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Cyril Fagan


Tropical Versus Sidereal Solunars: Part II, September 1953

In this installment Fagan continues his discussion on the correct interpretation of solunars—solar and lunar return charts—including the interpretation of stars, planets and houses. He also explains the importance of angularity and the strength—and weakness—of planets transiting the three “grounds”—the foreground, midground and background.


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

In regards to (b) in the July 1953 article, the writers of most modern text-books on astrology, directly or indirectly, derive their aphorisms for delineating genitures from the Tetrabiblos (generally, but now believed in academic circles erroneously, attributed to Claudius Ptolemy [circa 2013, the view that the Tetrabiblos was written by someone other than Claudius Ptolemy has not gained much traction, ed.]), seemingly unaware that in that work the rules of genethliacal and horary astrology have been indiscriminately mixed together into a senseless hotchpotch. For example, they repeat the pseudo-Ptolemaic doctrine that the Sun and Saturn are allotted to the person of the father and the Moon and Venus to the person of the mother; or that the 10th house denotes the mother (or father), the 7th the marriage partner, the 5th the children, and so on. As applied to genethliacal astrology, these doctrines are quite false, however applicable they may be to horary astrology. So at the commencement let us clear the issue by declaring that in natal astrology the whole chart of the nativity (wrongly called a “horoscope”—horoscope is a Greek word meaning “….the degree of the zodiac ascending in any nativity. ..”)* with all the countless millions of spiral nebulae, galaxies, planets and comets, stars seen or unseen, discovered or undiscovered, represents the native himself and no other person. This idea was expressed by Gotama, the Buddha, when he declared:


“…In this fathom-long mortal body the universe lies hid, I declare, and its cause, and its cessation the way that leads to that cessation. On that cessation Nivana IS…..”

Each fixed star, each planet in the birth-map, represents some facet or quality in the native’s physical, psychical and mental economy according to its unique nature. For example, the natal (the “natal” being held to include “progressed” as well) Mars denotes—not the native’s brothers and male relations—but his virility, his drive and the capacity to fight and defend himself by sword, pen or tongue. Venus denotes not his wife or mistress—but his capacity to love and cherish another, to make friends, and to bespeak his affections in poetry, music, song or the plastic arts. In short, the natal Venus denotes his creative ability and his aesthetic delights. Similarly the radical Jupiter does not denote in genethliacal astrology, lawyers and churchmen, uncles or aunts but the fullness of joy and the sense of well-being that a sufficiency of the world’s honors or luxuries entail. On the other hand, Saturn does not mean in natal astrology, [such things as] churches, temples, graveyards, mourners, clergymen, hermits, monks, nuns, penance, and old people generally, but the native’s sense of responsibility, organization, practicability, steadfastness or purpose, as well as incapacity, defeatism, poverty, and deformity. It also denotes the masochistic element that lurks in human nature and which causes many to take a morbid delight in being humbled, enslaved, disciplined, mortified, diseased, and which thrives on scarcity and want, characteristics which sometimes find their fullest expression in the religious life, should Saturn be configured by Pluto.  Genethliacally therefore, Jupiter is the sole significator of acquisitiveness and not the ruler of the 2nd or of any other mundane house; Mars is the only significator of our fighting prowess and not the ruler of the 1st or 8th houses; Venus is the unique significator of our capacity to make and retain friends, and of our amatory impulses and not the ruler of the 5th or 7th houses.

Static and Dynamic

The influence of the zodiacal signs proceeds from the myriads of fixed stars that cluster in every degree of the ecliptic and which can be seen only through high powered telescopes. As the fixed stars are relatively static (they move, on the average, at the rate of 1° in about 120,000 years!), they signify that which is relatively fixed, stationary or static, namely things, places, objects and the phenomenal world generally. On the other hand, the Sun, Moon, and planets being constantly in motion, signify psychological reaction, conditions of consciousness, feelings, emotions—and not things, places or objects. For example, Jupiter does not signify gold, money, vast estates or the like, but the quality of gladness, joy and expansiveness. Gold is merely an inert metal—albeit rare—containing no emotional content, joyous or otherwise, within itself. His gold bags will not assuage the thirst of the lonely traveler lost in the Sahara Desert. The majority of us react joyously on the receipt of money, but it leaves others unmoved, or even depressed. A death may bring grief to one, but gladness to another. The fixed stars denote the substantive, the noun; the planets the predicate, the verb. A degree of the ecliptic (a cluster of fixed-stars) can signify a country, a place, a thing or a nation but these can never be signified by the Sun, Moon or planets (except, perhaps, in horary astrology). So if we would interpret solunars correctly we must cease to apply “thingish” or “puppet-show” thought to the planets but view their movements in the light of states of consciousness that “arise and pass away;” the states of sorrow, grief, anger, hatred, despair, pleasure, joy, love, and so forth.

What do the Houses Mean?

In genethliacal astrology, the mundane houses do not represent other people, nor do they describe them, no matter how we may try to juggle with planetary rulerships. But they do denote the native’s relations to others. If the 10th house denotes the father, then in a large family that house in all the children’s genitures, if not identical, should at least bear a common interpretation. But does it? A glance at the charts of even half-a-dozen members of the same family will soon dispel this illusion. And I am sure that if the 7th houses (or 5th) of all the fair damsels of the same harem were examined they would hardly all describe the same Sultan.


Then what do the 10th and 7th houses represent? They signify the native’s reactions to this father and wife respectively. For example, Jupiter in the 7th does not necessarily denote that the native (if a male) will marry a wealthy and socially distinguished wife; nor will Jupiter in that house necessarily describe her. The probability is that his wife will be socially inferior to himself. But it does denote that when in his wife’s society he becomes elated, expansive and joyous, provided, of course, that Jupiter is not afflicted. Again Jupiter in the 3rd house does not denote prosperous or socially distinguished brethren. On the contrary these are likely to be but poorly placed, but when in their society the native is conscious that he is the one that has achieved success and that he is in a position to distribute largesse to them, as being head of the family (c.f. Hitler’s geniture). Had Saturn, instead of Jupiter, been in the 3rd house then the native might feel the “poor relation” and much embarrassed, if not mortified, when in the presence of his brothers and sisters. The Sun in the 7th does not denote a proud and imperious wife, but that the native identifies himself with his wife and takes pride in having her as his mate. Venus in the 3rd or 9th houses does not necessarily mean that the native will marry a foreigner, but that he takes immense pleasure in travelling and would find emotional pleasure abroad.

Saturn in the 10th House

A certain young man happened to be born with Saturn in Taurus on the midheaven. His parents, who lived righteously, looked to their only son with pride in their hearts. Under the stress of the transits of Neptune and Saturn to the natal Saturn, he fell into  the company of a “fille de joie,” who persuaded him to help himself, by forgery and theft, to his father’s money, which to his shame he did liberally. Now the memory of those early days is gnawing his heart away, and he never ceases to be mortified in his parents’ presence, despite the fact that they have long since forgotten the incident. In this case Saturn on the cusp of the 10th house described neither of his parents, but unhappily his relationship with them. Instances of wrong but common renderings are: Jupiter in 11th, prosperous and influential friends; Venus in the 5th, beautiful children; Mars in the 4th, a bad-tempered mother. The true reading will now be obvious to the reader.

The Three Grounds

But in the delineation of genitures [natal charts] and solunars [solar and lunar return charts], prime importance was given in antiquity to the “three grounds,” namely the “foreground,” the “background” and the “middleground.”


The foreground comprises the 15° of house space, measured in the Prime Vertical [i.e. using Campanus house cusps], above and below the horizon, and on either side of the meridian circle, i.e. from the middle of the 1st to the middle of the 12th house; from the middle of the 10th to the middle of the 9th house; from the middle of the 7th to the middle of the 6th house; and to a lesser extent from the middle of the 4th to the middle of the 3rd house, thus forming a great Maltese Cross in the sky. Awareness or awakened consciousness is not centered in the Sun, Moon or planets but in the earth itself, whereon man resides. In other words, the Maltese Cross is the sole seat of consciousness. The closer a planet is to the angles the more will its influences permeate and even saturate the conscious mind. The rest of the houses represent the deeper, more remote and unconscious mind. The native exults if Jupiter is in the Maltese Cross; he is puffed up with his own importance, and fearful of his person should Neptune be there; or disappointment dejects him should Saturn hang upon the cross. When a planet is exactly on, or transiting an angle its influence is all-powerful, and overrides that of any other planet. In regard to the horizon, the most puissant situations are the 5° immediately above the ascendant and descendant. When making its meridian passage on the zenith, a planet exercises 100% of its power; but in northern latitudes if the declination is south, its altitude when on the meridian may be so small that its power may not be so great as might appear at first sight. When making its meridian passage the altitude of a planet or a star is equal to the sum of its declination and the co-latitude of the place of observation. If the declination or the geographical latitude is south it must be treated as a negative term. The co-latitude = 90° - the geographical latitude of the place. The latitude of New York is N 40°45' therefore its co-latitude is 90° - 40°45' = 49°15'. On the day of the summer solstice (mid-summer’s day) the Sun attains its maximum declination N 23°27', hence its altitude at southing [when the Sun is in the meridian which is  local apparent noon in the northern hemisphere, ed.] in New York will be 49°15' + 23°27' = 72°42' or only 17°18' from the zenith (90° - 72°42' = 17°18'). But on the date of the winter solstice (mid-winter’s day) the Sun drops to its minimum declination S, 23°27' hence its altitude at southing will only be 49°15' - 23°27' = 25°48' or 64°12' from the zenith. This explains why it is that the heat of the Sun on mid-winter’s day is not so great as that of the noon-day Sun of mid-summer’s day, and incidentally demonstrating that the influences of the tropical zodiac rest on the terrestrial effects of declination, an equatorial coordinate—and not on ecliptic longitude. The nearer a planet is to the zenith (the point in the sky immediately above the observer’s head) the more potent will be its effects. A planet may be on the midheaven, yet, owing to its excessive south declination (when in northern latitudes), it may be nearer to the horizon than to the zenith, and thus suffer a diminution in its effective influences.


The background comprises from the middle of the cadent houses to the middle of the succedent houses [i.e. mid-12th to mid-11th house; mid-9th to mid-8th house], especially those situated below the horizon [i.e. mid-6th to mid-5th house; mid-3th to mid-2th house]. So placed the influences of the Sun, Moon and planets, as far as they affect the native’s consciousness, are enfeebled. Placed in the background, the benefics are too weak to render any assistance, and the malefics are too powerless to do serious hurt. Generally speaking, when posited in the background, the influences of the planets are vague, veiled, ill-refined, remote, distant, blurred, sickly, and “out-of-focus.”


The middleground comprises from the middle of the succedent houses to the middle of the angular houses [i.e. mid-11th to mid-10th house; mid-8th to mid-7th house; mid-5th to mid-4th house; mid-2th to mid-1th house]. Situated therein planets only exercise a moderate amount of influence, seldom sufficient to do a preponderating amount of benefit or damage, unless configured with the luminaries or other bodies within the Maltese Cross.

Dumb Notes

In actual practice one will find that midway between the angles, as measured in the Prime Vertical, that is the middle of the succedent houses, are the weakest points in the whole mundane sphere, especially those below the horizon, i.e. the middle of the 2nd and 5th houses. These are veritable dumb notes, and when planets are so situated they appear to be devoid of all influence, unless connected to planets on the angles.


Lucky and Unlucky Solunars

A solunar will prove to be particularly fortunate for the native should the benefics be placed in the foreground, while the malefics are rendered impotent by being placed in the middle of the succedent houses, particularly below the earth; especially should the luminaries be configured by the benefics by such effective configurations as the oppositions, conjunction or square. Zodiacal trine and sextile aspects are too weak to be of any assistance. On the other hand should the malefics be strongly to the fore and configuring the lights, while the benefics languish in the background, the period covered by the return will prove to be most unfortunate, according to the nature of the dominant malefic.


Perhaps, at this point, I may illustrate the importance of the lunar return. A business man, born in Manchester on July 12, 1883 at 7:25 a.m. G.M.T., requested me to compute his solunars for the year 1948. The sidereal longitude of the Moon was Virgo 26°09' and the lunar return for October 3rd of that year occurred at 1:06 p.m. G.M.T., when Jupiter in Scorpio 28°25' was directly in the foreground exactly on the ascending degree, and transiting through his radical 5th house, that connoting wagering. In my letter to him I pointed out that this was an excellent time for him to speculate and advised him to take full advantage of it. In his reply he said: “On Oct. 7th I backed three horses which won. This resulted in my winning a huge profit which has since been paid to me.”

*Fagan’s translation may be considered a bit of a stretch although some usage from late Antiquity does indicate that the connotation of “horoscope” is the degree of the zodiac rising in the east (see Vettius Valens); but the denotation is not as explicit as that. The Greek word for hour, ωρα (ora) also means moment or time of day, but not a degree of the ecliptic. The Greek verb σκοπεω (scopeo), to look at, behold, contemplate, consider or examine is easy to see as related to the philology of the word “horoscope,” as well as the noun, σκοπος  (scopos), a mark, object, aim or one who watches or looks about, and many other Greek words with the prefix “σκοπ” like σκοπια (scopia) a lookout place or watchtower,σκοπιαζω (scopiazo) to spy out, search out, or discover.  Thus the several meanings of “horoscope” lend themselves to the act or purpose of αστρομαντις (astromantis), divination by the stars, or αστρολογια (astrologia) the astrological art, even the element of looking down from on high as in Homer’s Odyssey 10: 97, σκοπιην εις παιπαλοεσσαν, from a mountain peak; or σκοπελος (scopelos), metaphorically, the height or highest point of anything.


                                                                                                                                            —K. Bowser

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