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The Complete Guide to Astrology

Whatever your feelings about horoscopes, zodiac signs, and astrology, it’s hard to avoid mentions of them, whether it’s in your latest news update or part of an online dating profile. With references to the zodiac appearing so frequently, it’s natural to be curious about what it all means.

Of course, astrology is a broad field, and learning the ins and outs can take a lifetime—but this guide will get you started with all the basics you need to begin understanding astrology.

Your Zodiac Sign

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Chances are, you have some idea of what your sun sign or “main” zodiac sign is—this is typically what someone is referring to when they ask, “What’s your sign?”. There are twelve signs: Aquarius (those born between January 20 and February 18), Pisces (February 19-March 20), Aries (March 21-April 19), Taurus (April 20-May 20), Gemini (May 21-June 20), Cancer (June 21-July 22), Leo (July 23-August 22), Virgo (August 23-September 22), Libra (September 23-October 22), Scorpio (October 23-November 21), Sagittarius (November 22-December 21), and Capricorn (December 22-January 19).

These signs are each associated with a few personality traits, a symbol, a planet, and an element (among other factors). Someone born on February 25 would likely be an accepting, emotional, spiritual person with a big heart and a strong intuition. A symbol of two fish would depict that same Pisces woman–a water sign associated with Neptune.

Your Full Natal Chart

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Looking to your natal chart or birth chart, there’s much more to your astrological self than your sun sign alone. The “big three,” so to speak, involve your sun sign, moon sign, and rising or ascendant sign. Astrologists typically consider your sun sign to represent who you are, your moon sign to represent your deeper inner self, and your rising or ascendant sign to represent the impression you show to the world.

As you start to understand astrology, three signs will be the first you begin to uncover. From there, though, you can research your entire birth chart, which will detail the placement of each zodiac sign, planet, and other astrological aspects at the moment when and in the place where you were born. Many websites or mobile applications offer free natal charts—all you have to do is enter your birth date, time, and place. Alternatively, you can learn to create your own from scratch.

The lines and symbols that make up your birth chart can be overwhelming to a beginner. As you begin to dive in further, it can help to take one aspect at a time, make sure you comprehend that, and then move on to another. Interpreting your natal chart includes the “big three,” your inner and outer planets (Mercury, Venus, and Mars, then Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto), and much more. You might study how each house of the zodiac wheel (or section of your chart, split into twelve pieces) impacts your personality over a lifetime. To make the process even easier, you could turn to a professional astrologer to understand your chart. Or, you can take the opportunity to learn more about yourself one star at a time.

Of course, there is far more to the study of astrology than can be covered in any single guide. But, armed with these basics, you’ll be ready to better understand your horoscope, birth chart, and sense of self. Whether you’re looking up at constellations and wondering what the stars have in store or you just want to have an answer ready when a stranger asks about your zodiac sign, a basic understanding of astrology can be a great asset—whether you believe in it yourself or not.