Suppose you are analyzing the chart of a friend. She says her birth data is this: June 1, 1980, 7:30 pm, New York, USA. Can your friend, and you, guarantee that the birth time is accurate? You know the MC (and for births near the equator, the ascendant as well) moves by approximately one degree of arc for every four minutes of time, so if your friend was born fifteen minutes earlier or later than the given time, her horoscope angles would be off by about four degrees. What difference would this make in interpreting her horoscope, and timing events in her life?
Say you determine (and we will see how shortly) that her actual birth time is 7:15 pm, earlier by 15 minutes from the original. With this new birth time, the corrected chart would place the ascendant about 3-4 degrees earlier than for the 7:30 pm time. Suppose the original ascendant was at 1 Sag 30. The new ascendant would be in the previous sign, around 28 Sag. Clearly, this would make a difference in how you interpret your friend’s personality, specifically the way she presents herself to everyone in her social circle, and more generally, her worldview at large. The timing of transit and solar arc hits to the ascendant would be off as well which would give incorrect results in forecasting.
For best accuracy in analysis, you want to start with a birth time that is drawn from a birth certificate. Other sources such as “this is what my mother remembers” are highly unreliable. Even a birth certificate time is not always accurate to the minute. The birth time recorded by a hospital is often late by a few minutes for the obvious reason that everyone is busy for some moments after the baby is born to pay attention to the clock. When things finally settle down, someone looks up and notes down the time. There is also the error in rounding that is a common human tendency—the birth may be at 7:25 pm, but the record will have rounded it off to 7:30 pm. While many recorded birth times are late by a few minutes, there are also cases when the birth times are earlier than the actual. This could happen in the very same situation—the hospital staff is busy delivering the baby, and when all is done, one of them notes down the time. But she takes it upon herself to allow for the elapsed time since the actual birth time, so she sees 7:15 on the clock, and notes down 7:00 pm instead, estimating that to be closer to the actual birth time.
In any case, you need to astrologically verify and if need be, rectify, the given birth time. You know the birth time is likely off by up to 15 minutes or so. What do you do? You use solar arc directions to zoom in on a more accurate birth time, quickly.
The neat thing about solar arcs is that they are easily eyeballed in the chart. For instance, suppose in a chart natal Neptune is at 12 Vir 16, and the IC is at 21 Vir 43. Tracing an imaginary arc from Neptune to the IC tells you that the arc length is 9 degrees and some minutes. Then, using the day-for-year correspondence, the solar arcing (SA) Neptune would arrive at the natal IC at the age of somewhere between 9 and 10. Which would then beg the question: was there some kind of Neptunian impact in the home at the age of 9-10?
This eyeballing technique is a very quick way of establishing the accuracy of the birth time, and correcting it by a few minutes if necessary. For certain charts, where there is an outer planet in close proximity to an angle (close enough that the arc between the angle and the planet is less than the person’s age), simply work out the number of years corresponding to the arc distance between the planet and the angle (like in the Neptune-to-IC example above), and ask the leading question. If the planet precedes the angle, then the solar arcing planet will converge to the angle, otherwise the angle will converge to the planet.
I will illustrate this technique in the following real life examples drawn from consultations with clients, when the very first thing I do is verify the birth time.
This is a woman who gave her birth time as 10:45 am. The IC represents the home and family, while Uranus represents disruption, shock, abrupt change.
This is a relevant slice of her chart. Notice that there are two outer planets at the bottom of the chart: Pluto at 19 Lib 07 in the 3rd house, and Uranus at 22 Sco 39 in the 4th house. Uranus is closer to the IC, about 10 degrees away, while Pluto is 23 degrees away from the IC. So the convergence of the IC to Uranus would happen many years earlier than Pluto to IC. I asked, “When you were about ten years old, was there a major disruption in your home and family?” I imagined the IC arcing ten degrees to meet with Uranus, in about ten years’ time. The IC represents the home and family, while Uranus represents disruption, shock, abrupt change.
“Yes,” she said, “my father died when I was ten years old.” Her corroboration verified her time of birth as accurate enough for most of the analysis to follow. For double confirmation, I turned to the natal Pluto which is 23o43′ behind the IC. “At the age of about 23 to 24, your home life underwent a powerful transformation that changed everything. What was it?” To which she replied with: “My mother was the sole breadwinner, and she lost her job. I had to quit college and find a job. We moved out of our apartment because we could not afford to pay the rent, to a much smaller place in a lousy neighborhood.” All this brought with it a deep sense of shame and failure, a loss of face that left an indelible mark on her.
When eyeballing like this, it is useful remember that one degree (sixty minutes of arc) to a year (twelve months) equates to five minutes of arc to a month. That is, if a solar arc directed planet needs to advance five more minutes to be exactly conjunct an angle (or vice versa), the exact conjunction will happen in one month’s time.
In this case the woman gave her birth time as a precise 5:22 am. After seeing so many cases where the birth time is either rounded up (or down) to at least the nearest five minutes (or to the nearest ten minutes, fifteen minutes, or half hour), getting a time as precise as this can also be disconcerting. I make it a habit of always checking the time against events in the life.
I asked for some events, especially unexpected ones because unexpected events are typically the domain of Uranus, the planet of surprise and unexpectedness, and Uranus is a very sharp timer of events. One other trait of Uranus I should emphasize is that it often signifies accidents, especially when it combines with Mars. Thus, it is also helpful to ask if the person had ever been in any kind of accident severe enough that it left a lasting impact, and then use it as a potential birth time checker.
She said that she had an unexpected start to her career when she was three months shy of turning 28 years of age. See that Uranus is just about 27 degrees away from the ascendant. She was born in September, when the Sun is moving less than a degree a day. So, to cover the arc of about 27 degrees to the ascendant, the solar directed Uranus would take more than 27 years-in fact, here it took 28 years (which is verifiable by drawing the solar arc chart overlaid on the natal.) And when Uranus hit the ascendant, she got the unexpected start to her career.
A first job that launches a career is almost always accompanied by an almost overnight change in the personality: a projection of being grown up, capable, able to deal with one’s environment in an independent manner, ready to cope with the changes wrought by money and responsibility. In this chart, Pluto is about six degrees away from the ascendant, and will of course result in a significant, transformative impact in her life when she is six, at the time that SA Pluto homes in on the ascendant. I am only showing the Uranus hit as an obvious case of the unexpected change.
This is the case of a man, again one who gave me a precise time of birth of 5:18 pm.
When he was a little over forty two and a half years of age, he got a very important elevation in status in his company. Look at Saturn in the eighth house at 3 Ari 26. It is 42 degrees and 50 minutes away from the MC. He was born in February, so the Sun’s motion at birth was right around one degree per minute. When he got his elevation, SA Saturn was nearly exact on his MC. More than any other planet, Saturn reliably delivers professional rewards if one has been a diligent worker. Of course, the first thing we would do to verify the birth time is ask him about sudden change of status in a parent’s life (SA Uranus arriving to conjunct MC) at the age of six. Here, I am only showing the SA Saturn for change of pace, since we have already seen Uranus activity in previous examples.
The woman considered here gave 4:15 pm as her birth time. I figured I would try to narrow it down to a more accurate time if possible.
Her brother died when she was eleven and a half years old. On the date her brother died, SA Uranus had advanced to 29 Can 48. It has passed the descendant and was separated from it by 41 minutes of arc, which would correspond to eight months of time in her life. If we held the solar arc directed position to be exactly coincident with her brother’s death, and exactly coincident with her IC, then the IC should be at 29 Can 48, or 41 minutes of arc later. Remember, the MC moves at the rate of 1 degree, or 60 minutes of arc, per 4 minutes of time. A movement of 41 minutes of arc is 2/3 of 60, so the birth time would be pushed back between 2 and 3 minutes, which would put it at somewhere between 4:17 and 4:18 pm. It was tempting to use this new time, but I desisted and took the the 4:15 pm time to be good enough.
Why? Well, life does not cooperate with solar arcs in such an exact manner, and some degree of leeway is essential. In Example 2 of an unexpected career start, at the exact date that the woman got an unexpected start to her career, the solar arc directed Uranus (as seen in the solar arc overlay chart not shown here) had passed the ascendant by more than 15 minutes of arc, which would correspond to three months in life. In other words, the event happened 3 months after the exact hit of SA Uranus to the asendant. And in the case of the status elevation presented in Example 3, the solar arc directed Saturn was 20 minutes behind the MC at the exact date of the elevation of status, which corresponds to a lag of four months. Meaning, the event happened 4 months before SA Saturn arrived exactly at the MC.
The exact solar arc signifies some inner fulfillment, consistent with the symbolic nature of Western astrology, which may be either a few months before or a few months after the actual external manifestation. Also, at times, the client does not have a memory of an exact date, and will give a month that is itself an approximation, such as “summer of 1942”, say. Bottom line, we accept that life is not metronomic, and astrology does not time events down to the minute. And more often than not we don’t need pinpoint accuracy, except when a small change in birth time (say even a couple of minutes) results in a change in the sign on the MC or ascendant. Then we need to go for broke and try to rectify the birth time chart down to the minute.