An orientation to the chart as an image

A friend who sees my posts but knows little about astrology recently shared that he finds the charts themselves to be beautiful, though he doesn’t understand them. "Would it be useful if I were to write about the chart as an image and how to read it?" I asked. "Sure," he said.


So here it is: a basic orientation to the astrology chart and what’s in it, for my friend and others like him who might want to know.


Modern charts are circular (see below). The planets are mapped within the circle according to their positions above or below the Earth and as measured in degrees of celestial longitude within the tropical zodiac. (For more on this, see


The chart format I use is very basic, nothing fancy—just the way I like it :) The horizontal line through the center represents the earth plane, dividing the sky above from the sky below. The vertical line divides east from west.


Unlike most maps, east is on the left and west is on the right; imagine yourself standing in the center of the chart on a tall hill facing south, with the Sun rising on your left. As the planets rise, they cross the center line on the left into the upper half of the chart. As they set, they drop into the lower half of the chart on the right. This is Primary Motion, the clockwise movement of the planets from our perspective on Earth. (And unless you’re an astronaut, from a physical standpoint you’ll never experience any other perspective.) The high point directly above your head is the Medium Coeli (MC); the low point directly below you is the Imum Coeli (IC).


The circle is divided into twelve sections, like slices of pie; these are the houses in astrology. They are numbered one to twelve, starting on the left and moving downward counter-clockwise around the circle (Secondary Motion).  The cusp of the first house is the Ascendant.  Following the order of the signs (Aries, Taurus, etc.) the next sign over will usually fall on the cusp of the second house, the next after that the cusp of the third house, and so on. Each sign is 30 degrees of celestial longitude but house sizes may vary, so that one sign might fall on the cusp of several houses while others won’t fall on any.


Along with the Ascendant, the other three angles of the chart (as they are called) are the IC (fourth house cusp), the Descendant (seventh house cusp), and the MC (tenth house cusp).


The houses together represent everything in our world, each house signifying a collection of things with a similar theme. For a list of house meanings, please see The Horary Textbook, Revised Edition by John Frawley, available now!! Order yours here:


In order to read the chart you’ll need to learn the written symbols (glyphs) for the planets and signs. Here is a link for your reference: Or, take any of Mr. Frawley’s books and locate the Key using the table of contents.


The chart below is that of the upcoming New Moon for my location.  Using one of the references just above, you can identify the seven planets that concern us: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, and Moon; the houses they are placed in; and where they are located within the zodiac, measured in 0-29 degrees of a sign. You'll also find the three outer planets (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto), as sometimes they do matter. You’ll also notice the nodes of the Moon (horseshoe shapes) and the Part of Fortune (circle with an X inside it).


And with that, you can now identify everything important in the chart! Isn’t that fun?


Image credit: Pixabay (CC0)