At its most basic level, there are three fundamental components to astrology — planets, signs and houses. The planets are the agents of change, the signs how the change happens and the houses the areas of your life affected. These ingredients combine differently in every birth chart, and their interplay is the key to unpacking who you are and what you are here to do, and showing you the path that you may choose to follow.
The Zodiac Signs
The 12 Zodiac Signs are what most people know about astrology. Each represents a particular way of doing things or approach life, like the props in a movie production. For example, Pisces are known for approaching life with compassion; Taurus sensually; and Gemini communicatively. Everybody knows their ‘star’ sign, but astrologers call this ‘sun’ sign because it is defined by the position of the Sun within the Zodiac at the moment of your birth.
Dating back to Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, each sign is grouped into one of four elements or triplicity — Fire, Earth, Air and Water — with each element endowing certain common characteristics. Fire signs are known for being passionate and enthusiastic, Earth signs for being grounded and pragmatic, Air for being social and communicative, and Water for being imaginative and nurturing.
Each Zodiac Sign is also associated with one of three modalities, mirroring either the beginning, middle or end of the seasons, and displaying characteristics that reflect that. Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn mark the beginning of seasons, and are therefore called cardinal. They are known as being the dynamic initiators and leaders of the zodiac. Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius happen mid-season, when the weather has settled. These signs are called fixed accordingly, and are known for being extremely determined and resilient. Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces happen at the end of the seasons, when the weather is changing, and are therefore called mutable, meaning they are flexible and adaptable.
In astrology the planets are the force or energy that explains specific changes or events. They are the actors in a movie, agents of change and embodying principles. Each has a specific set of qualities and nature, associated with the mythology of ancient gods and goddess. As they transit trough the zodiac, their energy is filtered through each zodiac sign differentely, and different themes emerge depending on the sign they are in. Mars in Aries, for example, is rash and combative, while Mars in Taurus is slow and steady. The same applies to Saturn in Pisces vs in Capricorn, and so on and so forth. There are many articles on this website under Learn Astrology that explain how planetary energy manifests differently through the signs.
Ancient Mesopotamians first studied the movements of the five visible planets and of the two luminaries, the Sun and the Moon, as they noticed correlations with events on Earth. The term ‘planet’ originates from ancient Greek and means ‘wandering star’ — to distinguish it from the fixed stars such as Spica or Polaris, which they noticed didn’t ‘wander’ through the Zodiac but always remained in the same place in the sky. Later on, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto were also added to the list of planets (regardless of how astronomers define them), and the effects of other celestial bodies like asteroids also began being observed.
Planets rule signs, meaning they express their energy more authentically and resonate more strongly with certain signs. For example, Aries is ruled by Mars, and both symbolize dynamic, competitive and assertive energy. Cancer is ruled by the Moon, on the other hand, and the two share an intimate and nurturing nature. Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter, and is likewise joyous and expansive. There is a debate about which planets rule Scorpio, Aquarius and Pisces; in my practice I find that the traditional planets — Mars, Saturn and Jupiter, respectively — are more reliable for this, as the outer planets Pluto, Uranus and Neptune are generational and stay in a sign for too long to symbolize the native.
The Astrological Houses
Capturing a snapshot of the sky above you, at the moment and place of your birth, the twelve astrological houses in your horoscope are the stage on which your life unfolds. They represent 12 different facets of your existence and as such allow us to view your personal chart in very real, practical ways. Without them we wouldn’t know how you approach money, family, relationships, career, friendships and all the big themes in life. The meanings of each house are filtered through the signs and planets contained within them, or ruling the house cusp. You can calculate your personal chart for free here, where you also get a list of all the planets, by house, sign and degree, and aspects.
From that very specific moment in time and space, translated into a zodiac sign degree (your Ascendant or Rising Sign), your birth chart is then cast, superimposed with a cross marking the East, West, North and South. The cross cutting through your chart, which we call angles, is a supercharged component, like live electrical wires buzzing whenever something comes close to them. Each angle represents a physical point of energy manifestation, where the essence of planets and signs is expressed with excitement, relevance and intensity. The space between angles is then divided into three segments, giving us a total of twelve, symbolic of the twelve spheres of your life.
Marking the moment of your first breath, the Ascendant or Rising Sign degree is the most important point in your chart. It is the master key that opens doors to all the astrological houses or big themes in your life. It is the path you walk to express yourself and manifest your needs and wants and dreams. Like your skin, it is only surface-level, but absolutely essential for holding everything together. It is your vehicle for travelling through life and experiencing the world. Like a car, it may come with the convertible roof rolled down and music blaring, or with dark, bulletproof glass and no music at all. Regardless of the mood and style, it will still take you places so that you can experience and navigate your life in a particular way.
Still not clear?
The best way to start with astrology is with the explanation of your birth chart in a professional consultation, where everything in your personal horoscope gets synthesized and the most important factors identified in ways that an app cannot do.