Tag Archives: Faculty of Astrological Studies

Some thoughts on Secondary Progressions…who needs transits? Part One

‘I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.’ John O’Donohue

Consider this surprise. Astrology textbooks tell you that the planets from Jupiter outwards move so slowly by progression that their shifts are of no consequence. On the very day in June 2016 that my third house Jupiter moved by secondary progression from life-long occupancy of Scorpio into Sagittarius, I was offered a large library of astrology books from a university lecturer whose wife, a keen student of astrology, had recently died.

“Phoebe” a participant in the 1997/8 research I did on Jupiter/Uranus conjunctions, started piano lessons for the first time and became very interested in fashion/image in 1997, the year her natal Neptune in Libra went direct by secondary progression. No doubt readers could add their own examples of progressed planetary effects which supposedly are of no consequence!


I am very well aware that there are several ways of progressing a horoscope which are no doubt valid. However, traditional Secondary Progressions or SPs as I shall now call them for short, are the only type which have consistently spoken to me with great accuracy. These are calculated by moving the planetary positions in the ephemeris for the day of birth forward one day for every year of a person’s life, offering a means of determining the timing, and understanding the meaning, of significant developmental points in that individual’s unique unfolding journey.

In this article, I am not proposing to reinvent the astro-wheel by offering detailed tuition on what SPs are, how to calculate them, work with them, and relate them to whatever transits may be in operation at any given time. There is plenty of information of that type available on the Web, as a quick Google search will reveal. However, my USA colleague Dawn Bodrogi in my estimation has done the finest recent work on the topic. You can find her writing at The Inner Wheel (1).

Instead, my aim is to offer a personal reflection on Secondary Progressions, continuing in the same spirit as the opening paragraph. I’d like to share my clients’ experiences of those mysterious symbolic tools, as well as my own. My observations are also offered to experienced practitioners in such a way that they can take a moment: to step back from their astro-toolkit and be freshly awestruck by the essential Mystery which SPs evoke.

Most of all, I’d like to intrigue and inspire readers who are fairly new to astrology to begin their own journey into this misty, awesome territory.

From the time I discovered SPs as a Faculty of Astrological Studies student in the 1980s, they have fascinated me. This fascination was amplified as I slowly became an experienced astrology teacher, using my classes (as you do) for the brilliant qualitative research opportunities ‘on the hoof’  that they undoubtedly provide.

When you first go round a class of a dozen students, tracking their Suns changing signs by secondary progression, discovering their corresponding life changes as well as your own, it does rather cause you to scratch your head – after you and your students have come down from the sheer buzz of it all – and ask “But why does astrology work ?And why does a purely symbolic technique like SPs seem to work too ?” 

Help is at hand – from quantum science

Ancient Stargazers

Ancient Stargazers

Good questions, which astrologers have been asking for centuries, millennia probably, ever since those Chaldean priests on their chilly watchtowers scanned the night skies for helpful advance warning signs that their kings and kingdoms were under threat. I do not propose in this short article to add to the vast amounts of erudite speculation which has arisen from such questions.

However, very briefly, my conclusion is this: modern science has demonstrated that we live, move and have our being as part of a vast energy field which ripples and changes in a sinuous, shapeshifting dance between order and chaos, order arising out of apparent disorder, in invisible patterns which would appear to hold 4 % matter, 23 % dark matter, and 73 % dark energy together in a vast cosmic web.

I think that astrology works by tracking and mapping those energy patterns through planetary cycles against the backdrop of either the constellations via sidereal astrology, or our more familiar tropical astrology which is pegged to the ecliptic. By a blend of astronomical calculation, mythic imagination, intuition, and observation of correlations between life on Earth and planetary movements over millennia, humans arrived at a way of deriving meaning from the energies generating the solar system, our tiny corner of that vast cosmic web.

It is no surprise that reductionist thinking cannot cope with the possibility that something of great value to the human project could have arisen from this eclectic weave.

There are several ways in which one can creatively reflect upon that 4%, 23% and 73 % ratio. I like to think of it in terms of the worlds of consciousness, personal unconscious and collective unconscious, finding Jung’s term ‘psychoid’ very useful in enabling me to make sense of energies which can and do manifest simultaneously, all the way from very obvious and tangible to being highly influential in a person’s life although invisible to the wider world.

For example, consider the client I saw some years ago with a dominant Saturn square Neptune aspect in his horoscope. “James” ’ profession was highly tangible: he made musical instruments. But a significant factor in the unfolding pattern of his life, also linked to that Saturn/Neptune square, was his having had to survive growing up with a severely alcoholic father. Being very aware of an inherited tendency to indulge in addictive escapist behaviours, he was trying to address this when he came for a consultation – as his secondary progressed Sun triggered natal Saturn square Neptune.

I think that an important part of the creative value of being a practising astrologer lies in helping clients like James to understand, accept and work constructively with the shape-shifting potential inherent in the particular energies with which they came into the world.

From the above perspective very briefly outlined, it isn’t too difficult to tie in the planetary patterns in the sky here-and-now to the static picture of the natal horoscope. You are working, at least in part, with what you can actually see. However, in working with SPs, you are stepping into the mysterious, intangible world of the purely symbolic.

I find that my (metaphorical at least!) understanding of that 4%, 23% and 73 % ratio is very helpful in feeling comfortable with such mysterious territory. That which cannot be seen, perceived or understood via our five senses within the 4% world of matter, still has energetic validity in the landscape of the unseen 96% – that which modern science tells us is there, although we can only perceive it by inference and don’t yet know what it is.

Secondary progressions and family inheritance

The most striking example of  the mysterious power of SPs that I have ever had, occurred a number of years ago when I was playing around with the weave of interconnectedness which you find as soon as you begin to spend time looking at family horoscopes.

Having acquired the birth certificates of all four of my grandparents, three with accurately recorded birth times, and having calculated their horoscopes, I took a notion to progress the birth charts of the two grandparents who had been most significant for me, and whose characteristics I most clearly recognised blended in myself, ie my maternal grandfather Calum and my paternal grandmother Isabella – both born in different years at different times. I progressed their charts, both with accurate birth times, to the day of my own birth.

The result stunned me. BOTH grandparents’ progressed Ascendants were 9 degrees Virgo, BOTH progressed Midheavens were 28 degrees Taurus. And my Angles? Yes, you’ve guessed it. My natal Ascendant is 9 degrees Virgo, and natal Midheaven is 28 degrees Taurus. My North Node is also 28 Taurus – and my pre-natal solar eclipse is 28 degrees Taurus, thereby emphasising the significance of the IC/MC axis in the transmission of family fate, karma, genetic inheritance or whatever you wish to term it. I have written about this before, and described my feeling then of having been ‘brushed by the wing of a great Mystery’(2).

Recently, whilst thinking about this article, I re-calculated that set of progressions, just in case I had somehow made a mistake all those years ago. The result was the same.

Part Two of this post follows shortly. As ever, your comments/feedback are most welcome.



This two-part post was first published as Secondary Progressions – stepping into the Mystery  in the May/June 2017 Issue of the UK’s Astrological Journal, edited by Victor Olliver.

(1)The Inner Wheel: http://theinnerwheel.com/the-inner-wheel-a-new-look-at-secondary-progressions/

(2) Unfortunately, I can’t now recall where!




1500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2017

How I became an astrologer

It has been most interesting following  social media reactions to this recent article in Harper’s Bazaar, in which four women talk about why they chose to become astrologers. So – I thought I’d share my story of how a dismissive sceptic – me! – turned into a devoted practitioner. Enjoy! And remember – never say never…

Anne W's Horoscope - drawn by hand!

Anne W’s Horoscope – drawn by hand!

My career as an astrologer began in a launderette in Bath, England, in the 1970s – although I didn’t realise that at the time ! Befriending a little girl who came to chat whilst I did my washing, I met her parents, Gloria and Seamus; they were astrologers, they said, and would I care to come back to their place for a cup of tea? They’d like to draw up my horoscope, to thank me for entertaining their child.

Well, I remember thinking, nothing better to do for the next hour…….at that  stage I was  scornful and dismissive of astrology, basing my judgement on the Sun Sign material in the media which struck me as general, banal and trivial. I did not know then that  there was a subject of great depth and power beyond  the Sun Signs.

I was puzzled  by my new  friends’ dismissal of  the Sun Sign columns – wasn’t that what astrology was all about ?. “We’re proper  astrologers” they said firmly.“ Your Star Sign (Leo, in my case) only puts one  character on the stage of your life. It’s impossible to describe who you are from only one factor.”

They wrote down my date, place, and apparently vital TIME  of birth, produced various reference books and did complex-looking calculations. Then they drew up my Birth Chart or Horoscope : this was a map of the heavens for the precise time I was born. It was apparently an unusual chart  – lots of planets in the twelfth house, whatever that meant, and strong Pluto, Saturn  and Uranus influences. So what, I thought.

Then came their interpretation into character analysis of the planetary symbols in my Birth Chart, in considerable depth and with a high level of accuracy. The experience shocked me to the core.

How could they be so accurate about my career aspirations? How could they know what my deepest fears were ?How COULD they manage to describe my parents’ core characteristics and some of the key effects they’d had on me ? How could they describe so vividly the restless spirit  which drove me ? I had met them less than an hour ago. They knew nothing of my personal history or life experience.

Worse was to come. “You tell me you’re a total sceptic,” Seamus chuckled . “But your Horoscope shows that you have a deeply sensitive, spiritual side to your nature which you’re currently refusing to acknowledge, preferring to identify with the intellectual and the rationalist in yourself. But I can see from your Chart, and where the planets will be in a few years, that in your early thirties the spiritual dimension will come calling. You are very likely to end up doing something like this yourself.”

What nonsense, I thought. But I had no acceptable way of explaining in rational terms what had happened. Uneasily, I filed the experience away in the pigeonhole reserved for the many incidents occurring in my twenties which did not fit my existentialist  world view.

Fast forward to my early thirties, having forgotten all about Seamus’ prediction. For my birthday that year, a friend gave me an odd present considering my scepticism – an astrology book. It was intelligently and sensitively written; I found myself compelled. My feelings were an uncomfortable mixture of attraction, rejection, fascination and embarrassment. What COULD I say to my friends and family?

Saying nothing, I carried on reading. After a year, astrology still fascinated me. By this time – and by a series of odd coincidences – I had found out about the Faculty of Astrological Studies, based in London. It offered a year-long correspondence course with some lengthy exams at the end of it, leading to a Certificate of the Faculty.

I embarked on my studies in an empirical spirit. If astrology WAS indeed merely superstitious nonsense of little value, at least I would have arrived at a conclusion based on knowledge and practice, rather than ignorance and prejudice. I had moved on sufficiently from intellectual arrogance to the awareness that it was very unscientific, and highly irrational, to dismiss a whole body of knowledge without ever having studied it. I obtained my Certificate in 1983, by which time my studies had demonstrated to me that the astrological model had worthwhile insights to offer.

(I was to further my studies much later on, at the Centre for Psychological Astrology,  by commuting by plane from Glasgow to London from 1995-1998 to complete a three-year Diploma in Psychological Astrology with renowned teacher writer and astrologer Dr Liz Greene.)

The teaching and practice of astrology became a major strand in my self-employed career from 1985 until 2001 when, following a long health crisis, I gave up all work (except writing!) for seven years. In May 2012, after a very long sabbatical, I returned to my astrological work part time, and teaching in 2014. It feels good to be back!

My first astrologer - self portrait

My first astrologer – self portrait



850 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2016

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