If you read your horoscope religiously, have CoStar and The Pattern downloaded on your phone, or dabble with tarot cards, then you probably think you have this whole astrology thing figured out. But according to personal astrologer Hedy (also known as Nymph of Neptune)l, everything starts and ends with your birth chart. "Reading a birth chart can really illuminate aspects of your life, both conscious and unconscious, that you may not be aware of," she says. "It's about achieving psychological balance and having better control over your life, so you can better control your tendencies."
Want to know more? We turned to Nymph of Neptune to get all the answers behind this seemingly elaborate process.
What exactly is a birth chart?
In a nutshell, your birth chart explains where the planets were in the sky at the date and time of your birth. "It's a snapshot or map of the position of the planets or the stars at the time you were born," says Nymph of Neptune. "Each planet has a different effect on an aspect of our life, and this illuminates that."
Essentially, this means that we all have the personality traits of several zodiac signs in our chart, and they correspond to different areas of our lives. For example, Venus is the planet that rules relationships, so if your Venus is in Scorpio, for instance, that means you embody those traits in your relationships — i.e. passionate, intense, loyal, and sexual.
How do you read your birth chart?
To get your birth chart, you need the date, exact time (to the minute, if possible), and the location where you were born.
Apps like The Pattern and CoStar can give you the details of your birth chart and create horoscopes from that personalized information, or you can use an astrology app online. However, Nymph of Neptune highly recommends getting yours read from a personal astrologer first. "The apps don't tell the whole story, and having your chart read by a professional can illuminate all of your behavioral patterns," she says. "Astrologists see everything laid out in front of them — we see the patterns, the needs, the behaviors of a person. And I think especially with relationships, people have issues because they're chasing people who won't meet their needs. But seeing an astrologer could help someone identify what their needs are, and it could be something they didn't consciously realize or know."
What are the key components of a birth chart?
As Nymph of Neptune said, a birth chart tells you where each planet was at the time of your birth, and each planet rules a different aspect of your life. You have your sun sign, which is what you refer to when you read your horoscope; this essentially describes who you are at your core. However, your moon sign is important because it speaks to your emotional self and the kind of nurturing you received as a child. "It connects to your relationship needs and what you need in your adult life," notes Nymph of Neptune. Your rising sign is based on the constellation that was in the sky at the time of your birth, and shows how people perceive you when they first meet you: "Basically, what outside traits you show to the world."
The other planets also represent different aspects of your life — Venus is relationships; Mercury is communication; Mars is action and aggression; Jupiter is expansion; Saturn is self-discipline and fears; Uranus is innovation and progress; Neptune is the subconscious and healing; and Pluto is power and intensity. By knowing which sign each planet falls under, you'll recognize your traits, tendencies, and behaviors, which will show you both your strengths and what you need to work on.
Another aspect of your birth chart is the houses, which represent the earth's rotation around its axis. "There's a 12-house system, and each house reflects a different life theme or area," says Nymph of Neptune. The houses give more detail into each aspect of your life, depending on which planet and sign they're in.
The house system goes like this: The first house is your ego and sense of self; the second house is material possessions; the third house is community and communication; the fourth house is home and family; the fifth house is creativity and romance; the sixth house is health and work; the seventh house is partnerships; the eighth house is death, sex, and transformation; the ninth house is travel and philosophy; the 10th house is public image and career; the 11th house is humanity and technology; and the 12th house is psychic abilities and the collective unconscious.
Sounds complicated? Think of it this way: Your birth chart follows the formula "planet + sign + house," which, when added together, helps you interpret your patterns.
How would your birth chart differ from someone else's?
Quite a lot. Your personal planets — such as the moon, Venus, rising, Mercury, and Mars — can change signs every few hours to days, which is why your chart would look very different from someone born just a few days later.
However, certain planets — Pluto, Uranus, and Neptune — are very slow, changing signs only every several years or so. These planets, therefore, identify generation shifts and traits, and will be similar to your friends around the same age. "The hyper-sexualization of people born in the '90s, for example, is because Pluto was in Scorpio at the time, which rules sex. As a generation, this means these people are more sexual than previous generations," says Nymph of Neptune.
What can a birth chart teach you?
According to Nymph of Neptune, reading your birth chart can bring to light things in your life that need work, and can make you understand why you act the way you do in all aspects of your life. "It illuminates all of our behavioral patterns, good and bad," she says. "It helps us amplify the positive ones, and sheds a light on the negative behavioral patterns. Once you form an understanding of why they happen, you can nip them in the bud."
If you want to understand how that plays out in real life, take this example: "If someone has a Mercury, Mars placement, then they have a tendency to have angry outbursts. But if they understand that and maybe take up an activity like boxing, it can help them control their anger in that way," says Nymph of Neptune. "Or it can just make them more aware when they're doing it."
Can you read your birth chart multiple times over?
Absolutely — and sometimes, you may even keep wanting to go back to it, depending on what's going on in your life. "Each time you look at your birth chart, there's more depth," says Nymph of Neptune. "When things happen, I go back and see what I've missed. It's a mental refresh and explains to me what I've lost sight of, because we all go through stages of spiritual growth. So in January, we can be really intent on how we express anger and how we go about our feelings, but then by the time June rolls around, we need to be reminded of that." For instance, say your chart says you neglect your own needs in a relationship, and you're going through relationship troubles. Then, reading your chart can remind you of this tendency, and allow true change to occur.
How would each year be affected by your birth chart?
The planets keep moving and, therefore, show up in different placements at various points throughout the year. This means that in certain instances, a planetary retrograde or transit into a certain sign can affect your life in ways you may not even know — unless you have your birth chart revealing to you which sign and house each planet is in. This is why Nymph of Neptune suggests year-ahead chart readings, so you can understand what the upcoming year has in store for you.
One prime example of this is the Mercury retrogrades, which happen three times a year. Now, traditionally, Mercury rules communication and technology, but you could have a retrograde where Mercury is in your home sector, for instance. "In this case, during the retrograde, Mercury could show up by having a leak over your roof, which is entirely different. It may not be happening in a visual sector, either — it may be happening in a more internal sort of way, like in your house of intimacy. In this case, it won't affect work, home, or travel, but it could mean that you're instead thinking more about certain things and processing them differently," says Nymph of Neptune.
Can a birth chart determine relationship compatibility?
"A hundred percent," says Nymph of Neptune. "For relationship compatibility, you'd be able to see each individual's patterns in relationships, and whether they have similar needs. The most important planets here are the moon, Venus, and Mars signs. In fact, incompatible sun signs could have very similar Venus signs, which is more important." Um, maybe ask for your crush's birth time already?