Astrological Predictions: Techniques Old and (relatively) New

Astrology can lure you in like a fickle seductress who encourages you until you believe you’re on solid ground and then suddenly pulls the rug out from under your feet. And this is most true of predictive methods which can sometimes work like magic and then suddenly let you down when a life altering event doesn’t show up in any of the charts or transits you’re using—at least not in any way that’s plain to see. 

Maybe this is what keeps us humble which any good astrologer must be if they hope to discern the truth at all. But which really are the most brilliant and reliable forms of prediction? This, of course, is what we’d all like to know and some of the ancient techniques like Circumambulation, Zodiacal Releasing and Profections  recently retrieved from the mists of time by Robert Hand and Robert Schmidt ( are being touted by many as being what we’ve all been looking for all along.

How can any real astrologer resist the urge to try them out and find out if they do live up to all the press they’re getting? Even if we’re fairly content with the methods we use, can anyone claim that their predictions are infallible or that they wouldn’t benefit from learning something new? Testing and experimenting takes time and patience but it’s always worthwhile to rise to the challenge because who knows what you might stumble upon or what new vistas will enable you to see?

But sometimes studying something new and unfamiliar can also give you an added appreciation of what you already know and trust. And recently perusing an article on circumambulation by a noted and unquestionably brilliant astrologer, I came across an example of this technique in action in a delineated analysis of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ chart.  Circumambulation is based on a complex procedure which (briefly) involves selecting a “predominator”  which moves through the zodiacal signs—specifically the terms or bounds—and by encountering other planets during this process delineates the “time lord” which then describes various periods of a person’s life.

Circumambulation is said to give an overview of fortunate or unfortunate periods and in this analysis a list of planets and sub-planets (not dissimilar to the Vedic dashas and bhuktis) was given, followed by a description of what occurred in JKO’s life during these time frames. Some correlations between events and these periods could be found and it was quite fascinating to follow this schema. But glaringly, there were also highly significant events that didn’t appear to fit into this framework at all. And this left me with the feeling that in the end, the method was fairly vague and unsatisfactory.

 Dividing time into fortunate and unfortunate periods can be difficult when someone’s life has been strewn with tragedies as was JKO’s. And looking at her natal chart (her data is: July 28, 1929, 2:30 pm EDT, Southampton, New York), it’s quite evident that her life wouldn’t be an easy one. Still, I find it jarring that according to the Circumambulation time lord, or ruling planet, Mercury—a powerful benefic in her chart—she was purportedly in a fortunate period during the time when one of the most horrible episodes of her life occurred.

From the age of approximately 31 until age 40, JKO was not only, according to this analysis, under the influence of her very well placed and benefic Mercury, but the other participating influence was the Moon which was also described as “bonified” and in a positive position. Yet during this period, she lost a child prematurely, was severely and publically criticized for her excessive spending and when she was 34, JFK was violently killed while she was sitting by his side: surely a life event that could hardly be described as inconsequential. What’s more she is also known to have suffered a severe depression following his death, was overwhelmed by grief and was struggling with overwhelming debt.

My instinct in response to this confusing information was to fall back on a predictive technique I rely on—precessed returns. Of course, astrologers are known to be highly idiosyncratic and they all tend to have their own preferred methods which they believe are the best of the best. But I also believe that precessed returns are generally unfamiliar to most and overlooked, particularly as they’re presented in “Solar and Lunar Returns,” by Donald Bradley.

Bradley was a siderealist  (who corrected the zodiacal signs in accordance with the changing vernal equinox) but today the majority of return charts—and they are used quite routinely by many—are set up in the tropical (fixed) zodiac. Charts can be precessed, though, by simply adding the correction of 50.25 seconds per year that factors the precession in to the tropical placements (various astrological software programs offer this).

This adjustment completely changes the set-up of both solar and lunar returns because it alters the degree of the Sun (or Moon) resulting in radically different house placements. And it’s far more accurate because it’s based on physical reality—the degrees of all the natal placements actually move incrementally forward as a result of the precession.  (In his “Planets in Transits” Robert Hand concurs with this and offers methods to arrive at the correction for the precession)*.

The interpretation of precessed solar and lunar returns is quite brilliantly delineated in Bradley’s book and it’s a mistake to try to decipher them as you would any other type of chart. The determining factor is considered to be the angles of the chart (1st, 4th, 7th and 10th houses) and which planets fall on them—what planets are in the “foreground,” as Bradley explains it. Angular or foreground planets dominate the period in question, those that fall in succedent houses (2nd, 5th, 8th and 11th) are still players but less so and the planets that fall in cadent houses (3rd, 6th, 9th and 12th) are very described as being “ in the background.”

In order to look at the specific time frame in question.  I set up a precessed solar return for JKO for 1963 (which covers the period from July 28th, 1963 through July 28, 1964 — JFK was killed on November 22, 1963) and then a precessed lunar return (which started on October 31, 1963 and ended on November 28th,1963)

J K Onassis’ Solar Return - 29th July 1963

JK Onassis - Solar chart 29 July 1963

In this chart there are several planets right on the angles forming a T-square: Mercury on the ascendant, Neptune and the Moon on the nadir or 4th house cusp and Saturn applying within less than a degree to the cusp of the 7th house. A configuration of this type in a precessed chart is notoriously disastrous. Not only is Saturn afflicting Mercury by opposition, it is in a square to Neptune and the Moon. The presence of Saturn so closely aligned to an angle is warning enough as is Neptune positioned within a degree of the 4th house cusp and squaring Saturn. One glance at this chart by anyone who uses this system by Bradley’s method tells a very frightening story: the year in question is going to be a horrendous one to say the least.

Some of Bradley’s comments about aspects occurring in this chart are as follows: Saturn in the foreground (angular) and in a square to the Moon: “ losses, sorrows, griefs,”  and where personal relationships are concerned, “a bereavement is not unlikely ”; a foreground Neptune in square to Saturn is described as “a real throne toppler ….whose keyword is ‘removal’..” while foreground Mercury in a hard aspect to Saturn is depicted among other things as “bringing situations where the native may find himself bound by law…to give up rights to or ownership of properties.”**  (The Whitehouse? )

In short, even one of these aspects (and there are actually nine within the T-square) is considered extremely unfavorable. To have so many afflictions at one time with all four of the planets on angles is overwhelmingly negative. This precessed solar return foreshadows the events to come with quite a lot of clarity. Even JKO’s depression shows up here very powerfully in the afflictions to the Moon and Mercury. She could not escape this fate: to experience what the chart depicts.

The precessed lunar returns, Bradley tells us, will generally pinpoint when the action suggested in the solar return will take place and I have found that they may also add details that were not easy to find in the precessed solar return. (This lunar return was set up for the location where JKO was and where she resided when it began.)

J K Onassis’ Lunar Return - 31st October 1963

JK Onassis - Lunar chart 31 Oct 1963

Looking at this precessed lunar return for JKO for the period lasting from October 31st, 1963 to November 28th, 1963 during which JFK’s assassination (November 22, 1963)  occurred the immediate message—danger, loss—is very clear. Again there are planets in very close proximity to the angle and they are the two malefics, Mars and Saturn. Mars at the mid-heaven is a very nasty placement and often works out in a very physical fashion because is a particularly physical energy. And here not only is Mars shown to be manifesting in an especially destructive fashion—because Saturn also being angular tips the balance in that direction—but Mars is also applying to a square to both Uranus and Pluto which are positioned in the 7th house of marriage partners.

This is a violent mix. Of course, it’s always easy to point out that some aspect augurs the kind of action that actually took place after the fact, but in this case this chart certainly does warn of danger in a particularly frightening form. It’s important with precessed returns—at least from Bradley’s point of view—to avoid reading them in the usual way but to approach them visually: what is in the foreground, what is not. So in this precessed lunar the Sun, Mercury and Neptune in the 9th—a cadent house—strike a dumb note as does the Moon which is in the 2nd house but borders the 3rd—another cadent house. Venus, on the other hand,  is not far from the mid-heaven (it’s 8 degrees away) and it is in a nasty square to foreground Saturn which dominates the chart from the ascendant and tell us this is a period of loss.

It’s not really fair or appropriate to try to compare a method like circumambulation and precessed returns and that’s not exactly what I’ve been trying to do. I felt an irresistible urge to find proof that such events as JFK’s assassination did show up astrologically in JKO’s chart—even by using a very dissimilar approach. And it did show up which gave me a vast feeling of relief because it verified to me (again) how brilliantly astrology can work.

My preference for precessed returns comes from my experience with them and they’re a part of modern astrology’s offerings which really haven’t been recognized for their true value or fully entered the mainstream. And it’s also worth noting that tropical solar returns which have been used throughout astrology’s history may not offer the same kind of nuts and bolts information that the precessed variety does when they’re interpreted according to Bradley’s methods.

*Planets in Transit, Robert Hand, Whitford Press   p.29 – 31
**Solar and Lunar Returns, Donald Bradley, Llewellyn Publications, p.45,52,48