How to Interpret a Natal Chart: Part 2

 Old World Map by Nicolaes Visscher, 1658

Old World Map by Nicolaes Visscher, 1658

Quick Overview

In Part 1, we went over the difference between Exoteric (Sun Sign) Astrology & Esoteric Astrology, the Zodiacal Constellations, the seven Classical Planets, and left off with Geocentricism (Subjectivity) & Heliocentricism (Objectivity).

The Ecliptic

 Analemma of the Sun, Found on Google Images

Analemma of the Sun, Found on Google Images

In early observations, Astrologers realized that our sun did not precisely follow a straight line and the pattern was wave-like or elliptical. This is because of the tilt of our earth’s axis as it revolves around the sun. Drawn on on old maps is a wave-like line that goes up above the equator to down below the equator ad infinitum. The very top of the path is called the Tropic of Cancer which is the sun’s highest point in the Western Hemisphere, and the lowest part called the Tropic of Capricorn, opposite of the Tropic of Cancer. The word for the path the sun is performing is called an Analemma, which is why the symbol for infinity () is written as a sideways figure eight as it represents this movement. Anyone can observe this by going outside, noting the position of the sun in the sky, wait a few weeks, and see that the sun is not in the same position as before, but either higher or lower depending on the time of year.

Why a Circle?

However, the reason why a natal chart is drawn as a circle instead of the symbol is that they merged the two loops by reversing one so they would meet together as a closed system. So the concept of a circle is another way to represent the sun as it takes roughly 360 days (360 degrees) to go along the path and meet back to the starting point. We know now that it is not specifically this number, due to Precessional Slippage, but one will come to find is that, although it does matter to be accurate in predictions, Astrology views its principles to be more important than being right. Astrology is all about one’s observance of a pattern rather than following a direct method, which is what makes it so adaptable (if something does not work, try something else) in order to avoid being dogmatic (it is either completely right or not at all). Staying open minded in order to make space for new ideas helps avoid rigidity in any given system.

Our Calendar Based On Astrology

360° (≈ days of the year - slippage) ÷ 12 Signs = 30 degrees which is interestingly close to equal to how many days it takes to orbit the earth or you could also say twelve Months (Moon-ths). The days of the week are also based on the seven Classical Planets and the Seven Days of Creation in the Bible: Sunday (Sun) Monday (Moon) Tuesday (Mars) Wednesday (Mercury) Thursday (Jupiter) Friday (Venus) & Saturday (Saturn).

Modern Astrology & The House Systems

Zodiac Rulership Detriment Exaltation Fall
Aries ♈ Mars ♂️ Venus ♀️ Sun ☉ Saturn ♄
Taurus ♉ Venus ♀️ Mars ♂️ Moon ☽
Gemini ♊ Mercury ☿ Jupiter ♃
Cancer ♋ Moon ☽ Saturn ♄ Jupiter ♃ Mars ♂️
Leo ♌ Sun ☉ Saturn ♄
Virgo ♍ Mercury ☿ Jupiter ♃ Mercury ☿ Venus ♀️
Libra ♎ Venus ♀️ Mars ♂️ Saturn ♄ Sun ☉
Scorpio ♏ Mars ♂️ Venus ♀️ Moon ☽
Sagittarius ♐ Jupiter ♃ Mercury ☿
Capricorn ♑ Saturn ♄ Moon ☽ Mars ♂️ Jupiter ♃
Aquarius ♒ Saturn ♄ Sun ☉
Pisces ♓ Jupiter ♃ Mercury ☿ Venus ♀️ Mercury ☿

When observing one's natal chart, presented is a snapshot of a particular configuration of the planets above at the precise time and geolocation of birth. After many years of trial and error with ongoing debates on how to calculate everything, the most popular method, called the Placidus House System, has been used for hundreds of years. The houses are divided not equally, but according to the location’s perspective of the night sky during a specific time. For the sake of the reader who is beginning to learn, example will be shown with equal-sized houses. One might hear about an ongoing debate that the Placidus system is flawed, and *fill-in-the-blank* house system is better. The truth is none of them are perfect, but in order to interpret a natal chart we cannot entirely rely on a method granting us results, but instead pay close attention to current events and their planetary configurations. When an Astrologer does this and can see when this configuration will return, so too will a similar event will occur.

Twelve houses correspond to the order of the twelve Zodiacal Constellations. However, the number of the house doesn’t always match up with the right Zodiac. When an individual is born, or an event has taken place, the Astrologer looks towards East where the Sun rises and takes note of the Ascendant (AC), which is numbered as the first Zodiac sign. The chart moves downward and is read counterclockwise counting up to the twelfth sign to meet back with the Ascendant. The Fourth Sign called Imum Coeli (IC) is the foundation, which is the Zodiac directly beneath the event. Looking West gives us the Descendant (DC), and the opposite of the IC directly above is the Midheaven (Medium Coeli MC). So putting this all together, we have a compass: East (AC), South (IC), West (DC), and North (MC).

Traditionally, the stories surrounding these twelve signs relate to the Journey of the Sun, or The Hero's Journey, which is the biggest story that derived from all Mythologies. There are common scenes/themes that carry the story and move it forward in order to develop the character of the Hero to overcome personal challenges and grow. I would highly recommend reading The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell as it goes into further detail.

The Planets

If houses are the scenes of a film, we also have a cast of actors which are known as the Celestial Bodies. These are the “gods who rule above,” but are actually separate aspects of the individual’s psyche that describe our tenancies, personality, appearance, desires, struggles, etc. Again, this is not fatalistic if we’re aware of the planetary motions that are taking place each day and how they personally affect us. As we observe and learn about them, we will be able to transmute these aspects into something new to help fulfill our purposes instead of being held back. Traditionally, we only focus on the seven Classical Planets or also called the Septenary. These actors have places where they live, like to hang out at, want to avoid, or hate going and this is called a Planetary Dignity, which classifies the strength or influence of the planet in relation to their position in the Zodiac. Rulership is having a strong influence over a house. This is like an actor who steps in and dominates the scene, they are the main focus and any other planets (actors) are less important. We can also think of it as a king/queen who rules their land. Detriment, opposite of Rulership, is when a planet’s force is weakest, like a servant to a king or queen of another land. Exaltation is more like an amplifier of a house. When this happens, the scene/House itself is aiding the goals of the planet. It has more of a say, but unlike Rulership, an exalted planet isn’t crowding the space of other planets that may be residing there as well. And the opposite of an Exalted planet is a Fallen Planet, where their presence is losing a right to speak. Another great book to help characterize these planets for yourself would be Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes.

Geo-metric aspects

 Example of Mercury’s Epicycles Around Earth. S1-S2 indicates the retrograde

Example of Mercury’s Epicycles Around Earth. S1-S2 indicates the retrograde

To further expand on why the planetary patterns are significant, aspects are drawn in a natal chart which describes the relationships between two or more planets. The two main types of aspects are Martian Aspects & Mercurial Aspects. These are angles derived from the epicycles that are created by Mars & Mercury. During an epicycle comes a point where a planet retrogrades, giving the illusion it is moving backward. There are other kinds of planetary aspects as well, such as Venus creating an elegant five-pointed rose pattern while orbiting earth resulting in divisions of five (or 72 degrees) in the chart. However, these are considered to be less critical and typically only Martian & Mercurial Aspects are observed in a natal chart.

Mars performs roughly eight retrogrades around the earth creating a square. Dividing a circle by eight makes 45 degrees (Semi-Square). Reducing eight to four equals 90 degrees (Square) and reducing four to two results in 180 degrees (Opposition). These are what Astrologers categorize as hard angles. Mercury, on the other hand, performs almost precisely three retrogrades which creates a triangle resulting in three soft angles, 60 degrees (Sextile), 30 degrees (Semi-Sextile), and 120 degrees (Trine). Zero degrees (Conjunction) is favorable and is also a part of the Mercurial Aspects. One could think of these angles as types of conversations the planets are having with one another. There are more technical aspects, but these are the main ones to start with.

Planet Revolution Rulership Detriment Exaltation Fall
Sun ☉ 365 days Leo Aquarius Aries Libra
Moon ☽ 29.5 days Cancer Capricorn Taurus Scorpio
Mercury ☿ 59 days Gemini & Virgo Sagittarius & Pisces Virgo Pisces
Venus ♀️ 224.7 days Taurus & Libra Aries & Scorpio Pisces Virgo
Mars ♂️ 1.88 years Aries & Scorpio Taurus & Libra Capricorn Cancer
Jupiter ♃ 11.86 years Sagittarius & Pisces Gemini & Virgo Cancer Capricorn
Saturn ♄ 29.46 years Capricorn & Aquarius Cancer & Leo Libra Aries

Soft Aspects

Aspect Degrees Conversation
Conjunction ☌ Intimate
Semi-Sextile v 30° Casual
Sextile * 60° Easy Going
Trine △ 120° Nonstop

Hard Aspects

Aspect Degrees Conversation
Semi-Square ∠ 45° Argumentative
Square □ 90° Combative
Opposition ☍ 180° Antagonistic

To Be Continued. . .

In Part 3, we will begin diving into the Natal Chart itself. If you do not have one yet or the free charts out there are too hard to read, I have redesigned the traditional chart to be much easier to reference from. They also make great gifts!