A Solar Return is a chart that is drawn at the exact moment that the sun returns to it's position on your natal chart. This occurs either on your birthday or a day before or after. This chart shows what your major focus for the year will be.
In my experience, Solar Return charts are read much more literally than natal charts which have a wider range of interpretation. Solar return charts often point to areas of an individual's life where events may (or may not) take place which would be catalysts for inner personal growth.
The Solar Return chart is only good for one year, but that's okay, because we calculate a new one for the next year. Good computer software (and some is better than others) can do this with the click of a mouse. Please note that accurate birth data for the natal chart, including time of birth, is an absolute must in order to do Solar Return charts. An inaccuracy in time of birth of half and hour renders Solar Return charts pretty much useless for a person's entire life.
The reason the annual solar return does not always fall on the exact birthday has to do with the inherent inaccuracies built into our current calendar system. The problem isn't the Sun, the problem is the relatively crude calendar we use in the Western world. Ever wonder why we have leap years? It's an attempt to correct the crudeness of the calculation of the Sun's position every four years.
Another twist to the Solar Return Chart is that it is calculated for the location a person is at the time of the Solar Return itself, not for the location of birth.
Does the person's location on his/her birthday make a difference? Sometimes, yes. The Ascendent and house structure could be very different. That can change as much as half the meaning of the chart.
Solar Return Location
A solar return chart compares the sky of "this year" to the day of our birth. It is a depiction of the Universe at the exact time the sun reaches the same position in the sky.
This may not be the birthday we normally celebrate. Leap years and such blur the calendar; it really isn't important. What is important is that the sun is retracing its steps in a new Universe. We can't go back; most of us probably don't want to go back. I have to believe that the Universe agrees. Forward is better.
A solar return, in theory at least, gives us a one shot snapshot of the upcoming year. That moment in time, caught in amber, tells us the energies that have been invited to the party for this season. I am on the fence so far a solar returns go. I don't have enough evidence to be in the "believer" category, yet I always manage to look at mine and see what the year may bring. It is always good to be prepared after all.
The question often arise as to the LOCATION chosen for the solar return. We know where we were born [well, hopefully], but is our birthplace the location for our solar return?
General option states that you can use your birth town or you CURRENT town as your solar return location. Some astrologers feel you can even take a far away vacation and change your future. The choice is yours.
Let's take a look at the options. First we have the birth town. If you are still within a few miles, there is little reason to change the location on your chart. If, however, you have moved across the country or around the world, then there certainly can be an augment for using your NEW town as the location for your solar return. After all, that is where you are living. Through choice or circumstance, you are no longer in the area of your natal chart. Depending on your new location, you houses can change in degrees and the planets can appear in a different house. This is a MAJOR change in some cases.
Steven Forrest in "Measuring the Night" says that the "birthplace chart is going to give you the deeper spiritual information" in relation to the soul's journey through many lifetimes. Still in a quandary? Do both charts, make notes and see which comes closest to the reality of the year.
What about taking a vacation? Exotic or visiting your parents, it doesn't matter; only distance from your birthplace matters.
Some astrologers believe that you can leave your home for the day of your solar return and change the focus of the next year. Remember, the focus could - in your current town, be in your second house of resources and skills. Maybe you would PREFER that focus to be in your third house of home and family. In theory at least, you could choose some destinations, compute matching charts and find a location that would match your desired outcome - chart wise.
This may seem like a stretch. I originally tended to agree, but let's look a bit closer. If we agree that "intent" is a large portion of our destiny, then the intent to make a change - and to be willing to drive, fly or boat to a distant location to accomplish this - says something.