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The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
Table of Contents:
What Is Astrology?
Astrology is the study of the “stars” (planets) and their relationships to each other and to us. That’s a very simplified answer! A longer answer involves a bit of history.
Thousands of years ago, long before the invention of telescopes, humans would look up into the night sky and observe millions of beautiful stars wondering where they came from and what they were.
Some observed that certain stars appeared brighter and seemed to move independently of others across the sky. These “stars” came to be recognized as five planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
They also observed the Moon’s movement. Of course, the Moon is not a planet but rather a satellite orbiting the Earth. The Sun was recognized as a star, too. In fact, for years it was thought that the Sun (like the Moon and the other five planets) revolved around the Earth. This was commonly known as a “geocentric” view of the world (“geo” meaning Earth). Today, we know that Earth is a star-planet much like the others and revolves around the Sun (referred to as a “heliocentric” view).
People associated archetypes and mythology with the planets and told stories to give meaning to their appearance in the sky. There are documented records from the ruins of many civilizations, including Babylon, Greece, and China. The five planets, Sun, and Moon are also known as the “classics” and the “personal planets” in planetary study within astrology. They were visible to the naked eye, unlike Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, which were only added to the planetary repertoire after the invention of the telescope with Pluto being the latest discovery in 1930.
Astronomy coincided with astrology, and is a study of the planets, their motions, and properties. This is a bone of contention in the scientific community because many in science debunk astrology as a pseudo-science. However, this writing isn’t about proving astrology is real and true, but explaining astrology’s purpose in humanity, how it developed, and how it is used to gain meaningful insight into life.
It’s also significant to point out that while Pluto has (in recent years) been reduced to “dwarf planet” status by astronomers, in the astrology community Pluto is still very much a key planet used in self-analysis.
In other words, there is a lot of symbolism attached to these particular planets and that is of more importance than the size or definition of the object.
Part of learning about this subject will be understanding that astrology is a broad term covering a multitude of subjects and disciplines.
Long before the Americas were discovered, Western astrology got its name from the belief that
Europe (Rome, Egypt, Greece, and the like) was the “Western” hemisphere of the world, as opposed to India (Vedic astrology) and China (Chinese astrology) which were considered the “Eastern” hemisphere (likewise, Eastern astrology disciplines).
What many people with little knowledge of astrology don’t know is that astrology incorporates a lot of mathematical measurements. Claudius Ptolemy, a mathematician born in Roman-ruled Egypt, was really the forefather of Western astrology practices. Not only was he a mathematician, but an astronomer, astrologer, and geographer. Through his knowledge of geography and map-making skills, he created astronomical tables to record distances between Earth and the classic planets, Sun and Moon, eventually creating star almanacs which were records of the stars (planets) over a solar year of time.
Ptolemy saw astrology as a practical tool to uncover personality traits determined by where the planets were at the time of one’s birth (innate behaviors), but believed astrology worked in tandem with one’s environmental and social upbringing (learned behaviors).
Modern astrologers often apply psychology to the natal chart. In fact, famous psychologist Carl Jung often utilized astrological natal charts in his diagnoses for patients. A “natal chart” is a graphic chart erected to symbolize where the stars in the sky were located at the exact time and place of an individual’s birth. Sometimes the natal chart is referred to as a “horoscope” or a “birth chart.” You’ll learn in the next chapter what this looks like and how it’s formulated. But it can’t be said enough that knowing where and when an individual was born is very important in the construction. Exact time of birth plays a significant role in the reliability of timing predictive events.
Let’s look at the Planets, Signs, and Houses
The sun represents your ego and essential character.
The moon rules your emotions and feelings.
Mercury is how you communicate and your thoughts.
Venus shows how you relate to others and your power to attract.
Mars represents your drive, energy, and how you go after what you want.
Jupiter emphasizes the positive, expansive, and fortunate.
Saturn represents self-discipline and challenges.
Uranus shows inventiveness and originality.
Neptune rules your intuition, hopefulness, and possible delusions.
Pluto highlights the deeper, inner transformations occurring over the span of your lifetime.
First House – Individuality
Shows how you first appear to others — your outer personality. It’s the initial factor others notice about you and also is the way you view the world.
Second House – Values & Security
This house represents your financial affairs and material wealth. It also governs possessions and resources, and things that make you feel secure.
Third House – Communications
Your education (schooling), intelligence, and the ways in which you communicate — both written and spoken — show up in this house. It also represents your siblings, neighbors, and short journeys.
Fourth House – Roots & Home
Your family, roots, and early childhood environment govern this house.
Fifth House – Creativity & Pleasure
Recreation, sport, hobbies, gambling, creativity, romance — all of these show up in the fifth house. It’s essentially the way you have fun!
Sixth House – Work & Routine
Rules over day-to-day routines, work, and your health. You meet your responsibilities and obligations through this house.
Seventh House – Relationships
Marriage, partnerships, and various kinds of relationships (not all romantic) show up in this house. The seventh also rules enemies, adversaries, and competitors.
Eight House – Transformation
Governs shared finances (whether through partnership, business, inheritance), taxes, birth, death, and rebirth of a spiritual nature.
Ninth House – Philosophy & Travel
Represents your philosophical and/or religious beliefs, as well as expansion of the mind through higher education, study, travel, and meeting people of different backgrounds and beliefs.
Tenth House – Career & Aspirations
This is the house you’ll find your professional goals and career aspirations, your ambitions in life, and public successes or failures.
Eleventh House – Friends & Wishes
Rules your friends, groups you belong to, associations, etc. It also represents your hopes and dreams.
Twelfth House – Secrets & Escape
Governs your subconscious, the hidden, your dreams, hidden drives, secret desires, and escapism.
Collating the Planets, Signs, and Houses
Combining the basics of geometry with a birth date, time, and place, an astrologer draws a natal chart
The planets are associated with parts of the mind. They’re the WHAT of the chart.
The signs represent the needs and strategies driving a planet. They’re the WHY and HOW.
The houses show in which of life’s arenas the planet-sign combo is developing. They’re the
The chart is further divided into two axes (north/south and east/west) and four angles. The north/south axis represents daylight (north) and nighttime (south). Pay attention because the chart directions are exactly opposite of how we’d view a compass! The north/south line is divided by the Meridian (horizontal line) with the most southern part falls at the beginning or “cusp” of the 10th house and is called the MC or “Mid-heaven” and the most northern is on the cusp of the 4th called the IC or “Nadir.”
The east/west axis divides the chart between rising planets and setting planets. Unlike the directions of the compass, east/west in the chart is flipped with east being the left side of the chart and west being the right. The most eastern part is located on the cusp of the 1st house and called the
“Ascendant” with the most western part located at the cusp of the 7th or “Descendant.” Each of these points are commonly referred to as the “angles” of the chart.
Finding a majority of planets in the northern axis (Houses 1-6) points to a more introverted personality type, while a majority of planets in the southern axis (Houses 7-12) represent a more extroverted personality type.
Ascendant (or AC) – 1st house
Your “mask” to the world; what people see before they get to know your true self (represented by the Sun).
Nadir (or IC) – 4th house
Your roots and soul’s purpose.
Descendant (or DC) – 7th house
Your “other”. A partner, relationship, and even an enemy.
Mid-heaven (or MC) – 10th house
Your zenith, the highest most public point in your chart.
The Ascendant and Mid-heaven will get more focus in the chart than the other two angles and a lot has been written on the impact of having many personal planets near these two angles in the chart.
The elements of the chart represent the four principles of life. Elements are defined as Fire, Air,
Earth, and Water, and each of the signs falls into one of four categories, as follows:
Fire (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius)
These are the physical signs. They are active, driven, and energetic.
Earth (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn)
These signs represent the material world. They’re grounded, cautious, and thorough. As the name suggests, they are more “earthy” than the other signs.
Air (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius)
These signs operate on a more mental level than the others. They’re intellectual and cerebral.
Water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces)
These signs are the receptive and intuitive of the bunch. Water is the emotional element.
Each of the four elements occurs in one of three states or “qualities.” The qualities are Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable, as defined below:
Cardinal (Aries, Libra, Cancer, Capricorn)
These are the initiators of the zodiac. They take the lead and are goal-oriented.
Fixed (Taurus, Scorpio, Leo, Aquarius)
These are the preservers of the status quo. They build on what they already have, and “draw within the lines” so to speak.
Mutable (Gemini, Sagittarius, Virgo, Pisces)
These signs seek change and are the most malleable of the signs. They go with the flow.
As you become more familiar with the signs, you’ll see how the Qualities show paired opposite signs
(e.g., under Cardinal, you see Aries-Libra as a pair where Aries is 180 ° from Libra in the zodiac; likewise, Cancer-Capricorn are signs 180 ° from one another). Next up is Aspects, which will further illuminate the geometrical and mathematical patterns in the natal chart and this is where the “magic” begins!
Aspects are what make the chart dynamic. It’s one thing to look at your natal chart and see all of the planets, Sun, and Moon laid out in their signs and houses. But unless you know how the planets relate to each other in the chart, not much of it will make any sense.
Aspects, essentially, are mathematical relationships between planets, angles, and points in the chart.
When you combine two planets, you’re essentially bringing their energies together in some sort of combination (known as an “aspect”), which gives life to the personality. The aspects establish how two objects (planets, angles, etc.) stimulate and affect each other’s influence in the chart. The chart itself is a 360 ° wheel. As already discussed, the wheel is divided by two axes which create four quadrants that the four angles border. Each quadrant represents
90 ° and is composed of three houses, each 30 ° wide.
If you look at the signs in order around the zodiac, they start at the following degrees:
Aspects are calculated based on the division of 360 degrees using certain numbers like 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, and 12. There are major and minor aspects, and the major and minor aspects fall into one of two categories: harmonious or tense.
Harmonious aspects are thought to be positive, soft, and easy. They make the relationship easy between two objects and provide a helpful environment to aid the individual’s innate abilities they may take for granted and fail to develop fully.
Tense aspects are thought to be negative, hard, and difficult. They cause friction between two objects, which brings on more difficulties of a psychological or environmental sort. Typically, tense aspects provide a drive to overcome one’s problems and difficulties. So while harmonious aspects may appear to be something we all want in our own charts, in fact it is the tense aspects that will challenge us to improve.
Five Major Aspects
Conjunction is the most powerful aspect and combines two planets in a single force.
Opposition is extremely powerful and places the planets in conflict with each other, producing difficulties, but increasing the range of possibilities open to the individual.
Trine is the most powerful harmonious aspect, bringing the planets together in an easy combination.
Square is strong, but less powerful than opposition, and creates friction between planets.
Sextile is a strong harmonious aspect, but less powerful than the trine.
The Minor Aspects
Semi-square, sesquiquadrate and quincunx are all minor tense aspects. Psychologically, their effect may be seen as a very weak version of the square. Some astrologers give them additional importance in predicting events.
Semi-sextile is the only minor harmonious aspect, and psychologically is a weak version of the sextile.
Perhaps the most popular area of study in astrology is anything and everything related to relationships. It’s only natural to want to know if there’s compatibility between you and another person — especially in the early stages of a romantic relationship.
Relationship astrology is the study of two natal charts and how the planets in one chart respond to planets in the other chart, indicating how one individual will respond to another individual. One method of studying a relationship between two people is to erect a synastry chart.
Synastry is the energy reflected between two people based on compatibility points (or aspects) in their charts.
Before you can compare two natal charts, you really need to examine them individually. When it comes to relationships, you’ll want to look at each individual’s 7th house in their own birth chart. This is the house of relationships and you can obtain a lot of information just from reviewing if the individual has any planets natally in the 7th house. Then you’ll look at how those planets aspect other planets in the natal chart.
Even if there are no planets in their natal 7th house, you can review the sign on the 7th house and find its ruler. For instance, Pisces on the 7th house is ruled by planet Neptune.
Then you’d find Neptune in the natal chart and review its aspects to the other planets. Always do your homework on reviewing the individual natal charts before comparing them to anyone else’s chart. It’s essential to understand the personalities at play before you compare them.
You also want to review where the individual’s Venus and Mars are placed in the wheel. This will give you an indication of their basic temperaments on love (Venus) and sex (Mars). Check out the aspects to their Venus and Mars.
Review the individual’s Ascendant sign and any planets near it. If there are planets near the Ascendant, the essence of the planet will influence the Ascendant and how the individual presents him or herself to the world. For example, someone with Mars near the Ascendant in their birth chart probably “appears” (Ascendant) energetic, dominating or aggressive (characteristics of Mars).
Strongest Compatibility Aspects
Sun conjunct Descendant (of partner’s chart)
Sun in 7th house (of partner’s chart)
Moon conjunct Descendant (of partner’s chart)
These aspects are strongest because you want to see the Sun or Moon in the 7th house (or on the
Descendant cusp) of the other’s chart. It makes the partner the focus because the partner is then featured (via their Sun or Moon) in the relationship house (7th).
Very Strong Compatibility Aspects
Sun trine or sextile Sun
Sun conjuction, trine or sextile Moon
Sun conjunct or trine Venus
Sun trine or sextile Mars
Sun conjunct, sextile or trine Jupiter
Sun sextile or trine Saturn
Sun conjunct Ascendant (of partner’s chart)
Sun in 1st house (of partner’s chart)
Moon conjunct, sextile or trine Moon
Moon conjunct, sextile or trine Venus
Moon sextile or trine Mars
Moon conjunct, sextile or trine Jupiter
Moon sextile or trine Saturn
Moon conjunct, trine or sextile Ascendant (of partner’s chart)
Moon conjunct the IC (of partner’s chart)
Moon in the 7th house (of partner’s chart)
Moon in the 1st house (of partner’s chart)
Mercury conjunct, sextile or trine Jupiter
Venus conjunct, sextile, trine or opposite Venus
Venus conjunct, sextile or trine Mars
Venus conjunct Jupiter
Venus sextile or trine Saturn
Venus conjunct Ascendant (of partner’s chart)
Venus conjunct Descendant (of partner’s chart)
The aspects featured center on the Sun, Moon, Mercury, and Venus relationships to planets in the partner’s chart. Why? Because those four planets (as well as Mars) are “personal” planets in the chart. So their aspects to other planets take on a personal connection. Notice also that
Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto are NOT listed in any of the aspects above. This is because those three planets are considered “generational” planets — that is to say that most people will share the same sign placement because it takes 84, 165, and 248 years (respectively) for those planets to revolve around the Sun. That means it takes an average of 7, 14, and 21 years (respectively) for them to move through just ONE sign in the zodiac. Mind you, Pluto’s orbit varies widely because it’s on an elliptical path rather than circular. At times, it can spend anywhere from 12 years in one sign (most recently, Scorpio) to 32 years (in Taurus). So because you’re more likely to be in a relationship with someone close to your own age than, say, two generations older than you, chances are good your partner shares Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto within the same signs (or maybe the next sign closest) to yours. However, say you’re reviewing the synastry chart between a woman and an older man
(Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas come to mind with a 25-year age difference).There may be generational planets coming from his chart in power play with her personal planets. There could be a magnetic pull to this older person because his Pluto conjuncts her Moon or her Sun. In Catherine and Michael’s case, his Neptune conjuncts her Sun in Libra. This would lend itself to a dreamy, romantic attachment between the couple that Neptune is providing (assuming there are other great aspects in their synastry chart).
Sun square Moon
Moon square Moon
Moon square Mars
Moon conjunct or opposition Saturn
Moon square or opposition Neptune
Moon square or opposition Pluto
Mercury square or opposition Neptune
Venus opposition Saturn
Venus square or opposition Neptune
Mars conjunct Saturn
Mars square or opposition Pluto
Uranus conjunct Descendant (of partner’s chart)
Very Challenging Aspects
Moon square Saturn
Mercury square Mercury
Venus square Saturn
Mars square or opposition Saturn
This is an aspect that connotes fights and squabbles between the two individuals. Not helpful in building a relationship!
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