Astrology's Puzzle Pieces
"What's your sign, baby?"
Your "sign", which is usually referring to your "sun sign", is the astrological sign the sun was traveling through when you were born. The sun moves around through the signs in a circle in the sky, the zodiac wheel, remaining in each about 1 month. If your sign is Leo, for example, you were born while the sun was in the sign of Leo in the sky. But your sun sign is not the only sign that describes you. The other heavenly bodies were also somewhere important in the sky when you were born. Many people only know their sun sign because it is a prominent and important placement in a natal chart, but by no means does it stand on its own. The moon, the rest of the planets in the solar system and many other physical bodies and strategic mathematical points in the sky all work together to make up your personal astrology. Let's have a look at some of the basic pieces:
The planets studied in basic astrology are the planets in our solar system, excluding the earth. These are: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Earth is excluded because it is our view point. Each planet has an individual meaning of its own. For instance, Mercury is associated with intelligence, communication, thought. Mars is associated with motivation and action. Uranus is associated with the unexpected and our sense of individualism. The planets are the basic force, they tell us 'what'.
The twelve signs are: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces. The signs represent different characteristics, adjectives. Aries represents boldness, courage, pioneering spirit, enthusiasm. Libra represents balance, fairmindedness, and relatedness. Scorpio represents depth, psychological understanding, the pursuit of personal, deep truths. The signs tell us 'why' and 'how'.
There are twelve houses, generally just referred to by number. Houses define the areas of life. If a planet is in a certain house, the planet's qualities affect and shape that area of life. The 9th house represents the pursuit of knowledge in its highest sense, and the shaping of our beliefs and philosophies. The 2nd house represents what we value, including what we value in ourselves. The 4th house represents our roots, our foundation, both psychologically and often physically (childhood home, family, etc.). The houses tell us 'where'.
An aspect is the relation between the location of two (or more) planets. If any two planets are on the opposite sides of the sky, they are in Opposition. If they are in the same place, it is called a Conjunction, and so on. These interactions between planets have an effect on how the planets express themselves, and how easily they work together in us, or whether they point to our internal conflicts. Other important points There are other important points in astrology that aren't planets, but that act somewhat like them in our interpretation of them. I will illuminate a couple of them - the rising sign (ascendant) and the nodes of the moon. Read more about each of these pieces in the All About series of articles on this website.
Putting it all together
The signs, planets and houses come together to make an individual person: you. Each has their own qualities that mix to make a unique blend. For instance, we know Mars represents action and motivation. That is the 'what'. Then if we take Mars and put it in Libra, we can answer the question 'how?' and 'why?'. We can see that we have someone who is motivated to create harmony and fairness, and is motivated to interact with others ('relatedness'). If we take Mars in Libra and we put it in the 'where' of the 9th house, we may see a person that has made a personal philosophy surrounding the ideals of harmony and fairness, someone who pursues these ideas and lives by them. We can do the same thing with each of the different combinations of planets, signs, and houses and start to weave a more complex picture that make up a person, not just the flat sun sign explanations we see in our daily horoscopes.