8. Structuring Your Birth Chart

astrology guide
astrology guide

IN THIS CHAPTER, I will briefly review the astrological elements of signs, houses, and planets that were discussed in part 1 and go into more detail about how each element is involved in the structuring of the birth chart. Please remember that we are using the concepts of day and night and inhale and exhale to indicate the living, pulsing nature of the cosmos as it works within you.

The Signs

In an astrological horoscope, the outer rim of the chart represents the zodiac, with the belt representing the 12 astrological signs and, like any geometric circle, containing 360°. The medicine wheel or “circle of animals” is divided into 12 equal parts of 30° that are roughly based on, but not equivalent to, the constellations. Most of the planets and other essential bodies move through the signs of the zodiac along the plane of the ecliptic, known as the orbit, in a narrow band. Pluto and some of the newly discovered dwarf planets, however, do not follow the same orbital plane, giving them an orbit that is eccentric compared to the more traditional planets.

The zodiac signs always follow the same order, from Aries to Pisces, going counterclockwise around the outer rim of the horoscope. The signs represent 12 psychological impulses and needs, and everyone has all 12 signs contained within their psychological blueprint. In my illustration below, the sign on the ascendant, 9:00 on the sample chart, is Aries, but the sign on the ascendant in an individual chart will vary dependent upon time and place of birth. You will see this in the two sample charts at the end of this chapter.


See below for descriptions of each of the 12 sectors that correspond to the numbers in the diagram.


The Houses

Natal charts are divided into 12 sectors, or pieces of the pie, also moving counterclockwise. The houses are fixed, holding the same position in every chart, and the signs revolve around them, just as the signs and planets revolve around the ecliptic from our perspective.

Based on the time and place of birth, each house will have a different sign on its cusp, or beginning. Depending on the house system used, some houses may have the same sign on the cusp of two houses. Please see the section on house systems in chapter 7.


Contained within each of the signs and houses are the symbols for the planets and other essential bodies. Each planet represents a part of the psyche that is contained within the whole. The sign it is in represents how that planet is activated, and the house represents the area of life in which the planet is active.

The Twelve Sectors of the Houses

1 House of the Self Inhale, Day

  • Personality
  • What You Project
  • Life Force
  • Early Experiences and Abilities

2 House of Resources

  • Exhale, Night
  • Self Confidence, Values
  • Relationship to Body, Physical World
  • How You Make Money

3 House of Communication

  • Inhale, Day
  • Perception and Observation
  • The Voice
  • Writing and Communication Style
  • Early Education
  • Siblings, Neighbors
  • Transportation and Short Journeys

4 House of the Home

  • Exhale, Night Inner, Private Life
  • Emotional and Material Security and Foundation
  • Fulfillment of Emotional Needs, Self Care
  • Type of Home

5 House of Self-Expression

  • Inhale, Day
  • Creative Expression
  • Joy, Pleasure, Play, Hobbies
  • Love Affairs, Romance
  • Children

6 House of Service and Health

  • Exhale, Night
  • Usefulness, Service
  • Daily Routines and Work
  • Nature of Daily Work
  • Health Matters, Cleansing, Daily Diet
  • Pets

7 House of Relationship and Marriage

  • Inhale, Day
  • What You Are Attracted to and What You Attract
  • Significant Relationships
  • Disowned Self

8 House of Intimacy

  • Exhale, Night
  • Deeply Bonded Relationships
  • Deep Psychological Issues
  • Transformation and Death
  • Inheritances and Shared Financial Resources

9 House of the Higher Self

  • Inhale, Day
  • Expansion and Exploration
  • Higher Studies and Philosophy
  • Personal Beliefs
  • Experience of the Divine
  • Long Journeys and Other Cultures

10 House of the Public Self

  • Exhale, Night Contribution or Mission in Life Career
  • Public Visibility and Reputation
  • One of the Parents

11 House of Community

  • Inhale, Day
  • Groups and Organizations
  • Friends
  • Social Causes, Consciousness
  • Humanitarianism
  • Politics, Including Gender Politics
  • Internet Connections

12 House of the Unconscious

  • Mystery, Mystical, Meditation
  • Altered States, Chemical or Meditative
  • Transpersonal Knowledge
  • Seclusion, Retreats, Monasteries, Prison
  • Dreaming, Empathy

A New View of the Planets

Planets are usually named after gods and goddesses from ancient times and mythologies, but remember that the gods represent anthropomorphized parts of the human experience and are archetypal in nature. Similar myths and themes appear in diverse cultures, with different names given to those archetypal representations.

It was humankind who portrayed the gods as masculine or feminine, because of the limits of our understanding, and this has carried through into the language of astrology.

I am not suggesting that we rename the planets, but that we recognize the human lack of nuance imposed on the astrological interpretation of the planets. For example, Mars has been described as masculine for hundreds of years, yet traditionally the planet ruled both Aries and Scorpio, seen as masculine and feminine signs respectively. The planets are as nuanced as human beings. All living beings, including planetary bodies, have both day and night within them-the whole universe is actually nonbinary in nature.

Sample Charts

Let’s look at some sample natal charts: Jodie Foster and Anderson Cooper.

Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster was born on November 19, 1962, at 8:14 a.m. in Los Angeles, California. The famous actress has the Sun in Scorpio, a Scorpio stellium, the Moon in Virgo, and Sagittarius rising.

I suggest taking an overall view of the chart before delving into the details. This chart is predominant in water elements, with the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, and Neptune all in water signs. Her ascendant is in Sagittarius, a fire sign, with Mars in Leo, another fire sign, in aspect, and her Moon, Uranus, and Pluto are in Virgo, an earth sign. This suggests that Foster is predominantly a spiritual, imaginative, and creative soul. Her primary modality is fixed, suggesting she enjoys stability, and her secondary modality is mutable, so she is able to move with changes when needed.

Natal Nov 19, 1962, Mon 8:14 AM PST +8:00 Los Angeles, California Tropical Porphyry


Sagittarius-rising individuals are often drawn to travel and higher learning. Foster has done both, studying in France at a young age, speaking French fluently, and graduating magna cum laude from Yale. The ruling planet of Sagittarius is Jupiter. Foster’s Jupiter is in Pisces in the third house, suggesting a very expansive and almost sponge-like ability to learn and take in information. Jupiter opposes the Moon-Uranus-Pluto conjunction in the ninth house (naturally ruled by Sagittarius), which reflects her draw to higher studies, but also that she says she ritualizes all religions in her home so that her family is educated in all belief systems (ninth house). Jupiter in the third house suggests her early academic prowess, and Foster is said to have been able to read at the age of three.

The Sun in a Scorpio stellium that spans the 11th and 12th houses with the luminary in the 12th house shows her intensely private personal nature, as both Scorpio and the 12th house are representative of privacy.

Foster’s Mars, traditional ruler of Scorpio, in Leo is in the eighth house, the natural house of Scorpio, which adds to that drive for privacy-though a Leo Mars also has the ability to perform. The Libra midheaven also reflects her creative nature, as does her Venus-Neptune conjunction in Scorpio. Her water placements, 8th-and 12th-house placements, and her Jupiter in Pisces suggest a deeply intuitive and possibly psychic nature. They also show a deep desire to explore the psychological motivations of others, and Foster has displayed this through the roles she has chosen and the projects she has directed.

Her Moon-Uranus-Pluto conjunction in Virgo in the ninth house also shows her inclination to explore emotionally deep and psychologically traumatic (Uranus-Pluto conjunction) areas of life. Taxi Driver and The Silence of the Lambs come to mind in her film roles, and her Yale thesis topic was Toni Morrison, whose writings explore slavery and racism in African American history.

Foster’s chart shows a highly intelligent, exploratory nature with a deep sensitivity, intuitive nature, and emotional power that she brings to her public film work and keeps private otherwise.


Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper was born on June 3, 1967, at 3:46 p.m. in New York, New York. Cooper’s primary element is air, with a Gemini Sun, Libra rising, and Mars in Libra conjuncting the ascendant.

Water is a close second with midheaven, ruling planet Venus, and Neptune all in water signs. The Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn in fire signs are a close third. Cooper’s only earth placement is a Uranus-Pluto conjunction in Virgo. Cooper has a good balance of cardinal, fixed, and mutable energy. The majority of Cooper’s planets are in the southern hemisphere, or top half, of the chart, suggesting he’s outgoing and sociable. First impressions are that he is a well-balanced individual.

With a Gemini Sun, Libra rising with Mars conjunct in Libra, and the ruling planet, Venus, at the top of his chart conjunct the midheaven, it’s unsurprising that Cooper has chosen a public role in his career-air signs are connected to the mind, media, and communication. With Mars on his ascendant and his Moon and Saturn in Mars-ruled Aries, and both close to his descendant, he’s driven to get ahead and to succeed. His big break in media was self-made (Aries) by faking a press pass to enter Myanmar and selling his own news segments to Channel One, a small news agency.

His strong water element, with Cancer midheaven, the ruling planet Venus in Cancer and angular (conjunct the midheaven), and Neptune in Scorpio, suggests a deeply caring nature, which has motivated his investigative work-he often shows his emotional side on air. He has been quoted as saying, “Yeah, I would prefer not to be emotional and I would prefer not to get upset, but it’s hard not to when you’re surrounded by brave people who are suffering and in need.”

His 12th-house Uranus-Pluto conjunction, however, suggests a deep connection to trauma and indicates trauma in his own life. His brother took his own life in 1988, and Cooper has admitted to becoming desensitized to the horrors of war after reporting on assignment for several years. His eighth-house Sun also suggests that investigative pull toward the underbelly. Thankfully, his strong air and fire placements help balance this out, so he knows when to move to the lighter side of life to bring himself out of the darker places. His eighth-house Sun also suggests that he’s private about his personal life.

Cooper’s Libra rising makes him very attractive and appealing in appearance and manner, and his Leo Jupiter in the 10th house gives him star appeal. His Leo Jupiter also is suggestive of his place in American “royalty” as a Vanderbilt heir.

Now that we’ve looked at the structure of the chart and begun to develop analysis tools through examples, it’s time to delve even deeper into chart interpretation and integrate other elements into the chart. In the next chapter, we’ll add in other elements, such as some of the asteroids and angles.

Natal Jun 3, 1967, Sat 3:46 PM EDT +4:00 New York, New York Tropical Porphyry