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Astrology 101: A Crash Course on Reading Your Birth Chart

I leaped into the world of astrology with a desire to understand zodiac signs and how they make us who we are. As I delved deeper into my research, I soon learned that astrology is far more complex than our sun signs and the basic traits that we commonly associate it with. Contrary to popular belief, our birthday, month and even time can dictate who we are currently, the person we’ll be in the future and explain how our past self impacts the relationship with ourselves and others.

This practice, established for thousands of years, takes a variety of shapes. The Cambridge Dictionary defines the most recent form of “astrology”, as popularized in the 60s and 70s, as an “ancient study of the movements and positions of the sun, moon, planets and stars with the belief that each influences human behavior”. Astrology comes into play, breaking our birthday up into the various placements supported by our universe. Luckily, these placements can be reduced down to a single chart.

Here are some basic things to know when reading this birth chart.

Neptune (The Head): The Ruler of Idealism

This planet is associated with inspiration, dreams and spirituality. Compassion runs deep on this planet, making those with strong placements in Neptune more forgiving and optimistic. It’s beneficial to understand our Neptune placement in order to avoid devoting time to things we’re not passionate about and know when it’s time to loosen our attachments.

Our placement in Neptune may be an influence as to why we’re an intuitive or generally more optimistic person.

Ascendant (The Mind)

Our Ascendant placement influences the way that we present ourself to the public. It represents our natural or personal defense mechanisms to cope with or adapt to our environment. In many ways, the Ascendant depends on how others perceive them. It answers the question: What do our body movements tell others about who we are? How much does the way we speak communicate how we think?

Are we naturally enthusiastic and talkative? Are we reserved? How do we react to change and new experiences? The ruler of our Ascendant can offer clarity as to why we express ourself one way over another.

Mercury (The Neck)

Known as the planet of information, Mercury defines how we think and communicate. Our minds naturally gravitate toward this place to consider potential interactions and negotiate the proper responses when speaking to others. This planet manages how we share our thoughts and interact with the world around us. It influences our decision-making.

Consider this: Are your thoughts uplifting or dark? Do you struggle to communicate with others on a deeper level?

If so, take a look into your Mercury placement, and I’m sure that the information you find will be enlightening.

Moon (The Heart)

The moon represents our emotional responses. It considers our needs, desires and reactions. This placement is believed to be reflective of feminine or maternal energy as well as the needs of our inner child. It is through this placement that we process our emotional state, our perceptions of the world and self-reflection.

Think of the moon as a mediator between the outer world and ourselves. The involuntary and unconscious knowledge that we have, our hunches and intuition, is a product of the moon.

Have you even been misunderstood in a conversation? How did you react to the situation? Did you feel betrayed? Angry? Saddened? Were you indifferent? Take a look into your moon’s placement to understand why you may feel so intensely or why you may have a detachment to situations that call for an emotional response.

Saturn (The Arms)

Saturn is associated with restriction and limitations. This planet brings structure and meaning to our world; it defines what our boundaries are, how well we determine our responsibilities and take care of them and our relationship with commitments. This planet influences spiritual growth and encourages us to understand our relationship to the expectations of the world surrounding us.

Do you respond well to commitments? Do you get your tasks done by the deadline or are you more inclined to rebel? Think back to your new year’s resolutions, have your kept that commitment that you made, or have you already given up on them? Your placement in Saturn can show you exactly why you have struggled with consistency, or why you have excelled at it.

Sun (The Core)

Our sun sign is what we’d use to answer the burning question: “What’s your zodiac sign?” Your sun placement defines your fundamental qualities or basic identity. It represents self-realization and highlights the workings of your conscience. 

Both the sun and the moon are important in understanding who we are. While the sun gives precedence to the here and now, the moon influences our feelings. Sun alignment is the biggest influence of one’s actions and their general disposition.

Venus (The Sex)

Venus is the goddess of love, controlling your romantic inclinations. Our placement in Venus influences the pleasures that we take in life, what our personal tastes are, our artistic inclinations and, overall, the things that make us happiest. Venus defines how our expression of love and the qualities that we look for in a partner.

It also reveals our relationship with money. This placement exposes how we spend money, how much we’re willing to spend on gifts for ourselves and others and the type of leisure activities that we seek out and how much we’re willing to fund them.

Jupiter (The Hands)

Our placement in Jupiter defines our values and the type of knowledge that we seek. Jupiter is associated with sense of humor, good will and optimism. This planet influences personal growth (mentally and spiritually). It reveals the type of people that we bring into our lives and how quickly we trust them. Ultimately, Jupiter is the planet of process and understanding.

People with a strong placement in Jupiter often think analytically. It may take them a bit more time to trust new people and information.

Mars (The Knee)

Mars is the planet of energy and desire, reflecting how you take action. Mars rules our instincts of survival and aggression – think of it as the trigger to fight-or-flight instinct. Like Venus, Mars relates to our relationships. However, whereas Venus calls to our romantic attraction,

Mars is associated to our body’s attraction to others.

Mars is action. It’s the push that gets us out of bed in the morning, how we pursue opportunities and how strict we are in our fulfillment of our desires. Since this planet serves as our call to action, it easily takes over how we react to situations, specifically confrontation. This planet is definitely the most forthcoming of them all. We can find that we’re more direct and adventurous while navigating the everyday.

Pluto (Calves)

Pluto is associated with renewal and rebirth – our beginnings, endings and spiritual transitions. This planet rules our need for control, which is triggered by forms of change. How we cope is reflective of our Pluto placement. Our willingness to explore and examine current and new worlds is also influenced by our placement in Pluto.

Our interest in new experiences or the need to make a major lifestyle change is usually a sign of Pluto working through us.

Uranus (Feet)

Uranus is the forward-thinking planet associated with all things discovery and progressive. It is the catalyst – the placement that encourages our need to research and investigate. This is the placement of rebellion. Uranus is not about order or tradition. Instead, it functions toward experiencing new things and going on adventures. Although erratic in nature, Uranus encourages our willfulness and can be useful when we’re ready to stir things up.

Whether you believe in astrology or not, it is definitely a fun practice. I love practicing new ways to self-reflect, to gain a deeper understanding of whom I am and how that functions in relation to others. The easiest and most fun way to do so is through astrology.

Al'Licia is an english major at the University of Florida. She enjoys spending time with her friends, family and her dog.
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