Astrology is the study of the influence that distant cosmic objects, usually stars and planets, have on human lives. The position of the sun, stars, moon and planets at the time of people’s birth (not their conception) is said to shape their personality, affect their romantic relationships and predict their economic fortunes, among other divinations.
1. You have more than one sign. The sun sign is the one that you’re probably most familiar with, but did you know you also have a moon sign and rising sign? You can find your rising and moon sign here, but you’ll need to know your time and place of birth.
2. Your moon sign is the sign that speaks to your emotions. “Your moon sign represents your inner life and symbolizes your emotions, reactions, and responses to what goes on around you,” explains John Marchesella, certified astrologer and former chair of the astrological society the National Council of Geocosmic Research. “The moon also exaggerates the qualities of its sign on the inner level. So, while sun, moon, and rising signs are all equally powerful, an Aries moon feels more impatient than a sun in Aries.”
3. Your rising, or ascendant, sign represents identity, the first impression you make on others, and your outer personality. Marchesella explains that rising signs are representative of our identity in the way that we use the word “me.” Oh, this color is so me! This sweater is so me! Like the moon exaggerates qualities of its sign on an emotional level, the ascendant sign exaggerates its qualities on the outer level. So an Aries rising person would behave in more impatient ways than a sun in Aries. Though one of the signs might manifest itself in ways that make it seem stronger than the other signs, none are more powerful than the rest.
4. Your sun sign is what motivates you from the heart and deep within. Marchesella describes this as “what we are always striving to become in life.” Think of the sun sign as the “point” of your life, just as the sun is the “point” in the sky.
5. Generally speaking, the compatibility of signs with one another is influenced by the elements of nature: fire, earth, air, and water. But Marchesella notes that compatibility tends to be a little overstated (sorry!).
6. Born in between signs? You might be a cusp. Astrologers vary their interpretations on cusps, but Marchesella believes that a planet is either on one side of the cusp or the other. In other words, being a cusp doesn’t necessarily mean you are a blend of the signs, but that you probably tend to identify with one planet more than the other.
7. The degrees of a sign don’t mean what you think it does. You’ve probably seen birth charts and horoscopes expressed with degrees, i.e., 29 degrees Leo. However, the degrees do not indicate the strength or power of the sign. Marchesella notes that more often than not, a planet at the very start or very end of a sign is more expressive (not necessarily more powerful) of that sign.
8. Signs don’t influence your physical appearance — but they can describe it. Marchesella explains: “The signs might describe the changes we make in or on our bodies to help us be more ’me.’ For instance, Aries might want red highlights in their hair or tend to wear more red to express the fieriness of their sign.”
9. Mercury retrograde can actually be good! “There is a purpose to every season,” says Marchesella. You might have heard Mercury retrograde referred to as a catch-all excuse for Bad Tings™, but that’s not accurate. “It’s a great time to go back in areas of communication, organization, and learning. Take the opportunity to revisit old friends and places, reorganize the piles on your desk, reread a book, repair, revise, and retrace your steps in order to make corrections and learn from the past. Regress in order to make progress!”
10. Mercury retrograde does not actually mean the planets move back. T.C. Eisele, psychic counselor, astrologer, and author, describes the retrograde effect like this:
Imagine you are riding on an express train and it passes a slower local train traveling on the adjacent track. As the express roars by, the local will seem like it is moving backwards from the point of view of the passengers on the express. This is what happens in astrology when the planets pass each other on their orbits. Thus from our vantage point here on earth the other planets will appear to be moving backwards as we go by. Astrology has decided to deal with this phenomenon by plotting the planets that are passing the earth as moving backwards in the chart.
11. Mercury is not the only planet to have retrograde periods. Eisele explains: “Periodically, all planets involved in your astrological chart will go retrograde except the sun and moon.” Plus, Mercury retrograde is actually pretty short compared to other planet’s retrograde periods — clocking in at about three weeks, while Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto (which NASA says is still a planet, just smaller than most!) have retrograde periods of five months.
12. No, Mercury retrograde is not going to ruin your life. “Many people like to blame the circumstances of their lives on whatever they can rather than take responsibility for their actions, but the simple fact of the matter is that astrological aspects don’t determine your life, your choices do,” Eisele says. “For instance, if you knew you needed to replace your computer because it had been acting up for a while and then it were to break down during a Mercury retrograde, it would certainly be more accurate to say that you pushed the envelope rather than Mercury victimized you.”
13. During the Reagan administration, there was a White House astrologist. Nancy Reagan consulted with Joan Quigley after an assassination attempt on her husband, and Quigley spent seven years after consulting the Reagans.
14. If you really want an accurate reading of your birth chart, you should know your birthplace and time of birth. “We need to know the time of your birth in order to calculate the placement of your planets as well as the houses of the horoscope,” Marchesella says. “The angle from your birth place up to the signs varies how we see the signs.” The sky would look different if you were to view it from the equator compared to a higher latitude, like Sweden.
15. Catholic popes used to believe in astrology. Pope Julius II based the day of his coronation on the advice of astrologers, and Paul III scheduled church council meetings based on the advice of astrologers.
16. According to Marchesella, everyone has some degree of all 12 signs, all the planets, and all 12 houses of the horoscope in operation. So if you feel like you can relate to certain traits of all different signs, you’re not wrong.
17. Shakespeare is known to have created some of his characters around their astrological signs.
18. British intelligence agency MI5 hired astrologist Louis de Wohl during WWII as a mouthpiece for wartime propaganda. By de Wohl’s accounts, MI5 hired him to see what Hitler’s astrologers would be telling him, once they learned Hitler believed in astrology.
However, his declassified MI5 file shows that de Wohl was hired for propaganda purposes: speaking to the press about how the stars predicted Hitler’s demise as a way to convince the U.S. to go to war.
For the most part, de Wohl ended up being a pain in the ass for his superiors to deal with. His file is full of his superiors going back and forth, calling him a “charlatan.”
De Wohl also annoyed his superior officers when they caught him wearing a captain’s uniform out and about in the streets when his position with MI5 was still supposed to be secret.
19. In Japan, people treat blood types like horoscopes and believe that personality types are tied to blood type.
20. Gerolamo Cardano, an Italian mathematician whose research lead to the invention of the combination lock, was imprisoned in 1570 for casting the horoscope of Jesus Christ.
21. The most common astrological sign in the U.S. is Scorpio (9.6 percent of U.S. population), and the least common sign is Aquarius (6.3 percent).
22. Benjamin Franklin was an astrology enthusiast. Under the pseudonym Richard Saunders, Franklin wrote and published Poor Richard’s Almanack, which included astrological elements.
23. Some people believe there are 12 people on a jury because of the 12 astrological houses. Despite recent news of a 13th sign, Marchesella points out that what they are referring to is a constellation, not a sign. “In reality, there are a myriad of constellations, which can be confused with signs. However, there are, and only can be, the traditional twelve SIGNS of the zodiac. Period.”