June 02, 2014

Anatomy of a Birth Chart

Many people think of Astrology as being a "sign." But this is so not true. When someone says "I am a Virgo," or "My sign is Taurus" or any other sign, what they are actually referring to is the fact that the sun was located in  one of the 12 zodiac signs when they were born. "I'm a Scorpio," for instance, means that the sun was located in the sign of Scorpio when I was born. But I am so much more than a Scorpio. I am complicated. Very complicated. In fact, ALL humans are complicated. All of life is complicated. And so are you. And you, too, are much more than your sun's sign.
Astrology painting
Did you know that the only reason horoscopes go by the sign of a person's sun is because it's the easiest to calculate? NOT because it's all there is or because it's the most important. It's because all you need to know is the day of your birth. But if you were to go deeper and also look at the exact time and location of your birth, you would be able to see where every planet in the entire solar system was located when you were born and so much more.

So forget your "sign" for now. Forget your "horoscope". Forget how well you think a Capricorn gets along with a Cancer, etc. None of that essentially means anything (really, it doesn't!) because humans are way too complex for such simple, general descriptions. And nobody is just their sun sign. True Astrology encompasses all of the solar system and approaches each part of the solar system as a piece of a larger whole. (Everything is connected.) And true Astrology is just as intricate, multifaceted, contradictory, and complicated as you are, as all humans are.

Astrological Glyphs

Just as you would not teach a child to read before they knew the alphabet, it is very difficult to understand Astrology without first knowing its alphabet, or rather, its glyphs / symbols. The more you study Astrology, the quicker you can grasp the symbols, and eventually you will know them backwards and forwards. Ideally, however, you would try to memorize them as fast as possible, as doing so is truly the first step on the Astrology journey. Astrology, after all, is a language. I will go in much more detail about how it's a language and the significance of each glyph later but for now here is a chart of the most important glyphs a beginner should know. Click the image for a printable version. :)
Astrology symbols printable

It's Complicated

Despite it being essentially symbolic, Astrology is still very much mathematical (specifically, trigonometry / geometry), and therefore explaining how, exactly, an Astrology chart is calculated can get pretty complicated and confusing. I want all of my Astrology posts to be explained as simply as possible, using regular language so you can really get it. So I will try to refrain from using too much jargon and Astro-talk, but if you want to know all the intricate specifics about how a birth chart is calculated, I can refer you to here and here. Have fun with that. :)

Before I continue, remember this: Astrology is not Astronomy. The two are very different. Astronomy is a science that studies the universe and the solar system. Astrology is a language that interprets the symbols represented by the placements of the planets and constellations in the sky at any given time.

We all know that the sun is the center of the solar system. However, because Astrology is the study of the planets' relationship to our human locations here on earth, Astrology charts depict the earth at the center with the rest of the solar system and the constellations - known as the ecliptic plane - placed around it. This is called a geocentric solar system which puts earth at the center rather than the sun. This way we can get a better look at the relationships between the planets, the sun, and the moon to that of our perspective here on earth. If we lived on the sun, we would put the sun in the center.

The Birth Chart

A Birth Chart or Natal Chart is a chart that Astrologer's use to look at the locations (specifically, the degrees) of and the relationships between the planets and zodiac signs at the time of one's first breath. The locations and relationships are then interpreted as symbols that represent the person's natural tendencies, energies, potential challenges, talents, and more. Technically, it is just a map of the planets' locations at the time and place of one's birth. All birth charts are comprised of the following "building blocks":
The Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and most definitely, yes, little Pluto too. Each planet represents a different type of energy, that is, a person's drives, urges, tendencies, and more. They are the "actions" of a birth chart. Think of them as verbs. These different drives, symbolized by the planets, can be heavily modified based on the house and sign that a planet is located in. If we are looking at a theatrical play on stage, the planets would be the actors. 
A birth chart is divided into 12 different zodiac signs, each measuring exactly 30-degrees (1/12) of a 360-degree circle. The zodiac signs "color" the planets, much like adverbs describe how something is done. The signs show how a planet behaves, and thus how a person will use the planets' energies. If we are looking at a theatrical play on stage, the signs are the roles or characters that the actors play.
Birth charts are also divided into 12 sections called houses. The houses represent different areas of life. They show where a planet's action takes place, or in what area of life a person tends to focus a planet’s energies. The beginning of a house is called a cuspIf we are looking at a theatrical play on stage, the houses would be the characters' situations and circumstances.
Aspects are the relationships between the planets. Just as every person in a family system effects on one another, the planets also effect each other, and thus they modify each other's energies. There are different types of aspects, some of which are considered harmonious, and others that are discordant. The aspects (relationships) are based on geometric angles between the planets. They indicate how a person combines and balances (or not) these various energies or facets of a person's personality. If we are looking at a theatrical play, the aspects would be the characters' relationships among the other characters.
There are 4 important house cusps that are relevant enough to warrant a place in this list. These 4 cusps begin the 1st, 4th, 7th, and 10th houses. The 1st house cusp is called the Ascendant (AC). It marks not only the beginning of the 1st house but also the beginning of the entire chart and is therefore extremely significant. The 7th house cusp is the Descendant (DC), the 4th house cusp is the Imum Coeli (IC), and the 10th house cusp is the Midheaven (MC). These 4 points are the backbone of a birth chart.  The horizontal line that connects the  AC to the DC (AC/DC axis) symbolizes earthly existence and growth from "me" to "you" or "self" to "other". The vertical line that connects the MC to the IC (MC/IC axis) symbolizes growth from earthly existence, or roots, upwards, very much like a seed to a full grown tree. You could say the AC/DC axis symbolizes the body while the MC/IC axis symbolizes the soul. 

Putting it all together

Astrology Houses
Now lets put all of these pieces together. In the above image you can see the separation of the 12 signs on the left, and then the 12 houses on the right. The signs and houses work together simultaneously.
Astrology planets in houses
In this image you can see on the left how the signs and houses work together in one chart. Most charts have houses that aren't divided up quite as equally as they are in the image above, but nonetheless, it still works the same. On the right side, you can see how the planets' are then plotted in their locations within both a sign and a simultaneous house.

A Closer Look 

Brooke Shields Birth Chart
The birth chart of Brooke Shields
The birth chart above is of Brooke Shields (completely random). I want to discuss and explain the components  of a birth chart while looking at a real one. So here goes.

First notice the numbers in the center of the chart that are highlighted in yellow. These are the house numbers. The first house is always on the left of the chart (see area marked B) with  the rest of the houses following after in a counter-clockwise direction from left to right until the end of the 12th house becomes the beginning of the 1st house.

To know which sign a house is located in, you look to a house's cusp, that is, the beginning of the house. If you look at the area marked in the chart, you can see quite clearly that the 5th house cusp falls in Capricorn Capricorn symbol. Because the cusp - or beginning - of a house always influences the entire house, it is said that whichever sign a house cusp falls in, is also the sign of that entire house. Therefore, we would say that Brooke's 5th house is in Capricorn . If you then look to the cusp of the 6th house, you can see that her 6th house is in Aquarius , and so on.

It's important to always note the sign on the 1st house. Look at the area marked marked B. Remember, the 1st house cusp is also known as the Ascendant (AC), a very important angle in all astrological charts. Brooke's first house cusp falls in the sign of Virgo at exactly 23-degrees. Therefore, her 1st house is in Virgo. Her ascendant is therefore also in Virgo. The ascendant is the degree and the sign of that degree that was rising in the eastern horizon at the time of one's birth. Therefore we would also say that Brooke Shields has Virgo rising. Virgo is her Rising Sign. More on the Ascendant / Rising sign later.

In Astrology everything has an opposite. So lets look to the the right side of the chart, opposite the ascendant, to the part marked C. This is her Descendant (DC). Notice her DC is also at 23-degrees just like her AC but its now in the sign of Pisces  .Pisces is always the opposite sign of Virgo. Because the DC is also the cusp of the 7th house,  Brooke has her 7th house in Pisces.

Now onto the planets. Sometimes a planet will land on a house cusp. Look at the area marked D. Notice the planet Neptune  is exactly on top of her 3rd house cusp. A planet falling on a cusp is quite common and not a huge deal, unless it happens to fall on one of the 4 important angles mentioned previously. It's also worth noting that any planet that falls on a house cusp can be interpreted as though it is in both the house it's leaving and the house its entering. Sometimes astrologers interpret it as though it is only in the house it is moving into. For instance, you could say Brooke Shields has Neptune in the 3rd house.

Now look at the top of her chart to the area marked with E. Notice that the cusp of her 10th house which is also her Midheaven (MC) is at 21-degrees Gemini . Her moon   is also at 21-degrees Gemini. Because her moon is located on a house cusp, it is on the brink of moving out of the 9th house and into the 10th. Her Venus , however, is clearly in the 10th house at 23-degrees Gemini.

Now if you look at the area marked F, notice she has the sun  and Jupiter  very close to each other in Gemini in the 9th house. But her Mercury , which is also in the 9th, is not in Gemini. It's in Taurus . It is extremely common to have multiple planets in the same house but in different signs. This is because while all zodiac signs measure 30-degrees, the width of a house varies from house to house and chart to chart.

Now look to the middle of the chart with all those red lines. These are the aspects between her planets. These lines form a sort of geometry that is very personal and significant to each chart, much like one's fingerprint. It is these lines that form the basis of my birthchart paintings. And it is these lines that connect all parts of the chart into a system, or a web of inter-connections. They are a visual representation of how Brooke Shields' different energies are related to each other.

As noted before, there are easy aspects and difficult aspects. Many of Brooke's aspects are the more difficult kind, noted by lines colored red. (Easier aspects are usually blue or green.) Just by looking at Brooke's aspect lines, I can see a lot of intense and difficult communication going on between her planets. Her energies are not always getting along. This is NOT always a negative thing. Many times it's these discordant aspects that force a person to make things happen, if you will. They are the fire under one's ass. Now, notice that some of those red lines meet together at her moon / Venus on her midheaven. The midheaven is a person's public life. It is no wonder she is famous. Famous for her beauty (Venus) and as a mother (moon). This is just a very basic and quick interpretation. I could go on for hours.

In the next post I will get into the really fun stuff... that is, how to put all these parts into a language you can use to interpret what all of this means. We will talk about what astrologers refer to as keywords. Which also happens to be my most favorite part of astrology!

Questions and comments are very much welcomed and encouraged on anything you just read!

1 comment :

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