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Astrology Guide: Zodiac Signs & Reading Your Chart

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Table of Contents

Astrology is a language. It speaks to us through the use of symbolic components, each representing a unique set of meanings. These components are the zodiac signs, the planets, the houses, and the aspects. The zodiac signs are the quintessential foundation energies, the planets are the different parts of self, the houses represent where things in life happen, and the aspects are the conditions in which events unfold. Each of these symbols of the chart builds on top of one another until a complete picture begins to emerge. 

Learning the meaning of these building blocks is how the system of astrology works. This guide gives you a look into the meaning behind the symbolic language of the Universe. 

Table of Contents:

  1. The Origins of Astrology
  2. What is a Birth Chart?
  3. What is a Horoscope?
  4. The Five Steps to Understanding Astrology
    1. 12 Zodiac Signs
    2. The Planets
    3. The Houses
    4. Aspects
    5. How to Put it all Together

The Origins of Astrology 

Since the beginning of time, human beings have been fascinated by what was happening in the night sky. Therefore, celestial events such as Blood Moons and Solar Eclipses still grab our attention today as we seek to decipher the meaning behind the cosmos. 

History of Astrology

In the past Astrology was synonymous with what we know of as Astronomy. Thus Astrologers were tasked with both mathematically figuring out how to track the movement of the planets and providing astrological interpretations for these events. Archeological evidence helps us decode the importance ancient cultures placed on astrology, often viewing the planets as interchangeable with their gods and goddesses.  

Records dating back to around 2500 BCE show the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia tracking the cycles of the Moon, Solar Eclipses, and more. They called these signs ‘omens’ and closely watched what was happening in the night sky to see how the events may affect their daily lives. (For instance, eclipses were especially thought of as foreboding times). But regardless of rank, individuals would engage in ritual offerings to request the gods’ favor during these cycles of the Sun and Moon

Types of Astrology

Various cultures from around the world have refined their methods over the centuries giving us the rich tapestry of astrological traditions we know today; from India there is Vedic and Jyotish, we have Chinese Astrology, and Mayan astrology to name a few. In this guide we are going to be focusing on Western Astrological techniques. In short, this astrological tradition traces its roots back to the Hellenistic period of ancient Greece and Rome, and to Ancient Babylon before that. 

Subsequently, the discovery of Neptune and Uranus in the late 1700s and Pluto in the 1930s gave Astrologers more to play with. In addition, Western Astrology experienced a revival in the late 1960s and 1970s thanks to the popularization of phrases such as the “Age of Aquarius” and an increase in demand for Sun sign horoscopes

As Western Astrology has developed we have seen many branches and synthesized offshoots in recent years. Most modern astrology you come across today is a blending of traditions from a contemporary lens. Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto are very important in modern astrology as is the use of horoscopes, psychology, and spiritual elements. 

What is a Birth Chart?

In astrology, a birth chart is a snapshot of the sky at a moment in time. In other words when you were born, each planet was divided among the 12 zodiac signs along with a system of 12 houses laid overtop. This planetary configuration creates your birth chart which is like your cosmic fingerprint or blue print as it is unique to your precise moment of birth

Even if you share a birth time thus a birth chart with someone else, the energy will be expressed differently due to your individual human nature and the unpredictability inherent in human existence. 

Birth chart configurations vary widely as the planets all move around the Sun at different rates. Sometimes people are born with 5 or more planets clumped together in one zodiac sign! Or a birth chart may have all the planets spread out among the chart. The symbolic energy of the planets helps us understand how an individual may react, respond, and rise to the events of their unique life. 

For generating an accurate birth chart (or natal chart) you will need to know your location, exact date, and time of birth. This information places you at the center of the chart and recognizes your unique human energy imprint. 

What is a Horoscope?

Modern horoscopes are a remnant from the past when royalty used to consult Astrologers for making important decisions such as going into battle or enacting a new law.

Above all, a horoscope is an interpretation of what the planets’ energy is symbolizing at a particular moment in time. They can be calculated for the hour, day, week, month, and even the year. Astrologers review where all of the planets are located within the 12 signs of the zodiac. The pattern that emerges demonstrates a particular and constantly shifting vibration. 

For example, the planet Mars takes 2 years to go through all 12 zodiac signs, spending 2 months in each sign. When Mars is in Aries, the energy will be interpreted as more fiery and impulsive. Mars in Taurus will be interpreted as more stabilizing and grounded. 

In Transit

Due to the fact that planets are constantly moving, or in transit as it is called, horoscopes are an analysis of specific moments in time. As the planets rotate around they meet up with each other and shift the energy pattern of the astrological chart.

Up for Interpretation

Although the components in astrology have many set characteristics associated with them, it is important to remember that a human element exists in almost all astrological interpretation. Therefore, when we add in our personal perceptions and understanding of ourselves, each planet, or zodiac sign we start to create a unique narrative that helps anchor the horoscope to this particular time and space. 

How to Spot a Good Horoscope

The best horoscopes will be personalized to your specific birth chart. Nonetheless most horoscopes are written to cover a wide audience. Look for horoscopes that have more details or are specifically focused on a particular area of life, for example, love, career, or finances, for the most accurate picture.

5 Steps to Understanding Astrology 

Let’s now focus on building up your astrological knowledge and awareness. Below you will find 5 steps to understanding astrology.

Step 1: Know the 12 Zodiac Signs

We will start with the 12 zodiac signs. These archetypal energies are the basic building blocks in astrology. The zodiac is a 360 degree imaginary band in the night sky from our perspective here on Earth. It is composed of 12 individual sections which are named after the constellations. 

Circle of Animals

The word zodiac comes from the Greek word for “circle of animals.” In Western Astrology, the zodiac signs have remained unchanged since the time of the Ancient Greeks. It is important to note that the zodiac signs are sections of the sky and may or may not contain the original constellation they were named for. 

The Ancient Greeks divided the zodiacal band into 12 equal sections made up of 30 degrees each for casting and creating astrological charts. This system, along with the original names of the zodiac signs, is still in use today! Many of the origin stories for each sign trace back to the mythologies of the Mediteranean which mirror issues and attributes attributed to human life. 

All of the signs have a ruling planet, key-phrase, symbol, and more. Each zodiac sign is assigned an element and a modality (which represents the quality of the sign).

The Elements

The Fire Signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) are passionate, energized, and action-oriented. 

The Earth Signs (Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo) are grounded, practical, and sensual. 

The Air Signs (Libra, Aquarius, Gemini) are cerebral, communicative, and social.

The Water Signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces) are emotional, feelings oriented, and protective. 

The Modalities

The Cardinal Signs (Capricorn, Cancer, Libra, Aries) are initiating, bold, and self-starters. 

The Fixed Signs (Taurus, Scorpio, Aquarius, Leo)  are tenacious, persistent, and resolute.

The Mutable Signs (Virgo, Pisces, Gemini, Saggitarius) are changeable, flexible, and adaptable. 

Discover in the chart below a complete list of the zodiac correspondences. See if you can start to spot any emerging patterns in the layers of meaning and categorization. 

Chart of Astrological Correspondences

Aries ♈︎

Keywords associated with Aries are identity, impulsivity, courage, bravery, and action. Planets in this part of the zodiac tend to express themselves with a fiery and temperamental energy. 

Taurus ♉︎

The keywords associated with Taurus are sensuality, comfort, stability, romance, and artistry. Planets in this section of the zodiac tend to express themselves with a steady and calm energy. 

Gemini ♊︎

The keywords for Gemini are communication, learning, curiosity, and movement. Planets in Gemini tend to be more cerebral and spontaneous. 

Cancer ♋︎

Cancer’s keywords are emotions, sensing, feelings, security, and caring. Planets in Cancer tend to express themselves as a protective and family oriented energy. 

Leo ♌︎

The keywords associated with Leo are creativity, regality, leadership, performance, and appreciation. Planets in Leo express themselves with an energy of valor and self-assuredness. 

Virgo ♍︎

The keywords for Virgo are analysis, devotion, health, wellness, healing, and perception. Planets in this sign tend to be perfection and service oriented. 

Libra ♎︎

Keywords for Libra are collaboration, refinement, arts, socialization, and relationship. Planets in Libra express themselves with a balancing and mirroring effect. 

Scorpio ♏︎

Keywords for Scorpio are investigation, inquiry, understanding, intensity, and fearlessness. Planets in Scorpio tend to express themselves with depth and passion. 

Sagittarius ♐︎

The keywords for Sagittarius are philosophy, teaching, expansion, perception, and justice. Planets in Sagittarius tend to express themselves with an energy of excess and sense of discovery. 

Capricorn ♑︎

The keywords for Capricorn are authority, hard work, earthiness, organization, realism, and perseverance. Planets in Capricorn tend to express themselves with honesty and integrity. 

Aquarius ♒︎

The keywords for Aquarius are innovation, future trends, technology, and the new-age. Planets in Aquarius are exacting and keenly focused. 

Pisces ♓︎

Pisces’ keywords are merging, transcendental, spiritual, empathy, and boundlessness. Planets in Pisces express themselves with an energy of wonder and intuition. 

Step 2: Know The Planets 

The planets are symbolic of the different aspects of the self. They are the who of the chart. When placed in a particular zodiac sign the quality of that energy expression becomes dynamic and multilayered. 

Sun  ☉ 

The Sun is the center of self, identity, and personality. It is the light you bring into the world. 

Moon 

The Moon represents your emotional and inner life experiences and reactions. 

Mercury

Mercury is symbolic of our learning, communication, and information processing styles. 

Venus

Venus is symbolic of what and who we are attracted to in life along with finances, our likes, dislikes, and artistic abilities. 

Mars

Mars is symbolic of our drive, passion, sexuality, and energy output. 

Jupiter

Jupiter is symbolic of our luck, finances + wealth, and gifts + talents. 

Saturn

Saturn is symbolic of our boundaries, timing, life road-blocks, parental figures, lessons, and mastery. 

Neptune

Neptune represents our dreams, beliefs, creative abilities, fantasy, and imagination. 

Uranus

Uranus is symbolic of future-trends, our genius, intelligence, deep memories, and unpredictability. 

Pluto

Pluto represents evolution, major life transformations, and the depth of life experiences. 

Step 3: Know the Houses 

The houses in astrology are where the action is. Symbolically laid over the rest of the chart these 12 sections give us additional layers of meaning. They represent the individual “rooms” in the psyche or the different areas of life. 

Each planet will fall within one of the 12 houses. A particular zodiac sign and corresponding plant rules each of the houses. For example, if you have Venus in the 4th house, it is under the rulership of Cancer and the Moon. Think of it this way; the Moon is like the “boss” of the 4th house. Thus, Venus has to answer to the boss of that house in order to be fully expressed. This is another layer of interpretation to keep in mind when analyzing a chart! 

Calculating The Houses

Overtime, Astrologers developed many mathematical configurations. In other words, different house systems exist. Most importantly, there are always 12 houses. However, the sizes of the houses can vary within the 360 degree circle. Since houses are an imaginary construct, we can play around with this component of astrology. 

A little confusing, but think of it this way. Depending on the mathematical formula used, one house may cover 60 degrees of the circle while another one only 20 degrees. Regardless, they all add up to 360 degrees. 

Whole Sign System

There are many house system options including Placidus, Porphyry, and Equal sign to name a few of the most used ones. The issue is, depending on your location on the planet at the time of your birth, the houses can be skewed very dramatically. Thus it is recommended to use a house system such as “Whole Sign.”

The Whole Sign system evenly divides the houses into 30 degrees each laid overtop of each sign in the chart. This system is a traditional method developed during the Hellenistic era of the Greeks. It is straight-forward and makes interpretations clearer to formulate.

What if I have no planets in a house? 

Sometimes you will have no planets in a house. It is a very common occurrence and does not mean it is a “dead” house or you are unable to express the energy of that sign! Nevertheless you have all 12 houses in your chart, regardless of how full they are of planets. 

To clarify, an empty house simply means the themes of that house may not be as important to you or are areas of life that contain more ease to begin with. It is still an active energy and will be constantly activated by the continual movement of the planets in transit. 

The 12 Houses

1st — House of Self + Rising Sign – Ruled by Aries

The 1st House is the house of self and identity. It is the place we discover who we are and what parts we play out in the world. It is the location of the Rising Sign, which is the zodiac sign that was on the horizon at the time of birth and represents the physical body you are born into. 

2nd — House of Values – Ruled by Taurus 

The 2nd House is symbolic of your values, finances, and relationship to self-love. 

3rd — House of Communication – Ruled by Gemini 

The 3rd House is the areas of life related to your local community, friendship circles, siblings, and early education experiences. 

4th — House of Home + Family  – Ruled by Cancer 

The 4th House is symbolic of your most private self, your home life, early childhood, parents, and family. 

5th — House of Creativity – Ruled by Leo 

The 5th House is where you go to make things! You create here, pro-create, meet new people, have sex, and explore your unique gifts + talents. 

6th — House of Daily Work – Ruled by Virgo 

The 6th House is representative of your day to day activities, schedules, pets, work environments, co-workers, and routines. 

7th — House of Partnerships – Ruled by Libra 

The 7th House is symbolic of partnerships and collaboration; business partners, romantic relationships, and other social spheres. 

8th — House of Shared Resources – Ruled by Scorpio 

The 8th House is associated with sex, death, and shared resources. A strange mix but read beneath the surface. It’s meaning is about sharing, growth and renewal. 

9th — House of Higher Learning – Ruled by Sagittarius 

The 9th House is symbolic of institutions of higher learner, spirituality, traveling abroad, teachers, authority, governments, and expanding perspectives. 

10th — House of Career + MidHeaven – Ruled by Capricorn 

The 10th House contains the MidHeaven, the point in the sky where the Sun was highest on the day you were born. This area is symbolic of your role in the world, your legacy, and speaks to your life purpose. In addition, the 10th House is also related to parents and authority. 

11th — House of Hopes + Aspirations – Ruled by Aquarius 

The 11th House has an energy of idealism. This house is related to social causes, group collaboration, your hopes, dreams, and wishes. 

12th — House of the Unknown  – Ruled by Pisces 

The 12th House is areas of life that contain secrets and hidden mysteries. We have spiritual experiences here. Moreover it is also associated with hospitals, prisons, and other places of confinement either physical or metaphorical. 

Step 4: Know the Aspects

Finally the last layer to add to a chart reading is the aspects, the mathematical relationships between planets and signs. These links between planets are the place where everything starts to come together. Count the number of signs between planets to know what the relationship is between them! Use the chart below as a guide for the meanings. 

An example of an aspect interpretation:

Conjunction

Say you have the Moon in Gemini. Remember that the moon represents your emotional and inner life experiences and reactions. Furthermore, let’s pretend that your Jupiter is also in the sign of Gemini. As a refresher, Jupiter is symbolic of our luck, finances + wealth, and gifts + talents. That would mean that your Moon and Jupiter are right next to each other. This is called a conjunction. Knowing this information gives you more clues for the chart interpretation. 

In other words, the expression of the planets go through an alchemical change of sorts when combined with the energy of other planets. A conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter in Gemini will bring together the emotional condition of the Moon with the expansive energy of Jupiter. In conclusion, put all of this in Gemini and these planets team up to bring a curious and boisterous nature to the overall personal expression. 

As we build up the various layers of the chart, let’s now look at the house in which we find the Moon and Jupiter.  Say these planets are in the 9th house – of Higher Learning. This indicates that traveling, high education, or spirituality inspires you with an underlying sense of emotional excitement (the Moon conjunct Jupiter) in these areas of life. 

Square

In addition say at the same time you were then born with Mars in Virgo. If you count the number of signs between Mars and the Moon in Gemini you will end up with 4 signs apart, the square aspect. This aspect is dynamic and motivates growth experiences. 

Therefore the Martian energy from Virgo filtering to the Moon and Jupiter in Gemini will add a layer of impulsivity and the possibility of restlessness when it comes to exploring topics such as expanding consciousness or a desire to travel the world. 

Review the chart below to expand your knowledge of what the different aspect relationships entail. 

AspectHow Many Signs ApartMeaning 
Conjunction1 Sign Apart – 0 DegreesMerging, Collaboration, Action
Sextile2 Signs Apart – 30 DegreesEase, Enhancing, Potential
Trine3 Signs Apart – 60 DegreesUnderstanding, Harmonizing,
Natural Gifts/Talents
Square4 Signs Apart – 90 DegreesDynamic, Challenging, Growth
Opposition  5 Signs Apart – 180 DegreesBalancing, Awareness, Polarization

Step 5: How to Synthesize Your First Chart–The Big Three!

Thanks to technology we no longer have to calculate charts by hand! There are many free resources online where you can get a copy of your natal chart. Meanwhile if you can’t get your own chart at the moment then you can look up the chart of a famous person for practicing chart interpretation. 

We are going to learn how to find the “Big Three” in the chart to put everything we have covered together. The “Big Three” are your Rising (or Ascendent) sign, Sun sign, and Moon sign. This is your magical personality triad and a great place to start with for a chart interpretation. 

As Above, So Below

Astrology is often discussed in terms of the Greek axiom, “As Above, So Below.” In these terms, we are born as a symbol of what is happening “above.” In other words what is happening outside of ourselves in the solar system is mirrored within us. Thus the brighter a planet is in the sky and the closer it is to Earth, the more personal its nature. 

When looking at our Big Three, it becomes our magical personality triad for a few reasons. One, it brings together the Earth, Moon, and Sun, which are three of the most influential objects to the sustaining of life. Two, all three are very personalized. For example, the Rising Sign changes every 2 hours. Thus it is really unique to the individual chart. Three, it represents the different parts of self that makes us human. 

Find the Big Three on Your Chart

  1. The Rising Sign – The Body and Essence of Life
  2. The Sun – Identity and Spirit
  3. The Moon – Inner Life and Emotional Self

After you have your list of Rising, Sun, and Moon signs, use the descriptions in this guide to put together your astrological profile. Furthermore, add in details such as which elements and modalities are most dominant for you or what planets rule your signs. 

A picture will start to unfold as you intuitively write your astrological story. The magic is in tying it all together!

Contributor | Emma Lynn Wilson

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