If you're new to astrology, you might think your Sun sign tells the whole story. But even though that's typically viewed as your "main" zodiac sign (and the one you likely use the most often), it doesn't reveal everything about your personality. To do that, you need to read your full birth chart.

An astrology chart—also called birth chart or natal chart—is technically a snapshot of the position of the planets on the day you were born. It contains powerful information about the types of energies you were exposed to at your exact moment of birth. On a personal level, it also speaks of your strengths and weaknesses, opportunities for growth, and the absolute best (and worst) times to make big life changes. Some astrology branches even affirm that your astrology birth chart is a window into your soul’s journey.

Meet the expert: Narayana Montúfar is an astrologer, artist, and writer who finds inspiration in the symbolic language of astrology. She is the author of Moon Signs: Unlock Your Inner Luminary Power and currently serves as the Senior Astrologer of Astrology.com and Horoscope.com.

To calculate yours using this free birth chart calculator, you will need your exact time, date, and place of birth. FYI: Having the exact time is very important, but if you don’t know it, just enter 12 p.m.

Why is it so important to know your birth chart?

A main reason why knowing your natal chart is kind of a big deal: It's unique to Y-O-U. A big belief about birth charts is that they are like horoscopes, but individualized. So, while reading your daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly horoscope can provide guidance, reading your chart means receiving targeted and hyper-personalized direction for your life (sounds useful...doesn't it?).

One of the biggest misconceptions in astrology is that everyone born under the same Sun sign approaches life the exact same way, but natal charts show—and explain why—that's not true.

When analyzing a birth chart, astrologers use many techniques to figure out how a person uniquely embodies the vibration of their overall birth chart. The first one: Look at the positions of the planets in the chart. For example, someone with a Scorpio Sun and a Taurus Moon will behave quite differently to someone with a Scorpio Sun and an Aquarius Moon.

The same goes for a Scorpio born on a new moon, which means both their Sun and their Moon are in Scorpio. Because their chart has a double dose of this sign’s energy, this person would feel and act more Scorpio than someone with their Moon in another sign.

Another technique is to figure out which planets the Sun connects with in any given birth chart, as planets rarely stand alone. They either clash or harmonize with each other, and these connections will highly color the way someone relates to their Sun sign. For example, if a person’s Sun is sitting right next to Mars, the planet of action and masculine energy, that person will approach life with more ambition than a person who doesn’t have their Sun sitting next to Mars.

Because there are ten planets and twelve zodiac signs in astrology, the combinations of energies are endless, which is why it’s key to figure out which combo is yours via your birth chart. Once you understand the innerworkings of your chart, you don't have to love what you find—consciously or unconsciously, everyone decides to respond positively or negatively to their individual chart.

What does each planet represent in your birth chart?

Understanding your birth chart can open a whole new universe within yourself. Each of the ten main planetary bodies in the solar system are also found in your chart, and each one represents a different part of yourself.

  • Your Sun sign relates to your "sense of self," which speaks of your identity and the light you came to shine to the world.
  • Your Moon sign relates to your emotions, which is the part of your personality that only comes out in private and "behind closed doors."
  • Your Mercury sign depicts your thought process, as well as the way you communicate with the outside world.
  • Your Venus sign speaks of the way you attract what you want as well as what (and who) you like or dislike.
  • Your Mars sign speaks about the way you express your ambition and go after what you want.
  • Your Jupiter sign depicts your philosophy of life as well as the way you attract luck and abundance.
  • Your Saturn sign speaks of your sense of responsibility as well as the area of life in which you become a master.
  • Your Uranus sign signals your mental brilliance as well as the area of life in which you seek freedom.
  • Your Neptune sign speaks to your taste in music and art as well as the blind spots you might experience.
  • Your Pluto sign speaks of the evolution of your soul as well as the ways you will transform in this lifetime.

What does an astrologer look at when reading a birth chart?

So, you've plugged in your birth date, time, and location into a birth chart calculator and gotten a result—now what? When casting your natal chart, you will see a circle with many different symbols and lines. And while many astrology apps and websites can help you decipher them, nothing compares to having a reading with a professional astrologer.

Astrology is so complex that only a human can take into consideration your lived experience and pinpoint what is exactly special about each birth chart. Because astrology apps and websites depend on specialized algorithms, their computer-generated insight is very general and based on the idea that all Scorpios act the same way. Although these high-tech and often free options provide a good general view of each part of the chart, they miss out on diving deeper into the planetary connections within a birth chart.

So, what does an astrologer look for when reading a birth chart? Below are some of the key elements:

  • The big three signs: Sun, Moon, and Rising
  • In which of the twelve zodiac signs and which of the twelve houses each planet is
  • The pattern or shape formed by the planets
  • The overall elemental (fire, water, earth, and air) composition of the chart: Is there a balance or imbalance? If so, how can that be fixed?
  • The overall quality (cardinal, fixed, and mutable) composition of the chart: Is there a balance or imbalance? If so, how can that be fixed?
  • Which are the strongest planets, and which are the weak planets?
  • Which planets are in harmony with each other, and which are clashing with one another?

What can your birth chart tell you about your future?

Remember, the future hasn’t happened yet. Astrology is less a method for concrete fortune-telling and more a language of energy. Its practice is better used when reading the *many possible* effects some planetary influences can have on you in a holistic way.

Predicting your short-term future works similarly to the weather forecast—certain days and weeks will look great for making big moves and asserting yourself. Others are better for keeping a low profile.

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Predicting your long-term future by reading your natal chart can be an enlightening experience because your birth chart isn't static—it learns and evolves with you. Bringing the chart to the present moment helps astrologers see what might end, begin, change, or evolve over the course of the years. While astrology can’t predict exactly what will happen (you still have free will, after all!), it can predict predict periods of opportunity, big emotional changes, as well as which will be the most successful and difficult times of your life.

One thing’s for sure: After getting a solid overall grasp of your birth chart, you'll never read your horoscope the same way again.

How often should you read your birth chart?

Reading your natal chart can be done at any time, as it is the cosmic imprint you came into this world with. Things get more complicated when reading how the current astrological weather is affecting your chart, and for this, astrologers use other kinds of charts.

There are two powerful times to read your birth chart—at the beginning of each year and around your solar return (a.k.a. your birthday). As you already know, the beginning of the year is an energetic reset. This is when most astrology enthusiasts delineate the big picture "Transits Chart" for the year ahead. A "Transits Chart" overlays the current planetary alignments on top of the natal chart to figure out how these changes affect it.

Based on the yearly cycle of the sun, Solar Return Charts are important because during the daytime surrounding your birthday, plus or minus one day, your chart gets impregnated by the light of the sun going back to the exact place it was when you were born.

What are the types of astrology readings you can get?

Besides the Solar Return Chart, astrologers use Synastry Charts, Progressed Charts, Electional Charts, Horary Charts, and many more. Synastry Charts delineate the in-depth compatibility between two people and can be read for romance, business, family, or friendship. Progressed Charts bring the natal chart to the present moment. Lastly, Horary Charts focus more on answering specific questions and predicting the future.

But regardless of the chart you decide to start your astrological journey with, remember to be patient and open to what it reveals about your personality, compatibility, and more.

For those who are beginning their astrological journey, some essential astrology books are:

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