Reading a natal chart is an intuitive art. I know some might try to assert that it’s an empirical science. I won’t get into that debate about whether astrology is a science, but I will say that natal chart interpretation is a reconciliation process.
There are the celestial bodies, each with certain attributes and what those attributes are won’t vary too widely from one astrologer to the next, though each will probably use different words or motifs to express those attributes.
Same with each of the zodiac signs and same with the houses.
The House and Sign method of interpretation is essentially a reconciliation of the celestial bodies, signs, and houses.
How do you reconcile? Well, there are rulerships, there are modalities, there are elemental dignities, and there are distinctions between the diurnal and nocturnal sects of the chart.
The celestial bodies may tend to act differently depending on which sect they’re in. There’s microscopic analysis of individual parts and then there’s macroscopic analysis of how the various parts interact with one another (i.e., aspects) and even patterns that the celestial bodies form on the chart.
There is a systematized methodology to the interpretation and astrologers often adjust and continue to hone those interpretive systems based on close observation and experience.
Collectively, astrologers share that knowledge with one another to further expand on their discipline. There are very precise techniques and what I have found most intriguing of all is whether you’re applying Vedic astrology, Chinese astrology, Islamic astrology, or Hellenistic astrology, there are more similarities in their interpretive methods and systems than there are differences.
The purpose, when all is said and done, is to get a sense of who you are. Natal charts are often a spot on description of your personality, constitution, and how you’re likely to develop from early childhood to adulthood, though the chart is by no means deterministic. I don’t know how or why exactly, but they’re also eerily accurate descriptions of your physical attributes.
Most important of all, they hit on what drives you, what your impulses are, and what’s going on in your subconscious or unconscious. By knowing that, you’re likely to proceed in life with more informed decision-making.
THE ESSENCE OF YOU:
THE ASTROLOGICAL TRINITY
In the geocentric ecliptic coordinate system used as a reference for the celestial bodies in our sky, the ascendant is that point at the eastern horizon we see about to rise. Ascendant signs (also referred to as rising signs) change every 2 hours, give or take, and so it’s going to be a lot more precise and specific of an articulation on who you are, more so than your sun sign, which is what you look at when you’re reading your horoscopes from the newspaper.
It’s purported that the ascendant sign can note your physical attributes. Those who are ascendant sign Aries tend to have striking, sharp facial features, and a prominent nose, mouth, or chin. Ascendant sign Taurus are a bit more squarish in physique, endomorphic, but very balanced proportionately, with harmonious features. They’ll tend to dress in more classic, timeless styles. Ascendant sign Cancers often need to work on their posture, tend to be mesomorphic, but have soft features that give them a look of naiveté. Cancer women can have a tendency to look like a deer caught in headlights. Ascendant sign Leos tend to have a proportionately bigger head than the rest of their bodies, with thick or big hair and open facial features, real pleasant to look at. Ascendant sign Capricorns are bony, strong, with a jointed physique, and have a scholar-sage look about them. Ascendant sign Aquarians are usually eccentric in some way, but beautiful to look at. They’re good-looking folk.
Of course, your ascendant sign is more than what you look like. It’s your ego, the Self. Your health. Your well-being. Your projected external character. It is often your first point of action that attracts others to you, that attracts relationships, such as business partners or marriage. It can tell how you interact with others. A sun sign Gemini with an ascendant sign Taurus is going to be more practical and down-to-earth in persona and outer disposition than other Geminis, though such a native (what we call the person whose natal chart is getting read), though with that Gemini sun sign, that native will still be quite intellectual and maybe even inherit some of the capricious qualities of Gemini.
Depending on what the ruling planets for both signs are doing and the planetary aspects in the native’s chart, the ascendant sign and sun sign could amplify each other or in many respects, cancel each other out. If a native’s sun sign is in opposition with the ascendant that also happens to be a different element and modality from the sun sign, for example, then it might suggest a more unpredictable life path, because the native could go any which way in terms of his disposition. A sun sign that is in trine with an ascendant, on the other hand, especially if both are of the same modality or same element, could show greater predictability in disposition and behavior. This person tends to act this way, and very much so, and so the future life path is a bit clearer to see.
So when someone says to you, “I’m a Pisces,” the person is talking about the sun sign. When someone goes out of her way to say, “I’m a sun sign Pisces, ascendant sign blah blah blah moon,” then that someone has probably gotten her natal chart read before.
Some say the sun sign, read within the context of everything else that’s going on in a natal chart, in particular the midheaven, which I’ll get into in a bit, illuminates the path to our greatest possible destiny. The sun sign is also considered the karmic line. It denotes what it is we are to learn karmically in this life. It’s about our style of achievement, our aspirations, and can often denote skill sets or innate talents.
Your moon sign denotes your emotional quotient, your subconscious, and your impulses. For me, I also use the natal moon as the first prong of a past life astrology reading, though more on that later.
The moon sign can indicate why you do what you do, why you say what you say, and reveal a lot about what’s going on beneath the surface of what others see.
If a native is a sun sign Leo with the sun flanked on one side by Mars and on the other Mercury in retrograde all in the eighth house, such a person could be self-destructive, have a horrible temper, and will shoot first and ask questions later. She will burn bridges and yell out as she storms away from the bridge she just lit on fire, “I don’t give a ******!” and in many ways, may appear unstable to outside onlookers.
However, say that the native’s moon sign is Libra and that moon is in trine with Venus in the seventh house. Suddenly I’d say wait, not so fast. This native is actually quite stable inside. Emotionally and intellectually, I’d say um, yeah, she definitely has her shit together. Don’t underestimate her judgment just because on the surface she looks like a ticking bomb. Such a moon sign will in fact show a much calmer subconscious with a healthy emotional quotient than her external character might let on. Her inner impulses and intuitions will often lead her to make the right call. Perhaps Mars can cause her to be a bit too forthright, or– heck, to lack tact at times, but chances are she burned that bridge in the greater interest of justice. There is often a greater good or higher principle served by her actions.
In contrast, a Cancer sun sign with Pisces ascending may seem sweet, good-natured, and lovely, but if her moon sign is in Scorpio with a Pluto trine and a few choice oppositional aspects thrown in there for good measure, there may be a little more wild-eye crazy to her than you think. So when assessing a personality by way of a natal chart, do not ever, ever overlook the moon sign.
Learn About Your Moon Sign (PDF)
A beginner’s handbook for interpreting the moon in each of the twelve zodiac signs and twelve houses. How do you interpret planetary conjunctions (i.e., other celestial bodies within 10 degrees) to your moon sign? How do you determine the decan ruler of your moon? What does the phase of the moon at the moment of your birth say about your disposition? As case studies, we’ll be looking at the birth charts of Albert Einstein, Frida Kahlo, Sigmund Freud, and Simone de Beauvoir.
Before we move on to the other celestial bodies, let’s take a moment to talk about sects. There is the DIURNAL or day sect, and the NOCTURNAL or night sect. Some astrologers will identify two different rulerships for each sign. For instance, Mercury would rule Gemini in the day, or in diurnal sects, but rule Virgo at night, in nocturnal sects. Venus would rule Libra by day, but Taurus by night.
Thus, if your natal chart is diurnal (depicted by your sun sign being in one of the houses in the southern hemisphere or “top half” of your chart) and your ascendant sign Libra, then your ascendant rulership would be Saturn. However, if an ascendant sign Libra has a nocturnal chart (i.e., the sun sign is in the northern hemisphere or “bottom half” of the chart), then the ascendant rulership would be Mercury.
A diurnal Libra ascendant is more likely to enter a stable, corporate career and feel the pull of duty and obligations stronger, due to the Saturn rulership influence, than a nocturnal Libra ascendant, who might opt for a more academic career path, and is likely to be more of a philosopher than her diurnal Libra counterpart, due to the Mercury rulership influence.
A diurnal native is likely to exhibit more active yang energy and relate closer to the solar principle, while a nocturnal native is associated with the recessive yin energy and will feel a greater pull from the lunar principle.
As indicated earlier, every sign has a corresponding ruling planet. Some astrologers observe the day-night rulerships in the above table. E.g., all Fire signs, Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius, are ruled by the Sun if it’s a diurnal chart, but ruled by Jupiter if it’s a nocturnal chart; all diurnal Air signs, Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius, are ruled by Saturn, while nocturnal Air signs are ruled by Mercury.
However, today the majority of astrologers will observe single rulerships. Even within the school of single rulerships, there are traditional rulerships (i.e., only the seven sacred celestial bodies, noted below) and modern rulerships (i.e., includes the transpersonal planets, also to be explained below). One faction of astrologers follows the traditional rulerships while the other follows the modern.
Irrespective of the approach you adopt, the main rulership you’ll want to pay attention to is the planetary ruler of your ascendant sign, often noted as the ascendant rulership (or the ascendant lord).
In natal chart interpretation, one way rulerships are applied is to use it as supplemental information. For example, say that your second house, the house corresponding with wealth, resources, livelihood, and personal finances, is occupied by the sign Gemini. In addition to interpretation of how your financial situation is expressed through Gemini (i.e., a native who is likely to use her power of persuasion and charm to achieve material acquisitions), an astrologer might also look to Gemini’s ruling planet, Mercury.
In the case of Gemini, irrespective of whether the astrologer subscribes by the traditional or modern approach, the ruling planet is Mercury. You would then note what’s going on with Mercury in your natal chart. Let’s say that Mercury is right near that cusp between the tenth and eleventh house. I might see that as indicating a person who is likely to achieve public recognition and high reputation for her logical reasoning and communication abilities. Say that Pisces is in the eleventh house, indicating someone who is a chameleon, someone gifted at human relations, who can be exactly who you need her to be for you. What’s more, with the beneficent Jupiter in the diurnal sect in Taurus (refer to the sect tables above), an astrologer might extrapolate that this is a native who is poised for great heights of public success.
The Nodes refer to the points along the Moon’s ecliptic orbit around the Earth that intersect with the Sun’s. The NORTHERN NODE (in older texts, it might be referred to as the Dragon’s Head) indicates the key to your happiness. Follow the Northern Node and the native will find what fulfills him. Some claim that the Northern Node is the predetermined spiritual path a native is meant to take to find self-actualization, while the Southern Node represents the predetermined obstacles in the native’s way. Amplifying aspects with the Northern Node will show personal strengths, natural inclinations, and the innate traits the native possesses that can lead him toward success and achievement of his goals. The Northern Node is the beacon for understanding how one can advance toward personal success.
Study the planets that form aspects with the Northern Node. If there are trines or conjunctions with Venus or Uranus, then the arts and creative pursuits bring happiness and fulfillment. If there are amplifying aspects with Venus or Uranus and another with the midheaven point, then you could be looking at the natal chart of a writer, musician, actor, or model. Often, a good practice tip is to see whether there are strong, amplifying aspects between the Northern Node and the midheaven point (Mc) to get a sense of the likelihood the native will pursue a professional career that fulfills her and makes her happy, or whether she’ll opt for the safer route.
The SOUTHERN NODE (in older texts, the Dragon’s Tail) indicates what you want but often cannot have, due to obstacles, conflicts, or tensions present in your life. The Southern Node shows what opposes the Northern Node, areas often left unfulfilled, weaknesses, or negative attributes or behavior patterns formed from childhood (or even past lives). The zodiac sign of the Southern Node can indicate desires, subconscious longing, or old baggage continually left unexamined. Understanding the significance of the Southern Node in a chart will help the native understand what it is that prevents the native from achieving happiness and fulfillment.
For me, nodal analysis is instrumental in a past life astrology reading.
Generally, a natal chart generated by one of the popular astrology software programs will show only the Northern Node. No worries. The Southern Node is the same degree of the opposite sign in the zodiac where the Northern Node is residing. Thus, if your Northern Node is in Sagittarius, then your Southern Node is Gemini.
A native with a Northern Node in Sagittarius can’t be tied down to a mundane corporate desk job, crunching out the same work product day in and day out at a cubicle. For a native with a Northern Node in Sagittarius to be fulfilled and happy, she needs to follow her visions. She will be a lifetime peripatetic.
With her Southern Node in Gemini, she is a thinker, in fact an over-thinker. She over-analyzes and will waste a lot of her energy trying to rationalize her emotions. She over-analyzes other people’s motivations for behaving the way they do. Such a native may spend a lot of time second-guessing people, wondering about their ulterior motives and trying to outsmart them by identifying exactly what sort of sophisticated backhanded scheming they’re involved in. It doesn’t dawn on her that sometimes, people are just idiots and that’s why they’re acting like idiots.
She’s also likely to be someone who demands precision with words. On the flip side of being a peripatetic, she’s mercurial. She can’t seem to make up her mind about what she truly wants out of life. Her greatest weakness is never staying in one place, honing one craft, or doing one single thing long enough to become a master at it.
Per the ecliptic coordinate system, the midheaven (or medium coeli, denoted by Mc) is the measured angle representing the highest point in the sky from our vantage point at the moment of our birth. It represents the path of highest ascension for us, where we aim for. It’s about our social status, public reputation, and our career trajectory, our professional destiny.
Not only is the sign important, but neighboring planets are just as telling. Neptune near the midheaven, for example, could indicate a yearning for an artistic or creative career. Uranus will likely indicate an unconventional career path. Saturn just the opposite, quite a conservative, structured profession. I wouldn’t be surprised if such a native was in business, finance, or law. A cluster of multiple planets might suggest many career changes throughout life, though the influence closest to the Mc will be what the native is most likely to succeed in.
Free Will vs. Destiny
Your birth chart cannot predict your future. No form of divination can. What the birth chart can do is, like a meteorologist, use known metrics to forecast the most likely outcome based on what limited information is on hand at the moment.
Based on certain natal metrics set at the moment of your birth, you may be more likely or less likely to walk a certain path. You will have many possible paths ordained for you and at each fork in your life path, the decision you make—the fork you choose to walk—changes the garden of forking paths that is your destiny. Free will makes all the difference.
Some of the metrics I believe go into the predetermination of our destiny possibilities, which are encoded into our birth chart, include past life karma; genetics; cellular memory passed down to us from generations past; innate traits, characteristics, and qualities that are more likely to be prevalent in us based on the power of influence of planets at the moment of our birth, as we are exposed to it from the location of our birth; what we inherit from our parents; our earliest relationships and experiences with our parents; and of course, so much more. All of these metrics work together to form what appear to be predetermined destiny.
However, free will, or free choice is what sets us on one specific destiny possibility over all the other destiny possibilities we are born with. You see, you aren’t born with one fixed destiny possibility. You are born with a web of destiny possibilities, a garden of forking paths. It is by free will that you navigate from one fork to the next, forging your actual life path.
When Heaven or the fates seem to be stacked against you, willpower can change your course from “most likely” to “in the rare occasion of.” You can become the exception to your own predetermined rule.
A birth chart can reveal how lucky or unlucky we are, whether we perchance will stumble across the right opportunities at the right place and right time to strike figurative gold, or whether we are more prone to tripping and falling on our own faces.
Then, in addition to whether we tend to have better or worse luck than most, we can also gain insights into your core personality. So even if aren’t born with the best of luck, if you’re born with strong initiative, ambition, and drive, then you are more than likely to overcome the so-called unlucky stars and get yourself to your desired destination.
I also believe that the karma we proactively accrue along our present life paths can change the karma we are allotted at birth. Perhaps at the moment of your birth, the karma you carried over from a previous lifetime meant that a particular fate was the most likely outcome for you. However, the karma you begin to accrue once you commence this new life can and will modify the account of karma you were born with. Through the accumulation of positive karma, we can ameliorate any bankruptcy of karma that we were dealt at birth.
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