A queer beginner’s guide to astrology
I was promptly encouraged to find out my full birth chart, and to my surprise, people were having deeply spiritual conversations about my personality and destiny. This is when I became more interested in this fascinating world of planets, signs and readings.
Astrology is the interpretation of the influence of celestial bodies on human lives. To do so, it takes into account concepts of astronomy on the motion of planets, most notably the Earth. And it’s pretty popular among queer people. In my experience, it consistently leads to a lively conversation at any either queer event I’ve been to.
There was a certain alignment of celestial bodies in the universe at the very second of your birth. That snapshot is who you are in relation to the cosmos, in astrological terms. Astrology provides a way to make sense of that snapshot, by interpreting it as a road map to understanding your identity on Earth.
This beginner’s guide will break down the main concepts of natal astrology (yes there are other forms that exist!) in the easiest way possible, so that you can keep up with any conversation on the matter. But know that like any other topic, it gets way, way deeper than this.
1. Let's start with the elements
Since our typical introduction to astrology is through the signs, let’s start with the families of signs. All the zodiac signs that we speak of correspond to a natural element: either earth, water, fire or air. This is important as signs of a same family carry underlying similarities -- well, it’s important when looking up compatibility with your crush’s sign, because it establishes a base compatibility with all signs under the same element.
Fire begins the astrological cycle (with Aries) and expresses action, passion and drive. There’s a need for spontaneity, at times impulsive, but also a need for novelty and stimulation. Next comes Earth, which is characterized by practicality, pragmatism and material/physical manifestations. They care about the concrete world, whether it be in ideas, experiences or possessions. Then, you get Air. As the element suggests, it represents a floaty, dreamy, creative character that is skilled in effective communication and human contact. Finally, the last family of signs is Water, which represents nurture and emotional connection. This comes with a natural compassion and intuition into other’s experiences.
Together, these families form a certain balance of human nature, comparable to that of the natural state of life. Each sign will then show a more nuanced version of their overarching family.
2. What are the Zodiac Signs
Now that we have the families down, let’s get to the signs. Western natal astrology has twelve signs. Therefore, there are three signs per family. You may have noticed that the signs of each family appear in a particular order! In astrology, Fire starts it off, then Earth, followed by Air and finally Water.
Fire groups the signs Aries, Leo and Sagittarius; Earth has Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn; Air houses Gemini, Libra and Aquarius; and Water has Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces. At this point in our understanding, signs are no more than descriptions of a group of traits. We are not talking about people yet, as people are their entire natal chart; not one sign.
To keep it simple, I’ll list the common trait associated with each sign:
Aries: independent, fiery, impulsive, confident
Taurus: stubborn, practical, sensual, stable
Gemini: curious, indecisive, communicative, adaptable
Cancer: caring, compassionate, loyal, moody
Leo: creative, passionate, self-centered, charismatic
Virgo: shy, perfectionist, hardworking, pragmatic
Libra: relaxed, indecisive, diplomatic, social
Scorpio: passionate, powerful, secretive, dedicated
Sagittarius: adventurous, optimistic, generous, impatient
Capricorn: driven, disciplined, meticulous, unforgiving
Aquarius: creative, intelligent, forward-thinking, uncompromising
Pisces: intuitive, dreamy, artistic, selfless
This is keeping it quite simple. The full descriptions of signs can show quite complex characters, with natural talents and flaws. Within the same sign, we can also find much variation. Take two creative people in your life. Certainly, they are creative, but they will not be in the same way. This is the same for two Pisces for instance.
3. The Main Types of Signs: Sun, Moon and other Planets
The signs are like an adjective: they don’t mean anything by themselves, they are used to describe something. That “something” can be planets, which make up an essential part of your natal chart. Each planet represents certain traits and states, that are then developed through the signs. For instance, your Sun sign represents you in the most general sense. It is your ego, your overall being. That is why the sign of the Sun’s position at the time of your birth is the first step into understanding you, as a person. That said, it does not encapsulate your complexities very well (hence a sometimes wildly inaccurate horoscope).
The Sun and the Moon are two core planets of identity. As mentioned previously, the Sun represents the ego, your overall personality. Your Moon reflects your internal emotional being.
That said, the other planets can provide further insight on emotional states or mental functions. Mercury, for example, symbolizes communication; Venus is more centered on experiences of love and beauty; Mars represents aggression and passion; Jupiter tackles luck and opportunity; Saturn offers insight on your sense of responsibility and discipline; Uranus is focused on your sense of individuality and rebellion; Neptune is attentive to dreams, escapism and healing; while Pluto symbolizes death and transformation.
This already provides more information on how two Aries will not act alike. Different signs in Mercury will absolutely change interpersonal experiences with those two individuals, and that is only accounting for one planetary difference.
4. What are the Houses?
Houses are the final component to reading a birth chart. And because it wasn’t properly explained to me when I first showed interest in astrology, I pushed it aside as a difficult, advanced concept. I will do my best to do them justice here.
So far, we’ve covered the planets, which describe an area of human experience, and the signs, which cover how it manifests. The houses, unlike the two previous concepts, are objective. They are different major areas of life.
The sign for the First House will give insight on your identity and personality, particularly how others may perceive you. The Second House is focused on money, work and wealth; the Third House is centered on the mind, communication and learning; the Fourth House is more so on family, home and nurture; the Fifth House handles romance, creativity and pleasure; the Sixth House is your responsibility center, your drive for self-improvement and health; the Seventh House tackles long-term relationships, be it marriage or business parts and commitment; the Eight House focuses on sex, intimacy and assets; the Ninth House looks at wisdom, philosophy and religion; the Tenth House revolves around your career, long-term goals and status; the Eleventh House values friendship, altruism and outlook on the future; and finally, the Twelfth House is on endings, afterlife and enlightenment.
Now that we know what each House means, how do they relate to the rest? We’ll answer this in…
5. How to read a birth chart
With all this newfound knowledge, it is normal to ask how the heck does it all come together. Let’s go back to the very beginning: the alignment of celestial bodies at your time of birth. When perfectly aligned, the twelve houses and twelve signs match (Aries for the First House, Taurus for Second House, etc.). But because the Earth is constantly rotating on itself, the Houses shift along with the Earth while the signs stay fixed in their positions. But the Earth is also turning around the sun, and so do the other planets in our solar system. Like an ever-turning wheel of rotations, your birth is the snapshot of the planets and houses at the precise rotation in relation to the signs. This is still simplifying it a bit, but it is the general gist.
If you know your date and hour of birth, type that into a birth chart reader website such as cafeastrology.com, astro.com or astro-charts.com, and you will see all the placements of the planets that define you.
To get the core information about the chart, check out three major placements: your Sun, your Moon and your Ascendant (also called Rising and is synonymous to the First House) respectively. When people name three signs in a row, they are referring to these three types, in that order. As mentioned previously, the Sun sign is your overall personality. Your Moon sign is your internal emotional processing. Your Rising sign is your aura, how others perceive you to be.
Here begins the road map analogy that we mentioned before. In the circular birth chart (not the table version), you get to see the interaction between the signs, planets and Houses. The numbers on the inner center of the circle represent the houses, the signs will be on the outer ring of the circle, and the planets will be shown in the middle area. This system allows us to observe how all three components relate to one another.
From here, you can make a basic reading. Houses or signs with many planets in them signify a bigger impact on your life, and a lack of representation in certain areas would mean less importance is given to those aspects in your life.
6. Beyond beginner astrology
Congrats, you’ve made it to the end! While all this information can be super overwhelming, the most important is learning the characteristics of each sign, house and planet as well as wrapping your head around the natal chart reading system. All the advanced concepts such as retrogrades, aspects, transits, returns, etc. will make a lot more sense with these fundamentals in place. This is also when the reading of a trusted, experienced astrologer can be handy as well.
What is really exciting about astrology these days is the influence of queer astrologers. If you look up more traditional forms, the masculine vs. feminine is very much both binary and hetero-normative. This affects not only the readings themselves, but particularly relationship compatibility charts, where various differences within signs are based on gender.
But as it has grown more popular in LGBTIQ+ spaces, there is a renewal in readings that embrace androgyny, and view masculine and feminine energies as distinct from gender. The future of astrology is looking a lot queerer and we’re here for it !