Calculating the Hellenistic Solar Return

© 2001 Curtis Manwaring

A correction has been long overdue for this article in the technique of doing solar returns and profections. The original article was based upon a section in Valens book V that Schmidt considers to be corrupted [1]. Recently I attended a workshop at the Schmidt's that has clarified this procedure.

Finding the Solar Return Ascendant

The Hellenistic astrologers did not calculate solar returns in the same way that we do. This was because they had a problem when it came to finding the ascendant for the nativity for the year because it was not possible in their time to observe the exact position of the Sun. What they did was to keep all of the planets in the position of the birthdate while looking for the time that the Moon returned to its natal degree in the month that the Sun was in the sign of the return. When the Moon returned under these conditions, the sign rising at that time was considered to be the ascendant for the solar return. As Valens says, "After reckoning accurately the stars at the birthday of the current year, we will find the horoskopos as follows... With the Sun still in the natal zoidion, we examine where the Moon is at that time and at what hour it arrives by recurrence at the degree which it had at the nativity." [2]. What the Hellenistic astrologers were thinking was that the rate of the Moon's transit and the rate of the sign's rising both correspond to roughly 2 hours in time, and that the position of the Moon would at least give the rising sign [3]. (All 12 signs are covered in a 24 hour period by the earth's rotation and the Moon takes 2 hours to go one degree or 12 degrees + per day. In other words, in the time it takes for the Moon to go through one degree, one sign has completely risen.) The return of the Moon is measured so that as soon as the Moon enters the first minute of the natal degree (in other words enters its own moira), the sign rising is the solar return ascendant. An example of this is if your natal Moon was at 21 Virgo 23, the Greeks would have returned the Moon to 21 Virgo 00. After you have determined the degree of the ascendant from the Moon's return, you place the planets in the position they were in at the birthdate (including the Moon).

Finding the Profections

This next section on finding the profections for use in the solar return is not a method that is used currently by modern astrologers but it was common in Hellenistic times [4]. The exception is that the annual profection is found by counting from the ascendant at the rate of one sign per year [5].

To find the monthly profection, you take the arc from your natal Sun to your natal Moon, then take the same arc starting with the ascendant of the solar return (as determined above by when the Moon returns to it's own degree) in zodiacal order and see where it falls out. This is probably done by sign and not exact to the degree because, remember, the profection has no degree position, but rather a sign position. As for the arc, it is likely that we take the number of signs that the Sun and Moon are distant from eachother in zodiacal order. If, for instance, the Moon is 3 signs behind the Sun at birth, then the monthly profection begins 3 signs behind the ascendant. After the Sun moves 30 degrees from the birth date the monthly profection is then the next sign in zodiacal order and continues like this until the year is completed.

The daily profection is found in a similar manner, but instead of taking the arc from the Sun to the Moon we take the arc from the Moon to the Sun, and apply the beginning of the arc to the solar return ascendant and where the end of the arc leaves off this is the daily profection starting on the birthdate. When the Moon has then traversed 30 degrees in zodiacal order from the birthdate, the daily profection moves to the next sign [6].

After this, we know that the Hellenistic astrologers considered it important to see what natal planets were in the sign of the yearly, monthly and daily profections. However the transits to the profections were only used if the time frame involved is the same. For instance, the Moons transit to a daily profection would be considered important, but would be ignored in the monthly and yearly profections because it was too fleeting a transit to be of any importance. More on this at a later date...


  1. Vettius Valens, The Anthology, Bk V, pg 11. Translated by Robert Schmidt 1997 .
  2. Ibid.
  3. It is interesting to note that the lord of the ascendant and the Moon are used in horary to indicate the interrogator, and if one was more strongly in aspect to the ascendant you use that one to indicate the interrogator and the other to confirm or deny. The Moon is used to confirm what the ascendant is doing. In this case it is used to find (confirm) the ascendant degree!
  4. This next section was described in a workshop by Robert Schmidt in Cumberland on Aug 18, 2001.
  5. According to Robert Schmidt, profections jump only on the birth date and do not "progress" gradually during the rest of the year. It is similarly the case for the monthly and daily profections. There is no "pointer" that gradually moves through the signs for any of these. The misunderstanding arose because of a difference in the understanding of numbers. The Hellenistic astrologers considered numbers to be discrete quantities, whereas modern people tend to think of real numbers and fractional numbers, i.e., numbers with a decimal point.
  6. I have seen some cases where the daily profection was profected at the rate of one sign per day but I am not sure if this was an alternate method or a different opinion.

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