The one thing that deters all would-be budding astrologists is the complexity of the Natal Chart, sometimes called a birth chart. Without diving into much detail at this point, we’re breaking down the anatomy of a natal chart into its simplest form.
A natal chart is constructed for an individual using the date and time of birth. This chart will never change -it’s a kind of a snapshot of a life – and contains a detailed overview of that person’s influences, personality traits, relationships, likely life paths and destiny.
The Anatomy of a Natal Chart
Starting with the outer circle, this is the zodiac wheel. It’s divided into 12 equal segments, which represent the signs of the zodiac. If you look at the second circle, you can see it’s broken into tiny segments, like a ruler. The line corresponds to the surface of the Earth, and the segments are the degrees of a circle; 30 degrees longitude to each sign. The zodiac signs are shown as symbols and glyphs, which we will talk about in our next Astrology 101 article.
The zodiac signs are in constant motion as the Earth rotates. As it rotates 1 degree every four minutes (time), it is important to know the individual’s time of birth. Even a few minutes out makes the chart inaccurate.
The next section in is also divided into 12 equal ‘slices’. You will notice that they don’t correspond to the outer divisions. These sections are the houses, which we described briefly in Astrology 101: Twelve Astrological Terms. Inside these houses are various symbols, some of which represent the position of the planets and other heavenly bodies at the time of the individual’s birth. Some houses are empty, indicating that no planet was in residence at the time of birth. Others have more than one planet.
The inner circle contains the ‘aspects’; how the various planetary bodies line up with each other. Aspects are referred to as follows:
|0 degrees difference||Conjunction||Positive influence|
|90 degrees difference||Square||Negative influence|
|120 degrees difference||Trine||Positive influence|
|180 degrees difference||Opposition||Negative influence|
You can also see a strong horizontal line – and it does represent the actual horizon. Known as the ecliptic plane, it is the apparent (visual) path of the Sun around the earth. It indicates the rising sign, or ascendant, on the left and the descending sign, descendant, on the right. The houses always begin at #1 on the left, just below the horizontal line. The vertical line points upward to the mid-heaven point.
People often get confused why astrologers read a chart as if the Sun circles the Earth. This is because the individual, the native, is set at the center of the universe. Imagine looking down at the solar system from above, with the Sun at the center. Pretend there are two intersecting lines passing through the Sun. Now move those intersecting lines so that they pass through the Earth. Now you can see how a rudimentary natal chart is designed with the Sun, planets, and Moon in their places relative to the Earth.
To get a better idea of how these divisions and planes look on a 3D model of the earth, visit Celestial Geometry by Mike Garrek.
Astrological Houses and the Elements
We mentioned in our previous article that each sign of the zodiac is assigned one of the four ‘elements’ – earth, air, fire and water. Well, just to complicate things a little, each house is also assigned to an element.
The Fire houses are 1, 3 and 9 – The Trinity of Life. They reflect the whole experience of being alive; our attitudes and the energy we put into the world. A person with a lot of fire in their chart will be active and possibly a risk-taker.
The Earth houses are 2, 6 and 10 – The Trinity of Wealth. These are where we interact with the physical world, our manifestations and organization of our lives. These reflect how we position ourselves in work and how we live. An overload of earth energy in a chart indicates someone concerned about material wealth and possessions.
The Air houses are 3, 7 and 11 – The Trinity of Relationships. This trinity is concerned with how we relate to others and also to thoughts and ideas. This is the realm of concept, where we process our understanding. Too much air in a chart means that this person is likely to be a daydreamer and have their ‘head in the clouds’.
The Water houses are 4, 8 and 12 – The Psychic Trinity. These houses are the lenses by which we have emotionally processed past events. This shapes the way we view the present. Someone with a preponderance of water in their chart will operate mostly on their feelings.
The Qualities of the Planets
Each planet has its individual qualities. Again we will talk more about these in a later article. For now, here is a table of the most common planetary qualities.
|Sun||Ego, identity, father||Leo|
|Moon||Feelings, cycles, mother||Cancer|
|Mercury||Communication, thought, siblings||Gemini and Virgo|
|Venus||Relationships, wealth, values||Taurus and Libra|
|Mars||Action, assertiveness, aggression||Aries|
|Pluto||Death, sex, transformation||Scorpio|
You can see how all these qualities intersect and affect each other, according to their placement in a birth chart. Given this basic information, an astrologer can begin to ascertain the various influences at work in the individual’s natal chart.
Image courtesy of Pixabay
In our next article, we’ll be talking about astrological symbols and aspects and how they all combine in the birth chart to form a picture of a person’s character, history, and destiny.
AstroLibrary, Birth Chart Layout
Jon Stevens, What is Astrology
LittleRedTarot, Your Astrological Birth Chart
Patty MacDonald, Planets, Houses, Elements and Modes