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The Art of Forecasting using Solar Returns by Anthony Louis

Book Review

The Art of Forecasting using Solar Returns
by Anthony Louis

Wessex Astrologer, (Bournemouth, 2008)
ISBN: 1902405293 /978-1902405292
332 pages; paperback.
RRP: $36   20  

Reviewed by Tom Callanan

Everyone knows about solar returns, but few spend a lot of effort working with them. There is even, currently, one famous modern astrologer who eschews the use of solar returns for prediction on the grounds that no one has conclusively determined the correct location for casting the return chart, or whether or not precession should be used. This is a curious objection because no one has decided which house system is correct, or if the tropical zodiac is more or less effective than the sidereal, whether or not the outer planets are sign rulers etc. We could jettison the entire idea of astrology on these and similar grounds. On the other hand, it is true that until now no contemporary author one has published a systematic look at some of these admittedly legitimate questions about the use of solar returns. Anthony Louis has packed an enormous amount of information on solar returns into a work a little less than 300 pages long, with a great number of example charts, and he tackles these questions and more with practical examples of both famous people and charts from his practice.

Although mentioned in the commentary on Paulus Alexandrinus,[1] Louis tells us that the first extensive use of solar returns was done by the medieval Arab astrologers, and picked up by Western Astrologers and developed as part of a larger predictive system. Lilly (1602 - 1681) mentions solar returns in Christian Astrology,[2] but does not go into great detail in that work. John Gadbury (1627 - 1704) wrote two chapters[3] on the use of "revolutions" as he and his contemporaries called them, but with the exception of a handful of aphorisms it is little more than a cookbook. The real work on this subject during the 17th century was Jean Baptiste Morin deVillefranche (1583 - 1656) in Book 23 of his monumental Astrologia Gallica.[4] Morin's work was picked up in the 20th century by French astrologer, Alexander Volguine (1903 - 1976) who spent a great deal of time and effort with Morin's work and developed a system which is the basis of Louis' work. In addition to summarizing Volguine's work, Louis provides contemporary English explanations of Morin's rules and aphorisms taken from book 23 - a very useful reference.

Louis doesn't leave us there, but explains not only Volguine, and Morin, but also some contemporary authors whose ideas vary with those of the older authors. There are detailed sections devoted to contemporary astrologers who have studied solar returns in depth, such as Ray Merriman and Celeste Teal. There is even a cookbook section in the back along with examples of putting it all together. There is something for everyone interested in solar returns in this book, but it requires effort on the part of the reader, if the reader is expecting to get anything out of it.

The solar return, or revolution, is treated by the older authors as part of a greater prediction system. The primary directions will tell the astrologer if the upcoming year is significant. If so the solar return chart is studied in conjunction with the nativity, for nothing can occur if it is not promised in the nativity. Lunar returns are then consulted for more precise timing followed by transits for pinpointing the day of the event. Secondary progressions are a suitable substitute for primary directions. The returns are never judged alone.

This method is suggested by both Gadbury and Lilly, but not addressed in the detail that it is in Astrologia Gallica. Questions concerning precession, location, use with the nativity, etc came later, although location was probably always an issue even in times when people didn't move around as much as today. Some moderns prefer the precessed returns and insist the return chart can be read independently. Louis has done his homework and gives an honest presentation of the views of others, whether he prefers them or not. Any chapter in this work can be used as a jumping off point for more particular study in any given area including history.

Prediction or forecasting as some prefer is the sine qua non of astrology, or at least it is to many of us. "Transits are not enough," is the slogan drummed into the writer by one of his first teachers. Indeed, according to Louis and the traditional authors he cites, an entire list of techniques is required for accurate, precise prediction. It's all here, and if the author left his reader hungering for more, as he has, he's performed his work well.

Thomas Callanan
January, 2009

Notes & References:

  1] Late Classical Astrology: Paulus Alexandrinus and Olympiodorus, trans. Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum, 2001, ARHAT, page 130. This is closer to the use of profections than contemporary solar returns.
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  2] The Doctrine of Nativities, Chap. 23 General Aphorisms teaching how to 'Judge of a Revolution' and 24 'Teaching More Particularly How to Judge of a Revolution', includes returns of all the known planets.
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  3] Christian Astrology pg 734 - 737. This is followed by a summary of other "returns" in the manner of Gadbury's (see below).
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  4] Book 23 Revolutions, trans. James H. Holden, AFA 2003 See also Book 22 Directions by the same translator and publisher.
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