A Beginner’s Guide to Astrocartography
How to use the stars to find your place on Earth.
Let’s take this to the next level. You’ve used astrology to explore your callings, challenges and desires, but what if your cosmic data could inform your geographical destiny? Enter astrocartography, a relatively recent study in an eon-spanning tradition, which projects the aspects of your birth chart onto the map of planet Earth, casting the influence of Venus, Saturn and the pantheon upon cities and regions. With practice and examination, astrocartography can inform you of the locales which will define you. Here’s our introduction to this head-tripping cosmic practice.
Your birth chart marks the placement of the planets based on the time and location of your first breath. It ascribes meaning to the four angles of the day: the ascendant marks dawn, and introduces us to the world; the midheaven “career peak” hits at noon; the sunset descendent deals with the people we go home to; and the midnight imum coeli correlates to our sense of home and rootedness. Where the planets fall in relation to these points, and in which of the twelve houses, informs the specific makeup of your chart.
But what if you’d been born at the exact same time, in a different part of the world? Though the planets and signs would remain the same, their positioning would be different. Perhaps you were born in Toledo, with your natal Mars in the fourth house of home and family, fighting to assert its independence. But, at the same time in Jakarta, Mars would hit your tenth house of career dominance. What would happen if you were to visit Indonesia? What Martian essence would be revealed to you? Astrocartographer Elizabeth Smith, who offers private readings and a bastion of audio lessons on the study, affirms the expanded perspective offered. “It’s not just about the passage of time we’re considering,” she says, “but the movements that we make through space. That’s half of reality, on the dualistic plane.”
In his foundational text The Psychology of Astro*Carto*Graphy, Jim Lewis writes that through this lens, “we are born everywhere at once, with the world as our horoscope.” Indeed, when you pull up an astrocartography map online, you’re no longer looking at your own personal wheel, but at the entire globe, with lines for each planet crossing over different cities and regions.
Look to where the planet hits to understand its influence. “If you go to a place graced by a Venus line,” Lewis writes, “you are apt to become more occupied than usual with relationships and their place in your life.” It’s likely that Venus was hitting Vienna hard for Jesse and Celine, in Before Sunset; maybe Saturn curved over New York City for Greta Gerwig’s wayward dancer in Frances Ha, forcing her to grow up and take responsibility. Lewis writes that “these lines each represent untapped and even suppressed psychological potentials,” which will “lead these archetypes to see outer manifestation in your life.”
Planets & Aspects
Here’s where the real artform comes in. When looking at an astrocartography map online, you’ll track not only the lines of the ten planets, but their angles as well. It’s key that you understand the general gist of the ascendant (AC), midheaven (MC), descendant (DC) and imum coeli (IC) so that you can see how they interface with the planets.
The ascendant, or AC, connects to our intrinsic selfhood and embodiment. If you were born with Mercury AC in Osaka, maybe you’re meant to discover your authentic voice while studying Japanese and working at a Hyogo ski resort.
The midheaven, or MC, delivers you to the masses, usually through your career. Perhaps you’re a Santiago-based fashion student with their sun MC line in Milan. That may be where you show your greatest line at Fashion Week, or encounter the collaborators who launch you forward.
The descendent, or DC, relates to others: how they see us and how we interact with them. Perhaps you were born with Saturn DC in Cape Town. While interning there, you may meet an older mentor who shows you the ropes, or a romantic liaison who makes you face hard truths about yourself.
The imum coeli, or IC, binds us to our roots, origins and karmic history. Perhaps you get along great with your parents while hiking together in California, but as soon as you head to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving in Shreveport, all hell breaks loose. Could Mars, god of belligerence, be on the IC in Louisiana?
Smith warns that “the biggest problem people run into is that they take the map out of context. Let’s say they’re seduced by the description they read of their Jupiter midheaven line. They think: All my problems will be over if I go there. But what about everything else in your chart? What about the aspects to Jupiter? Look at the details. And so, the fundamental rules apply: Wherever you go, there you are. Traveling to — or even encountering others from — different parts of the world can reveal different aspects of you, and initiate opportunities and tests. You’ll need to understand the complexity of your planets to embrace the world’s possibilities for them — and not uproot yourself in delusion.
Hence the utility of a good reading. A well-versed astrocartographer can sort through the mishegas of planetary aspects, progressions, and beyond, helping you understand where you shine. Smith says that, as the Age of Aquarius has introduced digital nomadism and more career freedom than ever, she’s encountered vast uncertainty in her clients. “The biggest thing I hear is: I’m alone. I’m looking for community. And a lot of people find it. I get follow-up emails all the time, when they go to the places [discussed in the reading]. There’s a feeling of too much choice, of: I can go anywhere, but I don’t know where to go. We help people who have global options, who are overwhelmed by their freedom, to make wise choices, trial and error, landing in a place and seeing how it goes.”
You don’t have to master astrocartography to access its wisdom, nor do you have to move to a distant land to finally access the “real” you. But by understanding life’s progress as geographical and not merely chronological, we can expand our field of vision far beyond the world we know. Not every journey should be a sunset vacation; some places, and people, are meant to challenge us, and force us to grow. But no matter how brutal or beautiful the voyage, its lessons were laid out the moment you were born. You just have to know where to look.