Beginner’s Guide to Astrology

astrology graphic

Ally McAlpine/Fourth Estate

Meanings, Misconceptions, and More


Disclaimer: I’m not an astrology expert, but I am a fan of it and have many, many thoughts.

Astrology is a lot more than the surface-level qualities that make it seem like it can be applicable to everyone. Often labeled as a kind of pseudoscience, astrology can be considered to fall more in the category of metaphysics, the study of that which is beyond the physical, according to the astrology website, Astrology bases itself off of the planets, specifically how planets can affect the individual.

Sounds kind of ridiculous to most people, right? Yet, planets can affect weather and shifting tides on earth – so who is to say it does not also have the ability to shape individuals?

Astrology is not a textbook for what someone’s personality will be like. It gives you an understanding of what a person’s character is shaped or influenced by. If you find contradictions or fallouts in astrology, I’d say that it is supposed to be, because it can be just as nuanced and complicated and contradictory as actual humans are.

Your Zodiac Sign

Typically, most people know their generic astrology sign which changes based on the month – if you’re a Taurus, a Scorpio, a Leo, and so on. This is also known as your “sun sign”. It’s mainly understood as your common-ground basic personality.

There are 12 signs in the zodiac: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces and Aries.

From there the signs are split up into four elements: Fire, Water, Earth and Air.

Fire Signs: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius

Water Signs: Cancer, Pisces, Scorpio

Earth Signs: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn

Air Signs: Libra, Gemini, Aquarius

Each element has its own distinct traits and are all in some way dependent on each other, as it is based on the elements within the natural world.

The zodiac signs can also be categorized through three other qualities: cardinal, fixed and mutable signs. They can be understood through the broad scope of starters, doers and finishers in their respective order.

Cardinal Signs: Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn

Fixed Signs: Leo, Scorpio, Taurus, Aquarius

Mutable Signs: Gemini, Sagittarius, Virgo, Pisces

Birth Charts

Think of astrology as an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg is your sun sign, and the rest of the iceberg is your birth chart. Your zodiac sign is the surface level version of you, whereas a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of yourself can be found through understanding your birth chart. If you feel like you don’t fit in with the stereotypes of your sun sign, it’s probably because there’s other more influential parts at play in your birth chart.

A birth chart is a map of the placements of the planets at the exact moment you were born, according to You can calculate your birth chart at The main planets to understand are the “inner planets” which are the sun, moon, Mercury, Mars and Venus. Each planet is able to tell you about a different aspect of yourself. Your moon sign gives insight into your inner feelings and emotions. Mercury is able to tell you more about how you communicate and interact with others. Venus explains your relationships with others and love life. Mars explains your drive and energy.

Once you calculate your birth chart you can look up what it means and find different websites or resources that are able to explain what it says about yourself. Looking up your sun and moon combination together on the internet can also help to give you an idea of the make-up of your inner and outer self. Downloading the Co-Star app also gives you a more personalized daily horoscope based on the placements in your birth chart.

Next time you want to immediately judge someone for being a Gemini, remember to keep yourself in check because there’s a lot more to astrology than meets the eye.