How To Read And Understand Your Astrological Birth Chart

The night sky and its endless expanse of stars have provided insight into our lives as human beings for thousands of years. Astrology and horoscopes are so common that most people are familiar with their sun sign, identifying as one of the 12 signs on the zodiac. Knowing your main zodiac sign, which corresponds with the day you were born, helps you understand the basics of your character and personality. It can also offer guidance through a short forecast of your future. However, it doesn't tell the whole story.

Your astrological birth chart, also known as a natal chart, is a more complete picture of you based on the day, time, and location you were born (via Co-Star). Birth charts are a map of the entire sky. It looks at the planets and the position of other celestial objects in accordance with the zodiac sign and the house it was in at the moment of your birth. This positioning provides a helpful understanding of everything from your personality traits to the various paths your life might take. According to Women's Health Magazine, birth charts can tell you your positive and negative attributes, timing on introducing changes to your life, and even how you interact with others.

Although the circular map of a birth chart can appear intimidating at first, reading one isn't too difficult once you understand the basics. Here's how to read and understand your astrological birth chart for an ultra-personalized snapshot of your life.

Where do you find your astrological birth chart?

First, to find your unique birth chart you need to track down a few details about the day you were born. In addition to your birthdate, you will need to know the city in which you were born as well as your exact time of birth. According to Lavendaire, the accuracy of your astrological natal chart depends on this information. Estimates will skew the results and may not portray the right picture. If you aren't sure of your precise time of birth, consult your birth certificate or ask a parent.

Finding your birth chart used to have to be done manually with a table and a protractor, per The Cut. Knowing where to find the planetary positions with the help of an ephemeris will guide you to the planet locations at different times (via The Astrology Podcast). Astrologers would have to consult the ephemeris, tracking the movements and locations of the planets through the signs of the zodiac to break down an individual's natal chart.

Nowadays, these complex and lengthy calculations can be done through computer software. This not only speeds up the process but allows non-astrologers the ability to access their charts at the click of a button. A quick Google search will help you find astrology sites that utilize this software. Simply pick your favorite, input your information, and in a few minutes you will have a complete birth chart to peruse. 

What does a birth chart look like?

It is possible to feel a bit overwhelmed by the complicated look of your birth chart once you receive it. The diagram is filled with symbols, numbers, shapes, and lines that may look like a geometry assignment gone wrong to some. To understand this language and the information it presents, you will need to learn the different areas of the chart.

According to Shondaland, your astrological birth chart is a diagram that is broken up into 12 sections that resemble a sliced pie. These pieces refer to the astrological houses. Symbols for the different zodiac signs, planets, and other celestial bodies are located within the different slices to show positioning in the night sky at that moment in time.

Once you become familiar with the ins and outs of the different symbols and meanings present on the diagram, you can follow the simple formula. Looking at the planet, plus the sign, and the house you can obtain an interpretation unique to you as an individual. Professional astrologers look for a variety of elements when understanding a birth chart, including the pattern planets form, the aspects of different planets, and even concentrations of planets in one sign. Prominent lines and overlapping shapes may be present to highlight these connections.

Ascendant sign

Ascendant signs, also known as rising signs or the first house, refer to the zodiac sign present on the Eastern horizon at your time of birth (via Thought Catalog). It is one of the four main angles of the birth chart. This aspect changes every few hours and explains why people who share a sun sign may have very different personalities. 

The ascendant sign generally represents your first impression, or how others perceive you. It also represents your perception of reality, your identity, and the common themes you will encounter during your life. According to Yoga Journal, examining your sun sign and your ascendant sign can provide a distinct look at your character and personality.

Normally symbolized by a circle with a horizontal line through the middle, you'll find your ascendant sign. It can be found at the 9 o'clock position on the birth chart. Astrologers will start the natal chart reading at the ascendant sign, moving counterclockwise around the circle to begin interpreting it.

Midheaven sign

To accurately interpret your astrological birth chart, you will also need to understand what a midheaven sign is. It is essentially the Medium Coeli, meaning the centre of the sky in Latin, otherwise referred to as the MC (via New York Post). The midheaven is located at the top of the birth chart wheel, representing the cusp of the 10th house.

According to Cafe Astrology, the midheaven is a representation of your recognized accomplishments and your social role. It is a symbol of your professional choices, people of importance to you, individual goals, unique ideals, and motivations. The midheaven is a determination of your ego identity and your reputation. The way you view the world and your place in it can be correlated to the midheaven sign as well. People often confuse the midheaven as a solitary indicator of work or career-related information. The truth is, the midheaven can tell you more about your life's true purpose and avenue for fulfillment than it can identify how you should make a living.

Imum Coeli

The Imum Coeli — also known as the IC — is the line directly opposite the midheaven at the bottom of your birth chart. It is appropriate that in Latin the IC translates to the lowest point in the heavens. It generally marks the start of the fourth house on your chart, symbolizing growing up, your upbringing, and home (via Astrostyle). Astrologers often refer to the IC as the root of a person's birth chart because its placement and purpose define our origin stories. In other words, it is the foundation of our happiness.

The IC may be an indicator of our ability, or lack thereof, to bond with others in the form of different attachment styles. According to Well + Good, the IC can tell you a lot about how to nurture your inner child as well. This is an area of ourselves that affects us strongly through our subconscious but is often shoved aside during adulthood.

Descendant sign

The fourth and final sign to be aware of on your astrological birth chart is the descendant sign. It is found opposite your ascendant sign, which means it was the sign descending on the Western horizon at the time your were born (via We Mystic). It is located on the cusp of the seventh house and is sometimes referred to as your shadow side. To locate your descendant sign on your birth chart, simply locate your ascendant sign and count six signs away from it counterclockwise on the wheel.

Unlike your ascendant sign, which describes who you are and how you experience the world, the descendant sign shows you everything you aren't. It can tell you about traits that you refuse to acknowledge exist within yourself. This sign can also help you recognize things that you are repressing. In addition to your style and physicality, the descendant sign is also related to personal relationships, per Shondaland. It can tell you who you are attracted to and what type of person you would be most compatible with romantically.

The houses

According to Astrostyle, our soul's evolution is represented by the 12 houses that make up the zodiac wheel and your astrological birth chart. All of the dozen houses are present in everyone's birth charts and are positioned relative to the four directions. The wheel of a birth chart equals 360 degrees, although not every house within that wheel will necessarily equal 30 degrees exactly. This variation in house size doesn't affect the interpretation of your chart.

Each house represents a different aspect of your immediate and interpersonal life. Houses one to six are the personal houses — they express who you are as a person. They include elements of the self, such as appearances, self-confidence, daily routines, communication style, the importance of family, self-care, and organizational skills. Houses seven to 12 are the interpersonal houses that dictate your spirituality, aspirations, your interactions with friends, social standing, privacy, and secrets. According to Cafe Astrology, each house is ruled by a zodiac sign and a planet as well.

When you read your birth chart, you may notice different planets or signs located within a particular house — their presence within it is what tells your story. For example, a person with the majority of planets located within their interpersonal houses may be a more career-focused, go-getter than a person with more planets in their first six houses. It is also possible that your astrological birth chart may not have a planet or celestial body within a particular house.

The hemispheres

Each wheel can also be broken up into hemispheres, including the Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western. Although, they do not correspond to the traditional four directions you would find on a regular map. They are useful for indicating if you are a private person or a collaborator, as well as describing how you approach taking action in certain situations.

According to Cafe Astrology, the Eastern hemisphere contains houses one to three and 10 to 12, all of which can be found on the left half of the wheel. If your birth chart has several planets located in the Eastern hemisphere, it is likely that you are both action-oriented and self-assertive. 

The Western hemisphere is comprised of houses four through six and seven to nine, all of which are located on the right half of the wheel. People with the majority of planets in the Western hemisphere of their birth chart are thought to be receptive individuals that consider the needs of others before themselves. The Northern hemisphere is all about privacy, contemplation, and personal pursuits, per Live About. This hemisphere contains houses one to six. On the opposite end of the wheel is the Southern hemisphere — made up of houses seven to 12, this hemisphere is useful for identifying how sociable a person is.

The quadrants

The houses and their respective hemispheres can be further broken down into four quadrants. According to Cosmic Cuts, the quadrants are helpful to figuring out your main purpose in life. They also help identify the areas of your development from childhood to adulthood, with specific influences and areas you will find yourself drawn to as you mature.

The first quadrant contains houses one to three, or the houses between the ascendant sign to the IC. This section refers to identity and the self with a focus on discovery and self-awareness. You can learn about your desires, curiosities, and impulses here, with an emphasis on self-improvement and personal development. Houses four to six make up the second quadrant. This quadrant deals with creativity and self-expression. It is one of the more complex quadrants. People with a concentration of planets in the second quadrant are often generous risk-takers who value productivity and creativity equally, per Lunar Living.

The third quadrant refers to your personal relationships and partnerships. This quadrant is made up of houses seven to nine, with a focus on connections (via LiveAbout). This may include teaching, friendly relationships, and romantic partnerships. On the other hand, the fourth quadrant talks about your perspective on culture and society. People with fourth quadrant emphasis are big on helping others, often at the expense of their own personal well-being. They believe in furthering society through collective efforts.

Sun and moon signs

Your main zodiac sign is determined by the location of the sun in your birth chart. This sun sign is one of the 12 zodiac signs that most people are familiar with, and it changes every 30 days. According to Astrology, your sun sign represents how well you know yourself as well as your ego. It explains your basic essence and defines your basic character and personality traits, including your strengths, weaknesses, and overall attitude toward life. Generally, astrologers consider your sun sign to be the most powerful in your birth chart.

The lesser-known moon sign is equally as important for understanding who you are and why you make the choices that you do. The moon goes through 12 signs much more quickly than the sun, at a pace of 2.5 days, per Today. Your moon sign is a representation of your complex, emotional, inner-self. Unlike the sun sign, which represents the personality you show to the world, the moon sign dives deeper into the person you are. It ties closely to a person's emotions, temperament, likes and dislikes, and intrinsic qualities (via Indastro). Understanding your moon sign, and its relation to other signs and planets within your birth chart, can help you identify what you need to help you feel safe and nourished.

The planets

Each of the planets plays a role in understanding your astrological birth chart. Their unique symbolism controls different aspects of your psyche that, when combined with signs and other celestial bodies, culminate to create the person you are. Mercury is the planet of reason, intelligence, and language. It tells you how you communicate (via Labyrinthos). Venus is the planet of art and love, which determines what you find beautiful and who you are attracted to. Mars is an aggressive planet with a strong sense of drive, action, and competition. The presence of Mars in your birth chart will identify what you are passionate about.

The planet Jupiter is all about growth and optimism. This planet will inform you about what gives you purpose and happiness, as well as provide insight into how your life is transformed by morals and philosophies (via Astrology). Uranus can explain how you approach unexpected situations or express your individuality. As the planet of fantasy, dreams, and intuition, Neptune allows you to uncover the mystical and delusional side of your personality. Saturn is the planet that describes your level of responsibility, discipline, and ambition. It can also tell you what obstacles will stand in your way and how you may overcome them. The planet Pluto deals with rebirth, transformation, and death. Its presence in your birth chart may help you understand how you deal with power and leadership situations, your level of stubbornness, and why you sometimes come off as an intense person.

Why is it important to read your birth chart?

Although they may seem difficult to understand, knowing how to read your birth chart is important because it tells your unique story. They are like individualized horoscopes that apply only to you. You can also think of reading your birth chart as navigating the roadmap of your life path.

The mathematical, in-depth intricacies of your birth chart are the most comprehensive way to understand you and your true capabilities in your life (via Tarot). You can gain a better understanding of your talents, your strengths, and even obstacles that may trip you up in the future. Your birth chart can help you improve your relationships, identify communication or financial problems, and ultimately help you grow and evolve as a human being. We may not be able to tell the future, but astrological birth charts are the closest tools we have.

If you don't feel comfortable interpreting your birth chart, you can always reach out to an astrologer for a more accurate reading. They will examine your sun, moon, and ascendant signs, your zodiac sign, the patterns of the planets, and more. All of this will give you a better idea of big moments, emotional transition, and areas of your life that will be filled with success (via Women's Health Magazine).