Astrology birth chart—understanding your rising sign, the planets, zodiac signs, and houses

Astrology birth chart: this simple guide will help you decode your stars and understand how to correctly read your horoscope

Open Notebook for writing ideas and astrological birth natal chart laying on pink background. Computer keyboard and mouse nearby. Idea of Astrological Consultation. Flat lay in girly style.
(Image credit: Manuta/Getty Images)

So you know your sun, moon and rising signs and that’s a great start, but do you know how to read your birth chart? In astrology, the birth chart is a snapshot of the sky and all the planets and stars on the exact day and time you were born. It’s your unique cosmic blueprint that can speak to your personality, challenges you may face, strengths, weaknesses, family patterns, destined events, and so much more. 

Many people dismiss astrology because they read their weekly horoscopes according to their sun sign. When these don’t resonate, it’s as simple as asking those nonbelievers, have you ever looked at your birth chart? 

There are so many reasons someone may not resonate with their sun sign. If you’re a Scorpio, a sign that’s known for their brooding nature and intensity, but most of the other planets in the sky were moving through the sign of Sagittarius, a positive and adventurous zodiac sign—then Sagittarius’ ideals and personality traits may feel more aligned.

To fully understand your astrological blueprint, it’s important to consider all of the planets and the conversations they are having with another at the time you were born. But how does someone interpret a birth chart? Seeking a consultation with a professional astrologer is the best thing you can do, as a lot of what you read on the internet can be generalized, but there are many ways for the astro-curious to get started.


What is a birth chart?

In order to get started, you will need your date of birth, year of birth, location of birth and exact time of birth. The time of birth is critical, as it sets up the entire zodiac wheel and solidifies your rising sign, or ascendant, the zodiac sign that was rising on the Eastern horizon at your time of birth. If you are unable to access your time of birth, some astrologers practice rectification charts, a process where they track your major live events and work backward to find a rising sign that makes the most sense based on your life events.

The birth chart is made up of each of the 12 zodiac signs. The wheel is divided up into 12 different sections, which are known as Houses. Each house represents a different area of your life from love to work to finances and beyond. Your rising sign sets up your birth chart and is the marker of where your First House begins. Let’s say you are a Cancer rising, but a Leo sun. 

This would mean that your sun sign is in the Second House in your birth chart, the house that relates to finances, values, resources, and income. You can already start to piece together how the location of the planets and which sign they are in all influence your unique birth chart and personality.

Libra Season

(Image credit: sarayut Thaneerat/ Getty Images)

How do I read my birth chart?

The best way for beginners to start reading their birth charts is by learning what signs their planets are in (i.e. are you a Taurus sun with a Scorpio moon?) and which houses in their birth chart those planets land in. 

This will add descriptive layers to understanding what each planet means. It’s not enough to simply say I’m a Taurus sun and my personality traits are similar to everyone else who was born during Taurus season. For example, your Taurus sun may land in your Tenth House of career and reputation, making for a more public figure who seeks attention rather than the stereotypical homebody Taurus personality you may read about online. 

Below is a guide to your rising sign, the planets, zodiac signs, and houses so you can begin to piece together your chart.

There are many free sites online that allow you to calculate your birth chart like astro.com or astrotheme.com. Plug in your information and enjoy your cosmic trip down the rabbit hole!

What is my rising sign?

First, let’s start with our rising sign, or ascendant. This is one of the most sensitive points in the birth chart, as it marks the start of your chart and aligns directly with the minute and second you were born. The rising sign always represents the beginning of our birth chart and marks the First House. In ancient astrology, the First House marks our identity, personality, our soul, our appearance, vitality and health. The rising sign, taking place in this house, also speaks to these parts of our life. 

The rising sign can also literally speak to our appearance–for example, Leo risings are known to have stunning, thick hair and Virgo risings are generally taller. Your rising sign can also speak to first impressions, it’s the energy you first give off when you meet people. Let’s say you’re an introverted Cancer sun, but your rising sign is Libra, you may come off as more social and charming, while on the inside you’re just eager for the small talk to end so you can hop back in bed with your cat and enjoy some Netflix binging.

Low Angle View Of Mountains Against Star Field - stock photo

(Image credit: Adrian Medesi / EyeEm)

What Do the Planets Mean in a Birth Chart?

In astrology, the planets are seen as the actors, they bring specific parts of your birth chart to life depending on where they are located, the conversations they are having with other planets, and the zodiac signs they are in.

Sun

Your sun sign is all about your personality, your identity, and soul’s purpose. It’s important to note that we spend our lives growing into our sun sign, it’s something we are constantly evolving and changing and working toward embodying.

Moon

Your moon sign speaks to your emotional world, what you need to feel safe and secure, and how you nurture yourself and others. It can speak to early relationships with parental figures, as well.

Mercury

Mercury is all about communication in the birth chart. Your Mercury sign represents the way you speak, your opinions, the way you listen, and learn. It’s all about the exchange of information and can also represent topics related to siblings.

Venus

Venus is the planet of love, values, justice, finances, and desire. This can speak to our love language, hobbies that we enjoy, our relationship with money, and our social desires and ambition.

Remember that Venus in retrograde is happening in 2021/2022 and definitely worth knowing more about!

Mars

Mars is the planet of sex, anger, motivation, and drive. It’s what propels us to take action and move forward. Mars also speaks to what we are attracted to and what we are willing to go after.

Jupiter

Jupiter is the planet of luck, expansion, wisdom, and opportunity. It’s where we experience an extra dose of fortune in our lives and a glimpse into some of our personal superpowers. It’s also the planet of abundance and can speak to indulgence and excess.

Maybe if you think back to Jupiter retrograde back in June 2021, you can identify some of these elements?

Saturn

Saturn is all about responsibility and boundaries. It brings challenges and is generally where we are too hard on ourselves. Saturn brings karmic lessons that push us into new phases of our lives.

The planet is of course intrinsically linked to the rite of passage that is Saturn return. If you're wondering what is Saturn return, just ask Adele who referenced it on her album 30—when discussing the huge life change that was her divorce!

Not only has she spoken about it, she's got a Saturn tattoo and even her accessories are a shout-out to the planet. We can't stop thinking about Adele's Saturn earrings—here's where to shop yours...

Uranus

Uranus is the planet of individuality, rebellion, and sudden events. It can speak to shocking events we have in our life, or when it contacts other planets, it can show where and how we are eager to break free from societal expectations. 

Neptune

Neptune is a planet of illusion, delusion, profound beauty, creativity, spirituality, and loss. It dissolves and it’s hard to capture its essence. It can illuminate some of our psychic world and gifts and also areas of our lives where we are too naive and need to remove the rose-colored glasses.

Pluto

Pluto is the planet of death, destruction, taboo, rebirth, and transformation. Where it lands in our charts can speak to some of our deepest fears and obsessions, but also our power. There is power once we are able to do our shadow work and uncover what our Pluto really means.

Flat lay of twelve zodiac signs. Horoscope concept, top view - stock photo.

(Image credit: 9dreamstudio/Getty Images)

What Do the Zodiac Signs Mean in a Birth Chart?

In your birth chart, the zodiac signs flavor the planets’ expressions and can detail how the planets’ energy manifests.

Although your sun sign (i.e. the sign people often mistakenly read as their horoscope) is hugely important, examining where your rising sign is in the zodiac is a far more useful way to get the most from it.

Aries

Aries is a pioneer, spontaneous, and a natural leader. This zodiac sign is fiery, bold and always ready to act first and apologize later.

Taurus

Taurus is a creative sign that enjoys the splendors of the tangible world. This sign is influenced by its senses and enjoys the natural world and all it has to offer.

Gemini

Gemini is a mental sign that can get bored easily, and loves to stay entertained by soaking up as much knowledge and facts as possible. This is a mutable sign that means they’re prone to changing their mind and have the ability to see both sides of a situation.

Cancer

Cancer is a nurturing and intuitive sign. This zodiac sign has a strong attachment to family, for better or for worse, and can easily be swept up by nostalgia. They led from their heart.

Leo

Leo is ruled by the heart and is a passionate, loyal, and dramatic sign. This is one of the most creative zodiac signs that loves to entertain anyone and everyone in every little thing they do.

Virgo

Virgo is a zodiac sign that loves to be of service to others. They are meticulous, thoughtful, and analytical. This zodiac sign likes to stick to a schedule and have a plan before acting.

Libra

Libra is a charming and social zodiac sign. They are represented by the Scales and like to weigh all pros and cons in any decision, which can make them a bit indecisive. They are ruled by the planet Venus, which lends them an artistic eye.

Scorpio

Scorpio is not afraid to plunge into the depths of darkness and the taboo. This zodiac sign knows that everyone has their secrets and that by confronting our inner demons, we experience the greatest transformation in life.

Sagittarius

Sagittarius loves learning and teaching. This is a philosophical sign that loves to absorb knowledge by new experiences and traveling to new places. They have a fierce streak of independence and have a positive outlook like no other.

Capricorn

Capricorn never stops climbing to the top. This zodiac sign pursues its goals wholeheartedly with a meticulous plan to reach all of their deepest desires and dreams. Their dedication and stubbornness serve them well in chasing their dreams.

Aquarius

Aquarius envisions a future like no other. This zodiac sign is here to innovate and encourage others to break free from the status quo. Aquarius are open-minded and have strong opinions and aren’t afraid to share them with others.

Pisces

Pisces is a compassionate and empathetic zodiac sign that believes in true love. This zodiac sign desires to merge deeply with others and has a natural psychic ability and interest in other realms.

constellation in the night sky

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What Do the Houses Mean in a Birth Chart?

The houses represent the stage and setting where the planets act out their desires and needs. In other words, they can relate to the location, situation, interest, or relationships in which the planets take center stage.

First House

The First House represents the self, identity, personality, and appearance in the birth chart. It’s also representative of our birth, so it’s where the soul meets the body.

Second House

The Second House governs over material realm matters–our income, finances, and resources or skills that we can use to earn income. In modern astrology, this house also represents our values and relationship with our self-worth.

Third House

The Third House relates to themes of communication, learning, early education and related experiences, as well as siblings and distant relatives. This also has to do with our immediate surroundings and can describe the neighborhood we live in or grew up in.

Fourth House

The Fourth House deals with matters related to family, ancestry, or our home and property. This area of the chart also has to do with our private lives and what we keep to ourselves.

Fifth House

The Fifth House governs areas of life related to creativity, fertility, hobbies, romance, sex, and pleasure. It’s where we birth new ideas, projects or, hey, even babies. 

Sixth House

The Sixth House is all about our day-to-day routines, health, and work. It can also speak to relationships we have with co-workers or our pets. 

Seventh House

The Seventh House is a house of committed partnerships and contracts. This can be romantic relationships or business partnerships. It’s also the area of the chart that reveals the characteristics and types of people we seek in a partnership.

Eighth House

The Eighth House deals with our psyche, trauma, fears, death, loss, and shared resources. It’s a complex house that can also stir up an interest in the occult and psychic abilities.

Ninth House

The Ninth House is all about expansion, travel, learning, spirituality, and our world view. This area of the chart speaks to the types of new experiences we like to have and what we have an interest in investing our time in learning more about.

Tenth House

The Tenth House governs our reputation, career, and how others perceive us. You can look to this house for clues on work that you may find fulfilling and the legacy you hope to leave behind.

Eleventh House

The Eleventh House deals with our friendships, associations, networking, benefactors, and our hopes and dreams. It’s a house that explores the types of friendships we have and our long-term aspirations for the future.

Twelfth House

The Twelfth House is the final house and represents closure, endings, spirituality, and holds our self-destructive patterns and behaviors. This is where the self-undoing lies and reflecting more on the energy in this house can help us heal and move forward on our path.

Stephanie Campos-Powell
Stephanie Campos-Powell

Stephanie Campos-Powell is a Mexican-American astrologer, modern mystic, writer, editor, and serious cat lover. She's got four obnoxious planets in Leo and thanks the stars every day for her grounding Virgo moon. Reading celebrity birth charts just puts the wind in her sails, and so does Zumba. In her spare time, you can find her helping others step into their power with the help of magic, spellwork, astrology and various healing modalities. And creating passive-aggressive astrology memes about her loved ones.