Birth Charts for Beginners: Four Things You Need to Know

April 19, 2020

Astrology is a tool with many applications. And if the ultimate goal of human life is self-realization, as spiritual sages and masters suggest, understanding your birth chart is one of the most powerful tools we possess. The study of astrology is vast and seemingly endless; it requires patience, humility, and dedication. You can never stop learning. But with humility, it will continue to reveal its secrets. Consider this a starting point in your journey of learning to read your natal chart. Be patient with yourself and apply your understanding in layers. Over time, your holistic understanding of your chart, astrology, and most importantly yourself will deepen.

Developing a basic understanding of and familiarity with the four main components of a chart—houses, planets, signs, and aspects—along with their symbols and glyphs, is key to any reading. Pro tip: Keep the Table of Dignities handy. This will help you judge the strength and condition of a planet, and its ability to perform.

This 2019 reading is a shortcut to the stars!



Houses tell you “where” something is being played out. A natal chart has 12 houses, each representing an area of an individual’s life. For example, activity in the 6th house highlights health, work, daily, life, and routines among other things. The 9 o’clock position on the chart marks the ascendant and beginning of the 1st house. The houses continue from the 1st to the 12th in a counter-clockwise direction.


The cardinal houses signify action.

1st house

House of Self; associated with Aries

4th house

House of Home; associated with Cancer

7th house

House of Partnership; associated with Libra

10th house

House of Social Status; associated with Capricorn


The fixed houses center on the resources available to you.

2nd house

House of Possessions; associated with Taurus

5th house

House of Pleasure; associated with Leo

8th house

House of Transformation; associated with Scorpio

11th house

House of Friendships; associated with Aquarius


The mutable houses represent the impetus of any action.

3rd House

House of Communication; associated with Gemini

6th House

House of Health; associated with Virgo

9th House

House of Philosophy; associated with Sagittarius

12th House

House of Unconscious; associated with Pisces

birth chart astrology



The planets tell you “what” is being played out or “who” is acting something out. There are seven traditional planets that we can see with the naked eye, and they each represent a specific arena of thoughts, feelings, and archetypes.



Self, ego, primary consciousness, father.


Emotions, mother, child, one’s style of nurturing, security, nourishment, inner nature.


Communication, the mind, duality, transportation, speech, siblings.


Attraction and creation, relationships, love, beauty, money, values.


Separates, passion, sex, drive, motivation, war, anger.


Knowledge, wisdom, teachers, foreign cultures, expansive, magnifies.


Time, gateway, boundaries, authority figures, structure, tradition, teachers.

*The sun and moon are considered planets in astrology and are also referred to as the luminaries.

Modern astrologers will also use outer planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, which speak to a collective experience, marking generational themes. Some astrologers also work with asteroids and minor planets. Begin with the traditional seven, adding more elements to your interpretations as your understanding increases.

birth chart astrology 2



The Signs tell you “how” something is playing out. There are 12 Signs divided into three modalities, or qualities (cardinal, fixed, mutable) and four elements (fire, earth, air, and water). Cardinal signs begin a cycle, fixed signs offer a continuation of energy, and mutable signs signal a shift. The elements, too, are associated with specific qualities. As an example, Aries is a cardinal fire sign, suggesting fast moving energy; in Taurus, a fixed earth sign, the energy moves at a slower, steadier pace.



cardinal, fire


fixed, earth


mutable, air


cardinal, water


fixed, fire


mutable, earth


cardinal, air


fixed, water


mutable, fire


cardinal, earth


fixed, air


mutable, water

birth chart astrology



Aspects refer to the angles planets make to each other—the “why” of astrology. There are major and minor aspects, but as you begin your study of the natal chart, focusing on the major is best. The five major aspects can alert you to the relationships between two planets—how they’re working together, playing together, and relating to each other—based on their respective positions in the ecliptic. Consider the degrees listed as starting points with an orb of plus or minus 5°.


Hard (challenging) major aspects:

Conjunction (0°)

A fusion due to close proximity.

Opposition (180°)

An awareness of opposing energy.

Square (90°)

Tension; calls for creative resolution.


Soft (harmonious) major aspects:

Trine (120°)

Natural flow/exchange of energy.

Sextile (60°)

An opportunity for manifestation.


Use these four components to jumpstart your basic understanding of a natal chart—and stay tuned for our tips for interpretation.

Art by Becca Reitz and Ruvim Noga