Introduction to Astrology
Astrology is the study of the positions and aspects of the Sun, Moon and Planets in our solar system and the influence they have on our lives. Through astrology we can illuminate the secret corners of ourselves and provide a key to understanding others. It expands your curiosity and insight into behaviour and motivation, and it increases your compassion. It helps you to recognise your strengths, acknowledge your weaknesses, accept and embrace your needs – and to fathom out the often incomprehensible behaviour of people around you.
Understanding the basics
Everyone knows that the Earth, Moon and Planets revolve around the Sun. But it’s easy to see how ancient stargazers thought that the Earth was at the centre and everything else spun around it: the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West and seems to encircle the Earth in a giant loop. The circle of space within this loop is called the ecliptic.
You need to see the ecliptic as a circle – which is divided into 360 degrees – and each degree is divided into 60 minutes. The first 30 degrees are Aries, the next are Taurus, and so on all the way round.
Across the entire ecliptic are scattered stars and these form the constellations of the zodiac.
The confusing bit is that the signs of the zodiac and the constellations of the zodiac are two different things – but share the same names.
So the 12 sections of the ecliptic – each 30 degrees – are the signs of the zodiac: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. AND the constellations of the zodiac (called Aries, Taurus etc) are dotted within the circle but don’t have any relation to the signs – they just share the same names.
The reason for this is that originally – when the Babylonians were working out the principles of astrology thousands of years ago – the signs and the constellations were in alignment. But over time the Earth has wobbled on its axis and every year the constellations slip back a tiny bit more, further out of line from their original 30 degree section of the ecliptic.
Signs of the Zodiac
The Sun is the main way you determine your sign of the zodiac (also called your Sun sign or star sign) – which defines your ego, motivations, needs and general approach to life. The position it occupied at the exact moment of your birth gives you your sign. The other Planets – the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Chiron, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto – also represent distinct types of energy that express themselves in the style of the sign they’re in.
|Aries||20 March – 18 April|
|Taurus||19 April – 20 May|
|Gemini||May 21 – June 20|
|Cancer||June 21 – July 22|
|Leo||July 23 – 22 August|
|Virgo||23 August – 22 September|
|Libra||23 September – 22 October|
|Scorpio||23 October – 21 November|
|Sagittarius||22 November – 21 December|
|Capricorn||22 December – 19 January|
|Aquarius||20 January – 18 February|
|Pisces||19 February – 19 March|
Understanding the signs
So the 12 signs are the basic building blocks, but we need to drill down to understand how the signs are grouped together and divided in other ways.
Firstly, six of the signs are positive or masculine signs and six are negative or feminine. The positives and negatives alternate so each positive sign has an accompanying negative sign – kind of like ying and yang.
- Positive signs are more extroverted, objective and assertive (Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo and Virgo)
- Negative signs are more introverted, subjective and receptive (Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces).
Secondly, three modalities describe different forms of expression:
- Cardinal signs are enterprising and make things happen (Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn)
- Fixed signs consolidate and preserve change, being focused and determined (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius).
- Mutable signs are flexible and versatile, adapting and adjusting (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces).
Finally, the temperament of each sign is assigned to one of the four elements: Fire, Earth, Air and Water:
- Fire brings excitement, vitality and intensity (Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius)
- Earth gives common sense, stability and gets things done (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn)
- Air enlivens the intellect and enhances sociability (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius)
- Water strengthens the intuition and emotions (Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces).
The Sun, Moon and the Planets all play parts in your horoscope. Keywords can be assigned to each planet to summarise its meaning:
- The Sun – Self (represents who you are more than any other planet – your essential self, will, individuality, vitality and desire. It also symbolises men in general).
- The Moon – Emotion (represents your emotions, subconscious, instincts, habits and memory – and represents women generally).
- Mercury – Communication (encapsulates your reasoning ability and the way you think, along with your style of communication).
- Venus – Love (the planet for star-crossed lovers as it represents parts of your life concerned with love, beauty, attraction, possession and the arts).
- Mars – Action (the go-getting planet, filled with desire and aggression, representing your physical energy, combativeness, enterprise and courage)
- Jupiter – Expansion (the forward-thing planet of expansion and good fortune, representing prosperity, growth, wisdom, abundance and the higher mind. It’s the best indication of whether you will be lucky).
- Saturn – Restriction (head of the sensible Planets, with limitation, restriction, caution, organisation, endurance and discipline. It tells you when you have to face your fears and when you are feeling ambitious).
- Chiron – Healing (represents past hurt and future healing and is often associated with holistic medicine).
- Uranus – Revolution (an independent spirit, rebellious, individual, inventive, full of insight and all things unexpected).
- Neptune – Imagination (spirituality, dreams, psychic ability, intuition, disintegration, compassion, self-sacrifice, deception and illusion).
- Pluto – Transformation (elimination, destruction, regeneration, renewal and transformation).
Rulers of the Signs
Some Planets work better in one sign than others. So the sign in which a planet seems to function best is said to rule.
- The Sun rules Leo
- The Moon rules Cancer
- Mercury rules Gemini and Virgo
- Venus rules Taurus and Libra
- Mars rules Aries
- Jupiter rules Sagittarius
- Saturn rules Capricorn
- Uranus rules Aquarius
- Neptune rules Pisces
- Pluto rules Scorpio
The anomaly is Chiron – which was only discovered in 1977. Some say it is the ruler of Virgo but there is no strict consensus so far.
Ascendants or rising signs
Right, the Planets aren’t the only components of your chart.
The sign that was climbing over the eastern horizon at the exact moment of your birth is also very important – and is called the Ascendant or rising sign. It reveals the face you show to the outside world – your mask or persona – as opposed to who you really are.
So everyone gets to see your Ascendant (your image or façade) – but not necessarily your Sun sign (your true self). Whether your rising sign clashes or harmonises with your Sun sign describes the way people see you and the impression you make.
If you were born around dawn then your Sun sign and rising sign are going to be the same – which means the surface you and the substance you are going to be the same.
For everyone else, that might not necessarily be true, and what people see of you isn’t necessarily what they are going to get.
So someone who is Aquarius rising would appear sociable and eccentric, with a lively mind and detached approach to life. However, if there Sun sign is Scorpio, beneath their brilliant surface lurks a very emotional, passionate and secretive person: totally different to the surface.
Things like money, relationships, health and career come under the auspices of the Houses. They also divide the sky into 12 parts, beginning with the Ascendant which marks the start of the first house.
- First House – your appearance and outward personality
- Second House – money, possessions, values
- Third House – communication, immediate environment, brothers and sisters
- Fourth House – home, parents, roots, circumstances at the end of life
- Fifth House – romance, children, creativity, fun
- Sixth House – work, health, service
- Seventh House – marriage and other partnerships
- Eighth House – sex, death, regeneration, other people’s money
- Ninth House – higher education, travel, religion, philosophy, publishing, law
- Tenth House – career, status, reputation
- Eleventh House – friends, groups, goals, aspirations
- Twelfth House – seclusion, secrets, spirituality, self-sabotage, institutions
The lower hemisphere of the chart consists of the 6 Houses below the horizon, and deals with the individual’s private world. The upper hemisphere, consisting of the 6 Houses above the horizon, deals with the individual’s public world.
Every horoscope has all 12 houses and any sign at the beginning of the house – or on the cusp – describes your approach to it. For example, if the sign of Taurus is on the cusp of your house of work, your attitude towards your job is Taurean – which makes you dependable, productive and a bit of a plodder.
The old maxim of astrologers is: The stars impel, they do not compel. That means astrology isn’t about fate or luck, it’s about understanding possibilities and potentials.