The 12 zodiac constellations — observed and used in Ancient Rome, though their origins can be traced even earlier — are positioned along the “path” of the sun as seen from Earth. Your sun sign is determined by which zodiac constellation is behind the sun on the date of your birth. This is the one you no doubt already know; the most commonly known and important aspect of your birth chart. Essentially, your sun sign speaks to your most basic identity. It represents your ego, your daily actions, the dynamic expression of your will.
As a Leo, I would describe myself as outspoken, creative and affectionate. Although my sister would say I’m basically an “emo lion” and an anonymous user on Tumblr once used the phrases “obsessed with yourself,” “curious bugger” and “somewhat of an outcast.” Take that as you will.
There are four elements in the zodiac, between which the 12 zodiac signs are split evenly (so, three each). These three are believed to be most compatible with each other due to their commonalities and shared values.
Fire Signs (Aries, Leo and Sagittarius) are known for their passion, confidence and strong gut instincts. Water Signs (Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces) are the most sensitive, idealistic and kind. Air Signs (Gemini, Aquarius and Libra) are typically the most communicative, social and open-minded. Earth Signs (Taurus, Capricorn and Virgo) are renowned for their practicality, stability, realism and persistence.
Elements tend to paint the signs with broad strokes, but they’re fun to think about when analyzing your friend, family and romantic relationship dynamics. (As a fire sign, I find I gravitate more towards air signs.)
The Moon Sign
Arguably, your moon sign is just as important as your sun sign. It’s determined by which zodiac constellation the moon was in at your exact time of birth. Your moon sign speaks to your emotional nature and inner self. It tends to reflect your personality when you’re alone — or deep within your comfort zone. It’s considered more feminine and reflects your relationships with important women in your life. So next time you’re eating chips in bed, spiraling down a conspiracy theory YouTube rabbit hole and crying on the phone with your mom, maybe blame your moon sign.
Also, some believe your moon sign is more accurate in predicting the root of your subconscious thoughts than your sun sign. My Gemini moon has given me comfort whenever I’ve felt misunderstood, because this placement is often characterized as having complex and valuable inner monologues.
Okay. Houses. Have you ever heard someone say something like, “Mars is in your third house”? They’re referring to which slice of the sky Mars was in at the time of your birth. The house system divides the sky into 12 sections and, depending on which planets and constellations fall into which sections when you were born, provide insight into specific areas of your life. Your first house is determined by which zodiac constellation was rising on the eastern horizon at the exact moment you were born, which is why both time and location of your birth are needed to determine it. The rest of your houses count up sequentially from there. Sites like this one can provide these visuals for your chart!
Here’s what each of the houses might tell you about your personality and life:
1. The First House represents self-image
2. The Second House represents money and finances
3. The Third House represents close platonic relationships and our immediate environments
4. The Fourth House represents family and childhood
5. The Fifth House represents self-expression, creativity and entertainment
6. The Sixth House represents work and health
7. The Seventh House represents marriage and long-term partnerships
8. The Eighth House represents both transformation and sexuality
9. The Ninth House represents belief systems and faith
10. The Tenth House represents careers and responsibility
11. The Eleventh House represents aspirations and personal goals
12. The Twelfth House represents privacy, secrets and karma
If your head is spinning right now, just pay attention to your first, fourth, seventh and tenth house. They’re typically given more weight.
The interesting thing about houses is they may reveal or confirm your strengths and weaknesses. When I learned that Aries was in my second house, for example, I wasn’t surprised. Aries is a sign characterized by ambition, passion and volatile emotion, and when it’s in my second house, which represents money and finances, it makes sense that I’m very career-minded and feel that my money needs to be self-made. It also makes sense that I fall victim to impulsive spending (shout-out to my unnecessary — but also necessary — shoe purchase a week ago). Oops.
The Rising Sign
A quick word on your rising sign. Also known as “the ascendant,” your rising sign is the zodiac constellation that falls into your first house. It’s the most fickle and difficult to nail down — you may get different results if you shift your birth time even a few minutes. Many astrologists say this one is your third most important placement, after your sun and moon signs. As mentioned, your ascendant represents your public identity. It can often manifest in your clothing or really any decisions related to your outward-facing identity (such as hair color, piercings or overall style). It also might symbolize how you respond to your immediate surroundings and your attitude towards everyday life.
For me, learning my rising sign made me feel emboldened to get a septum piercing — even though my friends said it’d be too “weird” — because my Aquarius ascendant is defined by individuality and often rebellious style choices.
Some argue that planets are even more important than houses. In the process of their orbits, planets move in and out of the zodiac constellations, lingering in some much longer than others, depending on the speed and size of their orbits. When you’re born, imagine the night sky freezing in place. Which planets are in which constellations? The answer will help you read into your personality even more.
The Inner Planets
Mercury, Venus and Mars are called the inner planets due to their changeability and closeness to Earth. For that reason, precision with your birth place and time is far more important for these. The signs that fall within the inner-planet placements dictate your core personality traits, needs and desires.
Mercury is the planet of communication, so determining where it is when you’re born will tell you something about how you learn and converse. For instance, those with earth signs in Mercury (Taurus, Capricorn, Virgo) will likely be very reasonable, observant people. Those with air signs in Mercury (Gemini, Aquarius, Libra) are most effective communicators when writing and public speaking. Fire signs in Mercury (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) are passionate and sometimes hot-headed in arguments. Water signs in Mercury are highly emotional and likely to avoid confrontation.
Venus — named for the Roman Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite — rules a person’s love life. It speaks to the ways in which you express affection, what you look for in a partner and generally what you find attractive.
Mars is the planet of conflict, aggression and action. It represents the physical expression of your initiative and drive — often applicable to both your sex life and ambition in business — and speaks to the ways you channel desire and anger, particularly for those with fire signs in Mars. (My Mars placement often reminds me to reflect before I act and channel the balance-seeking energy of the Libra sign.)
Your inner planet placements may appear contradictory, but that’s part of what makes them fun — they delve into our own contradictions, too. For example, being a Leo Venus, I’m a sloppy love puppy who thrives on meaningful conversation and is generally a bit emotional. My Virgo Mercury placement, on the other hand, seems to speak to a detached nature — like my hatred of small talk, maybe.
The Outer Planets
The outer planets — Uranus, Neptune and Pluto (RIP) — have the longest and widest orbits, which makes them generational placements. People born within a few years of you will likely have the same placements for all the outer planets, which makes them less consequential in each individual person’s chart. The longest an outer planet will stay in the same sign is about 15 years.
Uranus rules change, Neptune rules dreams, Pluto rules power. Your placements can suggest what you work towards in these areas throughout your life. For those around my age — 21 and smack-dab in the middle of Generation Y — you’ll find both your Uranus and Neptune placements in Capricorn, indicating a strong inclination towards equality and social justice. Feel free to use that as a counter-argument the next time someone tells you millennials are useless.
The Social Planets
Jupiter and Saturn are sometimes called the social planets because their orbits are wider and longer than those of the inner planets, but smaller and shorter than those of the outer planets. They represent and influence how people relate to society.
Jupiter is the planet of luck, education and growth. The Jupiter placement is also seen as very philosophical and might indicate how you feel about religion.
Saturn is is all about limitations and boundaries. The Saturn placement can help reveal what you need to overcome and the restrictions you might encounter along the way — especially earlier in life.
For me, having Sagittarius in Jupiter, a restless sign, probably means I should travel more (I’m not complaining). An analysis of my Saturn placement, Pisces, known for its isolationist tendencies, might encourage me to take more risks with collaboration.
A truly comprehensive and in-depth birth chart interpretation requires research, instinct, time and resources. The details are important — even twins may find that some placements can shift within minutes. That said, you’ll rarely find two astrologists who tell you the exact same thing, because the world and the cosmos and all the people who exist within them are ever-changing and dynamic. It is important to remember, though, that these charts are designed to provide descriptions and possibilities, not absolutes. I’ve found that interpreting my chart has led me to a greater sense of self-understanding. At times, it’s given me confidence in my decisions. I’ve made it my own. Astrology should be used as a tool to enhance our lives, not dictate them.
hartWouldn’t it be great to be able to look at any birth chart (whether yours or someone else’s) and quickly see what the most important components of the personality and overall life experiences are?
First you will need a birth chart. Let’s use yours as an example.
If you don’t have it available, you can use my simple and easy-to-use birth chart calculator here.
Keep in mind this calculator uses the actual size and location of the constellations, called sidereal astrology. So you might notice some of your signs are different. For more information on sidereal, watch this quick video explaining it in detail.
The houses represent the sky at the time of your birth. More specifically the ecliptic, which is the path the planets move across in the sky. The houses form the skeletal structure of the chart and are always in the same location for everyone.
In a western chart, like the one we’re using today, the left most part of the chart represents the eastern horizon, also known as what’s rising, or the ascendant. This is the beginning of the chart and the houses start here. Beginning with the 1st house moving counterclockwise through the 12th.
(Note that there are different house systems used by astrologers. So the ascendant might be somewhere in the 1st house, or you might notice the houses aren’t divided up equally in other charts. The system we are using today and what my calculator uses is called the equal house system, which divides up the ecliptic into 12 equal segments starting from the ascendant. Feel free to use whichever system you prefer.)
Directly opposite the ascendant is the descendant, which as you might guess is the western horizon, or what’s setting. The top of the chart represents the highest part of the ecliptic in the sky, and the bottom what’s underneath the horizon, or the non-visible sky.
An easy way of thinking about this is since the houses represent the areas of the sky: in astrology the houses represent the areas of life.
Starting with the first house which represents all areas of our life having to do with the self such as self-image, motivations, our goals, our physical body, appearance, etc. The second having to do with our values, and so on. The houses represent what we might call “areas of life”.
The signs represent where along the ecliptic the zodiac signs were at the time of your birth. What sign was rising, which setting? This is where individual interpretations can begin now that we have two components of the chart to compare.
It can be said the signs show the characteristics of the sky at the time of your birth. So an easy way of remembering what they represent, is thinking of them as the characteristics of life. From the directness of Aries to the receptiveness of Pisces, the zodiac signs show the qualities that come through our life.
These transient bodies in the sky mirror our transient experiences here on Earth. As they always do, these experiences further shape our personality.
What house a planet is in shows us in which area these experiences of life occur; what sign, which characteristics these experiences are made up of. In terms of our personality, the houses show which areas of life are major areas for us; the signs, which characteristics are prominent in our personality. The easiest way is to think about planets are as the experiences of life which shape our personality.
NOW LET’S LOOK AT WHAT YOUR CHART SAYS ABOUT YOU.
In general birth chart analysis we want to start with the most foundational elements first. In other words, the most foundational elements of your personality and overall life experiences.
There are four main components of the chart that show this. Your Sun, Moon, Ascendant, and the Ascendant’s ruler also known as your Chart Ruler.
Essentially we are looking for the house and sign position of these four components (except for the Ascendant which only shows the sign, but we’ll get to this later).
LET’S START WITH YOUR SUN AND MOON.
These two elements represent the most fundamental and essential, yin and yang, elements of the self. The Sun represents your outwardly focused, expressive, and masculine side. While the Moon your inwardly focused, reflective, feminine side. Together these planets make up the bulk of your inner and outer personality. Along with the types of continued experiences that influence them.
Identify the Sun and Moon in your chart. They are represented by these symbols here. Once you’ve identified both your Sun’s house and sign placement, and your Moon’s house and sign placement, use these PDF’s here and here to uncover what these fundamental elements of your inner and outer self are all about.
Remember that the house placements show the areas of life that are important to you and are major themes in your life. The sign shows the characteristics that come through your personality and life experiences. Your Sun representing your outward self, and Moon inward.
NOW LET’S LOOK AT YOUR ASCENDANT AND CHART RULER.
These elements essentially represent how your life unfolds, and what shapes your personality over time. They are like your Sun and Moon, except more specifically the life path and life events which further shape your personality. You might think of this as who you are becoming, and strongly representing you and your life in the chart.
Your Ascendant represents the qualities that you are developing as a result of your life experiences. There is only a sign associated with it because it is always associated with the 1st house.
Your Chart Ruler, on the other hand, is essentially the planet that rules the sign your Ascendant is in. The house and sign position the Chart Ruler is placed in represents a more detailed look, at not only what characteristics you are developing, but the area of life as well.
First let’s identify your Ascendant sign. Look up the characteristics of this sign using the same PDF we used earlier. Remember these are the qualities that come through your overall life experiences and shape who you are becoming. These are very important qualities to develop in your life.
NOW LET’S IDENTIFY YOUR CHART RULER.
First you must know what planet rules the sign your Ascendant is in. Use this PDF here to get a list of rulers for each of the zodiac signs. You might notice you have two, in this case mark both planets as they’ll be equally important.
Once you have identified your Chart Ruler locate its house and sign placement, just like you did for the Sun and Moon. Use the same PDF’s we used earlier to identify what these areas of life and characteristics are that shape your personality over time. Remember the Chart Ruler essentially represents you in the chart, and what is being developed.
TYING IT ALL TOGETHER.
At this point in your analysis you’ve uncovered the four most fundamental elements of the natal chart. Analyzing and understanding these four components alone will account for a huge understanding of who you are and your prominent life experiences. You can apply this same process to any person’s chart.
For those of you who want to take the analysis further, you’ll want to look at the major associations that form between these four components and other planets in the birth chart. These are called aspects. The aspects can either be found on in the inside of the chart, next to the chart, or both. Here is a PDF of what the different aspects mean, for your further analysis.
Next you can look at the inner planets of Mercury, Venus, and Mars. Then the middle planets: Jupiter and Saturn. Followed by the outer planets of Uranus and Neptune. And the comets: Chiron and Pluto. Analyzing their house and sign placements.
Note that as you move further out to the more distant planets, the personality characteristics become that much deeper and less apparent. Much like an Onion, where the outer layer of our personality and experiences represent the four main components we covered in this video. Followed by the inner planets, middle, then outer at the center of the onion. (As a side note, pay particular attention to any planets in the 1st house as they will tend to come through strongly in the personality and experiences.) Here is a list of the major planets, it shows what elements of the self, and experience in life, they represent.
With continued practice, focusing primarily on the four major components of the birth chart outlined in this video.. you’ll be able to interpret a birth chart quickly and precisely, in a matter of minutes.