Cyril Fagan


Tropical Versus Sidereal Solunars, July 1953

In this first installment, Fagan discusses the difference between accidents and incidents which are reflected in transits, directions and progressions. Fagan also discusses the differences between sidereal and tropical "solunars"—solar and lunar return charts. As you'll see below, he uses the word "geniture" from the Latin genitura (seed of generation or nativity) for the natal horoscope, a term now rarely used.


In the section on Queen Mary, he uses primary directions, the method of moving the horizon and meridian of the horoscope, advocated by Claudius Ptolemy, to make predictions. Primary directions are a superb timing tool and still very much used today. This technique will be explained more fully in future installments.

The astrological chart of the nativity, frequently referred to as the geniture, can be likened to a germinating seed.  In the course of time a seed will break through the soil and produce its foliage, flowers and fruit.  Such internal growth is but an extension of  the seed itself and “incidental” to it: for the promise of the future plant was already hidden in the seed.  But the growth and well-being of the plant can be affected from outside sources.  It can be trampled underfoot by animal or man, uprooted before it has time to put forth its flower, withered for want of rain, blighted by disease and otherwise at the mercy of the elements.  These effects not being inherent in its growth or foreordained in the seed are termed “accidents.”  The “incidents” being subjective, are astrologically indicated by primary and secondary directions, by lunar progressions and in Hindu astrology by the dasa and antardasa planetary periods; while the “accidents” being objective, are denoted by the celestial changes occurring in the ambient, that is, by transits and transit-charts, such as solunars.


If we would understand astrology aright, these “incidents” and “accidents” must be clearly differentiated.  For example, if in his 24th year an individual becomes insane as a result of an hereditary taint, this would be an “incident” in his life and hence would be revealed in the directions in force at the time.  But if an otherwise healthy individual is knocked down by an automobile and so injured as to impair his sanity, this would be an “accident” and would be indicated by the current solunar returns, or in other transit-charts, but it would not be shown by directions or progressions – primary or secondary, direct or converse.  Of course there are times when incidents may occasion accidents, as when, for example, an elderly lady, enfeebled by age, loses her nerve in traffic and gets killed.  In this case we should expect to find an interaction between transits and progressions.  The common notion that all that can befall one is decreed in the geniture and its progressions is contradicted by the facts of experience and by common sense.  Epidemics, earthquakes, wars and so forth are usually predictable from various mundane charts, which are nothing else but transit-charts.  If some 10,000 people should be killed as the result of an earthquake, predicted from a solar eclipse (a transit), then it would be absurd to look to these peoples’ directions or progressions to account for their untimely end when the obvious cause of their death was that very eclipse which must have fallen on some vulnerable spot in their natal themes.

​The failure of solunars [solar and lunar return charts] to fulfil expectations is due to the following causes:

(a) In ancient time, down to as late as the 5th century A.D., all revolutions were computed in terms of the fixed or sidereal zodiac, which is not affected by precession; whereas in modern times these returns are computed with reference to the tropical zodiac invented in error by Hipparchus about B.C. 139 and which the author [Claudius Ptolemy] of the Tetrabiblos (2nd century A.D.) strove to popularize. It was the tragedy of the Greek genius that it could never divest itself of the conviction that the equinoctial points, which perpetually rose and set due east and west respectively were fixed absolutely in space; hence their invention of a series of tropical zodiacs. Had they suspected otherwise they would have discovered that the earth itself was moving. In the Cleostratus version [of the tropical zodiac] the vernal point is believed to have been fixed in Aries 12°, in that according to Naburiannu (System No. 2) in Aries 10°, in the Callippic or Hellenistic version, according to Kidinnu (System No. 1) in Aries 8°, while Hipparchus fixed it absolutely in Aries 0° (its true position being then Aries 4°51') [i.e. the sidereal position of the vernal point at the time of Hipparchus, about 130 B.C.].

(b) Solunars, being adjuncts to the geniture [natal chart], should be judged by the unalloyed rules of genethliacs and not by medieval or modern text-book astrology, which is an incoherent jumble of genethliacal and horary aphorisms, with the latter predominating.

With regard to (a) all astrologers are aware that the solar revolution is a figure of the heavens struck for the moment the Sun returns to the place in the heavens it occupied at birth, and which occurs annually about the time of the birthday anniversary. Now if the Sun was in precise conjunction with a fixed star at birth it should always be in precise conjunction with the same fixed star at every successive solar return. (As a fixed star, by virtue of its proper motion, on the average moves 1° in about 120,000 years, its motion during one’s life span would be so small as to be negligible.) Suppose, for example, an individual was born on August 22, 1900 at 0:28 A.M. G.M.T., the tropical longitude of the Sun would then be 148°26' and hence in exact conjunction with Regulus (Alpha Leonis), whose tropical longitude for that year was also 148°26'. According to the method of calculating solar returns in common use, the 50th solar return would occur on August 22, 1950 at 2:31 A.M. G.M.T. when the Sun’s tropical longitude would again be 148°26'. But in 1950 Regulus’ tropical longitude was 149°06' and hence the Sun would not be in exact conjunction with that star but would be 0°40' to the west of it; it would not attain the conjunction with Regulus until August 22, 8:03 P.M. G.M.T. or 17½ hours later! This illustration completely exposed the fallacy of the modern method of computing solar and lunar returns.

Time Difference

The time difference between the tropical and sidereal method of calculating these returns is roughly in proportion to the age of the native. This is best illustrated by reference to the tropical and sidereal solunars preceding the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, given below.

See desktop view for table

Sun's longitude                       Moon’s  longitude                                                             

​Tropical solar return         Sidereal solar return                        

Difference in time =  26h 31m  


Tropical lunar return               Sidereal lunar return


Difference in time = 16h 21m






October 1947

October 1947





1948 January

1948 January  





D   H   M  S

02 23 44 57

04 02 16 05


01 02 31 08  



26 15 31

27 07 52


00 16 21 

We thus see that Gandhi’s tropical solar and lunar returns, covering the date of his assassination January 30, 1948, occurred 26h 31m and 16h 21m respectively too early; little wonder therefore that solunars have fallen into disrepute.

Some thoughtful astrologers, being mindful of this anomaly, have tried to effect a compromise by applying precession, equivalent to the native’s age to the tropical longitude of the Sun at birth and computing the solar return for this new position. While this undoubtedly produces a makeshift solar return approximating in time (no allowance being made for the effects of solar and lunar nutation) with that of the sidereal return, the procedure is astronomically untenable. The ‘raison d’être’ of the tropical system lies in the fact that it is inviolably precessional because its fiducials are the vernal and autumnal points, which are continuously shifting backwards among the zodiacal constellations at the rate of 1° in approximately 71.6 years. In relation to the fixed stars precession is therefore a negative term and to add precession to the Sun’s natal position is to cancel out altogether the effects of the accrued precession, and thereby convert the Sun’s position into a quasi-fixed longitude, which violates the integrity of the tropical system, while conceding that of the sidereal.

Hermes in his De Revolutionibus Nativitatum as cited by Bouche-Leclerc (L.Astrologie Grecque, Paris 1899) says:

The Babylonians, Persians, Indians and Egyptians, both kings and private persons, undertook nothing in any year without examining their revolutions; and if they found the year good they set to work, otherwise they refrained. The kings examined the nativities of their generals and observed their revolutions and if they found that for one of them the return indicated power and victory they sent him against the enemy, otherwise they left him aside. And they observed the genitures not only of their generals but also of ambassadors to see if their anniversary (solar return) indicated a successful result. If it signified prosperity they sent for them, but if not they appointed instead others whose anniversary did presage success. In the same manner kings and citizens chose food, drink, medicine; bought, sold and did everything according to their returns; and they used these things and left aside those likely to be hurtful that year. They deduced from their own nativities and those of others and acted accordingly...So the study of revolutions is very useful and expedient…

A Royal “Incident”

Physical disintegration consequent on constitutional delicacy is an “incident” and is therefore predictable from directions.  Most astrologers are aware that the measure of death, especially that due to old age, is the primary direction of the ascendant to the conjunction or opposition of the radical Saturn.  This is splendidly exemplified in the case of Queen Mary who, according to the official bulletin, was born at Kensington Palace, London, Latitude 51° N 30' 20" (Geocentric = 51° N 19' 02"), Longitude 0° W 12' 45" on Sunday May 26, 1867 at 11:59 p.m. GMT.  Her birth must have been remarkably closely timed for had she arrived one minute later it would have occurred on Monday, May 27th!  The Queen died in her sleep at Marlboro House, London, on Tuesday March 24, 1953 at 10:20 p.m. GMT.  Saturn’s declination was 15° S 20' 20" therefore its semi-arc, computed for the geocentric latitude of the birthplace was 69° 57' 55".  Its R.A. (right ascension, ed.) was 227° 56' 00" and the R.A. of the M.C. (medium coeli or mid-heaven, ed.) 243° 37' 00".  The orthodox or Ptolemaic arc (1° = 1 year of life) = 85° 50' while the mean arc (59' 08" = 1 year of life) = 84° 36'. 


1. Ascendant conjoined Saturn in zodiaco converse = 83° 57'.

2. Ascendant conjoined Saturn in mundo converse = 85° 39'.  Geographical latitude gives the arc as 85° 30'.


A rectification of only minus 44 seconds in time to the recorded birthtime of 11:59 (i.e. 11:58:16) would make (b) exact; a rectification that would increase the time of birth by more than one minute is hardly permissable because as it would make the Queen’s birth occur on the next day.  [The direct primary direction in mundo of Queen Mary’s descendant to her natal Saturn occurred at age 54 in 1921. Fagan’s point is that primary directions are effective in both direct and converse modes, ed.]  From this case the following conclusions may reasonably be deducted:


 1. that primary directions of the angles are effective.

 2. that directions of the ascendant to Saturn are anaeretic (destructive).

 3. that the true “arc of direction" is the Ptolemaic.

 4. that directions must be made “in mundo” and not “in zodiaco.”

 5. that the semi-arc must be computed for the geocentric latitude of birth.


Queen Mary (wife of George V, King of England 1910-1936)

May 26, 1867

11:59 p.m. GMT

Kensington Palace, London





To view Queen Mary's chart, click here