Working with Transits
Here we are looking at the actual techniques with which to work with transits – absorbing practical table-top work. This chapter was first written in the 1980s, when computers were not significantly in use in astrology, and we had to do everything at length by hand. Choose from this chapter what you want to do, and give it a try. Many computer programs will nowadays give you much of the output suggested here.
Doing Transits – options
The principle of working with transits is that you can look at the ephemeris to find out where the planets stand now (or at any chosen times past or future), and then compare these positions with key points in your birth chart. Two major factors are important: the aspect(s) any transiting planet might make to one or more of the planets in your chart – any two or more planets which are in aspect in the chart are likely to be transited at the same time, or in close succession – and the houses in the chart which any transiting planet might be moving through.
The simplest way to do this is to keep an eye on the ephemeris, and keep a mental note of your chart, and work out your transits taking place as you go along. If your Jupiter is at 12° Taurus, and transiting Jupiter happens to be at 12° Cancer, then a little mental juggling will tell you that a sextile aspect is going on. "Hmmm, I wonder what that means?". The thing to do is watch, and develop a mode of staying aware whereby you can perceive what is astrologically special and symptomatic in your life. Understanding that a transit is happening can help you tune into the issues afoot in your life: it can point to how your Jupiter actually works in your life as you live it, help you understand what that transiting Jupiter is up to in itself, and help you take hold of your life and use your opportunities well. You don't even have to have a clear vision of what a T Jupiter sextile N Jupiter does: to know that it is taking place is well enough to be getting on with.
There are some interesting techniques available for working with transits: wall-charts, diaries and graphs are all really good to make, and reveal a lot in the process, and are very useful once done.
First, however, we need to look at some preliminary considerations which might help you clarify what you are seeking to find out and how to get it. In astrology it is dead easy to drown in an overload of data and concepts, so here are some choices.
• Check whether you would prefer to look into shorter-term, daily-life transits, or longer-term transits – they are not mutually exclusive, but they involve different techniques, and it is good to focus on one of these first. Graphs are better for long-term, and transit diaries for short-term work.
• How much detail do you want to go into? It is good to put limitations around how much you tackle at any one period, otherwise you will catch astrological indigestion – a common ailment! In other words, sort out how many positions you want to examine in your chart, and how many aspects you want to use when looking at transits. You can change what you look into over time, but it is best at first to limit the number of items you look into, to avoid confusion and overload. Therefore, in your transit work, try starting out by observing:
- lunar conjunction and opposition aspects to planets, lunar nodes and the four angles, plus, optionally, lunar movements through houses;
- the places where the four quarter phases of the Moon fall in your chart, by house or by transiting aspect – a combined soli-lunar effect;
- major aspects (conjunction, sextile, square, trine, opposition) formed by Sun, Mercury, Venus and Mars to natal planets (but leave out such transits as the sextile, square and trine to the four angles or to the nodes, in order not to complicate things);
- major, or even, if you wish, lesser aspects formed by slower-moving planets to natal planets. It's also worth looking at ingresses of the slower planets into the houses.
This will give you well enough to get on with – although you will no doubt find extra items of interest on the way!
• How much energy do you want to put in? It can be of very great benefit to create a personal transit diary, and to work with it over time, keeping notes each day, even over a period of years – but this works only if you realistically have the will and opportunity to do it. Alternatively, it is possible to put in a couple of evenings' work to create a year-long transit list to stick on the wall, so that you have something to check periodically, and much less time and energy will be used – but also you will get less benefit! If you're feeling seriously lazy, some computer programs to a good transit print-out – pin it on your noticeboard or toilet wall.
Choose one of the options below to start with, and see how you go with transits. You will find that this is one of the most valuable things you ever did with astrology. Give it some time.
Tools of the trade
A simple yet effective way of following transits is to devote some time to artistically drawing your chart, to stick up on the wall (on a soft board which will take pins). Then to get some mapping pins (the ones you can write on) on which you mark planetary symbols. Then you can keep track of the movements and patterns of the planets in relation to your natal planets and positions by moving them daily or periodically, with your ephemeris at hand. One person I met painted a chart mandala on metal, then used magnets for planets. Any number of variations are possible.
Transit Diaries and Personal Ephemerides
These involve a bit more work, but they have great rewards. There are two stages, the first of which sets up a tool for use in the working out of the second (and which is useful in all subsequent transit or progression work, without need for further changes). Stage one is to make a special Aspect Table.
How to make an Aspect Table. Give yourself at least one evening for this. You need a piece of paper, ruler, pencil and pens, and your chart. This table does not show transits itself, but we use it for finding transits. It needs 12 columns and 30 rows, and the columns are marked with the signs of the zodiac, while the rows are marked with the degrees of each sign, numbered 0-29. Draw this now. Thus we have a table with 360 spaces, one for each degree of the zodiac. This will become a sort of index to your chart and it will show all potential transit aspects to natal positions.
Next step. Take the positions of your chart's planets and write them down, on the left or the right of the table, on the appropriate rows, in degrees and minutes: for example, if your Sun is at 18°26' Pisces, then find the 18° row, and write down 1826 (see diagram). Do this with all the planets.
Then, take any planet, and move along its row until you reach the column corresponding to the sign position of the planet in question – in this case, we find the Pisces column on the 18° row. When you have found the right space, write in it the aspect symbol, plus the planetary symbol (don't fill all the space, for you might have to fit 2-3 other aspects in there eventually). What we have done, therefore, is fill in a space which shows us that when a transiting planet moves through Pisces, it will conjunct the Sun when it reaches 18°. Do the same thing with all of the planets in your chart. With a cup of tea at your side (if you're British – choose your preference if not!).
In fact, when a transiting planet hits 18° of any sign, it will form an aspect of some kind to the Sun. Thus, what we are going to do now is write in all these potential aspects. Take one planet, and write along the row the following sequence of aspects, plus the planetary symbol in question, both leftward and rightward from the conjunction space: semisextile, sextile, square, trine, quincunx, opposition, quincunx, trine, square, sextile, semisextile. You should by now have filled that row with aspects to the planet in question. If you have written them in correctly, you should have a complete cycle of aspects occupying the row in question. To the left of the conjunction point are the waning aspects (in which the aspect cycle is moving to a close), and to the right are the waxing aspects (opening up the cycle). Carry out this operation for all of the planets.
You will probably find some interesting patterns emerging. In the example diagram, the person concerned experiences a tight sequence of four transiting aspects whenever any transiting planet passes through 8-10° of any sign – if a planet hits 8-10 Scorpio, it will oppose Mercury, quincunx Venus, conjunct Uranus and square Saturn.
This table can carry more information too – and it is up to you to choose what you're interested in looking into with transits. Next, we shall insert semisquare and sesquiquadrate aspects for all the natal planets – a bit more complex, for they involve 45° and 135° angles. Take one planet: if it is in the first half of a sign (0-14°), then count 15 spaces down its column, and if it is in the second half of a sign (15-29°), then count up 15 spaces. If you have counted down, then move one column to the right from the space you have found, and write in the symbols of the aspect and planet. If you have counted up, then move two columns to the right from the space you have found, and mark in the aspect and planet symbols. If you run a check, you will see that there are 45° between the semisquare position and the conjunction position. Thus, a planet at 18 Pisces will have a semisquare at 3 Taurus and a planet at 5 Sagittarius will have a semisquare at 20 Capricorn. Then, in either case, move leftwards along that row by three columns, and mark in another symbol (there should be a gap of two empty spaces between the two semisquares). To find the sesquiquadrate aspects, count along the row three more columns in either direction, and fill in the space, three more again, and you have found the two sesqui aspects. All four aspects should be on the same row, spaced with two-column gaps. Now you can do this with every planet.
Then, insert into your table the house cusps and four angles, in the appropriate degree spaces. If you want to, mark in also the square aspects to each of the four angles too.
It is possible to mark in minor aspects, midpoints, nodes or any sensitive points or details which you are interested in, if you're a sucker for detail. You could even utilise different colours, and insert the details for another person on the same table, if you want to study their transits in connection with yours (with their consent: astrological privacy is important!).
You now have a special aspect table, which lasts for life, which you can use in the working out of both transits and progressions. You might well have noticed that you have found some interesting revelations into your chart even before you start using it! Keep this table with your chart, for when you dip into your ephemeris to check your transits, you can use this table to simplify things.
In the next stage, you can use either a normal diary (or better still, a 5-year diary), or you can make a notebook into a personal transit ephemeris. Or, alternatively, you can draw out a large sheet with, say, three months' transits on it, and space for notes. You can design the project exactly as you feel best, or evolve it along the way.
A Transit Diary
It's all a matter of working with your ephemeris, using your aspect table, and noting down in your diary all the transits which take place over a period of interest. If you have the time (1-2 evenings), you can work out a whole year's quite detailed transits. It is good to use different colours for different kinds of transits when you enter them in, so that you can later get an instant view of the significance of transits: mark Moon, Sun, Mercury/Venus/Mars, Jupiter/Saturn, Uranus/Neptune/Pluto separately, for their transits are of a different order to each other.
It can be best to start with the slower-moving transits, and also to mark in advance warnings of their approach in preceding weeks or months, since their buildups are as important as their climaxes. When you get along to faster transits, especially of Moon, you might see what is meant by information-overload! Make sure you feature solar transits, for these are most edifying to observe, and stick to but the main lunar transits (such as conjunction and opposition).
It can be beneficial, if you are so motivated, to write in a few major general astrological phenomena as well, from the ephemeris, such as main moonphases and major interplanetary aspects. It is good to estimate rough times of transit exaction as well. Then, over time, keep rough notes as to what went on for you each day, so that you have something to go on when you later retrospectively examine your transits and life-experiences. Keeping a journal is in itself a valuable occupation, but when this is linked up to astrological research, it takes on far more meaning.
A personal transit ephemeris
Get yourself a good notebook and start a section with your chart in it, notes, others' charts or whatever. Then mark out a double pages either for each month or for each week. Write the dates down the side, with appropriate spacing, and then draw five columns to cover the two-page spread. They represent:
- longterm transits by the slower planets;
- faster transits by Sun, Mercury, Venus and Mars;
- main lunar transits;
- general planetary interaspects, ingresses, lunar phases and stations, and
- comments and observations.
Try to estimate the timings of transits, by referring to the exact positions of your natal planets, and estimating their exaction from the ephemeris.
Play around with the possibilities, for there are many! It is worth expending some energy on doing this personal ephemeris for a whole year. Once you have done the spadework, the benefits can be many: doing the spadework alone will spark off many illuminations. In this ephemeris you have a ready reference book to carry round with you, in order to keep a check on what is going on for you as time goes on.
A Transit Wallsheet
Use a largish piece of paper, select the time period you want to cover, and devise a way of fitting it on the paper, then use the five-column pattern as above. If you want to do a sheet for a year, leave out some of the more detailed information such as lunar transits or the lesser aspects formed by faster planets. Otherwise, do a sheet for a monthly or three-monthly period, and put it up on the toilet wall (this is a good place!), or by your desk or bed, for regular reference.
Graphs have great advantages, in that they demand less work, and give a good overview of the duration of transits and their waves through time. They give a sense of the buildup and follow-on of transits, a feeling of process.
The example here is of a blank transit graph for five years. Along the horizontal axis is the time-scale, in this case in months and years. Along the vertical axis lie the degrees of all signs. Thus although the paths of the planets on this graph intersect each other at points in time, only sometimes will this intersection show a conjunction: the intersection can denote any of the aspects which are functions of 30° – semisextile, sextile, square, trine, quincunx and opposition. The sign in which any planet is moving is marked alongside its path, and major aspects between them are marked at intersections. Note how the wavy lines illustrate the pattern of the direct and retrograde motions of the planets.
To insert your own transits on a graph like this, you need simply to mark down the positions of the planets on the left-hand column, and then (with a ruler) draw straight lines across the graph at the correct degree-positions down the graph – estimating, within each degree, the position on the line which will correspond to the minutes position. A planet at 15°30' will have its line in the middle of the 15° space, while one around 15°50' will have this line down towards the lower boundary.
When you have drawn in the lines for all the planets, work along each line in turn, identifying all the aspects shown at the places where the wavy and straight-drawn lines intersect. Some of these intersections will show major aspects, others lesser ones, and it is worth marking out the major ones. It is also useful to mark outer-planet aspects in a different colour from, say, Jupiter/Saturn transits. Choose how much detail you want on the graph, by electing, for example, to mark in only conjunction, square and opposition aspects, or these plus sextile and trine aspects. It can be worth marking in the four angles as well, and planetary transits over them. When done, stick it up on the wall for reference.
There are graphs available to cover each year, and all the planetary movements therein, or to give an overview of a long time-period such as that shown here for 1965-2000. You can draw your own graphs if so inclined, plotting them from the ephemeris. Some graphs are available which feature special aspect families such as octiles (semisquare, square, sesquiquadrate), quintiles or septiles as well. The possibilities are many.
Some computer programs will print out graphs of this type.
Transits by computer
Of course, a computer can cough up your transits, graphs and other data for you, and save you a lot of time, but there are two disadvantages: often you receive a printout with a vast amount of data on it, the main elements of which must be picked out with a pen, in order to guard against drowning in irrelevancies, and also the act of manually working out transits takes you through the process of considering them and noticing their patterns. It is possible, of course, to let a computer do the slave-work, and then to copy out the main elements manually onto a wall-sheet, into a diary or a notebook.
A scan over your whole life
It is well worth looking back over your life, right back to the beginning if you feel for it. There are a few different things to look for. If you plot the years of your life down the side of a large sheet of paper, you can then work your way through the ephemeris to find out all the major transits of your life. The best ones to look for are outer planet major aspects to planets and transits of the four angles. If you are unsure of your exact birth time, you can in fact carefully 'rectify' your chart and birth time by checking to see whether major transits of the outer planets plus Saturn coincided with major changes in your life (moving house, leaving school, getting married, taking a big step), and if there is no coincidence of transits with events, then you can juggle your four angles around a bit to get a tighter fit: usually you will get several verifications of the new birth time if you have found the correct one with this method.
You can also check the dates of the most important Jupiter and Saturn transits: major aspects to natal Jupiter and Saturn, to natal Sun and Moon and to the four angles. Look also for multiple transits – two or more transiting planets aspecting one planet in your chart or transits to natal configurations. If there are some inaccuracies in the timing of multiple transits or the positions of configurations, then look on the periods of time involved as times of process, when different elements of the same basic issue were brought out over a period of time.
Some interesting patterns emerge. For example, at the same time as I left school, Uranus and Pluto were both conjuncting one another on top of my natal Sun: I changed radically, and it took several years for me to find what my new identity really was. That super-major transit laid the foundations for what has been the course of my life ever since: my inner growth and personal radicalisation began then. But interestingly, 17-18 years later, I had T Uranus square N Sun, plus T Pluto semisquare N Sun, close to each other. Looking back at what started when I was younger, I could see that the later transit, separated by a goodly number of years, was part of the same development: at the first I began awakening, and at the second I began expressing some of the results of that awakening in a definite and public way. At the time of updating parts of this book in 2000, Pluto is now square my natal Sun, and it really feels as if I am at a key turning-point of my life, with regards to that story which began 35 years ago. As far as my soul is concerned, a couple of decades make small odds: and in terms of what such major transits mean, thank goodness they come only once every so often! It is well worth looking for similar patterns in your own life.
Write down the transits which interest you on this lifelong sheet of paper, and then work through the events of your life. See if you can penetrate into memories which give you a taste of how it really felt then, and of what the transits did for you, and what you did with them. This is a chance to gain an overview of your life, to give you a perspective which might help you on your way into the future.
A friend for life
Once you have grasped how to do transits, you might well find that they stick with you throughout life, as a way of staying tuned to its underlying thread. New turns appear on the road, and new lessons arise which you never thought you would come to. The unfoldment is fascinating. And gradually you build up a stock of associations and memories which act as a reservoir of perspective: this is more for the enrichment of the present than the glorification of the past. We rework our past as we go through life, and the different periods we go through, seen from a transit perspective, take on different perspectives. An excellent muse!