A beginner’s guide to interpreting your astrological chart
Tamia Thompson // Contributor
The first zodiacs were originally means of time measurement and stellar interpretation. Early Babylonian, Hindu, and Chinese understandings of the celestial sphere are the main sources that produced the first zodiacs. These cultures were among the first to look at the sky and try to establish why some celestial bodies moved, why others didn’t, and how they were all connected. It was Grecian scientists that ushered in what we know presently to be Western astrology. Ptolemy, a great astrologer and astronomer, was pivotal in drawing the line between astrology and astronomy while acknowledging the usefulness of both.
Your natal chart is a table of planetary coordinates; together, these coordinates are a mapping of the sky the moment you were born. Google “natal chart report” to find websites that calculate your natal chart for you using your place, date, and time of birth. Interested in introspecting?
First, know that your birth chart has potential for numerous, meaningful connections between your planets’ signs and the signs of others. This explains why sometimes you really get along with one particular sign when any typical horoscope (that only uses your sun sign without taking into account the rest of your natal chart) would say you’d bump heads.
This is a guide— a quick, easy reference for starting to understand your natal chart. You can also learn more about your natal chart online or, if you’re feeling risky, an astrologer can do the reading for you. The following is a simple rundown of the main terms to know:
Sister Signs & Elements
Every sign has a sister sign or an opposition to it that is meant to grow closely like two sides of one coin: similar in essence, but with greatly differing lessons to learn. They are:
Aries / Libra
Taurus / Scorpio
Gemini / Sagittarius
Cancer / Capricorn
Leo / Aquarius
Virgo / Pisces
Elements are represented by the main facets of our planet’s natural composition.
The elements are earth, air, water, and fire. Each element holds three signs that are considered to be trine with each other. Each sign of the zodiac falls into one of these categories:
Earth — the element of stability, materiality, and practicality: Taurus / Virgo / Capricorn
Air — the element of flexibility, mentality, and analysis: Gemini / Libra / Aquarius
Water — the element of emotion, psychicism, intimacy, and fluidity: Cancer / Scorpio / Pisces
Fire — the element of spontaneity, physical energy, and boldness: Aries / Leo / Sagittarius
Modalities, Aspects, & Degrees
Modalities are the orientation or alignment each sign embraces based on time of year, and speak to how each of the signs are in action and agency. Each sign fits into a category that contains one of each element:
Cardinal: this modality embraces initiation, beginning, and formation: Aries / Cancer / Libra / Capricorn
Fixed: this modality embraces stillness, solidity, and sustenance: Taurus / Leo / Scorpio / Aquarius
Mutable: this modality embraces completion, ending, and resolution: Gemini / Virgo / Sagittarius / Pisces
Aspects are connections formed between the signs and the planets; they can be trine, sextile, conjunct, or opposed. Aspects can be between people as well as notions of time; you can find connections between yourself and others, but also between people and the time of year.
The numbers, or degrees, that fall in the column beside the signs on your natal chart are indicative of where exactly on the zodiac that sign falls. Your experiences with your signs may differ based on the position your sign takes. Looking further into the degrees of your individual signs can reveal more about your personal cycles and how your personal cycles interact with the time of year.
Planets & Signs
All of the signs belong to a planet, their ruling planet. Think of a sign’s ruling planet as its home. The ruling planet dictates how the sign’s personal traits manifest, and the movement of the ruling planet around our solar system affects the sign’s experiences on Earth.
Sun — Also traditionally recognized as your star sign. This is the most general sense of self that can be taken away from your natal chart. Consider the sun to be a representation of who you are and are known to be in a plain sense. The sun rules Leo.
Moon — The moon represents your emotions, the way you are when you are alone, the way you feel about yourself, and your personal experience with feeling. It is often the case that people feel more like their moon sign than their sun sign. The moon rules Cancer.
Mercury — Mercury is the planet of communication, transportation, analysis, and information. Look to interpretations of your mercury sign to find out how you decipher things around you and communicate your thoughts. Mercury rules Gemini and Virgo.
Venus — Venus is the planet of love, femininity, art, and intimate expression. Knowledge of this part of your chart would tell you about how you are when you embrace love, creativity, beauty, and sensuality. Venus rules Libra and Taurus.
Mars — Mars is the planet of work ethic, physicality, energy, sex, and masculinity. This part of your chart can give further detail on how you get work done, how you express yourself physically, and how you assert competition. Mars rules Aries and more traditionally, Scorpio.
Jupiter — Jupiter is the planet of luck, opportunity, hope, and achievement. It is the planet you look to for more understanding on how you can be your best self to get the most out of your luck or chances. It speaks to your growth and life improvement. Jupiter rules Sagittarius.
Saturn — Saturn is the planet of responsibility, limits, rules, and authority. Saturn not only shows more about our responses to personal regulation, but as well how we face (or don’t face) our fears and being held back. Saturn rules Capricorn.
Uranus — Uranus is the planet of originality, invention, diversity, and rebelliousness. This planet’s power can be found in acts of great change and resistance. Uranus is a great force centred around ingenuity and progress. Uranus rules Aquarius.
Neptune — Neptune is the planet of dreams, spirituality, intuition, and creation. Neptune speaks of your psyche and the ways you express personal and spiritual freedom. Neptune rules Pisces.
Pluto — Pluto is the planet of transformation, revolution, death, and rebirth. All that ends and begins for us in our lives falls under the scope of Pluto’s reign. This planet also gives further detail as to your inner power, your life’s deeper meanings, and even your dark side. Pluto is the modern ruler of Scorpio.
Ascendant — Your ascendant, or your rising sign, is determined using your time of birth. It is the most surface-level part of your natal chart. Your ascendant sign gives you information on how you are in terms of first impressions, how people who don’t know you see you, and how your appearance may come across to others.
Houses, or domiciles, are the second half of a full natal chart. Houses give you information on your life to come and the patterns you may experience throughout your life. This part of the natal chart, along with your ascendant, requires your time of birth in order to be accurate. Each house is represented by a sign and a planet. You can learn more about how you will navigate certain areas of your life based on what signs fall in each of your houses. This portion of your chart can be fascinating, as it provides you with an even greater possibility of finding connections within your birth chart, connections between the signs you possess in your houses and the signs that rule those houses, and connections between your natal chart and the charts of others.
House I— Represented by Aries/Mars. This house will teach you more about your first impressions, beginnings, sense of self, identity, and physical appearances. This house possesses your ascendant sign.
House II— Represented by Taurus/Venus. This house will teach you about how you deal with money, possessions, values, your sense of self-worth, and personal security.
House III— Represented by Gemini/Mercury. This house will teach you about your thoughts, your use of language, your life’s early interactions, and your relationships with siblings/immediate peers.
House IV—Represented by Cancer/The Moon. This house will teach you about your familial relationships (particularly maternal ones), your home life, and your emotional core.
House V—Represented by Leo/The Sun. This house will teach you about your feelings toward and personal sense of creativity, romance, fun, publicity, dramatism, and adventure.
House VI — Represented by Virgo/Mercury. This house will teach you about your work ethic, overall health, ways of contribution, acts of service, and sense of organization.
House VII — Represented by Libra/Venus. This house will teach you about your long-term relationships, marriage, partnerships, companionship, and your alter-ego/other ways of being. This house possesses your descendant sign, dealing with others as opposed to your ascendant, which deals with the self.
House VIII — Represented by Scorpio/Mars. This house will teach you about how you respond to and understand the themes in your life revolving around revelation, transformation, change, sexuality, growth, and death.
House IX — Represented by Sagittarius/Jupiter. This house will teach you about how travelling, education, adventure, other cultures, and personal belief may come into play throughout your life.
House X — Represented by Capricorn/Saturn. This house will teach you about your career, status, feelings within society at large, feelings about authority, and your relationships with paternal figures. This house possesses your Midheaven. Your Midheaven will help you explore your purpose and path.
House XI — Represented by Aquarius/Uranus. This house will teach you about your aspirations, long-term goals, feelings about humanity, personal freedom, and friendships.
House XII — Represented by Pisces/Neptune. This house will teach you about how you embrace spirituality, dreams, endings, karma, and the parts of yourself that you hold back.