Frequently Asked Questions
Your Natal Horoscope Chart and Interpreting Your Chart
Some Frequently Asked Questions about Birth Charts and Horoscope Readings
- What is a Natal Chart and how do I get one?
- What birth data do I need to calculate a natal horoscope chart?
- How can I order a Natal Chart and how much does it cost?
- Why is the exact birth time important?
- What if I don't know my birth time and can't find out?
- What is the difference between a Horoscope Chart and a Horoscope Reading?
- What is a real Horoscope?
- How can I have my horoscope chart interpreted so I know what it means for me?
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Answers to Questions
About Astrology and Horoscopes
©1998 by Michael Star
This page is copyrighted and may not be published or sold without the permission of the author. All rights reserved.
About Your Birth Horoscope
"Casting your Birth Horoscope"
Calculating your "Natal Chart"
To be able to interpret the meaning of the positions of the Planets in the Signs and Houses in your own birth Horoscope, you or your astrologer must cast a Natal Horoscope or Birth Chart. Any professional Astrologer can do this for you for a fee, or you can try to learn how to cast a chart yourself by reading some good Astrology text books or attending classes in Astrology. There are also several good computer programs available which will calculate your Horoscope and tell you where all the House Cusps are, and where all the Planets are located within your individual Natal Horoscope, by Sign and exact degree within the Sign.
You will need to look up in an atlas the latitude and longitude of your town or city of birth, and if you want an accurate horoscope chart with the exact Ascendant, Midheaven, House Cusps and Moon position, you will need to include your exact hour and minute of birth in the calculations.
Birth Data for Horoscope Calculations
When you email an Astrologer to ask something about yourself or your horoscope, it is NOT enough to tell him your month and day of birth, or your "sign". Without the year at least (and place if possible), the Astrologer cannot calculate even a Solar Chart for you. All your month and day of birth can reveal is the Sign your Sun was in - that is, your "Sun Sign", nothing else. No horoscope can be cast without at least the month, day, year and place (town or city) of birth. The place can be estimated without too much effect on a Solar Chart, but remember that when it's after 8 PM in the Americas it is already the next DAY in Europe and Asia!
Ordering a Horoscope Chart by Email
If you wish to obtain a Natal Horoscope Chart by ordering on-line and receiving it by email in 24 hours or less, please click on any |Read-You| or |YOUR Horoscope| or ORDER-FORM hot-link on any "Link-to:" menu on this page or any other page in STAR SIGNS Astrology Zine. (The fee is US $5, but you can receive a free Natal Horoscope Chart and Aspect List when you order the P1-5 "Six-Pack" for US $15).
Why the Birth Time is Important
If you can provide a fairly accurate birth TIME when you order your horoscope chart here at STAR SIGNS, you will get accurate information about the degree and Sign of each of your House Cusps, your Midheaven and Ascendant (and Rising Sign), the Sun and Moon and all the Planets, and your North Node of the Moon and your Fortuna (or "part of Fortune"); plus a list of all the Aspects between the Planets in your birth horoscope, including Aspects to the Midheaven and Ascendant and North Node. The House System used is the Placidus System, and your chart will note the exact Sidereal Time (star time) which has been accurately translated from your local clock time on your birthday at the place of your birth. Without a fairly accurate birth time, these items in your horoscope have to be estimated; and the Ascendant, Midheaven, and House Cusps can change by 15 degrees in just one hour!
When you do not know your Birth Time
If you cannot give an accurate time of birth because you don't know it, you can still get most of the above data, with the exception of the Midheaven and Ascendant and the true House Cusps. A Solar Chart can be calculated for you using 12:00 PM Noon as your estimated birth time. By using Noon as the birth time, the greatest possible error in calculating the position of the Planets is limited to 12 hours - before or after Noon. The position of the Moon may be in error, but not by more than 7 degrees and probably less, depending on how close to Noon you were actually born. The House Cusps will be based on the Solar Chart using the Equal House System, with the Ascendant placed on the exact degree of the Sun at Noon.
The positions of the Planets are calculated as if you were actually born at Noon, and will not likely be more than 1/2 of a degree in either direction from their true position at your real birth time. Only the Sun and Mercury and Venus can move as much as a degree in one day, or up to half a degree in 12 hours; while Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto move much more slowly (depending how far from the Sun their orbit takes them) and will move less than a degree in 24 hours, or less than half a degree in 12 hours. So no matter what time of day you were born, the position of these outer Planets is never more than half a degree from their actual position at your exact time of birth.
You may have heard of the term Natural Chart. This is one in which the House Cusps are, by definition, at the same points as the Sign Cusps (i.e. exactly at zero degrees of the Sign); so that the First House Cusp starts at the exact same place as Aries, the first Sign, and so on for House Two (which would start at the beginning degree of Taurus) to Twelve (which starts at 0 Pisces). Thus the Houses are all equal in size, and all start at the same degree as their corresponding Sign; i.e. the Second House starts at the same place as the second Sign (0 degrees of Taurus). Though Houses and Signs have different symbolic meanings, there is a strong general correspondence between Houses and Signs which have the same number in the sequence of the Natural Zodiac (e.g. like Taurus and the Second House mentioned previously). The Sign a Planet is in indicates the "strategy" for expression of a Planet's symbolic nature, while the House it is in indicates the "terrain" or "arena" or "area of your life" it is expressed in. You could say Signs are like the "how" and Houses are like the "where".
The "Natural" Chart is the pattern used to create a Solar Chart and set the House Cusps in the same order (and spaced the same 30-degrees apart) as the corresponding Signs; the only difference being that the Solar Chart does not necessarily start at 0 degrees of Aries, but at the actual degree where the Sun was positioned at the exact time (such as Noon or Sunrise) for which the chart was calculated. The Sun could thus be in any Sign, depending on the month and day and year of birth. Other than that starting point (called the "Ascendant" point) which forms the Cusp of the First House, the two types of charts are the same in that the Houses are set to be equal in size (30 degrees wide) and are in the same sequence. In the Solar Chart the House Cusps start at the same degree in each Sign, but not necessarily at 0 degrees as the Cusps always do in the Natural Chart. The Natural Chart is used more for illustration and teaching purposes. It does not correspond to a real person's birth chart, but is useful to learn and remember the correspondences between the meanings of the Signs and Houses. The Solar Chart is used as a workable substitute for the actual birth chart of a real person when a fully accurate Natal Chart cannot be created because the time of birth (or place of birth) is not known; and also in creating general "Sun Sign" forecasts like you see in the daily newspapers (where the House Cusps are usually set to the point of 0 degrees of the Sign in question).
When ordering a Compatibility Analysis (reading C1) without a known birth time for either partner (or both partners), the time is assumed to be Noon for that person, and a Solar Chart is calculated for that person. This usually gives a better reading than trying to guess the birth time, for the reasons given below. There is a trade-off, however. Guessing the time and calculating a regular Natal Horoscope Chart for that person as if it were the true time of birth will give the usual full interpretation of that chart in the reading, but some of the information may prove to be inappropriate because the calculated positions of the Moon, Ascendant, Midheaven and House Cusps may be too far from their true positions (however, you may be able to tell what part of the text is appropriate and what is not). Using the Solar Chart method with an assumed time of Noon may make the majority of the reading you get more reliably accurate; but it will also mean that the questionable parts which depend on the Moon, Ascendant or Midheaven are simply ignored and left out, and the text of the reading will be shorter as a result.
I recommend using the Solar Chart method with Noon as the assumed birth time (enter a ? for the birth hour and minute and AM/PM) because I believe it is better to show people only the parts of the interpretation which are most likely to be accurate and thus can be relied on, while avoiding any mention of the parts which might prove to be inaccurate and misleading. If you do go with guessing the person's birth time, then the Mating Rating scores may look "normal" but be misleading; while if you go with the Solar Chart method the Mating Rating scores will likely look lower because some of the factors cannot be known and add to the score. In either case, without a known and accurate birth time, you cannot rely on the Mating Rating scores except as a general guide to whether one Factor is stronger relative to another Factor. The actual "numerical" value of the scores from 1% to 99% should not be taken at face value, in either case. In either case, the majority of the text CAN be relied on to be accurate, with only a small chance of error.
In summary, when the time and/or place of birth is not known, creating and using a Solar Chart can give a lot of useful information and insights, but not as much as knowing the real time and place of birth and creating a true Natal Horoscope Chart. It is still worth doing the horoscope this way and getting what useful information you can from it, especially since there is no other way when the time is not known (there is a process called "rectification" of the birth chart which can be done by astrologers experienced with this technique, but it is very time-consuming and will cost quite a bit to have a professional do it for you.) Without an accurate birth time, you do not know where the House Cusps actually are, so you cannot really tell what House the Sun and Moon and Planets are actually located in. You also do not know the exact degree where the Ascendant, Midheaven and Moon are located, for these three things move too far during one day. That means you will not know "the Sign on the Midheaven" and the "Ascendant Sign" (also called the "Rising Sign"). You might know the actual Moon Sign, but the time error could inaccurately place the Moon in the previous or next adjacent Sign, so you cannot always be sure of the Moon Sign unless it was a day when the Moon stayed in the same Sign all day (which occurs about every second day, since it moves 30 degrees in about 2.5 days).
The Sun and all the planets move only a degree or less in one whole day, so their estimated position is never very far from their actual position at the true time of birth, as long as you know the actual DATE of birth. That means that all the "aspects" or angles which the Sun and all the Planets make to each other will also be quite accurate. Only the aspects to the Moon and Ascendant and Midheaven will vary too much to be sure you are seeing a real aspect, so they should not be used in interpreting the birth horoscope because the error may be too great.
Using an assumed birth time of Noon means that any error will be limited to a 12-hour period before and after the assumed time, because the real time of birth cannot be more than 12 hours from Noon to the first minute of the day or to the last minute of the day. In the case of the position of the Sun and Planets at Noon, that limits the possible discrepancy from the real position to the calculated position at Noon to about half a degree or less. But with the Moon, the error could still be up to 7 degrees in either direction. The Ascendant and Midheaven move one degree approximately every four minutes, or an average of 30 degrees (sometimes more or less) over a period of 24 hours.
Difference between a Horoscope Chart and a Horoscope Reading
Please understand that a "Birth Chart" or "Horoscope" is actually a type of "map" of "the Heavens" - a two-dimensional representation of 3-dimensional Space/Time. Unless you know how to interpret the map it is not going to tell you much about yourself! When you ask an Astrologer for "a birth chart" you are asking for the CHART itself, not an interpretation of the chart. If you want some information about you or your life, you need to ask for a "Reading" or "Interpretation" or "Delineation" of your own one-of-a-kind horoscope chart.
What is a Real Horoscope?
Strictly speaking, what you may call "a horoscope" is actually just the chart, not the interpretation of the chart. But since common usage has led everyone to believe that "a horoscope" is a plain-language interpretation like the simplistic daily Sun Sign forecasts printed in daily newspapers, it is usually assumed you mean "a horoscope reading" when you ask for "a horoscope". Just be careful you don't ask for "a horoscope chart" when you don't want just "the chart", or that may be all you get! And it will be like trying to understand your own chest X-ray picture when you are not a doctor!
Using the Horoscope Chart for Interpretations
Once you have your Natal Horoscope or "Birth Chart" you can discover much information and many insights about yourself through Astrology, by reading the interpretations given here at STAR SIGNS Astrology Zine, or by reading some of the many fine Astrology text books listed on the |Astrology Book List| page, or by ordering some of the many emailed Horoscope Readings written by Michael Star's own horoscope interpretation software - which are available here at STAR SIGNS for US $5 to $30 (personal checks and credit cards accepted).
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Author and Address
Published JUN 22 1998. Updated JAN 03 2005 16:00 EST(c)1998-2005 Michael Star (World-wide rights reserved.)
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"Your Horoscope is the map of your soul's journey.
Astrology is how to read it."
(c)1996 Michael Star
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