Bustle's Beginner's Guide To Astrology
Apps, books, and more to help you understand the stars.
Whether or not you’re into it, astrology is as mainstream as ever. Bustle recently asked 2,000 women ages 18-35 who occasionally read their horoscope about their relationship with the cosmos; the survey, conducted by OnePoll, found that 75% identified as believers. And it’s not just about feeling seen by astrology memes: A third of people blamed bad things happening on Mercury retrograde, while nearly half said they would make changes to their schedule based on astrological events. What’s more, 53% said that astrology had become a bigger part of their life since 2020.
“Astrology has its cycles,” says Mecca Woods, Bustle’s resident astrologer, referring to its popularity. “When people are dealing with a lot of uncertainty […] astrology is one of the places that they go to because it gives them context.”
This guide is for anyone who wants to learn what the hype is all about. You’ll learn about your birth chart essentials; the best astrology apps and books to help you go deeper; and guidance for moving ahead in your astrological journey. Happy stargazing.
— Melanie Mignucci, Editor
Why Should I Care About Astrology, Anyway?
The zodiac was first devised by Babylonians circa 700 B.C.E. Since then, everyone from royals and world leaders to business moguls have relied on the insight of astrologers for guidance in their lives, careers, and relationships. Through the symbolism of the 12 zodiac signs and the connections between the planets, astrology can help you get to know yourself more profoundly.
“Every person has their own individual birth chart, and the deeper you go into it, the [more] you learn about yourself,” says Woods. “You can go into the past and look at family history and dynamics. You can look at your purpose and personality. You can look at relationships. Astrology is a very, very wide field and there's so many different ways that someone can learn about themselves or use their birth chart.”
Even if all you ever do is read the occasional horoscope or share an uncannily accurate zodiac meme, astrology still fascinates people because it’s fun. By figuring out the qualities of your sun, moon, and rising signs (and beyond), you can discover more about yourself, connect with those around you, and feel more in-tune with the solar system at large.
The Big Three Breakdown
Your birth chart is made up of many different signs, which represent the various layers of your personality. The three that are most essential to know are your sun, moon, and rising signs. If you know any of your astrological “big three,” it’s likely your sun sign, though 54% of respondents to Bustle’s survey knew all of them. If you feel like your sun sign doesn’t describe you — and 33% of respondents didn’t — learning your moon and rising might give more context to your emotions or interactions with the world around you. You can calculate your sun, moon, and rising by plugging your birth date, time, and location into an online birth chart calculator or app.
Your sun sign reflects who you are at the core of your being — your essential identity, in other words. It has the biggest influence on your personality and the way that you present yourself to the world. Your sun sign also explains how you express yourself creatively and what brings you joy in life. Your sun sign is determined by the zodiac season that you were born in — so, if you’re born anytime during Leo season (July 23-Aug. 22), for example, you’re a Leo sun.
Your moon sign is the most personal in your birth chart: It represents your innermost feelings, moods, and sensitivities. Your moon sign indicates how you express your emotions and what makes you feel comforted, safe, and secure. For instance, if you have an Aries moon, you’re more direct when expressing your feelings and quick to defend yourself from criticism. Your moon sign is determined by the zodiac sign that the moon was transiting when you were born, meaning it’s in the same part of the sky as the constellation that the zodiac sign is named for.
If your life were a movie, your rising sign would be the title on the big screen. It’s the overarching theme of your story, the first impression you give off, and your approach to life. Even if you’re, say, an enthusiastic Sagittarius sun, your dark and mysterious Scorpio rising will keep a new datefriend guessing — that is, until they get to know your adventurous inner core. Also called your ascendant, it’s determined by the zodiac sign that was rising on the eastern horizon of the sky at the moment you were born. You need to know your exact birth time to calculate your ascendant, because the sign on the horizon changes every two hours.
Learn more about each zodiac sign’s traits here.
The Best Astrology Apps For Beginners, According To Astrologers
Whether you want your daily horoscope in push notification form, or need the down-low on your compatibility with your crush, these astrology apps for beginners bring cosmic wisdom to your home screen.
The Best Daily Horoscope Apps
Erin River Sunday, Birthdate Co.’s consulting astrologer, recommends astrologer Chani Nicholas’ eponymous app, which offers both free and paid subscription versions for iOS only. “It does a great job of updating your personal transits in real-time and integrates other esoteric arts by highlighting a weekly Tarot card and ritual suggestions,” she says. “It’s a well-organized and pretty app for learning the basics, plus a little more.” For $11.99 monthly or $107.99 annually, users can add meditations, workshops, personal readings, and journal prompts for self-reflection.
The Sanctuary app’s design is charming and makes it easy to navigate, especially for astrological newbies. “The daily and monthly horoscopes on the Sanctuary app are well-written and personalized based on your sun and rising signs,” says astrologer Ryan Marquardt. Sanctuary, which is free to download for iOS and Android, also offers live, on-demand readings with professional astrologers starting at $4.99 for an introductory session.
The Best Astrology Apps For Dating
Astrology dating apps are a relatively new concept, but Marquardt says NUiT is an approachable matchmaking app with a modern feel. “Like a traditional dating app, users can match with other people, but NUiT takes it even further by showing your astrological compatibility with your matches,” explains Marquardt. The free iOS and Android app, which uses your birth chart to score your compatibility with others, lets you see multiple possible matches at once, filter them by compatibility, and shuffle to get a new pool of potential dates.
“The StarCrossed app is free and ranks your potentials with another person using a scale of one to five, so you know immediately if it's someone you'll be head over heels for, or someone who will get on your nerves,” Marquardt says. The iOS and Android app also includes personality reports, horoscopes, and on-demand astrologers who can talk you through your astrological compatibility with others.
The Best Astrology Apps For Compatibility
The Pattern is a free iOS and Android app that will measure your compatibility with in-app friends, celebs, or anyone whose birth info you plug into its “Run Bond” feature. “Whether you're trying to understand your relationship with a friend, lover, boss, family member, or literally anyone else, the Pattern will analyze your compatibility with striking results,” says Marquardt.
With the free CUSP app, available for both iOS and Android, you have both horoscopes and compatibility at your fingertips — but unlike other apps, CUSP gives you insight into sexual synastry, too. The “Today” tab is designed like a social media feed, where you get that day’s cosmic energy along with transits. You can like posts, add comments, and send to others. “[The] ‘Your Chart’ tab dives deeper with [the] addition of houses, daily horoscope content, and multi-user interaction,” astrologer Meghan Rose tells Bustle.
The Best Astrology Books For Beginners, According To Astrologers
If you want to learn more about astrology on your own, experts recommend hitting the books. These astrology books will help you learn the cosmic vocab you need to grasp the connections between the stars.
We at Bustle only include products that have been independently selected by our editors. We may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
The Rulership Book, by Rex E. Bills
Think of The Rulership Book as your astrological dictionary, Dana DeFranco, astrologer and co-host of the Allegedly Astrology podcast, tells Bustle. “This book is basically an index of keywords for planets and signs organized in three sections: by keyword, by planet, and by sign.”
Parkers’ Astrology, by Julia Parker & Derek Parker
Don’t let the size of Parkers’ Astrology fool you — this textbook is filled with beautiful artwork that will bring your astrological journey to life. “This book is practically a Bible for astrology,” Marquardt says. “It has everything from the basics of the signs and planets to detailed guides that help you grasp more advanced astrology techniques.”
You Were Born For This, by Chani Nicholas
You Were Born For This explains all the elements you’ll find in your birth chart with an eye towards using those insights to practice self-acceptance. “Rather than broad astrological knowledge, it’s laser-focused on pinpointing your strengths and how you might realize them,” says Sunday.
Hellenistic Astrology, by Chris Brennan
If you’re the full-send studious type, Hellenistic Astrology is for you. “It’s a comprehensive textbook that explains the history, philosophy, and tradition of astrology,” says DeFranco. Not totally sold? “This book is also great for skeptics who are interested in understanding a subject they’re otherwise compelled to condemn,” she adds.
The Twelve Houses, by Howard Sasportas
Knowing how houses work is a crucial part of astrology, too. “Sasportas [does] an excellent job of explaining each house, and what it means when any planet or sign falls into a certain house,” says Marquardt.
Astrology For Yourself, by Douglas Bloch & Demetra George
Astrology For Yourself will teach you astrology by working through your own birth chart. “Astrology For Yourself covers all the ABCs of astrology while showing you how to think critically about your own placements,” says Marquardt. “The keywords and descriptions are quick yet thorough, and you'll learn how to apply astrology in your life both practically and spiritually.”
Do I Need To Get My Birth Chart Read, Or Is My Horoscope Fine On Its Own?
Your horoscope forecasts how transiting planets might affect your zodiac sign over the course of a day, week, or month. Even though most people look up their sun signs, it’s written for your rising sign because it gives an overview of how you’re likely to react to the shake-ups caused by, say, the moon transiting Cancer. A horoscope is a useful tool to know if next week is a good opportunity to ask for a raise or define the relationship, for example.
A horoscope can’t offer your full astrological story quite like a birth chart reading can, however. Birth chart readings assess your natal placements — meaning, the planets’ positions and degrees at the moment of your birth — and how they interact with each other to create your unique life story. Each planet and angle in your chart symbolizes a different dimension of who you are and how you behave in the different areas of your life. You might want to splurge on a birth chart reading with an astrologer if you’re looking for personalized insights on how to deal with relationship challenges or make a career change. It can also offer a preview of how upcoming transits will interact with your chart to spark new opportunities in your life. “[Getting your birth chart read] can be an extremely therapeutic experience, especially if you have unanswered questions or are feeling confused,” astrologer Nia McDow previously told Bustle.
If your horoscope helps you navigate day-to-day decisions, you don’t have to get your birth chart read, but doing so can help you better understand the inner workings of your experiences and who you are.
Check out Bustle’s daily and monthly horoscopes.
What, Exactly, Am I Supposed To Do With This Info?
Astrology can be used for so many things, from making sense of the past to catching glimpses into possible futures. But perhaps the most valuable way to use it is as a tool for self-reflection and self-actualization. Whether you’re calculating a synastry (aka, compatibility) chart between you and your crush, or just figuring out your moon sign for the first time, astrology can help you see things in your life in a new light. For example, knowing that your moon sign is sensitive Pisces while your partner’s is in rational Virgo can shed light on why it might be hard to relate to each other emotionally. That knowledge then becomes a jumping-off point for finding solutions by learning what makes each other feel comforted and seen.
You can also use astrology as a way to feel more aligned with the rhythms of the cosmos. For instance, keeping track of new and full moons can help you sync your manifestation practice to the lunar cycle, which can give your intentions extra power. On a more practical level, knowing when Mercury is retrograde can help you avoid falling victim to the transit’s infamous snags — the classic communication clashes or tech issues that turn even the most skeptical into astro-believers.
An astrology chart is like a one-of-a-kind map, and within it is a wealth of insight that shows the potential within us and beyond us. But ultimately, what you do with astrology is up to you. And the possibilities are as infinite as the stars themselves.