Traditional astrology employs a number of techniques for predicting life events. Such techniques are often arranged in hierarchical order, beginning with what is known as primary directions, or simply directions (Greek aphesis, Arabic tasyīr). The foundation of directions is the daily rotation of the earth around its axis, which appears to us as the rotation of the celestial sphere around our place of observation. The motion of the heavens in the hours following birth brings the planets to significant places in the natal chart, indicating the unfolding of events in years to come – each degree of motion corresponding to approximately one year of life.
The technique of directions was not included in that version of Hellenistic astrology which reached India almost two thousand years ago; but it was developed by Persian and Arabic astrologers, and later by the European astrologers of the Renaissance. While the basic concepts are easy to grasp, the actual calculation of directions – which involves spherical trigonometry – could be laborious and time-consuming before the advent of computers. Especially after the astrological revival of the 19th and 20th centuries, following the decline of astrology in Europe, the classical technique was also misinterpreted, and new meanings assigned to its technical terms, such as direct and converse, significator and promissor. Eventually this distorted technique fell into disuse.
With the rekindled interest in traditional astrology over the last three decades, astrologers have again begun turning to this important prognostic method; but many find the technical explanations of earlier authors difficult to follow. We are therefore pleased to offer courses and workshops on primary directions, as well as the textbook Primary Directions: Astrology’s Old Master Technique, described by Robert Hand as ‘the first clear non-technical exposition of primary directing techniques ever written’. Our natal readings make use of several predictive techniques including primary directions.
Another major traditional technique is that of annual revolutions, better known today as ‘solar returns’, which are employed to make yearly forecasts once the natal chart has been delineated. In India, the technique is known as varṣaphala or ‘fruit of the year’. The traditional method of delineating an annual revolution incorporates the use of profections – a symbolic motion of the ascendant and other points along the zodiac – and focuses on identifying key points such as the Ruler of the Year. Annual revolutions were largely developed by Persian astrologers, whose original works are no longer extant, and whose methods passed on both to Arabic-language authors and to Indian Tājika authors writing in Sanskrit. Comparing the Arabic and Sanskrit sources gives us a clearer idea of the original Persian teachings on revolutions, including the use of the sidereal year (the return of the Sun to its natal position in the sidereal zodiac).