Astrology 101: Get to Know Basic Astrology Terms

Table of Contents

Introduction to Basic Astrology Lingo

Have you ever caught a Twitter thread conversation (I’m never calling it X) between astrologers and felt like they were speaking an entirely different language? They might as well be, but I can give you a rundown on the lingo. 

I’m going to give you a breakdown of everything an astrologer is looking for when we’re looking at a chart. The only things I will cover will be the basics needed to read a chart. By the time you’re done reading this, you’ll be ready to join in the next conversation.

Before we begin, you need to know what astrology is and what it is not. 

Astrology is a form of divination that involves observing and interpreting the Sun, the Moon, and the planets. Depending on the astrologer, some also use fixed stars and asteroids. 

Also, the method of astrology used determines if an astrologer uses all of the planets, including Pluto, or if they only consider the planets through Saturn.

Astrology does not mean everyone with the same Sun sign has identical qualities or personalities. So now you can stop hating all Scorpios because your ex has a Scorpio Sun…

Also, you are not an xyz sign. You have all the signs and planets in your chart. Only recognizing your Sun sign keeps you from seeing all of yourself in your birth chart. 

I’ll show you how to find the other key placements so you can get to know all of your planets.

The Planets

Overview of Key Planets

You should already know all of the celestial bodies in our solar system. I’ll still go over them to refresh your memory. 

In astrology, the Sun and the Moon are the luminaries. They both provide light to the earth and are sometimes called planets with the rest. Next are Mercury, Venus, and Mars. Together, these make up the five personal planets. 

These planets rule things that happen in your personal life. After the personal planets reside, the social planets, these planets affect you in the ways you deal with other people. 

Last are the transpersonal or generational planets: Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. They are called generational planets because the time it takes for them to move from one sign to the next can be between 7-30 years vs the 2.5 days-13 months of the first seven planets.

Retrogrades

Retrogrades aren’t so scary once you learn about what they are and how they affect your life. 

The planets aren’t actually moving backward during a retrograde; they only appear to be due to a change in their speed as they orbit the Sun. 

When a planet goes retrograde in astrology, it’s like hitting a pause button. Instead of moving forward, its energy takes a U-turn, making us look back and inward to reflect. Think of it like a performance review  – time to revisit and reconsider things related to that planet’s energy. 

Even though retrogrades have a terrible reputation, they give us a chance to grow, become more self-aware, and rethink our priorities. It’s like the universe saying, “Hold on, let’s take a moment to figure things out.”

For instance, Mercury retrograde, one of the most well-known retrogrades, is associated with communication issues, technological glitches, and misunderstandings. It is a time when reviewing and revising plans rather than starting new projects is best. 

Here are a few things that may be affected during the retrogrades of the other planets:

Venus retrograde: relationships, emotions, creativity

Mars retrograde: physical body, stamina, energy level

Jupiter retrograde: personal identity, spirituality

Saturn retrograde: emotional/physical limits, time 

Infographic titled Main Things to Know About Each Planet's Retrograde

Signs, Houses, & Aspects

Zodiac Signs

The zodiac is the path the Sun travels through each year from our perspective on Earth. Ancient astrologers separated the path into 12 sections and named the parts after the constellations closest to the section.

The 12 zodiac signs are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces.

The 12 zodiac signs are divided into four elements (fire, earth, air, and water) and three modalities (cardinal, fixed, and mutable). Each element group has only one modality. 

Modalities can be explained as follows: cardinal signs initiate, fixed signs maintain, and mutable signs adapt. Let’s take the fire signs as an example. Aries, a cardinal fire sign, is like striking a match. Leo, a fixed fire sign, is like a massive bonfire or the Sun, which rules that sign. Sagittarius, a mutable fire sign, is like a wildfire.

Infographic titled Astrology 101 The Four Elements
Astrological Houses

In addition to the 12 zodiac signs, twelve houses represent 12 different areas of life. The house each zodiac sign falls into is determined by the time you were born. 

Your birth time lets the astrologer know what zodiac sign was in line with the Earth’s horizon, aka your rising sign. Your rising sign also called the ascendant, is in the first house, and all the other signs fall in line. (some astrology methods allow for the ascendant to be in the 12th house, but that is more complex to include in a beginner’s guide)

When you look at your chart, you’ll see the circle divided into 12 sections. The section on the middle left with the letters “ASC” is your first house. Your first house is you. It represents the things that you do and things that happen to you. 

After the first house, the second house will be the next section counter-clockwise and continue until you’ve returned to the first.

2nd house: income, possessions, personal values

3rd house: close family (outside of parents and children), communication methods, short travel

4th house: parents (mainly father), home, ancestors

5th house: children, creativity, sex, hobbies

6th house: co-workers, habits, work tasks/environment, illness/treatment

7th house: partners (personal and professional), projection, known enemies

8th house: loss, shared resources, material dependency, open secrets

9th house: long distance travel, government, education, spirituality

10th house: career, reputation, managers, mother

11th house: community, audience, friendships, hopes

12th house: isolation, unknown enemies, hospitals, mental illness, hidden secrets

Combining zodiac signs and houses allows astrologers to gain more specific insights from a chart.

Planetary Aspects

You’ve most likely heard an astrologer say something like, “The moon is opposite Jupiter” or “Mars is making a trine with Saturn.” These are called aspects. 

Aspects refer to the angle formed by the connection of two planets. These aspects provide valuable insights into an individual’s personality, relationships, and life experiences. There are five major aspects that you will see all the time.

Conjunction 

A conjunction occurs when two planets align at the same degree in a zodiac sign. This aspect intensifies the influence of the planets, creating a more focused energy. Depending on which planets are combined, conjunctions can signify unity or conflict.

Sextile 

A sextile forms when two planets are approximately 60 degrees apart. This aspect is considered positive. Sextiles indicate fluid energy between planets that can be used for personal growth and expression.

Square 

A square occurs when planets are separated by 90 degrees. This aspect creates tension, leading to growth and transformation or conflict and obstacles.

Trine 

A trine is another positive aspect formed when planets are about 120 degrees apart. This aspect brings a harmonious and easy-flowing energy, usually in favorable conditions. Trines also encourage smooth cooperation and teamwork.

Opposition 

An opposition occurs when planets are 180 degrees apart, creating tension between the two planets. You’ll see these planets directly across from one another in your chart. This aspect reflects a need for balance between conflicting energies. 

Infographic titled Astrology 101 Degrees of the Aspects

Things Astrologers Look For

Astrologers don’t look at planets, signs, houses, and aspects independently; instead, we see them as pieces of a connected puzzle. The entirety of the chart is examined to get a complete story. There are key elements that guide our first steps, allowing us to uncover the answer that we are seeking. 

Sun Sign and Moon Sign

Other than telling us what phase the moon was in when you were born, the Sun and Moon show us what is being illuminated in your chart. The placement of your Sun tells us about your mind and where your focus is, and your moon tells us about your body and upbringing.

Rising Sign (Ascendant)

This sign makes up the first house, known as the Ascendant or Rising sign, shows us your personality, and determines the house placement for all signs.

Planetary Placements

The positions of planets in specific zodiac signs and houses give insights into different aspects of life. For example, Mercury governs communication and learning, Venus influences love and aesthetics, and Mars signifies drive and ambition.

Astrologers analyze the placements of these planetary energies to decipher strengths, challenges, and potential life paths.

Aspects Between Planets

Because aspects are the connection between planets, they reveal how the energy of the planets is working off of each other. In a birth chart, these aspects depict how different personality parts work together or may present challenges.

Houses and Their Rulers

Astrologers look to the houses where planets reside and the rulership of those houses to understand specific areas of an individual’s life. A planet rules each zodiac sign.

Mars rules Aries and Scorpio. Venus rules Taurus and Libra. Mercury rules Gemini and Virgo. The Moon rules cancer. Leo is ruled by the Sun. Jupiter rules Sagittarius and Pisces. Saturn rules Capricorn and Aquarius.

Retrogrades

Retrogrades are especially important to look for in transit charts, which are used to predict future trends or new developments. They tell us the themes that will be revisited or internalized based on the planet’s themes and placement.

For example, a retrograde Mercury may indicate miscommunication, but a retrograde Mercury in Virgo in your 11th house may mean that your followers on social media might take a joke you say literally.

Conclusion

Use this guide to help you follow along with conversations about astrology. It may take time to become an expert, but the next time you read your birth chart, you’ll already have a new perspective.

Everyone learns at their own pace, so don’t worry if you feel behind. Once you are familiar with these topics, you’ll feel more confident expanding your astrology knowledge.

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