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Understanding Horoscopes

Getting the Most from Your Horoscope Profiles

If you want to know more about your report, here is a brief outline of how horoscopes work, concise meanings of each part of the horoscope and, scattered throughout, tips on how to put these parts together to get further information from your birth chart.

Deciphering Your Horoscope Wheel

The horoscope wheel in your report is a complete, accurately calculated chart such as a professional astrologer would draw up. This wheel is actually a diagram showing how the planets and signs were arranged around you at the moment of your birth.

Think of yourself, just being born, as being at the center. The two horizontal spokes are the horizon of the place where you were born. Above this line are the planets that were up in the sky. Below it are the planets that were hidden below the horizon. The sky is shown as if you were facing south. As the Earth turns on its axis each day, the Sun would rise to your left in the east, culminate or reach its highest point around noon, set to your right, and anticulminate or reach its lowest point about midnight before rising the next day.

Were you born during the day or at night? If you look at your own horoscope wheel, you should see your Sun (0) either above or below the horizon, reflecting the time of day when you were born. The diagram above shows approximately where the Sun would be at various times during a 24-hour period. The planets, too, make this entire trip clockwise around the horoscope wheel each day, but each rises and sets at a different time.

The twelve spokes of the horoscope wheel are the borders, or cusps, of the twelve houses. You can think of the house cusps as partitions that are attached to the Earth and radiate out into space. Each day as the Earth turns on its axis, each of the house cusps sweeps through every degree of the zodiac. Most wheel styles available in Professional Natal Report show the degree, sign and minute of the zodiac that was on each house cusp at the moment you were born. Inside the houses are the planets, shown with the degree, sign and minute of their zodiacal position.

The Planets

The planets are the main actors in the drama. To astrologers, planets are bodies that appear from Earth to move through the zodiac. For this reason, they include the Sun and Moon as well as the other bodies (like Jupiter, Venus and Mars) that orbit the Sun. The Moon appears to go once around the zodiac in a month; the Sun, Venus and Mercury take about a year; Mars takes about 2 years; Jupiter about 12; Saturn about 30; Uranus about 84; Neptune about 164; and Pluto about 245 years.

What the Planets Symbolize

Astrology recognizes that people really cannot be adequately described in simplistic terms like good or bad, energetic or lazy, loving or cold. Perhaps the richest of all languages for describing human complexity, astrology sees people as a composite of at least ten different internal characters. Like the inhabitants of a royal court, each character has an official function (king, queen, jester, minstrel, gardener, cook, etc.) that is the same for everyone. The personality of each functionary and its relationship to all the other characters, however, is unique for each individual. Therefore, though the number of actors is the same, the drama can vary hugely from person to person.

These ten characters are, of course, the planets. The sign each planet is in determines its personality. For example, is the king (the Sun) in a naturally regal sign (Leo), in a sign that is shy and retiring (Pisces), or in one that is all business (Capricorn)? The house a planet is associated with shows the area of life where the planet will tend to express itself. For the king, will it be mainly through pomp and celebrations (5th house), secret diplomacy (12th house), or repairing the roads and making the trains run on time (6th house)? And finally, his relations with the others in the realm are shown by the aspects he makes with them. Does he work smoothly with his ministers and generals (trines and sextiles), is he in open conflict with them (oppositions and squares), or is he in poor communication with them or even being secretly undermined (quincunxes and semisextiles)?

We will get to all these factors further on. Right now, the first step in understanding this complex drama is understanding each courtier’s basic role. The basic functions of the planets are as follows.

The Sun

Just as its target-shaped symbol or glyph suggests, the Sun represents your center: the center from which all your energies radiate, the center from which you view the universe, and also the physical center that is your body. Its position by sign, house and aspect shows how and where you radiate your energies into the world. The Sun is the basic life-initiating or father principle. You could think of the Sun as the king.

The Moon

Whether you see this symbol as a crescent Moon, bowl, or radar dish, the idea is the same. The Moon receives, contains, and gives form to the abstract energy represented by the Sun. If the Sun is the basic you, the Moon is what gives you your particular personality – your genetic heritage, earliest training, and habit patterns. The symbol can also be seen as a cradle or enfolding arms; the Moon is the basic life-sustaining, nurturing or mother principle. Most obviously, the Moon is the queen, but she is also the land and the people.


This glyph suggests the messenger of the gods with his winged helmet. Fittingly, this planet represents how you think, communicate and move about. Mercury appears from Earth to shuttle back and forth near the Sun – like the nerve impulses in your body or the transportation systems of our society. It is a link, a bridge, a translator, putting abstract energies into symbols so they can be manipulated within your mind or communicated to others. Mercury has many guises, including the scribe, the ambassador, the merchant, the bell cord that goes from banquet hall to pantry, and the air itself, which carries the sound waves of speech. Mercury is also the nimble juggler, and the child who skips through the hallways and plays pranks.


This glyph is traditionally the mirror of the goddess, but it is even more like a flower, whose function is to attract pollination so the plant can bear fruit. Venus symbolizes your powers of attraction, of bringing people, objects or ideas together to create harmonious wholes. It shows how you project and appreciate beauty, how and what you love, what gives you pleasure, the areas of your creativity, your tact and social skills. Venus could be the royal mistress, the hostess, or the artisan who makes the castle beautiful.


The shield and spear of the war-god Mars are also like the Sun glyph with an arrow showing energy emerging from it. Whereas the Sun is your basic energy center, Mars, centerless but with an arrow, shows how you apply this energy to get things done. And, if the Sun is your basic self or ego, Mars is how you assert yourself and defend your ego. It is anger and aggression, but it is also the energy that enables you to fight for survival. Mars is the “muscle” of society as well as your body: the workers, the soldiers, the knights who defend the helpless, and the police who enforce Saturn’s law.


The glyphs for Jupiter and Saturn are almost the reverse of each other, just as the planets in many ways symbolize opposite energies. Jupiter is like arms raised and flung out to take in all the goodness of the world. It signifies that part of you that wants to reach out, overcome limitations, and take in everything to make it your own. (Appropriately, Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system.) It gives expansiveness, optimism, generosity, magnanimity and a love of freedom and new experiences, but it can also bring acquisitiveness, wastefulness, insensitivity to others’ needs, and lack of attention to detail. Jupiter can be the chancellor who helps the king rule, a minister of far-reaching vision who sees the big picture and lays plans for the future prosperity and well-being of the state. He can also be the lawgiver who maps out the basic code that holds society together; or the archbishop, who calls on a higher power and unites the realm under the banner of faith.


To make a bad pun, the glyph for “Sat-on” looks like a seat-or maybe a candle-snuffer. When carried to excess, Saturn can keep life down or even snuff it out, but when applied in moderation it is the necessary force that defines limits and keeps Jupiterian expansion from getting out of hand. It signifies obstacles and frustration, but also discipline and order. Saturn could be the minister of finance or the royal housekeeper who keeps a tight hand on the purse-strings, the conservative advisor who champions traditional values and stems the tide of change, the severe judge who puts a stop to crime (and sometimes people’s lives as well), or the wise old counselor who guards against excess.

Saturn is the furthest planet in the solar system to be seen by the naked eye. Beyond lie planets not ordinarily visible; these enable you to transcend the everyday reality of Saturn and explore worlds outside ordinary common sense.


The glyph for Uranus was made up to suggest the initial of its discoverer, Herschel, but it could also be seen as the head of a baby emerging from the birth canal. It represents the first breakthrough into the universe beyond Saturn, a sudden disruption and cracking-open of Saturn’s confining shell. It brings upset, surprise and insecurity but also originality, a love of the new, creativity and freedom. Uranus is the court jester who turns reality on its head, the rebel who shakes up the status quo, or the traveler from a remote kingdom who stands out from all others at court with his outlandish manners and dress.


The trident of the Roman sea-god suggests the oceanic quality of Neptune. Whereas Uranus cracked open the rigid shell of Saturn, Neptune furthers the process by dissolving the shell entirely. Neptune is the urge within you to go beyond all the boundaries and limitations that make you a particular human being and return into the vast and formless ocean of oneness with the universe. When people are insufficiently grounded, Neptune can bring weakness, dishonesty, illusion, addiction and an inability to cope with everyday life. But once their egos are fully developed, Neptune can bring empathy, selfless service to others, and transcendent knowledge and bliss. Neptune is the soothsayer, who brings knowledge from the world of dreams; or the religious hermit, who bypasses the archbishop’s church and is in direct contact with God.


Many astrologers prefer a glyph like Mercury’s with the crescent in a different place. Whereas Mercury translated information from one form to another, Pluto transforms – people, situations, whatever it touches. Another way of seeing the Pluto glyph is as a dying plant releasing a seed. The disruption and dissolution begun by Uranus and Neptune is completed by Pluto in death and the rebirth that follows. Pluto shows up in everyday life as change, development, transformation, regeneration. People with a strong Pluto can lead lives with many upheavals and “rebirths” or can be forceful and persuasive in bringing about change in others. Pluto could be the magician, who works in the secret realms to bring about change. He is also the invisible tide of change itself, which brings an end to whatever is outworn, so that life can periodically be renewed.

Additional Points

Some astrologers consider additional bodies such as various asteroids and Chiron, a small comet-like object that orbits between Saturn and Uranus and goes around the zodiac in just under 51 years. Many also use the lunar Nodes, mathematical points that travel backwards around the zodiac in about 19 years.


The key-like glyph that astrologers have settled upon since Chiron’s discovery in 1977 suggests the opening of a door, possibly one through the wall erected by Saturn, leading to a new realm of innovation and freedom represented by Uranus. Half-horse, half-man, Chiron arose from the savage race of centaurs to teach civilized values and technologies for improving human life. Most memorably, he himself suffered a painful wound that would not heal, yet taught the healing arts to the young Aesculapius. Epitomizing the wounded healer, Chiron is thought by many astrologers to signify the hurt places within us, and the ways they can enable us to heal and improve the lives of others.

North Node The glyph suggests the Dragon’s Head, the old name for this point. Directly opposite it in the zodiac is the South Node or Dragon’s Tail (Ll), which is often omitted from the chart wheel because it is always 180 degrees from the North Node. The Nodes are the two places in the zodiac where the the Moon’s orbital plane connects with the plane of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Some astrologers read both Nodes as connections, particularly to relatives or groups. Others see the South Node as old skills, relationships and attitudes that you have thoroughly mastered and now must leave behind, and the North Node as new areas that you need to advance toward for your continuing evolution.

Which Planets Are Most Important in Your Chart?

In general, the Sun and Moon – the “luminaries” or “lights” – are the solar-system bodies to which astrologers would pay the most attention. While the other planets supply the details, these great lights in the sky symbolize the two fundamental poles of your being, the basic yang/yin, radiating- outward/enfolding-inward sides of your nature. Contemplating the aspects, signs and perhaps also the houses of the Sun and Moon can reveal volumes about the most profound parts of your self.

Next in personal significance are the inner planets, Mercury, Venus and Mars. Following this are the outer, or slow-moving, planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.

This basic order of importance is reflected in your report, where aspects from the Sun, Moon and inner planets are always listed before aspects from the outer planets. Also, whenever planets are tallied in signs, houses or other categories, the luminaries and inner planets are given more weighting points.

Each individual chart also has its own individual pattern of planetary strength that distinguishes it from other people’s charts. Which planet or planets happen to be speaking the loudest in your chart? Here are some things to look for, in order of their importance.

1. Turning back to the chart wheel or aspect listing at the beginning of this report, do you find any planets very near the Ascendant, Midheaven, Descendant or Imum Coeli of your chart? (The way charts are most often cast, these are at the beginning of the First, Tenth, Seventh or Fourth houses.) Having a planet within seven degrees of a conjunction to any of these four points is almost guaranteed to make that planet one of the most obvious and strong components in your character. The closer a planet is to one of these points, the stronger it is.

2. A close aspect to the Sun or Moon (say, within a 5-degree orb) can also confer great importance on one of the other planets.

3. A planet can also become very important if it is in some other aspect than the conjunction to the Ascendant or Midheaven. Here, you would consider aspects within an orb of about 5 degrees.

Aspects between the Planets

Since each planet travels around the zodiac at its own speed, the angles between the planets constantly change. When the angle between two planets approaches an even division of the circle (such as 1/2 or 180 degrees, 1/3 or 120 degrees, 1/4 or 90 degrees, etc.) astrologers find that the symbolism of those planets becomes linked in your personality. These significant angles are called aspects. Aspects come in families, each of which is based on number, and each of which has its own characteristic feeling.

The Strongest Aspect The conjunction (0 degrees, symbol 0) is in a family by itself. Whether it is easy or difficult depends almost completely on the two planets involved. It is usually considered along with the “hard” aspects below simply because it is so intense.

The “Hard” Aspects Aspects that arise from dividing the circle by 2 (the opposition, 180 degrees, symbol cf) and 4 (the square, 90 degrees, symbol o) are called “hard” because they tend to precipitate crises and usually call for effort on your part. For the same reasons, they can also be dynamic and productive. This report discusses the conjunction and hard aspects first, because these are the aspects that usually concern people the most, and which bring them to consult their astrologers.

The “Soft” Aspects These arise from dividing the circle by 3 (the trine, 120 degrees, symbol Li.) and 6 (the sextile, 60 degrees, symbol *). Planets linked by trines or sextiles tend to work easily together, aiding and abetting each other. Trines and sextiles show the parts of your nature that tend to run along smoothly and effortlessly.

The Minor Aspects The semisquare (45 degrees, symbol L) is 1/8 of the circle, and the sesquiquadrate or sesquare (135 degrees, symbol l:i) is 3/8. Coming from a smaller subdivision of the square, the semisquare and sesquare have a similar dynamic and stressful feeling but are not quite as strong.

The semisextile (30 degrees, symbol .>) is 1/12 of the circle and the quincunx (150 degrees, symbol ) is 5/12. These aspects connect signs that have no relation to each other, being neither of the same element nor of the same mode. They have a problematic quality, like two characters who have to deal with each other, but just don’t seem to speak the same language.

Copyright © 1999 Astrolabe, Inc.