale Hellenistic analysis. Most come from my personal conjectures about general principles found in medieval astrology. Some, though come from personal experience. I have just started to include delineations that use as a conditional the timelordship of a planet in the natal chart and have reports available that will show when planets in your chart become active through various time lord techniques. I am gradually updating these online delineations to reflect a more accurate representation of the proper use of transits in ancient astrology.