The Birth Chart

Many people who read their horoscope in the newspaper have never had a birth chart done.  The image you see is the chart — the big circle is the chart wheel.  The text to the left is a text version of the planetary positions which are also reflected on the chart — if you know how to read it.

First, let’s focus on the text to the left.  If you looked at the Planets subsection, you saw images of the planets (glyphs) as well as an explanation of what the specific themes are for each different planet.

On the left, you can see those glyphs associated with the name of the planet together.  That can help reinforce in your mind those glyphs, and eventually be able to identify a planet just by the image.

You can see, for example, that it says Jupiter 28 degrees 56 minutes Libra.  Each sign has thirty (30) degrees, multiplied by 12 signs to make a 360 degree circle.  If you remember your geography, each degree has 60 minutes in it.  Jupiter is in a very high degree of Libra (almost 29 degrees), which means that Jupiter in this person’s chart is very highly developed.  In fact, it’s very close to the Libra-Scorpio cusp.

I’ll show you where to find Jupiter on the chart wheel in a second.

You can also see a planet like the Moon at 2 degrees 6 minutes 8 seconds Capricorn.  With this software, the Sun and Moon actually show the seconds — 60 seconds to a minute.  Just to give you an idea, 1 second on the Earth corresponds to something in the neighborhood of 100 feet.  Dividing into seconds makes things really precise.  The Moon is in a very low degree, in fact, it’s not much past the Sagittarius-Capricorn cusp.

On the chart wheel just right below the horizontal line on the left, you see the number 1.  That denotes the 1st house.  The circle looks like a pie, doesn’t it?  That 1 takes up that piece of the pie.  Below it you see the number 2 which is the second piece of that pie.  That’s the 2nd house.

You can see all the houses process counterclockwise around the circle.  Now look in the 12th house.  Do you see that thing that looks like a fancily drawn “4“?  If you look to the left, you can see that’s the glyph for Jupiter.  If you look in the 1st house you can see the glyphs for Venus and Neptune, once you look to the left to identify them.

You can see all of the planets, and the Moon’s node, that way.  Now what is that horizontal line to the left?  That line is the Ascendant.  The Ascendant is the cusp of the 1st house.  The vertical line emanating to the top of the circle?  That’s the Midheaven, the cusp of the 10th house.  (The horizontal line to the right of the inner circle is the Descendant (cusp of the 7th house) and the vertical line to the bottom of the circle is the  cusp of the 4th house (the Nadir, or IC.)  These are referenced less often.)

The 1st, 4th, 7th, and 10th houses are known as angular houses.  Planets in those houses usually are more influential than the other eight houses.

You can see the Ascendant line to the left, and to the left of it you see the glyph for Scorpio.  The sign glyphs are not shown on the text to the left — you’d have to look at the glyphs in the Signs section to learn those.  Above the Scorpio symbol is the number 17, below it 34.  This person has a Scorpio Ascendant (actually, this is a relocated chart), in fact it’s 17 degrees 34 minutes Scorpio.  (It’s usually sufficient to note the degrees, although in the Jupiter example you might want to round up to 29 degrees, since it’s so close).

In this person’s chart, most of the planets are on the left side of the chart (which is considered the east side, since that’s where the ascendant is).  This person is in a sowing lifestyle.  This tends to mean that the person has more choices in life direction, but has to expend effort to get there.  A reaping lifetime (most planets are west or right side of the chart) means that the person has fewer life choices, but can basically go through a life all set up for them.

Now let’s look at the aspects.  Or, at least, learn how to read the aspects.

Do you see that blue triangle in the middle of the circle?  That’s a Grand Trine.  Actually, there’s two Grand Trines in almost the same place, as the Moon and Mercury are within one degree of each other.  Each of the legs of each Grand Trine is a Trine aspect (120 degrees), generally a very favorable aspect.  The points of that triangle correspond to the planets that the points are pointing to.  So the points on that Grand Trine are the Midheaven (on the top point, 28 degrees Leo), Moon/Mercury (lower left, 1 and 2 degrees Capricorn, respectively), and Saturn (lower right, 2 degrees Taurus).  Truth be told, having Saturn in favorable aspect to both Moon and Mercury is really favorable.

Most Grand Trines would be in the same elementfire, water, earth, or air.  This Grand Trine is an exception.  You can see that the the Moon, Mercury, and Saturn are in earth signs, but the Midheaven is in a fire sign.  This happened in this case because all three points — the two planets and the Midheaven — are very close to the cusps between two signs.  That can sometimes happen, but only when the planets are near cusps.

You can also see two blue lines emanating from that little key-like symbol, which is Chiron (at 2 degrees Aries) and both Venus (7 degrees Sagittarius) and Neptune (29 degrees Scorpio).  Those those blue lines are trines.  These are not really exact aspects — there is a difference between the Venus/Chiron aspects of 5 degrees (in other words, they are 115 degrees apart instead of 120) and there is a difference between the Neptune/Chiron aspect of 3 degrees (they are 123 degrees apart).

The 5 degree and 3 degree differences are known as orbs.  There is an amount of leeway allowed in an aspect, and an orb is the difference between the pure angle (120 degrees in the case of a trine, 90 degrees for a square, etc.) and the actual angle.  These orbs are rather large in this case, so the influence of the aspect is weaker, especially the larger the orb, or the further away.

Squares are 90 degrees apart, so when you see two planets connected to each other roughly 90 degrees apart, that line is a square line.  In this case Mars and Neptune are connected by a red line.  It’s kind of hard to see because that area of the chart has a lot of planets and all of the aspect lines between them are crowding each other out.

Just to flesh out the details:  any brown lines (there are three in this chart, the easiest to see is the one between the Midheaven and Chiron) are quincunx lines (150 degrees).  The magenta lines between Venus (7 degrees Sagittarius, 2nd house), Saturn (2 degrees Taurus, 7th house), and Pluto (27 degrees Virgo, 11th house) are quintile lines.  Venus/Saturn and Saturn/Pluto are biquintile (144 degrees) and Venus/Pluto is quintile (72 degrees).  Quintiles are considered favorable.  (They usually have to do with talents and spirituality).  Sextile lines (60 degrees) are green and opposition lines (also red) are oppositions (180 degrees).  There’s an opposition in this chart between Jupiter (29 degrees Libra) and Saturn (2 degrees Taurus).

Quincunx are mildly challenging, oppositions tend to be challenging, but sextiles and quintiles are usually favorable, although in different ways.

Hopefully this serves as a good introduction for how to read a birth chart.  You will get better at this!