The Solar Arc Handbook by Frank Clifford

Do you ever have something significant happen in your life, but the transiting planets in your chart do not track with the event? Frank Clifford tells us that understanding the solar arc directions in our chart gives us a more complete picture of how the events unfolding in our life are contributing to the growth and development indicated by our natal chart. By moving each planet and angle forward approximately one degree per year, we see how the energy they represent is evolving through encountering specific challenges or needs to pivot. While the solar arc directions do not give us exact predictions of events which will occur in a given year, they do tell us about the “weather” of that year.


Is solar arc Saturn conjoining your natal Moon? Then you may experience limits, restrictions, frustrations and lessons around your emotional responses, daily rituals, your mother or your home during this year. And the key is, for just one year. This aspect is in effect from the time the solar arc directed planet is within 30’ of an exact hit to the planet or angle. We can see the significance of our year, then, by noting the number of solar arc directed planets impacting our natal planets and angles by conjunction, square or opposition.


When we first sit down with our Solar Arc Directed planets for the year, Frank Clifford provides us with many useful points to consider. One is to identify any planets which have just directed into a new sign, or which are in the last degree of their current sign. In a new sign, the planet has taken on a new way of expressing itself, moving from one element and mode to another – and so it is particularly energized.


To take a Solar Arc directed chart of someone currently in the news as an example, we see that Vladimir Putin’s SA (Solar Arc Directed) Neptune is now at 0° Capricorn after spending the past 30 years in Sagittarius. According to Clifford, Neptune can represent, among other things, our visions. While Putin’s visions have been fueled by fire and mutability in Sagittarius, they are now avidly seeking concrete form in the earth sign of Capricorn, where cold-eyed strategies and sharply trained troops are employed to make his visions a reality.


At 29° of a sign, a SA planet has been steeped in the energy of its sign for many years and so may be demonstrating the worst excess of that sign before it must relinquish its powers. Putin’s SA Jupiter is now at 29° of Cancer, where it is exalted and explains much about Putin’s rise to and retention of power over the past decades. Putin’s intense nationalism, his longing for a return the glory days of the USSR, and his deep insecurity regarding his country’s neighbors all reflect the shadow side of Cancer. Because the SA planet is Jupiter, this shadow is inflated and expanded to the point that it seeks global domination.


After looking for planets/angles in the first or last degree of a sign, we can look at the exact hits we may be experiencing in a year – that is, when a Solar Arc Directed planet or angle conjoins a natal planet or angle. The Solar Arc directed planet/angle brings the energy, and the planet/angle being conjoined represents the area of our life being challenged to evolve. There are years when this may not occur at all, which gives added significance to the years when these conjunctions do occur.


An astrologer could have told Donald Trump that January of 2021 would be a turning point for him since he was undergoing two exact hits. Uranus, which Clifford identifies as shocking, splitting, reversing energy, is meeting the Ascendant, the point of identity. The shocking events of January 2021 did reflect the energy of someone fighting tooth and nail to retain his identity as president. And Solar Arc Saturn was also making a direct hit, to Donald Trump’s Neptune. As with Putin, Neptune could represent visions and illusions. Saturn, Clifford tells us could be limits, restrictions or controls. Donald Trump’s illusion that he would continue as president met reality when Joe Biden was sworn in as president.


And notice, from our earlier observation, that Solar Arc Uranus is in the 29th degree of Leo, showing an ego in total revolutionary mode.


When comparing the solar return chart to the natal chart, Clifford tells us to focus on the conjunctions, squares and oppositions as markers of a significant time of life. And the effect manifests most strongly when it is within 30’ on either side of an exact hit. On Oscar night 2022, for example, Will Smith had two Solar Arc directions affecting his Midheaven, which Clifford considers the “reputation, status, social/public success and persona.” As he was striding onto the stage to slap Chris Rock, his Solar Arc Jupiter was 14’ from forming as exact square to Will Smith’s Midheaven, bringing the energy of inflation and acting on one’s beliefs into sharp contrast with his reputation and public persona and status. As this aspect continues to perfect over the next few months, the fallout from his actions will likely continue.


Will Smith’s Solar Arc Midheaven was also forming a square to his natal Ascendant and Descendant on Oscar night, with his very public act creating a strong disconnect with the friendly guy identity (Gemini Ascendant) who treated others fairly (Sagittarius Descendant) he had projected throughout his career. Notice also that Will Smith’s Solar Arc Ascendant, after being in caring and low-key Cancer for the past 30 years, is now at 0° of Leo, feeling its oats in a sign that celebrates and displays the unique self.


Frank Clifford reminds us that, just as some years of our life are more pivotal than others, we may see in those years that a number of Solar Arc aspects are occurring. Before March of 2020, for example, Joe Biden was considered to be one of the weaker presidential candidates in the primary race. People through he was too old, irrelevant to the current climate, and no one likely to excite voters.



In March of 2020, however, Joe Biden won a sweep of primaries and emerged as the front runner. This about-turn and rise to prominence are evident in his Solar Arc directed chart. The Solar Arc Descendant-Uranus conjunction, his electrical connections to the public, squared his natal Mercury, the ruler of his Midheaven, jolting his ability to deliver his message to the world. The Solar Arc Saturn of control, limitation, and mastery squared his natal Venus, his popularity. Biden’s rise in the polls brought him vast numbers of strong opponents. And Solar Arc directed Pluto, which empowers, was squaring his Jupiter, his chart ruler, bringing into the light Joe Biden’s beliefs for the governing of the country.


Finally, note that Joe Biden’s Solar Arc Midheaven/IC is just 1 degree from his natal Saturn. On Inauguration Day, 2021, this aspect will perfect, as he assumes one of the most responsible positions in the world.


Finally, Frank Clifford advises us to look for what he calls “Shadow Transits,” transits to Solar Arc directed planets which mirror the same transits formed earlier to our natal planets. These Shadow Transits times bring back themes and issues which we experienced during the transits to our natal chart.


For example, in 1990, as the Soviet Union had broken apart and Ukraine became an independent country, Vladimir Putin felt the loss and humiliation of his country. Neptune at that time was in square to his natal Sun, bringing dissolution to his pride and sense of self. Pluto was at the South Bending of the Nodes, with power being drained away due to circumstances beyond his control. Transiting Pluto, seeking power, was in opposition to his natal Jupiter, his beliefs and his vision of the way the world should be.


Today, as Putin is pushing and committing unspeakable acts to dominate Ukraine, these same aspects are forming to Putin’s Solar Arc directed chart, 32 years later. Transiting Neptune is square his Solar Arc Sun, transiting Pluto is at the Solar Arc South Bending of the Nodes, and transiting Pluto is approaching an opposition to his Solar Arc Jupiter. He is acting out all the rage and helplessness and loss of power he felt in 1990.


Frank Clifford particularly directs us to pay attention to our Shadow Saturn Return, which occurs several years after our Saturn Return and completes the process, or brings back issues from that time. This could happen around ages 32, 63, and 95. Queen Elizabeth, for example, experienced her third Saturn Return in 2015, when she was declared England’s longest reigning monarch. Her Saturn Returns are particularly impactful on her career since she has Saturn conjunct the Midheaven natally. Her third Shadow Saturn Return will fall in February of 2023, when transiting Saturn reaches her Solar Arc directed Saturn at 27° of Aquarius. We can imagine this will be a pivotal point in her monarchy and her life.


Studying our Solar Arc directed planets, then, offer us another window into our unfolding growth and development as human beings. Students of astrology owe much to Frank Clifford for this clearly written and well thought out handbook.