Understanding the Basics of Astrology

Astrology, an ancient system that uses stars, planets, and their positions to set expectations for an individual's personality and their path of growth, has been gaining lots of popularity in recent years, particularly among the female and LGBTQ demographics. However, many of us have only a basic knowledge of how it works or why many of us still use it today. If the only thing you know about astrology is your sun sign, read on to find out how to really get in-depth with astrology, and how you can use it to benefit your life.

The first thing to note about astrology is that almost everything in the sky that is not a star or a constellation is considered a planet. This includes the eight other planets of the solar system (yes, Pluto still counts,) as well as the Sun and the Moon. Each planet rules an aspect of life. While many of us already know our sun sign, (for instance, my birthday is November 23, so my sun sign is Sagittarius,) each planet spends some amount of time in each sign. So while my Sun is in Sagittarius, my Moon is in Capricorn, and my Mars is in Virgo.

                                                                                         (Image credit: @astrobebs)

The sun spends 30 days in each sign, while the Moon typically spends only 2-3. These are known as "degrees," and each planet has a certain amount of time they spend in each sign. Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, far away from us here on Earth, are known as the "generational" planets; they spend around seven, fourteen, and thirty years in each sign, respectively, so the rules for those three planets are a little different.

Also, as an aside: there is no such thing as a cusp sign. If you were born on August 23, you are not a "Leo-Virgo cusp." You are a Virgo. Astrology is a system of rules, clear lines, and (surprisingly) math. Planets are never in two signs at once, and this includes the sun. If you find yourself relating to things written about Capricorns even though your sun is in Pisces, you probably have a stellium in Capricorn, meaning you have three or more planet placements in Capricorn.

Another aspect to consider is the "rising" sign, otherwise known as the Ascendant. Your rising sign helps determine the vibe you give off, what people's first impression of you is, and how you respond to your body. This is the sign that was coming up over the horizon during your birth, and it changes every two hours. This is why, if you've ever had a friend try to do a natal chart for you, (a plot of all your signs and where the stars were when you were born,) they ask you for the specific time you were born. Your Sun, Moon, and Rising signs together form the "Big Three" that most people who are into astrology will want to know about. For instance, my Big Three are Sagittarius, Capricorn, and Cancer.

The final aspect of astrology I'll talk about in this article are the elements and the modalities of the signs. Each sign has an element and a modality. For the elements, there are four groups of three, and for the modalities, there are three groups of four. The four elements are water, earth, fire, and air. The three modalities are cardinal, fixed, and mutable.



Pisces, Cancer, and Scorpio

Intense, emotional, dreamy, introspective.


Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn

Grounded, practical, driven, quiet.


Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius

Lively, love to explore, love attention, fiery (go figure). 


Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius

Abstract thinkers, intellectuals, analytic, humane, and objective.


The modalities represent a cycle of growth. Cardinal signs are initiators, beginning the cycle, and are active and ambitious; fixed signs are steady and maintain the cycle, while sacrificing flexibility; mutable signs end the cycle, and are suited towards change and adaptability. 

Cardinal signs 

Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn.

Fixed signs 

Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius.

Mutable signs

Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces.


That's all we have time for in this article, but keep an eye out for further articles! Next time: the House system!