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In a nutshell, what you are doing in rectification is working backwards through

astrology�s predictive techniques. Normally, we have an accurate birth time and we
use transits, progressions, and solar arcs to predict the timing of events or
developments in a person�s life. In rectification, we do it the other way around:
we use the timing of events that have already happened to �post-dict� the time of
birth�in other words, we come up with a chart that would have predicted the timing
of major developments in the client�s life, developments which have already
occurred and whose times are known.


The client�s task is to provide you with a list of the dates of major events spread
out through the length of his or her life, with very brief descriptions of them.
For example, �I got married on January 7, 1984� or �my first child was born on June
27, 1978.� Emphasize that there�s no need for long confessional biography here; all
you need is a phrase and a date.

I find it helpful not to be too directive. Seeing how the client defines �major
events� is often illuminating. If it�s all professional developments, that suggests
the possibility of a big Tenth House focus, and that can be a helpful clue,
corroborating the results of all the technical procedures we�re about to learn.

I ask my clients for a list of about ten such events, but the number isn�t really
critical. The only constraint here is that the events must be spread over a wide
period of time. Nine events within a six month period will foul up the
rectificational process for reasons we�ll soon explore in detail. It�s better that
no two events are closer than within a couple years of each other at a minimum. A
wider spread is even more helpful.

The more accurate the date of the event, the better. Thus, births, marriages, and
significant deaths tend to play a big role�people usually remember those dates
exactly. Sometimes a client will say �I moved to Seattle in May 1996, but I can�t
remember the date.� See if they can remember if it was the first or second half of
the month�anything to focus it a bit. �Dates� vaguer than about a month are not
really useful, unless you restrict yourself to progressions or solar arcs, which
move relatively slowly. Even there, a year or two is about the outer limit of


Once you have the list of dates, the real work begins. The fist step is to set up a
hypothetical birth chart as a starting point. Don�t make any guesses here. If you
have zero idea what time the person was born, erect it for noon. If you have a
range of times (e.g., �between 3:00 pm and dinner�), split the difference�say 4:30.
Remember that this is just an approximate chart; make a real effort not to become
enamored of it!

The next step is to run transits, progressions, and solar arcs based on that chart,
for the dates the client has supplied. Now I recommend a cup of coffee.

In essence, here�s the idea: you know that big changes tend to happen for people
when there are major transits, progressions, and arcs to the four Angles of the
chart�the Ascendent, the Descendent, the Midheaven, and the astrological Nadir.

If you see that there was a tendency for planets to be in the middle of Capricorn
when big changes were happening for the client, then it�s a good bet that mid-
Capricorn might be one of those four Angles�assuming you can�t explain that mid-
Capricorn sensitivity any other way.

Thus, the crux of the rectification process:

A. Eliminate all the sensitive areas in the hypothetical birthchart which you can
explain away through natal planetary contacts�
B. Then assume that any other sensitive areas are related to the Four
Angles�remembering that if you know the Angles, you know the birth time.

Now, if the client has a natal planet in that mid-Capricorn hot spot, then we
really haven�t learned very much; we already know people�s lives change when a
natal planet is heavily aspected by transits, arcs, or progressions. So, to repeat
the core principle, what you are seeking is a set of points to which the client is
astrologically reactive that can�t be explained through passing aspects to any
natal planet.

The foundation of the whole rectification process lies in the fact that House cusps
are time-sensitive, whereas planets will generally move relatively slightly in
zodiacal terms during the day. Every four minutes, the Midheaven moves through
about one degree. The numbers vary a bit for the other cusps, but they�re all in
that range.

What about transits, arcs, and progressions to the Succedent and Cadent Houses? In
practice I�d suggest focussing strictly on hits to the ultra-sensitive Angular
cusps and ignoring the intervening ones. One benefit of this approach is that it
neatly by-passes all arguments about which system of House division is best�with
only a few minor exceptions, all of them agree on the Angles and disagree only on
the cusps of the other Houses.


In working with secondary progressions for rectification purposes, use the Sun,
Mercury, Venus, and Mars. The Moon is a little dicey because, unless the birth time
is reasonably accurate for starters, like within a couple of hours or so, the
initial position of the Moon is too uncertain for us to trust it. Using the
progressed Ascendent or Midheaven would be a major blunder, since the absolute
uncertainty of their initial positions is the crux of the problem we are
addressing. Never use the progressed Ascendent or Midheaven in rectification!

With solar arcs, use everything except the Ascendent, Midheaven and Moon.

With transits the situation is a little bit trickier. You can always use Jupiter,
Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and the Lunar Nodes. When the dates that the client
has provided are accurate within one day, add the Sun, Mercury, Venus, and Mars.

When the dates are not that accurate, then those faster planets have blurry
positions due to their rapid motions�while Pluto will move only a fraction of a
degree in a month, Mercury can cover a wide arc in that length of time. The faster
transiting planets lose their usefulness unless the dates of the critical events
are known accurately. You may have to make some judgment calls. If, for example,
your client moved to New York �during the first week of February 1997� while
transiting Mars, Venus, or Mercury was making a Station, you may have detected
something useful. That would be a particularly powerful inner planet event, and
more importantly we would know its position pretty accurately for that week, since
a Stationary planet won�t shift far within that short time-frame.

I never use the transiting Moon in rectification.


Fourth harmonic aspects�the conjunction, square, and opposition�are very dynamic

and reliable. They correlate powerfully with biographical events. I�d suggest using
them exclusively for rectification work, forgetting all other aspects, at least
initially. Thus, we are looking strictly for squares, conjunctions, and oppositions
to the Ascendent/Descendent axis, and ditto for the Meridian/Nadir axis.

In practice, what this means is that you�ll be noticing a pattern like this:
�there�s a tendency for things to happen in this person�s life when planets get to
the fifteenth or sixteenth degree of Mutable signs.� The key is that the four
Mutable Signs form a cross�a fourth harmonic structure. (And of course it�s the
same for the other two Modes, Cardinal and Fixed.) If you have 16 Gemini rising,
then activity around 16 degrees of any one of the Mutable signs will trigger events
since 16 Sagittarius would be an opposition and 16 of Pisces or Virgo would be
squares. And if there are no natal planets in any of those degrees, you�ve probably
found a major clue about the position of the Ascendent, Descendent, Midheaven or

This �fourth harmonic� thinking is a very practical, effective approach�for me, it

preserves just enough essential data. Looking for conjunctions alone wouldn�t do
that. Meanwhile it eliminates just enough less-important data, such as the milder
effects of the trines, sextiles, and minor aspects, for clarity�and perhaps your
sanity�to be maintained.


On a given date at a given birth place, a specific Midheaven will dictate a

Ascendent. If, say, the Midheaven is 9 Cancer at a given moment, then the Ascendent
must be, say, 17 Libra at that latitude. In other words, a specific Midheaven
degree and a specific Ascendent degree are linked at each latitude. You can�t fudge
that Ascendent back five degrees and still maintain the same Midheaven, even if the
rectification data seems to be begging for it. Nature constrains us here, and
that�s actually helpful in practice because it narrows our range of possibilities
and helps us out of a variety of jams, as we will soon be seeing.

Say 9� Cancer happens to be the Midheaven of our hypothetical chart. We have no

real reason to believe it�s accurate�we came up with it simply by splitting the
difference between the earliest and latest possible birth times, which were a
couple of hours apart. Now, through transits, arcs and progressions we observe that
both eleven degrees and nineteen degrees of the Cardinal signs are really
hot�things happen in our client�s life when planets arrive in those degrees. We�ve
probably hit paydirt�.just assume an 11 degree Cancer Midheaven and a 19 degree
Libra Ascendant, and it all works out neatly. Nature �permits� that chart, and it
now fits the actual timing of events in the client�s life. We just assume that our
client was born about eight minutes later than our starting-point chart, advancing
its Midheaven and Ascendant by about two degrees. Sometimes rectification is that
easy, and we�re done.


How close does a planet have to be to an exact aspect for it to �work?� We know
from more general astrological practice that the answer varies with the speed and
nature of the planet as well as its innate strength in the chart. Progressions and
Arcs generally operate in tighter aspectual orbs than do transits, but none of them
require exactitude to be effective. Might someone get a big professional promotion
with solar-arc Jupiter one degree off their true Midheaven? Sure. This inherent
�slush� fuzzes the rectification process somewhat.

The immediate effect is that someone whose true Midheaven is 12Leo17 will show an
array of significant transits, arcs, and progressions within a couple of degrees on
either side of that point�and probably a few outlying Saturn or Jupiter transits as
well. As common sense would dictate, you are basically splitting the differences
among the positions of these hits, determining a point that seems to be nearest the
center of the activity. Gradually the various traces of evidence will converge on a
single degree. Some practitioners claim a level of accuracy beyond that. Perhaps
they�re right, but I personally suspect there�s often an element of wishful fantasy
in such claims. Orbs are an astrological reality; there can be no doubt about that.
And logically they constrain the accuracy of the rectification process, although if
we push it far enough, averaging out the errors that orbs create, we can get
extremely close to the true moment of birth. And of course, for the lion�s share of
practical astrological work, if the House cusps of a chart are accurate within a
degree, you�re in good shape.


In an accurate natal chart, a planet might very well happen to be conjunct an

Angle, or in a fourth harmonic aspect to an Angle. This is of course a common
occurrence, and it threatens the rectification process with a serious pitfall. The
planet can effectively hide the Angle. Here�s how: From routine astrological
practice, we know that arcs, progressions and transits to the planets themselves
are extremely energetic events. In rectification, we ignore all passing aspects to
natal planets because we are only interested in locating the unknown, time-
sensitive points: the Angles themselves. If someone�s Sun lies in 5 Cancer, when we
check out our �hit lists� around those sensitive dates the client supplied, we know
we�ll very likely see a lot of events connected by fourth harmonic aspects to 5
Cancer�a moving planet conjuncts, squares, or opposes her natal Sun and her life
gets colorful. Initially, we ignore that data because it isn�t telling us anything
we�re seeking to know�we already knew where her Sun was and that it would be
sensitive to getting clobbered by a Pluto square! But if her true Ascendent happens
to fall in 5 degrees of a Cardinal sign, then those aspects to her Sun would be
effectively hiding it! An Ascendent in 5 Aries, or 5 Libra, or 5 Capricorn, or even
conjunct the Sun in 5 Cancer would basically disappear, hiding �behind the Sun.�
We�d be looking right at it, but we wouldn�t see it. We�d think we were just seeing
arcs, progressions, and transits triggering her natal Sun.

How do we sort that one out? Well, we know that her Ascendent and Midheaven are
somewhere, and that they are likely to be implicated in major life-events for her.
If, after a close analysis of several events, we seem to be getting nowhere,
there�s an excellent chance that we�re in a �hidden Angle� situation. Our confusion
becomes useful information, in other words. If nothing is working, probably the
Angles are hiding. That little insight will save you a lot of headaches.

Go a little further. Due to astronomical realities, especially outside the tropics,

it�s relatively unusual in practice to see the Midheaven actually square the
Ascendent. This helps us as well because if one Angle is hidden, it�s less likely
that the other one is hidden too. We�ll see a big unexplained spike in only one
Modal area�and immediately suspect that the other Angle is hiding behind a planet.
Pursuing our example, maybe there�s an unexplained cluster around 12 degrees of the
Cardinals. We give her a 12 Aries Midheaven, and then the Ascendent happens to fall
in 5 Cancer, conjunct her Sun. We�ve got a good candidate chart.


Way back in the first paragraph of this article, I rhapsodized about the incredible
helpfulness of even a vague hint as to the time of birth. Wring the client for
anything and everything in that department. Maybe he or she tells you, �I can�t
find my time of birth�.but mom says it was definitely in the wee hours.� One learns
to take everything with a grain of salt, but that provides a really useful head
start. Set up a chart for 1:00AM and another one for 5:00AM, and you�ve got a
strictly limited arc of possibilities for all four Angles. The right chart is going
to be in between those extremes. That�s only a four hour spread�already six times
more precise than starting with just the birth date. Somewhere in there is the
right chart, and you�re six times closer to a right answer than you would be if you
only knew the birth date.

It�s even better than that. Continuing with this example, maybe you�ve got an
unexplained cluster of events around 10 degrees of the Fixed Signs. Your assumption
is that it must correspond to either the Horizon or the Meridian axes of the chart.
Between 1:00AM and 5:00AM on that day, there was probably only one possibility for
a Fixed sign on the Midheaven�say, arbitrarily, Leo. There was also only one
possibility for a Fixed sign on the Ascendent�say Scorpio. One of those is probably
your answer�but which one? Is it 10 Scorpio rising? Or is it 10 Leo on the
Midheaven? It could be either, and those are two different charts. But, there�s
good news: unless we�re dealing with an Ascendent-Midheaven square, it won�t be
hard to sort it out. Here�s how: Look at the 10 Leo Midheaven chart. It will
dictate a specific Ascendent, depending on the latitude of the birthplace. Maybe
it�s 19 Scorpio. Now, the critical question�does that Ascendent also correspond to
a �hot spot� for the client? If it does, get out the champagne. You�ve found the
Midheaven�and an Ascendent that agreed with it! That�s the Holy Grail.

If it doesn�t agree, then experiment with that 10 Scorpio Ascendent. It too will
dictate only one possible Midheaven�is that a hot spot? Yes? Champagne! No? Well,
don�t despair. Read on.

By the way, we made this example a little easier than some real-world situations in
that we assumed we knew something about the time of birth�that it occurred during
the wee hours. If we hadn�t had that helpful clarification, we would have had to
try out 10 degrees of every Fixed Sign on both Ascendent and Midheaven�which is
exactly what you do if you are rectifying within a 24 hour range. That represents a
lot more possibilities, which makes it a lot more challenging in practice. The
techniques remain the same, though. Gradually, the erroneous charts are eliminated
and the truth emerges.

You sometimes get into confusions generated by polarities�is that 10 Taurus or 10

Scorpio on the Ascendent? Unless you are dealing with an Ascendent-Midheaven
square, then the Midheaven-Nadir hit-clusters will usually clear that up�they�ll
support one Ascendent and preclude the other.


Avoid �em both as long as possible. �This person really looks like he�s got Leo
rising �check out that hair!� In the end, impressions and intuitions like that may
cast tie-breaking votes, but beware! �What a career-driven person! She�s got to
have a big Tenth House!� There is a real place for these kinds of judgements in
rectification, but that place is at the end of the long, hard process of actually
looking at the data. Deeper astrological experience reminds us that Pluto in the
First house can effectively masquerade as Scorpio rising. Venus conjunct the
Ascendent can be mistaken for Libra rising. And mature common sense tells us that
neurotic insecurity and a controlling, materialistic early family life can
correlate with tremendous career drive, even with nothing in the Tenth House. But
transits, arcs, and progressions to Angles never lie.


Or almost never lie. In one situation, transits, and especially arcs and
progressions, can lie to you with great authority, and that is when you are working
with events that are closely spaced in time. Here�s a cardinal rule of
rectification: Never do that! If your client gives you ten dates that all fall
within a five year period, you�ll get guaranteed false results. Why? Because in
five years, none of the progressions or arcs will have moved very far. You�ll see
�clustering� all right, but it won�t have anything to do with the Ascendent or
Midheaven! Of course everything is clustered�nothing had enough time to move
anywhere!!! You�ll imagine you�ve found this incredible hot spot when all you are
seeing is a trick you�ve played on yourself with the numbers.

I generally ask my clients to give me around ten dates, none of them closer than
two years to any other. I encourage them to include events from their childhoods,
if possible�big family moves, parental divorce, births of siblings, and so on. That
spreads it out. Ideally, I�d get something from every chapter of their lives.
One obvious corollary is that it�s easier and more accurate to do rectifications
for people over, say, thirty years of age. Under age five or ten, the process would
be quite dubious. In between, it�s worth a shot, but it would be foolish to take
any result as final.


Sometimes a rectification just falls neatly into place. When that doesn�t happen,
just setting it aside for a couple of days can work wonders. Failing that, then the
next step is to go back to the client and get another set of dates. By random ill-
fortune, the first list might have neatly demonstrated the positions of the
client�s Sun, Moon, Venus, and so on, but simply not involved anything that
revealed the Angles�big events can happen in a person�s life without major Angular
influences. The odds are long against that, but it does happen. Nothing for it
except a fresh start with a new set of events.

Many times, despite your admonitions, a client will have given you a longer list of
events than you requested, or one that you had to weed out because of too many
closely-spaced events. In that case, work with the unexplored events�but, if you
are using those closely-spaced events, make it a fresh start! Don�t add the new
ones to the previous events, or you�ll get those �instant amazing results��which
are totally wrong for reasons we discussed a couple paragraphs back.


Let�s say you are torn between a Taurus and a Scorpio Ascendent. Maybe the Meridian
axis is square to the Horizon, and you�re just tearing out your hair trying to
decide which Ascendent is right. At this point, common sense and astrological
experience can legitimately enter the equations. Does the person have that
penetrating intensity we associate with Scorpio? Does his or her professional life
corroborate that (presumed) Leo Midheaven? What about the placement of planets in
Houses? Which arrangement best fits existential, observed reality? As we said
earlier, this kind of thinking does have a place in rectification�and we just
defined it specifically.

That much is fairly obvious and intuitive, but we have another technical ace in the
hole here. If Scorpio is rising, then Pluto and Mars are the co-Rulers of the
Ascendent. We know that the planetary ruler of the Ascendent is always a very
sensitive point. When we were compiling our hit lists for the big events in the
person�s life, did we notice that Pluto and/or Mars really stood out? Did anything
contacting either of them virtually always correlate with major fireworks? Do they
seem more reactive than the rest of the planets? That would argue powerfully for
Scorpio rising in this scenario. Or was it Venus that seemed to be at the center of
every hurricane? Maybe we should consider that Taurean ascendent after all�.
Here�s another trick. Most astrologers have observed family patterns in charts�you
got your father�s nose and your mother�s Moon. We are not talking simply about Sign
positions here�it�s generally down to areas two or three degrees wide. It might not
always be the same planet in the particular degree area; very commonly, for
example, a child�s Ascendent will be the Moon or Sun position of one of the
parents, or vice versa. If your client has children whose birth times are known,
set up those charts. Ditto if parental birth times are known. Are there degree
areas that leap out as a family pattern? Are they close to any of our suspected
Angles? Even if the birth times are unknown, we can almost always at least get
their birthdays, which gives us the position of the Sun and planets to within about
a degree of accuracy, and a good guess about the Moon.

Very similar patterns apply to the charts of people outside our families with whom
we have serious or pivotal relationships. Getting the charts of �significant
others� can often help us build confidence and precision in our rectified
chart��her lover�s Moon is smack on the Ascendent I�ve come up with!�

I emphasize that none of these tricks is a substitute for the more technical
procedures we�ve outlined. But after you�ve done the technical work, you might
still be torn between a couple of possibilities�or just need some extra confidence
in a chart you�re thinking is probably right. That�s where these pieces fit into
the puzzle.

Transits, solar arcs, and secondary progressions provide a lot of data. Probably
they are enough. But you can also work with converse solar arcs and converse
progressions, which are surprisingly active and effective. One can extend out into
the realm of Minor and Tertiary progressions as well. All these are powerful
techniques, and arguably they are under-used in modern astrological practice. In my
interpretive, counselling work with clients I prefer a simpler approach, but I�ve
commonly used all of the above techniques in particularly teeth-gnashing
rectificational procedures.

One insight that will be brought home to you in this work is that it is very hard
to know from a biographical event which planet was the trigger. Over and over
again, you�ll see deaths connected with Jupiter or Venus, promotions connected with
Saturn, humiliations connected with the Sun, and successes linked to Neptune. This
is a good reminder that we should never be too literal about the outward, concrete
�predictive� meanings of the planets. What they really do is tell us what the event
meant to the client. If you�re interested in going more deeply into that idea, I�d
recommend you have a look at my book, The Changing Sky. (ACS Publications, San
Diego.) The bottom line here is that any planet�s passages can coincide with almost
anything in our outward lives, but when any of them hit Angles, things do happen.
It�s the timing of the event more than the nature of the event that helps us in


A computer definitely makes rectification easier. Even the crudest of programs

allow one easily to set up an array of possible charts and �hit lists� for the
relevant biographical dates. Most of the major programs also support some kind of
�rectification� sub-routine. Generally, they enable the adjustment of a chart
through altering the birth time and either the Ascendent or the Midheaven. In
practice, I usually wind up with a big pile of paper charts and lots of pages of
scribbled notes. Still, the computer, while not strictly necessary, is as useful in
this branch of astrology as it is in any other.

A.I.R. Software (115 Caya Ave, W.Hartford CT 06110, (860)232-6521), in its old DOS-
based Star Trax program, offered a wonderfully simple rectification module which I
love very much�in fact Jodie and I maintain an ancient lap-top simply because it
holds that program. You enter the approximate chart and the critical dates the
client provided, select transits, progressions, and arcs, punch a button, and the
positions of the moving planets are instantly �binned� by fourth harmonic degree,
just as I�ve been describing in this article. Various parameters can be adjusted,
and the whole program is a very helpful adjunct to the processes we�re exploring.
If you can find a copy of that older program, grab it. A.I.R.�s fearless leader,
Alphee Lavoie, in the Windows versions of their Star Trax programs, has replaced
that rectification module with a newer, more complex and powerful one. I�m not a
computer guy, and I have to say it�s too complicated for me, even though Alphee has
explained it to me. If you are computer-friendly, I�d heartily recommend trying
it�I know the program works incredibly well, because Alphee sat in front of me and
used it very convincingly to adjust my own earlier rectification of my own chart,
and Jodie�s rectifcation of her chart, by a few minutes. Alphee is a pal and he�ll
probably murder me for saying this in print, but I really wish he would include the
older, simpler rectification sub-routine as an optional module for the cyber-
challenged in any new updates of his excellent new Millenium Star Trax For
Windows .

There may be other good rectification programs out there; please forgive me if I�ve
not mentioned them. As I said, even though I use computers, I�d serve pretty well
as a worst-case customer scenario for any software company. If you are computer-
less or computer-phobic, you can do everything in this article, to a high degree of
professional precision, with nothing but an ephemeris, a Table of Houses, some
time, and plenty of coffee.


All these procedures are laborious, but they work. If you are still stuck after a
long effort, you can repeat the above procedures as long as you and the client both
have the patience and interest. If you pursue them diligently, you won�t hit the
wall often. When you do, remember what the Father of Medicine said: �First do no
harm.� At some point, frustration sets in, and that can lead to �settling� for a
chart in which you don�t really have much faith. This is the moment for some
reflection on the terrible responsibilities being an astrologer entails. If you
don�t feel good about the chart you�ve created, it�s probably best simply to say
that straightforwardly to yourself and to the client, and put the whole project
aside at least for a few months. It�s smart, of course, to have alerted the client
to that possible outcome right from the start.


Someone very wise once observed, �A man with a watch knows what time it is, but a
man with two watches is never sure.� As you get into rectification, inevitably
you�ll be drawn to check out your own chart, even if your birth time is allegedly
�accurate.� It�s usually disconcertingly eye-opening. Even a birth time given to an
odd minute, which sounds so convincing, can be off by surprising margins. My own
birth was listed on my hospital birth certificate as 3:30 AM. Using the procedures
I�ve described in this article, I rectified it to 3:21, and Alphee Lavoie convinced
me it was 3:19:25. Clocks are simply wrong sometimes. Pediatricians and nurses have
more pressing tasks than recording birth times accurately. Outside astrology,
nobody thinks accuracy here is very important. Astrologers themselves don�t even
really agree on exactly what we mean by �the moment of birth.� Errors in this
absolute bedrock of our craft are far more common than we like to believe. In the
best of worlds we would rectify every chart. Given the paramount importance of an
accurate chart to the accuracy of any subsequent interpretation, I suspect our
astrological descendants will look at us the way we now look at medieval doctors
doing surgery with dirty hands.
In closing, I�d like to make it clear that I basically no longer do rectifications.
The process is enjoyable in the same way that doing a crossword puzzle is
enjoyable, but it�s time-consuming. I�m overwhelmed with the rest of my work and,
sadly, I�ve had to set a limit in this department. I hope that someone out there
with a taste for this kind of procedure will soon place an advertisement for a
rectification service in the Mountain Astrologer classifieds. It could be a good
basis for a profitable professional astrological business, and it would certainly
provide an excellent support to the community.

Meanwhile, let�s all dare to trust a peek at that confusing �second watch� we�re
carrying: the actual evidence of planetary motions as they impact the birthchart.
It�s a lot more reliable than the clock on the hospital wall, and not that hard to
read with a little perspiration and patience.

copyright 2000 Steven Forrest.