Decoding Your Birth Chart - Astrology and Empowerment

About me: I’m Victoria, and I’m a part-time intern for Chasin’ Unicorns and full-time medical student interested in psychiatry, especially working with children/adolescents and in global mental health. I’m a Capricorn Sun, Pisces Moon, Libra Rising. I stumbled into the world of crystals during my Saturn Return, and quickly became immersed in the realms of mystical and spiritual tools for self-empowerment, including astrology, tarot, and Ayurveda. And I’m always ready to learn and explore more! You can find me on instagram @thescalesofthegoat for daily astrology and tarot musings!

I personally think that astrology is one of the most empowering tools you can learn about to help you understand yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, your shadows, and your innate talents. Why you act in certain ways with your family, why certain situations are particularly difficult for you, why you feel more comfortable in large groups, or with just your mom. For decoding your past mistakes and traumas and behaviors and giving you more self-compassion to look upon those and say, “aha, now I see why I was drawn to act in that way” so that you don’t feel so judgmental about all those times in the past when you didn’t respond to a situation in the way you would have preferred. Every sign, every planet, has its shadow and its light side, its lower vibration and higher vibration, its unevolved and evolved manifestations, and as we consciously learn to decode our birth charts, we can learn how every day we have more opportunities to learn about and embody the highest manifestations of our innate energies that set the blueprint for who we are in this world. Everyone’s chart is unique, like your fingerprint, your owner’s manual, your roadmap through the world, your architectural plans for your heart and soul. It’s much more than just silly predictions in the monthly horoscopes that assume that all Capricorns are going to get laid off or every Gemini will break up with their significant other, and then you think, “I’m a Capricorn and I’m in school, how can I get laid off?” Or “I’m a Gemini and I’m single, what does this even mean?” And then you start to read about astrology and it’s totally overwhelming because there are houses and angles and aspects and retrograde planets and then the current transits, enough to leave your head spinning. So this blog will walk us all through some of the basics of understanding the birth chart, the meanings of placements, and provide guidance for some resources that have greatly helped me in understanding astrology, through the lens of my (Victoria’s) birth chart.

A few basics of terminology before we get started. The birth chart has 12 main luminaries that represent aspects of your personal psychology - Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. There are also a wide variety of asteroids and planetoids that are often included by astrologers, which I believe give greater depth especially by incorporating more goddesses, but we’ll leave them out for now, except for Chiron, the wounded healer. There are a few other key points that you need to know. The Ascendant and Descendant mark the horizon line on your chart (that’s why time of birth matters!). The Midheaven (MC) is the point that is straight above you on your chart, the vertical axis. The North Node and South Node are calculated based on the Moon’s orbit and change signs every 1.5 years. The 12 zodiac signs line the wheel, which starts with Aries and moves forward until Pisces and superimposed are the 12 houses, which are areas of life in which the planets enact their influence. Confused yet? My goal is to break this down so that astrology can be an empowering tool to understand your psychology, personality traits, and characteristics (there’s a reason that J.K. Rowling used astrology when choosing the birthdates of her characters, so of COURSE Hermione Granger is a Virgo Sun, Virgo Moon, Virgo Rising, with a kick-ass Virgo stellium). So, bite by bite.

Here is my birth chart, generated from astro.com with my exact birth date, birth time, and birth location. The big circle around the outside, with the hash-marks, has the twelve signs of the zodiac going around in counter-clockwise order. The hash-marks are the “degrees”, as each zodiac sign is divided in 30 degrees (as it takes the Sun approximately 30 days to travel through each zodiac sign, so every day the Sun moves about 1 degree; other planets move more quickly or more slowly depending on their distance from the earth). The pie slices that divide the inner circle represent the houses, numbered 1 - 12 starting at the AC line; as you can see, since I’m using the Placidus style, they don’t exactly line up with the zodiac signs, and different astrologers have different preferences about that. The chart is divided in four main quadrants by the Ascendant/Descendant horizontally in Libra and Aries, and the MC/IC vertically in Cancer and Capricorn. The little symbols with numbers by them represent all of the planets, so at a glance you can see what sign they’re in, what house, what degree, and if the planet was retrograde when I was born (the little r). Now, moving by each individual luminary and key points (AC and MC in particular), we can talk our way through the chart.

Ascendant - AC: My Ascendant (or Rising, as it’s the Eastern horizon of your chart), is in Libra, at 24 degrees. The Ascendant starts your 1st house (house of the self, we’ll get more into houses in a little bit) and is kind of the “go” point for working your way counter-clockwise around the chart, from start to finish. This is the innate way of being, the way you instinctively present yourself to the world. It is sometimes called the “mask” that you wear out in the world, as it’s not always the deepest truth of who you are within, but it is how you interact with the world, what others may see first, the initial impressions that the people you interact with will have of you. My Ascendant in Libra means that I have an innate way of being that emphasizes harmony, balance, justice, fairness, and equality. People tend to see me as a mediator and keeper of the peace. The shadow of this is that sometimes I can become so wrapped up in trying to preserve harmony and well-being for others that I don’t care enough for myself, not filing up my cup, not prioritizing my own needs. I learn to combat that by learning from Aries, the polar opposite sign from Libra. The sign of Libra is ruled by Venus, the planet of love, beauty, and attraction; this means that Venus is the main ruler of my chart, and plays a strong planetary influence in my life.

Sun ☉: My Sun is in 2 degrees Capricorn, in the 3rd house of communication. The Sun sign is probably the one most familiar to anyone, as it’s just based on your birth date. Capricorn season is generally December 22 - January 19, so all people born in this time will be Capricorn Sun babies; my birthday is December 24. The Sun is your personality, your core essence of who you are, the way that your ego interacts with the world. Depending on the rest of your chart, you may come off more as your Sun sign or your Rising sign. The Sun is a powerful force in your identity, sense of self, essential character traits that describe what your ego (the internal “I”) needs in life to feel fulfilled, happy, satisfied, and complete. My Sun in Capricorn gives me an inherent drive to succeed, makes me a very hard worker, motivated and dedicated towards my goals, always looking towards the next mountain. The shadow side of this is my perfectionism, or being too self-sacrificing because I push myself beyond what I should be doing just to say that I accomplished my goal; I can become a bit demanding or try too hard to be in control of everything because I can feel like I know exactly how it needs to be done.

Moon ☾: My Moon is at 21 degrees Pisces, in the 5th house of creativity and play. Your Moon sign is the third of the “big three” and describes your emotional needs. How do you express your emotions, what do you need to feel safe and held and secure in your heart? What does your heart long for, how do you express yourself? In what ways do you create safe space for yourself and others? What does your love look like? With my Moon in Pisces, I have a deeply emotional and sensitive heart-space; I am the person who can cry at any scene that even slightly tugs at my heartstrings. I am very empathetic and attuned to the feelings of others, picking up on emotional energies in the world if I don’t take care to the ground and shield my energetic field. My deep compassion and the Piscean desire to merge can make me emotionally dependent or clingy in the shadow side of this lunar energy, either being emotionally manipulative or easy to manipulate emotionally. This can also predispose me to be swept away by dreams and fantasy, lost in my imagination of how things could be instead of letting my heart see the realities of how they are.

North Node ☊ / South Node ☋: The Nodal Axis, or the Nodes of Fate as they are also sometimes called, are always directly opposite each other on your birth chart; they move backward through the signs, changing signs approximately ever 1.5 years. They are related to the movement of the Moon in its elliptical orbit, and correspond to where lunar eclipses will be seen every year. My North Node is at 28 degrees of Capricorn in my 4th house of home and family, while my South Node is therefore at 28 degrees of Cancer in my 10th house of career and professional life. It is said that our soul’s journey through this life is to move from the South Node behaviors towards the North Node behaviors and that doing so is what helps us to embody our highest lessons of this lifetime. The South Node represents the behaviors that are familiar and comfortable for us, the things that we may be bringing from our childhood or past lives, the behaviors that we retreat to and how we engage naturally with the world. With my South Node in Cancer, it’s easy and safe for me to embody the Cancerean qualities of nurturing, family, playing the role of mother; however, if I do not develop past that, and especially past the lower vibrational attitudes of Cancer, my soul will not evolve along it’s highest calling in this lifetime. With my North Node in Capricorn, my soul’s pathway is to learn how to embody the highest evolution of this collective earth energy that can build and create foundations that will serve us all on a larger scale in the future. By learning to cultivate the highest vibrations of Capricorn energy, I align with my dharma, or soul’s calling.

Midheaven MC: The Midheaven is the highest point in the chart, the vertical line that divides the astrological wheel in half from right to left, connecting with the lowest point in the chart, the IC. It always is the dividing line between 9th and 10th houses. My MC is at 27 degrees Cancer, marking the start of my 10th house of career and professional life. The MC is often called your career line, as it is said to represent the professional path that aligns most closely with your soul’s blueprint. In what types of careers will your talents be most useful and are you most likely to find fulfillment? How do you express your personality through your professional life? With my MC in Cancer, any careers that enable me to take on an emotional, nurturing role will be a good fit; a place where I can create a safe container/space (the crab shell) for others’ emotions and experiences.

Mercury ☿: Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, is named after the Roman messenger god (Hermes in the Greek myths) who would fly between the heavens, earth, and underworlds like quicksilver with his winged shoes and helmet. We draw heavily on mythological influences to understand astrology, as the planets and signs are connected intimately with legacies of myths and stories stretching to Rome, Greece, Egypt, Babylonia, and beyond. The planet Mercury, therefore, represents the archetype of your intellect in your chart. How do you think, how do you communicate, how do you learn, what is it that you love to consider and put your mind to? In what ways does your intellect engage with the world, what drives you to learn, what are you filled with a thirst to explore with your mind and your thoughts? My Mercury is at 2 degrees Capricorn in my 3rd house of communication, and it was retrograde when I was born, so my Mercurian tendencies are more inward and sometimes stuck or more difficult to bring forth with ease. In Capricorn, Mercury means that I express my intellect and thoughts in a disciplined, steady, structured way, and I can be a bit perfectionistic in how I speak. I can enjoy learning about things that can help me to advance personally, and flourish talking about my goals and steps towards them. The retrograde energy means sometimes it’s hard for me to find just the right words to express what is in my mind.

Venus ♀: The goddess of love, beauty, abundance, attraction, and sensuality. This planet has sometimes been reduced to just being a representation of our “feminine” qualities, but I think that does a vast injustice to what Venus represents and carries in our birth charts. With my Venus at 15 degrees of Capricorn in my 3rd house of communication, I am serious and steady in my attractions and my love, I believe strongly in commitment and the power of security and promise. The shadow side of this can mean that I am enamored of all the sparkly and shiny things, or that I could become someone who just pursues status and wealth without thinking about anything deeper in life. Venus is my style of loving, my way of appreciating the beautify and sensual essence of life. This archetype also can describe how we receive from others; sometimes it’s hard for me to receive, with Venus in Capricorn, as the structure and rigidity of a Capricorn energy can limit my ability to soften into not being in control.

Mars ♂: Again, another planetary archetype that is often reduced to its most basic quality of “masculinity” in a chart, which again ignores the much deeper symbolism and qualities that Mars can show us in our chart (and a reminder - no matter a person’s gender identity, sexual identity, we have all the planets and signs in our life, we are all these energies, there is no planetary energy that is only for people who identify as “women” or people who have a penis or any of that, or the old BS that in a woman’s chart, the Mars shows what her man will be like. No, your Mars is YOU, not anyone else). Mars was the Roman god of war and battle, and as such, this archetype represents the ways in which we take action in our lives. How we approach the activities we need to do, in what ways we apply our passion and our drive and our will to create and manifest and do. Mars energy, when over-expressed or imbalanced, can be destructive, running over the plans and desires of others without regard for their needs or safety. Well-integrated Mars energy, however, is a powerful source of personal stamina and creative strength that can embolden us, push us forward, act as the fire that combusts within our internal engines so we get shit done. As my Mars is in Taurus, at 28 degrees in the 8th house of the psyche, I take action in a more grounded and perhaps slower, more calculated way than someone who has, for instance, their Mars in fire signs like Aries or Sagittarius. I take action when I feel sure of the outcome; there may be a particular hesitancy because my natal Mars is retrograde, requiring extra caution and thinking before I leap. The shadow side of this energy is that I can resist change and not do the tasks that I need to do to create the future that I imagine.

Jupiter ♃: The planet of expansion, beneficence, growing, learning, a bit of a wild ride sometimes. This planet is named for the Roman leader of the gods, who could command lightning and thunder and who held the infinite power to create or destroy in his hands. Jupiter is generally though of as a beneficial influence, bringing joy and prosperity wherever it touches, like Midas’ golden hands; it is important to remember, however, that just like when Midas touches his daughter and turns her into gold, sometimes there can be too much of a good thing, and we may run over other people if we exercise our Jupiter in ways that do not consider others’ perspectives and needs. My Jupiter is in 12 degrees of Leo, in my 10th house of career, and it was also retrograde when I was born, meaning that I am continually asked to go deep within and explore if the ways in which I am expanding are truly beneficial. Jupiter in Leo brings expansion and creative energy through putting myself out there, embracing my courage and the light that shines from within my heart, that I create abundance and opportunity for myself by having the courage to truly be who I am, at the center of my own stage of life.

Saturn ♄: Okay, I admit it, I have quite a soft spot for Saturn, a planet a lot of people feel like is this stern, commanding, judgmental father figure. Probably because Saturn figures so prominently in my chart, as it’s the ruler of Capricorn, where my Sun and a bunch of other planets (including Saturn - this is called a stellium) reside. Saturn is all about rules, structure, boundaries, the limits that we create and then how we also have to break them to grow and move forward. Saturn was the god of time, of both creation and destruction, also related to agriculture; this planet was the last planet visible by the naked eye, so represented truly the end of the solar system and what the ancient astrologers could comprehend as integrated in our solar system. As my Saturn is at 24 degrees Capricorn in my 3rd house, I deeply resonate with the creation and maintenance of structures, boundaries, limits, and foundations. Interestingly, sometimes having firm boundaries has been one of the hardest things for me (related to a lot of Saturn’s aspects, including its square to my AC, opposition with my Chiron, and sextile with my Moon, but that’s beyond the scope here!). Saturn is the teacher of our biggest lesson, hence why my limits that I place, and the way that I communicate my needs for structure and foundation, and my internal battles with guilt and shame, have been some of my biggest lessons and points of growth throughout my life.

Uranus ♅: This is the planet of revolution, of change, of expansion beyond the boundaries that we had previously placed upon ourselves, of breaking the limits, of upending the old paradigms and ideas and imaging all that is possible if we just look towards the future and push past the old structures that have limited us. The discovery of Uranus broke the old ideas of the size of our solar system, revolutionized our understanding of astronomy, and in that same way, revolutionized the psychology we could learn about ourselves through astrology. This is how we rebel, how we think beyond the known, how we break out of the boxes that society, family, culture, expectations, history have placed upon us. My Uranus is at 9 degrees Capricorn in my 3rd house of communication, so I have this constant tension between rebellion and structures, I create revolution by considering and breaking through the limits that I have previously had, the boundaries that I have help to reinvent my way of being and thinking and sharing myself with others.

Neptune ♆: This is the planet of dreams, the otherworld, the mystical worlds beyond our understanding, and going into the realms of the imagination. The planet associated with the great and terrifying archetype of the god Neptune, who was a god unto himself, wild and deep and untamable and changeable and mysterious and dark and bright as the changing ocean itself. My Neptune is at 13 degrees Capricorn, in my 3rd house of communication; in this way, I seek transcendence through how I push boundaries, I merge through the structures and limits that I have created and that have been placed upon me. Where I connect with my intuition and my dreamscape is in the foundations that I build and maintain for myself. I can become one with the divine, with the greater whole, with the ethereal through the dedication and motivation that Capricorn represents.

Pluto ♇: God of the Underworld, ruler of the shadow realms, the inner journey of transformation. Our understanding of our cycles, the death experiences that enable us to shed the old snakeskin or the cocoon and emerge renewed, transformed, changed, refreshed. What we learn to let go of that helps us to evolve, the doors that, upon closing, open newer and brighter doors for us, if we dare to step through them. Our exploration of our inner darkness, our shadow selves, how we confront our inner monsters, and grow through this experience. My Pluto is at 19 degrees of Scorpio in my 2nd house of resources, and in this way, I deeply express Plutonian themes through my inner journeys to face my shadows, to transform my old ways of being through an honest understanding of the parts of me that I least like, through a willingness to shed and transmute and delve within.

Chiron: The wounded healer, an asteroid/planetoid (depending on who you ask) named after the famous centaur who was teacher and mentor to many Greek heroes, full of wisdom and learning, and yet who was not able to heal his own wound, accidentally inflicted by Heracles. Reflects how our mess is our message, how our most difficult travails best prepare us to share the lessons we have learned with others, how all the struggles and suffering that we go through is what gives us the wisdom to best share about exactly those topics with others, to bring out the pearls from the dark nights of our soul. These also may be wounds that we bring forth from other lifetimes or from childhood. My Chiron is in my 9th house of expansive learning, at 25 degrees of Cancer. In this way, my deepest wounds and also my greatest message to pass have to do with the feeling of being nurtured and held, my emotional protection, the ways in which I have felt safe and secure.

As you may notice, in going through this version of my birth chart, there are many signs that have no planets in them, or houses that have no planets. If I were to add in some of the asteroids that I work with that represent goddess energy, more of the signs would be populated, but that can come later! :) It is also a reminder, however, that we all have and express the energy of all of the signs; there are just some that may be a greater focus for our life lessons (such as Cancer and Capricorn for me), and some that may be a more limited focus (such as Gemini in my chart). The houses (areas of life) where you do not have any natal planets will continue to be ruled by the zodiacal influences of the sign that encompasses them (such as Virgo, ruling my 11th house, so I have the energy of dedication, discernment, filtering, the harvest in my space of how I interact with my community and the larger world), although they may not be the parts of your life that are the sites of your deepest or most intense life lessons. The import of each planet and its range of influence also depends on how the planets work together via the aspects they make (conjunct planets unite forces, while those that are square cause each other tension). The elements of the signs (earth, air, fire, water), and their modality (cardinal, fixed, mutable) impact our personal psychology through our style of being (more action-oriented, more emotional) and how we move through the world (do we initiate, are we changeable). The phase of the moon under which you were born can also impact the way in which you express your deep emotional needs. And larger chart patterns can also tell us much more about the general energies that guide your life, where you will be pushed and pulled in various directions, where your greatest lessons will be, what influences will play a larger role in your personal psychology and understanding of your inner workings. Starting to work your way through your chart is, I believe, an essential way to connect with your soul and empower yourself to fully express your essence, understand your way of being, and stop comparing yourself to others because we all have our own soul blueprint that guides us through life!

Planetary Rulerships:
Sun - rules Leo
Moon - rules Cancer
Mercury - rules Gemini, Virgo (debated)
Venus - rules Taurus, Libra
Mars - rules Aries, Scorpio (traditionally, prior to the discovery of outer planets)
Jupiter - rules Sagittarius, Pisces (traditionally, the prior discovery of outer planets)
Saturn - rules Capricorn, Aquarius (traditionally, prior to the discovery of outer planets)
Uranus - rules Aquarius (modern ruler)
Neptune - rules Pisces (modern ruler)
Pluto - rules Scorpio (modern ruler)
Chiron - posited as more apt ruler of Virgo

Houses: The parts of life in which you most express the planetary and sign energies contained within the house.
1st house - delineated by AC. The self, core personality traits, what serves us
2nd house - resources, abundance, time, money, energy, what we value
3rd house - communication, learning styles, teaching styles, how our minds work
4th house - delineated by IC. Home, family, private life, personal foundation
5th house - creativity, joy, play, pleasure, how we live life in the moment
6th house - work, service, everyday activities, health, how we organize ourselves
7th house - delineated by DC. Relationships, partnerships, marriage, interpersonal interactions
8th house - the psyche, underworlds, shadow work, death, exploration of the subconscious
9th house - philosophy, education, worldview, perspectives, expansion of possibilities
10th house - delineated by MC. Work, professional life, outward life, career, our public persona
11th house - community, humanity, the world at large, how we interact with the future
12 house - the other worlds, mystical, beyond the veil, spiritual experiences, transcendence

Tarot Correspondence: Each sign and planet corresponds to a tarot card and can help us deepen our comprehension of these archetypes. 

Sun - The Sun
Moon - The High Priestess
Mercury - The Magician
Venus - The Empress
Mars - The Tower
Jupiter - The Wheel of Fortune
Saturn - The World
Uranus - The Fool
Neptune - The Hanged One
Pluto - Judgement
Aries - The Emperor
Taurus - The Hierophant
Gemini - The Lovers
Cancer - The Chariot
Leo - Strength
Virgo - The Hermit
Libra - Justice
Scorpio - Death
Sagittarius - Temperance
Capricorn - The Devil
Aquarius - The Star
Pisces - The Moon

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