How to Read a Natal Chart

What scares off new astrologers the most is the amount of research, terms, symbols, meanings, etc. that populate the horoscope. Each chart has so much to unpack that most people are unsure of where to start first.

Below is the structure that I would recommend for a beginner. The order is clear, informative, and good enough to learn everything you would want to know, leaving room for further study when you are ready. As you get more comfortable identifying the symbols, the layout of the chart and seeing what positions have the most impact, you will probably form your own formula for studying charts.

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Identify Your Sun, Moon, and Rising Signs

Your first duty when looking at your birth chart is to identify the core essence of the chart by noting where the sun, moon and ascendant (or rising sign) are located. These points are the most important on any birth chart. They say how you function on an elemental level.

The Sun sign is probably the most popular aspect of astrology; when someone asks your sign, they are most likely talking about your sun sign. It describes your individuality, your natural talents, and your general tendencies.

The Moon sign describes how your emotional nature functions, how you react to situations, your personality, and your emotional needs to feel comfortable and secure. Knowing what triggers your emotions can help you control them.

The ascendant (aka the rising sign) is usually described as the mask you wear in life, your first impressions on others. Going a bit deeper, our rising sign describes how you feel you should best tackle life; it is your purpose for living, an understood motto you tacitly live by.

In just these three placements there is a lot of knowledge to unpack. But you’re not done yet!

Interpret Your Other Planets

Examine how your planets express themselves in the signs you find them in on your chart. Each planet represents different human energies: how you think (Mercury), how you innovate (Uranus), how you relate to others emotionally (Venus), etc. Even though the planets will always represent the same ideas, their meanings get flavored differently depending on what sign they are located. Imagine the planets as actors and the zodiac signs as different settings and stages.

So, Mars is always the aggressive jock, but his expression in Aries is vastly different than that in Pisces, or in Scorpio for that matter. When you understand your own inner workings, you become more in control of your power. You can find more on what each planet represents here, or by clicking on the name of the planet.

  • Mercury – how you think and speak; processing and sharing information; relating intellectually; reasoning ability
  • Venus – how you seek pleasures, sensuality and entertainment; socializing; relating emotionally; sense of beauty
  • Mars – how you act in the world; sexual desires; your drive and ambition; ego expression; sense of aggression
  • Jupiter – how you seek and share beliefs and opinions; how you strive for or where you find the most success; what you are most optimistic about; where you experience growth; level of faith
  • Saturn – how you experience limits, failures, disappointments and delays; what you fear or doubt of yourself and others; what you try to control or restrict; how you lay foundations for the future
  • Uranus – how you innovate; how you express your individuality and uniqueness; how you seek personal independence; your ability with machines and computers
  • Neptune – how you are of service to others; where your ego tends to dissolve; your spirituality and belonging; how you may be subject to delusions or false beliefs, or how you delude others
  • Pluto – how you decide to transform yourself; where your personal power lies; how you tend to manipulate people or the environment; your obsessions; what you want to dominate

Look at the Angles (Asc, Nadir, Dsc, Midheaven)

After the sun, moon and rising sign, the angles of the chart are probably second most influential. Therefore it is important to recognize if there is any activity in the first, fourth, seventh, and tenth houses, especially on the cusps (or beginning) of those houses.

So, what are houses? First of all, the houses are divisions of space around the Earth that astrologers use to place the planets in the birth chart. They represent different fields of life. There are several house systems to use, so choose whichever one you feel works best for you. You can learn more about the houses here.

First House – Ascendant, Rising Sign

Any planet that is either at the same degree (i.e. conjunct) of the Ascendant or within the first house itself has a huge effect on your identity and purpose. You tend to take on that qualities of that planet and use them very personally in your life.

Fourth House – Imum Coeli, Nadir

Any planet that contacts the fourth house cusp or is in the fourth house will affect your home life, attitudes about your mother, and your emotional center. Interestingly, planets that aspect the nadir will also aspect the tenth house (of ambitions, the father), suggesting a powerful influence from both parental figures.

Seventh House – Descendant

If there are planets on the descendant or in the seventh house, the relationships and dealings with the public are affected. They suggest energies that influence your interactions with other people.

Tenth House – Medium Coeli, Midheaven

As this house rules vocation, career, ambitions and the father, planets found here or on the cusp will have great influence on these matters.

Examine the Rest of the Houses

Now that you know generally what’s going on in the angular houses, take a look at the other houses: what planets are within and what sign does each house fall under. Although these planets are influential, they are not as powerful as those found on and within the angles. In fact, you may notice that your work on the angles answered most of your pertinent questions. Instead, you will find more sedated energy in the other houses.

Since you have already figured out what your planets in their signs mean, combine their meanings with those of the houses. For more information on what the houses mean, visit the houses page here.

Conclusion

For a beginner, the information you collect here will already be plenty of days’ work of unraveling the story your birth chart contains. Some things will clear up questions you have had for a long time; others will make too much sense and describe what you have always been doing and why you seemingly do the things you do.

One major disclaimer I will give is: the planets do not make or force us to do anything; they only suggest what is possible or likely to happen. This is the entire premise of my website (which I hope you check out more)! No matter what placements you feel are dragging your experience down or you think have damned you to a life of struggle, remember that we as human beings always have a degree of free will, and mastery begins with knowing what you’re up against; in this case, it is literally your own self. As you learn more about astrology, you will discover more answers and secrets hidden in your chart.

My advice is to take your time and pay attention to how the wandering stars tell the beautiful story of a brief moment in time that is your existence on this planet.

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