Basics of Western Astrology

Western Astrology

Learn about the signs, planets, and Houses involved in reading Western Astrology!

What is Astrology, anyways?

Western Astrology is a way of using the movements and cycles of the Cosmos as a means of understanding Earthly affairs. Ya know how the Moon controls the tides? Read about it here if you don’t! Anyways, Astrology can be seen as the planets’ energy influencing the tides of life.

Western Astrology won’t teach you to tell the future.

It won’t tell you when you’ll fall in love, or if you’ll be in a car accident next week, or anything like that. So if that’s what you’re trying to do, go somewhere else.

It’s not witchcraft.

Western Astrology can and has been used in witchcraft for centuries, but that doesn’t mean that it’s magic, or reserved only for witches and psychics. Astrology is metaphysical. That is, it’s based on precise calculations of the Cosmos, but there isn’t any way to measure the truth of astrological analyses as of yet.

Despite being unaccepted in the mainstream science community, it’s still a science nonetheless! While the calculations done to track the movement of the planets are exact mathematics, the practice of observing what happens on Earth during specific Cosmological formations is an observational science.

Wheels are used to read Western Astrology.

Sample natal chart of Jane Doe with a table showing symbols for the planets and signs.
Free sample natal chart from alabe.com

Here’s an example of a Western natal chart. A natal chart is just a visual representation of the sky at the exact moment someone was born. Let’s take a look at it from the outside edges inward.

The Twelve Zodiac Signs

There are 12 signs in the zodiac, each one representing an archetypal personality. Most people are familiar with their Sun signs, which is determined by their birthday. But that’s just a scratch on the surface! All 12 zodiac signs can affect people, it isn’t just the Sun sign that people need to pay attention to. So what are the 12 signs?

  • ♈ Aries, the Ram
  • ♉Taurus, the Bull
  • ♊Gemini, the Twins
  • ♋Cancer, the Crab
  • ♌Leo, the Lion
  • ♍Virgo, the Virgin
  • ♎Libra, the Scales
  • ♏Scorpio, the Scorpion
  • ♐Sagittarius, the Archer
  • ♑Capricorn, the Goat
  • ♒Aquarius, the Water Bearer
  • ♓Pisces, the Fishes
Close up of a globe showing constellations with lights. Leo the Lion is shown.

Photo by Anastasia Dulgier on Unsplash

The signs are actually constellations in the sky! Since they’re constellations, they appear to rotate around the Earth as time passes. That means that the outer portion of our wheel can be different for different people!

Each sign has an energy combination made up of one of the four elements(air, earth, water, fire), one of three modalities(creation, maintenance, transformation), and a duality(passive/active).

For example, Gemini is an active air sign of transformation.

Don’t worry about what the archetypes are for now. Understanding elements, modes, and duality of a sign will give you a much clearer picture of that sign’s personality.

Signs describe how something is expressed.

Planets describe what is being expressed.

Western Astrology uses 10 planets, including the Moon, the Sun, and Pluto. The planets are named after the Roman gods and goddesses(who were based on the Greek gods and goddesses), and can be seen as characters. They move around the middle section of the chart, which is known as the Houses. We’ll talk about those next. The planets behave in pretty similar ways that the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses do in their myths. Let’s meet ’em!

  • ☉ The Sun……Apollo
  • ☿ Mercury……Hermes
  • ♀ Venus………..Aphrodite
  • ☽ The Moon….Selene
  • ♂ Mars………….Ares
  • ♃ Jupiter……….Zeus
  • ♄ Saturn………..Cronus
  • ♅ Uranus………Caelus
  • ♆ Neptune……Poseidon
  • ♇ Pluto…………..Hades

For example, Mars is associated with action, hence the association with Ares, Greek god of war. Now, this isn’t meant to imply that the planets are gods or anything like that. Just that personification can help with understanding(especially for those readers who are already familiar with Greek and Roman mythology)!

But what are those little symbols?

Those are called glyphs, and they’re like the planetary version of the zodiac sign symbols. They make charts way easier to read. I mean, could you imagine reading a chart if if everything was spelled out? It would be a mess!

Each of the planets will behave differently in the zodiac signs.

Statue of Hermes with winged helmet, winged sandals, and toga with dark background.

Photo by DAVIDCOHEN on Unsplash

And each planet has a zodiac sign that they’re most comfortable with. They just “click”. This is often called ruling, but that can be a little misleading. Instead, think of it as harmonizing. When voices come together in harmony, their frequencies combine and get louder. It’s like that with planets and signs. Let’s take a look at the harmonizing pairs:

  • ☉ The Sun…..♌Leo
  • ☿ Mercury…….♊Gemini…♍Virgo
  • ♀ Venus……….♉Taurus….♎Libra
  • ☽  The Moon..♋Cancer
  • ♂ Mars…………♈Aries
  • ♃ Jupiter……..♐Sagittarius
  • ♄ Saturn………♑Capricorn
  • ♅ Uranus…….♒Aquarius
  • ♆ Neptune….♓Pisces
  • ♇ Pluto………..,♏Scorpio

Notice how Mercury and Venus both have 2 signs they pair well with? That’s because there’s 12 signs and only 10 planets, and Mercury and Venus are team players!

So now that we have characters and we know how they’ll act, we need to know where they’ll go.

The Houses represent 12 aspects of Earthly life.

They’re the stationary part of Western Astrology. See those segments that the planetary glyphs are in? Those are the Houses, and there are 12 of them. They tell us where our characters are acting. A tour, shall we?

  • 1st House, Self, Impulses
  • 2nd House, Possessions and Security
  • 3rd House, Communication, Siblings, and Transportation
  • 4th House, Home, Family, Childhood
  • 5th House, Recreation and Pleasure
  • 6th House, Work and Health
  • 7th House, Relationships and Contracts
  • 8th House, Transformation and Healing
  • 9th House, Philosophy and Higher Education
  • 10th House, Public life and Career
  • 11th House, Community and Self Realization
  • 12th House, The Subconscious and Secrets

Notice anything about this list? Maybe that it looks a lot like the other 2? Great observation! The signs and planets all have a harmonious house, a place where they’re the most comfortable and open. Let’s take a look!

  • 1st House….♈ Aries…………..♂ Mars
  • 2nd House..♉Taurus…………♀ Venus
  • 3rd House…♊Gemini………..☿ Mercury
  • 4th House…♋ Cancer………..☽  The Moon
  • 5th House…♌Leo………………☉ The Sun
  • 6th House…♍ Virgo…………..☿ Mercury
  • 7th House…♎ Libra…………..♀ Venus
  • 8th House…♏ Scorpio……….♇ Pluto
  • 9th House…♐ Sagittarius…♃ Jupiter
  • 10th House.♑ Capricorn…..♄ Saturn
  • 11th House.♒ Aquarius…….♅ Uranus
  • 12th House.♓ Pisces………….♆ Neptune

The Houses are always in the same place in Western astrological charts. This means that the planets and signs are always moving throughout them! Each combination of planets, signs, and houses creates a different sort of flavor, if you will. While just starting out it’s best to learn all of the harmonious groupings before moving on to other combinations.

So whats with all the lines in the middle of the chart?

Relationships between planets are important in Western Astrology.

The relationships are just measurements of how many degrees separate the planets. For example, when 2 planets are 90 degrees apart they’re square one another, which can cause friction between the planets. But that’s a little further ahead! Just know that those lines mean something, and you’ll learn them soon enough.

For now, work to familiarize yourself with the 12 Signs, 10 Planets, and 12 Houses! Do your best to memorize these groupings, they’ll come up time and time again in Western Astrology.

Oh yeah! Have you been wondering why I’ve been calling it “Western” Astrology instead of just Astrology? See, there’s other types of Astrology, like Vedic Astrology from India, Tibetan Astrology, Kabbalistic Astrology based on the traditions of Jewish Kabbalah, and so many more types of Astrology that it’s important to specify which one we’re talking about. Explore some of those traditions to see which works best for you.

Next we’ll talk about the 4 elements, so stay tuned!


Thanks so much for reading! Let me know what you think in the comments below, and don’t forget to like and subscribe! By the way, did you know that Ambiguous Spaces is giving away free digital lunar calendars for anyone who signs up for our email list? Get yours today by filling out the pop-up form on the site(the follow blog via email form will only notify you of new posts, it won’t sing you up for our newsletter and you won’t get the calendar)! 🌝🌚

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