How to Read Your Birth Chart
By Amelia Quint
Even though all charts have the same features, everyone’s looks different. Your chart will come with an analysis on individual positions, but here’s how to translate it as a whole. First, look at the big three: your sun, moon, and rising signs. These give you an overall picture of your personality. Then see if there are any planets near these points; that’s going to influence how you express yourself. Locate Mercury, Venus, and Mars for an idea of how you relate to others. Finally, see which houses your planets are in; that determines their effects on your life.
How to get your birth chart
Input your birth date, time, and place into an online chart calculator.
Your sun sign is the one you probably already know (it’s your zodiac or “horoscope” sign). It represents what you want out of life and how you go after it. Your moon sign is the sign the moon was in when you were born; it shows what you need to feel comfortable.
Your rising (or ascendant) sign is the constellation that was rising on the horizon at the time you were born. It reveals the first impression you make on others. It’s as much a part of your personality as your sun sign.
The inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars) influence the day-to-day, guiding how you love, work, and communicate. The outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) affect you on a macro level—when one moves through an important part of your chart, it signals a period of major life change.
The chart is divided into 12 houses, which correspond to different areas of your life (see below). Where your planets fall in each house will tell you in greater detail about how you relate to the world.
These are the angles that the planets in your chart make with one another. You’ll hear them referred to as “hard” or “soft,” depending on the number of degrees between them. In general, soft aspects bring harmony and new opportunities, while hard aspects can stoke challenges and tension.
Each zodiac sign is sorted into one of four elements, which affects your personality: Earth signs are loyal, fire signs are passionate, air signs are communicators, and water signs are intuitive. You won’t find your element on your chart, but it’s important to the overall picture.
Other terms you always hear
Used when a planet seems to be moving backward in its orbit through the sky. It’s an illusion but has a real effect on your daily life. A good rule of thumb during these periods: Do things that start with re- (like revise, rethink, recharge).
The cusp is an imaginary line separating two signs. Armchair astrologers might say they’re “on the cusp” if their birthday is close to the start or end of a horoscope period. But it’s an empty term—you can’t be two signs at once.
When a planet moves through the same sign that it occupies in your birth chart, you’ll feel things intensify around the parts of life that planet is associated with: like when your Jupiter return delivers a double dose of health and wealth