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Reading Planetary Return Charts

John Waterhouse imageDelineating Return Charts-- Step by Step

by Kim Falconer

Special thanks to Joanne Wickenburg who inspired my interest in return charts over 25 years ago. Her lectures and writings on this topic are awesome! Go to Joanne Wickenburg's site.




What are Return Charts?
How do we read them?
Guiding Steps to Reading Returns
Sample Solar Return Interpretation
RESOURCES for learning more about RETURN CHARTS

Have your Solar Return read by Kim Falconer --Special Birthday Price!


There are many astrological techniques that take the horoscope beyond its basic natal form. We can do progressions, transits, synastry, draconic, harmonics, composites, directions and more. And, we can do RETURN CHARTS!

A return is a chart drawn for the moment in time a natal planet returns to its exact birth position after completing a full orbit through the zodiac.

The MOON returns about every 28.5 days giving 13 LUNAR RETURNS a year. These charts portray inner and outer events from the perspective of feelings, emotions, security and survival.

Ever wonder why people say “Many happy returns” on your birthday? This is the return of the SUN to its exact birth position! Every 365 days, we have a Solar Return, occurring the day before, of, or after the birth date.

Solar returns portray inner and outer events based on individuation, the art of becoming who we are meant to be! It is like a preview of coming attractions for the new solar year.

MERCURY (mental and communicative) and VENUS (socially significant relationships and values) also return once a year within a month or so of the birthday.

MARS returns every 2 years. These charts generally reflect work, healthy aggression and basic energy.

The ASTEROIDS(between Venus and Jupiter) vary between 1 year to close to 12 years in their orbits. 433 Eros returns every 1.76 years, and describes experiences of erotic transformation. 16 Psyche returns every 5 years, and is about attuning to another through extrasensory abilities. 4450 Pan, returning every 3 years, is about raw creative energy, carnal drives and “panic” that leads to change. 4 Vesta, returning every 3.63 years, is about devotion, ritual, dedication to beliefs and sex as spiritual transformation.

JUPITER returns every 12 years, and has to do with our search for meaning and purpose, confidence and creative will.

SATURN returns every 28-29 and can reflect our sense of responsibility, maturity and power to build material foundations.

CHIRON and the other Centaurs return about every 51 years or more (for Kuiper Belt objects). Chiron returns are about healing, teaching and the preparation of the hero. How will we be heroic in this later stage of life?

URANUS returns every 84 and connects us with out sense of freedom, audacity and willingness to step outside of boundaries. Neptune and Pluto return every 164 years and 248 respectively. These outer planets do not return in the known span of a human life.

Sedna returns ever 11,000 years or so; clearly not applicable for this technique!Solar, Lunar, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn return charts are the most frequently used, though any return (or demi-return, or phase return) can be valuable. The major planet returns give the broad strokes, the asteroid returns add subtle and fine details.


As in all techniques, practice and experience brings a natural flow and familiarity. Here are some guidelines:

Return charts “last” from the moment of the return (or a bit before) until the following one. If you are doing a Venus return and the planet goes retrograde across the birth position a month later, a new return chart is created. When it goes direct across the birth point, another return is drawn.

Any return chart is read against the backdrop of the natal chart, not in isolation.

Location may be set for the birth place or the current residence. I use the birth place though other astrologers prefer re-location. Experiment for yourself on this.

Consider the orientation of the planet you are returning. A Venus return isn’t going to tell you a lot about meaning, purpose, knowledge and wisdom, but it can indicate social interactions, partnerships and changing values.

Lunar returns are great for feelings, but not so much about responsibilities in the pragmatic world.

Pay special attention to the returns of your chart ruler—the planet that rules the sign on your Ascendant. (I use traditional rulerships for this—Scorpio-Mars, Aquarius-Saturn, Pisces-Jupiter).


1. Look at the overall pattern of the return chart. Is it a splash, indicating diverse interests and activities? Is it a bundle pattern, suggesting a focus of interest in the occupied houses? Check the hemispheric emphasis. How does this correlate to the natal patterns? If the person has a natal sew-saw pattern and has a return chart bowl pattern, how comfortable will they be with it?

2. Look at the orientation of the signs emphasized. What is the strongest modality? Element? Polarity? What’s missing? How does that related back to the natal chart? Someone who has a natal emphasis in Cardinal Fire may have a lot to learn about practicality if the return chart emphasizes Fixed Earth. Take the declinations into consideration too! (And the Dwads)

3. What sign is on the Return Ascendant? That will bring the corresponding natal sign/house to the foreground, giving it first house importance. What houses are occupied? Stelliums? Where does the Natal Ascendant degree fall in the Return chart?

4. Look at the signs on the cusps. They indicate needs and drives and offerings. Aries in the return chart is where we want to start something new. Taurus is where we ground things practically. Gemini is where we get curious and want to learn. Think of each house as an area of life and the sign on the cusp as a symbol of the orientation, needs and wants in relationship to that area of life.

5. Check the aspects in the return chart. A lot of oppositions could indicate the need for objectivity and choices. Trines could coincide with ease or even lack of drive. Squares are struggles that get things moving. Look back at the natal chart to see how the solar return aspects compare. How will a natal Venus/Mars conjunction handle a solar return Venus/Mars opposition?

6. Place the return planets in the natal chart and read as a transit chart, then put them back in the return chart to interpret as the outcome of those transits.

7. Check the Lunar nodes, the house placement of the return planet in both return and natal charts (Sun in solar returns, Moon in Lunar returns etc.), interceptions, the house placement of the ruler of the return chart, both natal and return, any planets rising in the return chart (natal or return) and aspects between the return and natal planets and points. You can also look at the vertex, some Arabic parts, midpoints, asteroids and fixed stars. Keep orbs tights!


Below is the NATAL & Solar Return charts of a man we will call Roman. The return is done for the place of birth, although he is no longer living there. Chart Data is withheld for confidentiality.

NATAL CHART sample chartSOLAR RETURN CHARTsample returnThis is an energy packed Solar Return, with Mars conjunct Uranus at perigee and perihelion! The opposition to the Moon/Sun/Ven/Jupiter stellium increases the injection of energy, giving objectivity, or at least the need to see things from an expanded perspective.

Knowledge and learning need to express through a wide lens, exploring new beliefs and meaning previously seen as insignificant. All this mutable emphasis could get out of control accept for the Cardinal Asc-Des, and SR Saturn Rising along with the N mid-heaven.

Let’s follow the steps and take a closer look at this return.

First, look at the major planet chart pattern of the Solar Return and compare it with the natal. The return chart (considering only major planets for now)is a locomotive pattern. Saturn "leads" the train with the Mars/Uranus conjunction at the "caboose".

Roman's interests this year will be specialized, with power in reserve to express the leading Saturn and to find ways to integrate the last to rise Mars/Uranus. His natal splay style emphasizes the need to express uniquely in the area of life described by the occupied houses. Splays are generally non-conformists, though Saturn rising this year will ask for some structure and focus.

The hemispheric emphasis in the Solar Return is the reverse of the natal chart. In the Natal, he has most planets above the horizon, indicating a drive towards career, public interaction and the transpersonal.

Now, for the year, Roman has an emphasis in planets below the horizon suggesting a more subjective learning, home and family orientation. He can take what he learns from this subjectivity and then apply it out to his career and social life.

Next, consider the orientation of the signs. What is the strongest modality in the Solar Return?


This suggests the need for flexibility and adaptation. His natal chart also has a strong mutable feel, making this Solar year familiar in its form of motion.

The element of earth dominates both the natal and Return charts, with each having some fire and water. The EARTH emphasis had an orientation towards pragmatic expression. It functions through the tangible realm, the 5 senses, and the information that is gleaned, analyzed and communicated from them. Again, like the modalities, this year Roman is on familiar ground when it comes to sign emphasis.

AIR is clearly the missing element. In the Solar Return, the only AIR planet is an outer one, Neptune in Aquarius, and the only Natal AIR is the Ascendant and South Node. This can mean a lack of easy objectivity. The orientation is more pragmatic, with an adjunct of feeling and intuition.

The rational, objective world of intellectual orientation is not the first thing he reaches for. (Yet look at Gemini’s 3rd house activity in this years Solar Return. It suggests he is going to need to do some mental work, communication, and make these a more natural form of expression).

What sign is rising on the Ascendant? CANCER! This suggests that for the year, Roman is going to have an increased sensitivity to the world. He may be more intuitive than usual, with a greater desire to nurture and be nurtured. Relationship and family issues come to the foreground, as does his natal 10th house.

This year, the 10th house of career, mission and profession become of first house importance. He is going to be thinking about security and safety. He’s going to be thinking about creativity and money (don’t ever underestimate how much Cancer thinks about money!)

Other houses that carry significance include the 3rd and 9th house axis. Here is the all important SUN, and the Solar Return Chart ruler is within 6 degrees of conjunction to the cusp. Roman has gone from an empty natal 3rd to a jam packed one for the year! What does this mean?The 3rd house has to do with ideas, communication, the written and spoken word and things that commune from point A to point B. Here we deal with the familiar paths, neighbors, relatives and those who teach, talk, communicate and learn.

The 3rd house is a busy place, with much coming and going, shuffling of papers, ideas, contracts and books. The emphasis is on the every day expression of thoughts and ideas through curiosity, learning, sharing and teaching. With the opposition to Mar/Uranus in the 9th, the urge to study and learn is expanded to a greater context.

Short trips turn into long ones, and contracts have deeper legal connotations. There is the thought of in-laws too. So much energy in this axis suggests legal studies, higher education, or the broadening of horizons through cross-cultural studies. Roman could well want to go to University, for the first time, or for yet another degree!

There could also be an awakening via a teacher, speaker or "guru" type that inspires new direction.The Natal Ascendant Degree falls in the SR 4th house, bringing the expression of WHO he is to the source of WHAT he is. This is very introspective, yet he won’t want to explore this alone.

Libra needs to partner, and this SR years says that will be in the home, domestic affairs and the exploration of inner emotional security issues. Cancer rising reinforces this. Briefly, the signs on the house cups indicate the following needs:

PISCES on the MC, ARIES intercepted in the 10th. This first part of the Solar Year, Roman needs to leg go (Pisces) of preconceived notions of his social identity. He is more than who he thinks!

Soon, Aries will kick in, bringing a whole new adventure and vitality (and possibly career, mission or profession) to the foreground!

TAURUS on the 11th suggests the need for a practical approach to groups and associations. Sensual comfort can come from friends. Keep goals realistic.

GEMINI on the 12th house cups needs to learn more about the unseen real. Here there is communication on a psychic level, meditation, lucid dreaming and multi-tasking. There could be teaching those institutionalized or less fortunate.

CANCER on the Ascendant wants nurturing and security. Roman may project a more sensitive side to the world, through artistic expression or communication.

LEO on the 2nd house cusp needs to be acknowledged for talents, resources and values. There is monetary generosity here.LEO on the 3rd house cups as well needs to shine in the community, be recognized for ideas and the written and spoken word.

VIRGO on the 4th house cups needs to organize domestic affairs and “get the house in order”! An analytical approach helps filter out what is valuable and what is out dated.

LIBRA intercepted in the fourth needs to share and partner on the domestic front, yet that may take a few months to blossom. This is were we relate and find balance, in the sacred haven of home.

SCORPIO on the 5th wants to get intensely involved in creative expression and the joy of distinct artistic endeavors. Here there can be issues of power.

SAGITTARIUS on the 6th house cups says be open to new adventures and possibilities in the nature of daily routine, work or “job”. This is where things can really expand.

CAPRICORN on the 7th house cups takes partnerships and socially significant unions seriously. There is a desire to build something lasting through commitment. This is were Roman may take more responsibility.

AQUARIUS on the 8th house wants to do something “different” with joint resources and merging experiences. Old ways shatter and new innovations arrive. This has a tantric feel.

AQUARIUS also on the 9th house says dare to expand your consciousness though travel, higher education, meditation or any exploration into the unknown.

A few ASPECTS to note include the N. mo/ju square that now becomes a SR conjunction. Emotions and confidence, beliefs and ambitions become more unified. The N. mo/ur trine become an SR opposition, suggesting the need to objectify obscure feelings, bring them into awareness. Radical change of emotional responses comes from a new orientation.

An Example of how to “place the SR planets in the Natal chart” and then “Back in the Natal” is Saturn. About to conjunct the natal MC by transit, and travel for 2.5 years through the 10th house, SR Saturn is in the SR 12th for the year. This means that all that emphasis on social identity, the need to build structure and security through the career, mission and profession, falls into 12th house matters as well. While working hard on external career plans, Roman needs to have time for quiet introspection and self-development. There is a need to work in privacy and isolation before taking the results out into the public.

Finally, consider the 11th house Lunar Node, which says that this is a year to ask for help from friends, when you need to, or associations. Sometimes we have to let go a little of the “individual” and feel what it is like to be part of a group. There could be creative community projects coming up that will demonstrate this beautifully.

That Juno/Psyche in Scorpio in the fifth may want a kind of commitment to the creative process or children of the mind, body or heart, yet N. Node says do it in the context of the greater whole.

The trine to Saturn can mean a willingness to take more responsibility, to define boundaries intuitively and commit to important matters of the heart and soul.Eros intercepted in the 4th say passions will unfold behind the private doors of the home, be it the studio or bedroom!

Fortuna in Cancer in the 1st says the more Roman expresses his needs authentically, the more he will feel the joy of his life unfolding. It can be as simple as that!

Have your Solar Return read by Kim Falconer --Special Birthday Price!

RESOURCES for learning more about RETURN CHARTS

Joanne Wickenburg--YOUR SOLAR RETURN: An overview of the Solar Return Chart and how it can be used as a guideline for planning each year to get the most from life. 90 minutes. $7.95.

Marion D March & Joan McEvers,The Only Way to Learn About Tomorrow Vol.IV, ACS Publications, San Diego, CA 1988 go to The Astrology Center of America to order this and other books on RETURNS !

Cathy H. Burroughs, CHIRON at 50: Return to the Scene of the Crime

Widget's Word of Astrology--1001 plus articles (search for "Returns")

Joyce Mason—Your Solar Return -- (And Solar Return Meditation)

Linda Reid --"Reclaiming the Warrior" Reading the MARS RETURN

Celeste Teal—Interpreting the Solar & Lunar Returns

Mary Shea—Interview and link to her site with courses, books and articles on Returns

Stephanie Jean Clement, Ph.D.—Solar Returns—

Last Update September 24, 2008| Site Map| Contact Us | © Kim Falconer 2000-2008 | Please Report Dead Links to Kim!