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Astrology Basics - Signs

By Jim Trader

Reading an astrological chart is a little like inventing a new recipe: You have to know how all the ingredients you are going to use taste, as well as how they all taste together, in order to come up with something that works well. 

For a recipe, it works well when it tastes good; for an astrological reading, it works well when it reflects the reality of the person the reading is for. 

This series of articles is going to offer a taste of most of the “ingredients” to be found in a typical chart, and some of the more commonly found flavor combinations. 

Astrology—like inventing one’s own recipes--is not for everyone; hopefully, these articles will give you a feel for whether or not astrology is something you want to pursue further. And if not, you can Have a Nice Day!at least listen intelligently if someone starts talking astrology. 

A good place to start is probably to answer the question, “what is an astrological chart?” An astrological chart is a picture of the heavens at the time—and place—of a person’s birth. 

A chart is sometimes referred to as a “natal chart” or “horoscope” (not to be confused with the predictions some newspapers publish), and to be done properly one has to know the location (city or latitude/longitude) and time—down to a few minutes—of birth. This is an example of what a chart can look like:

Astrological Chart 

Charts are always circular, and divided into two interlocking sets of twelve divisions (the Signs and the Houses). In the chart above, the outer ring represents the Signs, and the middle ring represents the Houses.

The symbols with numbers attached within the Houses represent Planets, and the colored lines drawn in the innermost circle represent Aspects (the relationships between different Planets).

For someone well-versed in astrology, a chart like this can tell them almost anything they want to know about the “native” (the person the chart is for). For someone not versed in astrology, of course, it looks like something that belongs in an art museum in the Modern Art section.

These articles break down the essentials of reading a chart into four primary classes of chart ingredients: Signs, Planets, Houses (and their Cusps), and Aspects. There will be one article briefly explaining each class of primary chart ingredients.

This article is going to talk about Signs. These “Signs” are twelve constellations visible in the sky that appear to form a ring (the Zodiac) around the earth, and appear to revolve with the seasons.

For about thirty days out of each year, the sun appears to be “in” each of these constellations; someone born while the sun is “in” Virgo is said to be “a Virgo.” When someone is born “in” or “under” a particular sign (the terms “in” and “under” are used interchangeably in this context), that person will often exhibit primary personality traits of that sign.

Other planets will be “in” different Signs at different times (exerting greater or lesser influence on the person in various areas and times of their life), and this is part of what the astrological chart maps.

Looking at the astrological chart above, the signs are represented by the glyphs that appear in the outermost ring.

These Signs are often the most easily recognized of a chart’s ingredients, and are themselves a synthesis of other factors (these other factors—element, mode, and “ruling” planet—I view as an advanced topic, and so I will not discuss them more in this article); part of the reason Signs are so popular is they can convey a lot of general information in and of themselves, without looking at other factors.

What follows is a brief description of what each of the twelve signs of the Zodiac signifies.

Astrological Sign - Aries the Ram

Aries    The Sign of The Ram, Aries always has a goal (though not always a plan). Impatient, aggressive, and often charmingly na├»ve, Aries is all about taking action RIGHT NOW

Boredom is not an option.


Astrological Sign - Taurus the Bull

Taurus   The Sign of The Bull, Taurus is all about getting comfortable. Comfortable objects, comfortable people, comfortable routines, and comfortable ideas are indicated, and heaven help anyone who tries to take any of that away.



Astrological Sign - Gemini the Twins

Gemini   The Sign of The Twins, Gemini is always on the move. Speedy variety is the important thing for Gemini, although the next new thing doesn’t actually have to be new, or even all that far away; just different from what just was.

Astrological Sign - Cancer the Crab

Cancer   The Sign of The Crab, Cancer never leaves home. Cancer is the original “complicated” person; nothing is ever simple, because conflicting emotions always get in the way. To balance this inner conflict, Cancer tries to make external circumstances as safe and straightforward as possible.

Astrological Sign - Leo the Lion


Leo   The Sign of The Lion, Leo must roar and be heard. The natural place for Leo is at the center of attention. A gifted performer, Leo sometimes doesn’t know what to do when the show is over.


Astrological Sign - Virgo the Virgin

Virgo   The Sign of The Virgin, Virgo needs to fit in. Whatever the crowd, Virgo uses a keen attention to detail to make sure to look, act, and speak “just like one of us.” Virgo is always “busy” with something.



Astrological Sign - Libra the Scales

Libra   The Sign of The Scales, Libra strives to always be one of “the beautiful people,” both physically and socially. Just don’t ask for any quick decisions.



Astrological Sign - Scorpio the Scorpion

Scorpio   The Sign of The Scorpion, Scorpio must always be in control. There is always a bit of mystery around Scorpio, and the need to explore the unknown or the forbidden. Scorpio instinctively hides true feelings, but is very good at discerning the feelings of others. Despite always seeking new information, Scorpio’s emotions can blind Scorpio to changes in relationships, and often causes Scorpio to see issues in black and white.

Astrological Sign - Sagittarius the Archer

Sagittarius   The Sign of The Archer, Sagittarius is bold and lucky. Travel, schooling, athletics, and exposure to different cultures and religions are musts for this outgoing sign. Sagittarius says things better left unsaid more than any other sign, but is almost always protected from any consequences by unbelievable luck. Even for Sagittarius, though, luck can eventually run out….

Astrological Sign - Capricorn the Goat

Capricorn   The Sign of The Goat, Capricorn likes the slow and steady route to success. Capricorn enjoys being responsible, and prefers things that are built to last.  


Astrological Sign - Aquarius the Water Bearer

Aquarius   The Sign of The Water Bearer, Aquarius prefers The Big Picture. Often baffling and distant to those who are closest, Aquarius needs to pursue ideas and interests just as strongly as food, water, air, and companionship are pursued.

Astrological Sign - Pisces the FishPisces   The Sign of The Fish, Pisces often wonders what’s going on. Being very sensitive to the feelings—and sometimes thoughts—of others, Pisces sometimes can’t distinguish between what the world is telling Pisces and what Pisces is telling Pisces.

These are of course very brief introductions to each of the Signs; whole books can (and have) been written on each Sign. Signs give a general mood or outlook to the part of the chart they happen to be in. The next article will talk about Planets, which add emphasis to the generalities provided by the Signs.

If you have found this information to be useful, and would like to consult with an astrologer or simply ask questions about the material presented here, please call Jim Trader at Jupiter Rising Astrological Services.

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