Being and becoming

I know that, as a mortal, I was born for only one day, but if I pursue the vast array of stars in their circular motion, my feet do not touch the ground, and I ascend to Zeus, feeder of gods, to satiate me with ambrosia.

ptolemy – Astrologia Palatina, IX, 577

Italian version

The widespread use of transits can be attributed to its user-friendly approach to calculating medium and long-term forecasts. However, this simplicity has reduced its interpretative practice, often turning it into a mere parlour game as, for instance,  in the statement: “Mercury in beneficial aspect to Jupiter promises you a journey full of interesting encounters.” While this type of dissemination has fuelled the beliefs of the “Committees against the spread of the occult and superstitions” regarding the superiority of scientific thought, a favourable outcome is the expansion of the small circle of astrology enthusiasts thanks to an “apparently friendly” forecasting system.

Why the transits

The methodology of transits is a relatively recent addition to the world of forecasting systems. It emerged during the shift towards a heliocentric perspective in Copernican [1] thought towards the end of the sixteenth century. This change in attitude was necessary for astrology to adapt to the impending Enlightenment. Heliocentrism required us to abandon the geocentric perspective that considered Earth a privileged place for observing celestial motions. Instead, we had to adopt objective assumptions aligned with celestial mechanics, where the Sun is the central engine of the system.

Many believe that the European Renaissance and Enlightenment period led to a significant shift in thinking, resulting in a major advancement in human progress. Practices like astrology and alchemy are now viewed as early versions of modern astronomy and chemistry.

When we abandon the idea of linear development and instead embrace a symbolic understanding of the world closer to our human essence, scientific progress can be seen as a departure from the continuity that connects us to the world outside ourselves. This separation between the observer and the phenomenon, caused by the attempt to explain things “objectively,” is so traumatic that it has given rise to myths about the fall and the loss of our original unity.

It is widely known that ancient civilisations were aware of the Earth’s heliocentric model and spherical shape. However, astrology had to undergo a transformation to survive by shedding its magical-symbolic origins and adopting a more scientific approach involving experimentation and testing. The transit, which can be calculated through observing celestial movements, serves as an astrological testament to the contemporary shift in intellectual thought that seeks to reconcile magical and rational worldviews across various fields of knowledge. 

There is ongoing debate regarding the extent of the ancients’ understanding of celestial motions. The matter presents a philosophical dilemma, as cosmogony is anthropocentric, leading to the belief that it is the sky that moves. Cicero, however, asserts otherwise:

Hicetas of Syracuse [2] believes … that the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars … are motionless and that nothing in the world moves except the earth.

Cicero – Academica Priora, 1. II, 33

One may wonder about the value of a hybrid methodology that includes transits, which are not typically part of traditional astrology that relies on symbolic keys for predictions. However, it is essential to understand that the natal horoscope derives from observing transits at a specific time and place. In reality, this is not a question of establishing the legitimacy or sensibleness of a method but instead of understanding its meaning. The transit is an extension of traditional methodologies made possible by the space granted to our rational faculties, now able to grasp significant correlations from the cyclical movements of the planets thanks to the knowledge acquired on the mechanics of their motions. A similar discourse must be made about the trans-Saturnian planets (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto): before their discovery, they did not exist in our eyes and our minds, and in fact, humanity was not mature enough to perceive in the experiences of the world a reflection of their symbolism. But the advent of rationality has made possible the development of those tools, extensions of the visual faculty, capable of revealing them, and it is still rational thought that acts as a uterus for the development of actions, artefacts and human experiences that find their dimension cosmic mirror right in the symbolism of the trans-Saturnian planets.

Directions and transits

In astrology, using directions involves connecting a fixed planet or sensitive point in the natal chart with another planet or sensitive point. This can occur through direct or reverse progression and follow either the counterclockwise or clockwise order of the zodiac signs on the ecliptic. The degrees and fractions obtained from these connections are then converted into time, with 1° equalling one sidereal [3] or tropic [4]. Transits, on the other hand, involve examining the actual movement of planets along the ecliptic circle. A transit aspect is formed when a transiting planet makes a significant angle with a planet or sensitive point in the natal horoscope. If the transiting planet precedes the natal planet in the order of the zodiac signs, it is known as an “applying” transit. In contrast, the opposite is referred to as a separating aspect. While the formation time of a transit aspect can be precisely determined, it is often considered within an orbit of influence based on the speed of movement of the celestial body along the ecliptic. The amplitude of this orbit is directly proportional to the body’s rate (maximum for the Moon, minimum for Pluto).

Directions focus on the individual as a self-contained entity, determined by its origin – both the seed and tree exist simultaneously. On the other hand, predictions obtained through transits rely on external factors like the Ephemeris. Nevertheless, the cyclical patterns of celestial movements also seem to have a deterministic impact. As the tree grows, the seed disappears, and the individual undergoes continuous evolution, with their potential unfolding over time.

The difference between the two approaches is even more apparent from an interpretative standpoint. Transits offer a nuanced perspective on human development, as the potential for growth takes on a specific and tangible form only when it encounters a secondary cause of maturation. Through transits, individuals are separated from their becoming. They are presented with the option of free will, choice, and possibility while retaining their unique existence as outlined in the underlying natal chart. Transits serve as a predictive tool that effectively addresses modern humans’ need for understanding as they navigate between the fear of determinism and the desire for self-determination in shaping their destiny.

[1] Nicolaus Copernicus, Latinised name of Nikolaj Kopernik (1473-1543), was a Polish astronomer. In his fundamental work, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium libri VI, he expounded the heliocentric hypothesis on the motion of celestial bodies.

[2] Hicetas of Syracuse (400 BC – 355 BC) was a philosopher and astronomer of the Pythagorean school. No works of his have survived except the opinion cited by Cicero. Nicolaus Copernicus considered him a forerunner of his system.

[3] The sidereal year is the interval between two successive returns of the Sun to the same point among the fixed stars.

[4] The tropical year is the interval between two successive passages of the Sun from the vernal equinox (degree zero of Aries). Since the equinox is not a fixed point on the ecliptic (because of its retrograde precession), the tropical year lasts 20 m. less than the sidereal year.