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 learn some words, and then pick up the pattern that strings them together.
What’s the best way to study astrology?
Review the basics over and over
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.
Read lots of charts
You can still get all the birth charts you want for free at Astro.com! And a treasure trove of data for public figures at AstroDatabank. If you want to get good at reading charts, you have to read a lot of charts with interest and curiosity.
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. Start with the keywords I give you, and add to them as you learn 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 live astrology classes in your area, or ask a local astrologer for tutoring and guidance with your studies.
Visit my Beginner’s Guide to Astrology to learn the basic mechanics and vocabulary terms you need to read a birth chart.
There are ample opportunities to learn astrology online, as well. I’ll have a free online astrology course available at some point– and some advanced offerings, too. Subscribe to my (infrequent) newsletter mailings to stay in the loop.
Astrology is not a “crystal ball.” (Don’t freak yourself out)
When I work with clients, I don’t often tell them what they don’t already know about themselves. But astrology helps me put their experience into a “cosmic” perspective that often resonates deeply.
When you’re starting out, don’t read to know; read to observe. “Ooh, when Mars meets Saturn, it feels like this.” “Aha, this happened, and Neptune was transiting my Venus.” “Wow, a lot of my friends have Leo rising.” “Damn, my last 3 boyfriends have had Moon in the 7th house.” (Looking to partner with mama!) If you read to know, you run a good risk of freaking yourself out. “What is going to happen?” is not a question the chart can answer. “What’s unfolding in my life right now?” is.
The chart as a map
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, awareness of your psychological and spiritual patterns is the first and most important step towards mastering the challenges represented in your chart (or at least coping with them). Your chart can show you how to make stumbling blocks into stepping stones.
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.
Welcome to the wonderful, never-ending rabbit-hole of astrology– the symbolic language of geometry and symbolism that bears on our subjective lived experience. As you study astrology, learn new techniques and perspectives, work with the astrological calendar— years will continue to pass, and one day you’ll realize you’re getting pretty good at this. You have created your own unique perspective on astrology based on your life experience and worldly expertise. I wish you well on your journey!