Get to Know Your Astrological Birth Chart
How to find meaning in the stars — and what it means for you.
This content was developed in partnership with Conscious City Guide.
Have you ever wondered how your approach to relationships is dictated by which house holds your moon, or what the planets have to do with whether you show up to work on time? Did you ever wonder why this is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius? If your answer is yes, then you’re not alone. Astrology — not to be confused with astronomy, the scientific study of celestial objects and phenomena — is the ancient observation of the planets’ movements and the interpretation of how they influence human existence. Although far too folkloric or steeped in pop culture for many, astrology has served as an essential and exciting way of navigating life’s adventures for both the believers and mystics among us.
“Astrology has served as an essential and exciting way of navigating life’s adventures for both the believers and mystics among us"
The first iteration of astrology can be traced back to the ancient Babylonians in the second millennium. They looked into the night sky for guidance, dividing it into 12 sections; each section contained a major constellation. From thenceforth birthed the art of astrology, which would continue to have reverberations for thousands of years — and issues of Cosmopolitan — to come.
In the course of our lifetimes, we will almost certainly get to know the sun signs; the traditional signs you’d think of as your horoscope (Scorpio, Leo, Gemini, etc — see below for more on these astrology fundamentals). But understanding our birth charts is a whole other art form in, and of, itself. They provide us with a deeper understanding of every aspect of the living experience — from our behaviours to our motivations. For all of us novice mystics looking to the stars during these confusing times, here’s a breakdown of astrology’s essential terms:
Our sun signs (Aries, Pisces, Capricorn, etc.) are determined by the year, month, and date we were born. Astrology uses our birth dates as coordinates that anchor us to one of 12 signs. Each zodiac sign is then further categorized into one of four elements representing energies: fire (Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius), water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces), air (Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius) and earth (Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn). According to New York-based astrologer Aliza Kelly Faragher, in general terms, “Fire signs are passionate and exuberant, earth signs are practical and grounded, air signs are intellectual and curious, and water signs are intuitive and emotional.”
If our sun sign is a picture of lives, then our birth charts are segments of our DNA. Determined by our birth date and the time and location at which we were born, our charts are supposed to provide us with deep insight into our lives. Our birth chart works by taking a snapshot of the night sky as we enter into existence and adding meaning to its every component. Our birth charts are thought to be as personal as our fingerprints; as the earth continuously rotates, no one coordinate is ever repeated. Ancient wisdom states that our charts are meant only for trusted eyes as the information contained within may render us vulnerable.
Now we know what a birth chart is — but how do we read one? First, we have to understand its components. Each person’s chart is made up of 10 planets, 12 signs, and 12 houses; these components are plotted onto a circular chart based upon our time, date, and place of birth.
A familiar part of our lives, sun signs represent how we live. Our signs help us understand our characteristics and our personalities.
According to astrology, there are ten planets, including the sun and the moon. The planets represent the different functions of our minds, including our ego, communication, and thinking. The location of the planets and their proximity to each other at our time of birth play a major role in determining our natal charts, with each planet serving its own celestial function. Jupiter, for example, is meant to symbolize abundance and optimism, while Saturn symbolizes boundaries and discipline.
Numbered from 1-12 (the hint’s in the name), the 12 houses are located on the outside of our birth charts, similar to the clock. The houses divide each chart into 12 sections, with each section representing an area of your life and driven by its own sun sign energy. For example, our 4th house represents home and family and carries Cancer energy, while our 8th house represents death, sex and transformations, and carries Scorpio energy.
The Primal Triad represents the three most significant signs to look for when reading our birth charts: our sun, moon and ascendant/rising sign.
The sun symbolizes the core of who we are; our ego.
The moon symbolizes our emotional self, our sensitivity and our heart. People often feel a stronger connection to their moon sign than their sun sign.
The ascendant or rising sign represents the face that we show to the world; our outward self. Our rising sign is the window to our other traits.
Reading our birth chart will take practice, but can be a useful and spiritual way to navigate life’s twists and turns. With interest and enthusiasm, you may be able to deepen your understanding of the way in which you’re oriented to the world, not unlike stars form constellations around one another.
Photo courtesy of Dylan Sosso.
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