Your zodiac sign (which astrologers call your “sun sign”) is the doorway into the astrological universe. It’s the zany conversation starter your date pulls out before appetizers arrive. Or what you search for when scanning zodiac meme pages. But while your sun sign is impactful, it's just one brush stroke in your entire cosmic portrait. Your birth chart, however, is far more expansive. It zooms out to reveal the full painting: every shape, highlight and shadow of your being.
Think of your birth chart as the snapshot of the planets and constellations at the exact time of your birth (which you can cast here). Astrologers take this picture and fashion it into a circular map of the stars, with 12 equal sections representing each sign of the zodiac. Wondering where the moon was located when you came into the world? If it was gliding across the portion of the map labeled “Pisces,” you’d say your moon sign is in Pisces (and we’d offer you a tissue for all of those deep-seated emotions).
Each planet illustrates a facet of your personality, (like your love language or your aggression style) and the signs tell us how you act in each of these areas (maybe you like your space in relationships or avoid conflict at all costs). Here’s what each zodiac planet symbolizes, and how they all join together to make up your unique birth chart.
Sign it governs: Leo
Who are you and how do you shine? Like the celestial titan that burns brightly from its center, the Sun represents our core ego and personal power. The luminary is the literal star of the show, with every planet orbiting it like party guests in a circular celebratory dance. The sun is our guiding light. It’s who we are at heart—our true identity that prevails through all of life’s changes and influences. When we follow what fulfills us, like singing on stage or planting a garden, our creative expression beams onto others.
How it affects your chart: Born with your sun sign in Taurus? Your essential nature is reliable, grounded and drawn to the familiar, simple delights (because chocolate-covered pretzels are best enjoyed on a nightly basis).
Sign it governs: Cancer
Sure, the sun blinds us with its golden rays, but the moon captivates us with its subdued silver glow. Think of the sun as the energy we radiate onto others, and the moon as our private emotional realm—the deep thoughts, self-reflection and subconscious fears we hold within. Traditionally an emblem of maternal energy, the moon is your astrological security blanket. It’s what makes you feel safe, nourished and nostalgic. It’s your mom raking her fingers through your hair when you were six, or your roommate leaving soup outside your door when you’ve come down with a cold. The luminary’s shifting phases—new, waxing, full, waning—mirror our ever-changing emotional states. Do your feelings flow freely like the open ocean or do they stagnate like green, swampy waters?
How it affects your chart: Capricorn moon natives know their emotions are best dealt with in a private, rational manner. Crying in public? Not going to happen. Cloaking their hurt in sarcastic one-liners? More likely.
Sign it governs: Gemini and Virgo
Find Mercury in the burning questions transcribed into your google search history. Hear it in your sister’s voice as she drones through another long-winded tale. Know it when your professor’s molecular diagram finally demystifies osmosis. Named after the winged messenger god, the fastest-orbiting planet embodies the transfer of ideas. Mercury is how we think, communicate, teach and learn. It’s our intellectual superhighway, allowing our minds to take us anywhere. Do your thoughts roam around leisurely or do they race frantically until the early morning hours? Do you text in long, heartfelt paragraphs or single emojis? This is your Mercury at work.
How it affects your chart: Natal Mercury in Sagittarius is a deeply philosophical placement. You ask life’s big questions, learn from your worldly experiences and teach with enthusiasm.
Signs it governs: Taurus and Libra
Romance is in the air. Along with the smell of fresh wildflowers, clean linens and thanksgiving dinner. Bright Venus is blanketed in a thick layer of clouds. Which is fitting, since it plays into the comforts and material delights we experience here on earth. Bestowed with the name of the goddess of love and fertility, Venus is our sensuous side. It represents what we crave in relationships and how we see beauty all around us. It’s the harmony in our hearts when we look at a pastel impressionist painting or the pleasure we derive from reading a love letter.
How it affects your chart: If the Venus sign in your birth chart is hanging out in Gemini, you’re attracted to people who can charm you with their intellect (think: witty texts and clever code names). You also value your freedom in relationships, so solo trips are a must.
Sign it governs: Aries
The dusty, burnt-red planet represents the instinctual fire lit under each of us. Is our willpower set to simmer or do our motivational flames rage on high? Named after the Roman god of war, Mars exposes our aggression, sex drive and competitive spirit. We feel it when we spot the runner in the lane next to us gaining a few steps ahead. Or when our friend cancels dinner plans as we’re pulling into the restaurant. Mars is what stokes our carnal impulses and desires. And it's how we act on them.
How it affects your chart: If your natal Mars sign is in Cancer, a cautious, sensitive sign, you might bury your anger and feel it turn to deep resentment over time.
Sign it governs: Sagittarius
Feeling lucky? The largest planet in the solar system stands for unbridled optimism, invincibility, and faith. It’s the surge of wonder you feel when you move to a new city and look out into its sprawling mountain vistas. What adventures lie ahead? What big truths can you learn from this new experience? Jupiter is the wisdom that arises from the “Why not?” It’s the cosmic risk-taker, trusting that everything will work out (and that if it doesn’t, there’s a lesson in there somewhere). The planet that rains diamonds teaches us that life’s possibilities are limitless if we have self-belief.
How it affects your chart: A Jupiter in Libra placement has idealistic dreams about equality. You use your diplomacy to understand everyone’s perspective and find luck in your many treasured friendships.
Sign it governs: Capricorn
Remember in high school when you stayed out past curfew? You’d try sneaking back into your house, tiptoeing silently across the floorboards and holding in your breath, thinking you’d dodged punishment? Saturn is the disappointed parent waiting for you in your bedroom, spinning around in their chair to face you as you walk in. It’s the planetary rule-enforcer, here to deliver difficult lessons and confront us with harsh realities. A figure of duty, structure, and responsibility, the ringed planet replaces idealism with the real, hard work required to fulfill our goals. Saturn presents the challenges we’re up against and the sense of accomplishment that awaits us when we’ve met them.
How it affects your chart: Say Saturn was traversing Pisces, the dreamy, empathic sign, when you were born. This placement signifies poor boundaries, a weakened work ethic and a tendency to breeze past deadlines.
Sign it governs: Aquarius
Uranus is the mad scientist, straddling the line between ingenuity and insanity. The teal cosmic gem rotates horizontally on its side, which is in keeping with the eccentricity and radical perspective shifts it symbolizes. Uranus is the force of technological advancement, progressive ideals and inventions that will service the greater good. It jolts us out of our old ways of thinking and forces us to evolve with the times. Concerned with large-scale intellectual ideas rather than the emotions of the individual, Uranus is akin to the PhD student who locks herself in her room, ignores all her friends’ phone calls and only emerges once she’s made a breakthrough.
How it affects your chart: Uranus in Leo pushes us to break the rules of self-expression. You want the freedom to perform your unconventional art and to use your creativity to shift the cultural mindset.
Sign it governs: Pisces
Close your eyes and picture your childhood home. You can see the sleepy willow tree slouching onto the front steps, smell the lilac flowers, and hear the upbeat melody of the ice cream truck. Neptune is this ability to transcend reality and escape into our imagination. The hazy, indigo planet is about dissolving boundaries and becoming one—with nature and with our fellow humans. If we’re all connected, then your pain is my pain and your joy is my joy. Neptune reveals our empathetic gifts, our ability to think beyond ourselves and how we spiritually tune in.
How it affects your chart: Natal Neptune in Aries puts their determination into shifting spiritual ideas; they’re willing to fight for the rights of others. They might also turn to violent means of escapism (say, war video games) to exert their firepower.
Sign it governs: Scorpio
Pluto, named after the god of the underworld, forces us to excavate the infernos of our soul. The dwarf planet might be small, but it refuses to be ignored. It represents the hidden aspects of ourselves, our struggles and our transformations. Do we stare directly into the shadows or do we turn and take off running? Like the yellow, spotted leaves on our houseplant, we have to cut away the toxic aspects of ourselves in order to regrow, this time healthier and more vibrant. Pluto is the personal power we gain over what tries to plague us. It’s the idea that once we face our demons, we’re truly free.
How it affects your chart: If you were born when Virgo passed through the intense planet, you’ll feel drawn to challenges facing the environment or health sectors. You approach adversity with a self-critical eye and a detailed plan.