A Beginner's Guide to Astrology

A Beginner's Guide to Astrology

Looking beyond the glossy pages of magazine horoscopes, there is a multitude of layers to discover in the study of astrology. Lucky for us, there have never been easier (and cheaper) ways to explore the stars on your own terms, from websites to apps to meme accounts.

The first step to dive into astrology is figuring out your birth chart, sometimes called a natal chart. A birth chart is a map of our solar system relative to earth at the exact moment and place of your birth. The placement of each planet is meant to define different aspects of your personality or identity.

At one time, only those with the status and wealth of pharaohs could have astrologers map their own birth charts. Now, birth chart calculators are available to anyone with an internet connection on sites such as Cafe Astrology.

What To Know


Once you enter your date, time and place of birth into a birth chart calculator, you’ll end up with a chart that looks something like this to the right (Courtesy of Cafe Astrology (this is mine, please don’t judge):

At first, this looks pretty overwhelming. Certainly, there is a lot to unpack, but first you have to know what to look for.

Astrology enthusiasts will debate which placements are the most important, but the most frequently discussed placements are sun, moon and ascendant, also called the rising sign.

The sun sign is the one you likely already know, the one that is defined by your birthday alone. It controls your ego, your truest identity and how you live your life. Next, your moon sign controls your emotional self; some say it is how you are when you are alone or with those you are closest to. Finally, the ascendent (ASC) is sometimes called the “mask.” It controls how you appear in social situations or what people interpret you as on a surface level. Together, these three placements are said to define a person’s identity.

These, and all other placements, are each ruled by one of the twelve signs of the zodiac: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces.  Each of the signs carry a unique set of traits and is associated with one of four elements: fire (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius), earth (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn), air (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius ) or water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces). The elements create little families of signs that have similar traits; fire signs are passionate and spontaneous, earth signs are grounded and dependable, air signs are objective and curious, and water signs are intuitive and emotional.

While you might relate to your sun sign most strongly, you actually have traits of multiple of the twelve signs in different levels and aspects of your personality. It is possible that you hardly relate to your sun sign at all! People are complex and layered and none of us fit cleanly into one of twelve boxes. Your various placements describe the unique and multifaceted individual you are.

What To Download

Once you have an understanding of your own chart, you might be interested in learning the placements of other people in your life. The app Co — Star is an excellent tool for this.

Co — Star is essentially social media for the stars. It offers a concise and straightforward explanation of your own placements and allows you to add friends so that you can see how compatible you are and what aspects of your personalities might cause tension. It also alerts you of how astrological movements — how and when planets move through certain constellations — might affect you emotionally. Enable push notifications at your own risk; they can hit pretty close to home.

For those looking to dive deeper, the app The Pattern offers eerily accurate birth chart analysis. Interestingly, The Pattern doesn’t claim to be an astrology app, and there is no mention of zodiac signs or placements in its analysis. However, when an app asks to predict your personality and life path based on the details of your birth… that’s astrology (but this might be one app you can actually get your skeptic BFF to join).

Like Co — Star, The Pattern allows you to add friends and check your compatibility. However, it really shines in its analysis of user’s personality and “patterns” of behavior. It is a great tool for those interested in self discovery and improvement, and offers shockingly relevant daily predictions.

Whom To Follow

Self improvement is all well and good, but let’s get to what we all really want: the memes.

The astrology community has created a booming sub-genre of meme accounts that even the most casual astro fan can enjoy (or send to their roommate every morning because she seriously is SUCH a Taurus). Some of my favorite Instagram pages include @notallgeminis, @clownastrology, and Co — Star’s own page @costarastrolgy. For the most aesthetically pleasing astrology analysis imaginable, check out @nadinejane_astrology.

If Twitter is more your thing, @poetastrologers offer unique weekly horoscopes. Pages such as @solelunastro and @astrobebs bring their own astrological analysis and observations and pose interesting questions to the astrology community — while getting down to the tough stuff like what IS up with all the Leo slander?

Astrology can be a powerful tool for self improvement or it can be a lighthearted way to connect with others. Either way, it should be fun and there’s no need to take it too seriously (I’m looking at you, fellow earth signs)!

Happy star gazing!

About the Author

Victoria Middleton (she/her) is a third year student at The George Washington University studying journalism and mass communication with a minor in women’s, gender and sexuality studies. She discovered her love for writing as a little girl, typing fairytale stories on her parents old Dell and printing them out before taping them into glitter-glue-encrusted cardboard covers. These days, she thinks honest and fully developed stories about women are even better than fairy tales. When she’s not scheming against the male hegemony of the media industry, she can be found thrifting, watching cult films and TV and badly dancing to good music. She has been known to get overly excited about intersectional feminism, astrology and David Lynch.

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