Astrology Basics

Astrology is a very complicated discipline. The first step in learning astrology is to understand the pieces. The next step is to assimilate those pieces into a holistic picture. The first part takes study…the second part takes practice. There are plenty of websites and books that have very sufficient descriptions of the basic pieces of astrology if you are interested in learning more. But below I will try to summarize the basic components as a starting point.

For any reading, the most basic information required are birth date, time, and place. Below is my birth data for example:

March 13, 1979 - 5:44 PM - Worcester, MA 

With this basic data, a birth chart (or natal chart) can be derived (see my natal chart). In western astrology the chart looks like a circle with all 12 signs wrapped around the outer ring. Inside the ring are the 12 numbered houses along with the planets, or astral bodies that reside there. Basically this chart is a snapshot of the heavens at the moment for which it is cast. The center of the chart represents the place on earth where you were located at your birth. The planets, signs, & houses are shown relative to this time and place. The angles between the planets, or aspects, represent the flow of energy between them. Finally, since the planets keep moving through the sky throughout our lives, they make transits (or specific angles) to our natal planets. These transits represent times of opportunity, challenge, and/or growth depending on the planets and angles involved.

A common way to briefly describe the interaction of the planets, signs, & houses is by using the ‘play analogy’. In this analogy, the planets represent the characters, the signs represent the costumes, the houses represent the stages, the aspects between planets represent the dialogue, and the transiting planets represent the spotlights.

For example, the Mars character wearing the Capricorn costume on the 8th house stage is different from the Mars character wearing the Pisces costume on the 6th house stage. Each of these Mars characters would also have completely different aspects (i.e. dialogues) going on and would be transited by other planets at different times throughout life. With all of these complexities, it is easy to see just how unique each person and their journey really is!

The Signs

Though most people are aware of the signs of the zodiac, most do not realize that there is an order to them in terms of the evolutionary journey. In her book “2012 and the Galactic Center”, Dr. Christine Page does a fantastic jobs, in my opinion, in terms of summing up the mystical folklore related to the journey through the signs. But put simply, the journey begins with Aries and ends with Pisces. Below is a list of the signs, in order, along with key phrases that best describe that stage of evolution and a brief description of that energy:




Expandig Consciousness in an Awakening World

Aries: ‘I Am’ 

Aries energy is energetic, innovative, original, pioneering, assertive, quick-tempered, strongly driven, leader-oriented, ambitious, extroverted, sometimes aggressive, competitive, enthusiastic, self-reliant, and self-assured. Element - Fire, Modality- Cardinal, Ruling Planet(s) - Mars


Taurus: ‘I Have’

Taurus energy is determined, efficient, stubborn, cautious, placid, persistent, enduring, introverted, conservative, conventional, materialistic, security conscious, stable, industrious, and dependable. Element - Earth, Modality- Fixed, Ruling Planet(s) - Venus


                 Gemini: ‘I Think’

Gemini energy is flexible, versatile, restless, a jack-of-all-trades, lively, alert, quick-witted, literary, communicative, a good conversationalist, changeable, sociable, logical, ingenious, agile, dexterous, intellectual, and mentally ambitious. Element - Air, Modality- Mutable, Ruling Planet(s) - Mercury

Cancer: ‘I Feel’

Cancer energy is introverted, reserved, emotional, sensitive, moody, sympathetic, security-conscious, prudent, retentive, domestic, maternal, protective, quiet, calm, imaginative, conscientious, and traditional. Element - Water, Modality- Cardinal, Ruling Planet(s) – Moon


Leo: ‘I Will’

Leo energy is ambitious, a lover of the limelight, speculative, extroverted, optimistic, honorable, dignified, confident, proud, exuberant, sunny, flamboyant, charismatic, dramatic, competitive, a leader-oriented. Element - Fire, Modality- Fixed, Ruling Planet(s) - Sun


Virgo: ‘I Analyze’

Virgo energy is practical, responsible, sensible, logical, analytical, highly discriminating, carefully planning, precise and punctual, dedicated, perfectionist, critical, health conscious, and somewhat introverted. Element - Earth, Modality- Mutable, Ruling Planet(s) - Mercury


Libra: ‘I Balance’

Libra energy is idealistic, peacemaking, diplomatic, refined, poised, gracious, kind, courteous, fair-minded, sociable, charming, artistically creative, affable, cooperative, extroverted, and indecisive. Element - Air, Modality- Cardinal, Ruling Planet(s) - Venus


Scorpio: ‘I Desire’

Scorpio energy is intense, determined, powerful, strong-willed, forceful, bold, courageous, enduring, competitive, resourceful, researching, investigative, secretive, mysterious, penetrating, psychic, self-reliant, and somewhat introverted or closed. Element - Water, Modality- Fixed, Ruling Planet(s) – Pluto/Mars


Sagittarius: ‘I See’

Sagittarius energy is idealistic, optimistic, freedom-loving, casual, friendly, buoyant, gregarious, enthusiastic, philosophical, studious, farseeing, direct, outspoken, honest, loyal, restless, and travel-loving. Element - Fire, Modality- Mutable, Ruling Planet(s) - Jupiter


Capricorn: ‘I Use’

Capricorn energy is ambitious (power, position, money), organizational, self-disciplined, rigid, thrifty, prudent, security-conscious, conservative, responsible, practical, persistent, political, business oriented, methodical. Element - Earth, Modality- Cardinal, Ruling Planet(s) - Saturn


Aquarius: ‘I Know’

Aquarius energy is individualistic, unconventional, progressive, unique, independent, humanitarian, altruistic, visionary, perceptive, intellectual, logical, ingenious, inventive, unpredictable, detached, friendly, and scientific. Element - Air, Modality- Fixed, Ruling Planet(s) - Uranus


Pisces: ‘I Believe’

Pisces energy is receptive, supersensitive, impressionable, peace-loving, serious, sympathetic, charitable, compassionate, artistic, creative, dreamy, dedicated, imaginative, psychic, shy, introverted, spiritual, and reclusive. Element - Water, Modality- Mutable, Ruling Planet(s) – Neptune/Jupiter


Note

When people see the key phrases in that order for the first time they almost invariably ask why the “I Know” phrase does not represent the final culmination rather than the “I Believe” phrase.

Our modern mechanistic culture leads us to believe that we can have mastery over all things by completely understanding them. But with true wisdom one realizes that we cannot ever really KNOW everything. Every time we create a framework for understanding something we create more questions related to the 'outsides' of that framework.

Remember that true wisdom comes with surrendering to this recognition of infinity and understanding that no matter how much we know that there is MUCH more to know. This surrender has an element of FAITH to it, and hence the phrase for Pisces, “I Believe”, represents the final culmination.

The Planets

The planets represent the characters in our play. You can think of them as our different personalities or different sides to our personalities. Below the planets are separated into groups to distinguish between their realm of influence.


The Core Planets or Lights

Sun (The Life Force)

The Sun tells us of the actual core of a person, the inner self, of that which is of central concern. It also shows us the general vitality and the ability to assert oneself, it describes a general tone of being which colors everything else. The sign in which the Sun resides is the sign that most people are commonly aware of for themselves because it is based on our day of birth. When someone says, for example, “I am a Taurus”, what they mean astrologically is that the Sun was in Taurus when they were born. Rules – Leo


Moon (The Emotions)

The Moon represents our feelings and emotions, the receptivity, imagination and basic feeling tone of a person. It also has an effect on the sense of rhythm, time and timing, it influences our adaptability to change, our mobility and versatility. It can also be thought of as our personal ‘burglar alarm’ as it represents the style of our protective reactions when we feel most vulnerable.  Rules – Cancer


The Personal Planets

Mercury (The Mentality)

Mercury represents reason, reasonableness (common sense), that which is rational. It stands for the spoken and written word, putting in order, weighing and evaluating, the process of learning and skills. Rules – Gemini & Virgo


Venus (The Affections)

Venus gives us a sense of beauty, the enjoyment of pleasure, aesthetic awareness, love of harmony, sociability, taking pleasure in relationships and eroticism. Rules – Taurus & Libra


Mars (The Will) 

Mars represents the energy and drive of a person, their courage, determination, the freedom of spontaneous impulse. It also describes the readiness for action, the way one goes about doing things as well as simple aggression. Rules – Aries & Scorpio


The Cultural Planets

Jupiter (Growth)

The search for individual meaning and purpose, optimism, hope and a sense of justice are represented by Jupiter. So also faith, a basic philosophy of life, the striving for spiritual growth and expansion. Rules – Sagittarius & Pisces


Saturn (Structure)

Saturn shows how we experience "reality", where we meet with resistance and discover our limitations. It represents the conscience and moral conviction, the laws and rules which we choose to obey. It also tells us about our powers of endurance and the ability to concentrate, it lends qualities like earnestness, caution and reserve. Rules – Capricorn


The Evolutionary Planets

Uranus (Authenticity)

Uranus stands for intuition, it transmits sudden inspiration and lightning insights. An openness for all that is new, unknown and unusual. A sort of wrong-headed contrariness is also associated with this planet. It is said to be characteristic of the art of astrology itself. Rules – Aquarius


Neptune (Empathy)

This planet gives us the supersensory, opens doors to mystical experience and the transcendental. On this level it is hard to discern where perception moves into deception, illusion and false appearances, and so Neptune is associated with all of these, with drugs and all kinds of pseudo-realities. Rules – Pisces


Pluto (Power)

Pluto describes how we deal with power, personal and non-personal, be it through suffering the power of others or exercising it ourselves. It describes how we meet the demonic and magical, our regenerative powers and our capacity for radical change and rebirth: the cycles of dying and becoming. Rules – Scorpio

The Houses

The 12 astrological houses represent the different areas of life experience. They correspond to the 12 signs in evolutionary order (i.e. 1st house to Aries, 2nd house to Taurus, etc.). The houses have more to do with the contract or intention for this life and their placement in our charts are very dependent on time of birth. Below is a brief description of each:

1st House (Ascendant) – The Individual Personality 

Together with the Sun and Moon the Ascendant is one of the most important single factors in a horoscope. The sign rising at the beginning of the first house tells us a lot about someone's personality, temperament and constitution. It typifies our immediate, instinctive reaction and shows how we present ourselves to the world. It describes how we 'market' ourselves to other people. The planet ruling the ascendant sign is of particular importance for the interpretation.

2nd House – Values and Possessions 

The second house and its occupants tell us about the material circumstances, the acquisitive urge and how we deal with possessions and material means. This includes the relationship to our own body.

3rd House – Communication 

The third house and any planets occupying it tell us of our siblings, the manner in which we communicate on an everyday level and the relationships which determine our daily life. 

4th House – Roots and Origins 

This house describes our origins, the parental home and the circumstances influencing childhood and youth. It describes how we relate to “family”, our attitude towards “hearth and home”.  

5th House – Pleasure and Creativity 

Sexuality and eroticism are at home here, along with play in general and all types of creative expression. This house also describes how we relate to children, pleasure and simple fun. 

6th House – Work and Routine 

The sixth house describes the circumstances surrounding us in our daily lives, including the work environment and daily routine. This includes our behavior towards subordinates. Bodily hygiene and care also belong here, as well as tendencies to certain acquired illnesses. 

7th House – Relating 

The descendant sign and planets occupying the seventh house tell us about how we select our partners and describes the partnerships and relationships we seek. Often we are involuntarily attracted to people whose horoscopes carry a strong emphasis of the sign in our seventh house. 

8th House – Loss and Common Property 

The eighth house shows how we relate to communal goods and how we deal with material loss. The taxes levied on us each year are a good example for this and show how closely related these areas are. Traditional astrology maintains that this house has an affinity to death and all things metaphysical. Death would then be the ultimate material loss. Amongst other things, the study of metaphysics can be a very differentiated way of dealing with this loss, which inevitably comes to us all. 

9th House – Philosophies and Far Countries 

The ninth house describes our spiritual leaning, life philosophy and our world view. In fact, these are often influenced by journeys to foreign countries. The attitudes cultivated and formed in this house can greatly influence matters of the 10th. (see below)

10th House (MC) – Occupation and Calling 

This house is of particular importance, since it affects not only our choice of profession and our sense of calling - it also has a bearing on our general development, what we become. This continues throughout our lives.

11th House – Friends and Acquaintances 

The eleventh house describes how we relate to friends, benefactors and teachers - people who wish us well or from whom we can learn. It also shows us in these roles. This house shows how we relate to the society in which we live. 

12th House – Beyond the Personal 

This house represents those spheres of life in which the individual no longer plays a part, where we step back for a greater whole or lose ourselves in one. Traditional astrology sees hospitals, prisons and psychiatric institutions in this house. It is also associated with monasteries and any other retreats as well as our connection to the masses.

The Aspects

The aspects are the angles that the planets make to each other. Since a chart forms a circle (360°), planets that are opposite of each other (i.e. 6 signs away) are 180° apart and those planets that are 3 signs away from each other, for example, are 90° apart.

The mathematical angle between two characters in our play makes a difference in terms of the ease of energetic interaction. Basically, some angles produce a smoother flow while with others the flow can be more discordant. Below is a brief description of the different types of angles and their significance. These are only the basics as there are many more angles to discuss as well.

Hard or difficult aspects. - Semi-square (45°), Square (90°)

Sesquiquadrate (135°), and Opposition (180°). These are the aspects that help us recognize the ingredients in our personality that need changing.

Easy or soft aspects.Trines (120°) and Sextiles (60°)

These are the aspects that express our talents and skills.

Growth aspects. - Semi-sextiles (30°) and quincunx (150°)

These are aspects that give us opportunity to grow. They indicate long term development of some key aspect of your personality and behavior for this life time.

Power aspects.Conjunctions (0°), Parallels, and Contra-parallels

These are the aspects that show energy, force, reorganization and transformational ability.

Summary Table

House

Sign

Element

Modality

Ruling Planets

1st

Aries

Fire

Cardinal

Mars

2nd

Taurus

Earth

Fixed

Venus

3rd

Gemini

Air

Mutable

Mercury

4th

Cancer

Water

Cardinal

Moon

5th

Leo

Fire

Fixed

Sun

6th

Virgo

Earth

Mutable

Mercury

7th

Libra

Air

Cardinal

Venus

8th

Scorpio

Water

Fixed

Pluto, Mars

9th

Sagittarius

Fire

Mutable

Jupiter

10th

Capricorn

Earth

Cardinal

Saturn

11th

Aquarius

Air

Fixed

Uranus

12th

Pisces

Water

Mutable

Neptune, Jupiter