Demystifying the Birth Chart
By Astrologer Maria (Vaiano) DeSimone
It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. Anxious fingers dial the phone and you listen as a friendly voice greets you. Butterflies of excitement circle around your stomach; it’s time for your astrology consultation.
The session begins smooth enough. Perhaps the astrologer talks a bit about your Sun sign and its qualities. Okay, you can relate. In fact, you may already be quite familiar with this. Then she might discuss your Moon sign and its qualities. Now you’re hearing something new and insightful, but it’s still easy to follow.
Relaxed, and enjoying your session of self-discovery, you think to yourself, Hey, this was a great idea! I’m so glad I decided to learn more about my chart. And no sooner does this thought pass through your mind, does your new astrologer friend open her mouth with the next piece of information about you, and the reading spirals out of control.
“Oh my”, she perks up, “I can see with your Sun square Saturn, conjunct Mars and opposing Jupiter that you have a real problem with male authority figures.” As if you’re brain hadn’t already turned to mush, she continues, “And with your Mars return happening this month, I’d say things are really coming to a head with your boss and you can expect a major blowout.”
Your mouth is dry and your head is now spinning. Your brain registers two thoughts: Wow she’s right on! followed by, What language is she speaking?
If this scenario sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Astrologers can sometimes get carried away in their interpretation and forget that not every client speaks our language. Forgive us, we really do mean well.
It’s like a person who grew up in a home where two languages were used to communicate. Let’s say Spanish and English. To this day, when that person speaks to someone, he might alternate in his brain which language he things and speaks in, and might even jumble both languages together. Now, of course this isn’t a problem if the other person engaged in conversation is also fluent in English and Spanish, but if someone doesn’t understand one of the languages, obviously there is a communication problem.
Astrologers and students of astrology (myself included) are guilty of doing this in our own excitement of a conversation. My first language is English, but my second is Astrology. I think in terms of both languages now, so both have become a part of how I communicate. When I speak to other astrologers, we understand each other, but if I discuss with anyone else the personality differences of say, a Sun in Cancer in the 4th house versus a Sun in Cancer in the 10th house without explaining some basic principles first, they would become annoyed because I’m not speaking their language.
On the other hand, if you’re interested in learning more about your birth chart, it might be a good idea to take a little time and assimilate some of the most basic concepts of astrology into your own vocabulary. Not so you could become an astrologer (although I would love nothing more than to ignite your interest in further study), but so that you can become an “educated customer”. If you’re going to invest in your own spiritual growth, why not give yourself some tools that will enhance your understanding?
In doing so, you’ll be able to look at your chart and begin to feel invited towards it rather than feel like an outsider to your own soul. And, an added bonus is that, the next time you’re discussing your chart with your astrologer, you might enjoy when she begins to speak “astrologese” and you find yourself actually following the conversation!
The material that follows has been kid tested and mother approved. Literally. I know you can follow it because I’ve used the same terminology to introduce our beautiful planets to my own children (although, I admit I’ve added some more spicy adult concepts here for you to chew on). But, if my 5 year old and 3 year old can tell me about Mars and Mr. Sun and Mrs. Moon, then I know you can too!
Yes, astrology can be this simple. It really does all begin with the 8 planets and our two luminaries, the Sun and Moon. They “own” certain energy and this energy remains constant. What changes (and makes your chart complex and unique) is the placement of these planets in the various signs of the zodiac and houses of your birth chart. But for now, I want you to put that out of your mind and join me for a tour of your friendly neighborhood universe.
Meet the Planets
We say that each planet “rules” a sign and house in the zodiac. This means that the qualities of that respective sign and house are actually derived from the planet ruling it. So it follows that, once you understand the basic concepts of a planet, you can easily expand this knowledge to the corresponding sign and house it rules.
We begin our tour with the fiery planet Mars because in the natural zodiac, Aries is placed on the first house cusp. So Mars rules both Aries the sign and the first house of the zodiac wheel.
But who is this Mars guy? What makes him tick? Well, Mars is the warrior of the zodiac. If there is one word to remember about who Mars is, remember that he is ENERGY! Mars is the action principle and he is both a lover and a fighter because the passion contained inside this red planet is directed out to the world and become ambition, bravery, sex and even anger. Mars is achievement oriented and can be selfish as well because it forges ahead, blazing new trails, completely unaware of who it may knock down along the way. Mars, you see, has a one track mind – to assert his energy. Wherever Mars is in your chart tells you how you act. Mars is also masculine energy and so it tells you about male figures in your life.
It follows that the sign Aries will naturally have these Martian qualities and Aries sure does. Every word I used to describe Mars can be applied to Aries. Of course this is only scratching the surface of Aries but the keywords are enough to give you the groundwork towards understanding.
The first house is the house of “self” and it makes sense because Mars is concerned completely with asserting his energy – himself! The first house is where you find your identity.
Mars is the fearless firefighter, the brave soldiers fighting for our country. Mars can also be the reckless speed demon who cuts you off on the parkway. Remember, it’s not Mars’ job to think – he only knows how to act.
The second house of the zodiac has Taurus on the cusp and is ruled by the spellbinding planet Venus. She is, of course, the planet of love and beauty and her allure attracts others to her naturally. Unlike Mars, she never aggressively pursues the object of her desire. She is a receptive planet and makes you want her instead. Despite the delicate and reserved nature she emanates, don’t be foolish and underestimate Venus, for her strength lies in her deep powers of seduction.
And yet, Venus has another side to her personality besides that graceful charm and appreciation for all forms of beauty. In fact, Venus can be one possessive little planet! She desires, above all else, to acquire and own that which is beautiful in her eyes. This can be a person, an object, or even money.
And because of this desire to possess what is beautiful, Venus is the planet from which our self-concept is born. After all, beauty starts from within.
She also rules ones talents and abilities since it is through proper use of these we can determine our personal value/self-concept as well as acquire all the material possessions we may seek.
Venus in your chart will tell you about your mother’s role. If you are a woman, it tells you how you strive to achieve your ideal of femininity. In a man’s chart, it shows the type of woman he is most attracted to – his ideal woman.
Expressed through Taurus, we see the more material, practical and sensuous side of Venus. Here we see the part of her that wants those possessions and seeks the prioritizing of values and self-concept. Taurus wants to give form to those material talents and abilities as well. Her love of everything sensual is unsurpassed and it has been said that no other sign has the depth of appreciation of sight, touch, taste, smell, or hearing that Taurus has.
The second house is ruled by those parts of Venus having to do with possessions and self-concept as well as finances and talents and abilities.
When we come to the third house and the sign Gemini, we meet this agile little guy called Mercury. Mercury, displayed through the lens of Gemini, acts somewhat like a news reporter. He is always busy collecting facts, information and tidbits – even gossip! His mind runs in ten directions at once and he is always grasping for the next idea, eager to store it in his expansive mind.
Mercury is the planet that rules communication and learning of all kind.
In Gemini, we see Mercury as someone who is easily bored because of his fickle nature. Gemini is an intellectual sign and is always looking for new ways of mental stimulation. His mind is so nimble; it is capable of flitting around a subject in record time! Yet because of this type of mind, the lack of focus and stability it brings gives him the reputation of being a “jack of all trades and master of none.”
In the third house, Mercury rules communication of all kinds as well as siblings and short distance travel. Mercury’s placement and aspects can tell you much about your siblings, if you have any.
As we come to the fourth house we meet the Moon, ruler of both this house and its corresponding sign, Cancer. The Moon is the nurturer of the zodiac. A sensitive planet, Mrs. Moon is all about emotional patterns, our base personality, intuition, nurturance and mothering. In fact, she represents our physical mother in the birth chart, and if we are a woman she tells us about our own mothering ability. In a man’s chart, it shows the emotional connections he seeks out in a mate. In both sexes, the Moon represents your physical body.
Filtered through Cancer, the Moon expresses itself as moody – with many changeable emotions. She is highly creative and “motherly” – whether she directs this energy towards a child, a project or her career, she will forge ahead with a protective instinct unlike any other sign.
The fourth house represents our roots and this is taken from the Moon’s connection to our earliest emotional patterns as well as our mother. The fourth house tells you about your home life as well as your mother.
Mr. Sun – what a guy! Who is he? Well, he is YOU! The Sun, ruler of the sign Leo and the fifth house, is the big cheese that determines your vitality, your ego (sense of self), your creativity and its form of expression. It is the point in our chart from which our higher self/personality acts through. The Sun represents what you are learning to become in this lifetime. It also represents male figures in your life including the image you have of your father, and if you are a woman, your mate.
Filtered through Leo, the Sun demands center stage. He is proud, traditional, idealistic and romantic. Above all else, Leo wants love, approval and respect. He is capable of the greatest devotion if his ego needs are met, but beneath that powerful shining Leo lays a fragile ego indeed, so be sure to remember that Leo is tender despite his roar!
The fifth house takes from the Sun areas of romance, creative self expression and children as well as recreational fun.
As we move into the sixth house and the sign Virgo, our old friend Mercury decides to join us once again. Yes, Mercury rules two signs in the zodiac: Gemini and Virgo. In each sign a different form of the planet is expressed and here in Virgo we see Mercury’s analytical, perfectionist side. His eye for detail is unsurpassed and Mercury here is also concerned with mental activity. In Virgo however, it is directed inward as opposed to Gemini’s outer direction of his mental energy.
Mercury here is practical, logical and discriminating – sometimes to the point of being quite critical. This is all because he maintains the highest standards of perfection.
In Virgo, Mercury shows all these qualities and also adds on a great need to be of service to others. Virgos are known as the “caretakers” of the zodiac and I believe the reason for this is because their mental energy turned inward gives them this significant need to be needed. Perhaps they “overanalyze” their own self worth and through service to others Virgo can somehow meet his impossible standards of perfection.
This is also why health is such a strong focus for Virgo and the sixth house. Health care professionals of all kinds usually have strong Virgo or sixth house activity in their charts. Perhaps through perfection of the body and daily life activities, Virgo knows better than any other sign that it will lead him to a spiritual perfection. After all, God is in the details.
When we come to the seventh house and the sign of Libra, Ms. Venus once again graces us with her presence. This planet also rules two signs: Taurus and Libra, and once again we see very different expressions through each sign the planet rules.
Venus, through Libra, shows the most charming, diplomatic and social side of her personality. She is at her most beautiful here as well and this is why Libra is the sign we most often associate with physical attractiveness.
Venus is concerned with using Libra’s positive, outer directed nature to create opposition in relationships in order to bring resistance and ultimately attain Venus’s highest goal of restoring harmony and balance.
The resistance forces Libra to actually merge with the focus of its opposition, thus also reinforcing the “possessive” concept of Venusian love. This is a love where Venus’s desire for possessiveness transforms in Libra the desire to belong. Libra, in relationships, often forgets how to draw the line that marks where he begins and his loved one ends. What Libra acquires (remember Venus is about acquiring things) is relationships that allow him to grow by ultimately teaching him how to draw this line.
Venus also rules decision and it is Libra’s constant job to prioritize his choices in life in order to reach a decision. The classic Libra quality of indecision can be blamed on Venus as well because the mental quality of Libra understands that every decision further defines his self-concept (and Venus rules the self-concept).
The seventh house is the house of close relationships and describes the type of person you are attracted to as well as the way you are likely to act in a relationship.
I believe that Venus in Taurus teaches us about self love and Venus in Libra teaches us about loving others – without losing ourselves.
When we come to the eighth house and the sign Scorpio our planetary influence becomes a bit more complex. This is because Scorpio is ruled by two planets: Mars and Pluto.
The Mars emphasis in Scorpio and the eighth house is the same as previously discussed for Aries and the first house with one important difference. Instead of the Mars energy being outer directed as it is in Aries, in Scorpio we find Mars energy directed inward. This brings on the added quality of Mars in Scorpio being capable of explosive and transforming energy when it is finally released. Scorpio’s explosions can be as devastating as a tsunami when they happen.
When I explain Pluto to my children, I tell them that Pluto is a “sneaky little planet”. He is hidden away from all the other planets, way off into the darkness of our solar system. When he makes his presence known to us it is often in a very deep and penetrating way. The “Mack truck” doesn’t just hit us; it goes right through us – to the depths of our soul.
The reason he is “sneaky” is because we often don’t suspect this little guy is actually the most powerful planet of the zodiac. The old saying is true, watch out for the quiet ones, for they hold the most power. And Pluto’s power is transformation personified. In fact, he is the planet of death, rebirth and transformation. He is also associated with the collective unconscious in his highest form of expression and yet, because of his sneaky ways, can be quite manipulative in his lowest form – even obsessive.
Expressed through Pluto, we see Scorpio as someone who has a great deal of inner power and the potential to transform and regenerate him as well as masses of others to their highest spiritual levels. This is because of his ability to penetrate into that “collective unconscious”.
Pluto and Mars working together cause Scorpio to be the most intense and magnetic planet of the zodiac. The lowest form of Scorpio can be expressed as manipulation/control/ and even complete vengeance. There is always power struggles in this signs life. And yet, once he has transformed, he is able to tap into the unconscious mind of others and help transform the world in a very penetrating way.
The eighth house is the house of death, other people’s money, taxes, sex and the occult. Scorpio is always interested in secrets and mystery. Scorpio has the gift of helping others to tap into their unique abilities because of his own transformative energy. But with Scorpio, you must always be willing to walk through the dark tunnel before you see the light. Walk with the Scorpio energy in your own chart and you won’t be afraid of this darkness, for no other sign knows how to embrace it so well.
After the intensity of Pluto, you might breathe a sigh of relief when I introduce you to our next planet. His name is Jupiter, but I like to call him “Santa Claus”. My kids know this jolly fat planet to be the guy who gives you everything in abundance. The catch with Santa (Jupiter) is that if he keeps giving and giving and doesn’t stop, you end up with a very spoiled child with so much, yet so little drive to use his abundant gifts for any good.
Jupiter is expansion personified. He is so much more than luck so please don’t underestimate this happy planet. He may be one of your greatest teachers and guides if you let him, but he isn’t the “mean, stern” teacher. He is the fun one – your favorite teacher from your own school days. He expands your mind and makes you want to seek higher education. He gives you a love of knowledge because Jupiter shows you that knowledge leads to the truth.
He is also very concerned with religion, spirituality and philosophy. Remember my Santa Claus analogy. Who is St. Nicholas? And, isn’t it Mom and Dad’s job to make sure that the kids get on Santa’s “nice” list and not the “naughty” one so that they deserve all those gifts? Aren’t Santa’s helpers (Mom and Dad) your very first teachers in life?
Jupiter is also concerned with long distance travel and even astral travel. Not to get you annoyed with my Santa analogy, but isn’t the North Pole far, far away?
Through the lens of Sagittarius and the ninth house it’s easy to see how Jupiter acts. He is the benevolent teacher and Sagittarius is always on the search for higher knowledge that will lead him to find the ultimate truths in life. This is why all kinds of religion and philosophy are explored as well as other cultures. In order for Sagittarius to make these mind expanding discoveries, he requires much freedom and of course, loves to travel. He is just and fair in his mind (how many kids really get coal for Christmas?).
It follows that the ninth house deals with all kinds of personal and social expansion as well.
Expansion can be a very good thing, but remember the expansive planet of Jupiter doesn’t seem to know when to stop. Perhaps this is why his next door neighbor is Saturn, the planet of restriction, limitation and life lessons -the planet of karma.
If Jupiter is our most beloved teacher/authoritarian, Saturn is our most demanding. He is the one who is relentless about our study habits and working towards completing our task. He is the teacher who, at the time of our apprenticeship we may not always be warm to, but who, in hindsight, always teaches us the most valuable lessons. And boy oh boy, don’t we learn the most lessons in our life by working out our karma?
Saturn isn’t negative though. In fact, at our “graduation” it is Saturn, more than any other planet who will probably be number one on your “I couldn’t have done it without you” list. And he does reward – in direct proportion to your willingness to do the work.
Saturn is also associated with our father, along with the Sun, and other male authority figures.
Capricorn and the tenth house show Saturn’s side most clearly because Capricorn is the sign most associated with the slow, steady climb towards realizing one’s life goals and ambitions. The tenth house is the house associated with our career, honors, fame and recognition. After doing all of Saturn’s hard work, you can be recognized for it. Isn’t that nice?
By now, you might be grateful to leave Saturn behind and see what comes up in the eleventh house and the sign Aquarius. Well, Saturn isn’t exactly behind us yet. In fact, he is the co-ruler of Aquarius along with the zany planet called Uranus.
Saturn in Aquarius however, shows a different form of expression. In Capricorn, Saturn is concerned with building foundations and structures on a physical, tangible level. In Aquarius however, those structures are built in the mind. The Aquarian form of Saturn builds mental foundations and because of Saturn’s traditional, limiting nature he can be exceedingly dogmatic about his ideas.
It is the eccentric influence of Uranus that brings out an interesting dichotomy in Aquarius. Uranus is a planet that is concerned with revolution, sudden and unexpected change and erratic behavior. It is electric – and in fact rules all of technology. Uranus is “different” and is often genius in his innovative way of thinking. Uranus is called the “higher octave” of Mercury because he is also concerned with the higher mind.
So here we are with a sign that is ruled by one planet concerned with structure and limitation of the mind, and another planet that wants to break down every tradition and pattern and express his uniqueness. Aren’t Aquarians the most unique individuals you’ve ever met? Some are the most brilliant free thinkers of our time and others can be so restricted by their own minds that they block their own higher intuition. In the highest form of Aquarius, we see the merging of these two planets in the most positive way. One where Uranus supplies the flash of intuition that leads to a new creation or discovery and Saturn provides the organizations in the mind to somehow make this idea realistic.
The eleventh house is concerned with humanitarian ideals, groups and organizations, friends, as well as our aspirations, hopes and dreams. Aquarius can be the most humanitarian of all signs – able to see the highest good for all. He is innovative enough to intuit what the world needs, and disciplined enough to carry his ideas out into the world.
We end our tour of the zodiac with the sign Pisces and the twelfth house. Again, we have two planets ruling this domain: Jupiter and Neptune.
Jupiter expressed through Pisces is directed inwardly as opposed to the outer direction of Jupiter in Sagittarius. Jupiter in Pisces enables this sign to travel “in the mind” and expands his inner spirituality and philosophy. In fact, Pisces is a sign that can often “live” inside its own head!
He is a born teacher, but is also the most sensitive sign of the zodiac due to his “expanded” inner nature thanks to Jupiter. And then Neptune comes into the picture to complicate Pisces even further.
Neptune is the planet of spirituality but I like to call Neptune “the cloud”. This is because, before Neptune’s highest level of spirituality and universal love can come out, one must first walk through his often imperceptible fog. You see, with Neptune, you don’t see things clearly. Your head is literally “in the clouds”, thinking what you want to think, seeing what you want to see, dreaming and escaping from reality. This is also why Neptune is the most creative planet of the zodiac.
And yet, once you are able to see past the disillusionment and concealment of Neptune’s clouds, and live through your own choices in life where you have “fooled yourself”, you are capable of finding the rainbow in your spirit and attain true mastery of yourself.
Neptune, because of its ability to show the highest form of love and beauty is also called the “higher octave” of Venus.
The twelfth house, with its Jupiter and Neptune connection is concerned with the unconscious mind as well as your unconscious abilities and talents. Your greatest fears as well as everything in your past (including past lives) are found in this house. It is the most psychic and psychological house of the zodiac. Dreams are also found here because doesn’t Neptune “live” in his dreams? And yet, with the lucky influence of Jupiter here as well, I believe, at the end of the day, dreams really can come true.
A short lesson on Aspects
Okay, as if I haven’t fried your brain enough, now I want to give you a math lesson. Well, I won’t go that far, but if you want to attain that goal of understanding your astrologer you are so close, I would hate to stop now.
In astrology, all these planets in your chart form various mathematical degrees between one another we call aspects. The different measurements create different types of aspects that affect the interaction of the planets in various ways, some more positive than others.
For now, I will present you with the most basic way of understanding only the major aspects and then I will tie it all together for you as I speak “astrologese” and you discover that you really can follow this language now.
The easy aspects in a chart are called the trine and the sextile. A trine is the most easy flowing, harmonious aspect of all, and the sextile is an easy aspect – with work. This is an opportunity to develop your talents and abilities while the trine needs no work – it’s already apparent.
The hard aspects in a chart are called the square and the opposition. The square is an aspect of tension and blocks the expression of energy in the planets involved. You can work through this tension by separating the areas of life involved or accessing positive energy through a sextile or trine that is also connected to the square in your chart.
The opposition is an aspect of awareness and involves relationships. This is the “see-saw” aspect where you are pulling one way and another person is pulling the other way. Learning to be aware of the polarity here helps you deal with the opposition in your chart as well as its possible link to a trine or sextile in your chart.
Our final aspect is called the conjunction. This is when one planet is next to another and it forms a blending of energies. This can be a positive blend or negative, depending on whether it is linked to other easy aspects or hard aspects.
Putting it all together
Okay, we’ve almost made it. I want to put all this information in perspective now by illustrating how you can put together all your handy new keywords.
Remember the scenario at the beginning of the article? The one where the astrologer lost the client when she said:
“I can see with your Sun square Saturn, conjunct Mars and opposing Jupiter that you have a real problem with male authority figures.”
Well, let’s translate. Remember the Sun is “you” and Saturn is “the strict teacher/authoritarian”. A square aspect is an aspect of tension – a block of energy. So “you” are blocked by “authority figures”. Saturn (authority) is conjunct (next to) Mars (energy). So now the picture says that you (Sun) and your energy (Mars) are blocked by authority. Remember too, that Mars blocked leads to anger and that Mars and Saturn both represent male figures.
Saturn (restriction) conjunct Mars (energy) and opposing Jupiter (expansion) means that the restriction of energy you feel is expanded through your relationship with your authority figure (in this case, the boss). Every time you want to branch out (Jupiter) your boss activates the “see-saw” in the opposition and you find yourself unable to grow.
Put together, this is translated into “you have a real problem with male authority figures.”
The astrologer’s next statement, “And with your Mars return happening this month, I’d say things are really coming to a head with your boss and you can expect a major blowout.”
Includes information not discussed in this article, but I bet you can still catch on. A planetary “return” is when the planet in the sky right now, returns to the exact position it was at when you were born – when your blueprint was created. When this happens, the energy of the planet is activated in a very dynamic way.
So, if Mars (the planet of action, energy, anger) is activated within the confines of the previously discussed example, you can bet that this person will be taking some action regarding his work situation and either an argument, or some kind of action (like him leaving his job) will take place.
Ironing the Wrinkles
I hope this article has provided you with some basic tools to be able to look at your chart with less confusion, or be more equipped to follow an astrologer’s reading. Please remember that astrology is a study that cannot be mastered in a short period of time. It unfolds in your mind slowly, but with practice I promise that you will understand your birth chart and learn how to iron out the wrinkles in your own life, ultimately helping you learn the lessons your soul has chosen to tackle this time around.