People ask me all the time about how I started learning about astrology and what to do if you want to learn more but don't know where to start. I decided I would go ahead and compile this beginner's guide to answer some basic FAQs about astrology! This post contains Amazon affiliate links for the books I'm recommending. But all of these books are ones I genuinely own, use, and adore!
Start With Books
I highly recommend books as the first place to start. There is a lot of information on the Internet, but diving in online can be somewhat overwhelming to a beginner. When I started learning about astrology, one of my favorite things to do was scour my local used bookstore. There are New Age sections at most used bookstores, and you can generally find some great stuff there! I always prefer books on astrology from the 70s/80s to new ones. I think used books just have a better energy, and it's great to recycle and practice sustainability with books when you can.
One of my favorite newer astrology books is Sun & Moon Signs by Julia & Derek Parker. It's a hefty, encyclopedia-type volume with information about the basic characteristics, properties, symbols, and concepts associated with the signs. It's a great place to start if you want something that will succinctly cover the basics. The book is a bit pricey but it's got the essentials covered and is a great reference volume.
I generally, as a rule, tend to stay away from astrology books that are published by magazines or celebrities as well as books that focus on astrology & love or similar combinations. I've found that they are generally not as helpful as books published by small, indie printing houses. In general, I would always recommend a book from a small publisher over one by a big corporate name. That doesn't mean that I'll never buy a book about spirituality or other occult topics from a big name, though. I just find that with astrology, the smaller the better. There are always exceptions, of course.
The Basic Guide
First of all, astrology is not about stars. With the exception of the sun, the stars are not used in astrology to my knowledge. Astrologers are concerned with the bodies of the solar system, AKA, the planets. In astrology, Earth's moon is also considered to be a planet.
The position of the planets at the particular date, time, and place of your birth are used to calculate your natal chart. Your chart is, for the most part, specific to you. Each planet is said to be "in" a certain sign as it moves around the Sun. The zodiac signs are based on a group of constellations that are placed along the plane of the ecliptic (that is, the Sun's path as it is seen from Earth). Many ancient cultures used this method to calculate the time of year and track the passage of time. Your sun sign is determined by which constellation the Sun appears to be passing through at the time of your birth. Throughout the course of the year, the sun "passes through" each of the twelve zodiac constellations. If you want to get really deep into it, there is a lot of mathematics involved. You can actually research the math that is used to calculate the placements and angles that determine which sign a planet is in at the time of your birth. But I just use one of the many online calculators that are available to do the math for me.
There are a few terms that you might hear frequently in astrological circles, so I'll define a few of them here. Your sun sign is what you generally think of when people ask you what your sign is. It is dependent only on your birth date. The sun is one of the most important bodies in your chart. Your moon sign is dependent on your birth date and birth place. And your ascendant, or rising, sign requires your birth date, place, and time. Ascendents change every two to three hours, so knowing your birth time is important.
Each sign in the zodiac is said to be ruled by a specific planet in the solar system. These assignments are known as domiciles. These rulerships are based in ancient cultures and old astrological texts. Many of the assignments were based on weather, and some planets rule over multiple signs. For a complete list of the signs and their rulers, use this Wikipedia page.
So each of us has a sun, moon, and ascendent sign. We also each have a sign for each of the planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and Chiron. Once the ascendent sign is determined, the zodiac signs also fall into twelve houses. The order of the signs on the zodiac wheel is Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. The Ascendent sign is said to be in the first house, so your houses are oriented by your Ascendent in position one, and then each subsequent house is filled in the order above until you loop all the way around. So if your Ascendent is Virgo, you would have Libra in the second house, Scorpio in the third, etc.
So, your basic chart is comprised of the eleven planets (including the sun, moon, and Chiron) and your twelve houses (ascendent plus eleven houses). Some astrologers also consider certain asteroids like Lilith, as well as the angles of specific planets. There are a variety of different systems of calculation for the Ascendent and the houses, but I've outlined the basic system. Because astrology is based on mathematical calculations, there can be cases where one might have two houses in the same sign. It's best to just calculate your chart online if you are a beginner. I'm not even sure what half of the numbers and calculations in my chart are. There are many astrologers who have learned and dedicated years to these calculations and the science behind this.
The Zodiac Signs
As I mentioned, the zodiac signs correspond to twelve constellations that are viewable on the path the Sun appears to take around the Earth. These constellations have been identified since ancient times. Their meanings have been developed and derived from a variety of things including the behavior of the seasons during specific constellations, their placement in the calendar year, and other ancient beliefs and practices.
The reason why I recommend books as the best way to learn about the signs is because there are a huge variety of opinions and theories about what each sign represents. I believe in combining information from a variety of sources and forming one's own opinion. While the calculations behind astrology are very much a science, the interpretation of them is not. Like all religions and spiritual practices, one must interpret and inject their practice with their own meaning. Studying astrology is a personal experience and you get out of it what you put into it. It is not a black and white field, but that's what makes it so fun! You can get very serious with it, or you can just learn the basics and have fun with it.
Each sign has an element and a quality attached to it. The elements are air, water, earth, and fire. To learn more about the elements, read here. Each sign also has a quality. The qualities are cardinal, fixed, and mutable. Read more on that here. Signs also, throughout the history of astrology, have taken on a variety of symbols. These include flowers, herbs, trees, crystals, spices, interests, and activities. These symbols are a part of our interpretation of the signs, they are not necessarily part of the science. Take these with a grain of salt, and follow your intuition when it comes to the particular elements associated with your sign that you identify with.
Think of a Horoscope as a prescription. If you go to a doc in a box, you might get a bad diagnosis. But if you go to a specialist, you might get a better one. The quality of a horoscope comes from the writer. If you are looking for something fun and silly to bring into your day, you can read a horoscope pretty much anywhere! If you want something that is based on the movement of the planets, the phases of the moon, and other calculable events, I would recommend finding horoscopes written by actual certified astrologers. Yes, there is such a thing. My favorite horoscopes are written by Cal Garrison at The Mountain Times. I've used them to convert many a non-believer.
Here I'll list some of my favorite astrological resources for those looking to dive into the world of astrology. Firstly, to calculate your natal chart for free, I recommend Cafe Astrology. For on-the-go options, I recommend the apps Co--Star and Time Passages, the first being a better beginner option and the second a little more complex. Wikipedia is a great resource for learning about the planets and the history of astrology.
I hope you enjoyed this post. A lot of research went into it and I would love to hear your thoughts on astrology or particular practices and interests you have when it comes to the zodiac. I also do astrological chart interpretations, which are available in my shop for those interested.