How do I interpret a horoscope?


Many Astrology books describe the calculation process for a horoscope and the interpretation process in such a way that   they might be perceived to be procedures of the same nature.  This categorical error may be very misleading, particularly for beginners, or for those with little knowledge of Astronomy.  In my opinion, more emphasis needs to be placed on the qualitative difference between performing the calculations necessary to prepare a horoscope, and attempting to interpret the horoscope.

The calculation of a horoscope used to require books containing information about the position of the Sun, Moon and planets on a given date, and tables to assist calculation of the Ascendant and the other houses.

For the many Astrologers who still like to use these methods, and for those who like to keep track of transits easily,  ephemerides and tables of houses are provided on this site.

Nowadays computer programs are available to perform the calculations, typically using the date, time and place of birth as input.  In either case, the results are factual and objective.  An observer,  looking at the sky at the moment for which the horoscope is cast, could verify that the information provided by the calculations is correct.

When it comes to interpretation of the horoscope, the guidelines are anything but factual and objective.  This is hardly surprising, for human beings interpret horoscopes, or they write computer  programs which interpret horoscopes.  Indeed one can often tell a great deal about the psychological make-up of the Astrologer by observing how he/she interprets a horoscope.

Now this matters not at all, provided one is aware of the difficulty in providing any objective rules for chart interpretation.   The danger lies, when approaching Astrology, in the temptation to imagine that the interpretative process works as accurately and as mechanically as does the calculation process.  After all, the calculation and interpretation both involve these exciting planets, signs, houses and aspects - it would be easy to lose sight of those aspects of Astrology that are objective, and those that are not.

The bad news is that there is no magic formula for horoscope interpretation, despite the fact that there are excellent algorithms for performing accurate calculations of planetary positions many centuries into the past and future.  The good news is that many learned (and some less learned) Astrologers have, despite this difficulty, made heroic attempts to explain their own way of approaching horoscope interpretation.  The result is a diverse and considerable literature of variable quality, which may be of assistance while the Astrologer gradually, through experience, learns which principles of interpretation seem to work best, and how to make allowance for his/her own psychological orientation, when interpreting a horoscope.   My humble attempt to add to this literature is motivated by the spirit of making a constructive contribution to the debate about how Astrology  connects the planetary positions with the human temperament.

Horoscope Calculation

This is intended to be a fairly brief and simple guide for beginners, so any experts please be tolerant of any oversimpifications!

If you have not yet calculated your horoscope for your date, time and place of birth, you can do so now, using a VBScript program I have written which copes with all dates between 1900 and 2050 AD.  I have included The hypothetical planet Zed in the output, but you are reminded that the position of Zed is - well - hypothetical!  You can ignore it completely, if you like.

The left hand column in the program output lists the planets, true lunar node, and the Ascendant, Midheaven and Vertex.  The middle column shows the position of each planet or point, using the format Degrees- Sign-Minutes.  For example, an entry beginning "Venus       06 AQU 23" would indicate that Venus is in the sign Aquarius, at 6 degrees and 23 minutes into the sign.  (The final column gives the celestial latitude, and this can be ignored by beginners).  Each sign is 30 degrees in length.

The sign abbreviations used are as follows:

Abbreviation Sign Mode and Element
ARI Aries Cardinal Fire
TAU Taurus Fixed Earth
GEM Gemini Mutable Air
CAN Cancer Cardinal Water
LEO Leo Fixed Fire
VIR Virgo Mutable Earth
LIB Libra Cardinal Air
SCO Scorpio Fixed Water
SAG Sagittarius Mutable Fire
CAP Capricorn Cardinal Earth
AQU Aquarius Fixed Air
PIS Pisces Mutable Water

The signs the planets occupy are familiar to most people - nearly everyone knows their Sun Sign.  Well now you can find out your Moon Sign, Mercury Sign, Venus Sign etc. etc.  Of particular importance is the Ascendant Sign, sometimes called the Rising Sign, or just the Ascendant.

Although a fair amount can be told about a person's psychological orientation by knowing which signs the planets and the Ascendant occupy, a couple of improvements can be made relatively easily.

The first of these involves the Houses.  Like the Signs of the zodiac above, each House is 30 degrees in length according to the simplest, (and some would say the best), method of calculation.   Instead of starting at the beginning of the zodiac, at the start of Aries, the Houses begin at the Ascendant.  For example, if a horoscope has Ascendant at 12 LEO 25, the First House starts at 12 LEO 25 and extends through all the later degrees of Leo and the early degrees of Virgo, until the Second House begins at 12 VIR 25.  If there are planets in this horoscope at 19 LEO 26 and 04 VIR 58, both will be in the First House, while a planet at 27 VIR 02 will be in the Second House.  The Third House begins at 12 LIB 25, the Fourth House at 12 SCO 25 etc. etc. round to the Twelfth House which begins at 12 CAN 25.  Not really very difficult, but it takes some getting used to.

The second improvement involves taking into account the Aspects.  These can be somewhat confusing to the beginner.  Again I shall try to demonstrate by examples: you will soon get the idea.

Suppose a horoscope has Mercury in 03 ARI 14 and Saturn in 04 ARI 12.  Mercury and Saturn are close to each other in this horoscope - less than a degree apart.  Astronomically, they lie in more or less the same direction in the sky, and they are near Conjunction (joined together) with each other.  As one might expect intuitively, two planets in Conjunction operate together.  If Mercury represents the psychological drive to organise through  communication, while Saturn represents the psychological drive to self-discipline, one might expect a Mercury - Saturn Conjunction to indicate a disciplined organiser.  Whether this results in a precise logical communicator, or in a person who is afraid to organise, (through fear of making mistakes, for example), will depend on other horoscope factors, but in any case organising ability will be closely linked with the expression of discipline.  The closer the two planets are to being in exact Conjunction, the stronger will be the effects.  The difference between the actual planetary separation and an exact Conjunction is called the Orb.   In this case, the Orb is just under one degree - 58 minutes to be precise.  In practice, Conjunctions will be strongly noticeable if the Orb is 4 degrees or less, moderately noticeable if the Orb is between 4 and 8 degrees, and weakly noticeable out to about 12 degrees of Orb.  It is possible for two planets in different Signs to be in Conjunction, if one planet is at the end of one Sign, and the other planet near the beginning of the next Sign.  For example Mars in 28 VIR 20 and Jupiter in 03 LIB 20 would be in conjunction with Orb 5 degrees.

As the name suggests, the Opposition Aspect involves two planets opposite each other in the horoscope.  For example, if Mars is in 20 ARI 25 and Saturn in 21 LIB 55, they are in opposite Signs (Aries is opposite Libra) and their degree positions are similar.   There would be an exact Opposition if Saturn were in 20 LI 25, but as things stand there is an Opposition with Orb 1 degree and 30 minutes. In my experience, Oppositions are felt fairly strongly if the Orb is less than 3 degrees, and are not very noticeable if the orb is greater than 6 degrees.  Some astrologers use an orb of up to 8 or 9 degrees.   The Opposition involves a tension between two parts of the personality operating in opposing ways, and this is more comfortable if one can find someone else to play the role of one of the two planets involved.  Thus a lawyer with the above aspect might fight (Mars in Aries) in court to sway a judge (Saturn in Libra), while at home he/she might lay down the law (Saturn) with his/her assertive family (Mars).  Or at least that is the way he or she might experience these situations.

This aspect involves two planets that are 120 degrees apart (or 4 Signs).  Thus a planet in 12 CAN 56 would be in Trine Aspect to another planet in 14 SCO 56 (Orb 2 degrees), or for that matter to a planet in 11 PIS 56 (Orb 1 degree).  The two planets involved in a Trine aspect are said to work harmoniously together, bringing out the more positive qualities of the planets involved.  Trines are helpful, though too many can lead to a certain amount of laziness, unless there are challenging aspects elsewhere in the horoscope.  The closer the exactness of the Aspect, the stronger the effect.  Some Astrologers use an Orb of up to 8 or 9 degrees, but I find any effect fairly weak if the Orb is more than 4 degrees.

Two planets in Square aspect are 90 degrees apart, or three Signs.  Thus a planet in 15 SAG 37 is in exact Square aspect to a planet in 15 VIR 37 or to a planet in 15 PIS 37.  Again, as usual an Orb is allowed for inexactness: in this case I use 3 degrees, although many Astrologers use up to 8 degrees.   At least using small Orbs, I am confident there will be a noticeable effect, if a Square is as close as within 3 degrees of exactness.  The square aspect is said to indicate conflict, since the two planets are not working together, nor are they even opposing each other, (where projecting the qualities of one planet onto other people might help).  They act (literally) at right-angles to each other, sort of cutting across each others path.  Conflicts are likely to occur according to the different psychological energies represented by the two planets.  One of the advantages of astrology is that it can help you to know where conflicts are possible, and to do something about them.

Two planets in Sextile aspect are 60 degrees apart, or two Signs.  A planet in 16 LEO 29 will be in exact Sextile Aspect to planets in 16 LIB 29 or 16 GEM 29.  I use an Orb of 2 degrees, but many Astrologers use up to 5 or 6 degrees.  The Sextile is a helpful aspect, though some learning and effort is required to bring out the best of this combination.

The Aspects discussed so far are called the Major Aspects.  It is important to note that the Sun, Moon and Planets can form Aspects with the Ascendant.

The Major Aspects arise from division of the circle by small whole numbers.  For example, the Square Aspect involves two planets 90 degrees apart, and this is equivalent to one quarter of the whole circle (360 degrees).

Other aspects in common use are the Semisquare (45 degrees, or one eighth of 360 degrees), the Sesquiquadrate (135 degrees, or three eighths of 360 degrees), the Semisextile (30 degrees, or one twelfth of the circle) and the Quincunx (150 degrees, or five twelfths of 360 degrees).  I use Orbs of only 1 degree to 1 and a half degrees for these Minor aspects.

More rarely used are the Quintile and Biquintile (72 and 144 degrees respectively), resulting from division of the circle by five, or the Septile, Biseptile and Triseptile, resulting from division by 7.  My program does not try to interpret these aspects - life is only so long!

Principles of Chart Interpretation

In 1983 I attempted to write a computer program to calculate and then interpret horoscopes.  In performing the interpretation, I developed a rule hierarchy depending on my experience of what seemed to work consistently.

I found that most people responded positively to fairly broad descriptions corresponding to an excess or lack of an element (Fire, Earth, Air and Water) in their horoscope, and I therefore started the interpretation with a paragraph for each element.  The strength of each element was calculated very simply: if a planet was in a Fire sign, I added one point to the score for Fire, and so on, for each planet.  I scored one point for the element of the Ascendant in the same way.

Many people have a better understanding of the signs of the zodiac than they do of the aspects, and I gave a description of the meaning of each planet in each sign, followed by a list of the meanings of all the aspects made by that planet.  I started with the Sun, then the Moon, then Mercury, Venus, Mars and so on, out to Pluto.  I also indicated how strong an aspect was (i.e. close in orb).

I also used a transplutonian planet, which I called Zed, (after reading Carl Payne Tobey's work, The Astrology of Inner Space).  I calculated the orbit by performing a numerical integration of the solar system, but unfortunately this does not mean very much.  Hundreds of other people have done exactly the same and come up with dozens of hypothetical transplutonian planets, all in different positions!  Moreover, various small planets or planetoids have been discovered in the outer solar system since I originally wrote the program in 1983.  Fortunately the program was written in such a way that the planet Zed could be ignored completely by anyone who wanted to stick to the planets that had actually been discovered.  Nevertheless - the elemental analysis seems to work better when Zed is included .....maybe.  I confidently expect that when Astronomers and Astrologers decide which planet, (possibly as yet undiscovered), corresponds to Planet Zed, that it will have qualities similar to those described in my interpretation texts, unless my understanding of Freudian and Jungian is very wide of the mark.

Since the interpretation texts were written using a fixed output format in the days when Windows programming lay in the future, the readings are somewhat limited, but at least I was compelled to put extra energy into writing about  those aspects which I found hard to describe, rather than ramble on about those aspects with which I felt comfortable.

The Interpretation Files

These are presented in HTML format after conversion from the original text files.  I still occasionally come across the odd spelling mistake!  Please have a look at them, use them and modify them for your own use if they are helpful to you, and let me know how they compare with your own experiences.

Preamble and Disclaimer -  a useful start to any sort of work these days!

Element Analysis of the Horoscope

The meaning of each Planet in the Horoscope

The meaning of each planet in each sign (please select from the table below)


Mercury Jupiter Neptune


Venus Saturn Pluto


Mars Uranus Zed

The Aspects - interpretation.  For an aspect between two planets, please click the higher one in the list below.  For example, for a Venus - Jupiter aspect click on Venus.

Jupiter & Saturn
Outer Planets & Ascendant

The Houses A brief (five-line!) description of each house meaning.

Further information will be added to these page in due course, as I find the time.

Venus and Jupiter near Conjunction Venus (bottom right) and Jupiter (top left) approaching conjunction with a couple of telephone lines as they set in the West.  Picture captured on the evening of  21st Feb 1999.

Seeing sometimes helps believing!

Page created February 22nd 1999.

Last updated 10th July 1999.

Thank you for visiting.


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