The Chart Basics
The natal chart is a circle (360°) divided into 12 parts, which are actually called houses. The houses are numbered with house no. 1 always beginning where the ascendent starts (when using the placidus system - the house system I believe to be the most accurate).
The ascendent is unique and specific to every chart, it is the sign that was rising on the east horizon at the exact time and in the exact location which you were born - hence why it is the first house. This is also why it is crucial to know the exact time and place of your birth for an accurate natal chart.
A compiled list of keywords to understand the astrological facets that make up a natal chart in simple terms.
Aries: childlike, fast-paced, impatient, fearless, exciting, natural, temperamental, active, fun-loving, enthusiastic, self-involved, adventurous, inconsiderate, lively
Taurus: slow-paced, teacher, thoughtful, five senses, material, pleasure, sensuality, beauty, stubborn, self-indulgent, lazy, relaxed, possessive, patient, persistent
Gemini: witty, quick, fast-paced, irritable, easily bored, excitable, chaotic, multi-faceted, versatile, adjustable, inconsistent, unfocused, nervous
Cancer: moody, sensitive, empathic, nurturing, caring, fun-loving, spontaneous, creative, protective, clingy, needy, manipulative, complaining
Leo: arrogant, vibrant, enthusiastic, humourous, melodramatic, vain, fun, big-hearted, generous, brave, loyal, egoistic, thin-skinned, dominating, impatient
Virgo: critical, careful, thoughtful, mentally active, meticulous, anaylsing, reliable, modest, fussy, harsh, judgemental, caring, zany, humanitarian
Libra: fairness, manners, tactful, romantic, diplomatic, peaceful, mediating, passive, judgmental, superficial, unreliable, detached, laid back, charming, self-absorbed, humourous,
Scorpio: brave, focused, obsessive, controlling, power, intuitive, balanced, strong, jealous, manipulative, secretive, mysterious, resentful
Sagittarius: sanguine, friendly, philosophical, superficial, all-Knowing, inconsistent, big-Hearted, moral, generous, courageous, impatient, judgemental, relaxed yet rigid
Capricorn: hardworking, practical, reliable, disciplined, sensible, mature, unimaginative, robotic, patient, ambitious, cautious, pessimistic, calculating, shy, self-centred, stubborn, moody, detached
Aquarius: humanitarian, friendly, socially conscious, universally oriented, detached, interpersonally unaware, sarcastic, witty, affectionate, aloof, progressive, rebellious, individualistic, zany
Pisces: vulnerable, brave, emotional, sensitive, empathic, sympathetic, imaginative, devoted, sacrificing, escapist, accepting, adaptable, compassionate, self-pitying, lazy, weak-willed
Sun: you, ego, consciousness, personality, action.
Moon: feelings, unconscious, intuition, reaction.
Mercury: logic, thinking, communication.
Venus: love, romance, "feminine" side, social interactions, aesthetics, affection, illusion, charm.
Mars: aggression, passion, forcefulness, "masculine" side.
Jupiter: optimism, expansion, luck, the big picture, confidence.
Saturn: responsibility, limitation, order, restriction, lessons, realism.
Uranus: higher thought, individuality, psychic powers, unpredictability, innovation.
Neptune: idealism, spirituality, religion, fantasy, illusion, dreams, creativity.
Pluto: money, sexuality, the shadow/dark side, transformation, growth.
First House // AC: self, "door of perception" how you view the world, how the world views you - when you act unconsciously
Second House: self worth, security, material items, money, comfort, safety, luxury, five senses, food
Third House: theory work, communication, creativity through communication, thought, wit, neighbours, short trips, siblings
Fourth House // IC: where we come from, early life that shaped us.
Fifth House: fun, creativity, spontaneity, romance, children, hobbies, games
Sixth House: health, work environment, service, analytical thinking
Seventh House // DC: one-to-one relationships, attraction and/or repulsion.
Eighth House: death, transformation (rebirth), taboo, intimacy, mystery, other people's possessions
Ninth House: higher education, long trips, experience, philosophy, religion - to find something higher for oneself to follow
Tenth House // MC: what we aim for, what we want to be seen as, what we want to achieve, how strangers see us - when we act consciously.
11th House: collective consciousness, groups, friends, organisations, hopes, dreams, wishes, society
Twelfth House: dreams, unconscious, subconscious, spirituality, secrets, sacrifice, solitude, enemies, confinements, religion - to find something to devote oneself to.
The chart is 360°, the 12 zodiac signs are 30° each and the relationships (aspects) shared between the planets (and AC and MC) in your chart is determined by the distance of the signs they are in. Archetypically, these are the aspects:
Trine - signs of the same element.
- Aries, Leo, Sagittarius (fire)
- Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn (earth)
- Gemini, Libra, Aquarius (air)
- Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces (water)
Sextile – signs that have the same polarity but a different element.
- Fire and air are both masculine/positive so when a fire sign makes contact with and air sign a sextile is formed.
- Earth and water are both feminine/negative so when an earth sign makes contact with a water sign a sextile is formed.
Square – signs of the same modality but not polarity.
- Fixed: Taurus and Scorpio square Leo and Aquarius
- Mutable: Gemini and Sagittarius square Virgo and Pisces
- Cardinal: Aries and Libra square Cancer and Capricorn
Opposition – signs of the same modality and polarity.
- Aries and Libra
- Taurus and Scorpio
- Gemini and Sagittarius
- Cancer and Capricorn
- Leo and Aquarius
- Virgo and Pisces
Conjunction – the same sign, same modality, element and polarity.
However, the degrees are the most important and there are times where two signs that might normally get along can form a disharmonious aspect. The degrees of the major aspects below and their archetypal energies:
- Conjunction - 0° // harmonious and disharmonious
- Opposition - 180° // disharmonious
- Square - 90° // disharmonious
- Trine - 120° // harmonious
- Sextile - 60° // harmonious
Degrees of the minor aspects and their archetypal energies:
- Semisquare - 45° // disharmonious
- Sesquisquare - 135° //disharmonious
- Semisextile - 30° // neutral and harmonious
- Quincunx or Inconjunction - 150° // neutral and disharmonious
- Quintile - 72° // harmonious
- Biquintile - 144° // harmonious
The aspects between each planet obviously don’t always fit to the exact degrees so there is often a gap. The gap between these aspects is called an orb.
Remembering that the order of the zodiac is as follows: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces, we can see that between Libra and Aquarius have 3 signs between them. If we add the degrees of 30 from Libra up to Aquarius, we have 4 lots of 30° - Scorpio 30°, Sagittarius°, Capricorn 30°, Aquarius 30°. 4 x 30° = 120°, which means the aspect formed between these two signs is a trine.
Now, say I have my Sun at 1.57° Libra and my Moon at 3.45° Aquarius, the distance is no longer exactly 120° because we have to take into account the degrees of the signs the planets are in – we have to minus the degrees of the planets together, if it then becomes a negative number just ignore the minus sign, we are working with a circle. Therefore, the math is then: (3.45 – 1.57) - 4 x 30 = 118.12°. Rounding this to 120° makes the aspect formed between my Sun and Moon a trine. 120° - 118.12° = 1.88°, making the orb between the aspect 1.88°.
If my Sun is at 27.57° Libra and my Moon at 1.45° degrees Aquarius and we do the math: (27.57 – 1.45) - 4 x 30 = 93.88°. Rounding this up we get 90° which is a square aspect. 93.88° - 90° = 3.88°. This then means that my Sun and Moon square each other with a 3.88° degree orb despite the face that these two signs naturally form a trine.
Also remember to put the biggest number first.
The math can sometimes be confusing and when using a natal chart calculator to create your chart there will most likely always be an easier way to view aspects, it's just not as thorough as a circular chart. Most will use glyphs to represent the aspects which you can refer to with the glyph key.
- Conjunction: sameness, oneness, mirroring, closeness, obnoxious, absorbed.
- Opposition: dynamism, conflict, energising, motivation, tug-of-war, limitless, challenging, excitement
- Square: obstacles, confusion, struggle, rigid, growth, transformation, strong, solid, wisdom, "party-pooper"
- Trine: easy, simple, lazy, relaxed, talent, gifted, power, comfort, natural
- Sextile: easy, laid back, fun, excitement, comfort
Since aspects are of a certain degree, the orbs are limited to a certain amount in which the aspect actually has an affect on the individuals. The tighter the orb, the stronger the aspect (i.e. the stronger the influence it has on the individual). For example, in the chart we have continued to use so far Jupiter is 4.40° Aquarius and the Sun is 21.55° Aquarius, these planets are the same signs but the orb is 17.15°, the orb is too wide to consider these two planets to be in conjunction with one another. The rules for orbs vary amongst all astrologers, but only slightly. My rules for orbs are as follows (these rules are only for natal charts, not synastry, transit etc.):
- All orbs within 2° are the strongest (meaning it has a very strong influence on the individual) and if the aspect includes an asteroid or fixed star, no more than 2° is allowed.
- Aspects that include the angles - Ascendent or Midheaven only - should be no more than 5°
- Conjunctions and Oppositions: within 9°, but strongest 5° and below. However, aspects that include outer planets must be below 9°. If it is 7° and above the influence is weak.
- Square, Trine and Sextile: 7° and below, 4° and below is the strongest.
- Minor aspects: No more than 5°, but should be below 3°. Only go up to 5° if the planet is a personal one.
This can be the most difficult part but it is what gives us the answers to understanding the natal chart completely. We have to add up everything and see what the result is. Please remember: This is just a guide I wrote to act as a starting point. To do this step it would best to do more thorough research on the components that make up the natal chart - houses, planets etc.
For now, I am going to use an example from the same chart we are using so far. I am going to use Mercury and Neptune. We can already tell these planets are in conjunction since they are right next to each other in the 2nd house, but we'll do the math anyway. Mercury is in Aquarius at 2.00° and Neptune is in Capricorn at 28.21°. The calculation is then: (28.21° - 2.00°) - 1 x 30° = 3.79°. The orb between this conjunction is 3.79°, since it is below 5° we can agree that this aspect has a strong influence on the individual, but not astrology as it would be if it were under 2°.
We now have to work out how these planets act due to the signs they are in. We can treat this as an "equation" too - Mercury + Aquarius. If Mercury is thinking, communication and logic and Aquarius is humanitarian, friendly, socially conscious, universally oriented, detached, interpersonally unaware, sarcastic, witty, affectionate, aloof, progressive, rebellious, individualistic and zany, we can then assume that this persons way of thinking and communicating is universally oriented, detached, zany, sarcastic, witty etc. So, if someone is like this in how they think and communicate it probably means that they may learn unconventional ways, they may think out-of-the-box, they may like to have weird (zany) conversations, and since sarcastic and witty is there too that is what they will be.
Neptune is imagination, fantasy and illusion and Capricorn is disciplined, unimaginative, practical and calculating. These mixed together seems very paradoxical, the energies seem to be at odds. This means that the individual may struggle when 'handling' this planet. We can still piece these pieces together though, if Capricorn is ambitious and hardworking and Neptune is fantasy, we can come to the conclusion that this person may daydream (fantasise) about success. If Capricorn is unimaginative and Neptune is imagination we can assume that this persons fantasy life is very rooted in reality (the reality the perceive anyway). This person probably doesn't dream about being swept off their feet by their favourite fictional romantic interest (unless, they believe that it could actually happen - sometimes reality is a funny thing). This person is going to daydream about things they believe can and might actually happen.
We can finally piece the two planets together - (Mercury + Aquarius) x (Neptune + Capricorn). If this person is unconventional in their thinking and communication but practical with fantasy and creativity, and remembering the conjunction means sameness and closeness, we can say that this person is creative and 'open-minded' but will only believe something if they find it to make sense and fit in with the reality of our everyday lives. This person probably uses individualistic (Aquarius) communication (Mercury) and creativity (Neptune) to fuel ambitious (Capricorn) goals.
Finally, we look to the house. Both of these planets are in the 2nd house - the house of self-worth, money and material items. If the conjunction of these two planets is expressed in this house we can then say that is tied to their self-worth. When they catch themselves daydreaming about the impossible they feel guilty and when they find themselves unable to imaginative at all they can get themselves down. Since the 2nd house is also money and possessions they may like to make money from this somehow or like to spend money on D.I.Y and the like. They may like to (buy) read fantasy novels that 'make sense' and make them think.