Where to begin?
If you are like I was, the first time I went to astro.com and printed my free birth chart it all looked like a confusing mass of symbols and lines splattered over the page with twelve pie slices and circular wheel. I printed out the computer-generated interpretive reading, which gave me all of these wordy descriptions, but it all seemed somewhat generic, vague and even contradictory, and it really did not make a lot of sense to me. In this post, I am going to lay out my best suggestions for how to get started understanding your own birth chart and making your own interpretations about it using the free online tools available. Below is an example of a natal chart.
First of all, if you did not already know this, you need three pieces of information: your birthdate, the EXACT time of your birth, and the location. The exact time can often be found on a birth certificate or other official birth record, and sometimes it is commonly recorded in a baby book or baby scrapbook if your family kept one of those. Then, go to one of the free sites like astro.com and print out the actual birth chart.
LEARN THE ALPHABEt
Just like when we learn to read, we have to start with the alphabet. To help you translate, print out a handy “legend” for decoding the planetary symbols and the zodiac glyphs. Being able to identify the symbols easily is akin to knowing your ABC’s. Without it, reading a chart can be painfully slow and confusing. In case you don’t have one, here is a basic PDF from http://www.physics.ncsu.edu. I also highly recommend drawing out a reference chart by hand which helps to cement them into your memory.
Build keyword Sentences
In my first foundations 101 class we were given many “keywords” sheets. There are keywords for the planets, the signs, and the twelve houses. The next step towards translating the meaning of a particular planet in a sign is to thread the keywords through each of these. PLANET comes first. What planet is the actor? SIGN comes second. What sign is the costume or role the actor is playing? and Third, what house or what area of life will the actor be active in? By threading together the keywords for (1) planet, (2) sign, and (3) house you construct some basic meanings and can put together some initial interpretations. But at first, don’t be surprised if these sound hopelessly vague.
For example, what does it mean to have “Jupiter in Aries in the 3rd house?” Jupiter is the planet of “expansion and growth,” Aries is the sign of “impulse, instinct, survival, and pioneering leadership.” Third house is the house of communication, siblings, habitual learning and short distance travel. One might then interpret Jupiter in Aries in the 3rd house as a strong propensity to communicate forcefully or impulsively, or a desire to grow through communication and travel that is more impulsive or pioneering, or a desire to grow through relationships with the siblings where some travel and some risk is involved for example. This is what I mean by threading through the keywords from the planet-to its sign-to its house to hone in on a particular meaning.
For a free pdf of astrological keywords for the 12 signs, click the button to download the pdf below.
Learn the Planetary Archetypes
Each of the planets was in a specific location in the sky at the time of a birth. So a “natal chart” can be drawn up for any time and location. We can draw a chart for the start of a business, or any other event. Birth charts are special however because in Astrology we associate them with the person’s native functioning, native expression, or native psychology. In order to understand a birth chart, you must become familiar with the archetype of each planet.
In the classical sense, ancient astrologers studied the Sun and Moon as the most primary celestial influences on earth. They also studied the bright fixed stars, especially the royal stars in the center of Taurus, Scorpio, Leo, and Aquarius, as well as as the visible planets, mostly, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, and to a lesser degree Mercury. Outer planets were not discovered until much later in human history. When learning Astrology, begin with an understanding these classical planets. Mercury and Venus influence and color the personality, intellect, values and relationships. Jupiter and Saturn relate to and influence the person’s career, learning, and impact to broader society.
Each planet can be a lengthy study unto itself. One must learn the language of the ZODIAC signs as well as the archetypes of the planets to then place a PLANET in a SIGN and then place in a house, where it finds expression in the life. Here is where the water gets muddy, even for seasoned astrologers, because there are many ways to interpret a planet in a specific sign, and in a given house, not to mention adding angular aspects to other points in the chart and many other nuances that need to be taken into account.
KNOW YOUR AXIS of TRUTH, or the angles of the chart
Typical western birth chart display a circular wheel with a main axis. This axis is made of four angles that are essential to understanding the essence of a chart. For this explanation, I am going to use directional words top, bottom, left and right just to be clear.
At the left side of the chart is the ASCENDANT, abbreviated as ASC. The ASC is the location of the first house. At the bottom is the Nadir of the chart, or sometimes called the IMUM COELI abbreviated the IC. The nadir is the location of the 4th house. At the right is the DESCENDANT, abbreviated as DC. The DC is the location of the seventh house. And, lastly, at the top is the MC, or Medium Coeli, sometimes called the Midheaven and this is the location of the tenth house. Use the descriptions in the graphic below to help you identify the meaning of that angle of the chart. With this, you would take note of what sign appears on each angle. You would thread the keywords of that sign through the filter of the keywords for that angle.
For many people, their first exposure to astrology is understanding that we have sun signs. But most would agree that it seems a little ridiculous to think of the entire population of billions of people on earth all neatly fitting into only 12 descriptions! Of course astrology is not at all that simple. One easy next step to diversify and individuate further from the simple sun sign astrology is to understand the combination of sun sign-moon sign-ascendant sign. This gives a more complex combination of 12 x 12 x 12 types, or 1,728 combinations or types of expressions of the signs of sun-moon-asc. This is still not as complete of a picture as the entire natal chart, but it goes quite a bit further than simply 12 sun signs or even 144 with only the sun-moon profile. Therefore, take a look at the moon sign, and the sign of the ASC. The keywords below can help you to pair up the sun-moon-asc keywords. If the signs don’t seem to match your personality well, consider the sign back which would be the sidereal placement as a possible better fit, or a slight combo of those two if you might be on the cusp of the tropical date cut off.
LONGER CYCLES OF LIFE
There is a basic cosmic timeline of human development that provides a predictable sequence of meaningful transits. Understanding Jupiter and Saturn cycles will help you get a better picture of forecasting the longer range transits everyone can expect at predictable ages. This helps us to know what is coming on the horizon in one year, two years, five years, ten years, and so on. This can be very helpful in terms of setting goals, navigating life and expecting the coming changes.
Still lost? Got even more questions? Ask in the comments section, or visit my learn more page, or best of all sign up for a reading where I can personally orient you to your chart and answer your questions.