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Introduction to Solar Returns

How to Interpret a Solar Return


I was introduced to solar returns in 1977. I was immediately intrigued and went home to hand calculate twenty years of my solar returns. In my haste to see as many charts as quickly as possible, I drew up the solar return chart alone. I did not place the solar return outside of the natal chart as many astrologers of that time did. I focused on the solar return by itself. I grew to see that the solar return chart could stand on its own and did not have to be interpreted solely through the relationship to the natal chart. I also saw that placing the solar return outside of the natal chart in a bi-wheel format reduced the solar return to a transit chart of the birthday. The solar return lost all context to the house placement of the planets, and this was vital to solar return interpretation.

House Placement

It is the placement of the planets in the solar return houses that is the basis of solar return interpretation. The signs of the planets are not so important and there are very clear reasons for this.

  • The Sun is always in the same degree, minute, second, and sign from one year to the next. In fact, the exact position of the natal Sun down to the second of arch defines the time of the solar return.

  • The Moon has a nineteen-year eclipse cycle. After nineteen years, the placements repeat within a few degrees. Shifting can occur on any particular year or over time given the positions of the other planets, but this is basically true. If your Sun is on an eclipse point, you should experience a solar eclipse in your solar return every nineteen years.

  • Mercury does not travel far from the Sun and can only be in the same sign as the Sun or plus or minus one sign.

  • Venus has eight placements in the solar return chart, which like the Moon also repeat within a few degrees. One of those positions will be retrograde and it may be consistently retrograde every eight years of your life. You can understand a lot about your love life and financial situation by studying those eight positions.

  • Jupiter changes sign every year, so Jupiter will follow the zodiac and you will experience Jupiter in a different sign from one year to the next.

  • The outer planets, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto are slow moving and generational. In most years and in most solar returns, everyone is having the same outer planets in the same signs.

  • That leaves Mars which appears to have a fifteen-year cycle, but with wide perturbations. You cannot count on Mars to be in a particular sign or within a certain number of degrees within the cycle, but there is a loose pattern.


Because the sign of any planet in the solar return chart is less important for the above-mentioned reasons, the interpretation of the solar return chart becomes simplified, and the house placements of the planets become more significant. This is why it is crucial to see the solar return first and foremost as a stand-alone chart.


Another aspect of the solar return chart that is less important is retrogradation. The only retrograde planets that are significant in the solar return chart are Mercury, Venus, and Mars. Mercury tends to be retrograde approximately once every six years in the solar return. One of the eight positions for Venus will be retrograde. During the loose fifteen-year cycle for Mars, generally, two will be retrograde. The chances of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto being retrograde in a solar return chart is fifty-fifty. If Pluto has just turned retrograde in your natal chart, it is likely that Pluto will remain retrograde in all of your solar return charts.

Solar Return Location

There are three different solar return charts one can have any given year. Location seems to be a big issue. In reality, all are valid to a certain degree. The solar return chart can be calculated for your place of birth, and it will have some relevance, but it does not reflect choices you might have made if you have moved away. I believe the residential location has more to say about your present situation and intention than the natal location solar return. To take this one step further, the vacation solar return can be an even better reflection of your goals for the coming year. To travel specifically for your solar return creates an affirmation, goal, and direction for the coming year that can be very motivating. The solar return reflects an overall theme for the coming year within which the interpretations for the transits, progressions, and solar arcs gain further refinement. While you cannot change your transits, progressions, and solar arcs by changing your solar return location, you can change your approach to the challenges of the coming year.

My Interpretations and Research

In 1980, I got my first computer, and I opened files on every planet in every house in the solar return. I took notes on what clients shared with me about their lives, situations, goals, hopes, and challenges. As soon as a client would leave, I would open the files and record what he or she had said in regard to various placements such as Saturn in the 4th house of the solar return or Sun in the 10th house. I did this for ten years before I wrote Planets in Solar Returns: Yearly Cycles of Transformation and Growth. My interpretations come from that research.  


There are some techniques or options that I do not use with solar returns. My interpretations are based on tropical, Placidus, solar return charts. I do not precess the solar return. Precessing a tropical solar return chart never worked for me and did not make sense to me. Almost anything you can interpret in a natal chart can be interpreted in a solar return chart. This includes the nodes, Chiron and the asteroids, Although I do not provide those interpretations in my book, they are still valid.

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