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Minderwiz's Avatar
Minderwiz  Minderwiz is offline
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Reading Your Chart


It's really encouraging to see people trying to read their own charts - and those of others. So I thought I'd start a thread on the process so that people can ask questions on the methods of chart interpretation.

For this thread I'll assume that you already have your own chart, obtained of the Net or from computer software.

The first thing you should do is go through the balance of elements (triplicities) and qualities or modalities (quadruplitities).

I'll deal with the elements in this post

The Elements are:

Fire - Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Earth - Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
Air - Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Water - Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces

The simplest way is to count one for each planet in one of these signs. So you could end up with say, five Water, three Air and one each of the other two.

Most astrologers will go beyond this. The most common variant is to count two each for the luminaries (Sun and Moon). Some will go further and also count two for the Ascendant ruler (which is also called the chart ruler), some will even count two for the Sun's ruler (planet that rules the sign that the Sun is in). Others do not count the outer planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto as their effect is generational, rather than personal. I tend to use the first variant and count two for Sun and Moon, giving me a maximum of twelve in the count.

You should also take not of the elements of the Ascendant and the MC - use these as possible 'tie breakers' (though again some astrologers will include them in the count).

Look for which element is dominant (if any) and just as important, which element or elements are weak.

In crude terms Fire is action, enthusiasm, strength, honesty, radiated energy, and impatience.

Earth is practicality, materialistic, persistant, careful and suspicious

Air is ideas, mental activity, theories, abstract concepts, detached and rational

Water is feelings, emotions, the power of the unconscious mind, empathy, sympathy, sensitive and receptive.

A lack of one of these does not mean that that side of the personality is entirely absent - it means that the person may have difficulty expressing that side - a lack of Water may suggest that the person has difficulty expressing their feelings and emotions or treats them with suspicion or will be uncomfortable with emotional displays by others.

Astrologers will also look for compensations in the chart for any lack of element. These are through house placements. The first, fifth and ninth Houses are sometimes called the Fire Houses or the Triplicity of Life. Planets in these, what ever the sign, can be seen as offseting a lack of Fire.

The Triplicity of Substance or Matter, the second, sixth and tenth houses may provide planets which offest a lack of Earth.

The remaining Triplicities of Houses are those of Relationships and Soul (or endings) which correspond to Air and Water respectively.

The Astrologer, Stephen Arroyo, reckons that over 50% of his interpretation is based on the elements (and their qualities).

If there are any questions, I'll answer them and then post on the qualities of Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable in terms of balance and the Yin/Yang balance.
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Thanks for starting this up, Minderwiz! I think that understanding the elements and modalities (aka qualities) are really important and that's why I'm going through the rest of the zodiac by element. It's easy to get caught up in the nitty gritty of the signs and planets, in fact, I didn't pay much attn to the elements/modes at first.... but now I find them to be very important basic concepts that yield a lot of info.
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For anyone wanting a good book on this area Stephen Arroyo's Astrology, Psychology and The Four Elements is excellent.
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After estaablishing the element balance for the chart go on and look at the qualities and the Yin/Yang balance.

The Qualities are:

Cardinal: Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn

Fixed: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius

Mutable: Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces

The best way to look at them is as the attributes you need to design, initiate and see through a project.

Cardinal signs are initiators, they provide the push to get things going, but they may become bored once things are underway and lose interest - staying power may be a problem

Fixed signs have the staying power to see things through. They can be single minded and will work hard to a purpose. They are not particularly good at getting things underway and once things are underway they may be slow to adapt to changing circumstances

Mutable signs are good at change and adaptation, though again may lack staying power.

A good balance of all three shows the ability to intiate, see things through and adapt to change. An excess of one or a lack of another can cause problems in seeing a 'project' through.

The Yin/Yang balance is sometimes referred to as masculine and feminine or positive and negative.

The Yang principle is embodied by the Fire and Air signs and is active and outwardly directed - it is associated with extroversion by psychological astrologers.

The Yin principle is embodied in the Earth and Water signs and is passive and receptive. It is associated with introversion by psychological astrologers.

Again a balance is desirable an imbalance, especially a strong imbalance may be a good indicator of introversion or extroversion.

In the next post I'll mention hemisphere analysis and aspect patterns.
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The final issues in taking an overview of your chart are hemisphere analysis and aspect patterns.

I'll talk about hemisphere analysis here and then do a separate post on aspect patterns.


Hemispheres analysis looks at the relative weighting between two hemispheres of the chart. The first two are the Northern Hemisphere - which consists of Houses 1 - 6 inclusive and the Southern Hemisphere which consists of Houses 7 - 12 inclusive.

Or to put it more simply, the Northern hemisphere is that part of your chart below the Ascendant/Descendant line and the Southern hemisphere is that part of your chart above the Ascendant/Descendant line. Incidentally, if your Sun is in the Southern hemisphere you were born during the daytime, if it is in the Northern hemisphere you were born during nightime.

Count the planets in each half. If most of your planets fall into the northern hemisphere then you are more likely to be more introverted and private in your expression, you don't easily share your innermost thoughts with others. If most of your planets are in the Southern hemisphere then you are more likely to be extroverted in your expression and more open with your feelings to others. The argument for this is that in the Southern hemisphere planets are visible (assuming that the Sun is not one of them) in the Northern hemisphere planets cannot be seen at all, as (in the Northern hemisphere of Earth) they have set below the horizon.

The other part of hemisphere analysis is to look at the Eastern and Western hemispheres. The Eastern hemisphere is houses 10 - 12 and 1 -3 or the left hand half as you look at your chart. Technically these lie to the East of the Midheaven, the Ascendant being the most Easterly part of your chart. The Western hemisphere is that to the right of the Midheaven, the right hand part of your chart, Houses 4 - 9 inclusive.

If you have most planets in the East, then your are most focused on individual expresion, you are self reliant, self initiating and active.

If you have most of your planets in the West then you are most focused on relating to others. You are more receptive, tend to rely on others and follow the lead of others.

Don't overdo the interpretation here. a 6 - 4 split is only just out of balance and is actually more likely than a 5 -5 split of planets. However 8 -2 or 9 - 1 gives a strong picture and 7 -3 shows definite tendencies.

You can combine both these approaches and look at the quadrants of your chart (SE, SW, NW, and NE) by combining the interpretations.

The interpretations above apply to people born in the Northern Hemisphere of Earth and thinking about it whilst I was writing, I think the North/South interpretation would have to be reversed for people living in the Southern Hemisphere of Earth.

Hemisphere analysis is not as widely accepted as the analysis of elements done previously and you will find many who do not use it. I use it as a back up to element analysis but will give precedence to the elements if I come across conflict between two interpretations.
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thank you, thank you, thank you minderwiz! i can now look at the charts of my family and feel like i am really getting a 'big important picture'.

i am using a chart from astrodienst. it includes chiron and the 'true node'. should i leave these out when analysing the elements and hemispheres etc.?

you wrote about looking for compensations for lack of elements. does this also apply with qualities, yin yang balance and hemispheres? would a sun, moon and rising have more influence than the other planets?
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I wouldn't use the nodes in this process, nor for that matter the part of fortune or any other mathematical point (with the exceptions of Ascendant and MC, which I would note separately).

Chiron is a very debatable issue. There are many Astrologers who would count it here. There are also many who would not count it at all or use it as a supporting 'planet' after the count. I don't use it at this stage but if you feel that Chiron has a definite role to play then you can include it.

You could use compensation for the qualities, using Angular, Succedent and Cadent Houses, for Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable signs. I haven't seen any compensation based on the Yin/Yang balance - I think if you have also done the hemisphere analysis you probably have enough info to form a judgement.

Ranking of planets is again a rather debatable issue but I think there is little doubt that the Sun ranks first (though by how much is the debate) followed by Ascendant, Moon (some would say vice versa), Chart Ruler, and possibly Sun ruler. Then the personal planets Mercury, Venus and Mars. Jupiter and Saturn are more social planets (you and your interaction with society) because of their relatively slow orbit and then the outer planets last.

Astrologers will give more emphasis to a planet that is Angular (rising, zenith, setting or nadir) than if it is placed away from the angles. Saturn or one of the outer planets on the Ascendant would become important rather than a relatively minor consideration.

This is rather simplistic because it ignores aspects - a conunction of the Sun and Neptune will give Neptune more importance than say Jupiter when it is inconjunct Mars (and assuming that it has no other aspect of importance).

Some computer software will rank aspects depending on the planets, where they are and what the aspect is - that can be helpful in sorting out relative importance.

Otherwise work from the Sun outwards for planets and take account of where they are and if they make major aspects to other planets.
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Aspect Patterns


The last part of the overview is in someways the most difficult - especially without loads of sample charts.

However here goes: Astrologers also give importance to some of the patterns formed by drawing aspect lines between the planets. On computer/internet charts these tend to be blue for easy aspects such as trines and sextiles and red for hard aspects such as oppositions and squares.

The main patterns are:

Grand Trine - three planets in signs of the same element and in trine to each other. This gives a blue equilateral triangle on your chart. It shows the easy flow of energy around your chart - in Fire signs this signifies a highly active person. in Earth signs people who are grounded and practical and material things come easily to them. In Air they are extremely social and relationship oriented, good at making connections and ideas and in Water they are extremely sensitive to emotions and often act on intuition and instinct.

Grand Cross - two planets in opposition to each other both in square to two other planets in opposition to each other. They form a red square on your chart and can be in Cardinal, Fixed or Mutable signs. They show a store of driving energy. In Cardinal signs they are conccerned with identity, in Fixed signs they are concerned with self worth and in Mutalbe signs they are concerned with maintaining focus and coherence.

For both Grand Trines and Grand Squares the effect is lessened (some would say greatly lessened) if one or more of the planets is out of element or out of quality. For example a Grand Trine with two Earth signs and a Fire sign (late degree) would be weakened.

T Square - this is a Grand Cross with a missing planet,, so to speak - it forms a right angle triangle (in red) on your chart. There are two planets in opposition both square to a third planet. A T square is about moving forward or taking action with the focus on the planet at the apex of the T Square. So take note of this planet by element and quality.

Stelium - in someways this is the easiest to recognise - several planets all conjunct in one sign. In practice they will be separated by several degrees, strictly speaking, no more than eight degrees from the next. Four planets could therefore more or less cover the entire sign, though it is most likely that they will all be in a space of 10 - 15 degrees. The usual definition is that three or more planets have to be involved. The closer they are together the strong the stellium is. A stellium places a great importance on the energy of that sign in the person's life - again it is stronger if the personal planets (Sun, Moon , Mercury, Venus and Mars) are involved. You can get away with taking a stellium as simply three or more planets in the sign, no matter what the separation but be a little cautious if you do.

I have two stellia - one in Scorpio and one in Leo, each with three planets.

You will see reference to other aspect patterns, with exotic names such as 'Kite', 'See Saw,' 'Finger of Yod','Bowls', 'Buckets' and 'Locomotives'. Start out with the ones mentioned above and as you get used to chart analysis seek out the definitions and meanings of the rest.

Aspect patterns enable you to tease more out of the chart at a holistic level and they are relatively easy to analyse.
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T-Square cont: I've read that if you find the degree that opposes the apex planet you'll find the area of your chart that you need to work on, or where you will find resolution to the T-Square. w/my limited experience, I find ppl instinctively work on those areas anyways... ie. I have a friend who is aware of major issues w/body image and self worth and her 'empty' opposition is in the 2nd house (forget which sign).

One question I think might have gotten lost in the Sag thread: How important are dispositors in interpreting a chart?
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Reading Chart


Question to Minderwiz

What does having weak aspects or strong aspects means?
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