One of my favourite ways to get a feel for the tone of the year is through annual profections. This is a timing technique that was widely used in traditional astrology. The majority of the ancient astrologers used it, or at least mentioned it. Vettius Valens discusses it in his Anthology, as does Ptolemy in Tetrabiblos, Firmicus in Mathesis, Manilius in Astronomica, and Dorotheus in Carmen Astrologicum.
In traditional astrology, not all planets are equally active at all times. Rather, particular planets play a more prominent role at certain times in the individual’s life, and we can use various timing techniques to figure out which ones are activated at any given time.
In annual profections, each year has a “time lord” – a planetary ruler – which corresponds to the planet that rules the sign of the house that is activated that year, starting with the sign on the Ascendant. The time lord changes each year on your birthday and moves from sign to sign around the natal chart. The themes of the profected house will be more significant that year.
To calculate annual profections, start counting at the rising sign and go around the chart until you get to your age. Look at the sign you land on and then find its planetary ruler – that’s your annual time lord.
This might sound confusing but it’s actually very simple, so I’ll give you an example. Let’s take someone who is Libra rising, which means the Ascendant degree is in Libra. From the moment they are born to their first birthday, they are in a first house profection year and the time lord is Venus – because Venus rules Libra. When they turn one, they switch to a second house profection year, and the time lord becomes Mars – because the second house would be Scorpio, and Mars rules Scorpio. At age two, the time lord becomes Jupiter (third house is Sagittarius); at age three, the time lord becomes Saturn (fourth house is Capricorn), and so on.
So, every time you turn a multiple of 12, you will be in a first house profection year and your time lord will be the planet that rules your first house. You can use this as a shorthand way of calculating the annual time lord/profected house at quick glance. The first house is activated at ages 0, 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, 84, etc. So, start at the first house using the multiple of 12 that’s just before your current age, and count around the chart until you get to your age. Here’s an easy reference chart to double check:
You will note that I used traditional rulerships in the above example, with Mars ruling Scorpio. Annual profections is a technique from traditional astrology so it makes sense to use traditional rulerships.
Similarly, annual profections should only used with whole sign houses. It doesn’t really work to use a different house system, especially not Placidus or any other quadrant house system. Quadrant houses will throw the whole thing off due to the unequal division of the houses, which means you can get intercepted houses and therefore some signs – and therefore some planetary time lords – would get skipped entirely. So, I think it’s more coherent to use traditional timing techniques, like annual profections, with traditional rulerships and whole sign houses.
Having said that, you can incorporate some modern interpretive techniques when figuring out how annual profections might work out. Any planets that are in the house being activated by annual profection will become more important and exert more influence over the tone of the year, including outer planets. So even though the outer planets will never be an annual time lord (and thank the gods for that), they will get activated when the house they reside in gets activated by annual profection.
For example, let’s say you have Pluto in Scorpio, which is your ninth house. In a ninth house profection year (such as at age 32), your time lord will be Mars, but Pluto will also play a more prominent role. Ninth house themes like travel and higher education will also be more prevalent.
The main thing to keep in mind with annual profections – and all other timing techniques, for that matter – is that the natal chart always takes priority. If your annual profected time lord is a really weak planet in your chart – say, really lacking essential dignity, or just not in an important position – you probably won’t feel that influence super strongly.
But when your annual profected time lord is a planet that plays a really key role in your chart – such as having a lot of essential dignity, and/or part of a key aspect pattern – then you’ll probably notice it a lot more. Similarly, the time lords that tend to play a bigger role are the sect light (i.e. the Sun if you’re born during the day, or the Moon if you’re born at night), and the benefic/malefic of sect.
When interpreting annual profections, you would also look at the house that the profected ruler is in, and that house might also play a more important role that year. For example, if you’re in a third house profected year and the time lord is the Moon, and the Moon is in your eleventh house natally, then your year might involve themes of siblings or communication (third house) as well as community and friends (eleventh house). Maybe that will be a year when your sister introduces you to a new community group that you join, and end up making some new friends as a result.
You also want to consider transits when interpreting annual profections. The current transits will play a big role in activating different parts of your chart. When transits overlap with what’s being highlighted by annual profection, it will have an outsized effect compared to an annual profection where the transits don’t really interact in a particularly strong way.
It’s probably becoming obvious that you can continue to layer on as many timing and other interpretive techniques as you want – secondary progressions, solar arcs, zodiacal releasing, etc. And it’s true! Astrology has so many different techniques and it’s tempting to try to use them all at once.
For annual profections, I think it’s best to keep things fairly simple. I use it as a quick way to see which houses and planetary energies are likely to be more prominent that year. Then I check that year’s transits, and see what the annual time lord will be doing and how that interacts with the natal chart. I also check the time lord’s position in the natal chart and make a judgment about the effect it might have as the annual time lord – whether it’s strong and therefore likely to have more effect, or more in the background.
Annual profections is one of the techniques I use in my year ahead readings, along with transits, solar returns, secondary progressions and solar arcs. If you’d like to learn more, you can book a reading with me.