The Basics of Reading Birth Charts

If you want to understand the secrets of the stars, you start with your birth chart. Most people never get to see inside the time capsule of their birth chart, which spells out an individual’s inner-most desires, talents, and communication style to a T. Consider yourself lucky to have had the curiosity or the fortune to come across this time-tested tool.

Most people never see more astrology than their daily or weekly horoscope on a website or in a newspaper, but those that dig deeper realize there’s a lot of assistance available to us when it comes to getting along with people, aligning with our natural gifts, and seeing our blind spots where we may be sabotaging ourselves.

We are going to offer you just the first steps you can take when looking at a birth chart so you can start to decode the meaning of the stars and planets in your life. For an accurate birth chart, you need to know your full birthday, including the exact time of birth and city of birth. This will calculate the map of the sky at the precise time and place you came into the universe.

The Symbols

To navigate a birth chart, you’ll want to spend some time learning the pictorial symbols used in charts. They are not hard to learn and this is the only way to interpret the chart. There are symbols for each of the 10 planets; the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto. There are also symbols for each of the 12 zodiac signs.

Once you familiarize yourself with these symbols, the chart will start to open up to you. Otherwise it will look like Greek!

The Planets

Next you’ll want to understand the energy and subject matter of each planet. The Sun is about our core personality, which is why most people know their Sun sign and nothing further. But you also need to know that the Moon is about our emotions and intuition. Mercury rules communication. Venus is about love, beauty, and money. Mars rules our passions. Neptune rules our imagination and dreams. Saturn is the great teacher, and is about restrictions. Pluto is about change and resurrection. Jupiter is about money, fortune, and luck. Uranus is about thought systems and rebellion.

Each planet will show up in a specific sign in a birth chart, giving the subject that planet rules the unique colors and personality of that sign. For example, a Sun sign in Virgo means the person’s core personality has the nurturing and organized energy of Virgo. Having Leo in Mercury means that the communication of that person will be outgoing and potentially arrogant, characteristic of Leo.

The Zodiac Signs

You’ll also want to know the general characteristics of each Zodiac sign. Here’s a quick reference for each, but know that they have more qualities than the brief ones listed. You can also check out our in-depth descriptions of each sign by clicking here.

  • Aries is a leader with a hot temper.
  • Taurus is stubborn and likes luxury.
  • Gemini is curious and playful.
  • Cancer is sensitive and nurturing.
  • Leo is outgoing and arrogant.
  • Virgo is organized and giving.
  • Libra is happy and fair.
  • Scorpio is sexual and deep.
  • Sagittarius is evolved and adventurous.
  • Capricorn is loyal and financially astute.
  • Aquarius is big picture minded.
  • Pisces is artsy and loving.

The Outer Wheel

You’ll notice the outer part of the chart is divided into 12 sections, each with a symbol of one of the Zodiac signs. Within the first outer layer you’ll find the planet symbols. First, look for the circle with the dot in the center. This represents your Sun sign. The Zodiac sign it falls into reveals your Sun sign, your core personality.

Next, look for the crescent Moon symbol and see which Zodiac sign is on the outer edge of the circle where it is placed. That reveals your Moon sign, your emotional needs and reactions that people don’t see on the surface. It’s important to know what unique things make you feel secure in life because they are not going to be the same as they are for others. This starts to help us understand why people have such varied preferences.

Finally, at 9 o’clock, look to the line that says AS, which represents your Ascendant sign or Rising sign. This is the way you show up in the world. What outer-rim Zodiac sign does this line point to? That’s the vehicle of your expression, or the way you deliver your inner passions, so to speak. It can be helpful to know how people view you, even if it’s not how you view yourself.

The Inner Wheel

You’ll notice the inside of the chart is also divided into 12 slices. These are the houses. They each represent a category in a person’s life.

  • The 1st house is your attitude and approach to life.
  • The 2nd house is your talent that you can make money with.
  • The 3rd house is how you interact with your environment.
  • The 4th house is about family.
  • The 5th house is about your creativity.
  • The 6th house is your health.
  • The 7th house is your partnerships.
  • The 8th house is about birth, death and change.
  • The 9th house is about your beliefs.
  • The 10th house is career.
  • The 11th house is your friendships
  • The 12th house is your spiritual growth.

Looking at the inner wheel clockwise, see which sign on the outer rim the house starts in. That is the sign that falls in that house, which reveals how you approach that area of your life. For example, having Scorpio in your 7th house means you desire strong physical relationships in your intimate partnerships, or at least someone willing to open up about their deepest feelings.


Once you familiarize yourself with the areas above, you can start getting into what are called the major aspects. The major aspects are conjunctions, sextiles, squares, trines and oppositions. But don’t concern yourself with those at the beginning, because you have enough to focus on for now!

Do your best to learn the symbols, the subjects each planet relates to in your life, what each Zodiac sign feels like, and what each house represents. Then when you look at a chart, you’ll be able to dissect a person in shockingly accurate ways that are helpful and revealing to their inner life.

Every soul comes into the Universe to work on something unique to them. The story revealed through the natal chart also can tell you what comes easy and what will need extra attention for that person to find a state of peace. Each person’s soul came with gifts, the potential to develop into something truly unique and valuable to the evolution of society. In that purpose lies true fulfillment and happiness. In this light, a birth chart can quite possibly be one of the most valuable parts of your existence and instrumental in the betterment of society.

Related Article: The Secrets Revealed by Your Birth Chart

About The Author

Shannon Yrizarry

Shannon Yrizarry has taught metaphysical subjects since 2013 including the deeply esoteric lineage of kundalini yoga. She has worked as a healer, clairvoyant and card reader and been featured as a dream interpreter on Viceland’s Nuts + Bolts show as well as for Mercedes Benz and Refinery29. She has read Tarot for The Zoe Report, done readings for stars and aims to bring the empowering wisdom of astrology mainstream.With a bold voice, she wants to uplift consciousness to help us evolve to a healthier more spiritual society. Her classes can be found online at www.HOI.TV/authors/shannon and you can follow her daily inspirations on Instagram @shannonyrizarry. She also teaches kundalini yoga in Portland, Oregon. What gets her out of bed is helping people align with their soul purpose.Shannon is the author of two books published by Llewellyn Worldwide, Psychic Yoga and Modern Guide to Meditation Beads.
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