The natal chart is the foundation for all astrological work, whether it is cast for an individual, a place (like the founding of a city or country), or an event (when to start a business or have a wedding). The natal chart is also necessary to understand other uses of astrology, like relationships (synastry), future timing for life changes (transits and progressions), and what energy is like where you live, or visit, when you travel (astrocartography).
Astrologers work to integrate the message of the map of the sky at the moment of inception: the first breath of a child, the final signature on a contract, the breaking ground for a new home or business. The precept “as above, so below” is a guiding principle in the art of astrological practice. What is “written in the stars” offers insight into human behavior, the energy of a place, and the rhythms of life.
The Many Uses of Astrology
The birth chart is the key chart for all other astrology readings. It is cast using your birth date, birth location, and birth time.
What’s happening in the sky right now, in the recent past, and into the future; and how those movements affect your birth chart.
Your evolving chart looks at the evolution of the birth chart using a special calculation where each day after your birth is equal to one year of your life.
From your point of birth, energy lines spread out around the globe, allowing you to look at how different locations affect your energy field.
Using astrology to look at world events, like casting a chart for the birth of a nation (July 4, 1776 at 5:30pm in Philadelphia, PA for the US).
Looks at specific events, like starting a new business or getting married.
Casting two charts of individuals to look at the energetic relationship between friends, lovers, family, or co-workers.
Casting a chart for a specific, “in the moment” question, such as, “Where are my keys?
Reviewing the Past, Understanding the Present, and Peering into the Future
The most fundamental understanding of time is linear. Events happened in the past, events are happening now, and events will happen. The solar system moves with time, but also in repeating patterns, thanks to a central body, around which all astronomical bodies rotate, the Sun.
It is important to know, however, that astrology does not look at the solar system from a heliocentric (Sun-centric) point of view. Rather, astrology uses Earth as the center of the physical layout of the motion of the solar system. Hence the Sun “goes around the Earth” every 365.25 days, returning to the exact degree it was in at the moment of your birth. In astrological terms, this moment is known as your Solar Return. In common terms, it is known as your birthday!
Because there are recurring patterns of moments over time, astrologers can look at any time past, present, or future and cast a chart. They can use this information to help you understand your past, present, and future. Future prediction is not deterministic, but it does offer a framework for choices and energetic influences “coming your way”. This information can help you make important and better decisions regarding your life path.
Rules for Casting the Birth Chart: Date, Place, and Time
In order to fully, and accurately, cast a birth chart, you need three pieces of information: the date of birth (mm/dd/yyyy), the location of birth (city/state or city/country), and the time of birth.
The date of birth provides the basic layout of the Solar System at any moment of inception. While there is a wealth of knowledge in this factor alone, it is not as precise as it can be, which is what happens when you add the additional factors. It is possible, over the course of a day for a point to ingress (move from one sign to another) if the point is near the cusp of a sign on that day.
For example, the Moon moves from one sign to another every other day. If all you have is the date of birth, and that day happens to be one where the Moon is moving from one sign to another, then you will have to look at the Moon in both signs.
In most cases, the date and location of birth or new event are known. As it turns out, adding the location does not matter unless you know the exact time of inception. If someone is born in Cary, North Carolina on April 6, 2021, and another person is born on the same day in Pretoria, South Africa, they will have the same chart if the time is unknown. If you were to pick a random time, say 12:00 pm for the Cary location, you would not use 12 pm for the Pretoria location; you would use 6:00 pm … because they would be “equal” unknown times.
Time is truly the crucial factor if you want a precise natal chart. The exact time of inception is what is necessary to set the Houses of the chart and determine the Zodiac Signs that will rule each of the twelve Houses. The exact time is also necessary to get the position of the Moon, Mercury, and Venus correct. Because these three bodies move relatively fast, they can be several degrees apart between 12:01 am in the morning and 12:59 pm at night. The Moon can easily be in one sign at the beginning of the day and in another sign by the end of the day.
It is so important that when the time is unknown, expert astrologers will attempt a process known as rectification to try to determine the exact time of birth. This technique involves using known events in the life of a person as a way to “backtrack” to the time of birth that would be necessary to produce the events that happened in the person’s life.
Reading a chart without the Exact Time of Birth
There is a tremendous amount of information that can be gleaned just from the date of birth alone. While not ideal, it can still be a powerful and useful reading experience, so long as the information that needs to be talked about in multiple ways is handled properly. If there is only the day and location of birth it is wise to look at an early morning version of the chart, say 2:00 am, a noontime version (12:00 pm), and an evening version (10:00 pm).
The Non-Astrological Factors
While an astrology chart is an amazing tool; it does not do everything or account for everything. Non-astrological factors are just as important. Let’s consider twins for a moment. In essence, except for a few minutes difference in the placement of the Moon and the angles of the chart, they have the same chart. But they do not have the same soul. They do not occupy time and space in the same way; the difference can begin as immediately as one being held in the right arm of the mother while the other is being held in the left arm.
So, it is possible, and does happen, that a very large number of people are born on the same day at, essentially, the same time. They literally have the same chart. But one of them is born in Russia, while another is born in Canada. One is born to a wealthy family while another is abandoned on the doorstep of an orphanage. With this knowledge in mind, it is necessary to treat each person individually and not fall into the trap of generalizing while ignoring the particulars of culture, gender, and so many other non-astrological factors.
Astrology Chart Interpretation
Expert interpretation of an astrology chart is an artfully skillful dynamic interaction between a professional astrologer and the client. Even the most sophisticated astrology programs can suffer from GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). They are built on staid data that is arranged in a way to create a flowing narrative, but that narrative is limited by the quality of the data in the program.
The best astrology readings are organic interactions between you, a professional, and the chart. askAstrology is here to help with the foundation of astrological knowledge, and to give you the best data to build your skill interpreting your own chart, knowing how to recognize an excellent astrology program (and its limitations), and how to discern which professionals really know the material and can artfully interpret your chart if you decide to hire them for a session.
Reading your astrology chart is a lifelong process, and askAstrology is a great place to begin!