Got some extra time on your hands at home? Same. While marathon-watching every show in your Netflix queue or scrolling through Instagram until your fingers go numb are solid ways to pass the hours, wouldn't it be fun to do something more productive? If you're into astrology, reading your own birth chart is a great way to get to know the cosmic version of yourself that goes far beyond the surface-level description of your sun sign. Think of this as therapy, entertainment, and the world's most intense personality test all wrapped into one. Because yes, reading your horoscope, discovering your rising sign, and digging beneath the surface of your moon sign is great — but if you want the full picture of your astrological self, then diving into the cosmic goldmine of information that is your birth chart is a must.
While consulting a professional astrologer is the best way to get the inside scoop on your birth chart and its many unique complexities, there is still lots of astrological knowledge you can gain on your own by simply using the internet as a tool. Doing so will help you learn more about both astrology and yourself, and there's an endless amount of information to be explored.
Ready to get started? Let's dive into the simple basics of reading an astrology chart so you can get your DIY cosmic analysis on.
What's A Birth Chart In Astrology?
Your birth chart, aka a natal chart, is essentially an astrological map that depicts the cosmos at the moment you were born. An astrology chart takes this information for any given time and lays it all out on a circular, pie-shaped map that's divided up into different sections of the sky, and within this chart lie all the zodiac signs and planets. But your chart is more than a snapshot of the stars — it can also be used as a "map to understanding yourself," according to astrologer Lisa Stardust. "The birth chart is based on the time, birth date, and location of birth, and no two are the same — which is why it’s so special and unique," Stardust tells Bustle. "It helps you navigate your purpose and direction in life."
How To Get Started Reading An Astrology Chart
First thing's first: you need your birth time. This is required in order to draw up an accurate birth chart, as some of the points in your chart are totally dependent on it. If you can't get your birth time, you can still get a fairly solid idea of what sign each of your planets is in — but some elements of your chart will be incomplete without a birth time.
Next, you'll need to punch your birth date, time, and location into a birth chart calculator. There are lots of free natal chart calculators online, or you can use an astrology app to pull up your chart, too. Once you pull up your chart, you'll know, as it'll be a pie-shaped chart with lots of lines, symbols, and numbers on it, which looks confusing, but we'll go through the major elements that comprise it, so you'll have a better idea of what you're looking at.
As you research the different parts your chart, you may find some less-than-stellar interpretations of certain planetary alignments — and that's OK. A difficult cosmic situation in your chart doesn't mean you're doomed to a disastrous life. "There’s no such thing as a 'bad' chart," Stardust says. "Often times, people get stressed out if they have a crazy aspect in their chart — but most of us have this going on." Just as every zodiac sign has its strengths and weaknesses, each planetary alignment — even the tougher ones — can be used to your advantage. "We learn to work with the energy [of our chart] and work through these tense aspects in life, which can make them not bad at all," Stardust says.
Zodiac Signs In The Birth Chart
Let's start with the first must-know element of your birth chart: the signs of the zodiac, which divide your chart into twelve segments. As you may recall from geometry class, a circle is made up of 360° — and because there are twelve signs in our chart, each sign is made up of 30° (that's what all those little tick-marks on the perimeter of your birth chart are!). You will quickly learn that don't just have one sign influencing you — all twelve signs are incorporated in your birth chart, and they all carry an influence over different parts of your life.
"Signs are used to describe how the planets perform," Stardust says. "[For example,] if Venus is in Taurus it will take on a sensual role, whereas if Venus is in Gemini then it becomes more intellectual based." The energy of the signs changes the way the planets express themselves.
What Are Houses In Astrology?
Next we have another important set of 12 segments of your zodiac chart: the 12 houses, which represent "different areas of life," according to Stardust. Each house signifies a part of your life and yourself — and these realms get more complex, interactive, and even esoteric as you rise through the houses. So while the first house represents your basic sense of self and identity, the twelfth and final house represents spiritual expansion and higher consciousness. You can read all about the twelve houses of the zodiac here to find out the meaning behind each one.
When examining your houses, look at which sign the "cusp" (or the line that designates where the house begins) falls into. This is the sign that governs said house in your chart. You can learn a lot about it by doing some internet research. For example, if your first house cusp is in Gemini, simply Google "first house in Gemini" to find out the scoop on what kind of energy influences the part of your life that the house represents.
There are four very important house cusps in your chart, and those are the four points on the X/Y axis, or the cusps of your first, fourth, seventh, and tenth houses (you can see them marked in the chart above). The most notable are the cusp of your first house (aka your ascendant or rising sign and represents your surface-level self). And the cusp of your tenth house — which is also known as your Midheaven sign and represents your ultimate career path and life purpose. If you just want the basics, start by researching the placement in the zodiac of those four houses in your chart to get an overall idea of what you're working with.
What Are The Major Planets In Astrology?
Obviously we wouldn't be talking astrology if we didn't get into some of the cosmos' most notable players: the planets. There are 10 major planets in astrology (which includes the sun and the moon), and each one represents a different part of ourselves. "The planets are the 'vibes' in our life that describe how we go about getting, maintaining, and achieving things," Stardust says. You can read about the astrological meaning of each planet here to give yourself a better understanding.
You probably already know your sun sign (this is the sign you read your horoscope for), and you may already know your moon sign and rising sign, too. As you examine your chart, you'll want to look at two things about the planets to start with: what sign they're in, and what house they're in. The sign that a planet is in will show you the way you will express that planet's qualities. So for example, if you have Mercury (planet of communication) in Leo, you'll probably express yourself in a flamboyant, gregarious, and attention-grabbing Leonian way. Additionally, the house that the planet is in will show you the part of your life where that planet's qualities will show up most. Try searching things like "Venus in the fourth house" or "Mars in Taurus" to read different astrologers' interpretations of your placements.
What Do Aspects Mean In Astrology?
Now that you know which signs and houses the planets reside in within your birth chart, it's time to take a look at how the planets' energies play out with each other, given the arrangement that they were in at your time of birth. These planetary placements and relationships are called aspects, and they tell us whether planets are getting along — or stirring up some cosmic drama. "The aspects are how the planets act when in different signs," Stardust says. "They show how one gets things or takes action in life."
Aspects are simply labels for different angles between the planets in your chart, and you can figure them out based on the planetary degrees (cue a flashback to geometry class). There are many different aspects that planets can form, but the five major aspects are conjunctions (0° apart), sextiles (60° apart), trines (120° apart), squares (90° apart), and oppositions (180° apart). You can read all about the five major aspects in astrology here. Some aspects are known to be lucky and helpful, while others are known to be more challenging and frustrating — but it all depends on the planets involved. Look at the aspects between the planets in your chart and Google to find out the scoop on your personal challenges, strengths, lucky points, and more.
Once you dive into analyzing your birth chart DIY style, you'll quickly realize that there is a lot more to learn about astrology, and that your personal astrology is much more complex than most people would ever guess if they had taken the time to look beyond their horoscope. While the instructions here only scratch the surface of retrieving the cosmic nuggets of wisdom that can be dug up through chart reading, it's a good start — and I promise that it'll offer you hours of cosmic guidance that will help you feel more in touch with yourself and the universe.