Mankind has been using astrology for millennia as a way of telling and recording time. The Bible’s Old and New Testament, as well as the Qur’an, reference lunar phases to mark certain months and dates in the year—a practice also used by Ancient Chinese, Maya and South Asian civilizations.
An astrology birth chart is more than a tool to test your compatibility with a current partner (or past one if you’re still yearning after an ex. This is a safe space). Mankind has been using astrology for millennia as a way of telling and recording time. The Bible’s Old and New Testament, as well as the Qur’an, reference lunar phases to mark certain months and dates in the year—a practice also used by Ancient Chinese, Maya and South Asian civilizations.
Meanwhile, what may be the oldest drawing of a birth chart was found in a cave in Croatia, dating back more than 2,000 years, which suggests an early interest in harnessing astrology as a tool for unlocking knowledge about the individual. In modern times, we use birth charts as a way of gaining a deeper understanding of the self, our relationship with others, and our place in the world.
What is an astrology birth chart?
An astrological birth chart maps the planetary alignment at the exact moment you were born and, as astrologer Sophie Won tells Vogue, it becomes your life’s “map and story” and defines “the essence of your being.”
There are 12 signs of the zodiac—Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces—and 12 houses in a chart (1st House, 2nd House, and so on).
Each zodiac sign has a different vibe and each house represents a different aspect and area of our lives (education, family, love, health, work). As well as the sun and the moon, there are 10 planets that astrologers take into account to understand a person’s psyche: Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, North Node, and South Node (more on those later).
By mapping out which planet and zodiac sign were in which astrological house at the time you were born, you can gain greater insight into who you are.
“You are the protagonist,” says Won. “The planets indicate the ‘what:’ your core components; the signs elucidate the ‘how:’ the quality, flavoring, and personality; the houses specify the ‘where:’ areas of influence; and the moon’s nodes provide insight into the ‘why:’ your existential purpose.”
How do you find your birth chart?
Nowadays, it’s fairly simple to get your (or anyone’s) free birth chart. All you need to know is the date, exact time, and place of birth. Won points to websites such as Astrology.com that can give you your chart for free when you put in all that info. You can also download apps such as Co-star, Reha, or Sanctuary that will not only give you your birth chart but also explain each component.
How do you read a birth chart?
For beginners, it can be overwhelming trying to go beyond just knowing your sun or moon sign in your horoscope. All the symbols and numbers thrown together on a chart can be a lot to take in. Before diving into what each symbol, planet, sign, etc. means, you’ll want to know how to read it properly. Won recommends starting with the planets on your chart and understanding what each represents, their zodiac signs, and what it reveals about you.
“Think of it as reading a book,” she says. “You’re the central character, the planets embody different aspects or ‘characters’ in your life, and each planet resides in a specific house, denoting different life areas.”
You might not have all the planets in your chart (more on that later), and that’s fine. Just go through all the ones that are present. After going through each planet, go back through the beginning of the chart where you see the 1st house. Each house will be defined by a sign with certain characteristics that will map out your life. She lays out these questions to help guide you as you read your chart:
Step 1: Look at each planet on your chart. What does each planet represent?
Step 2: What sign is the planet in?
Step 3: What house is the planet in?
Step 4: Go back to the first house. What sign defines the first house?
Step 5: Go through each house. What sign defines each house?
For example, let’s say you were born on August 1, 1995, at 9:20 a.m. in London. The first thing you would have to do is cast the chart, which you can do here. You will need to know your time and date of birth, and location. Once you have that, you can interpret the information.
As you can see, the birth chart is mapped out in the form of a wheel. We will start counter-clockwise, where the letters ‘AC’ are for ascendant—the starting point of the chart.
Here the ascendant/1st House is ruled by Virgo, whose natural planetary ruler is Mercury. This denotes an analytical and patient personality. Action planet Mars is also in the 1st House in Libra. This energy creates an energized and active vibe.
The 2nd House is ruled by Libra, which means that financial matters are handled with care and financial gain happens through partnerships.
The 3rd House is ruled by Scorpio, which denotes a need for truth in all communication. This energy is further felt through Pluto’s presence in Scorpio in the 3rd House. Jupiter resides in the 3rd House by a degree in Sagittarius, which shows the desire to talk a lot with the incentive of finding an understanding of the self through discussing matters thoroughly.
Continue around the wheel using the house guidance above, and there you have your birth chart.
What are the important planets in astrology?
Each planet represents a different part of our psyche and helps us create and craft who we are. They show us the way we act and react to situations and people, and the passions and drive we have to make our dreams come true.
“They represent the building blocks of who we are,” says Won. “Astrology boils down to the theory that we are the universe and the universe is us. So, the energy of the planets are the very same energy that exists within us.”
You may have one, a few, or no planets in a house (all of which is quite common). Think of the planets as the seasoning of the houses—they add flavor. Each planet is a ‘natural ruler’ of a sign. This means that they have a zodiac sign that they really like to be in. The planet can live up to its truest and purest form in the sign that it rules.
Simply put, the sun is one’s ego, determination and will. The sun orbits all signs of the zodiac in a calendar year.
The moon changes signs every two and a half days. It represents the part of ourselves that we cannot express—our emotions, memories, and sense of security. It also shows how we nurture ourselves. The moon can help you find a simple, relaxing way to decompress. Use its placement in your chart to find out how to embrace the lunar phases and reduce stresses by harmonizing with its rhythms.
Mercury is the planet of communication, travel, and news. It’s how we express our views to others. On a bad day, Mercury can also represent gossip and rumors that aren’t 100 percent true.
Venus is the planet of love, affection, sensuality, romance and money. It allows us to understand how we love and care for others, what luxuries we love to spend our hard-earned cash on, and what sparks our inner emotional passions. If you’re looking for ways to spice up your beauty regimen, look to your Venus sign and house placement. It’ll show you how to better care for your skin and how to evolve your look with makeup.
This expansive and lucky planet shows us how to grow our minds. It also represents spiritual evolution, travel and higher-minded beliefs. We look to this planet to help us find an intelligent response to emotional problems.
This hot-blooded planet likes to take action, argue and fight. The flip side to this energy is that Mars gets turned on by drama and chaos—even wanting more confrontation to satisfy its sexual desires.
The karmic planet Saturn talks about commitment, stability, social order and the limitations or restrictions placed on us. It can also be a little thrifty and unable to give more than it receives when it comes to love and money.
If we want to discuss personal or societal revolutions and changes, then we look to rebellious Uranus, which protests and awakens us to injustices on a global level.
Illusory Neptune can create confusion, but if we are aware of our innate dreams then it will allow us to see and use our artistry and creative sentiments. Emotions run deep with this planet as it serves as poetry for the soul.
Change is a good thing—however, fear can hold us back from growth and achieving our goals. Pluto shakes us up and forces us to transform, even if we are resistant.
North Node or True Node
The North Node or True Node represents our truest calling. It shows us what we want to accomplish, which may make us feel a little uncomfortable because it’s a new journey for our soul.
This is who we were and what we wanted in our past lives. It’s what we are letting go of in this lifetime in order to become the best versions of ourselves.
Won says this is always where you start your life map. “The Ascendant is going to be the celestial element that defines the underlying foundation of who you are, your personality, your perspective in how you see your reality and how others might see you,” she says. “In my opinion, the ascendant is the most important element in a birth chart because it’s key to defining all the houses.”
What are the 12 signs of the zodiac?
There are 12 zodiac signs based on the 12 constellations in the sky. Each sign represents the period in which the sun shines its light on the constellation. They depict the ego of the individual born during that time period.
Aries is a cardinal fire sign and the first sign of the zodiac. Arians are known for their impulsive and courageous demeanor.
Taurus is a fixed earth sign known for its sensual, artistic side, and for being stubborn. Won adds that Taurus is all about stability—both material and emotional. “It’s reliable and persevering but can be stubborn and super slow,” she says.
Gemini is a miracle air sign known for its dualistic nature and intellect. Won says it is intelligent, talkative, but can be super fickle and restless. It’s known to be two-sided but that’s more about having extreme polarity. “Think yin and yang energy,” she says.
Cancer is a cardinal water sign that is emotionally sensitive.
Leo is a fire sign known for its theatrics, generosity, and loyalty. “Leos are magnetic, leading, and that big; King/Queen energy,” Won says. “It’s super fun and dynamic but can be a bit arrogant and extravagant.”
Virgo is an earth and mutable sign known for its analytical nature. “The little perfectionist,” she says. “It’s dedicated, hard-working, detailed oriented but can be cold.”
Libra is an air and cardinal sign that finds balance, harmony and peace in the law and relationships.
Scorpio is a water and fixed sign that is transformative and passionate. “All about taking depth to the next level,” Won says. “It’s quite passionate and mysterious but also can be ruthless and secretive.”
Sagittarius is a fire and mutable sign known for its positivity and philosophical sentiments.
Capricorn is an earth and cardinal sign that is reflective, disciplined, and hard-working.
Aquarius is an air and fixed sign known for its progressive mind and humanitarian side. Won says it is unconventional, independent, and open-minded but can also be a bit of a loner.
Pisces is a water and mutable sign that is intuitive, creative, and sentimental.
What are the 12 houses in a birth chart?
The birth chart has 12 different sections, called ‘houses’. Each house represents a different area of life. They all have a natural sign and planetary ruler that elevates the house.
1st House (also known as the ascendant or AC)
The 1st House in the astrology chart represents you. It shows how you carry yourself and what people first notice about you. If you have any planets in your 1st House, then they will have a significant effect on your overall personality, energy, and vibe.
The 2nd House represents personal finances and wealth. It shows how much money you can earn, your innate desire to gain materialism or quest for your confidence and self-worth.
The third house is where you will look to see how you communicate with others and your schooling. It also describes the type of relationship you have with your siblings and roommates.
What are your values and family like? Look to the 4th House to find out what your personal foundation is—also, how you love and care for your brood and home life.
This is the House of pleasure, playfulness, creativity, and casual dating. It’s where you can look to see who, what, when, and how you’re crushing on someone—and what kind of dates you like to go on.
The 6th House represents health, daily routine, and self-care. If you’re looking for an excuse for a spa day, then this is where you can look to see when to schedule one for maximum results.
Who and how you love is defined by checking out this area of the birth chart. By peeping in the seventh house, you can find the ideal person you want to commit to and invest in, long-term.
Personal transformation is shown here. You can see how you will evolve over time. Look here to see your relationship with credit card debt, college loans, and pay raises.
Higher education, travel, philosophy, and adventure are found in the 9th House. By looking here, you can find out what you enjoy studying and how to pursue your personal ideology.
This is the house of public image—what you share and give to others, and how you want to be perceived by the world. It also represents your professional calling and status.
This house defines the types of friendships, groups, communities, and associations you make. More importantly, the members of your crew that have your back and fight for the same causes.
Look here to find what visions and dreams you hold dear in your heart. This part of your chart teaches you that by clearing your thoughts and leaning into your intuition, you can find answers to all of your quandaries and struggles.
Don’t be discouraged if this is still a lot to take in. Won says reading your natal chart is a step-by-step process. The key is to synthesize these components to construct the narrative of your life. “Viewing the birth chart as a literal book, initially cloaked in ancient symbolism, makes it easier to decode and read,” she says. And as with all things, just trust in the universe. It’s got your back.
This article was originally published on Vogue.com