Solar returns are forecasts for the upcoming year. They can be read largely like a natal return chart, but are transient and focused more on events that may shape you rather than who you are in essence. Make sense? I hope so.
Because the solar return chart is a chart of transits, there is a good chance that what you are experiencing now will carry over into the next year. I have had transiting Neptune opposing my natal Mars/North Node and recently, opposing Jupiter. This is going to remain for a few years, and will certainly show up in some manner in my solar return chart.
To cast a solar return chart, you can either use your astrology software to create a chart automatically, or you can use an ephemeris to determine when the sun will be at the exact degree and minute that it was when you were born. This creates an entirely new chart. For the sake of not having to painstakingly create a chart whole cloth, by hand (which does have its merits), make one on the computer.
I tend to do it for wherever I will be on my birthday. Some argue that it doesn’t make much of a difference and that one should cast it at the place of birth. This is fine if you still live where you were born and are a rather fixed personality. However, if you live significantly far away from where you were born and tend to be a more mutable person who adapts to your environment, I think that you’re better off casting it for wherever you will be. Astrologers who do solar return charts often advise their clients to travel on their solar returns if they wish to change their solar returns, and there is argument that it does work, since a vacation can really change you in some ways.
The first thing to look for is where the solar return ascendant is. What sign? Are there planets in the 1st house? The work of these planets will be front and center this year. Suppose that Mercury is in the 1st house in Sagittarius. This doesn’t mean that you will start thinking like a Sagittarius so much as it means that the type of work Mercury does in Sagittarius will be very important this year, and if your own Mercury is in a different sign, the expression will be augmented by the conditions arising with Mercury in Sagittarius.
For example, your natal Jupiter is in Leo, but in your solar return chart, it is in Taurus in the 1st house. While you naturally may be a popular, fun-loving and popular person, that part of you is going to spend time focusing on using those abilities to create something of material value. Perhaps you will earn money by charming your way into a new, higher-paying job, or will finally break into show biz with a paying gig.
Where is the sun by house? Since it is the same as your natal sun, there is no need to reconcile them. This house will be emphasized this year. Any planets conjunct the natal sun will also come to the forefront and be important to the work you do this year and to your ego expression. Now, what house the natal sun is in and where it is now makes a difference. If the natal sun is in the 9th house and the solar return sun is in the 1st house, higher learning, travel, philosophy, etc, will be part of the persona this year. If the natal 10th house sun is now in the 8th house, status, reputation, career, etc., will now be channeled through financial, shared resource, sexual, and occult concerns.
The next thing to look for is where the moon is. This is how your emotions and inner needs will be expressed. Of course, applying the same technique, as above, you will determine where your heart lies this year based on a blend of your natal moon and solar return moon. My natal moon is in Aries in the 1st house, but my solar return moon is in the 8th house in Cancer. This year, my immature need to be number one is going to experience renewal and rebirth (and the labor pains of such) when it comes to family, security, and relatedness.
Since predictive charts are based on transits, largely what happens in the chart is sparked by something outside of you. When the moon changes houses, your feelings may change, but something that the moon represents may also change. For example, if the moon is in the 5th house in a solar return, that person may have a child, or have children come into his or her life. This is certainly going to change the emotional landscape.
The next thing to look for planets conjunct the angles. These will manifest outside of you. Then, see if any of your natal planets are brought to the angles for the coming year. This expression will be at the forefront of interactions. Is it Mars? You will be an action-Jackson. Is it Uranus? The rebelliousness in you will come out. Again, there will be circumstances outside of you that make this possible. Perhaps you find yourself in a place where you care not to conform and that is how Uranus will manifest, by rebelling. It is also possible that one may find themselves in circumstances in which the odd part of themselves finds a venue and they let loose. If it is the sun, one tends to be very comfortable expressing the self as is, and generally find that people seem to like them and want to champion them.
Where is Saturn in your solar return chart? This is often where you have to work out some karma. The moon is also a karmic, but unlike the moon, it deals with what you produce outside of yourself. In those years where you feel like you’re reliving the past, it’s often that Saturn is emphasized or in an angular house. It doesn’t always feel good, especially if the circumstances remind you of unhappy, struggling times, but it is also a second chance.
A few examples from my own life when planets were in the 1st house:
In South Korea, my solar return Pluto was in the 1st house. I had a lot of conflict with my boss, power struggles, etc. I found myself being the wicked witch. In the end, I was right, but that didn’t make other people comfortable, so commence the witch hunt. It was also one of the sexiest times of my life. I started dating again. It was also a time in my life in which women, basic bitches, were outright jealous of me and acting on it. If I were a different person, this would not have been an indication that I was doing something right. This was the year I reveled in some bad-ass witch power. I learned that I could and should trade the approval of the middle of the curve for my own inner authority and power. The only thing the approval of the middle of the curve gets you is squarely in the middle of the curve. No thanks.
Last year, Jupiter was in the 1st house. This was a year of luck and acquisition. I did well in a job I really liked and got lucky breaks. I seemed friendly, outgoing, and fun. I felt confident. I was also a little more of a spendthrift and I gained a bunch of weight. 😦
The year before that, I had Uranus in the 1st house, and Chiron and Neptune on the ascendant. That year, I was drifting, living at home, ashamed. I was hiding myself. I literally kept my tarot cards hidden in my car for fear that if found, I would have to go through listening to my mother emote about Satanism (she’s addicted to her religion) and other nonsense. After being nagged to go to the store to buy my alcoholic father yet another 30-pack of cheap beer (Neptune – identity tied to helplessness, as well as alcohol), and being embarrassed and wondering how I managed to climb out of this social class only to end up back in it and I’m the only one in my family who seems to care (Chiron), I made a radical departure for freedom (Uranus) and literally disappeared for the most part (Neptune) started over again in a brand new place.
Consider the midheaven too, because this is where things manifest to the public at large. Whereas the ascendant is first impressions, the midheaven is the antennae that broadcasts who you are. The difference is as such: you may meet someone who seems one way on first impression when you shake hands (ascendant) but may have a different reputation that you’ve heard about (midheaven). Are there planets conjunct the midheaven, in the 10th house? Are any natal planets brought to the midheaven? These are experiences that are public and affect the reputation and career. My Mars and North Node (they are exactly conjunct in my natal chart. It is an imperative that I get on with my soul purpose in this life) are conjunct the midheaven on the 10th house, as is Jupiter. Jupiter and the North Node are in my solar return 10th house. Fantastic! Except that not everything is automatically great. I may have a lot of energy and luck in forwarding my career, but to what end? Mars doesn’t take time to smell the roses, and Jupiter takes things for granted. Neptune is conjunct the immum colei, reminding me to take time for the imaginative, spiritual side of me. Also, to avoid drug and alcohol dependency….which is rife in law school. And not to think my private life is all that it seems, or to run away from problems there.
The rest of the solar return chart can be read much like a natal chart, with aspects, dispositors, etc. The key isn’t to say that a person is, but rather, will do or experience, because it is a chart of transits. With that being said, the solar return can be experienced before it actually happens exactly. Some people say two weeks before. Others say three months before. I usually cast mind three months before my birthday, since I am a mutable type who tends to be influenced easily by the things outside of me. However, any time in those twelve weeks can the solar return be felt, as in, something in it happens.
To cast a solar return chart for someone other than yourself, make sure you have a good understanding of who they are based on their natal chart. How they will react to and use the energies and situations presented in the solar return chart vary depending on who they actually are. For example, some with Taurus rising and a Capricorn Sun may not abandon all reason when the year has the mutable signs on the angles and Mercury conjunct Neptune in the 1st house, Jupiter in the 4th, and the moon in the 12th, just because they just aren’t naturally designed to be the Fool. It may be more of a struggle for them to deal with a surreal year in which nothing seems concrete, and they may not just go with the flow. On the other hand, someone who is naturally more of the fool may not readily conform when the solar return sun is in the 10th house, the solar return moon in the 6th and solar return Libra rising.
On that note, if a person is very heavily influenced by a planet in their natal chart, in that the planet rules the ascendant, and the planet is prominent in the chart, or the planet well-placed and well-aspected, or in the natural sign such that it has natural emphasis in the natal chart, the ruler of a stellium, or the final dispositor of many of the planets, make sure to understand what it does in the solar return chart. A Leo sun is naturally going to be more influenced by the nature of the solar return sun, and a Cancer moon more influenced by the nature of the solar return moon. A Gemini rising with Mercury in the 3rd house natally is going to be more influenced by the nature of Mercury in the solar return chart. A person who has Venus as the final dispositor, regardless of whether it is in the 2nd or 7th house or in Taurus or Libra, is going to be more effected by the nature of Venus in the solar return chart, because a lot of how they view life is through the lens of Venus.
Where the natal rising sign will fall in the solar return chart will give you an indication of where the first impressions and persona may be expressed, and the types of people who will be attracted to that person in the coming year.
I think now is a good place to stop. There is always more that can be said about this type of chart, including health and vitality predictions, relationship predictions, etc. One could even try making a synastry comparison between two solar return charts to see how a relationship may change and develop in the coming year (though there are easier ways to do this).