Management of Measurement Constructs
Analytical Techniques- Jul 31, 2006

Solar Returns – Making Them Work

by guest astrologers Kevin and Kathy Rowan-Drewitt D.M.S. Astro

Kevin Rowan-Drewitt is Secretary of the Northern Lights Astrological Society based in Blackpool in North West England and is also editor of the society’s quarterly newsletter Icarus. He has lectured on astrology all over the British Isles and teaches Astrology and Earth Mysteries for the Blackpool and the Fylde College. Contact: the Northern Lights website,

Kathy Rowan-Drewitt is a Professional Astrologer and Tutor. She was awarded the Diploma with distinction for outstanding achievement, from the Mayo School of Astrology in 2001. She teaches Astrology, Qabalah and Tarot for Blackpool and the Fylde College and lectures at conferences, workshops and astrological groups nationally. Contact:

The prime factor with making Solar Returns work is an accurate birth time. This is because a Solar Return chart is drawn up for the precise moment when the Sun returns to the exact degree, minute and second of arc it occupied at the moment of the native’s birth. (This will either occur on the native’s birthday or the day before or after it.)

In most chart calculation, especially by hand and often with computer programs, the position of the Sun is usually expressed only in degrees and minutes, and this level of accuracy is perfectly adequate in natal chart astrology.

However, as it takes the Sun approximately 24 minutes of time to travel one minute of arc, if you do not consider or know the second of arc of the Sun’s position at the time of birth the Solar Return chart could be out by as much as 24 minutes! This is why an accurate birth time, with known second of arc, is essential to Solar Return chart calculation.

Even when the astrologer is given a so-called ‘accurate’ birth time, it cannot always be trusted. In our experience, and surely, yours, it is astonishing to see how many people are born on the hour, half-hour or quarter-hour. It seems hardly anyone is born at 2 minutes to or past the hour or at 18 minutes to or past the hour, and the reason is obvious: people have a natural tendency to round times up or down. Whilst in normal life (or even with most natal chart calculation) this is not usually of too great concern, it can be disastrous when it comes to Solar Returns.

[Only a couple of years ago, Kevin’s sister gave her new-born daughter’s time of birth, when asked by him, as 23:30. On a chance examination of the daughter’s hospital records a few days later the correct time was found to be 23:23.] We believe this phenomenon plays a major part in Solar Returns not working. This problem is compounded by people not always having their watches set accurately. ***Wherever possible, try to obtain the time of birth from someone or something that will provide an AA rating. Anything less than an AA rating is not really good enough to make a Solar Return work.

Two other factors that we have found essential to making Solar Returns work are to use the Tropical Zodiac and to calculate the chart for the place where the native actually was at the time that the Solar Return occurred.

There has been a creeping tendency of late for precession to be applied to Solar Return charts. Apart from the absurdity of using two zodiacs in one discipline, the backwards moving Sidereal and the fixed Tropical, our numerous case studies have revealed the precessed Solar Return charts to be totally inaccurate when compared to the Tropical ones.

And it bears repeating: our case studies have also shown conclusively that for the Solar Return to work the chart must be drawn up for the place where the native was at the time that the Solar Return took place.

If you have managed to avoid all the pitfalls highlighted above and calculated an accurate Solar Return chart, (we would advise using a computer for this, it is quite complicated by hand) then you are ready to interpret the chart…

In our experience, the first areas to focus on in the Solar Return chart are the House positions of the Sun and Moon. These placements indicate the two outstanding areas of interest for the coming Solar Return year, equally. If the Sun and Moon are in the same house this indicates a very important life-changing year and is especially significant. Opposite house placements of the Sun and Moon indicate being torn between two areas, and emotionally pulled in two directions, e.g. 4th/10th home and career.

Signs Sign placements (with one exception) are not used in Solar Return interpretation. (For an explanation see Mary Fortier Shea’s essay on Solar Returns in this section of this website; Archives, click on January 31, 2005.) It is often difficult for an astrologer to ‘switch off’ the well-practised skill of assessing the planets by Sign, but it is essential to do so when interpreting a Solar Return chart.

We have found that the only planet to consider by Sign is the Moon. The Moon Sign gives an excellent indication of the overall ‘mood’ of the individual in the coming year, e.g. a Cancer Moon would indicate a particularly emotional, caring, sensitive year.

Houses The next thing to do is to look at the rest of the Houses in the chart. (It is because of this emphasis on Houses that an accurate birth time is so important.) Houses with no planets in residence indicate areas of life which are not emphasised in the year ahead. This is neither good nor bad; they are simply not areas of concern or a great deal of interest to the native in this Solar Return year. Houses with planets in residence are very important. The more planets in a House, the more important it is. (We use Placidus houses for both Natal and Solar Return charts)

By considering the characteristics of the House and planet(s) in residence, a clear picture can be built up in a very straightforward fashion of the year ahead. For example, Saturn in the 7th suggests a year of limitations or increased responsibilities in close relationships.

Working slowly and carefully through the planets and Houses, all the while taking care with weight and emphasis of each placement, we build up a detailed overall picture of the Solar Return year.

Angles Next the Asc and MC are interpreted, but only applied to the year ahead, e.g. a Leo Ascendant would suggest a year of being more in the spotlight than usual. Then the Ptolemeic aspects between the planets are considered. The tighter the orb, the greater the influence of the aspect in the coming year.

Finally, all the information gathered has to be synthesised into something that is clear, cohesive, comprehensive and concise. We always stick to facts and truths indicated in the Solar Return chart and avoid vague musings and maybes. Our Golden Rule is, ‘Trust the astrology’.

Timing An interesting point to note is that once the Solar Return is interpreted, it stands firm throughout the year in question. If you have Uranus in the 3rd in the Solar Return, expect disruption in your neighbourhood, constant interruptions, lots of ideas etc. So, if your noisy neighbours move out halfway through the year, do not think the Uranus in the 3rd influence will now be over! It will not; it could manifest as new noisy neighbours moving in, nuisance telephone calls, it could be that suddenly you are bursting with new ideas, but the basic symbolism shown in your Solar Return will still be around. – In short, there is no escape!

However, it is important to note that the Solar Return chart does not usually spring into life on the day of the Sun’s annual return to its exact natal position. It more usually slides into place, growing in strength from day to day. The exact start point for this is entirely dependent on the individual’s nature i.e. their natal chart. A very Fixed person, resistant to change, can hold back the influence of the Solar Return a couple of months after the actual Solar Return date. Someone who is very adaptable, highly Mutable and looking for change in their life will embrace the new Solar Return energy as quickly as possible, up to three months before. Someone used to making things happen –highly Cardinal—will take action strategically within all emergent circumstance.

We have tested but found no accurate method for the timing of individual events using Solar Returns and would recommend using Transits and Progressions to the natal chart for this purpose.

Also, it is possible to use other astrological techniques on Solar Returns, such as Chart Shapings, Arabic Parts, Sabian Symbols etc. but in our experience this is unnecessary, as using the techniques outlined above provides ample information to supply the astrologer with a comprehensive picture of the year ahead.

Good Luck! with this most engaging and edifying technique. And many Happy Returns!

Next Update: August 31, 2006


Contents copyright, 1999-2006 by Noel Tyl, all rights reserved.
Site design by Susanna Dorr.