Primary Directions

Martin Gansten


Students of traditional astrology have often been deterred by overly mathematical presentations from approaching the important subject of directions. This comprehensive study explains the principles of primary directions in an accessible form, illustrating them by practical examples. It also draws on many original source texts to outline the historical origins and development of the technique, and shows how it has been reinterpreted and occasionally misunderstood. A full glossary and appendices with software reviews as well as formulae for manual calculations complement the text. The craft of the Old Masters can still be learnt.


Weight 300 g

Dr Martin Gansten has studied various forms of traditional astrology for more than twenty-five years. He is also a historian of religion specializing in astrological and divinatory traditions, and received his doctorate from Lund University, Sweden, where he has taught since 1998 and is now Reader (docent). In addition to his writings on Indian, Greek, Perso-Arabic and European astrology, including the highly acclaimed Primary Directions: Astrology’s Old Master Technique (2009), Martin Gansten has translated several Sanskrit religious classics into Swedish. His current research interests centre on the Indian reception of Perso-Arabic astrological traditions (Tājika).

Martin’s book is the first clear non-technical exposition of Placidean and other primary directing techniques ever written, and that word is ‘ever’. Up till now no technique in astrology has ever been the subject of such obfuscation.

Robert Hand

Your book on primary directions is one of the best astrology books I’ve read in years! … really the best book ever written on primary directions.

Dr Benjamin Dykes

What has been needed for a long time is a no-nonsense text, which can offer a well informed outline of the topic as a whole, and then work towards shading in the details in a simple to understand style. Martin Gansten has perfectly fulfilled the task. Assuming no prior knowledge, his book begins with an overview and a history of the subject. It then breaks the subject apart – so that the various elements and terms are explained – before putting it all back together again so that the student can apply the technique in practice.

Deborah Houlding

Primary Directions is an excellent introduction to what Martin rightly pinpoints as a key natal timing technique. The explanations of the complex mathematical and astronomical basis of the primary directions are clear and lucid. Martin has managed to walk the fine line between oversimplification and overloading the reader with technical details. I would definitely recommend Primary Directions anyone interested in traditional natal astrology and natal timing.

Christopher Warnock

This is one of the finest astrological texts I’ve encountered – the writing is clear, precise and accessible without denying the complexity of the subject matter; and I’m understanding the mechanics of primary direction to a degree that I wouldn’t have thought possible, given my limited mathematical background. There is more carefully thought-through and gracefully-presented information within these pages than in many works of three times the length. You provide your reader with soil and seed for a rich harvest, indeed. Thank you very much for your work. – Bonnie Wells

I do believe your work will become an astrological classic. It fills a massive gap for the whole astrological community [and] has been sorely needed. For the non-mathematically minded amongst us like myself it makes the subject far more approachable and dispels many myths. I am sure your book will remain the definitive book on the subject for decades to come. – Mark Cullen

“I managed to make a first reading of the three chapters of the book and the sensation was of someone entering a cluttered and disordered room and patiently putting everything in place.” Alexandra Haschi (astrology student)


Primary directions is an ancient technique used by Ptolemy, Masha’allah, and William Lilly among others. For years, it was referred to but rarely used because it required mathematical skill at a level that was intimidating for many astrologers and students. Additionally, there was very little existing literature that explained the use of directions in a clear and readable way. That hasn’t changed in recent times until the arrival of this book, even though software is now available for their calculation. The result is that they’ve fallen into disuse. Now, with the revival of classical astrological techniques, Gansten has set out to remedy this.

He does a very good job. He starts out by defining primary directions and explaining the basics, then moves on to offer a brief history of the technique. Then it’s on to directing planets to angles and intermediate house cusps and Gansten notes that misunderstandings of  as to how house systems operate has led to some errors in existing software programs. He tends to favor “real-time” Alcabitius house cusps, which he explains. Then it’s on to discussing zodiacal aspects with and without latitude and major and minor directions. Profections, revolutions (solar returns) secondary directions (progressions), tertiaries, transits, ingresses, and diurnals are also discussed. At the end of each chapter you’ll find a summary of key points along with a listing of references and supplementary information.

A useful appendix contains reviews of software offering primary directions, including Solar Fire, Janus, and several freeware options. Gansten doesn’t mince words in his reviews, though several of the programs appear to pass muster. There is also an appendix including those terrible mathematical formulae should you be brave enough to try to hand-calculate these yourself. A bibliography, a thorough glossary, and a good index round out the book. Charts showing salient points under discussion, including the chart of River Phoenix, are included.

f you’re a serious astrologer, this is a book worth looking at.

— reviewed by Donna Van Toen