ElvenStar Studios

Compass Rose Astrology

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How to Read An Astrological Chart
Astrology, Chiron, Zodiac, Septagram

The most common response most people have to seeing their horoscope for the first time is “What does it all mean? How do I read it?” While it's a very attractive design, you have to know what you're looking at before you can make any sense of an astrological chart. I’ve written this short tutorial to aid my clients in understanding the composition of a horoscope, so that when you look at yours you at least know what you’re looking at. To the left is a diagram of a typical Twelve-House horoscope, or astrological chart.

Standard Twelve-House horoscopes are laid out with two anchor-points—the Ascendant—the part of the sky on the eastern horizon at the moment of birth—and the Medium Coeli or Midheaven—the part of the sky that is directly overhead at the moment of birth.

The heavy horizontal line from the Ascendant across to the Descendant is called the Horizon. It delineates the cusp between the 1st and 12th Houses in the Oriental Hemisphere and the 6th & 7th Houses in the Occidental Hemisphere. Anything below that line is Nocturnal, meaning that it was below the horizon at the moment of birth. Anything above that line is Diurnal meaning that it was in the sky at the moment of birth.

In the sample chart shown, the outer-most ring of the horoscope—the plain gray band—indicates the House cusps, which shows the degree and minute of the zodiac sign when one house changes to the next house (in the sample, the 6th – 7th House cusp is at 9 degrees, 21 minutes Virgo). Each of the radial lines in that ring (which also appear in the third ring) represents the cusp between one house and the next. The twelve houses form the background structure necessary for reading the chart—the cusps provide the boundaries for determining what is in each house.

You may notice that the houses are different sizes. ElvenStar Studios uses the Placidus unequal house system, which is the generally-accepted industry standard. The position of each cusp is based upon the location (specifically the latitude) and the season of your birth, and the rate of ascension for the different zodiac signs.

For many people, one of the confusing things when first viewing a chart is that the order of the houses in an Astrological chart appears to be “reversed” from what they should be—the Twelve Houses are counted counter-clockwise starting at the Ascendant in the “east” on the left side of the chart with the bottom of the chart (houses 1 through 6) being “north” and the top (with the Midheaven) is the “south.”

The heavy line running from the Midheaven down the chart is the Meridian, which separates the 9th & 10th Houses at the Midheaven in the Diurnal Hemisphere and the 3rd & 4th Houses at the Imum Coeli in the Nocturnal Hemisphere. Anything to the left of the Meridian is “Ascending in Light;” it is in the process of rising towards the Midheaven. Anything to the right of the Meridian is “Descending in Light;” it has passed the Midheaven and is in the process of “setting” or has already gone beneath the horizon.

The signs of the zodiac—the band of stars that ring the Earth and are used as a roadmap for charting the position of the planets in relation to the earth—are displayed in the second ring (the multi-colored one). The zodiac signs are also displayed running counter-clockwise but they are equal in size with each sign being exactly 30° of the circle.

ElvenStar Studios uses the Tropical (as opposed to Sidereal) system for calculating zodiac position on all charts. The Tropical Zodiac has been the primary zodiac system among Western Astrologers for 2,000 years and depends upon a fundamentally different philosophical premise about astrology than the Sidereal Zodiac. 
In an astrological chart cast by ElvenStar Studios, the position of the zodiac in a chart is dependent upon the location of the Ascendant
. Thus, two people could both be “Gemini’s” (their Natal Sun was passing through the sign of Gemini when they were born), but one person may see the symbol for Gemini in the upper left-hand corner of their chart and the other may see it at the bottom of their chart. This indicates that they were born at different times of day, as the Zodiac signs and the planets completely pass through all Twelve Houses in a 24 hour period.
In the third ring (the outer of the two white rings), the different planets—Sun , Moon, Mercury, Jupiter, Neptune, and so on—are all displayed. As mentioned previously, the lines representing the house cusps are repeated in this ring with the glyph for each planet displayed followed by the degree of its sign, followed by the sign, followed by the minutes. So, in the sample, the Sun is located at 25 degrees, 31 minutes Aries.

In the innermost circle, the horoscope shows the inter-relationship between the different planets. These are called aspects, and are calculated by drawing a line from each planet to the center of the chart (the Earth), and then measuring the arc of the two planet in question. Aspects have names like “trines” (120°), and “squares” (90°), and are shown on the chart by drawing a line directly between the two with a symbol representing the nature of the aspect.
Each type of aspect represents a different type of relationship between the planetary energies, but can be divided into two basic types. The first types of aspect are called Benign (or Easy) aspects such as Conjunctions, Trines, Sextiles, and Semi-sextiles. The Benign aspects indicate that the two planets have a relationship which is mutually supportive an compatible. The other types of aspects are called Afflicted (or Hard) aspects such as Oppositions, Squares, and Semi-Squares. These aspects indicate that the two planetary energies are either competing or in conflict with each other, usually because they have mutually contradictory agendas and/or strategies for resolving their problems. The afflicted aspects demonstrate a high degree of inner turmoil and conflict--to such a degree that those two planets have become a hindrance or weakness--rather than a source of strength--in a person's life.


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