Towards a Deeper Understanding of Transits
Core Principles in Transit Interpretation
by Hank Friedman
[Note: In this article, the rulers or lords of houses should be assessed using Vedic methods, i.e. use the Whole Sign House system and Lahiri Ayanamsha in the Sidereal Zodiac, instead of the Tropical Zodiac and Western house systems. I find the house rulers reckoned in this way much more accurate.]
The movement of planets in the current sky, specifically the aspects they make to natal points, are the most palpable of astrological events. They also are the clearest indicators of life changes (in Western astrology).
(Decades ago I taught two year-long courses in Western astrology, and each time, towards the end of each year, I asked class members to bring to class the date of a major life event. We looked at each event using transits, progressions, and Solar Returns, and in every case, the transits were the method that indicated the event.)
There are both simple and more advanced principles astrologers need to understand to use transits effectively, and we will explore many of them here.
1. The transiting points to focus upon.
The faster a point moves, the more ephemeral its effect on individuals. So the transiting Ascendant, Moon, Sun, Mercury, and Venus, for example, are usually too fast-moving to have much impact on people. However, when a planet is retrograde, it moves more slowly, so the transits of Mercury and Venus, especially at the time of their stations, might be worth noting.
Mars transits are more noticeable, especially when it's retrograde or stationary.
Jupiter and Saturn are the slowest moving visible planets, and as such they have very clear effects during transits. In fact, Saturn transits are the most palpable of all transits.
The three outer (transpersonal) planets, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, operate at on a different level, and often usher in both internal and external changes that are profound and potentially transformative.
Finally the Nodes function in a variety of ways via transit, but one should only use their conjunctions and oppositions to natal points. While they can eclipse a point (or greatly diminish its effectiveness temporarily), they also can -- and especially the North Node -- inflame, magnify, and exaggerate the expression of a natal point being transited.
2. The transiting aspects.
The original meaning of the word transit was a body moving over another body, i.e. a conjunction, and conjunctions and oppositions are the most powerful of all transits. Squares, and to a lesser extent, semisquares and sesquares, are also quite energetic and their energies can act as motivating or disrupting forces. [I usually only focus on semisquares and sesquares by transiting Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.]
Trines and sextile transits, on the other hand, tend to be enervating, i.e. to incline people to "go with the flow", relax, and become unmotivated. Ironically, during trine/sextile times, projects and challenges undertaken often result in greater successes, and elicit growth and creativity.
That's why if a person in receiving a trine to a major point, I encourage them to provide "grist for the mill", i.e. to take on new challenges and to stretch their abilities during its cycle, so that they can take advantage of, make the most of, this time of opportunity and grace, and support their own development and evolution.
Important exception: The forward sextile of Saturn (i.e. where transiting Saturn is behind the natal point) is a full-fledged and intense Saturn transit, much like the opposition (and therefore a time of contraction where obstacles, challenges, and fears may arise).
3. The transited points to focus on.
In all charts, transits to the angles and to the Sun and Moon are important. I, in fact, consider transits to the Sun to be significantly more important than all other transits.
Whether transits to other points are as impactful depends upon their placement in each chart. If they are focal points (e.g. bucket handles, or tightly aspecting or conjunct the Ascendant), then transits to them will have profound implications.
Or if a planet is very weak (e.g. combust, in its fall, etc.) then hard transits might be particularly challenging.
And I find that transits to the chart ruler, i.e. the ruler of the Ascendant, are always very important too, because the ruler of the Rising Sign is the planet that represents the person themselves.
4. Transits to houses and house lords.
I focus on the house placement of the transiting planet when they conjunct a planet in a house. Otherwise, I tend to ignore the house placement of moving planets, with the exception of transiting Saturn's house placement. Transiting Saturn tends to activate the themes of the house it's going through in major ways.
I find that transits to the rulers of houses are incredibly important in evaluating their effects on the themes of the house ruled.
E.g. If the 7th lord is Mercury, then I will pay careful attention to transits to natal Mercury to see what is going to be happening in partnerships and to partners during the transit period.
5. The status of natal planets.
When the sky reflects the same configuration that is in a birth chart, an echo occurs. For example, someone with Mercury combust will be sensitized whenever Mercury in the sky is combust. Similarly, someone with Venus opposite Saturn in their natal chart will be unusually affected when Saturn and Venus oppose each other in the sky.
The relationship of each planet to the Rising Sign also reveals important information about how they will respond to transits. Some planets thrive in a chart with a specific Ascendant and others don't. [Again using Vedic charting.]
In general, the Sun and Moon and Jupiter thrive in the Ascendants of Mars and vice versa. And Venus and Saturn thrive in each others Rising Signs. Therefore, for example, Saturn transits will often be beneficial for Sidereal Taurus or Libra Rising charts and more challenging for those with Cancer or Leo Rising.
In my article on this web page I created a table using color-coding to show the nature of each planet for each Rising Sign. A planet that has a green box for a specific Ascendant is friends with the Lord of that Ascendant and will function benefically as a transiting planet, while a planet whose box is Red or Dark Brown or Orange is more likely to create more challenging transits.
6. Which swing?
Especially for the transits of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto over natal points, using my preferred one degree orb, there will be three to five transits during a year to year-and-a-half period.
For example, Uranus might conjunct Venus, move past, and then retrograde and conjunct Venus again, and then go direct and conjunct Venus a third time.
But which swing will give visible results?
To be honest, I've never found the answer to that question. Often it's the first or last swing, but I've never found a method of determining which swing. What I have found, however, is that if one swing is powerful, none of the others are.
I hope that this elucidation of transit principles supports your exploration and use of transits.
p.s. I again acknowledge the priceless contributions my Vedic guru Hart deFouw gave me in my learning of Vedic astrology.
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