To understand astrology, you have to memorize quite a bit of information or keep cheat sheets. So in the beginning, we’re just going to go over some dry facts.

First, you need to know the signs in order. This is absolutely critical to understanding the basic tool of astrology, aspects. So here they are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces. If you don’t memorize anything else, memorize this.

Next you have to know what element each sign is. Fire: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius. Air: Gemini, Libra, Aquarius. Earth: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn. Water: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces. Fire signs have energy, Air signs are mental. Earth signs are practical. And water signs are emotional.

Next the modality. Cardinal: Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn. Fixed: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius. Mutable: Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces. Cardinal signs are leaders. Fixed signs are stubborn and mutable signs are changeable.

Next the houses they rule. Aries: the 1st House of Yourself. Taurus: the 2nd House of Money. Gemini: the 3rd House of Communications. Cancer the 4th House of Home. Leo: the Fifth House of Children & Creativity. Virgo: the 6th House of Health & Work. Libra: the 7th House of Partnerships. Scorpio: the 8th House of Other People’s Money, Sagittarius: the 9th House of Foreign Countries. Capricorn: the 10th House of Career. Aquarius: the 11th House of Friends. Pisces: the 12th House of Prisons & Hospitals. Keep in mind all things are ruled by a house. This is just the major categories.

A chart is 360 degrees (a circle) with 12 Houses. The 1st begins on the left side on the horizon. That puts the 7th House directly across on the right and the 10th at the top. Most astrologers use an unequal house system, but some prefer equal houses which would make each house 30 degrees. These are decisions you will make as you become a better astrologer. Start with unequal houses.

Degrees go from O to 29 — not 1 to 30. Everything in astrology moves counter-clockwise.

Next you have the major aspects. The conjunction is when two planets are in the same sign. A conjunction is 0 degrees, because the planets are next to each other. The sextile is 60 degrees and two houses away. A square is 90 degrees and three houses away and four signs squaring each other would make a square. A trine is 120 degrees and four houses away and three planets trining each other would make a triangle. An inconjunct is 150 degrees and 5 houses away And the opposition is 180 degrees and 6 houses away. Orbs for transits are usually between 5 and 10 degrees on either side. For progressions, it’s one degree on either side.

House systems: most astrologers use Placidus or Koch. It’s just a personal preference and just changes the cusps of the houses slightly. I use Koch.

For western astrology, it’s tropical unless you’re one of the very few who use sidereal, and that is not the traditionally astrology you are accustomed to seeing.

To erect a chart you need to know: name, birthday, & place of birth. For your personal houses to be in the correct order, you will need the time of birth. Although Aries rules the first house, your personal 1st House will be your rising sign/ascendant and could be any of the 12 signs. After your rising sign, the signs will stay in the same order around the wheel to determine your chart. For example, if you have Aquarius rising, the 2nd house will be Pisces and the 3rd, Aries and so on.

A free natal chart is available on http://www.astrolabe.com or a free tri-wheel on http://www.astro.com (“Free charts.” “All horoscopes.” Find “extended chart selection.” Under “type of chart,” choose transits “natal, transits, progressions combined”)

I’m jumping to focal planets because I talk about them in my blog, Xtrology. It’s an important concept, so let’s have a little fun.

In Lesson No. 1, I told you about aspects. Let’s look into that further. An astrology chart is a circle, 360 degrees divided into 12 houses which can be equal or unequal depending on what you think works best. I use unequal which means the houses are different sizes, but they still add up to 360 degrees. This is important because it’s how we get aspects. They are all based on geometry. The conjunction is 0 degrees, because it means one planet is next to another. The sextile is 60 degrees or two houses away. The square is 90 degrees or three houses away. The trine is 120 degrees or four houses away. The inconjunct is 150 degrees or five houses away and the opposition is 180 degrees or six houses away.

So imagine you have one planet in Aries and one planet in Libra. If you put each of the signs around a wheel (in order — always!) which you’ve divided into 12 sections, you will see that Aries and Libra are across from each other — 180 degrees, 6 houses. That is called an opposition. They are opposite each other. Every sign has a sign that is opposite it.

And then you have two planets mid-way between that opposition, Cancer and Capricorn. If you drew a line from Aries to Libra and from the middle of that line to either Cancer to Capricorn, you would have a cross. The middle line is pointing to the focal planet (Cancer or Capricorn) of the T-square, because now it’s making a T design.

Not everyone has a focal planet, because to have one, you must have two planets opposing each other and not everyone has that. But if you do, you may have a focal planet or two or three. In our example if there is more than one planet in Cancer, they would all be focal planets, because they 90 degrees from the two opposition planets.

And why are these focal or apex planets so important ? Because they consist of the two worst aspects in a chart. The square produces the most negative energy. And if you notice Cancer, in our example, is three houses away from Aries and three houses away from Libra. So the Aries planet and the Libra planet are squaring the Cancer planet while they are opposite each other. And the opposition is the second most negative aspect.

For the square, imagine something hitting you from the side that you don’t see coming. And for the opposition, imagine that you see it coming, across from you, but it still isn’t good. Now imagine that two planets are coming from the side and the two planets that are coming oppose each other. This is the most negative situation (except for a Grand Square) that you can have in astrology. And it’s quite common. That planet, the Cancer one, is the recipient of all this negative energy, and consequently, it will tell you a lot about someone or a situation. It’s the weak area of a chart.

A Grand Square is when you have all the planets in a modality. For example Aries/Libra and Cancer/Capricorn. They all square or oppose each other. The is the most negative aspect, but it is somewhat rare.

Rulers & Detriments

Mars rules Aries & is in its detriment in Libra

Venus rules Taurus & is in its detriment in Scorpio

Mercury rules Gemini & is in its detriment in Sagittarius

The Moon rules Cancer and is in its detriment in Capricorn

The Sun rules Leo & is in its detriment in Aquarius

Mercury rules Virgo & is in its detriment in Pices

Venus rules Libra & is in its detriment in Aries

Pluto rules Scorpio & is in its detriment in Taurus

Jupiter rules Sagittarius & is in its detriment in Gemini

Saturn rules Capricorn & is in its detriment in Cancer

Uranus rules Aquarius & is in its detriment in Leo

Neptune rules Pisces & is in its detriment in Virgo

Rulership and detriment are important because if the planet is in a sign it likes, it operates very well. And if it is in a sign that it doesn’t like, it operates badly.

Exaltations & Falls

Sun is exalted in Aries & in its fall in Libra

Moon is exalted in Taurus & in its fall in Scorpio

The North Node is exalted in Gemini & in its fall in Sagittarius

Jupiter is exalted in Cancer & in its fall in Capricorn

Neptune is exalted in Leo & in its fall in Aquarius

Mercury is exalted in Virgo & in its fall in Pisces

Saturn is exalted in Libra & in its fall in Aries

Uranus is exalted in Scorpio & in its fall in Taurus

The South Node is exalted in Sagittarius & in its fall in Gemini

Mars is exalted in Capricorn & in its fall in Cancer

Pluto & Venus are exalted in Pisces and in their fall in Virgo

Exaltation and falls are important because if the planet is in a sign it likes, it operates very well. And if it is in a sign that it doesn’t like, it operates badly.

The Ascendant
This is the sign on the horizontal line at the left hand side if you cut the chart in half accross the horizon. It begins the 1st House of Yourself. The 1st House is angular. Angular houses are the most important. One thing I’ve noticed about the ascendant sign is that often the person takes on the most negative characteristics of the sign. For example, Sagittarius can be very out-spoken, but as the rising sign, they can be down right brutal.
The Descendant
This is the sign on the horizontal line at the right hand side if you cut the chart in half across the horizon. It begins the 7th House of Partnerships. The 7th House is angular. Angular houses are the most important. This sign describes the characteristics you want in a partner, not necessarily the sign, just the traits.
If you divide the 360 degree chart into 12 sections, the dividing lines are called cusps.
The Midheaven/MC
This is the sign on the vertical line at the top if you cut the chart in half from top to bottom. It begins the 10th House of Career. The 10th House is angular (1st, 4th, 7th & 10th). Angular houses are the most important.  The Midheaven is the high point of your chart and describes how you may be perceived in your profession and sometimes the profession itself.
The Nadir/IC
This is the sign on the verticle line at the bottom if you cut the chart in half from top to bottom. It begins the 4th House of Home. The 4th House is angular. Angular houses are the most important (1st, 4th, 7th & 10th). The Nadir is The End of The Matter and and planets there or the planet associated with it’s cusp and the house in which it’s located can tell about the manner of your death.
Cadent Houses
These are the weakest houses. The 3rd, 6th, 9th and 12th.
Succedent Houses
These are the neutral houses. The 2nd, 5th, 8th, 11th.
The Grand Trine
This is all three of the signs in an element represented in a chart. Fire, Earth, Water and Air.
The Grand Square
This is all four of the signs in a modality represented in a chart. Fixed, Mutable and Cardinal.
The Moon’s Nodes
The ascending node or North Node occurs when the planet passes through the eliptic from south to north latitude. It ‘s location is considered an area where something representing that house may be given. The descending node or South Node occurs when the latidude changes from north to south. It’s location is considered an area where something representing that house may be taken away.

It’s now time to invest in books. You really cannot learn astrology without a small library of books. Here’s a list of the books you must have. These are reference books:

  • “The American Ephemeris for the 20th Century” 1900 to 2000 Noon (Noon because you are most likely to get the correct Moon.)
  • “The American Ephemeris for the 21st Century” 2000 to 2050 Noon (same reason as above.)
  • “Planets in Transit” by Robert Hand (He is the foremost expert on transits.)
  • “The Rulership Book” by Rex E. Bills (Which planet and sign rules what.)
  • “Delineation of Progressions” by Sophia Mason (Until Xtrology writes a book, this is the best one on progressions)

These are books I cannot live without:

  • “Astrological Insights Into Personality” by Betty Lundsted (I use this for natal personality explanations.)
  • “The Astrology of Human Relationships” by Sakoian & Acker (Amazing if you want to figure out a relationship.)
  • “Dynamics of Aspect Analysis” by Bil Tierney (This is where I first learned about focal planets.)
  • “Healing Pluto Problems” by Donna Cunningham (This book is invaluable because Pluto is at the heart of all problems.)
  • “The Rising Sign” by Jeanne Avery (Everything you ever want to know about all your houses.)

Other books that might be useful when you are learning astrology:

  • The Art of Chart Interpretation” by Tracy Marks (I don’t use this book, but it might help fill in the gaps.)
  • “The New A to Z” (Another book I don’t really use, but it’s full of information.)

And these are just fun:

  • “Secrets from a Stargazer’s Notebook” (This is a great book for beginners.)
  • “Astrological Games People Play” (If you want to know the negative side of each sign & it’s funny.)


You’ve gone to a site like http://www.astrolabe.com and you’ve got your chart in front of you. Make note of the following:

  • Your rising sign or 1st House on the left horizon (This is how people see you when they don’t know you. It also tends to operate in the negative aspects of the sign it is in.)
  • Which house your Sun falls in (This house is a key to your personality and influences your Sun.)
  • Which house has the most planets (This is your focal house and probably will tell you what you need to do with your life.)
  • The personal planets are Sun, Mercury, Moon, Venus and Mars. (Which of these is in it’s rulership, detriment, exaltation or fall.)
  • Focal planets (This is a big key to your personality and where you have weaknesses & where you will get your drive.)
  • Are your planets bunched up (makes you very focused) or spread around the chart (makes you more versatile.)
  • Any Grand Trines (All the elements, fire, earth, water or air). (These make your life easier.)
  • Any Grand Squares (All the modalities, cardinal, fixed, mutable.) (These make your life more difficult.)
  • Relationship between the Sun and the Moon (If it is a negative aspect, there was trouble at the time you were born.)
  • Jupiter conjunct your Sun (If you have this, you are especially blessed.)
  • Planet on the midheaven (This is the highest planet at the top of your chart. It’s an important planet.)
  • The element you have the most of & the modality you have the most of (This will give you a clue to your overal personality.)
  • How many squares do you have? What planets are involved in the squares. (These are your obstables. You will need a book to explain the definition of the square such as Sun square Venus.)
  • Absence of any of the elements (This shows what you are missing)
  • Absence of any of the modalities (This also shows what you are missing.)
  • Your lunar nodes (The North Node is where you are given a gift. The South Node is where you will have something taken away.)
  • Planets in their own houses such as Uranus in the 11th House. These planets will operate well unless they have negative aspects.)

Basically, the next thing is to get a book and look up all your aspects. Starting with the most important conjunctions, squares, trines, and oppositions. There are more aspects, but for now, just use these. This is not an easy process. It will take time. And it will also take time for all this to soak in. Astrology is difficult. It’s not for everyone.