From Houses to Planets to Compatibility Tests: Here are Astrology Basics for Newbs

Words by Kathlene Masilongan

I’m just going to say right off the bat that I’m no magical astrology master. My interest in astrology stemmed from intrigue, curiosity, and copious amounts of self-involvement. I’m the type of person who likes taking personality tests on the internet to pass time. One day, I was trying to figure out if my celebrity crush and I were compatible according to the stars and that’s when I got sucked into a black hole and came out days later with a section of my brain filled with all of this stuff that I’ve gathered.

What is astrology in the first place?

If you ask Google what it is, it’ll come up with “It’s the study of the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies interpreted as having an influence on human affairs and the natural world.” That seems ridiculous to some people, that gargantuan balls of gas and light from a billion miles away could have an impact on us, but if you really think about it everything in the universe exudes energy, including you, and humans are the most perceptive of this energy.


ALSO READ: Please stop using your zodiac sign to justify bad behavior

This is the part where I tell you that I’m not trying to “convert” you into anything. Astrology isn’t a religion. It’s a study as stated, a philosophy and science at most. You can read your charts and believe in your gods at the same time. It’s totally okay. Fun fact: Western astrology is completely different from Eastern/Chinese astrology.

Astrology terms to make it make sense

The Elements (Earth, Air, Water, Fire). It’s important to know the elements and their nature when reading your chart and understanding astrology as a whole. These elements make up the entire universe and without them, well, there’d be no us or stars to base our compatibility charts on.

Earth signs (Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo) are usually viewed as cautious, reserved, and practical. Air signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) are usually sociable and communicative. Water signs (Taurus, Cancer, Scorpio) appear to be emotional and sensitive. And Fire (Aries, Leo, Saggitarius) signs tend to project optimism, enthusiasm and passion.


Sun sign. You probably already know this one. It’s the sign we associate with ourselves. The sun sign signifies your individuality. It also tells where in the sky the sun was when you were born. Many of the predictions or “horoscopes” you read online or in newspapers are based on sun signs. There are twelve sun signs in total. Aries, Pisces, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces.

Moon sign. The moon refers to our subconscious and intuition. People usually say that the moon sign refers to our emotions and how we process them. It plays a huge role in our emotional equity.

Rising/Ascending sign. The second most important sign to know, the ascendant reflects your personality. Astrologers also say that it has an effect on a person’s physical appearance! But mostly, this is usually how other people view you when you first meet them.

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Actual birth chart wheel that’s hard to read for beginners.

But what are houses and planets? What’s their deal?

There are 10 planets in astrology because astrologers counted the sun and moon as planets in their calculations. Remember, this is based on ancient sciences. Of course, now we know that the sun isn’t a planet but technicalities, you know? The ten planets are: the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. These planets represent different facets of our personalities aka what we do.


ALSO READ: What does it even mean when planets are in retrograde?

Meanwhile, houses, on the other hand, represent areas in our lives from our family life, career, love lives, etc. There are 12 houses in total. While the signs are dictated by earth’s rotation around the sun, the houses represent earth’s 24-hour rotation.

There are 10 planets and 12 houses, so it’s common for a house to not have a planet in it. This is where it gets a bit confusing, so let me show you a birth chart that is totally not mine what are you talking about. 


This “chart” is easier to read for people, especially beginners.

As you can see, this person is a Virgo sun with a Capricorn Moon and Ascendant. Their sun sign, Virgo, is in the 9th house. According to the reading, this means that this person is devoted to all causes that bring comfort and help to people in difficulty This reading could totally be different if the Virgo is in a different house. No two signs are the same despite them being the same, if that makes sense, because astrology, just like people, is complex. It has layers.

So basically, to break down this mini crash course: planets = what we do, signs = how we do it, houses = areas in our lives. Birth charts are unique to each individual and are based on the time and date that you were born and the place you were born in. Sadly, if you don’t know what time you were born, you won’t get the other side of your chart with the houses.

Okay… what now?

There’s a lot going on in astrology. It’s not just that one random sign on the back of the newspaper that tells you that you’re going to face “difficulties” in your life. People take years and years to learn about the ins and outs of it. I can’t even read my own birth chart and I’ve been semi-learning about it casually for ages now! If you’re interested in seeing your own birth chart, I recommend astrotheme and cafeastrology. They’re free websites and they’re going to provide you with pages and pages of readings. If you want your charts interpreted by a real person, you can find an astrologer online. There’s a ton of them out there but make sure they’re reliable.

What does your birth chart say? Tell us in the comments!