Have you ever studied a foreign language? Learning the planets, signs, and houses in astrology is a lot like learning a second language– the symbolic language of time. As with any language, you can’t start with Shakespeare; you have to start with Dick and Jane.
Astrology is a fascinating, complex, serious and incredibly rewarding study. You will not learn it in a week, a month, or even a year. It usually takes at least a few years and a whole lot of studying to get good at reading charts, so the first thing to remember is to be patient with yourself. I have been studying since 1996, and there is still so much to learn.
What’s the best way to study astrology?
The best way to learn is to study your own chart, and the charts of the people in your life. Many charts, especially those of the people closest to you, may not make a lot of sense to you at first, and that’s okay. They will make more sense in time. Just keep reading and keep learning. You’ll learn about aspects and transits, progressions and composite charts. You’ll start comparing your chart to other people’s, learning how the energy works in relationships. Still, don’t stop reviewing the basics: planets, signs and houses. You need a strong understanding of the basics to make sense of any chart.
Make flash cards
I like to use 3” x 5” or 4” x 6” note cards, lined on one side, and blank on the other. On the unlined side, draw the glyph for the planet or sign, or the number of the house. On the lined side, write down keywords for that planet, sign, or house. You can start with the keywords I give you, and add to them as you read more about astrology.
You can use the cards to quiz yourself on the meanings and other basic information about each of the planets and signs. You can also put them together to help with interpreting the chart. For example, with Moon in Taurus, you would get out your Moon card and your Taurus card, and put them together to get an idea what Moon in Taurus means.
Most astrology enthusiasts love to gab about their craft. Find someone to “talk shop” with. Attend a lecture at your local NCGR chapter. If you’re not lucky enough to have an astrology group in your area, join one of the many communities online where people can converse about astrology at all levels.
Experience it firsthand
Regardless of your level of expertise, you can also study and learn from the planetary patterns swirling around us today. Keep an eye on the astrological calendar. This is a wonderful way to learn, since you do so much more than memorize keywords for the planetary energy— you experience it first hand!
Go to school
- Look for astrology classes in your area, or ask a local astrologer for tutoring or guidance with your studies.
- Take a course— Online College of Astrology has some great offerings for beginners. Kepler College offers certification in astrology.
Your chart is a map. Your heart is the master.
Keep in mind is that the chart represents potential and possibility. Unlike a foreign language, every vocabulary word in astrology represents some fundamental energy of life on Earth. As such, each has a wide range of expression, not a narrow meaning. Mars, for example, symbolizes speed, irritation, inflammation, sharpness, which may affect the body, the mind, the emotions, or the spirit. As many things in your chart do, the energy symbolized by Mars operates simultaneously on many levels.
This Mars energy within you may inspire and motivate you to take constructive action in a mindful way. But maybe you will choose to be tense and angry and take thoughtless, destructive action that brings harm. Mars does not determine the result. It’s the decisions we have made up to now, that we continue making every day. It is in this place of power that knowing astrology is of immense benefit.
Don’t freak yourself out
Don’t read to know; read to observe. “Ooh, when Mars meets Saturn, it feels like this.” “Ooh, this happened, and Neptune was transiting my Venus.” “Ooh, a lot of my friends have Leo rising.” “Ooh, a lot of my boyfriends have had Moon in the 12th house.” If you read to know, you run a good risk of freaking yourself out. “Is he the one?” is not a question the chart can answer. “Where am I in my life right now?” is.
Astrology is not a “crystal ball.”
You can analyze past, present, and future energies and choices in your chart. It describes the types of people and circumstances you will likely encounter. It will not reveal exactly how the pieces are going to fall into place. Life is part fate, and part free will. Astrology gives you a roadmap showing the forks in the road and the best path to your destination. The planets do not make decisions for you.
Like Mars, everything in astrology has many possible ways it can be expressed. Many students who are learning astrology will look up a placement in a book, find a negative sounding interpretation, and think, yikes, I must be a terrible person. I know I did.
But I learned to think of it this way— difficult things in your chart represent challenge– inner conflict that takes effort to work out. The bad news is, yes, you may exhibit some of these negative characteristics. The good news is, being honest with yourself, becoming aware of your psychological and spiritual patterns is the first and most important step towards overcoming the challenges represented in your chart– making stumbling blocks into stepping stones.