Astrology 101

I'm teaching this course through Seattle Free School- a lovely organization that supports communal learning and sharing of knowledge in the Seattle area (and whose blog I follow- see to the left). I thought, while I'm at it, I could share this info here, in case anyone is interested. :)

Your sun sign represents the sign of the Zodiac that the sun was in at the time of your birth. It rules willpower and ego, and is said to influence the main direction your life takes. It’s a basic representation of your core self, notably that which you act upon every day.

Your moon sign focuses more on the inner depths of you, and touches more on an emotional/domestic level. This refers to where the moon was at the time of your birth. Think of it as your emotional core, and the instinct behind your choices and behaviors.

Your rising sign or ‘ascendant sign’ is in reference to which Zodiac sign was ascending on the eastern horizon at the time of your birth. Think of it as the face you present to the world. People tend to use their rising sign as a mask to hide some part of their inner self they don't feel like revealing.

How do you determine your sign? You need to know your birth date and time and location. From there, someone can draw a natal chart for you, referencing the position of the planets at the time of your birth.
Try this website for getting your chart. As the Earth rotates, the Sun appears to rise and set, and the houses also change. Therefore, you need a pretty accurate birth time (within 10 minutes or so) to be certain of the position of your house cusps.

What’s in a Chart?
An astrological chart is a map of the positions of the planets as seen from earth. The lines you see radiating from the center of the chart are the doorways, or cusps, of the astrological houses.
While the signs show you how a planet's energy manifests, the houses show you where. For example, if Jupiter, planet of abundance, is in your 7th house of relationships, this means you have good luck in relationships, and abundance of people around you.

The thick horizontal line which runs through the middle of the chart represents the horizon, or sunrise and sunset. This line forms the cusp of the 1st house (you) on the left side of the chart, and the 7th house (others) on the right side. It divides day from night. So, if you were born at night, the Sun will appear below the line in your chart. If you were born during the day, the Sun will appear above the horizon line.

The thick vertical line which runs through the middle of the chart represents the meridian, or noon and midnight. This line forms the cusps of the 10th and 4th houses, representing the “outer you” (10th house), and the “inner you” (4th house).

Run your finger around the chart, counter-clockwise. The first line your finger crosses before going into a house is called the cusp of that house. If you follow that line to the outer circle of the chart, you will probably see a glyph for a sign and a number between 0 and 29. This glyph tells you the sign on the cusp, which tells you the nature of the affairs of that house in your life. The number tells you how many degrees into the sign you are. 0 is the beginning, and 29 is the end.

Empty house? Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean the house is screwed up. In fact, it means that house is normal! Planets in a house tell you where the issues are in life.

To read a house, consider the following:
1. Any planets in the house.
2. The sign on the cusp of the house.
3. The position of the planet that rules that sign (retrograde, or further out, means more weird and esoteric aspects of that planet, whereas conjunct, or closer in, means a stronger and more easily-applicable aspect of that planet).

House Positions
The first, seventh, fourth, and tenth houses are angular, meaning they represent the basic needs and more important things in life. Pay extra attention to the planets in these houses, as they play the strongest role in your life. Also of importance are any planets conjunct to (within 10 degrees of) the cusp for the first, seventh, fourth, and tenth houses- they flavor the house subtly.

Below is the basic breakdown of Houses
1st House
Life, the House of Self
Physical appearance, traits and characteristics. First impressions. General outlook into the world. Ego. Beginnings and initiatives.

2nd House
Wealth, the House of Value
Material and immaterial things of certain value. Money. Belongings, property, acquisitions. Cultivation and growth. Substance. Self-Worth.

3rd House
Siblings, the House of Communications
Lower education and childhood environment. Mental facilities. Siblings. Neighborhood matters. Short, local travel and transportations.

4th House
Parents, the House of Home and Family
Ancestry, heritage, roots. Early foundation and environment. Mother or mothers as figure. The caretaker of the household. Cyclic end of matters.

5th House
Children, the House of Pleasure
Recreational and leisure activities. Things which makes for enjoyment and entertainment. Games and gambling. Children. Love affairs and sex. Creative self-expression.

6th House
Health, the House of Health
Routine tasks and duties. Skills or training acquired. Jobs and Employments. Health and overall well-being. Service performed for others. Caretaking. Pets and small domestic animals.

Spouse, the House of Partnerships
Close, confidante-like relationships. Marriage and business partners. Agreements and treaties. Matters dealing with diplomatic relations of all kinds, including open (known) enemies. Attraction to qualities we admire from the other partner.

8th House
Death, the House of Death and Sex
Cycles of Deaths And Rebirth. Sexual relationships and deeply committed relationships of all kinds. Joint funds, finances. Other person's resource. Occult, psychic and taboo matters. Regeneration. Self-transformation.

9th House
Journeys, the House of Philosophy
Foreign travel and foreign countries. Culture. Long distance travels and journeys. Religion. Law and ethics. Higher education. Knowledge. Experience through expansion.

10th House
Kingdom, the House of Social Status
Ambitions. Motivations. Career. Status in society. Government. Authority. Father or father figure. The breadwinner of the household. One's public appearance/impression at large(audience).

11th House
Friendship, the House of Friendships
Friends and acquaintances of like-minded attitudes. Groups, clubs and societies. Higher associations. Benefits and fortunes from career. One's hopes and wishes.

Prison, the House of Self-Undoing
Mysticism. Places of seclusion such as hospitals, prisons and institutions, including self-imposed imprisonments. Things which are not apparent to self, yet clearly seen by others. Elusive, clandestine, secretive or unbeknownst matters. Retreat, reflection and self-sacrifice. Unconscious/subconscious. Unknown enemies.

Planetary Influence
Every planet has a sign that it ‘rules’. The astrological sign whose scope each planet lies within is the primary influence in regard to that area. For example, if your Sun is in the realm of Virgo, Mercury is the dominant and prevailing planet, because Mercury rules Virgo. Each planet has its own attributes and augurs individual meanings, and so these are the more subtle touches within your personality, the specifics.

Sun (rules Leo)
The Sun rules power, vitality, your personality and basic expression. This is why when someone asks what your sign is, they mean your sun sign.

Moon (rules Cancer)
The Moon rules emotion, instinct, habits, and your subconscious. Two people who have the same Sun sign might be markedly different in personality, and it is usually due to differing Moon signs.

Mercury (rules Gemini and Virgo)
Mercury is about the mind. It governs how you make sense of your world, formulate ideas and share them with others. Your speech patterns, communication style, sense of humor, quickness of thought – all these are flavored by the position of Mercury at your birth.
A few times per year, Mercury goes into retrograde (appearing to move backward). During this time, communications are more likely to be misinterpreted, and technology snafus and travel slowdowns/complications are abound.

Venus (rules Taurus and Libra)
Venus is all about beauty, love, and friendship. Her placement within your natal chart indicates what you will love and be drawn to, and how you express yourself creatively. Venus is a muse toward passion.

Mars (rules Aries and Scorpio)
Mars rules impulse and passion. This often manifests in terms of what turns you on or gets your blood pumping. Drive, ambition, discipline, will-power, and desire are all in the realm of Mars. The aspects with Mars in your chart show things like how you handle frustration and conflict.

Jupiter (rules Sagittarius)
Jupiter is all about fulfillment, prosperity, luck, generosity, and expansion. She guides you to higher ideals and a sense of purpose, and her placement within your chart can indicate what will bring you happiness.
When the currently orbiting Jupiter makes a favorable aspect to your natal Jupiter or another planet in the chart, this paves the way for good fortune. For example, if the current Jupiter aligns with your natal Jupiter, you might get a financial windfall, a new job, a promotion, etc.

Saturn (rules Capricorn)
Saturn is about testing you to find your inner strengths and building your self-confidence through internal battles and life trials. Saturn can augur a time of upheaval, stress, and change. However, overcoming these things is key to developing your core self.
Saturn makes its presence known typically in your late twenties and late 50s, when it returns to the position it was in when you were born.

Uranus (rules Aquarius)
Uranus is a provoker. He augurs surprises, sudden turns, rebellions, liberation, and awakenings. When Uranus makes a transit to any planet in your birth chart, that planet gets smacked upside the head. You're in for some cosmic surprises. Sometimes it's liberating, and other times you're thrown into utter chaos.
The Uranus opposition occurs somewhere around the age of 40, when the current Uranus opposes your own natal Uranus. Also known as the mid-life crisis, this is when people suddenly cast off the shackles that keep them from fulfilling their destiny.

Neptune (rules Pisces)
Neptune is all about mystery, dreams, illusions, spirituality, and idealism. He is the bridge between the mysterious and the depths of dreams and vision, and the everyday waking world. He often governs artistic pursuits and imagination, and he prompts us to reach our creative potentials.

Pluto (rules Scorpio)
Pluto shows up in areas of life where you'll personally face the intense powers of creation and destruction (where he appears in your natal chart indicates this). He is about death and rebirth, the breaking down of the self in order to realize your own potential. In a way, Pluto governs power itself.
The house position of Pluto is key to understanding which area of life will enact the most dramatic transformation. It's often the area that you grasp for with the most longing, but where the attainment of your ideal vision ends up being difficult or impossible.

Signs by elements- these are the leading qualities and attributes of each sign:

Fire (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius)- spontaneous, inspired, enthusiastic, outgoing, passionate, self-centered, visionary, dramatic, instinctual
Fire signs tend to be more action-oriented, seeking out things that excite them. They tend to be enthusiastic and energetic in bursts, and are known to be very passionate. They also have a reputation of having fierce tempers, but can be very intuitive. Sometimes their passion and drive pushes them toward haste, skipping steps or becoming unaware of their impact on others. They are the doers in the world.
Of the three fire signs, Aries is Cardinal, Leo is Fixed, and Sagittarius is Mutable.

Water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces)- intuitive, emotional, imaginative, nurturing, secretive, dreamy
Water signs tend to be more emotionally-oriented. They are known for being sensitive and intuitive toward others’ emotional states, and have a reputation for being healing and maternal because of this. It can also come across as manipulative, as they need to work harder to maintain personal boundaries and respect the privacy of others’ emotional states. They are the dreamers and healers in the world.
Of the three water signs, Cancer is Cardinal, Scorpio is Fixed, and Pisces is Mutable.

Earth (Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo)- practical, useful, structure, productivity, tangible, grounded, sensual, tactile, dependable
Earth signs tend to be the common sense, grounded ones. They engage the world through all senses and operate at a slower, more thorough pace than other signs. They have a reputation for being productive and detail-oriented, however this can also seem to be nit-picky and petty. They are the voice of common sense and caution in the world.
Of the three earth signs, Capricorn is Cardinal, Taurus is Fixed, and Virgo is Mutable.

Air (Libra, Aquarius, Gemini)- analytical, curious, thinking, intellectual, social, detached
Air signs tend to be more intellectual, using their minds to observe the world. They can appear detached and aloof because of this. Their strength lies in their flexibility and ability to experience life through many angles of observation and interpretation. They usually excel in communication areas, acting as a catalyst in social situations. They also tend to be curious and are the more global-thinking movers and shakers in the world.
Of the three air signs, Libra is Cardinal, Aquarius is Fixed, and Gemini is Mutable.

Signs by qualities- these are the more subtle nuances of each quality. The qualities correlate to seasons, as Cardinal initiates a season, Fixed continues it, and Mutable wraps it up:

Cardinal (Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn)- leadership, initiation, beginnings
Aries (Spring), as a Fire, is a catalyst for change, leading through their passion and commitment.
Cancer (Summer), as a Water, leads by the heart, through their emotional certainty.
Libra (Fall), as an Air, leads through ideas and acting as a balancing force.
Capricorn (Winter), as an Earth, leads through their natural grounded state of authority.

Fixed (Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius and Taurus)- self-containment, steadiness, persistence
Leo (Spring), as a Fire, perseveres through respect and self-expression in their chosen career.
Scorpio (Summer), as a Water, finds permanence through achievement, imagination, and dreams.
Aquarius (Fall), as an Air, pushes persistently for reform and revolution.
Taurus (Winter), as an Earth, digs in with stability and a foundation to build things.

Mutable (Sagittarius, Pisces, Gemini and Virgo)- flexible, adaptable, shifting
Sagittarius (Spring), as a Fire, evolves by reaching out and seeking knowledge, using their intuition to find truth.
Pisces (Summer), as a Water, enacts change through deep emotion, intuition, and observation of the world.
Gemini (Fall), as an Air, adapts through the collection of ideas and disseminating information.Virgo (Winter), as an Earth, brings change through body purification and acting as a healing force for others.

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