When asked about what astrology is, the first thing that might come to mind are the 12 zodiac signs, which are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. However, there is more to this empirical system of knowledge than just horoscopes.
“Astrology is also a useful tool of analysis, which helps to understand the nature of some events, people or situations. This analysis aids to create forecasts based on the likelihood of certain directions the situation will develop,” Nebula‘s Western astrologer Yana Yanovich tells us. Other than being aware of what your sign is, it is important to know your exact time of birth. This will help you figure out which “house” you belong to on the Natal chart. “These sectors show different areas of life and are used to determine events that will or can happen,” Yanovich explains.
Planets also play an important role in astrology. “Each one of them shows one dimension of a complex and sophisticated system of a human being. They are energies that we express into the world and compel us to certain actions or behaviors,” Yanovich says.
To further understand the concept of astrology, Yanovich breaks down the important factors of the practice in our beginner’s guide below. Read on to discover more about the language of the sky.
What is astrology?
Astrology is a system of knowledge. It is not theoretical but it is empirical knowledge. This means that it was based on observation and experience rather than on theory or logical conclusions.
Astrology is also a useful tool of analysis, which helps to understand the nature of some events, people or situations. This analysis aids to create forecasts based on the likelihood of certain directions the situation will develop. However, it is important to understand that similar to any other type of forecast, the accuracy depends a lot on the proficiency of the person who is making it.
There is another popular misconception that planets are supposed to have a direct influence on an individual, which is often used as an argument to disqualify astrology. In fact, the mechanics of this are quite different. The movements of the planets, and the events and actions of people are not in a causative relationship but in a concurrent, synchronistic one.
For example, let’s say there is a bank that opens at 8:30 in the morning. If you know this and you’re looking at the clock, you can definitely tell if the doors of the bank will be locked or not despite your current location. On the other hand, if you’re passing by the bank in the morning on your way to work and see a worker coming to the doors and unlocking them, you can tell that it is 8:30 a.m. without looking at the time. The movements of the hand of the clock do not directly influence the lock on the doors of the bank but the two events happening concurrently.
The movements of the planets are similar to the movements of the hands of the clock. However, instead of two, we have 10 hands to keep track of the situation. At the same time, astrologers keep track of complicated processes such as the lives of people, organizations and even countries.
What are the zodiac signs’ characteristics?
There are four elements in astrology and each group has three signs. Elements describe the main motivation behind one’s actions. Water signs (Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces) are motivated by emotions; fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) are motivated by ideas; Air signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) are motivated by communication and information; and Earth signs (Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn) are motivated by common sense and practicality.
This one is the most simple division. There are two polarities — inward-oriented, also known as feminine, and outward-oriented, also known as masculine. All Water and Earth signs are inward-oriented, while all Air and Fire signs are outward-oriented. The polarity describes the way signs interact with the world and where their main focus lies.
The signs are also grouped according to three modalities, which show their mode of operations and how they act. We have cardinal signs (Aries, Libra, Cancer and Capricorn) that act fast and propel change. Then there are fixed signs (Leo, Aquarius, Scorpio and Taurus), which are quite opposite — they are change-resistant and strive to preserve things the way they are. Finally, mutable signs (Sagittarius, Gemini, Pisces and Virgo) are really good at adapting to various circumstances by being flexible, but on the other hand, may lack a sense of direction.
What roles do the planets play in astrology?
The planets in astrology play one of the central roles. There are 10 of them in modern Western astrology, and each one of them shows one dimension of a complex and sophisticated system of a human being. They are energies that we express into the world and compel us to certain actions or behaviors. Below is a very short, general list of what each planet represents:
- The Sun: Ego and spirit
- The Moon: Emotions and subconscious mind
- Mercury: Mind and speech
- Venus: Love and pleasure
- Mars: Action and passion
- Jupiter: Beliefs and morals
- Saturn: Boundaries and discipline
- Uranus: Independence and rebellion
- Neptune: Dreams and illusions
- Pluto: Transformation and power
When a planet is placed in a sign, it expresses its energy in accordance with its characteristics. Thus, the signs act as a modifier and a filter. Each planet is said to rule a certain sign, which is based on the idea of similarity in the most natural expression of the planet itself and the sign it is said to rule. The best comparison here will be to say that a planet is “at home” in those signs.
- The Sun rules Leo
- The Moon rules Cancer
- Mercury rules Gemini and Virgo
- Venus rules Taurus and Libra
- Mars rules Aries and co-rules Scorpio
- Jupiter rules Sagittarius and co-rules Pisces
- Saturn rules Capricorn and co-rules Aquarius
- Uranus rules Aquarius
- Neptune rules Pisces
- Pluto rules Scorpio
This is the very basic level of planetary correspondence to the zodiac signs. Upon deeper studying, you’ll see that there are also signs of detriment, exaltation and fall. All these positions modify the quality of the planet’s expression.
What are “houses” are and their significance?
The houses are sectors of the Natal chart, which are calculated based on the exact time of birth. These sectors show different areas of life and are used to determine events that will or can happen.
- 1st House: Self, body and personality
- 2nd House: Money, finance and material possessions
- 3rd House: Siblings, basic education, short journeys and immediate environment
- 4th House: Family, home, place of living, land and ancestry
- 5th House: Children, hobbies, leisure time, sports and romance
- 6th House: Health, daily routines and work
- 7th House: Partnership (romantic and business), other people and competition
- 8th House: Death, extreme situations and shared resources
- 9th House: Higher learning, foreign travels and contacts, and beliefs
- 10th House: Career and public achievement
- 11th House: Friends, like-minded people and community
- 12th House: Isolation voluntary or forced, subconscious mind and secrets
This is just a short list of different situations that can occur in the life of an individual. With that being said, without knowing where the houses are, an astrologer can only see the psychological traits of a person and not their life. The same goes for future events. For example, an astrologer may see that there is a conflicting event coming, but without knowing the houses, there is no way to tell if this is going to be connected with family (4th House), money (2nd House) or some other area of life.
What are “aspects” and what part do they play in the zodiac signs?
There are five major aspects — also called ptolemaic aspects — of astrology. Aspects are planetary contacts that occur when planets reach a certain degree or angle between each other. When this happens, the planetary energies are acting together in either a harmonious or disharmonious manner.
Aspects are measured by an angle between the two planets on the zodiac circle and are often expressed in degrees of that angle. For example, harmonious aspects are a trine, which is the angle of 120 degrees between planets and a sextile — the angle of 60 degrees.
Disharmonious aspects are opposition (180 degrees) and square (90 degrees). The last aspect is called conjunction and it can be either harmonious or disharmonious, depending on the nature of the planets involved. A conjunction is an aspect of zero degrees when two planets appear to be joined together and are occupying the same degree of the zodiac circle.
The nature of the aspects is defined by the analogy of the position of the zodiac signs in relation to each other. The signs go in a certain defined order:
Each sign occupies a sector of 30 degrees. Together, they make up the circle of 360 degrees. The signs that belong to the same element, for example, Fire, will be 120 degrees away from each other. Since they belong to the same element, they have the same nature and work well together, resulting in a harmonious 120-degree contact.
The signs that are 90 degrees away from each other are always from a non-compatible element, and thus, they form a conflicting connection. For example, Aries (Fire) and Cancer (Water) are 90 degrees away from each other, putting them in conflict.
The aspects are used in Natal chart reading and in forecasting. In forecasting, astrologers look at the current planetary movements in relation to someone’s Natal planetary positions and check to see when planets make contact. Based on the nature of the planets, the nature of the contact and the houses involved, a forecast is made based on a certain event in life.
Yana Yanovich is the top Western astrologer of Nebula: Horoscope & Astrology — a global multifunctional platform for astrology lovers created to inspire people to find their way to happiness — with more than 20 years of astrological practice.