Predictive Astrology Chapter 6 – Primary and Converse Directions

by Marilyn Muir, LPMAFA

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Primary Direction Math Examples

Oblique Ascendant

Directing the Arabian Parts

Minor Arc, Converse Directions

Cosmobiology Wheel Use

Reading Primary DirectionsPlanets and Points

Just what are Primary Directions?       In Chapter 4, we discussed the various methods of advancing the chart. Primary directions are one way to advance the chart and to predict from those results.

How are they figured?      Primary directions are based on the actual diurnal or daily motion of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. It takes the Earth 365 ¼ days to complete one 360˚ such orbit, or approximately 1˚ per day. Regardless of actual planetary movement at birth as in progressions (i.e., stationary, retrograde, fast or slow), all bodies, and also the Midheaven and Ascendant are arbitrarily moved at the approximate rate of one degree per year, forward for primary directions, and backward for converse directions. Directed contacts to natal positions, whether forward or converse, indicate events of the nature of the connecting energies. Unlike secondary progressions, directions do not seem to me to apply to psychological attitudes or development of the individual. Instead, they tend to produce events or happenings, as more tangible or visible experiences.

Astrologer Charles E.O. Carter considers all directions matters of fate or destiny. I do not subscribe to a totally fatalistic view. My personal Astrologer, the late Robert “Buz” Myers considered

  • converse (backward) directions as those events we must experience due to their nature of having been established in our past, prior to birth or physical manifestation.
  • Primary directions, being formed forward in time are more under our personal control or influence.

While this could also smack of fatalism to a lesser degree, this forward experience seems to suggest either free will at the point of initiation, or something the actions of the native may have set in motion. My own view is a curious combination of fate and free will. Philosophy first…

I believe that, within the context of our soul’s plan for this lifetime, we have limited free will, completely dependent upon our state of awareness at any given moment. If we are unaware, our free will is naturally limited by our lack of awareness. So, ultimate free will would depend on our state of awareness at any time. I do not see our incarnation as accidental. I believe the universe is purposeful and that our individual existences are purposeful. Did our personality select the pattern and energy for this lifetime? That is doubtful since our personality does not seem to have a clue. Perhaps a higher or more aware dimension of self, such as soul or spirit, chose our script. Since we are all still wearing bodies, we are probably still in school. When we finish our lessons, we get to leave the schoolhouse – but we call that “death”.

To the degree that we advance our awareness and our connection to those higher states of being, we advance our ability to make better, and possibly more, free will choices. Are our lifespans determined at birth and is that information available in our natal and progressing charts? Another view might be that, as we increase in awareness, our life span might increase with it. Or, if we are dismal failures at the lessons at hand, could that higher dimension of self pull the plug on this experience and give it another try in a different experience? At other times, the aging process can produce a disintegration of vitality and personality. Is there still purpose afoot? Always more questions than answers. End of philosophical discourse.

Most primary direction contacts that can be formed during the native’s chart life are formed within six hours after birth, or 90˚ of right ascension of the zodiac in degrees, representative of the day for a year predictive relationship. Occasionally, humans live longer than 90 years, so sometimes you might need 100˚ of right ascension for that particular chart. By reading this arc of right ascension (RA) and / or arc of event (AE) to actual events in the native’s experience, these arcs may also be used to rectify charts where birth time is in question. The simple advantages to primary directions are that:

  • They are very easy to do.
  • Slow planets are no longer slow.
  • Retrograde or stationary planets move immediately after birth and that motion equals aspect possibilities.
  • No further reference to the ephemeris is required unless you choose solar arc.
  • Add the potential of easy rectification mentioned above, which will take another workbook.

Primary directions as figured yearly apply to the birthday of the individual and not to the adjusted calculation date (ACD). Note: the ACD is also known as the progressed ephemeris date (PED), or limiting date (LD) and is described in our secondary progressions chapter. This is also true when you progress your Midheaven by sidereal time. You may adjust your solar arc to any date during the year, although generally one calculation a year is all that is required. This directing to a specific date is known as the arc of event (AE).

  • Since 1˚ = 1 year, and 1˚ = 60’, 60’ of arc divided by 12 months = 5’ per month.
  • 30 days in a month ÷ 5’ = 6 days per one minute of arc. It does not get easier!

There are three methods by which you may direct your chart. Why have one method when you can have a choice?

  • Symbolic arc: 1˚ per year regardless of the actual or mean (averaged) motion of the Sun.
  • Solar arc: based on the actual daily motion of the Earth’s changing orbit around the Sun (exact). Degrees, minutes and seconds do vary throughout the year. Cosmobiology rules!
  • Radix arc: mean (average) motion of the Sun at 59’8” per day.

The selected arc is added to each planet, Midheaven and Ascendant. You could also add this to any other planet or point such as the north node of the Moon, the part of fortune, Lilith, or whatever else you choose to work with. Work with whatever gives you actual value for the time and effort you invest.

Math examples, each type of Primary Direction, Major Arc

Individual born 10/31/38, Sun 7 Sco 56, Event 4/28/70, age 31½

Beginning ephemeris date used 10/31/38

Symbolic Arc: 1˚ per year

1970y   4m, 28d Event

1938y 10m, 31d Birth

31y 5m 27d     = 31 ½ yr

= 31˚30’          Symbolic arc of event

Radix Arc: 59’8” per year mean motion      

1970y   4m 28d Event

1938y 10m 31d birth

31 y 5m 27d use Table of Major Arcs

(I prefer Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson’s table)

31y = 30˚33’+ 5m = 25’ + 27d = 4’

31˚02’ Radix arc of event

Solar Arc: actual solar motion used

31 years (day for a year) forward from birthday.

12/1/38 =    8 Sag 39 (this is 1970 SA Sun)

birthday =   7 Sco 25 (listed 10/31/38)

31 yr arc = 31˚ 14’ birthday to birthday

As Sun is moving 59’50 per day (or per year)

at this point 5m 27d = @ 6 mo or ½ movement

29’55”or about 30’ more arc to event

31˚14’ + 30’ = 31˚44’ True solar arc

28’ difference between symbolic and radix

14’ difference between symbolic and solar arc

42’ difference between radix and solar arc

Depending upon which motion you use, add the calculated arc to each planet, Midheaven and Ascendant. I happen to prefer Radix because it has been most reliable for my work over many years.

  • Conjunctions are most evident, but oppositions and squares also have strong impact. Trines and sextiles show opportunities and the minor aspects would follow in importance.
  • Remember primary directions trigger the natal chart.
  • Primary directions cannot trigger secondary progressions. Why? Since the motion of the directions is symbolic and not real, and the calculations are rigid and act as one body in motion, the two techniques cannot trigger each other.
  • With primaries, the natal aspect is retained since advancing motion is equal to each body and point.

If they are constructs and not actual, then why use them? You will notice when using Secondary Progressions that the outer planets barely move in the available time span (about 90 to 100 years of aging were illustrated), so few new aspects are formed. Occasionally, a natal aspect will perfect itself, a planet will station and change direction or may change signs or houses. There seems to be a limitation to ongoing use of those outer bodies by progression. Those bodies are definitely active in a human life. Primary directions offer alternative activation. Primary directions do work, so we use them to aspect to the natal positions, but that appears to be their limit. Transits do not seem to activate primary directions.

Oblique Ascendant

In addition, the progressing Ascendant moves irregularly, from possibly ¾˚ to 2+˚ in the same clock time that the midheaven moves 1˚, which is the standard measure. This is called the “Oblique” Ascendant. You can obtain the Oblique Ascendant from your table of houses using the directed Midheaven at the birth latitude. I have found that both the directed Ascendant and the directed Oblique Ascendant do work, especially as the years progress. It’s an unresolved conundrum, perhaps stages within an overall process.

Directing the Arabian Parts

To direct the Part of Fortune or any other part, you can add the same arc of event to it. However, if you are calculating the parts associated with the moving Oblique Ascendant, you must perform the usual natal formula for that part using the new directed figures rather than the natal figures. For example, to determine the Part of Fortune (Fortuna) calculated from the directed Oblique Ascendant as described above, the formula would be:

  • Directed Oblique Ascendant plus directed Moon minus directed Sun equals the directed Oblique Fortuna.

Minor Arc

The Moon’s average diurnal (daily) motion of 13˚ 11’ is used to produce the yearly minor arcs as presented by Ivy Goldstein Jacobson’s material in Foundation of the Astrological Chart, pages 56 (major) -57 (minor). I keep a well-worn copy of these two illustrations in my personal ephemeris. It is possible to add the figure to all the natal placements similar to the major arcs. More commonly, it is added to the natal Moon only, and the derivative placement is called the minor Moon. It holds a similar value to the progressing or major Moon in secondary progressions.

Dividing 13˚11’ of yearly motion by 12 months = 1˚6‘ per month, off by only 1’ for the entire year. If you wanted to fine-tune it to days of a month, simply divide the 1˚ 6’ (66’) per month by 30 days or about 2’ per day. On the Primary Directed chart for any year, this would be a secondary Moon listing (one for the major arc Moon, plus this minor arc Moon). Most astrologers would stop there, but it is possible to fine-tune it even further by correcting it to the month and even to the day. The measure is always 13˚11’ per year, 1˚6’ per month, 2’ per day. Want to know if the minor Moon actually works?

Credit:  Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson, Foundations of the Astrological Chart

Example       If you were 13 years old, you would multiply 13 years x 13˚11’ for birthday to birthday, and then add the smaller computation for months and perhaps day of calculation for an event. Working on our main example, my Mother died when I was 13y 8m 10d old. Calculate:

            13y x 13˚11’ +        8m x 1˚6’            + 10 d x 2’ 

            =169˚143’                =8˚ 48’               =20’ combine and reduce*

            169˚ + 8˚                  143’ + 48’ + 20’ = 211’ reduce = 3˚31’

            169˚+8˚+3˚ = 180˚ plus minutes 31’ for 180˚31 = Minor Moon  arc for the event.

Add to natal Moon (Mom): 15 Aquarius 35* convert to 315˚35’ + 180˚31’ AEv = 495˚66’ or 496˚6’:

496˚6’ minus 360˚ (one full wheel) = 136˚6’ convert: to 16 Leo 6, minor Moon for event.

Aspect to natal is square to Uranus 16 Taurus 8, triggering natal promise Moon / Uranus square, 2’ to exact. Doesn’t get tighter than that!

*Note: See full explanation in Chapter 1 for conversion and reduction. Reduction means to remove all full cycles from the totals to arrive at a non-reducible number. If the degrees are larger than 360˚ remove as many 360˚ reductions as possible, and the remainder will be the corrected degree. If you have more than 60’ reduce by 60 as many times as necessary to get below 60’. In this instance be sure to keep track of the number of reductions you made and that number is added to the degree column. For example: 196’ reduces to 3˚16’. The same procedure should be done with seconds. All full second cycles are added to the minutes column and the remainder of seconds below 60” is the figure for seconds. You will find it easiest to work from seconds, to minutes, to degrees, right to left as in the rules of general mathematics.

Conversion simply means using zodiacal degrees instead of signs to make the math easier (i.e., 00 Aries = 00˚, 00 Taurus = 30˚, 00 Gemini = 60˚ and so forth), then you would add the actual degrees and minutes of placement. In our example, 15 Aquarius 35 is converted to 315˚35’, and 127˚20’ is converted back to 7 Leo 20.

Converse Directions

It is simple to explain what to do, but not as simple to explain why you do it. I tend to use these when I am rectifying a chart, because it is a simple way to quickly see all possible aspects. I really have never tried to apply this in readings, using only the hit mechanism to recognize that an activation is occurring. The math is similar to Primary Directions with the exception that you subtract (not add) the arc of event. The most accurate way to do this, with fewer errors, would be to use the calculated arc of event, but subtract that from the zodiacal natal position. Convert that result back to degrees, sign and minutes as previously described. This is a quick way to spot aspects from both directions or sides from any point, such as the Midheaven. Starting with the Midheaven look at the first planet to which the Midheaven will direct or move forward. Conversely, that same Midheaven shows potential natal aspects behind its position. See if anything connects. Better to check it out and discard if not significant, than to miss something important by avoiding the work. Practice on your familiar sample charts.

Example: The first planet the Midheaven will reach moving forward is Saturn at 12 Aries 50 in the 11th house. Since the natal midheaven is 2 Pisces 33, the arc of event would be the distance between the midheaven and Saturn. Notice that the midheaven is at the very end of the zodiac and Saturn is in the first sign of the zodiac. How do you compensate for that? Simply borrow a zodiac of 360˚ and add it to the Saturn position:

  • 360˚ + 12˚50’ = 372˚50’, then minus the midheaven of 332˚31; which results in 40˚19’ of arc.
  • Using the Midheaven again as your starting point, subtract the arc 40˚19’ for the converse direction. 332˚31’ minus 40˚19’ = 292˚12’ or 22 Cap 12.
  • Is there anything at 22 Cap 12? Not in my chart. What about other major aspects? Natal Neptune is at 22 Vir 31 (trine). Natal Mercury is at 21 Sco 09 (1˚ to sextile).

So what does this new figure represent in terms of event? While the directed Midheaven is conjunct natal Saturn, there should also be a close trine between natal Neptune and the directed Midheaven plus a sextile between natal Mercury and the directed Midheaven within 1˚ of separation.  The aspects  will be different  between  directed and converse and can contribute to the larger story, but it is the actual connections I would zero in on. Oh, did these example figures actually illustrate an experience? Yes, and the sextiles and trines were involved. This is when I had the courage to quit my regular day job and became a full-time Astrologer and Minister. Not all activating aspects are nasty!

This is particularly useful in rectification work, but I do not use converse aspects in my normal reading practice. If you were to direct each planet individually, you should pick up all these aspects anyway, so to me, conversions are usually redundant. I needed to explain it here because I do not want holes or gaps in your knowledge.  I wonder if you could do conversed progressions in the same way? Hmmm! Another time, another research project. Interested?

Cosmobiology Wheel Use

As I was writing the material about the converse directions, what happened in my head? I saw the Cosmobiology wheel as a tool to easily see these direct and converse positions. If you know Cosmobiology and how to set the wheel up, you already know how to use and apply the solar arc directions. What lesser-experienced practitioners might not realize is that converse directions use the same arc of event but reverse the movement between the two wheels. If you are familiar with Cosmobiology, these simple instructions will help you set up the wheels for the purposes of this example. Unfortunately, to teach someone who is not familiar with the Cosmobiology wheels would require writing yet another workbook, not possible within this space. Put Cosmobiology on your to-do list for future studies.

If you know how to work with Cosmobiology, set up duplicate natal charts wheels using the 90˚ Cosmobiology inner / outer wheel format. One wheel will be slightly larger than the other so both can be easily read. Cut out the smaller wheel around the outside perimeter. Center the smaller wheel on top of the larger wheel and secure both with a workable fastener such as a large clothing snap or a two-pronged clasp. If you have the Cosmobiology arrow wheel available, you can add that to the top but do not obscure the two natal charts. If you do not have or use the arrow wheel, you will still be able to do this rudimentary task without it. The bottom wheel represents your natal chart figures. The top wheel shows the new movable aspects that form.

Calculate the arc of event in degrees and minutes for what you are researching. True solar arc method is usually the choice for Cosmobiology charts.

  • Move the top wheel around to the left (counter-clockwise) the number of degrees and minutes of the arc of event. Look for any direct connections between the inside wheel and the outside wheel.
  • If you want to look at converse directions, move the top wheel around to the right (clockwise) the number of degrees and minutes of the arc of event.

Time-wise:    the Cosmobiology wheel is set up only once and is completely reusable year after year, event after event. That is all the instruction necessary for this lesson because, as mentioned earlier, further explanation of Cosmobiology requires the dedication of yet another separate study.

Regardless of how you construct your primary directions using your choice of method, once we have the figures and the aspects we need, how do we read it?

Reading Primary Directions

When the contact is made between the directed planet or point and the natal planet or point, an event occurs – particularly if it has natal significance or a promise to fulfill. It is very possible for a heavy contact or major aspect to have only passing importance if there is no support for it from the natal chart.

For example, my own chart indicates two major contacts at the age of 12. I have no remembrance of a significant event at age 12 (70+ years ago), and neither of my parents are alive for me to question. At that time, I was performing on stage and radio as a child singer / dancer. This was about the time of the advent of television. I did perform on very early television. I was raised in the age where many parents thought they were raising the next Shirley Temple or Judy Garland. It is possible that there was significant activity at that time, although it apparently did not have lasting impact as there was no natal promise to fulfill. It is one of those things I will never know. It makes a good example for this section because not knowing or having a way to access the information does not represent denial of possible activation. It simply remains an unknown possibility!

Read the event according to the nature of the planets or points involved, in the house of the point of contact. Remember to note which house the contacting planet moves forward from as it is bringing the affairs of that house with it as it makes its contact by forward motion. Also note the houses of rulership that are involved for potential additional insight as to the event. The signs reveal the mode of expression for the event itself. It is really not that difficult once you start working with it.

The directed planet or point

contacts the natal point or planet

relative to house matters at the contact point

bringing forward house matters of the natal position of the directed planet,

further affecting or being modified by the houses of rulership

expressing in the manner of the sign of contact

and the nature of the aspect itself.

Houses, signs and planets, as well as aspects, are read in the usual basic way. The following keywords for the nature of the events may help.

Planets and Points

Sun     Affects the broad unfoldment of life; important experiences for developing one’s character; individual evolvement; physical vitality, creativity as children of the mind or body; may affect the father or male authority figure in life.

Moon    Affects domestic matters, emotions, personal / family concerns, mother, everyday occurrences, restlessness, change, general emotional health; may affect the mother or female authority figure in life.

Mercury   Mental relationships, correspondence, travel, studies or examinations; can act through relatives (particularly siblings), nervous tension, mental restlessness or change.

Venus       Relationships of a social nature, pleasures, musical or artistic pursuits. Females in general (not usually Mom), friends, love; money matters or acquisitiveness.

Mars  Energy, drive, aggressive tendencies, impulsive, passionate, self-reliant; quarrels, accidents, friction; hard to govern personal projection; males in general (not usually Dad).

Jupiter       New opportunities, expansion, travel, cheerful and uplifting, be ready to take advantage of opportunity, but be realistic; progressive spirit.

Saturn      Conservation, crystallizing, stabilizing, assumption of more duties; can create isolation, coldness, reserve, disappointment or loss, delay; chronic type illnesses or diseases, depletion of energy or the necessity to triage physical activity.

Uranus    Expect the unexpected, upheavals, sudden happenings, surprise, erratic behaviors; accidents, especially associated with electricity or air travel.

Neptune    Greater sensitivity, imagination, artistic contacts, sea voyages; hospitalization or imprisonment, chaos, treachery, theft or scandal, anxieties; promotes change, but through foggy or confused conditions.

Pluto    Cleaning out one’s personal closet, or lifting the rug over buried attitudes and conditions; death / rebirth or a need to understand; opening or closing of chapters in life and choices required; heaven or hell, the extremes of experience.

Midheaven   Matters relating to the profession, career or the “image” and reputation, also one parent.

Ascendant    Matters affecting personal attitudes or affairs, physical body, how the world sees you, your coping skills.

Other selected points in the chart.

Orb of effect    Use a very tight orb of 1˚, which should become stronger as applying. Again, in my experience, most events occur when the aspect is within 15’ of exact applying and it is weaker when separating. 5’ is usually my separating measure. Watch this because some aspects occasionally occur after exact, particularly Saturn. Reason? Something more to study.

Here is a copy of a worksheet I used to learn, teach, and read from as I formalized my skills in Primary Directions.

There are many other techniques Astrologers use that I have not studied. As mentioned, I primarily use Naibod progressions, and Radix Directions and transits, including eclipses, solar returns and diurnals. In my files, I have an old two-part article by Dolores Weigel entitled “How the Hidden Sun Affects Your Life” that I believe was published by Horoscope Magazine. This technique appears to be a combination of progressed and converse combinations. I have not studied it deeply in terms of actual research, but I did find it interesting. I mention it in case you can locate a copy of the old article if you choose to follow her concept.

Recommended reading

Please understand that I have many modern astrology books and the material is quite good. However, when I am learning and later quoting for teaching purposes, I like to use the same basic reference books that all the other authors have used to produce their material. I prefer the more modern take and application when I am reading, but I always go back to basics for my core teaching material and to build my reference library.

            Ivy Goldstein Jacobson, Foundation of the Astrological Chart

            Nicholas DeVore, Encyclopedia of Astrology

            Charles E.O. Carter, Principles of Astrology

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.