Astrology is the ancient practice of determining the position of celestial bodies and analyzing their effects on human affairs and the natural world. From the Greek astron, meaning star, and -ology, the Latin word for the “study of,” this study of the stars originated in Babylon over 2,000 years ago. Several hundred years after its founding, it traveled across the Mediterranean and gained popularity in Egypt and Greece.
Fast forward a couple of millennia, and we’re inundated with ways to evaluate our horoscopes: daily, weekly, yearly, horoscope compatibility, you name it. Chances are you’ve already discovered your sun sign. This is determined by which constellation is passing behind the sun at the time of your birth. But what about your moon? Your ascendant? To find these, we need genethliacal, or natal, astrology.
Natal astrology dives deeper into a horoscope by determining the position of all the major celestial bodies -- not just the sun -- at your time of birth. A natal chart includes the moon, the ascendant (the constellation on the horizon), the seven planets, and the twelve houses “ruled” by each zodiac sign. As with any pseudo-science, we don’t recommend using the information gained from your natal chart as the end-all-be-all for significant decisions in your life. However, reading your natal chart can be a fun, interesting way to learn a little more about yourself, your emotions, and your aspirations.
To read your natal chart - whether it’s formatted in the traditional zodiac wheel or as a table - you will need your birth date, location, and time. Celestial body positions can change in the sky as quickly as every two hours, so the more accurate your birth time is, the more precise your reading will be.
The three main pillars of your natal chart are your sun, moon, and ascendant signs. These signs determine the three “sides” of your self.
Sun sign: The ego-driven ‘I’ -- your sun sign represents your innermost self, the one through which you make most of your decisions and by which you navigate your day-to-day life.
Moon sign: The internal ‘you’ that will likely never be seen by other people. Your moon sign taps into your emotional self, representing the deepest recesses of your heart and mind.
Ascendant sign: The external ‘you’ that is viewed by other people. Your ascendant sign represents what people see when they first meet you and how you present to the outside world.
All seven planets of our solar system (yes, Pluto’s included) represent different energies, needs, or drives in our lives. The inner planets (Mercury, Venus, and Mars) affect day-to-day life, moods, and habits. The outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto) affect entire generations. This difference is due to the planets’ varying orbit speeds and their correlating position in the sky. The outer planets move much more slowly, causing their energy to influence a wider span of people.
A natal chart describes which zodiac sign each planet is ‘in’ at the time of your birth. Both the zodiac signs and the planets are associated with specific character traits, tendencies, or capabilities -- how the two interact is what makes your natal chart unique to you. We’ve broken down what each planet represents and how they’re depicted in glyph (or symbol) form.
Mercury: communication, intelligence, and reason
Venus: receiving and giving affection (your ‘love language’)
Mars: action-oriented, aggression, sex drive, and anger
Jupiter: good fortune and personal growth
Saturn: responsibility, rules, and personal challenges
Uranus: a generational uniqueness, intuition, and inspiration
Neptune: creativity, dreams, and imagination
Pluto: personal and non-personal power dynamics
Houses are determined by arranging the twelve zodiac constellations into a flat circle - a 2D representation of their orbital pattern - and dividing them into equal sections (imagine a sliced pizza - each of the 12 slices is a ‘house’). A house is considered to be “ruled” by whichever zodiac sign is naturally found within it. The moon and planets pass through these houses during their individual orbits; the sun ends up aligning with different houses as the solar system orbits around it. Houses indicate and influence human nature in relation to the celestial bodies found within them.
The first house (Aries): this house determines first impressions, initiatives, leadership, and new beginnings. The first house is where your ascendant sign lives.
The second house (Taurus): this house influences your immediate physical and material environment.
The third house (Gemini): this house influences all aspects of communication, including modes of connection and community interaction.
The fourth house (Cancer): this acts as the “foundation” of the zodiac wheel. The fourth house determines basic security, privacy, and home life.
The fifth house (Leo): this house indicates self-expression, creativity, attention, and drama (as a Leo myself, this is unsurprising).
The sixth house (Virgo): this house represents health and service, including schedules, helpfulness, diet, and exercise.
The seventh house (Libra): this house governs interpersonal relationships, both business and personal.
The eighth house (Scorpio): this house indicates darker, more mysterious facets of life, including birth, death, transformation, sex, and bonding.
The ninth house (Saggitarius): this house represents the higher mind and expansion, including international or long-distance travel, new languages, broadcasting, and higher education.
The tenth house (Capricorn): located at the top of the chart, this house represents the most public aspects of society, including tradition, corporations, government, discipline, and authority.
The eleventh house (Aquarius): this house influences social justice, rebellion, humanitarianism, friendships, and networking.
The twelfth house (Pisces): as the last house, this represents endings, old age, and the afterlife.
The foundation of a natal chart is the varying degrees of connection between all nine celestial bodies, twelve zodiac signs, and their corresponding houses. These degrees of connection are determined by aspects and offer a closer look into the weaknesses or strengths of a specific celestial figure’s influence over your life. Aspects provide deeper analyses of the general descriptions listed above.
On a traditional wheel chart, aspects are indicated by red, blue, or black lines connecting individual planets to each other or planets to zodiac signs. The acuteness or obtuseness of any specific aspect’s angle indicates the strength or weakness of that relationship’s influence. When presented as a table, aspects are indicated by their degrees.
Aspects are where things get painstakingly specific. If you’d like to learn more about how the aspects of your natal chart pertain to you, visit the online astrology education resource listed below or visit an astrologer in-person.
The nitty-gritty of genethliacal astrology can seem too confusing for the novice astrologer, but the main idea is to observe connections. Each celestial body and house’s traits are fixed. As they continue their neverending orbit, the energies over which they preside remain the same. What influences you is their specific placement in the sky at the time of your birth.
There are several resources online that will determine your natal chart and provide a general analysis, including Café Astrology, Astrolabe, and Co-Star.
This astrology educational resource is an excellent tool for learning more about celestial and elemental influence. You can also find a wide selection of astrology books here. To get the most nuanced analysis of your natal chart, visit an astrologer.