Introduction to Astrology: Interpreting the Natal Chart for Psychological Empowerment

Astrology is the study of energy; the influence of heavenly bodies in our solar system exerted upon the Earth. Much like the gravitational forces of the Moon over our oceans, our neighboring planets all stress a particular thread of energy. In ways not yet tangible to the measurements of modern science, the energy of a single moment in time can impress upon that of an entire life. The energy has been explained for eons across mankind, in lore and mythology. Mythological beings were brought to life by exemplifying the attributes of each; and they interact within us by following our own personal blueprint.

The Map of ourselves is not a guarantee. The energies exchanged at an individuals moment of birth are not definitive, but rather, show only what is available. The Natal Chart gives us an image of what could be within a personality; the characteristics that will make that person possible and actual. Everyone has good energy, and everyone had bad energy. Some people use more of what they have on hand than others.. and some don't use any of it at all.

One of the most interesting applications of astrological interpretation comes as a psychological implementation. Understanding the possible elements of ones personality, and using that understanding to benefit ones mental health. If negative energy exists and has a detrimental effect on ones consciousness, then there must be a way to circumnavigate that negativity with a positive route of passage. It is the acknowledgment of why we are the way we are, and the willingness to change who we are into something better. Astrology can show the path to a better being.

A persons Natal Chart shows the positions of planets at the exact time of their birth based on their location. The concept of the circle chart is simple: at the center of the chart is the Earth. “AC” (ascendant, or rising) is the point on the eastern horizon. Following the horizontal line across will give you the “DC” (descendant) which signifies the western horizon. Above this line is the sky over our heads, and below is on the other side of the planet.

The chart is divided into 12 houses, each spanning 30 degrees of the wheel. These stay stationary in relation to the chart and are numbered 1-12 counterclockwise starting at the AC. There are also the 12 signs of the zodiac. These are sections of the heavens that manifest the energies of each sign. Throughout the course of a day, the outer ring (sectioned off into zodiac symbols) will appear to rotate as the Earth spins. It is this rotation that makes timing so important.

Each house relates to a particular facet of one's life and personality, and is ruled by the zodiac signs in succession:

1st Ascendant: the self, how you present to the world and how the world perceives you (ruled by Aries)

2nd the material world, sentiments and associations with money and possessions (ruled by Taurus)

3rd your intimate environment, siblings, colleagues, local travel, communications and primary learning (ruled by Gemini)

4th Immum Coeli, the “IC” or lowest point in the chart signifies ones roots: ancestry, family, home (ruled by Cancer)

5th children, creativity, leisure and hobbies, love on a surface level and luck in gambling endeavors (ruled by Leo)

6th everyday life, work, obligations, subordinates, general health and medicine (ruled by Virgo)

7th Descendant: the other, unions, marriage,partnerships and contracts; how you perceive the world (ruled by Libra)

8th passions, transformation, death and new beginnings, sexuality, inheritance, power and secrets (ruled by Scorpio)

9th travel, foreign and exotic relations, higher learning, abstract concepts, spirituality (ruled by Sagittarius) 

10th Medium Coeli, the “MC” or Midheaven is the highest point in the chart, signifying the greater society, career, professional ambitions and achievements (ruled by Capricorn)

11th friends, group efforts, social support and humanitarianism; the collective (ruled by Aquarius)

12th the ethereal and subconscious. This is the realm of the unobtainable, where past lives and future lives mingle. Solitude and silence. Karma, transcendence and psychic energy. Spirituality. The unknown self (ruled by Pisces)

Planets in the houses will show how these energies will manifest. A lack of planets in any given house does not mean that the energy isn't there, it is simply transferred through another part of the chart. As each house is ruled by one of the signs, a planet rules each sign as well.

Aries is ruled by Mars (the driving force)
Taurus ruled by Venus (perceptions of beauty and manifestations of love)
Gemini ruled by Mercury (mental capacities and communication)
Cancer ruled by the Moon (emotional self)
Leo ruled by the Sun (ego self)
Virgo ruled by Mercury (intellect and reason, pureness of being)
Libra ruled by Venus (partnership and equality)
Scorpio ruled by Pluto (sexuality, passions, secrets)
Sagittarius ruled by Jupiter (joviality, luck, expansion, progression)
Capricorn is ruled by Saturn (rules and regulations, boundaries, wisdom and teaching)
Aquarius is ruled by Uranus (independence, surprises, technology, upheaval and disruption)
Pisces is ruled by Neptune (dreams, illusions, the subconscious, psychic energy, ethereal realms)

Each of the signs is also granted one of 4 elemental attributes. Fire, Earth, Air and Water. Fire signs tend to be ferocious and excitable. Earth is steady and unwavering. Water is malleable and intoxicating. Air is light and free. They will interact in much the same way you would expect each element to act in nature. Fire will get Water excited and heated up; but if Water gets too hot, he will boil over and squelch Fire. Air can feed Fire and whip him into a frenzy, but also blow him out. To play in the Air, Water must evaporate and become light, but he will also fall back to the ground eventually. Earth may be immovable, but Water can wear him down over time; Fire can melt the hard facade, and Wind can carry the pieces away. It is the combinations of each that help generate the overview of one's personality.

Aries is a Fire sign. (Ferocity of the Ram)
Taurus is Earth. (Immobility of the Bull)
Gemini is Air. (Communicability of Twins)
Cancer is Water. (Sensibility of the Crab)
Leo is Fire. (Gusto of the Lion)
Virgo is Earth. (Solidarity of the Virgin)
Libra is Air. (Reciprocity of the Balance)
Scorpio is Water. (Seclusion of the Scorpion)
Sagittarius is Fire. (Flamboyancy of the Centaur)
Capricorn is Earth. (Firmament of the Goat and Fossil)
Aquarius is Air. (Lightness of the Water-bearer)
Pisces is Water. (Fluidity of two Fish swimming in tandem)

As the elements progress through the chart, they relate to previous iterations. In this thought: Aries is the spark; Leo maintains and radiates; Sagittarius adapts and spreads the flame. Taurus is the surface, exposed and defiant; Virgo is the fertile soil beneath, unblemished and untainted; Capricorn is the bedrock holding everything up. Gemini is communication; Libra is understanding; Aquarius is soaring above. Cancer is the crest of a wave; Scorpio the unseen current; Pisces the depths of the abyss.

Along with the Elements are the three Modalities (or methods) of the zodiac: Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable. Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn are Cardinal. Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius are Fixed. Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces are Mutable.

Cardinal signs are the beginners. They get things started and are associated with the beginning of each season; the equinox and solstices. The sun crosses into Aries on the spring equinox; into Cancer on the summer solstice; Libra on the fall equinox; and Capricorn on the winter solstice. They are associated with impatience, forcefulness, power, and initiative. They make things happen. Aries initiates, motivates and opens up new territories. Cancer nurtures and cultivates for a sound footing. Libra forces relationships continue the process, and Capricorn brings to fruition what Aries had started.

The Fixed signs are steadfast. They have been charged with a task and will follow it through. They are driven and unyielding, pushing the process forward to the next step. Taurus will not be stopped by any barrier. Leo is ferocious and forces onward. Scorpio toils and manipulates to succeed. Aquarius is stubborn and resistant to change.

The Mutable signs allow for progression. They let one cycle finish and another begin. Gemini spreads the word of what has passed and yet to come. Virgo makes note of the progression and lays a framework for the future. Sagittarius networks the pieces. Pisces shares with all.

Along with the Elements, the Modalities add further depth to the full range of perspectives and possibilities within a persons development of character, and the energies available to them throughout their life. Activating these possibilities are the planets that progress through the zodiac, passing from one sign to the next with fervor or laziness depending in their orbital cycle. From our perspective, each heavenly body moves at a different speed based on how fast they are actually moving through the solar system, how far away they are from us and our vantage.

The Sun passes through every sign through the course of a year. The moon goes through each sign every 28 days. Mercury takes about a year to go through the zodiac, but will never stray more than 30 degrees from the sun, as his orbit is so close to our star. Sometimes he's ahead, and sometimes he's behind. Venus is similar, taking two months to pass through a sign on average, never getting more than about 45 degrees away from the sun. On the other hand, Mars takes about 2 years to move through the zodiac.. Jupiter takes 12 years. Saturn takes 29 years. Uranus takes 84 years. Neptune takes 164 years, and Pluto takes 248 years to progress through all 12 zodiac signs.

Because of their relatively rapid progression through the zodiac, the inner planets (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter) are considered personal planets. They are the true builders of one's personality and possible characteristics. The outer planets (Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) are conversely considered generational, as they will hold a position in the zodiac long enough to influence entire generations. It is in this instance that house placement becomes important, as a generational planets energy can then be assigned to a particular aspect of one's self, rather than the zodiac sign associated with his or her generation.

As the planets progress through the zodiac, we perceive their movement at different rates. The Sun and Moon move at a constant rate, but the other planets do not. They appear to speed up and slow down. Sometimes they even look like they are moving backwards. This action is called Retrograde. It is the illusion that a planet is moving in reverse in relation to the surrounding heavens. This is not actually the case, but merely our perspective. It does though have an affect on how the energies of that planet manifest.

The most common retrograde action is that of Mercury, who retraces his steps about three times per year. During this time, energies ruled by Mercury will tend to unravel. Communications become confused and jumbled; travel is hampered by delays; technological glitches will manifest. But babies are still born.. and people born under a retrograde cycle have different interpretations of each characteristic. For example, someone born under a Mercury Retrograde may communicate in a very different way than others. The person may find it difficult to understand the energy of a Retrograde planet. But, they may also persevere and excel in that area because they had to try harder to understand it.

Whether moving Direct or Retrograde, all of the heavenly bodies interact with each other. These interactions are called Aspects. This is where the idea of sacred geometry comes into play. Aspects are based on angles of geometry around the chart. It is when an angle divides the circle into equal pieces that the energy is most powerfully manifested, and these are the points that create aspects.

A Conjunction is like the circle divided by 1. You end up right back at the same spot. This is when two bodies are right next to each other. The energy of conjunct bodies combines them into one. They become more powerful and noticeable in ones personality.

An Opposition is like dividing the circle by 2. This will give you two points 180° apart, on opposite sides of the circle. The energy of two bodies in opposition is one of contrast. There is this side, but also that side. Oppositions create a duality an complexity within a person. Opposite may be different, but they are also balanced and work in harmony. The two sides may not always understand each other, which can be stressful, but they can get along. The trick here is to use the opposing forces to regulate rather than differentiate.

A Trine is when the circle is divided by 3. At 120° the full aspect forms an equilateral triangle, or grand trine. This is known to be a very positive energy within a chart. But a trine can also be just one side of that triangle. Planets in trine will understand each other inherently, and are able to coexist in harmony. This aspect can denote natural talents and abilities up for grabs. To use them or not is ones own decision.

A Square is the circle divided by 4. 90° angles are difficult to navigate in the heavens. There is a disconnect here that can create confusion and disillusionment. This is known to be a more negative energy within a chart. Difficulties from a square will seem to manifest over and over again until the energy is circumvented. Their influence is often not a choice.

A Sextile divides the chart by 6. Much like the trine, this is a gently facilitating energy. Not as powerful as a trine, but still beneficial.

A Semi-square is the circle divided by 8. At 45° apart, this aspect acts similarly to the square.

Aspects continue to fragment to smaller pieces or more vague interactions as follows:

Sesquisquare: 135°, disharmonious.
Semisextile: 30°, neutral.
Quincunx: 150°, neutral.
Quintile: 72°, harmonious
Biquintile: 144°, harmonious.

Neutral energy is that which exists without conflict or charge. It just is.

The Quintile aspects are less significant, but none the less special. They are formed by dividing the circle by 5. It is believed that these aspects are the gifts of an innate talent. There is a hint of something magical in the works whenever this aspect appears. It is a raw and spontaneous vitality that shows itself like the guidance of a higher power.

Considering that each planet moves at it's own pace and independently of all the others, it is actually rather rare to have an exact aspect. For this, the notion or Orb is put in place. The orb of an aspect is an estimation of how close the bodies need to be for the energy to express. The smaller the orb, the stronger the energy.

Each type of Aspect also has it's own orb depending on the power of the aspect itself. A conjunction will have the largest orb (about 9-10 degrees), and still be acknowledged. A trine on the other hand, will have an orb of between 5 and 7 degrees. Square will function in much the same manner. Particular aspects, such as a quintile will only have an orb of a single degree.

The orb will also be determined by the body itself. The Sun and Moon, being Luminaries (those which illuminate) are considered to be more powerful than all others, and thus have a larger orb allowance. It is also worth noting that these measurements will change between astrological schools of thought, and personal preference. There is also the influence of the chart itself that comes into play. In one instance, a conjunction of 8 degrees may be very poignant.. in another, it could mean nothing at all.

Aspects can happen “in sign” (for example: the conjunction of two bodies in sign, or trine within the same element), or they can be “out of sign” (conjunctions from the late degrees of one sign to the early degrees of the next sign). An aspect, “in sign” may be more powerful than and “out of sign” aspect because the relationship between signs. In the same respect, an aspect that is almost exact, may possibly still fall “out of sign” and lessen it's power.

Then there is the concept of applying and separating aspects. This concerns whether an aspect is applying towards exact, or separating away from exact. An aspect in application will be more powerful than an aspect that has already peaked. In this respect, the action of aspecting is instant. Rising to a crest and then falling off against quite quickly. Since the interpretation of a Natal Chart is of a particular moment, the location of that peak (exact aspect) must be taken into consideration.

The formation of all a chart aspects combined will create the general feel for the chart. This can be assessed through the “shape” the aspects form. Some charts have everything bundled tightly together in one section. Other charts will have all of the heavenly bodies spread across the full wheel. Some charts have everything above the horizon, while others have everything below. These differences demonstrate the overall characteristics of a personality. A bundle being intense, a “splay” being spread across all facets, a bilateral chart being a single sided viewpoint.

When more than two planets are conjunct in a sign and house, they are considered to be a Stellium. This is an extra added punch to the energy of that sign and house. In some cases, a person may have their sun and moon in respective signs, but be overshadowed by the energy of another sign due to a powerful stellium.

Confounding the situation even further is the concept of Essential Dignity. This is the understanding of how a planet performs in a particular sign. There are positions in which each planet do well, and some in which they do not. This relates to the interplay between the energy of the planet and the energy of the sign. The simplest implementation of this concept is the standard of house rulership discussed above. The planets are happiest in the signs and houses they rule.

Exaltation, triplicity, term and face are the different instances of dignity. When a planet is exalted in a sign, the combined energy of sign and planet forces positive action from the planet. Triplicity is like a stroke of luck, where the energy comes without effort. Term is a weak dignity that shows the possibility is there, but needs help to be fostered into fruition. Face makes an individual aware, but doesn't back up the acknowledgment with any desire for pursuit.

Detriment, fall and peregrine are the instances of debility for a planet in the signs. When a planet is found in detriment, it is in a sign that hinders its energy and prevents proper expression; the individual most likely inflicts the negative energy upon his self. Fall is only negative in that is does not bear fault; the individual is helpless to resolve a situation without external assistance. Peregrine is a planet without positive or negative influence; un-aspected, wandering aimlessly.

And finally Accidental Dignity, when the power of a planet is enhance due to reasons unrelated to house or sign position. This may be anything from merely forward direction, or a moment when the planet is moving more swiftly through the chart. Having close placement to one of the angles (AC, IC, DC or MC), or being in good aspect to a similarly beneficial planet can have a similar effect. Even being conjunct a fortunately powered fixed star can elevate the energy of a planet.

The Dignities are not as commonly involved in Natal Chart interpretation, but for the purposes of circumventing negative energy, any and all possible routes to a positive outcome must be examined.

With all this in mind, the Natal chart can be examined for moments of weakness and possibilities of greatness. We can discover the reasons for our faults and figure out ways to get around them. There is no need to suffer with an unsatisfactory result. Negative energy can be counteracted and absolved. There is a positive answer for everything. If the roads lead us to a dead end, we must find a detour to achieve our destination.


  1. Wow this is super helpful and beautifully written. Makes all the stuff for beginners easy to understand. I have found as I age the energies in my chart burst forth when aspected by major outer planets or just in phases of life. There is just no denying them.