The Moon and its cycles comprise the single strongest celestial influence, next to the Sun, upon what we do on earth. Daily and monthly, we ride the waves of lunar influence which govern the short and long variations of the tides and with them fluctuations in every sort of life activity, from microbial right up to human, with every kind of vegetable and animal swept up in between. Even non-biological events, from microscopic crystal formation to atmospheric and subterranean patterns ride these waves, and we ride along with them.
Astrologically, it's more than just riding "the" waves, the environmental waves shared with all around, such as daily high and low tides, monthly full and new Moons (when the tides run highest). It may be equally about riding "your" waves, the personal rhythms you have gotten used to over a lifetime. At the moment you were born, you climbed on board a general set of rhythms at a very specific point - a point in the daily and monthly lunar rhythms and a point in the yearly solar rhythm. If you were born at full Moon, then that's the start of your monthly wave, your familiar starting point from which you step off anew each month. That's your most familiar stage of solunar tension, and it feels like home, a time to wind things up and start anew. Celestially, that's when the Moon's monthly cycle repeats the same angular relationship to the Sun it had at your birth, your own special phase of the monthly tide cycle. It happens once every 29 ½ days.
Return of the Moon to its exact phase, or Sun/Moon angle, is a rarely-done form of lunar return.
That's one wave. A second happens every day, when the diurnal swelling or receding tidal forces return to the part of their cycle where they were the instant you were born, your own special phase of the daily tide cycle.
A third wave is when the Moon returns to the place in the sky background where it was the instant you were born, once every 27 ½ days. In astrological parlance, that's your lunar return, and a chart done for that instant each month has long been believed to encapsulate the coming month, marking a starting place that characterizes the next four weeks.
All three tell a different story.
The first wave, the return of your Sun-Moon angle, marks the time of month when the overall tension of the daily tides is similar to what you were born with. Sometime that day you will also experience (as you do daily) the second wave, which is your birth phase of the daily tide. Together, they make that day feel especially familiar, and you may feel particularly more connected to your situation, because of its innate familiarity. A monthly chart can be done for the first, a daily chart for the second, both of which should reveal useful information about your monthly or daily outlooks. Strange to say, astrologers have barely looked at the first, and at the second not at all. They are areas that beg more investigation, as they are likely crucial elements that bring the physical presence of the Moon and planets to ground in a truly causal chain of events.
A simple repeat of the birth level of first or second daily tide is another form of lunar return.
The third, the most familiar and commonly-used "lunar return", however, is a long-entrenched astrological tool and is based on a slightly less physical way of looking at the Moon. The transit of the Moon through the houses of your natal chart is said to put particular emphasis on each and on each natal planet it touches. When it hits your Ascendant, for instance, it makes you physically more noticeable (since the Ascendant represents your physical presence), when it hits your Sun it boosts your ego energy, and so on with the rest of the houses and planets.and when it hits your Moon, you experience an emotional rebirth that presages the next 27½ days' events that will flavor your monthly emotional cycle.
The lunar return is a unique astrological beast, an ephemeral combination of a stand-alone horoscope, an electional (you can change it by choosing your location), and a set of transits. Ideally, it needs to be looked at in its own right, in relation to the natal chart, in relation to its own transits, and in relationship to transits to the natal chart. Its duration is too short to make its progressions meaningful, but its transits serve as if they were progressions. Unique, indeed.
A Reflective Take
Unlike the solar return, which encapsulates your inner position in relation to the world for the next year, the lunar return deals with the reflective, reactive, emotional part of your nature and thus relates more to the way you respond to events than to how you may generate them. Its best use is in unraveling and maximizing the opportunities which events present, rather than the building of a game plan for future structure-building. It is tactical in nature, not strategic.
The challenge in interpreting the lunar return is not to plumb its depths for a vast network of details - its life is too short to get bogged down in that - but rather to extract the relevant events and eliminate the blinding chaff, to see through the smoke and dust to the immediate terrain and its possibilities. It's kind of a monthly birthday, and the arrangement of planets it displays reflects the patterns of your coming month. Each month, this re-birth-day works out its potential for you and then is renewed once again 27 1/2 days later with a new set of surprises and opportunities.
The common lunar return represents a brief, but more inner, reflective take on the month's prospects.
Like your natal chart, or any other kind of horoscope, a lunar return is a chart of a beginning - in this case, the monthly beginning of the lunar cycle that started at your birth, which is the cycle of your response to your environment, including your emotions, feelings, interactivity, social well-being, and generally how creatively you react to the challenges and opportunities of life. A lunar return works on the principle that when you begin something - anything - everything that flows from it is bound up in the initial conditions under which it started. The beginning is your foundation, and you build and rest upon it until you are finished. A lunar return is the astrological depiction of the new beginning you make each month and what results from it until the next cycle begins.
Changing The Picture
The planetary positions in a lunar return are locked in at the moment the Moon returns to its natal place. Where these positions fall in relation to the local horizon, and thus the areas of your life in which they work, is entirely dependent upon where you are at the time. Thus, if you see that your lunar return is going to develop a picture you'd like to rearrange, that can be accomplished by placing yourself at the right spot on the globe to fine-tune the event by changing the houses into which the planets fall and their aspects to the angles. Moving about extensively every month is not easy for everyone, but being aware that it affects the lunar return is a plus if you normally travel on business and have some say as to where you can go.
Pieces Of The Puzzle
The common lunar return is a large piece of the astrological picture of what happens with your life every month, but it is not the only one. Lunar transits, new and full Moons, and other factors also weigh in, including the two less common forms of lunar return. Try to remember, however, that factors whose timing is as short as a monthly cycle are more like the minute or second hands on your life's clock face. Don't forget to stand back every now and then. Refresh yourself with a look at the big picture of where you are and where you're going, which are described by long-term transit and progression cycles. Then you can get back down to the day-to-day nitty-gritty which your lunar return offers so every moment is enjoyed and utilized to its best advantage.
Sun and Moon align over monolith, signalling a mystery?...or perhaps just that the viewer is perfectly placed for a return!
For more on the lunar return, there's my book on the subject, and a personal lunar return text report that looks at your own each month. The totally new Lunar Return report is now available for Mac from Time Cycles Research.