The ideal situation is where you know the time of your birth to a minute or two. For practical purposes, if you know your birthtime within 5 minutes, you should be able to get an accurate reading. There is some controversy over when the exact moment of birth is anyway...is it when the cord is cut, or the first breath, etc. And often, the time of birth is rounded off by the person who records it at the time. For serious and in-depth chart work, it is possible to rectify (or 'figure out') the exact time of birth, down to a few seconds.
What does it mean that some of the houses in my chart are empty?
Houses (sections of the chart) that do not contain any planets are common. Since houses define different areas of life, it follows that when you have two or more planets in a house, the area of life symbolized by that house takes on more importance to you personally. If a house is empty, it doesn't mean that you neglect that area of life, just that you don't necessarily have complex issues to work out in that area, or that you don't focus your energies there as much as the houses where your planets are.
I'm an Aquarius, but I'm not like the typical Aquarian I read about. What gives?
There are a lot of factors at work in how the natal chart shows personality traits. The Sun Sign is about 10%, the Moon Sign about 10%, the Rising Sign about 10%. The rest of the planets also matter, and the house positions, especially which planets are close to the four angles (the Ascendant, Midheaven, etc.), matter a great deal. The aspects made by the Sun, Moon and planets also have a major effect. Sun Sign astrology works to some minor extent, but it was mostly a commercial consideration, and only became popular in the last 80 years or so. "Real" natal astrology takes the entire birthchart into consideration. In your case, if you have Capricorn rising, Mercury and Venus in Capricorn, many planets in the tenth house and Saturn conjunct Moon in Taurus, you will not appear as a typical Aquarian.
Can astrology really predict the future, or do we have free will?
Both are true in different ways. Astrology can predict with very good accuracy the conditions in which you find yourself, the psychological climate and the pressures which motivate you at any given time. However, you still make choices. On the other hand, certain things seem fated and are often described perfectly in the birthchart. For example, what parts of your body are most prone to health problems, and how your parents treated you. Keep in mind that the chart symbolizes a relentless shaping influence, so, of course, your life ends up looking like your chart. Also, not all astrologers agree on this question.
I've got most of my planets in the bottom half of my chart, and I've been told that this means I'm shy and withdrawn. This doesn't seem to apply to me; besides, I have a Leo Sun and a Moon in Sagittarius. Can you suggest another way to look at this?
This is one of the pitfalls of not looking at the chart as an organic whole. Most people with a fire Sun and Moon are not going to be shy and withdrawn unless they have their Moon squaring Saturn, or many aspects to Neptune, and even then, there may be other chart factors that modify this shyness. When we have most of our planets in the bottom of the chart (the northern hemisphere), this means that those planets were literally below the horizon at the moment of our birth. Some astrologers think this makes the native more introspective, but being introspective is not the same thing as being shy. Introspection is defined as "observing or examining one's own mental and emotional state." And perhaps it's true that people with a southern hemispheric emphasis work more actively with their own inner raw materials, and are therefore more subjective, and more apt to want to do things in their own way and on their own terms. In my opinion, they are not so much at the effect of society's attitudes and demands, and would rather do what they love even if prestige and money are lacking.
All of my planets are on one side of my chart, except for Jupiter, on the other side. Does that make Jupiter important?
Right you are. Jupiter would be called a singleton or focal planet. Your chart features a bucket pattern. This means that most of the planets are within an arc of 180° or less, with one planet opposing them. This isolated planet is regarded as the handle of the bucket, and much of the energy of the other planets may be channeled through it, giving drive or purpose to the whole chart. It is also the sole representative for a large section of the birth chart. You may tend to do things big, and to have an enthusiastic and positive outlook on life. Higher learning and philosophic ideals may also be important to you.
What does it mean that I have the Moon in the 5th house, but close to the beginning of the 6th house? Which house is it really in?
Depending on how close the Moon is to the 6th house cusp and what aspects (angular relationships) it makes to other planets, you can probably read it either way, but one way to look at it is as though the houses are rooms and the cusps are doors, so that your Moon is standing in the 5th looking into the 6th. What this means is that you will experience things in a blend of 5th and 6th house styles, and both areas of life will provide important experiences that will contribute to your sense of being alive and your sense of being who you are. Another possibility for this placement is that you primarily experience life from the 5th house vantage point, but with overtones of a 6th house flavor to your life situations.
In my chart, the entire sign of Pisces is contained in the 8th house, and the entire sign of Virgo is contained in the 2nd. What does this say about those houses?
Those houses contain what are called intercepted signs, meaning, as you described, that an entire sign is completely contained within one house. Intercepted signs always come in pairs, since the opposite sign and house will feature the interception as well. This denotes a strong focus on the pairing of that sign energy with that house energy, and particularly if there are planets in those signs and houses, those areas of life will be very prominent for you.
I don't have any planets in water signs except for Venus in Scorpio. Does this mean I'm not emotional?
Having no planets in water does not make you an unemotional person. But the absence or underrepresentation of one element means that it will be a challenge for you to feel comfortable with the expression of that element. For example, with water lacking in your chart, you may find it difficult to express your emotions or to "get in touch with your feelings." The key here is that it is difficult, but not impossible: it can be very rewarding to develop the underrepresented or missing element, and in fact, you might find that you are drawn to people or situations which help you learn to express it.
I have read that the Moon has to do with relationships. I have a Pisces Moon. What signs should I look to for compatibility?
The Sun or Moon in earth (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) or water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces) would have a natural affinity with a Pisces Moon. Also Neptune (Pisces' ruler) in aspect to a personal planet or the Ascendant of the other's chart may get along well with the Pisces Moon. In order to learn astrology it is necessary to study and understand affinities and elemental compatibility. Human nature is infinitely complex, however and to oversimplify does not do justice to the intricacies of the human experience. Although sign emphasis differs from person to person, we all contain all of the twelve signs and relationships of all types occur in any combination. Although elemental affinities reveal a great deal, there are many other questions that give important information to us regarding issues of compatibility. How well do we know ourselves and our needs? How well do we communicate our needs? What do we expect or want from a relationship? What is the purpose of a particular relationship in our lives? There are ways of looking at the chart to uncover answers to these questions but at any point in our astrological studies we can have a dialogue with ourselves to begin to unravel the subject of compatibility in a most personal and rewarding way.
What is the celestial equator?
The celestial equator is the plane of the earth's equator extended into space. The zodiac belt begins at 0 degrees Aries which is the point where the Sun's path intersects with the celestial equator at the March Equinox each year.
Although astrology is an intuitive science and many fine astrologers do not know much astronomy, the study of astronomy can only enhance your understanding of astrology (and your ability to explain how astrology and astronomy differ). We highly recommend that all astrology students also study astronomy.
Am I stuck with my birthchart or do things change over time?
Yes and no. You are not stuck with your chart but rather blessed with it because your chart shows the best possible environment for your continued evolution and growth in this lifetime. There are many techniques to bring your chart into the present and show the changing conditions of your life and current influences and challenges. However, the birthchart is the foundation for all other interpretive work and I believe that we have the opportunity throughout life to continue to understand and refine our inherent nature revealed through its design.
Which are more important-inner or outer planets?
The inner planets (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn) and outer planets (Uranus, Neptune, Pluto) are part of the whole mandala, and although they describe different functions, are of equal importance. While the inner planets are associated with our personal identity and concerns, the outer planets reflect our place in the greater picture of generational and collective issues. Without the experience and knowledge of self gained through the inner planets, we do not have an effective vehicle through which to participate in collective energies which bring untold depth, mystery and magic into the life of the individual.
Would aspects between Mars/Neptune or Mercury/Neptune in the natal chart show a person's tendency toward dishonesty?
Neptune can tend to veil or fog wherever it is placed in a chart making for some unclear conditions. This is not necessarily dishonest, but maybe imaginative or open to unusual perceptions and experiences regarding thoughts (with Mercury) or desires (with Mars).
I have Mars in the 12th house, the house of secrets and enemies. Does this mean I need to be wary of all Virgo people?
You must feel particularly vulnerable to attack to ask this kind of question. Maybe for you, Mars in the 12th house means that you do not have a fully developed awareness of your ability to defend yourself or to have adequate boundaries in situations involving conflict. Another person's Sun (or other planet) falling in your 12th house may make that person an ideal recruit to play a part in your 12th house issues.
Do all of the houses have the same number of degrees?
Each of the signs of the zodiac have 30°, but only the Equal house system uses houses of exactly 30°. All other house systems have varying size houses. That's why aspects are measured between planets in their signs, regardless of house position.
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