Accurate horoscopes require an accurate birth time. This means the correct birth time to the minute. Accuracy ensures that astrology makes a real difference to you. A few minutes off may yield the wrong Ascendant or Moon. Or a planet may fall in a different sign or house in some charts. An aspect between planets or to an angle may lose potency.
With an exact birth time we can be sure of who you are astrologically and pinpoint with confidence which sector of life is being affected by an eclipse or transit, when and how key life events are likely to unfold, how strong certain tendencies are, how important certain values or themes.
Not all of us have access to accurate birth time information. At best, our mothers remember an approximate time like "around 7"; at worst, nobody really knows when you were born. Can you still get accurate astrological delineations and forecasts in these cases? Or should you just give up on astrology altogether?
Astrologers have an accuracy rating scale for birth times, with the most reliable being an official certificate or hospital record. Other options exist, but we do not consider them quite as unequivocal. Let's look at what these are and how to go about them.
Some countries make it easier than others. In the USA and Italy, for example, your birth time is recorded in your birth certificate, so it's as easy as getting hold of this document from the relevant office. For countries like the UK, where this is not an option, your best bet is to call or email the hospital where you were born, as they also kept a record of your time of birth. It may help if you also mention your mother's name at the time. Other sources that offer a high degree of reliability are baptism certificates, family Bible, baby books or similar.
This is where astrologers become suspicious and start asking you a lot of questions about your life to confirm the birth time. Even if the source is your own mother, an autobiography or a family legend. First of all, we really need a birth time to the minute, as mentioned earlier. "Just before 7" or "6 AM" doesn't really inspire confidence in the astrological conclusions that can be drawn. Plus, ask crime investigators and psychologists how reliable human memory is over time. Yet, this is still better than nothing and a good astrologer will be able to work with it with some degree of satisfaction.
This is where an astrologer takes charge and derives your exact birth chart from when key life events happened. Astrologers know what Saturn or Mars or Uranus in certain positions in your personal horoscope corresponds to in life, and that's one of the variables on which we base our assessment. However, astrologers use different approaches for rectification, which may result in unmatching birth times from different astrologers despite identical events data. Therefore it is important to work with an astrologer that you trust.
You are not born with only one chart that works for you. A very useful and surprisingly accurate reading can still be enjoyed even without birth time, just by placing your Sun in the First House (Ascendant). Planetary patterns still hold 100% true. The problem is if a planet is about to change to a different sign that very day, which occurs frequently with the Moon. The night luminary can in fact fly through a sign in as little as two and a half days, so some judgement calls need to be made in these cases. With Solar Charts, I tend not to look at the houses or angles, as they are just hypothetical without an accurate birth time, but a lot can be garnered just by looking at the relationships between planets.
More often than not, astrologers of times past did not have access to accurate birth times for ordinary people. So they used horaries for any query their clients might have. Horary astrology is an ancient branch of astrology that predicts the future by using the time of a question, rather than the birth moment of a person. A traditional horary reading can provide a very precise, focussed and accurate answer to a wide variety of questions. Natal charts or birth information are supportive but not indispensable for a horary reading.
Not only do horaries give you Yes/No answers with expected timings, but they also accurately zero in on the people and situation, clarify the opportunities and challenges, and offer guidance on how to best overcome potential impasses. While answering questions can be accomplished with natal astrology, horary offers a much more precise and accurate tool for a particular circumstance. In other words, natal astrology will indicate what temperament, themes, type of career or partner you should or will have, but horary astrology will tell you if you will obtain a specific position you have your sights on, or the future of a current relationship.
So you see, there is a lot that we can do even without a birth time to get an accurate reading. The important thing is to understand what can be achieved and to manage your own expectations accordingly. No matter your approach, what you absolutely need to be careful with is choosing a reliable astrologer. These days many people claim to be astrologers simply from learning a few tricks on the internet. A professional astrologer is not only knowledgeable in the subject matter, or even formally trained, but above all is highly experienced having read thousands of charts in a professional capacity. So choose wisely and you will not be disappointed!