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Happy 5th Birthday to the School!

Master’s Musings, March 2024

Happy 5th Birthday to the School!

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Master's Musings


The FCEA was born on March 6, 2019, in Pleasanton, California, at 10:00 AM-PST. That means it’s time to celebrate – we have our fifth birthday this month. When we arrive at that moment, Earth will have gone around the Sun five times and returned to its starting point – or so most people would think. The reality is a little bit more complicated than that. When the school was born, the Sun was in 15 degrees 52 minutes of Pisces. This year, it returns to that precise point a day ahead of our official birthday – at 4:13:11 PM-PST on the fifth day of March rather than on the sixth. That’s about eighteen hours early.
Let’s start by recognizing that the idea that the year is “365 days” long is a convenient fiction. Actually, it runs 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds. That’s why 2024 has a “February 29th” in it – we’re in a Leap Year, where we add a day to reconcile the calendar with reality, at least approximately. As you doubtless know, we make that adjustment every fourth year so that extra “quarter of a day” in the true solar year winds up compensated, more or less. The underlying reality is that the convenient fiction of the 365-day year is only an approximate reflection of what’s actually happening in the solar system. And that “wiggle” between reality and your calendar is the reason why your true astrological birthday – when the Sun actually returns to its starting point – often falls a day before or a day after your calendar birthday.
All this might seem picky and irrelevant at a practical level. Mostly it is, except for its impact on one basic astrological technique: the solar return chart. That’s a chart set up for the moment the Sun returns to its natal position. For the school, that would be a chart set up for 4:13:11 PM-PST on March 5th in Pleasanton. A chart set for 10:00 AM the next day – our “birthday” – would be meaningless.
Here it is:
Solar Return charts are a staple of modern astrological practice. Our school’s birthday this month seems like a good time to introduce them. In simple terms, these “SR charts” are seen as a way of predicting the nature of your year ahead. Interested? They’re easily explored – all professional-level astrological software supports creating them.
The first thing I want to say about SR charts is that their absence from our 200-level curriculum might seem conspicuous. Why are they not part of what we teach at the school? After all, they’re the real deal. Many years ago, I used them all the time in my practice. I found them valid, but I also found that after I’d looked at a client’s transits, progressions, and solar arcs, the solar return chart didn’t actually add much that I hadn’t seen already. They were redundant, in other words, and actually less precise than our other techniques in terms of timing – everything was about “this year” rather than the way we can name actual dates with the other techniques.
As ever, all counseling astrologers face the tyranny of the one or two hour appointment versus the sheer volume of all the astrological information we have available to us. In winnowing down my own arsenal of techniques to the most impactful ones, solar return charts simply fell into disuse. As ever with the school, our guiding principle is to convey to you as efficiently as possible an approach to astrology that has been effective for me personally. That involves a lot of editing! Our overriding strategy has been to first set our students on a firm professional foundation, and only then encourage them to wander off in any directions that interest them.
For some of you, that might include learning about SR charts. If they attract you, go for it! I’d be the first to admit that casting one is an eternal birthday ritual for me. The technique is valid and sometimes illuminating. I set up mine on January 6th this year and saw my Sun in the 12th house. Nine days later I came down with the flu and was sidelined “on the mountaintop” for the next month. They work!

Location, Location, Location

I always advocate setting up a solar return chart for your birth place. There’s an astrological  cottage industry that involves sending people to exotic locations for their birthdays “so they have a great solar return chart.” It’s fun, and not a totally groundless practice, but if you’re an evolutionary astrologer, there’s a serious problem with relying solely on that technique. Remember: you have your chart for a reason and that reason is always rooted in the past. If we lose sight of that, we’ve lost sight of the metaphysical heart of astrology in the process. Let’s say your solar return this year shows the Moon’s south node in the 8th house. Some painful, wounded karma is surfacing. Now let’s say you don’t like having that kind of karma, so you decide to celebrate your birthday in Hawaii – that way, your south node will be in the much nicer 5th house.
Problem solved, right?
Obviously not. All we’ve done is to use astrology as a form of denial. Again, I don’t want to totally reject the idea of setting up your SR chart for where you actually are located on your birthday – that technique tells us something, but do be careful not to lose perspective: the SR chart set for the place of birth is the deep one.
Here’s a way of keeping perspective on these two approaches. If you move to a new home many hundreds of miles from where you were born, go ahead and set up your birthchart as if you had been born there – same time, different latitude and longitude. Your Ascendant and house placements will all look different. That relocated chart won’t replace your real one, but you’ll certainly feel its effects. That new chart acts like permanent transits in your new home – as long as you live there, you’ll feel that new emphasis in your experience.
The point is that it’s exactly the same with relocated solar return charts. You’ll definitely feel their influence – just don’t let them eclipse the birthplace version of that SR chart. That’s the deep one. That’s where you’ll find the soul of the technique.

How Do They Work?

A solar return chart reflects the tone of the year ahead. Where will your energy be focused? What kinds of events, opportunities, and challenges are likely to come surfing into your life on the waves of synchronicity? As we bring our evolutionary philosophy to bear on solar return charts, we ask ourselves questions about what our soul is learning this year and how to adapt to it. We ferret out timely warnings about any karmic pitfalls that might be looming.
  • In other words, in pretty obvious ways everything you’ve been learning in our FCEA training applies to solar return charts.
Here’s an example. July 1981 changed my life. That was the month in which I got the contract to write The Inner Sky. My solar return for my birthday in January of that year shows a massive Mercury influence – that’s no surprise with an (unexpected) publishing contract in the future. Virgo is rising, so Mercury rules the chart. Gemini is on the Midheaven, linking Mercury to my career – or in FCEA terms, linking Mercury to my mission in the world. Mercury itself is on the cusp of the creative 5th house, and in a conjunction with my natal Sun. That SR chart was Mercury City, in other words – and I was soon under contract with Bantam Books to write the book that altered the direction of my life.
I should also add that I had a grand mal love affair with a woman who had both her Sun and Moon in Virgo that year – there’s the fingerprint of that “house of love affairs” Mercury again. In this case, that intimate drama was aided and abetted by a very karmic south node/Mars conjunction, also in the 5th house – all that, plus a tight Venus-Neptune conjunction in Sagittarius. Romantically, I was doomed, but professionally, things looked pretty good for me, in other words. And it was all there in the SR chart set for my birthplace. At the time, I was actually living 400 miles away in North Carolina, so the relocated chart wouldn’t have reflected reality nearly so deeply.
Here’s another example:
Taylor Swift’s time of birth has an X rating on Astrodatabank, but they favor a time of 8:36 AM on December 13, 1989, in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. Trusting a chart with a shaky birth time is risky business, but Swift is having such a big year that if the 8:36 AM birth time is accurate, her solar return chart should be reflective of her current situation.
Here’s her current (possible) solar return:

That late-Capricorn Pluto is conjunct her Aquarian Midheaven, and she has of course become  a lightning rod for right-wing projections, not to mention becoming a “plutocrat” in the sense of being the first musical star to experience a billion-dollar tour. Uranus tightly conjunct the SR  Ascendant naturally reflects the extreme and unpredictable “wild cards” that have characterized this period of her life.
More striking to me (and perhaps in the long run to her as well) is the massive reference to intimacy built into this solar return chart. Currently she is very publicly and apparently very seriously in love with NFL star, Travis Kelce. Reflecting that relationship, with Taurus rising, Venus rules the SR chart, for starters. From our evolutionary viewpoint, that Venus is further strengthened by the Libra south node, suggesting some intimate karmic chickens coming home to roost for her this year. The 8th house refers to intimate bonding – the true mysterium tremendum of human sexuality. There we find both the Sun and the Moon. Clearly, she’s having a massive 8th house year. 
Naturally betting on the longevity of sexual passion among rock stars and movie stars is shaky business, but in the case of Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce I think we are looking at the real deal. With an 8th house like that one in her SR chart, her heart has probably never been opened in such a grown-up intimate way. At the very least, Taylor Swift is having a taste of what real marriage actually means – all those weird, wonderful psychic interminglings are undoubtedly happening for her and Travis. If I were sitting with her, here’s a thought I would run up the flagpole – despite the hype and fru-fru (and enormous success) of her Eras Tour, the soul-meaning of this year has more to do with Travis Kelce’s impact on her than the private jets, the public hoo-rah, and the billion dollars. I suspect that as I said that, she would nod her head and we would have a moment of sweet mutual understanding.
As a side note, given the good alignment of this solar return chart with Swift’s current existential realities, I’d be inclined to take this 8:36 AM birth time for her seriously.
What about the FCEA? How does our solar return look for the year starting on March 5?
Like Taylor Swift, we’ve got an 8th house Sun this year too, but I doubt we’re going to fall in love with Travis Kelce. In the chart of an institution such as ours, a strong 8th house does bode intense, transformative relationships. We’ll see that happening in the school in general. I suspect lots of “buttons will be pushed” emotionally as long-buried emotional material surfaces for many of us. As a school, we’ll need to have a long talk with ourselves. It’s a time of deepening. 
One classic meaning of the 8th house is “other people’s money” – Taylor Swift certainly has found a lot of that green stuff this year. The FCEA is not looking for investors, but if we were, this chart would support it. Will there be some unexpected financial developments for the school? Let’s keep our eyes open for them.
I’m struck by the double-whammy combination of Saturn conjunct our Sun and the Capricorn Moon in the 6th house. Both configurations have a hardworking vibration, for sure. There’s a nose-to-the-grindstone feeling of building, building, building, not to mention the school simply maturing – that’s Saturn again. I’m immediately drawn to think of our struggle to get our social platform, Circle, cooking. It’ll happen, honest! 
It doesn’t show in this chart format, but that Capricorn Moon is wildly Out of Bounds too – 27 degrees 47 minutes south declination. Given the 6th house focus, does that portend staff change? Unexpected developments in our support team? Circle figures in there too – it’s a tool that supports us.
Finally, you’ve got to love that Jupiter-Uranus conjunction in the 10th house – all told, this SR chart looks like a bouncy, nose-to-the-grindstone ride in the general direction of success.

Want to Learn More about Solar Returns?

One can delve more deeply into solar return charts than I have in this quick overview of the technique. Again, all of our basic evolutionary principles apply – we just have to make sure we are aiming them in the right direction, which is to focus our sense of our soul-aims for a given year.  
As I mentioned, I don’t actually use SR charts very much in my own practice and so we’ve not employed them as part of the FCEA curriculum. If you’d like to learn more, the best book I know about the technique is Cycles of Light by my dear friend, Lynn Bell. It was written in 2005 and is now happily back in print and available on Amazon and elsewhere.

Steven Forrest
March 2024