There are twelve signs in the Zodiac, one for each month of the year. Unfortunately, the signs and the calendar don’t align perfectly. The Zodiac begins in mid-March, not on January first; and signs span from roughly the 20th or 21st of one month to the 19th or 20th of the next, not the 1st to the 31st. (Are you confused yet? No? Good!)
When someone asks you what your sign is, they’re referring to your Sun Sign -- where the sun was in the Zodiac at the exact moment of your birth. But every other planet in your birth chart is also located in a particular sign, and is influenced by that sign’s unique energy.
This explains why everyone who’s born under the influence of the same Sun Sign can still have such vastly different personalities; each of us is made up of a complex and unique combination of influences from the twelve signs, the twelve houses and all the planets, asteroids and points... Now, that’s definitely getting complicated! But clearly, having lots of planets in a certain sign in your chart will only intensify that sign’s influence in your life.
Each sign of the Zodiac is associated with a particular symbol, usually an animal, like the Ram (Aries) or the Bull (Taurus); an element, such as Air (Gemini) or Water (Cancer); and a quality, such as Fixed (Leo) or Mutable (Virgo). Each of these variables helps us to understand more about the signs that influence us and the energy inherent in each.
We’ve all heard about Mercury Retrograde -- how communication gets confused, traffic slows down and luggage gets lost when this little planet appears to start moving backward in the heavens. Mercury, however, is not the only planet that turns retrograde. In fact, all the planets except the Sun and the Moon go retrograde regularly.
So, what is this mysterious retrograde motion? It’s a simple optical illusion that occurs when a faster-moving planet passes a slower planet in its orbit. It’s like driving down the freeway at a very high rate of speed. If you pass a car inching along in the slow lane, it will appear that the slower car is moving backward. It’s not, of course, but it appears that way to you, in the faster car. In astrology, retrogradation is the apparent temporary 'backward' motion of a planet when measured against the background of the celestial zodiac.
The periodic backward motion of the planets was first observed many thousands of years ago, and in fact, the urge to understand retrograde motion was a driving impulse in the development of mathematics and sciences.
When a planet is retrograde, it’s as close as it can get to Earth, and if it’s visible, it’s very bright. These facts give us a clue as to the importance of retrograde planets: Their effects are strong!
A retrograde planet makes three crisscrosses over the same few degrees of the zodiac within a limited time span. That illuminates another clue for interpreting its effects: During a retrograde period, you’ll have to try extra hard to focus, and sometimes, you’ll have to do things more than once before you get the job done right.
Often planets in retrograde are considered to have a negative effect, but this is not true. A much better interpretation is that retrograde motion turns the energy of the planet inward. That energy is now in concentrated form, helping us to understand and integrate it more holistically and completely. You could look at retrograde motion as a planet inhaling, and direct motion as the planet exhaling. It’s the breath of the solar system.
The most important points in the retrograde cycle are the degree at which the planet turns retrograde, and the degree at which it once again returns to direct motion. At these points, the energy of the planet is particularly noticeable and strong.
Each sign is split into 3 parts:
A cusp is that mysterious boundary between one Zodiac sign and the next. When the Sun, or any planet, changes signs, it shifts the energies from one to the other.
If you were born on the cusp of two signs, you may feel like you embody characteristics of both, but the actual sign you were born under is your true, natural sign.
Look at it this way: Humans love order. We can’t control Mother Nature, but we sure can try! When it comes to time, we’ve devised all kinds of systems: calendars, clocks, Daylight Savings in the summer... We run on schedules, but the universe isn’t so regimented.
For example, we have Leap Years because our 365-day calendar doesn’t reflect the actual, natural cycle of a year; we adjust for the slight variation with an extra day in February every four years.
Because the Zodiac does not align perfectly with the calendar, there can be confusion about when the Sun changes signs. But really, there is no confusion. According to astrology’s mathematical calculations, you’re born under one sign or the other; not both. If you were born on a cusp, you may feel influenced by both signs, and for good reason.
Planets that are close to the Sun, like Mercury and Venus, often lie either in the same sign as the Sun in your birth chart, or in the sign just before or after. Your Sun sign is still the core of your being, but you’re also strongly influenced by the other planets’ placement in your chart.
The Full Moon is hard to miss in the sky. The big round luminary shines bright, adding a blue-tinged light upon the Earth's nighttime landscape. You may feel a slightly unusual vibe in the air, maybe even excitement.
Myths abound about the effects of the full Moon. Think werewolves. Folks have been known to behave strangely during the Moon’s full display. The ocean tides rise higher during a full Moon due to the gravitational pull, which may explain why some folks behave oddly since our bodies are also comprised of 83% water.
The bright light can cause restless slumbers, keeping you tossing and turning through the night. Don’t be surprised if you find your dreams are more vivid and action-filled.
The Moon can trigger your intuition as well; realizations may hit you during quiet moments. The full Moon is especially romantic for couples who want to bask in her glorious light during a nighttime stroll.
It can also represent a time when you begin to see the potential benefits of work that was initiated during the New Moon. It can be a glorious period, full of self-awareness and fulfillment. Impasses can be broken.
The Moon’s powerful beams shine a light on those darker spaces that are difficult to see. From this point on for the next two weeks, the Moon wanes, which is an effective time for release and letting go. So if you’re interested in reducing weight, you may want to embark on a diet at this time.
When you hear the word ‘planets,’ you probably think of the Solar System -- as in, My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas. Ever heard that one? It’s a mnemonic device used to memorize the order of the planets; Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto.
The planets were in a certain, distinctive pattern in the sky at the exact moment that you were born, and a map of their configuration is called your natal chart, or birth chart. Each planet represents something in itself -- your personality (Sun), the way you think (Mercury), the way you love (Venus) and so on -- but together, the angles and connections among all of them also paint a highly specific and accurate portrait of who you are as an individual.
Some people like to claim that astrology doesn’t work -- that it provides only generic information that could be applied to anyone. But take a look at a reading of your birth chart, and you’ll find out just how specific the information gets! You’ll be amazed by the picture of you that astrology paints, including in-depth analysis of your emotional life, your dreams and motivations and your subconscious drives.
Our solar system is comprised of nine planets and various smaller objects such as asteroids and comets, all of which orbit around the brightest and warmest object, the Sun. Each planet has its own 'orbital cycle' -- that is, how long it takes to circle completely around the Sun. ‘Interior’ planets are the fast-moving planets between Earth and the Sun. ‘Exterior’ planets are those beyond Earth and have longer orbits. The planets furthest from the Sun have the longest orbits. Also, each planet has physical qualities that make it unique.
Every planet except the Sun and Moon has its own 'retrograde cycle' too. Remember, retrograde motion is an optical illusion caused by a faster planet outpacing a slower planet in their respective orbits. Think of two runners on a circular track. The runner in the inner lane usually gains distance over a runner in an outer lane. It’s the same with the planets, and the changing relationships between planets and the Earth sometimes make it seem that planets are moving backwards against the backdrop of the zodiac. The energy of the planet is directed inward during retrograde periods.
Each planet also has its own cycle of visibility, except Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, which aren’t visible without a telescope. In fact, some of our interpretations for the planets come from factors related to their visibility, such as the fleeting nature of Mercury or the limits of Saturn.
An astrological chart is cast for the moment a person draws their first breath. After a person is born, the planets continue to move through each of the zodiac signs until, sooner or later, they each return to the original degree and sign they were in at the time of birth.
However, humans don't live long enough to witness the complete revolution of every planet. We usually live to see many entire revolutions of interior planets and some of the exterior planets. The return of a planet to its natal position indicates a focus on the activities of that planet.
Moon Phases: the Moon is that bright, luminous orb we see in the night sky, counterpart to the fiery Sun in daytime. In astrology, the lunar light rules the unconscious realms of our minds, the stuff dreams are made of.
Our instinctual reactions can be affected by the Moon’s phases over the course of a month, or to be more specific, 29.5 Earth days, as the Moon grows from a small crescent to a large glowing globe and then decreases in size back to nothing.
The Moon, of course, doesn't really shrink or grow, but our view of the Moon from our vantage point here on earth changes due to the relative positions of the Sun, Earth and Moon. This is why we see lunar phases.
There are eight noticeable phases of the Moon:
Astrologers over time have correlated these eight phases of the Moon with certain activities that seem to be in harmony with that particular phase. For instance, it seems natural to begin something new when the Moon is first visible as a small crescent seen just after the setting sun.
As the Moon grows over the next two weeks, so grows your new project. Culmination occurs when the Moon is full, in all her round glory. As she shrinks again it is a time for pulling in, for introspection, for releasing and letting go, in preparation for the next cycle.
Have you ever noticed how most of the planets in astrology seem to have masculine qualities? With the notable exception of the Moon and Venus, which are distinctly feminine, our planetary panoply is majorly male.
All that changed on January 1, 1801, when the asteroid Ceres was discovered in between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. And that was just the beginning! Several more asteroids were discovered in short order, in what is now called the Asteroid Belt.
As our instruments improved, we continued to find them. Currently, over 30,000 asteroids have been found and over 10,000 have names -- and we’re still discovering more! Now, that’s an awful lot of asteroids; too many to use in any sort of practical matter.
Asteroids are small and rocky, and do not qualify as planets. However, the larger ones have distinct qualities associated with them, astrologically speaking. Astrologers use the four largest asteroids -- Ceres, Juno, Vesta and Pallas Athena -- as feminine archetypes.
In addition, many astrologers add Chiron (pronounced KY-ron) to the mix. This maverick asteroid was discovered in 1977 and correlates strongly with the healing principle.
Many astrologers find that using the asteroids adds a whole new level of information and interpretation to their work with astrology.