The Basic Chart

A Look at the Wheel

Every chart cast is a frozen moment in time. It's a tool by which you can study the position of the stars and planets, in relation to a fixed point on Earth. A chart cast for a person's birth is the birth or natal chart.

The basic chart has a wheel with twelve divisions, or spokes. These divisions allow us to understand the "twelve pieces of sky" and the behavior of planets that pass through the constellations.

The wheel is divided into twelve, 30-degree segments. The whole wheel adds up to a perfect circle of 360 degrees.

You may know all the Zodiac signs, since they've been made popular with horoscopes. The Zodiac, just like the astrological year, begins with Aries. When you’re looking at an example wheel, it often shows Aries as the starting point, at the middle left (the Ascendant or Horizon line). Your chart may start with Sagittarius at the Ascendant; your chart begins with the degree of your Rising Sign. But for learning purposes, the basic chart is always shows in its natural order, beginning with Aries.

The natural Zodiac then follows through the houses, ending with Pisces. Your wheel will begin at that point with your Ascendant, and follow the natural Zodiac around. That’s what makes each birth chart unique. When looking at your wheel, you’ll see the glyphs for the planets in one of the houses.

You can then answer common questions like, “Where’s my Moon?” To find out the sign for any planet, look to the sign on the cusp of that house. Often, there’s a glyph of the Zodiac sign next to the glyph for the planet. If there’s a glyph for Capricorn next to your Mercury, for example, you’ve got Mercury in Capricorn.

Simple, isn’t it? The challenge is understanding what it means, and blending it with your Sun, Moon and other planets. And that’s the art of synthesis at the heart of astrology.

How to Get a Chart: These days, you don’t have to whip out the calculator and ephemeris to draw up a birth chart. You just have to enter your birth data into a chart generator and voila, there it is! There are usually many charts to choose from and beginners will want to start with the basics. With the chart in front of you, start by locating your familiar Sun sign. It’s exciting to first learn that there’s more to astrology than the Sun, and it’s all right there in your chart.

  • Each 30-degree segment covers one Zodiac sign around the wheel.
  • The 30-degree segments are further broken down into decans of that Zodiac sign, adding nuance to the meaning.
  • Your Ascendant begins the wheel at the left, as the degree that was rising on the eastern horizon at the moment of your birth.
  • The planets will be placed at their position (degree) on the Zodiacal ecliptic, on the day you were born.
  • The natural wheel begins with Aries at the Ascendant; yours will begin with your own Rising sign, and move counter-clockwise around.
  • The Zodiac sign on the cusp begins the house, but take note that one house can span the degrees of two Zodiac signs.
  • The signs are divided into polarities of male (yang) and female (yin), and these alternate on the wheel beginning with Aries (male), Taurus (female) and so on.
  • Every person embodies some expression of the entire Zodiac, though a sign or group of signs will be emphasized in a lifetime.