Cosmic Talk
April 1999: Return Charts

The practicing astrologer has a variety of predictive tools. Transits and progressions represent the two most commonly talked about forecasting  tools in astrology texts.  Additionally, return charts are also frequently used by astrologers, especially the Solar and Lunar Return charts.  A return chart is a chart run for the exact moment in time that a planet returns to its natal position.  In the case of the Sun, it returns to its natal position once every year, either on or usually within 24 hours of one's birthdate.  In contrast, there are thirteen Lunar Return charts each year because the faster moving moon completes a full orbit every 28-29 days.  While solar and lunar return charts are the most common, a  return chart can be run for any planet and it can be very enlightening to run return charts for Mercury, Venus, and Mars in addition to the Sun and Moon returns.  Later in this article, I will discuss more specifically each of these different types of return charts.  Before I do that though,  I'm going to outline the general guidelines that apply to all types of return charts.

For example, maybe you are wondering about the predictive function return charts serve?  They provide specific information as it relates to the growth process of  particular facets of our psyche as symbolized by the planet undergoing the return: i.e. our evolving identity in the case of the Solar Return (Sun's return chart) and relational and resource concerns as it relates to the Venus Return. A great benefit of any return chart is that it can be interpreted as a stand alone chart.  That is, the return chart does not have to be interpreted alongside a natal chart, although even more insights are gained when it is.  But because it does not have to be used in conjunction with a natal chart, a return chart can be one of the easiest predictive tools to use.  Any initiate to astrological forecasting techniques will attest to how overwhelming predictive  interpretation can be when one is working with multiple charts simultaneously.  Return charts, because they can be interpreted similarly to a natal chart, are less overwhelming to work with.

When working with return charts, it is important to keep in mind that they are temporary charts.  Tendencies and potentialities indicated by the natal birth chart become focused themes for the endurance of the time period covered in the return chart.  For example, let's say that your natal chart contains  Sun opposite Uranus and your solar return chart this year contains a Sun conjoined with Uranus in the sign Aquarius and the 2nd house.  The solar return then puts enormous focus on the Sun/Uranus theme in your natal chart, assisting you in integrating and uniting (the solar return conjunction) these aspects of your psyche which are polarized in your natal chart (as indicated by the natal opposition).  Furthermore, the area of life where there will be concentrated energy invested in working out this natal proclivity is represented by the conjunction in the 2nd house of the solar return.

A general and simplistic interpretation of that configuration in the solar return would be that you will be expending a good deal of energy around  issues of self-worth, personal values, and security (2nd house issues).  Uranus symbolizes that aspect of our psyches which desires to be unique and free of limitations and conditioning.  The Sun symbolizes our core identity.  With these two planets fused (by conjunction) in the solar return, there is going  to be a push for more independence and individual freedom.  You aren't going to have much tolerance with others attempting to dictate your values or worth for you (2nd house).  Forget other people's "should's" - what of your own?  During the year of such a configuration in your solar return, you will be establishing your own individual and unique set of values and security.  You'll be developing a resource base of your own making and one founded on your own individual values.  Fundamentally, over the course of the year, you are challenged to become more secure in being your unique self, proving yourself to no-one other than yourself.

Another feature of the return chart is that it can be calculated for both one's physical location at the time of the return as well as for the natal location.  My experience is that both charts are informative, but that the relocated chart most accurately portrays the areas of life where one's energy is going to be most invested during the return period (as indicated by house positions as in the example above of the 2nd house solar return focus).  The houses play a very key role in return charts.  The house that the return planet is located in, as well as the house(s) it rules, are important to the interpretation of a return chart.  It is not uncommon for folks to choose a specific geographical location for the return that highlights that area of life most conducive and aligned with their goals for the year.  For example, if one desired a year of solitude to write a book, a geographical location that would result in a 12th house sun in the solar return would be friendly to that intent.

Astrologer Mary Shea views the solar return as representing the script for a year-long performance.  I think this presents a wonderful analogy to keep in mind when interpreting any return chart.  Each return chart outlines a theme, a plot, a potential for exciting twists and challenging growth opportunities.  The return chart maps out the sort of tasks we are meant to focus on, the sort of conflicts that we might confront and the gifts and talents we are developing as it relates to the planet undergoing the return.  And best of all?  We get to play the leading role! I highly recommend Mary Shea's book, Planets in Solar Return.

With that in mind, let's now take a look at the sort of information that can be gleaned from specific return charts.  Keep in mind that all return charts are interpreted similarly as a natal chart while keeping primary focus on the house position of the planet experiencing the return, the house it rules and the aspects it is making to other return planets.  Additionally, all planetary returns to the natal position represent the completion of one full cycle and the beginning of a new cycle for that particular planet.  Therefore, the return chart provides information about the sorts of seeds that are being planted, and hints at the sort of precautions and nurturing that will be required to engender the sort of harvest you desire.

The solar return is the chart calculated for the Sun's return to its natal position each year, very close to if not on the original birthdate.  The solar return provides information about your evolving identity for the period covering one year.  The Sun's house position in the chart as well as the house with Leo on the cusp (Leo the sign of the sun's rulership) indicates the area of life where your unique creative energy and activity is most focused and emphasized.  The aspects between the solar return sun and the other return planets provides information about the sorts of challenges and assistance that will be forthcoming over the course of the year.

The lunar return is the chart run for the Moon's return to its natal position.  This occurs every 28 to 29 days and typically results in 13 lunar returns over the course of each year.  The Moon relates to our emotions, feelings and day to day mood or temperament and the Moon in the lunar return chart provides information about what area of our lives we will be most emotionally invested in over the course of that month.  The lunar return works very well in combination with the solar return and provides information about which months of the year the activities represented in the solar return are most likely to reach a climax or come to fruition.

A mercury return is experienced about once every 10-11 months, although due to Mercury's retrograde periods (which  occur three times each year and last for a period of 19-24 days), up to 3 mercury returns can be experienced during a given year.  For example, for a person born with Mercury at 7 degrees of Leo, a position within orb of a Mercury station this July, there will be three mercury returns this year.  The first return will occur while Mercury is direct and stationing retro, the second just after its station and while it's retrograde, and the third when Mercury is direct again.  I have found that the years that Mercury stations near its natal position result in important Mercury returns.  Mercury's return chart provides information about your evolving mental picture and perceptions.  The house location and rulership of the return mercury, as well as the aspects it makes to other planets in the return chart, provide information about where you are most mentally/intellectually invested and taking in new information over the return period.  While the Moon's function is to feel, Mercury's function is to think, transmit and receive information and then feed it to the other planets.

The function of Venus is to attract and harmonize and it is also the planet responsible for aesthetic sensitivity.  Venus returns, which occur about every 11 months, provide information about relationships, resources, creative activities and the sorts of relationships, experiences and resources you  are likely to attract and how to go about attracting them.  Like Mercury, Venus can undergo a retrograde period resulting in more than one Venus return in a given year.  The Venus retrograde period can occur once a year, but some years it does not occur at all, and the retrograde period lasts for about 7 weeks.  When planets are making directional changes which correspond to their return periods, these returns tend to represent key evolutionary cycles for that planet and often coincide with important events.

Mars symbolizes your capacity for courage, independent action and assertion upon your desires.  Mars' returns, which occur about every 22-24 months,  provide information about what area of life you are going to be focusing your will with self determination and courage.  In essence, where you will be required to be the warrior!  Mars also undergoes retrograde periods which can correspond with it's return to its natal position and represent important cycles in the development of your natal Martian potentialities.

Jupiter returns to its natal position about every 12 years.  Jupiter represents the expansive principle and relates to your ability to grow and maintain faith in your dreams and confidence in yourself.  Jupiter's return initiates a new 12 year cycle of growth and expansion and provides information about what areas of life will present opportunities for expanding your horizons.  Your job is to recognize these opportunities and take advantage of them.  Jupiter also undergoes retrograde periods once a year for approximately 4 months.

In summary, return charts provide a periodical guide for understanding and integrating the evolution of the various facets of our character.  They do this by outlining the sort of circumstances that will foster new awareness and growth relevant to the symbolism of the planet experiencing the return and putting us in touch with the potential vibrating within our own very unique cellular being.

As astrologer Steven Forrest wrote in "The Changing Sky" - "Astrology's purpose is to help you see.  Beyond that, you are on your own.  Like the lantern in the well or the laser in the dark canyon, astrology illuminates life - but it can never live it for you."  Our job then?  To allow the astrological symbolism to guide us as we harness the energies available to us and  become creative masters at manifesting our unique  potentialities.  And we must not forget,  for even one moment, that we are free to choose exactly how to harness those energies to create the personal reality we desire.

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A great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do
                                                        Walter Bagehot

Make the most of all that comes, and the least of all that goes
                                                        Sara Teasdale

Grace be yours,

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