What is astrology? Most of us know our sun sign (the zodiac related to our birth date) as horoscope readings are always associated with that sign. You may even be the person who knows the personality traits of every sun sign (yeah, I’m jealous of your ability to recall those details). But do you know why that’s your sun sign? And did you know that is just one small detail of your whole astrological story? Well, if you don’t, then I invite you to read on as we sat down with our resident astrologer, Allison Jones, to answer the question, “What is astrology?”.
In a nutshell, astrology is a study that examines the positions of the planets and stars, looking for observable patterns and interpreting how they influence our earthly affairs. The ancient practice we use today originated in Babylon (thought to be the area that is now present-day Iraq) 2000-3000 years ago.
But how do we get from knowing the position and movement of planets relative to other celestial bodies to assigning personality traits and forecasting our future events? And what are these heavenly bodies?
The Zodiacs and Planets
Let’s start with answering the celestial body question. These are our 12 zodiac signs. Thousands of years ago, our forefathers observed that these twelve constellations form a “belt” in the sky and are on the same plane as the planets (the sun and moon are both considered planets in astrology). As the planets move through the sky, they travel through the zodiacs. Your sun sign refers to the zodiac that the sun is located within on the day of your birth.
Now we will answer the question about personality traits and divination. Each planet and constellation (our 12 zodiac signs) have descriptive attributes based on patterns people observed over the last few thousand years. Each zodiac and corresponding planets give rise to archetypes – symbols, characteristics, and behaviors personified.
What do the Zodiacs Tell Us?
The personality and energy characteristics of each zodiac are complex. To make things a bit easier and organized, their attributes are categorized into three main categories: element, mode, and polarity.
The four elements are air, water, earth, and fire. Each element describes three zodiacs.
|Passionate, Exuberant, Adventurous, Energetic, Charismatic, Confident, Inspiring, Bold, Warm, Passionate, Optimistic, Active, Opportunistic, Instinctual, Compassionate, Independent|
|Intelligent, Communicative, Cerebral, Informative, Logical, Intellectual, Witty, Mercurial, Analytical, Elusive, Philosophical, Connector, Spontaneous|
|Intuitive, Psychic, Emotional, Sensitive, Compassionate, Empathetic, Sentimental, Observant, Perspective, Instinctual, Distracted, Mysterious, Creative, Inclusive|
|Stable, Grounded, Practical, Methodical, Disciplined, Sensual, Conservative, Cautious, Reliable, Responsible, Industrial, Methodical, Indulgent, Stubborn, Persistent|
The mode or modality describes how each sign expresses itself, how it acts, how energy flows, and how they deal with their environment.
Cardinal mode: The word cardinal means “first.” Cardinal signs start things – they are catalysts and initiators, proactive and dynamic. Cardinal signs prefer to take charge and lead. Each cardinal sign begins a new season – occurring at the solstice or equinox. The cardinal signs are Aries (spring), Cancer (summer), Libra (fall), Capricorn (winter).
Aries (cardinal fire sign): the initiator of new projects and activities
Cancer (cardinal water sign): the initiator of nurturing and care-taking
Libra (cardinal air sign): the initiator of one-on-one relationships
Capricorn (cardinal earth sign): the initiator of work and business
Fixed mode: These signs are persistent, tenacious, stable, determined, and stubborn. Each sign corresponds to the middle of a season – they are the glue that holds everything together. The fixed signs are Taurus (mid-spring), Leo (mid-summer), Scorpio (mid-fall), and Aquarius (mid-winter).
Taurus (fixed earth sign): create a stable and sustainable life
Leo (fixed fire sign): look to create a solid ego/persona
Scorpio (fixed water sign): always looking for the deeper or hidden meaning
Aquarius (fixed air sign): doggedly focused on innovation and invention
Mutable mode: These people go with the flow, are changeable, adaptable, and flexible. They are good at multi-tasking and changing as needed to adapt to their surroundings and represent the last month of each season. The mutable signs are Gemini (late spring), Virgo (late summer), Sagittarius (late fall), and Pisces (late winter).
Gemini (mutable air sign): flexible with ideas
Virgo (mutable earth sign): the ultimate multi-tasker and very attentive to detail
Sagittarius (mutable fire sign): sees the big picture and adapts to different ideologies and philosophies
Pisces (mutable water sign): flexible with emotions – the original empath
Polarity divides the twelve zodiacs into two groups: the yin and the yang (also known as negative and positive polarity). The signs of the six yin, or negative polarity, include all the earth and water elements (Virgo, Taurus, Capricorn, Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces) and have more feminine energy. They are receptive, intuitive, and allowing.
The yang signs (positive polarity) have more masculine energy, and they are action-oriented and initiating. The air and fire signs are yang (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius, Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius).
The table below provides an easy reference for the different characteristics of each zodiac.
|Zodiac||Symbol||Approximate Sun Sign Dates||Polarity||Mode||Element|
|Aries||♈︎||March 21 – April 19||Yang||Cardinal||Fire|
|Taurus||♉︎||April 20 – May 20||Yin||Fixed||Earth|
|Gemini||♊︎||May 21 – June 21||Yang||Mutable||Air|
|Cancer||♋︎||June 22 – July 22||Yin||Cardinal||Water|
|Leo||♌︎||July 23 – August 22||Yang||Fixed||Fire|
|Virgo||♍︎||August 23 – September 22||Yin||Mutable||Earth|
|Libra||♎︎||September 23 – October 22||Yang||Cardinal||Air|
|Scorpio||♏︎||October 23 – November 22||Yin||Fixed||Water|
|Sagittarius||♐︎||November 23 – December 21||Yang||Mutable||Fire|
|Capricorn||♑︎||December 22 – January 19||Yin||Cardinal||Earth|
|Aquarius||♒︎||January 20 – February 18||Yang||Fixed||Air|
|Pisces||♓︎||February 19 – March 20||Yin||Mutable||Water|
We will now address the question of the role planets play in astrological charts. Be warned; this is complicated and multi-dimensional, and we’ll present just the most basic principles. As defined below, each planet, like each zodiac, is associated with specific topics and strengths.
|Planet||Keywords||In a Nutshell|
|Sun||Confidence, Self-esteem, Basic Personality, Consciousness, Vitality||Our basic personality, how we make our choices and why we do what we do.|
|Moon||Unconsciousness, Emotions, Instinct, Habits, Moods||Generally reflects our feelings and what our instincts drive us to do. It also indicates our predominant mood.|
|Mercury||Mind, Communication, Intellect, Reason, Language, Intelligence||How we communicate and the general structure of our thoughts, and how we learn.|
|Venus||Attraction, Harmony, Beauty, Art, Love, Relationships||Our concept of pleasure, beauty, and what we’re attracts us.|
|Mars||Aggression, Passion, Courage, Desire, Sex, Action||Our animal side, our aggression, our sense of competition, and our drive and tell us how we are driven to take action.|
|Jupiter||Luck, Understanding, Growth, Optimism, Abundance, Expansion||Our sense of optimism, hope, and growth. Where we find happiness and purpose and where in life we may find luck.|
|Saturn||Structure, Law, Restriction, Discipline, Responsibility, Obligation, Ambition||It shows us where we find obstacles, how we can are disciplined, and where our most significant responsibilities lie.|
|Uranus||Eccentricity, Unpredictable Changes, Rebellion, Reformation||Where in life we may experience sudden change, inspiration, and openness.|
|Neptune||Dreams, Intuition, Mysticism, Imagination, Delusions||This shows us where we are most creative, our dreams as well as our delusions.|
|Pluto||Transformation, Power, Death, Rebirth, Evolution||How we deal with power and our ability to deal with the concept of death and rebirth.|
A trained astrologer will find meaning and purpose when they see which planet is in which zodiac at a specific point in time. However, they need one additional piece of the puzzle to provide the ultimate lesson (and for the rest of us, to complicate this process even more!). This final aspect is where, in the sky, the zodiac and planets are at a given point in time.
The sky is divided into twelve houses, like a clock, each representing a particular set of traits (see the image on the left for details). The first house is always at the horizon, and then it moves counterclockwise. The first six houses are “personal houses,” and the last six are “interpersonal houses.”
Putting it All Together
When astrologers read charts, they blend the meaning of each planet with both the house they are located in and the sign they are located in. This provides a multi-dimensional map that defines each person’s unique gifts and the obstacles we could face throughout our lives. Information such as this is helpful as once we are made aware, we can learn to strengthen our gifts and watch out of things that typically throw us off course.
There are different types of astrological charts, including birth charts, transit readings, and relationship readings. And there are many free services available on the beautiful world wide web that could automatically generate any of these charts. However, to get the whole picture, complete with interpretation and counsel, it would be best to book time with a professional astrologer, as these machine algorithms don’t have something essential to interpretations. And that’s a soul.