What is a birth chart?
The birth chart is a map of the sky at the moment you were born. Birth charts are sometimes also called "natal charts" or "horoscopes." Your birth chart is a little bit like your cosmic birth certificate. Your birth certificate might say you have blue eyes and weighed 7 pounds and were born in Eastern Nebraska. Your birth chart might say you were born when the Sun was in Aries, and Libra was on the eastern horizon.
Astrologers disagree about what you can tell from a birth chart. Some say that you can use it to predict your personality and future. Others say it's more useful in understanding your predicaments and ideal path to happiness. Everyone agrees that, just like being born in Eastern Nebraska instead of London has a huge impact on the trajectory of your life and the options you have available, the unique challenges represented in your birth chart tend to follow you the rest of your life.
Why You Might Want to be Able to Read Your Birth Chart
When you can read your birth chart, a wealth of astrological knowledge becomes available to you. For instance, when an astrologer says that Mercury is going to go retrograde at 3 degrees Aquarius, they'll probably tell you that technology is going to probably take a bigger hit than usual. This is good information. Mercury can effect communication, technology, transportation, and a host of other things. Being able to narrow it down to technology helps. Knowing your birth chart, though, can narrow it down even further. A quick glance at your chart might tell you that, for you, Aquarius is in your House of Long Term Relationships, for example, and you'll know to pay particular attention to technology snafus that interfere with your ability to communicate with your nearest and dearest. This kind of knowledge isn't possible without either knowing the basics of how to read your own chart or having an astrologer on-call.
What about horoscopes, you might say? Shouldn't they tell me things like that? Sometimes, yes, but horoscopes (because they have to apply to everybody) assume some things that may not apply to you, especially if you were born far from the equator or your ascendant is at the very end of a sign. I do my best with Writerscopes to account for as many people as possible, but when your chart is like my partner's, and your first and seventh houses cover two whole signs, there isn't much I can do outside of a private reading.
And reading a birth chart for yourself is pretty simple. To get the fundamentals, all you need to know is the basic anatomy of the chart and how to match 24 symbols to a list. Really understanding astrology means knowing how house and sign influence every planet and how every planet relates to every other planet, and that's the work of a lifetime, but you can go surprisingly far on just the ability to interpret symbols and Google them.
How do you get a copy of your birth chart?
To get a free copy of your birth chart you will need:
- Your birth date
- Your birth time
- Your birth place
- Go to Astro.com and create a horoscope as a guest user. (Or register for a free account, so you don't have enter your data every time you visit. Worth it!)
- Hover over Free Horoscopes then click "Natal Chart, Ascendant" under Drawings & Calculations.
You should see a page that looks something like this (except it has your name on it instead of Harry Potter's):
Got it? Tada! You now have a copy of your birth chart.
Something went wrong? E-mail me with your birth data, and I'll send you a copy of your birth chart.
Anatomy of the Birth Chart
Reading the Symbols
1. Planets - Aspects of the personality. (Eg. Sun = ego, Uranus = rebellious streak.)
2. Houses - Where in your life you're likely to feel the effects of a planet (Eg. 7th House = marriage/LTR/relationship with attorney, 6th House = health/day job.) As you can see, houses cover a lot of areas. Here is a handy cheat sheet. There are 12 houses in the birth chart. They are usually referred to by their numbers, but some astrologers like to give them nicknames (such as "House of Servants" or "Career Sector").
3. Signs - The style of whatever planets are located in the sign (or, if you're an evolutionary astrologer, the planets' "evolutionary strategy" or the virtue they're trying to develop). (Eg. Aries = enterprising and aggressive/"developing courage," Scorpio = insightful, sexy, and stabby/"going deep".) My favorite resource for learning about the signs is Steven Forrest's book The Inner Sky.
Now, let's see if you can read Mr. Potter's Chart.
(Answers down below...)
- In which sign is Harry Potter's Sun?
- In which house is Harry Potter's Moon?
- Which sign is Harry Potter's ascendant? How many degrees? What planets are also in the house his ascendant is in. (Hint: Look at the 1st house.)
- Which planet is in the same house as Harry Potter's Venus?
- Which planet is in the same sign as Harry Potter's Saturn?
- (Hermione-level bonus question) Which planet is opposite Harry Potter's Uranus?
Answers: 1. Leo, 2. 4, 3. Scorpio, 19 degrees, Uranus 4. Mercury 5. Jupiter 6. Chiron (double-plus bonus if you knew that Chiron is classified as a minor planet and a comet)