A Field Guide to Celestial Objects & You
Astronomy is the study of stars, but astrology is the study of how the stars feel.
October 19, 2015 | Cult | Fall 2015
I was born on June 25 at 3:25 p.m. in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which means I’m a Cancer with Scorpio rising and a moon in Libra. It also means a whole bunch of other astrological info that you may not know about when reading your monthly horoscopes. What most people don’t know about astrology is that it’s about much more than just your sun sign (a.k.a. what people mean when they ask, “What’s your sign?”). It’s a full painting of the cosmos at the time of your birth, and the way that all the planets relate to you and to each other plays a valuable role in getting to know the most important star of all: you.
So, how does your birth info translate into the stars? What does it all even mean? To answer the first question, there are tons of sites online—my personal favourites being cafeastrology.com and astro.com—that will calculate your full star chart for you; all you have to do is input some data. A quick “natal chart” search on Google will yield many results, in case you like having options. As for the second question, the answer is a little more complicated. Every meaning in astrology when it comes to the placement of the planets and the signs is more or less open to interpretation. Lots of information varies from astrologer to astrologer, which makes it a little tricky to get a definitive grasp on what all the glyphs and symbols mean—but there are a few basic things that are, for the most part, widely agreed upon.
“Astrology is a full painting of the cosmos at the time of your birth— the way that all the planets relate to you and to each other plays a valuable role in getting to know the most important star of all: you.”
Astrological planets can be seen as different facets of your psyche. Generally speaking, the Sun is our point of consciousness, so the farther away a planet is from the sun, the more unconscious and collective their principle and influence are over us.
The Sun ☉ rules Leo
The Sun is the biggest and most important planet in our chart. It represents our ego, our vitality, and our sense of individuality. To put it simply, it represents you at your basest level and form. It’s the foundational paint strokes an artist lays down before getting to the details. We want to shine and express ourselves through the Sun, and wherever it falls in our chart, it is important we be seen there.
The Moon ☽ rules Cancer
The Moon is another important part of our chart. It represents our emotions, our unconscious, and our motivation—what we need to feel secure. Our moon signs tend to show when we react automatically rather than consciously, as opposed to our sun signs.
Basically, it’s the angst-ridden teenager inside of us that still throws temper tantrums and wants to impulse-eat a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s Americone Dream when Luke and Lorelai break up in Gilmore Girls. Your sun is what stops you from doing that. Unless, y’know, it doesn’t.
Mercury ☿ rules Gemini & Virgo
Mercury is the first of the personal planets—followed by Venus and Mars—which typically develop during socialization. Mercury affects the way we communicate, form opinions, build connections, and analyze information. In other words, it represents communication styles, and shows when you are speaking out about your ideas and opinions, or learning.
Venus ♀ rules Taurus & Libra
Venus is a very feminine planet, as you can probably guess from its symbol. Like its Greek-name counterpart, Aphrodite, it’s the planet of love, pleasure, and beauty. It represents our ability to draw people in, to fascinate and enchant them. You’ll be beautiful and attractive wherever it’s placed in your chart.
Mars ♂ rules Aries & Scorpio
Mars can sometimes get a bad rep for being a malefic—a.k.a. evil—planet, standing for violence and aggression. While that is true, all meanings in astrology are ambiguous, and, like most things, Mars has its good side, too.
Some cool things Mars stands for are passion, heroism, fighting for something, going after what you desire, independence, getting angry at the right things (activism, calling someone out on their BS), sexuality, action, bravery, energy, enthusiasm, and initiative.
Jupiter ♃ rules Sagittarius & Pisces
Jupiter stands for faith, the search for a higher meaning, a higher education, religion, growth, expansion, and abundance. It’s the planet of luck, and wherever it’s placed in your chart, good things and successes are promised to it.
Saturn ♄ rules Capricorn & Aquarius
I’m not gonna lie, guys: Saturn is a scary planet. It stands for authority, limitation, time, restriction, fear, conformation—a lack of something. Wherever Saturn is in your chart, it dries up and restrains you. It’s slow and overbearing and likes to teach you the mean, shitty lessons of life. But, hey, without it, we’d probably all be running around pulling each other’s pigtails and sticking our tongues out at our bosses. Saturn teaches you humility, maturity, authority, responsibility, wisdom, and control. Whereas Mars’ ambition is infused with energy and passion, Saturn’s is rational, hard-working, and long-lasting.
Uranus ♅ rules Aquarius
Uranus is the cool kid planet. It’s the planet of rebellion, innovation, freedom, independence, and individuality. Wherever Uranus is in your chart, you can expect sudden changes, coincidences, accidents, and surprises—and it’ll tell you how and where you’ll express this slightly more wild side of yourself. It is a slow-moving planet, though: it can stay in a sign for up to seven years, which makes it a much more generational planet than it does a personal one.
Neptune ♆ rules Pisces
While Uranus is about the destruction of boundaries in the physical realm, Neptune takes it further by being about the dissolution of the physical realm. Neptune stands for dreams, illusions, deception, spirituality, transcendence, intuition, and escapism. Things related to Neptune are usually not what they seem: they are idealized, seen through rose-tinted glasses. With Neptune, you always have to be careful that what you see is really what you’re getting.
Pluto ♇ rules Scorpio
Life and death, transformation, taboos, control, obsession, destruction, power and powerlessness, rebirth, creation, tyranny, and secrets. The occult. Super witchy stuff, basically. Pluto indicates how and where we go through powerful changes—what is destroyed in order to be reborn. Like Scorpio, Pluto is very piercing—it cuts through the bullshit. It’s a good observer, and you’re bound to constantly rethink and reimagine the area of your life it affects.
You might have heard people’s woeful cries about Mercury going retrograde at some point, or maybe even Venus or Mars. Really, all planets—except the Sun and the Moon—go retrograde at one point or another—but the farther they are from the sun, the less they affect our everyday lives. Which is good, because these planets are so slow they stay in retrograde for, like, ever.
When planets go retrograde, they don’t actually switch directions in their orbit—they just move backwards in zodialogical degrees as seen from the Earth. It’s a visual phenomenon! And like you’d probably imagine, it totally messes up the stuff that planet influences. When Mercury goes retrograde, for example, it generates misunderstandings, problems, and delays. Things will get lost, and you’ll probably find that you’re having to repeat yourself more often than usual. It makes it a bad time to make any important decisions or forge any kind of partnerships—romantic or otherwise. Basically: It’s a pain and it sucks.
A star chart is a circle which has been divided into twelve sections, and which all of the planets and signs fall into. These twelve divisions are known as astrological houses, and they’re dependant on the time and place of someone’s birth. These houses describe different areas of your life—your experience, your psyche— and dictate the areas of your life in which your planets’ energies manifest.
Each end of the horizontal line marks the Ascendant and Descendant, respectively, and the vertical line is the Immum Coeli (the fourth house) and the Midheaven (the tenth). These four points lay the framework of the house system, and they’re each super important for getting to know your values and behaviours.
When asking about your astrological details, a lot of people who are hip with the times might ask for your sun, moon, and rising (ascendant) signs, since they’re three of the most influential positions in your chart. This doesn’t mean that they’re the only important parts of your chart, though—they just say a lot about you without having to bust out twelve houses’ worth of information. If you are interested in seeing your full birth chart, however, you can get your natal chart and a personalized daily horoscope for free at astro.com. So the next time someone asks you what your sign is, or you just want to spend a little quality time getting to know yourself as told by the cosmos, you can.
And if you ever want to learn a little more about interpreting astrology yourself, I recommend The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need (which, despite its title, is not necessarily the only one you should ever want, because trust me—there are lots of gems out there). Linda Goodman’s books are particularly beginner-friendly, too—and if you’re a little more tech-savvy and kind of over books, there are loads of astrology blogs and YouTube channels, like Alyssa Sharpe, that are not only super helpful, but also free. Thanks, @stars!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Should I read my horoscope for my sun, moon, and rising sign? Or are horoscopes just for your sun sign?
They’re not! For a more accurate horoscope reading, look at your sun and rising signs!
I heard something a while back about how some of the star signs changed for people with certain dates. What’s that all about?
This is a myth. The reason people were saying the star signs changed was because they had discovered a 13th constellation, Ophiucus, which is situated behind the sun between November 29 and December 17th. The thing about Western (or tropical) astrology, however—which is the kind of astrology we know and are currently talking about—is that it doesn’t depend on the constellations. It depends on seasons. The 12-sign zodiac comes from dividing the ecliptic in 12 equal parts, which are all relative to the equinox. So, really, the positioning of the constellations don’t actually matter at all! You’re still your same old sun sign.
What’s the deal with sign compatibility?
Okay, here’s the low-down: there’s both a long version and a short version to this question.
The short version: Typically, water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces) and earth signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) are seen as compatible, and fire (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) and air signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) are seen as compatible. Whether that’s true or not really depends on the rest of your chart, though. Which brings me to…
The long version: Remember how I said we’re more than our sun signs, way at the beginning of this thing? This applies to compatibility, too. Who you’re attracted to and get along with has to do with everything in BOTH of your charts, meaning you’d have to line both of them up side-by-side (or, actually, on top of each other) to get the full picture. This is called a synastry chart. A synastry chart combines both people’s charts to give you a small peak into what could potentially be in store for you two, what astrological energies compliment or oppose each other, and how your planets and stars interact.
Honestly, though? You’re just attracted to who you’re attracted to, despite what the stars have to say. If you’re an Aries who wants to get with a Cancer, a Pisces in love with a Capricorn, a Gemini infatuated with a Scorpio? Go for it. While you can definitely expect me to get my crush’s full birth info before doing anything remotely romantic or sexy, sometimes life’s too short to listen to the stars.
Illustrations by Alison Jenkins
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Laura Tormos is a five year old at heart, an aspiring screenwriter, and a second year student at Emerson College. Despite her lack of a physical crown, she likes to remind people that she is, indeed, a queen, and expects to be treated as such.