Learning to Interpret Birth Charts

An astrological chart, 1646. Artist: Athanasius Kircher
Print Collector/Getty Images / Getty Images

The birth chart is made up of three things -- planets, the signs of the Zodiac and the twelve Houses. Take a moment to find these on the wheel. For signs and planets, use the gallery of symbols for reference. And note that like in most charts, the twelve segments or Houses have corresponding numbers in the middle of the circle.

Each planet-sign-house combo, such as Sun in Taurus in the 5th House, has a unique expression. The key to interpreting a birth chart is to be able to understand the essence of that combo on its own, and then in relation to the other planets. For now, start with the first elements on their own.

We'll be using this birth chart for the fictional Harry Potter. Using clues about his birth data from the book series, Barbara Schermer cast this chart.

On Harry's chart, the sign Leo is on the middle left, which gives him a Leo Ascendant (Asc) or Rising sign. The signs progress from there in a counter-clockwise direction until coming back to the horizon of the chart.

In a birth chart, the Rising sign is the mask that others often see first. Harry's Leo Rising gives him a fun-loving, expressive "front door" to the outer world.

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Look to the Sun

You probably already know your Sun's sign and with a chart you can now see its House position. Your Sun may be alone or in a cluster with other planets. The Sun in astrology is your core self, and its House position and relationship to other planets can be very revealing.

Harry's Sun is in Leo and aligned with the Ascendant, putting it in both the 1st and 12th Houses. It's hard not to notice that Mercury is also smack dab at the horizon, and Jupiter and Venus are close by.

With the Sun straddling the 1st and 12th Houses and aligned with Mercury, it follows that Harry is a magician and leader. The 12th House is that of mysteries and unseen worlds and a strong 1st House Sun can give someone a forceful presence. His Sun in both houses gives him one foot firmly planted in both the real and magical worlds.

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The Moon in a Birth Chart

Note your Moon's sign and House placement -- you'll likely recognize the crescent-shaped symbol. The Moon reveals your instinctual nature, your emotional base, and is that part of you that only close companions will see. Its house placement offers clues to what gives you a sense of well being.

Harry's Moon is in Libra in the 4th house. The Libra moon seeks comfort in partnerships, and in creating balance and harmony in life. Often they'll resist conflict in favor of keeping the peace, a natural trait that the gentle Harry seems provoked time and again to overrule in order to save his own life.

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Jupiter, Venus and Mars

Harry Potter's Birth Chart.

After noting the sign and placement of the "Big Three" -- Sun, Moon and Rising -- look at the other personal planets. These are Jupiter, Venus and Mars. Take note of where they fall in your chart.

Mars is the planet of action, and shows what can light a fire under passions.

Harry's Mars is in the 11th House in Gemini, both social placements, and this gives him strength when in numbers. He'll be drawn to group activities and be able to bridge the gaps between people through his ideas.

Venus' realm is romance and friendship, and reveals what types of connections are made.

Harry's Venus is on the Cancer-Leo cusp in the 12th House. This can mean that invisible "friends" -- or enemies -- can bond with him in an emotional way. He'll have to overcome powerful unseen forces to avoid totally merging with the dark.

Jupiter is the planet of expansiveness and good fortune.

Situated in Harry's 1st House, Jupiter gives his personality an aura of being special, and of having a mission in life.

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Saturn, Pluto, Uranus and Neptune

Harry Potter's Birth Chart. (c) Barbara Schermer AstrologyAlive.com

As you learn about each planet, a kind of synthesis is needed to add to what you already know. Once you're ready, add the nuances of Saturn, Pluto, Uranus and Neptune to your astrological repertoire.

Saturn has the reputation as the "Great Teacher" and its lessons are about discipline and perseverance.

In Harry's chart, we can see that Saturn is in the 2nd House in Virgo. In the simplest terms, the 2nd House deals with money and values, and this would suggest a limitation or delay in funds. An astrologer might point to Harry's denial by his adopted family, followed by his great inheritance of all the gold coins he could every need.

Pluto's role seems to be to bring each of us to our knees. That sounds dramatic, but after Pluto's devastation, you'll rise like a Phoenix from the flames.

For Harry, Pluto at the 3rd/4th House cusp matches with his early loss of home (a 4th House association) which made him stand out among his peers. He is continually having to fight for his own survival, to make a "home" in this world.

Uranus brings sudden shifts and events in the area concerning the House in which it falls.

Harry's Uranus is in the 4th House in Scorpio. The planet of unexpected changes in the in the House of home could explain the upheaval in his early childhood, including the loss of his parents.

Neptune's placement is a beacon for growing spiritually. Since entire generations share the same sign, that aspect leads to trends among that group.

Harry's Neptune in the 5th House in Sagittarius gives him a spiritual path through creativity, romance, friendships and perhaps some travel. It's also a fire sign, which creates a trine (or harmony) to Harry's Jupiter in Leo and MC (Midheaven) in Aries. More on that in the next step.

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The Grand Trine

After becoming familiar with the planets in their signs and houses, you're ready to look at how they relate to each other.

In astrology, the planets are said to aspect each other. This is their relationship, or the way they either create friction or harmony. Hidden in these relationships are more clues to understanding your unique set of "energies" and the interplay between the individual components.

I've outlined the Grand Trine in Fire in Harry's Chart because this would stand out to me in preparation for a reading. When planets "trine," they are of the same element. The red triangle is from Harry's Jupiter in Leo to Neptune in Sagittarius to his MC in Aries -- all fire signs.

The MC in astrology is the Medium Coeli, which means "middle of the sky" in Latin. The MC in a chart points to a career path, but in a wider sense to a person's destiny. Here, the MC in Aries points Harry toward being a pioneer and taking action even though he may be afraid.

The Grand Trine is just one of many aspects that can occur in a chart. For Harry, it is auspicious since it gives him a matrix of harmonized fire energy to fulfill his destiny.

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Another Example of a Trine

Each line on the birth chart represents an aspect or relationship between two planets. Some are in harmony, and this is where you'll have natural talents, ease or good fortune.

A trine is between planets in signs of the same elements -- air, water, fire or water. They're also spaced every fourth house apart. Find the trines in your own chart, and contemplate what it could mean based on your personal experiences.

I've highlighted here another example of a trine in Harry's chart. Harry's Gemini Mars makes a trine (harmony) to his Moon in Libra since they are both Air signs. With this favorable aspect, his emotional instincts and the manner in which he takes action will blend well together.

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The Squares in a Birth Chart

The "negative" aspects found in the birth chart can point to areas of great challenge or difficulty. These are called squares and oppositions because of their relationship on the birth chart wheel. A square is three houses apart, and an opposition is directly opposite on the wheel.

Harry's chart has an opposition between Pluto and the MC, which is indicated by the darker black line running top to bottom on the wheel. His striving for his destiny as a leader and "warrior" with the MC in Aries can be at odds with Pluto's lessons about balance.

And here I've highlighted a square between Harry's Jupiter and Uranus. With Jupiter in expansive Leo in the 1st coming up against the unexpected with Uranus in the house of home (the 4th), this shines light on how early upsets and cruelties undermined Harry's natural confidence.

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Putting it All Together

Harry Potter's Birth Chart. (c) Barbara Schermer AstrologyAlive.com

To sum up, interpreting the birth chart means considering each of the planet-sign-house combos, as well as the relationship of the planets to each other. Putting these pieces of the puzzle together is a non-linear process and each person finds a different path to understanding.

Many people begin by reading the interpretations for the "combos" and aspects in astrology books. Over time it begins to make sense and new layers of wisdom are revealed.

In Harry's birth chart, there are both built-in gifts and challenges. The concentration of planets in the 1st and 12th houses puts him in the spotlight, but with a bridge to unseen worlds. With the moon in passive, peace-loving Libra, he is on a forward path toward finding courage to be a kind of warrior in his life. The squares and oppositions could be seen as early tests that shape his character. And the Grand Trine assures him the energy and drive he needs to fulfill his destiny.