The stars and planets have always inspired a sense of wonder. Many cultures look skyward and see the face of the divine there. There’s a cosmic dance on the grand scale, and one on the intimate scale, going on for each of us. Astrology is the study of patterns and relationships — of planets in motion, our birth chart, synastry with others, the make-up of elements — and using that knowledge as a tool to find meaning.
Is Astrology a science?:
It falls more in the category of metaphysics, the study of that which is beyond the physical. It’s similar to other fields that are founded on ancient theories of energy patterns, like feng shui, acupuncture and yoga. Astrology at high levels is a mastery of its particular science and the intuitive arts. As the earliest known ordering of existence, long before recorded history, it’s been called the “Mother of all Sciences.”
The Celestial Clock:
Astrology’s premise is that the planetary movements influence the Moments in Time. Since we’re part of the story of the Universe, our moment of birth recorded on the celestial clock is meaningful.
The planets continue to move, engaging with the fixed in time energies of our birth chart.
Students today can draw on the myths, symbolic associations and wisdom of past astrologers to come up with their own intuitive language. There are the long cycles of outer planets that show generational trends, and shorter ones, like the Sun’s annual journey through the Zodiac.
Astrology is an incredible tool of self-discovery, no matter how far you decide to take it.
At first, the pieces of the puzzle may not seem to fit. But if you stick with it, at a certain point it “clicks” and the orchestrations of the cosmic dance make sense.
If life seems like a series of meaningless events, astrology can be a comforting sign that perhaps things happen for a reason. It can shine light on inner contradictions and natural strengths. As a map of the psyche, the birth chart is a guide to self-understanding that never stops revealing new layers of insight.
Understanding Your Birth Chart:
Astrology can be baffling at first, because it involves a different kind of wisdom. There are three parts to any birth chart — planet, sign and house.
There’s a blending that happens in astrology that involves those three. As you learn more, your understanding deepens. You get a sense of what life lessons the Aries Sun in the 10th House holds for you.
After learning about the planets, signs and houses, it’s time to look at aspects. This is the relationship between the players in your birth chart. Do they square each other? Or, are they in harmony with trines and sextiles.
Where the Heck Should I Start?:
It’s said that there’s truth in stereotypes, and that’s where they come from in the first place. The essence of each sign’s energy has built up a reputation. Gemini is chatty, gossipy, a bright wit. Scorpio is sultry, intense. Virgo is a purist, a neat-freak, and so on. Hold those stereotypes loosely as you make your own observations.
The Sun sign is the essence of the basic nature in the broadest possible strokes. The rest of the chart fills in the details. Hold the Sun sign in your mind, as you go on to learn about the Moon. What kind of Cancer am I? The rest of your chart tells the story.
The Chemistry of Astrology:
Astrology provides cosmic clues as to why you’re attracted to, repelled by or indifferent to those you meet. It helps you take personality clashes less to heart, but also show potential red flags to watch out for. Some connections are sparked by friction, and astrology helps you take the long view, and see them as challenges that cause you both to grow.
Astrology and the Dating Game:
Just a little bit of Sun Sign wisdom fills you in on the dynamics of your potential romantic alliance. In the delicate beginning, it can shine light on the behavior of the Sun signs when romantic interest is piqued.
What are other uses of astrology for understanding relationships?:
Astrology can give you a deeper understanding of all your relationships — with bosses, siblings, parents, children, friends and partners. Comparing a couple’s birth charts alerts them to areas where their natures could come into conflict. Known as “synastry,” this kind of analysis points out areas to challenge and support each other to fulfill your individual destinies. Astrology shows where karma is being played out, with hard but necessary lessons, and the potential for an alchemical miracle to take place over time.
Getting Started with Astrology
What is Astrology?
Astrology is a word that comes from astro (stars) and logos (language). That’s why it’s often called the language of the stars.
Humans have always looked into the sky, and used the stars and planets, Sun and Moon, to track cycles of time. The Zodiac, or circle of animals, is a product of the human imagination. Many myths come from what different peoples see in the shapes of the constellations.
And yet, night sky watching had — and has — a practical angle for many cultures. The Zuni of New Mexico, for example, called the Pleiades constellation “seed stars.” When this star cluster was no longer visible to them in the Spring, they knew it was time to get busy planting.
When the Pleiades returned in September, other cultures like the Celts, knew it heralded the time of nature’s descent, with the Sun. Some cultures like the Mayans tracked very long cycles, and then there are the Ages in the East and West.
As Above, So Below
For some, astrology is a just a language used to describe the energies that make up the universe.
For others, it’s the observation of the planets and the patterns of energy they create at any given moment. Modern astrology emerged out of an ancient awareness that we’re a microcosm of the universe. “As above, so below,” as the saying goes.
Early cultures followed the movements closely, and lived by the seasons, observing the Sun’s annual journey through the Zodiac. They saw that those born under the Sun signs had shared traits.
The other cosmic bodies were observed, with the same human curiosity, and search for meaning. This knowledge of cycles and patterns has been used to ponder fate, predict events and even chose a marriage partner. As the search for meaning in the patterns of stars and planets, a system of Astrology is found in every culture and tradition, with some having an unbroken lineage.
What do the movements of the planets have to do with me?
Your birth (or natal) chart is the position of the planets at the moment of your birth. The psychologist Carl Jung wrote that “like vintage years of wine, we have the qualities of the year and of the season in which we are born.” Your birth chart reveals built-in gifts and struggles for this lifetime, along with insights about your personality.
What are horoscopes based on?
Most horoscopes are based on the Sun sign, which are the twelve signs of the Zodiac that most people are familiar with. The Sun sign is your basic nature and can be a great starting point for learning about Astrology. If you’re curious, try observing people you know to see how whether or not their Sun sign qualities shine through.
Many astrologers come up with predictions based on your Sun sign and where other planets fall in yoursolar houses. The solar house is created with your Sun in the first house, and following the Zodiac around counter-clockwise around the wheel.
After the Sun sign, what’s next in Astrology?
To find out your other planets, you’ll need to get your hands on your birth chart. When you know the time you were born, you’re able to cast an accurate chart with the rising sign in place on the wheel. (Note: If you don’t know your birth time, cast a Noon chart (with 12:00 pm). When you’re ready to go deeper, your Moon sign reveals your emotional nature, the intimate side that only a trusted few are able to see. For an introduction beyond the Sun sign, see this illustrated guide to the planets.
Astrology and Relationships
To investigate a potential love partner, look first at how well the Sun signs traditionally get along. Each of us is a complex blend of all our planets, so add dimension to your astro analysis by looking at the Moon and Rising signs. Venus reveals what kinds of friends and lovers you are attracted to, and what makes you attractive to others. Mars reveals what revs up your mojo, and how you pursue the object of your desire.
The Message of Mercury
Mercury usually follows the Sun closely, and may be in the same sign. This planet and its aspects to other planets in your birth chart shows your unique communication style. It describes the life of the mind, and what gets those wheels turning.
Astrology doesn’t make much sense when approached solely through the intellect. There’s a lot of synthesis involved, and there’s always more to learn. It’s a field that’s said to have shallow brooks and deep fjords, and my advice is to dip your pinkie toe in — stick with Sun signs — and keep going deeper, as your interest grows. Learning about the grouping of the signs by elements (fire, water, air and earth) and qualities (cardinal, fixed and mutable) is a good foundation for futher study.
The Puzzle Pieces
A natal chart is like a puzzle, much as a human! There are various components that have meaning and those parts fit together with other parts to create a full picture. While it is true that the sum of a whole human spirit is not equal to its personality parts, we can understand the basic human issues we all deal with and break them down into rough categories. Every astrology chart is composed of the same 4 basic pieces: Planets, Signs, Houses, and Aspects.
Let’s take a look at understanding each piece as it applies to a birth chart:
What do the planets mean?
The planets are symbols representing basic human needs and urges that we all have. For instance, we all have a need to feel safe and loved. That need we all share is represented by the symbol of the Moon. We all share a need to learn and communicate, which is represented by the symbol of Mercury. There are 10 common planets that astrologers work with: the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto (yes, most of us still call Pluto a planet!)* Many astrologers include other heavenly bodies, such as some asteroids.
We will go more deeply into the planets (and introduce a couple of new components) later in this article.
Twelve pieces of sky:
The signs divided the sky into 12 equal parts and each section of sky has its own meaning. The signs give us the spectrum of the whats, hows and whys. So, if Mercury is how we learn and communicate, then the sign Mercury is in (the section of sky Mercury was in when we were born) would tell us how we like to communicate, what we like to talk about and learn about most, and why we are curious about some things and not others.
For instance, if Mercury is in the sign of Sagittarius, then that person is learning to communicate in a very direct and spontaneous way, and has a hunger to learn about a variety of topics, especially different cultures. By contrast, if Mercury is in the sign of Virgo, then that person is learning to communicate in a very detailed and purposeful way, to get right to the point and make sense of what they observe. They may be most interested in learning about things of a practical and immediately useful nature such as how things work like mechanical objects. There are 12 signs: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces.
The twelves spheres (houses):
The houses are divisions of the basic arenas of life, such as work life, home and family life, relationships, spirituality, etc. They are the stage where we act out our needs and engage with the world. For instance, if Mercury is representative of our learning and communication needs and it is found in our 10th house of career, we may find that we enjoy using our minds and our ability to communicate as the purpose of our work – anything from teaching to public speaking to writing. By contrast, if Mercury were in the 5th house of creativity, we may find that we enjoy communicating for pleasure and self-expression, such as writing novels, poetry, or lyrics.
There are 12 houses, typically named but not limited to: the House of Self (1st), the House of Resources (2nd), the House of Communication and Perception (3rd house), the House of Home and Family (4th), the House of Creativity, Play, and Self-Expression (5th), the House of Work and Health (6th), the House of Relationships (7th), the House of the Inner Psyche and Transformation (8th), the House of Travel, Education, and Religion (9th), the House of Career (10th), the House of Peers and Affiliations (sometimes called Friends, Hopes, and Wishes) (11th), and the House of Spiritual and Transcendent Life (12th).
Planetary dynamics (aspects):
The aspects are the relationships between the planets. The pattern that is created from the way the planets land in a chart sometimes leads to a special relationship between two or more planets. The most common aspect is called the Conjunction and that happens when two or more planets are very close together and can be said they are practically in the same spot. The Opposition is another aspect that happens when two or more planets are in the opposite place as each other. The Conjunction represents a fusion of the two planets, where the two behave as one, uniting and strengthening each other. The Opposition represents tension and push-pull dynamics between the two planets, represented by internal struggle.
For instance, if Mercury, the planet that represents our learning and communication needs, is in Conjunction with the Moon which represents our emotional needs, then it could be said that this person communications by drawing from their current emotional state and their feelings, not just their intellectual opinions, and that they may learn best by making an emotional or subjective connection with data, not just memorizing facts and figures. However, by contrast, if Mercury and the Moon are in Opposition to each other, this can indicate an internal struggle between heart and head, and perhaps a need for the person to work harder to communicate what they feel accurately and effectively. All aspects have advantages and disadvantages. The number of aspects is too numerous to list comprehensively, but the most common aspects are: the Conjunction, the Opposition, the Square, the Trine, and the Sextile.
*Astrologers develop their understanding of the symbols on a constant basis. The times we live in, the culture we live in, and the astronomical discoveries that are made all influence and enrich our understanding of how the astrological symbols speak to us. While astronomers “demoted” Pluto, we use the word planet loosely, simply meaning a heavenly body, which is why the Sun and Moon are referred to as planets, for the sake of convenience (although sometimes you’ll hear them called the “luminaries”).
You and your child’s chart:
Your son or daughter’s birth chart can give you tremendous insight into their personal and developmental needs, but did you know that the combination of your birth chart and your child’s birth chart can tell you a lot about the relationship you have with your child?
Synastry is the process of comparing one birth chart to another to understand the dynamics and needs in a relationship of any kind, be it romantic, business-oriented, or a parent-child relationship.
Since the Sun in a birth chart represents our basic sense of identity, and the Moon in a birth chart represents what we need to feel safe, nurtured, and happy, one of the most basic and yet profound way to do a comparison is to look at the Sun and Moon placements of each person and see how the needs and style of each compares to one another. If you can understand even the simple idea of how the way your child receives and understands love is different from the way you show and understand love, you’ve got the key to an everlasting bond.
For example, a Moon in Gemini child will feel happiest when they are given a lot of room to explore and learn quickly about the world around them.
They will very much enjoy verbal and social interactions and will most easily feel nurtured and loved if a parent interacts with them in a playful way and takes the time to listen and respond to what they have to say. If a parent has a Sun or Moon in Libra, that parent will enjoy a certain amount of social interaction as well, so they can be a good listener and playmate for their child, but may find the level of unintentional chaos that an endlessly curious child brings a bit unsettling.
If that Moon in Gemini’s parent has their Sun or Moon in Scorpio, they can feel comfortable with giving their Gemini Moon child the honest answers that he or she seeks, but may find it difficult to get some silence to internally decompress.
By comparing the charts of you and your child together, you can understand what your child’s needs are in comparison to your own, and understand why and how you clash so you can improve on those instances, as well as understand what works well and keep doing it!
The Four Elements in Astrology
What are the four elements in (Western) astrology?:
Fire, Air, Water and Earth
What are the Elements?:
The four elements — earth, air, water and fire — are the very elements (or energies) of life. Since long before written history, there’s been an understanding of the elemental balance needed to sustain life. Many indigenous traditions honor the sacred circle, formed by the four elements, and seen in the Zodiacal wheel.
Elements and Astrology:
In your own birth chart, the mix of elements shows you what you’re working with in this life. Your cosmic blueprint may be heavy on the fire, but lack earth to ground you. Each element behaves differently, and is one of three qualities — how these mix in your chart, taking into account the planet and house placement, shines more light on your nature and life lessons.
Who began to group the signs by Elements?:
In recorded history, Ptolemy is credited with making the association between the four elements and the signs of astrology in the 2nd Century AD. Using longstanding theories of the four elements, he assigned three signs to each element.
The Greek philosophers found the four elements in all of life, and their Zodiacal wheel of cosmic energies reflected that balance.
What do the signs of a certain Element have in common?:
The signs in a grouping share certain associations:
- Fire signs: the spirit, inspired, energy, instinctual, outgoing, active
- Air signs: the mind, intellectual, ideas, detached, social, conceptual
- Water signs:the emotions, imaginative, nurturing, introverted
- Earth Signs: the body, practical, sensual, grounded
What are the Fire Signs?:
Aries, Leo and Sagittarius
What are the Air Signs?:
Libra, Gemini and Aquarius
What are the Earth Signs?:
Capricorn, Taurus and Virgo
What are the Water Signs?:
Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces