The astrological technique known as Secondary Progressions (the most widely used type) it is often perceived as a taboo subject by many astrological apprentices. Beginners have been made to believe that Secondary Progressions are very difficult and that their study should be left to more advanced students or adepts of the Art.
My opinion is that, if you have mastered the basic mechanics and general meaning of Natal and Transits Astrology, you should also be ready to tackle Progressions; and that the sooner you do that the better.
Are Progressions very difficult?
Once upon a time, in the not so far off era, when personal computers were not around, one obstacle to learning Progressions was the cumbersome calculations needed to cast a Progressed Chart. Adding to this the fact that a fairly accurate birth time is required when progressing the Houses and Angles, it is easy to understand why many students gave up on Progressions.
Nowadays though astrological computer software (like Solar Fire and others) make the job of calculating Progressions a real breeze. With those difficulties gone, the reading of Progressions is not any more difficult than the reading of Natal Charts and Transits.
The basic difference between Natal Progressed and Transiting Planets
The Natal Chart
In a Natal or Birth Chart the positions of the Sun, Moon and Planets in the Zodiacal Signs and their relative orientation to the local horizon (House placements) remain fixed for life. These are the starting points to any future development, because the degrees and areas they occupy become sensitized with the energy of a particular celestial body for the rest of the person’s life.
The Natal Chart is then the image of a cosmic moment frozen in time. Astrologers keep referring to that moment and its planetary positions as to a given, unchanging fact. It is like if the Sun, Moon, Planets and Angles of the Birth Chart had left an indelible mark on those specific degrees, creating a sort of DNA of your psyche that will continue to have a bearing on your character and destiny throughout life.
It is usually easy for beginner students to grasp the mechanics and meaning of Transits. Having frozen the moment of birth in the Natal Chart, we are well aware of the fact that the Earth, Moon and Planets do not stop moving in their orbit. They all move at their appointed speed in endless cycles. Thus moving they will eventually come in contact with the sensitive degrees of the Natal Chart, those occupied by the Sun, Moon, Planets or Angles at the time of birth.
For instance, the Transiting Moon completes a whole orbit around the Earth in about a month. During this time she will in turn pass over (conjunction) all of the sensitive degrees in your Birth Chart and also form meaningful geometrical angles with the same (30, 45, 60, 90, 120, 135, 150, 180 degrees).
The Transiting Sun will do the same thing during one year (the time the Earth needs to complete one orbit around the Sun); while giant Jupiter will take 12 years to cover the whole Zodiac and Saturn nearly 30 years. A slow moving planet like Uranus will need a life time to accomplish the same feat (84 years); while Neptune and Pluto are so slow that they cannot complete their orbits around the Sun in a lifetime, taking respectively 148 to 245 years to complete their zodiacal journey.
Important note: all the Progressions I am discussing here are known as Secondary Progressions. Even the Angles’ motion usually considered as belonging to the Primary technique, is actually ‘Secondary’ when it is calculated in degrees of longitude along the Ecliptic rather than degrees of Right Ascension along the Equator, as in Primary Directions. The name of these Progressions doesn’t mean however that they are secondary or less important than Primary Directions, for instance, or more important than the so called Tertiary Progressions.
It would take too long to explain the origin of these definitions here (if interested in the difference between various progressed techniques pleas visit Bruce Scophield of Astrolabe).
For now it is sufficient for you to remember that Secondary Progressions are not in any way less important than any other progressive techniques. Secondary Progressions and, occasionally, Primary Directions are the techniques I use in my work and consultations, together, of course, with the all important Transits.
But what are Progressions and how we calculate them? We have seen why the celestial bodies’ positions are considered fixed and unchanging in Natal Astrology. We have also seen that the Transits represent the movements of the real time celestial bodies in the solar system, and the way these movements interact with our fixed Natal positions. Progressions on the other hand do not reflect the motions of the celestial bodies in real time, but describe instead the motions of these same celestial bodies according to our own very individual inner clock. To me Progressions are the best way to understand that, despite the fact that, casting a Birth Chart, we seem to consider our Natal positions fixed and unchangeable, these also change, with time. This makes a lot of sense, because, even if your basic character traits do not change from childhood to old age, you still change and grow constantly, in your body that grows and ages, as well as in your psyche that also matures and slowly evolves.
One way of describing the two techniques could be something like this: while the Transiting Planets describe external forces that contain the potential for becoming internalized, the Progressed Planets describe internal forces that contain the potential for becoming externalized. Putting the two techniques together can help the astrologer realize better the dual nature of all astrological factors, the inner life for ever reflected in the outer life, and vice-versa.
The peculiarity of the Progressed Planets is that they move much slower than their Transiting counterparts. So, for instance, while the Transiting Sun takes one year to move through all the Zodiacal Signs, the progressed Sun would take 360 years to do the same! In fact, while the Transiting Sun moves an average of one degree per day, the Progressed Sun moves an average on one degree per year! Same with the Moon, whose average motion in transit is 13 degrees per day, moving in Progression instead an average of 13 degrees per year. It is the same for all the Progressed celestial bodies: the amount they move in one day in real time corresponds to the amount they move in one year in Progression. That’s it; this is the main difference between Progressions and Transits.
While the most important Transits are the ones formed by the slow moving bodies, because the others do not last long enough to have a lasting effect, in the Progressed Horoscope the slow bodies move hardly at all in a whole lifetime, so the positions they had and the aspects they formed at birth remain the same throughout life (karmic stuff), while the Progressions of the faster moving celestial bodies and the Chart’s Angles (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Ascendant and Mid-Heaven axis) are the most significant, lasting long enough to make quite an impact on the life of the individual. So, for instance, the effect of Mars progressing over your Natal Saturn could last for four years or much longer if the Progressed Mars happens to be Retrograde. You would interpret this Progression in a similar way as an aspect between Transiting Mars and Natal Saturn, with the difference that the transit will last only a few days while the progression will last for years and obviously have a much greater, often life changing effect on your life.
The Progressed Moon/Sun Phases
One of the most significant aspects of the Progressed Horoscope is the slowly changing relationship between the Progressed Moon and Sun. An example should make this clear. Everyone is born during a certain phase of the Sun-Moon cycle, from New Moon to Full Moon (waxing), or from Full Moon to New Moon (waning). The phase we are born under is a very important factor in the overall reading of the Birth Chart. By Progression the Moon’s phase slowly changes, creating periods of waxing and periods of waning lunar energy. Using the most simple example of someone born right on the day of an Aries New Moon day on the zero degree of this Sign, it will take the Progressed Moon an average of seven years to enter the Progressed First Quarter phase in the Sign of Cancer (90 degrees angle ahead of the Sun) and another seven years to become Full in the Sign of Libra(180 degrees distance from the Progressed Sun), after which the Progressed Moon will begin waning. Seven years after that the Progressed Moon will reach the Last Quarter phase in Capricorn, and after another seven years (around the age of thirty) there will be a New Moon again, but this time it will fall in the Sign of Taurus, because the Progressed Sun has slowly advanced into Aries (at the rate of one degree per year) and after 30 years has left Aries and has entered Taurus. Apart from this simple example, depending in which phase of the Moon you were born, those Progressed phases will occur at different times in your life.
Progressed New Moons, no matter at which age they occur, are always harbingers of major changes in the person’s life, the beginning of a complete new cycle of experience. The Progressed First Quarter is considered a difficult but dynamic period, the Progressed Full Moon a time for significant realizations and life climaxes; while the Progressed Last Quarter is a time for self-reflection and soul searching in order to end the old cycle and, in seven years time, begin a new cycle having dealt with the unfinished business of the past.