We all keep the charts we are born with, but on our birthdays each year we get a mini-reset, called the Solar Return. A chart is cast for the time that the Sun returns to the same degree, minute and sign it was in when we were born. This chart is a snapshot of our fortunes for the year. I have found the Solar Return chart to be one of the best indicators of the tone of the year. What sign is the moon in and what are the aspects? If favorable, the year has a nice tone to it. Is Saturn on the Ascendant? Could be a tough year. Is Mars in Aquarius in an angular house? Expect a big change in that area of your chart. A stellium of planets in the 5th might show a birth, and a stellium in the 7th a marriage or new partner. A planet conjunct your Midheaven, you might get in a new boss. Moon in Cancer on the Midheaven, you might become a parent. Moon Mars in Sagittarius trine to Jupiter in Leo on the Midheaven, you might travel abroad and learn a whole new area of study. For me this was the year I went to law school in London and also learned astrology at the Astrological Lodge.
Like every other in depth topic, astrology has many facets and lines of inquiry as well as different approaches advocated by diverse schools of thought. Even within a single topic, like Solar Returns, there is a division on how to cast the chart. Should it be cast for the place of birth or the current location of the subject? The latter has adherents trying to choose the place for the best Solar Return, hoping to change the outcome of the year. It is hard of course to validate this approach. Who knows? For a long time I cast Solar Returns for the birthday location. However, in the last year, after taking a class with Dietrech Pessin who has done in depth research on the topic, I started using the place of birth. When you cast the Solar Return for the place of birth, a clear pattern emerges. Most importantly, the modality on the midheaven (cardinal, fixed or mutable) changes every 9-11 years or so, and when that year occurs, it coincides with major changes in a person's life. During a change year a person may move, marry, change careers or have a child. I have validated this with friends as well as my own family's Solar Returns, and I would say 5 out of 6 times the change year matches a life change, there being of course no 100% accuracy in the field of prediction. I also dabbled in converse Solar Returns this past year. A converse Solar Return is cast for the year counting backwards. So if you were born in 1985, the chart for 1980 when your Sun returned to its natal position would be your 5th Solar Return (converse). Converse Solar Returns should be read together with the natal chart and the regular Solar Return. I found converse Solar Returns to be equally accurate. Note that the change year may not be the same, but is usually just one year off from the forward looking Solar Return. The computer program Solar Fire makes casting these charts quite easy. So, if you want to have a snapshot of what the next year will bring on your birthday, check out your Solar Return. Note that astrologers believe they kick in 3 months prior to your birthday, so you may not have to wait till the exact day of your Solar Return to start celebrating.