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Time as we know it began in the late 1800s. Ironically, there's no precise time for the beginning of time. It first took shape in Great Britain in November 1840, and the notion gained momentum after September 22, 1847. In the United States and Canada, time began at 12:00 p.m. on November 18, 1883.
The idea of time has always been a part of human consciousness, and ways to measure time have existed for thousands of years. But time as we know it is quite different than it used to be. Time used to be personal and local. You might agree to meet me for lunch at 12:45 p.m., but your idea of 12:45 p.m. might be entirely different from my idea of 12:45 p.m. One of us would be waiting at the restaurant filling up on breadsticks, but neither one of us would technically be late. Until the railways became a dominant means of transportation, there was no such thing as standard time.
Standard time, where everyone agrees when it's 12:45 p.m., was created by the railways because for the trains to run on time, everyone has to agree on what time it is.
The next major evolution in our relationship to time was the result of digital watches, which became popular in the 1970s. Before digital watches, we divided the hour into quarters, or if you demanded precision, into five-minute increments. But after digital watches, we could note when it was 3:21 p.m. precisely. And with digital time displays everywhere we look, we've grown to expect to-the-minute precision in all matters relating to timing.
We also expect precise timing in predictive astrology. That's a problem because precise astrological timing is a modern myth. When ancient astrologers looked at predictive timing, they didn't use a stopwatch; they used a calendar.
The earliest examples of predictive astrology come from ancient Greece and used chronocrators — a Greek term that literally translates to time lord. Time lords referred to planets in the natal chart that have been activated as a ruler for a specific period of time. There are many different time lord systems, including annual profections and zodiacal releasing. In later centuries, Persian astrology developed systems of Firdara, and in the middle ages, the system of profections expanded to include monthly and daily profections.
However the time lords were selected, they set the context and established the major themes for a set period of time—anywhere from 8 to 30 years. Each system of time lords usually allowed for sub-periods, but even then, the influence was measured in months, again from 8 to 30, depending on the planet.
Even working with sub-periods, time lord systems mostly describe potential. To get more specific and precise with predicting upcoming events, traditional astrologers combined time lord systems with another tool, one that looks at the dynamic motion of the planets triggers the potential of the planets in the natal chart. For thousands of years, this was the dominant tool used in predictive astrology, but you've probably never heard of it: primary directions.
Primary directions are similar to secondary progressions in that both track the movement of the planets after one's birth and use a symbolic time scale to identify when the potential of the natal chart may unfold. The difference is that secondary progressions use secondary motion (the longitudinal movement of the planets in the zodiac), while primary directions use primary motion (the rotation of the Earth).
In the hours following one's birth, the Earth's rotation will cause the planets in the sky to rise at the Ascendant, culminate at the Midheaven, and set at the Descendant. This motion brings the directed planets into contact with the natal planets and activates the potential in the natal chart. One degree of primary motion (which equals about four minutes of clock time) symbolically represents one year of life.
You've probably never heard of primary directions because the math needed to calculate them is extremely complex, and there are no popular books available that explain how to interpret them.
Primary directions are significant because each primary direction is a once-in-a-lifetime event. In a 90-year lifespan, the directed planets will only cover about a quarter of the chart. Using an orb of 1° applying and 1° separating, most primary directions are active for about two years. A primary direction that involves an active time lord will be especially significant.
Only at this point would traditional astrologers consider transits, and then only as those transits involved active time lords and specifically related to the potential suggested by the primary direction.
Astrology can only provide specific answers to specific questions. "Should I take this job?" or even "Is now a good time to look for a new job?" are specific questions; "When will I get a job?" is not. But more importantly, not every question can be answered by considering the natal chart.
Virtually everyone involved in astrology today equates astrology with a natal chart. This was our first exposure to astrology, and for many astrologers, it's the only experience of astrology. We assume the natal chart is the heart of astrology and that when astrologers in the past answered specific questions for their clients and made accurate predictions, that they did so using the natal chart.
This is not entirely correct.
The nature of the question determines the kind of chart you use to find the answer. The natal chart contains answers to subjective, long-term questions. But for answers to objective, immediate questions, you need a hoary chart.
Horary charts deal with a smaller window of time, which allows for greater precision when considering the timing of answers. However, it's still not reasonable to expect both accuracy in the answer and precision in the timing. Accurate timing in horary astrology gives you a window of a few days, not a few hours. Even at its most precise, astrology uses a calendar, not a stopwatch.
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Kevin B. Burk is the Headmaster of The Real Astrology Academy. Established in 2013, The Real Astrology Academy provides astrology information, education, and training to astrologers and astrology students around the world. He holds an NCGR-IV Certification in Astrological Counseling, is the author of over a dozen books, including Principles of Practical Natal Astrology: Talented Astrologer Training Book 1, and helps clients around the world through his counseling practice.