Read A Birth Chart
Read a Birth Chart in 6 Steps
When you look at a birth chart for the first time, perhaps your own, you may find it overwhelming and completely confusing. Here are six simple steps to get a handle on what those lines and symbols mean. If you follow these steps you can quickly begin to understand your chart.
Before you begin this step-by-step exercise you need a chart (aka Birth Horoscope, Natal Chart, or Natal Horoscope). If you don't have one, you can download free charts at Astrolabe and Astrodienst. Note that some charts show more symbols than mine do. I use a classical chart. If you have a hand-drawn chart it should show at least what is shown here. Verify the accuracy of the birth data. This includes the name, the birth place, the birth date and the birth time. This step is extremely important. You would never want to begin to interpret a chart that is not accurate. If you are in the least unsure about the birth time, see this.
It is also helpful to have pen and paper handy.
Step 1: Introduction - The Overall Picture
Bearings. To get your bearings take a look at the overall chart. In Western Astrology charts are circular. The two green arrows I have added show that we read the chart in a counter-clockwise direction. We imagine ourselves on the earth in the middle, surrounded by the sky.
Zodiac. The outer-most circle in the chart, here light blue, symbolizes the Zodiac belt. It consists of the fixed star constellations against which we see and measure the movements of the planets. We usually call these constellations the signs of the Zodiac.
Step 2: The Four Components in Every Chart
Identify the Signs. There are twelve of them and they make up the celestial band or belt called the Zodiac. This band runs around the outside of the chart. It is cut into the twelve equal parts: the 12 signs of the zodiac.
Identify the Houses. Inside the Zodiac there are what look like twelve slices of pizza. These are the twelve houses. They do not align with the signs of the Zodiac although there are twelve signs and twelve houses. It is worth thinking this through as this is the single most difficult point to understand when learning how to read a chart.
Find the ten Planets. Inside the twelve houses you find the ten planets. If you are counting more than ten in your Birth Chart that is because some websites (or programs or astrologers) show other points of interest in the heavens. Do not worry about these.
Recognize the Aspects. Finally, in the middle of the Birth Chart there are usually a whole lot of lines. They show interplanetary relation- ships and are called aspects.
Step 3: Label the Four Points of the Cross
Find the Horizon. Across the middle of the chart there is a line that represents the horizon. It goes from east to west, with east on the left of your chart. This is counterintuitive because on a regular map the left side shows west. As we see in this example, this line is often not continuous but is interrupted by the aspects.
Find the Ascendant. As the earth rotates or "falls away" from the fixed stars and sky, it appears that the heavens rise up from the east because we don't notice the rotation of the earth. The resulting apparent movment of the heavens falling away to the east is most notable on a starlit night. The sign of the zodiac that is rising (=ascending) over the eastern horizon at the moment of your birth is your rising sign (=Ascendant or Asc). For now just mark the point where the horizon meets the Zodiac with "Asc." We will determine the sign of the ascendant in the next step. Then find its opposite point, the Descendant and label it Des.
Find the MC, and IC. At the highest point in the sky (not necessrily the highest point of the chart) we find the Midheaven. This is where the Sun was at the zenith (or in the south) at the moment in time we are mapping. In Latin the word for Midheaven is Medio Coeli, hence the abbreviation MC. Label it now. The opposite point to the MC, the lowest point in the sky is called the Nadir, or the Immum Coeli or IC. Label it now. In most charts, the cross created by connecting these four points is marked by thicker lines.
Step 4: Name the Ascending Sign (Ascendant)
Re-visit the Ascendant. You already know where the Ascendant is. It is the point where the eastern horizon, extended into infinity, intersects the Zodiac. If you look carefully you will see that this intersection happens within a sign of the Zodiac, within a piece of the belt.
Find the Sign. Compare the sign that the Ascendant intersects with the list of all the signs. In our example it is Pisces.
Learn the Terminology. The proper terminology is as follows: "This Ascendant is (in) Pisces." Find the Ascendant in your chart using the provided list of the signs of the Zodiac.
Step 5: Number the Houses
Mark the First House. Now that we know the Ascendant we have also identified the starting point of the chart. The Ascendant is always the beginning of the First House. We count the houses counterclockwise.
Mark the other Houses. Use ascending numericals from 1-12. Some charts have this already marked. Note the house sizes: The houses in a chart are not necessarily all the same size but they can be.
Step 6: Identify the Planets
Locate the Planets. Now we are ready to read the planets using the table in the center of our sample chart as a guide. In this example I have circled Saturn and Venus at the top, and Mars and the Moon more to the right. Find all ten by name.,
Planets in Signs. Just like the Ascendant is in a sign (in Pisces), so is each planet in a sign. In our example Saturn and Venus are in (the sign of) Sagittarius and Mars and the moon are in Libra. On a piece of paper, make a list of the ten planets in your chart nad note what sign they are in.
Add the Houses: The final step is to add the houses. You do this by adding a column to your current list of planets in signs. In our example Saturn and Venus are in the 9th house, Mars is in the 8th house andthe Moon is in the 7th house. Do this on your own list.
For our sample chart the final list would look like this:
SUN in Capricorn in the 11th house
MOON in Libra in the 7th house
MERCURY in Capricorn in the 11th house
VENUS in Sagittarius in the 9th house
MARS in Libra in the 8th house
JUPITER in Virgo in the 7th house
SATURN in Sagittarius in the 9th house.
URANUS in Aries in the 1st house
NEPTUNE in Pisces in the 1st house
PLUTO in Capricorn in the 11th house
ASC (Ascendent) in Pisces
MC (Midheaven) in Sagittarius
Congratulations if you listed them all correctly! You now have the beginnings of reading a chart.