Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Book review - Transits and Solar Returns by Ciro Discepolo

I had not heard of this author prior to purchasing this book, which got some good reviews. As I understand it, he is thought to be one of the best Italian astrologers with years of experience.
Now, about the book. The thing that I liked was that he doesn't mince his words. Good is good and bad is bad. Yes, "bad" very often signifies psychological growth and he mentions that, but this doesn't prevent it from being unpleasant. So, he seems to have a traditional mentality towards astrology. I like that.
The good things however end here. Transits, in my opinion, is by far the most unreliable predictive method. Yet, half of the book is devoted to them in the usual cookbook manner. Mr Discepolo seems to indirectly agree about the unreliability of transits, since in many of his example charts at the end of the book he says something like "by transits alone, no astrologer could have predicted such a horrible year...". However, this didn't stop him from delineating even the Sun transits. Useless.
The most important part of the book is, naturally, not his average interpretation of transits, but what he says about solar returns. He says that if the SR (solar return) ascendant falls in the natal 12th, 1st or 6th houses, you are going to have a terrible year, an "annus horribilis" as he calls it. About the 12th house, he says that although there have been some nasty stuff associated with it, no one has demonized it before him. That's not true. If he were familiar with traditional astrology, he wouldn't be saying things like that. Apparently, he is not.
We can understand why a 12th or a 6th house year can be a problem, but what about the first house? He doesn't offer any explanation. It is so, because experience has shown it is so, that's what he says. But when you come up with a discovery like that, you have to make changes in your astrology. You have to change perhaps your delineation of the first house. Are we to understand that the natal first house is not bad, but the SR 1st house is? If so, why?
What he doesn't say, but other authors have done so, is that when the SR Ascendant is the same as the natal Ascendant, this promises a year to remember. But, whether that's for good or for ill, it depends on the natal chart itself. It's as if this is a year when your natal chart can show its potential. Mr Discepolo, however, seems to treat solar return charts as stand alone charts. He doesn't make any connections between the natal chart and the SR chart, only when it comes to transits.
Now, I've had some 12th and 6th house returns, but I can't recall anything out of the ordinary happening. Ah, he says. Those returns are worse for old people. But when somebody is 80 years old he doesn't need a 6th house return for him to have health problems. These problems come with age.
He goes on by saying that you will also have an "annus horribilis" when there is a stellium of planets in the 12th, 6th and 1st house of the Solar Return chart. So, three more possibilities for a terrible year. But he is not quite finished yet. A terrible year is also promised when Mars is in the 12th, 6th, or 1st house of the SR chart and, of course, when the Sun of the SR Chart is in these houses. Six more possibilities. You can also have a year of bereavement when the Sun is in the 11th house. Why this is so, he doesn't explain. If he had thought about it, he would have realized that the 11th house is the 8th from the 4th. Death (8th) of family members (4th). Now, I'm not saying that you should worry, I'm just trying to give an explanation, because he doesn't feel the need to do so. Furthermore, a 10th house year (SR ascendant falling in the natal 10th house) can also be a problem. Not to mention angular malefic planets (judging from his example charts) in the SR chart. OK, what this boils down to is that half (or perhaps more) of your solar return charts will have one of the above. So, half our life is going to be terrible. It doesn't matter if you have a wonderful birth chart, Mr Discepolo doesn't care. As he points out, bad things happen much more often than good ones.
What he does is find the "index of risk" of the year, based on an algorithm that he doesn't disclose, and warns the client. But what areas of life will be affected? He doesn't know. Anything is possible. It doesn't matter that it's a 6th house year, your health may be fine, but you can get a divorce or get arrested. All it matters is that his index of risk is high, even though (judging again from his examples) sometimes it isn't and people still have horrible years, which of course means that their birth data is incorrect. So, if you are a practicing astrologer, read the first few pages of the book where all the rules are laid out, don't read the rest because no explanations are given and then tell your client that he is going to have a horrible year. Nothing further. If they refuse to pay you, give them a copy of this book.
Wait! He does more than warn his clients. He sends them away from home so that the houses of the SR chart change and cease to be a problem. But where does he send them, I wonder? He has to avoid the natal 6th, 12th and 1st houses, Mars and stelliums in the same SR houses, perhaps avoid the 8th house because it is tricky, avoid the 4th/10th house axis because of angularity, avoid the 11th house because of bereavement. There's not much left, is there?
Moreover, he uses minor aspects, which is also highly debatable. In an example chart he calls the transits sensational (!), but the only transit worth mentioning is the Sun/Uranus conjunction. The rest are semisquares, semi-sextiles, sesquiquadrates etc. He also treats the Placidus house cusps as definitive and he doesn't use the 5o degree rule. In several example charts, the SR ascendant is 1-2 degrees away from the next cusp, but he considers it to be as in the previous house. Maybe he is right, but at such close distance, he should start wondering about the birth time like he does in other cases. But no, since it suits his interpretation, everything is fine.
To sum up, this is a book from an arrogant astrologer, who probably has no idea what he is talking about, but refuses to learn because he believes he knows everything already. A dangerous book.


  1. Thank you so much for this article... This evil Italian man scared me a few months ago. I read his book (not all of it, though), looked at my next SR with the AC falling in my 1st natal house, a stellium in 1 and the Sun in the 12th, and had a couple of nightmares after that. I wish I had a fireplace, so I could use this book for something.

  2. Petros, there is a clue in his book about why he scares people like that. He says he "helped" many people by advising them where to celebrate their birthday in order to "avoid such a horrible year".
    Many years ago, I started a little 'tradition' of traveling for my birthday (nothing to do with the SR, it was meant as a kind of present, a celebration). I've been doing that for more than 10 years now. And, if I look back, it's always the Amsterdam-SR that worked, not the relocated one. My opinion on that is: if you want your relocated SR to work, you have to stay in that place the whole year. Discepolo is like a deranged car-repairman that tells you "your car is broken, but I can fix it".

  3. Still, if you can change your natal chart by staying for a year at a different place, then your natal chart becomes completely useless, doesn't it?

  4. Personally, I don't think you can "change your natal chart by staying for a year at a different place". I was talking about people who travel to another place so they would "have a different solar return". I don't believe in that. I think that the only way the relocated solar return could work is if they actually stayed there. And, if they were to do such a thing, that would probably be shown in their natal chart anyway. :)