At first blush, it seems doubtful that the arrangement heavenly bodies at birth could describe much of anything about an individual life.
But astrologers believe that a well-read horoscope chart can help people understand their own temperament, compulsions, motivations and gifts. And while no one has yet explained why it works, here’s a little insight about how astrology works.
Planets Symbolize Parts of the Personality
The pulse of the chart is the third circle in, containing the ten “planets,” which in astrology include Sun, Moon and Pluto, but not Earth.
For example, everyone has an internal drive to “be someone,” represented by the Sun in the horoscope chart; emotional needs, symbolized by the Moon; and security needs, represented by Saturn. Astrologers refine their understanding of an individual’s planets by looking at the zodiac signs.
Zodiac Signs Influence the Planets’ Functions
The ring of brightly-colored symbols on the outer perimeter of the chart above is the zodiac wheel: the constellations Aries, Taurus, Gemini and so on. Each sign has a special flavor that influences how the planets act when they’re “in” one sign or another, from the perspective here on Earth.
For example, people born with the Sun in Cancer will usually be interested in establishing safety and security, while a Sagittarius Sun is often driven toward adventure and risk. People born with Mercury in Aries may speak more rashly than those with Mercury in Capricorn. People with the Moon in Leo are warm and magnetic; those with Aquarius Moons are cooler, more analytical.
Aspect Lines Show Motivation and Drive
The red, blue and green lines that crisscross the inner circle in the chart above are called “aspect lines.” They show the approximate angular relationship between pairs of planets and describe how different planetary energies relate internally. For example, in the accompanying chart, the long red line shows the red Saturn symbol near the bottom of the chart “in opposition to” (i.e., 180 degrees away from) Venus, the female symbol near the top.
Saturn represents the physical body, boundaries, rules and security; Virgo gives it a cautious, stoic and detail-oriented flavor. So this person will likely be attentive to physical health, able to persist in and perfect, say, a diet or exercise routine. But Venus represents an individual’s way of perceiving beauty, harmony and balance; it is the principle of love and sensual pleasure; it is spontaneous. Pisces makes it compassionate, malleable and imaginative.
The opposition aspect between these two planets means the “chart native” will likely experience an internal struggle between his need for caution and boundaries, on one hand, and his need for spontaneous, compassionate love on the other.
Planets Express Themselves in the Houses
The outermost circle of the horoscope chart is indicated by letters and numbers: AC, 2, 3, IC, 5, 6, etc. These “houses” of the horoscope are determined by mathematical calculations based on the birth place.
The houses signify in which areas of life the planets – flavored by zodiac signs; driven by aspect lines – are most likely to find traction, to be expressed as energy, action, habit or experience. Each house represents a different sphere of life. For example the fourth house represents home, family, ancestors, tradition, memory and security, while the tenth house symbolizes aspiration, ambition, individual development and fulfillment of the self.
So in the accompanying example, with Saturn in the 4th house (IC), the person’s sense of security arises from messages received from the family; security was a value, habit and expectation surrounding the child from early in life. On the other hand, Venus in the 10th house (MC) has a more aspirational sensibility – it is a quality the person needs to pursue individually, in order to feel truly fulfilled in this lifetime. Helping the client recognize and reconcile these competing drives is just one job of the astrologer.
Astrology Works through a Synthesis of Chart Elements
Astrology is much more than the sun sign predictions in newspapers and magazines. It is a valid tool for full-scale psychological assessment and assistance. But it must be used knowledgeably, synthesizing all the elements of a single chart, including planets, zodiac signs, aspect lines and houses. Without this kind of synthesis, the astrologer risks providing a piecemeal interpretation and missing the major themes of personality that can most help the client.