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 1st 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 3rd house you can see the glyphs for the Moon and Mercury, 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 Libra.  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 Libra symbol is the number 23, below it 15.  This person has a Libra Ascendant (actually, this is a relocated chart), in fact it’s 23 degrees 15 minutes Libra.  (It’s usually sufficient to note the degrees, although in the Jupiter example you might want to round up to 29 degrees).

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.  Each of the legs of that 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, 27 degrees Cancer), Neptune (lower left, 29 degrees Scorpio), and that little key, which is the tiny planet Chiron (lower right, 2 degrees Aries).

Most Grand Trines would be in the same elementfire, water, earth, or air.  This Grand Trine is the exception.  You can see that the the Midheaven and Neptune are in water signs, but Chiron 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 a blue line between Saturn and Mercury and a blue line between Saturn and the Moon.  Those lines are really very close together because Mercury and the Moon are less than one degree apart — they are conjunct.  And yep, those blue lines are trines.  Even though these three planets are close to cusps, they are in the same element in this case — earth.  (And truth be told, it’s a really good thing for Saturn to be in favorable aspect to those planets).

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:  the brown lines between the Midheaven and points near the bottom of the chart — in this case Mars and Moon/Mercury 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!