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The Trouble with Transits

The Trouble with Transits

Jupiter has let me down once again. I just went through a period where Jupiter moved over my Venus, while activating my Moon and Mercury and yet somehow, I failed to win the lottery, find the love of my life, or become a bestselling author. Again.

On the other hand, Pluto has been squaring my Part of Fortune for the past year and I haven't gone bankrupt, and the Mars-Saturn conjunction in my Sixth House didn't create a health crisis or disrupt my job.

In fact, these transits came and went and I never even noticed them. This is the trouble with transits: they rarely do what we expect them to do. 

Transits are an important tool in predictive astrology. But they're not the only tool you will ever need. And once you understand what transits are, how they work, and why they enjoy such massive — and undeserved — popularity, you'll be able to use them with greater skill.

What are transits?

Transits are a type of dynamic trigger used in predictive natal astrology. Transits consider the movement and position of the planets in the sky as they relate to the positions of the planets and angles in the natal chart.

When working with dynamic aspects in predictive astrology, you need to identify the promissor and the significator. The promissor is the moving planet, whether it's moving by transit, progression or direction. The nature of the promissor matters, because what it "promises" is an experience of that planet's energy and function. Saturn promises hard work, limits, restrictions, and responsibility. Jupiter promises growth, expansion, good fortune, and often excess. Mars promises anger, aggression, energy, and conflict.

The significator is the planet in the natal chart that experiences the energy of the promissor. The promissor acts on the significator, which affects the areas of life governed by that planet. Every time a significator is triggered, it creates a disruption in the houses ruled by the planet, which prompts the planet to take action in the house it occupies.

The nature of the trigger and the effect the promissor has on the significator depend on the specific aspect. In her book, Predictive Astrology: The Eagle and the Lark, Bernadette Brady describes the meaning of dynamic aspects. Oppositions force a decision or a choice; trines remove all obstacles (which is not always a good thing); squares generate new and unfamiliar action; sextiles create opportunities for support; quincunxes create sudden, abrupt changes of context; and when a promissor forms a conjunction with a significator, it merges with it and temporarily changes its motivation and expression.

The blueprint for interpreting a transit is relatively straightforward. The transiting planet creates a disruption in the house it currently occupies, based on the nature of the planet. When the transiting promissor forms an aspect to a natal significator, the disruption, related to the specific aspect, that comes from the house of the transiting planet affects the affairs of the houses ruled by the significator, and the effect — the behavior or action — is experienced in the house the natal significator occupies.

It's easy to come up with a concrete, specific, practical description of the kinds of experiences a transit describes. Just don't expect that experience to happen. 

The trouble with transits is that they rarely do what we expect them to do.

Most astrologers expect transits to correspond to events. When we look at the charts of significant times in our lives, we can almost always point to transits that seem to describe the event. There was the big promotion that happened when Jupiter was moving through the Tenth House, and the messy divorce when Saturn crossed over the Descendant.

We assume that because these transits coincided with these events that the transits are the cause of the events. Furthermore, we assume that we can use upcoming transits to predict future events.

For the most part, we're wrong.

Transits can help to pinpoint the timing of an event, but transits don't create events. Truly important, significant events are contained within the natal chart. These big picture events can be seen by considering primary directions and secondary progressions. But primary directions and secondary progressions can be active for extended periods of time. Most primary directions are in orb for at least three years.

Transits can activate the potential of a primary direction or secondary progression. If there's the potential of an important experience, transits can trigger it, much like a timer can trigger a bomb. But if there's nothing there to trigger, when the timer reaches zero, it goes "beep" not "boom."

How did transits become so popular?

Astrology has been around for thousands of years, but astrology as we know it today dates back to the 1970s.

It can be argued that the modern era of astrology began in 1968, with the publication of Linda Goodman's Sun Signs. Goodman's book sparked a renewed popular interest in astrology, the likes of which hadn't been seen for hundreds of years.

In the early 1970s, Para Research began to publish the first astrology "cookbooks," including a series of books exploring the transits of each planet, written by Francis Sakoian and Louis Acker, and The Planet Series, which included Planets in Transit by Robert Hand (1976). In 1973, Neil Michelsen began Astro Communications Services, providing computer-generated astrology charts and reports. Para Research also offered computer-generated chart interpretations, including transit reports.

When the personal computer revolution took off in the 1980s, astrologers could purchase their own software to calculate charts and create written interpretations. These programs included the ability to generate transit lists and cookbook transit interpretations.

If you wanted to learn astrology in the 1980s or 1990s, you relied on astrology books and astrology software. Virtually all of the popular and easily available astrology books dealing with predictive astrology emphasized transits, and all of the astrology programs ran transit reports. You had endless choice of transit "cookbook" interpretations. If you looked hard, you could find some information on secondary progressions, but these were more difficult to calculate, and there weren't nearly as many cookbook interpretations available.

This is how transits became the de facto tool of modern predictive astrology. 

How do transits fit in the bigger picture?

Individual transits do not matter. Transits activate the potential of the natal chart, but it takes more than a single trigger to activate the potential. When working with predictive natal astrology, use the Rule of Three and look for three or more simultaneous triggers.

The rule of three has many applications. A planet could be triggered by three simultaneous transits from three different planets, or it could be triggered three times by the same planet over the course of a retrograde cycle. An aspect or connection between two planets might show up in a primary direction, a solar return, and then by transit or progression.

Transits matter, and they play an important role in predictive natal astrology. But they're not nearly as important as they seem. 


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Rave Reviews for Principles of Practical Natal Astrology: Talented Astrologer Training Book 1

Mary Plumb, in her review in The Mountain Astrologer says:

“An excellent guide to astrology that is far more than a typical beginner book. Not only is Burk a skilled communicator (who has studied how people learn), he is also a funny, self-revealing fellow with an astute foundation in traditional astrology (and human psychology) … His book is an in-depth presentation that is spaciously formatted with color in the text and in the cartoons, charts, and tables. His knowledge of traditional astrology, informed by modern views of human development, and his obvious gifts as a teacher combine in this most useful training manual.”

Donna Woodwell, M.A., former Board Member of NCGR and ISAR says:

“A masterful step-by-step guide for learning traditional foundations of chart interpretation in a way that’s accessible to the modern astrologer. Brimming with tips and techniques, it’s fun and practical — the perfect addition to anyone’s astrological explorations.”

Find out what everyone’s talking about! Print and digital editions of Principles of Practical Natal Astrology are available here. Plus, you can download sample chapters of the book for free.

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  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Thanks, very helpful.

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