Astrology – Guide to the Zodiac

Grace Duong Headshot Contributing expert: Grace Duong - Updated: Mar 24, 2022


Astrologers believe that the stars and planets affect the lives of those on earth and that by mapping their movements and placements, one can learn more about themselves, where one comes from, and where one’s headed. Star signs, horoscopes, and birth charts just scratch the surface of the astrological world. We’ll cover the basics of astrology in the article below and tell you what astrology is, where it came from, and how to dive deeper into your own celestial charts.

What is Astrology?

Astrology, not to be confused with modern-day astronomy, is a type of divination practice that involves the study and interpretation of the positions and movements of planets, stars, and even comets. People who use astrology believe the placements these celestial bodies hold in the sky correspond to and affect human life on earth. Each of the 12 zodiac signs used within astrology are said to be influenced by at least one of the planets in our solar system, and astrologers use these correlations to produce things like horoscopes and birth charts.  

History of astrology

Thousands of years ago in Mesopotamia, the Sumerians first began recording the movements and patterns of the stars and planets. Babylonian astronomers continued the Sumerians’ work and created the first wheel of the zodiac. Around 500 BCE, the Babylonians divided this wheel up into 12 equal pieces, each corresponding to a month of the year and a constellation. Major civilizations including the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Indians, and Chinese have utilized the zodiac uniquely within their own cultures over the centuries. 

Today, there are two calendars commonly used by psychics for astrology readings — Vedic and Chinese. Both calendars are divided into 12 signs, with the Vedic signs based on constellations and the Chinese signs based on animals. Another notable difference is that Vedic astrological signs correspond with your birth month, while Chinese astrological signs correspond with the lunar calendar and the year of your birth. A third option, the Mayan calendar, is also used by some psychics.

Zodiac signs

There are 12 signs that each make up 30 degrees of the entire wheel of the zodiac. Each year as the earth travels around the sun, the sun appears to be moving its position in the sky day by day. This can easily be observed when you notice that the sun rises and sets in a different position in the summer as opposed to the winter. This circular path is what is known as the ecliptic. Each of the 12 constellations resides along this imaginary circle, and the sun will “move through” each sign once throughout the year:

Zodiac Signs by Date
Aries March 21 – April 19
Taurus April 20 – May 20
Gemini May 21 – June 20
Cancer June 21 – July 22
Leo July 23 – August 22
Virgo August 23 – September 22
Libra September 23 – October 22
Scorpio October 23 – November 21
Sagittarius November 22 – December 21
Capricorn December 22 – January 19
Aquarius January 20 – February 18
Pisces February 19 – March 20

Sun sign versus star sign

The terminology within astrology can be a bit confusing. The term “star sign” is just another way to say zodiac sign or horoscope sign, as these signs get their names from a constellation of stars. A “sun sign” on the other hand corresponds to the specific constellation the sun was moving through at the time of your birth. Most people consider their “sun sign” and “star sign” to be the same thing. Each person even has a “moon sign” and a “rising sign” that can be found using the exact time and place they were born. 

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Different Types of Astrology

As we mentioned above, the history of astrology has traveled through many of the major civilizations of the world. This has created a diverse interpretation and approach to the zodiac. Aside from Western or “Tropical” astrology, there are three other popular types of astrology:

Types of Astrology
Chinese Thought to have originated over 2,000 years ago, the Chinese zodiac works on a 12-year cycle. Each year is assigned one of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals in a specific order. Every spring, families gather and welcome in the new animal to preside over the coming year. Rather than focusing on your exact birthdate, Chinese astrology looks at your birth year. The traditional order of animals is as follows: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. There are also five elements used in the Chinese zodiac: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. 2022 is the Year of the Water Tiger.
Vedic India’s ancient knowledge system known as the Vedas, is the foundation for Vedic astrology. Similar to the Western view of astrology, Vedic astrologers believe that the stars and planets influence our lives. They also use the same 12 signs mentioned in our zodiac signs list above; the only difference being the date ranges. The Vedic astrological system accounts for the earth’s axial wobble and recognizes that the ecliptic shifts one degree about every 72 years. This shift has been great enough within the last two millennia that the original positions of the constellations in relation to the sun and planets is not the same as it is today. Vedic astrology takes this into consideration unlike Western astrology.
Mayan Following a 260-day calendar, Mayan astrology is based not only on astronomical knowledge but on its own spiritual context. The signs used within Mayan astrology are divided into 20-day cycles called “Uinal” or day signs. Each day is ruled by a different deity (day sign). This cycle isn’t based on any planetary bodies but the Mayans’ spiritual beliefs. There is also a 13-day cycle within the 20-day cycle called Trecana that has 13 different “tones.” These two cycles work together like two cogwheels, the 13-day Trecana cycle wheel spins within the 20-day Uinal cycle wheel. The two come together to create 260 different combinations of day sign and tone, one assigned to each day of the 260-day Mayan calendar. Each person would then have a day sign and tone sign depending on their birthdate.

How Does Astrology Work?

Because astrology is not a scientifically-proven methodology, no one really can say “how” it works. People who use astrology believe that planets, stars, moons, and comets close enough to have an energetic impact on earth do affect it in predictable ways that can be tracked and recognized. One of the ways astrologers have used symbolism within the zodiac is by assigning each constellation one of four elements: fire, earth, air, or water. Each element has a corresponding set of personality traits and meanings that are claimed to inform us about a person’s characteristics and inclinations.

What are the elements in astrology?

Elements in Astrology
Fire The fire signs are Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius. These signs are said to have traits of spontaneity, passion, assertiveness, creativity, and pride.
Earth Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn are the three earth signs. Earth signs are described as reliable, physical, sensual, resourceful, and orderly.
Air The three air signs are Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius. Signs within the air element are said to be intellectual, social, adaptable, humanitarian, and detached.
Water Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces are the water signs of the zodiac. They are described as emotional, intuitive, perceptive, private, and subjective.

Horoscope versus natal chart

People usually encounter astrology first and foremost through a horoscope. You can find them printed in magazines, sent through daily emails, or posted on websites. An astrologer focuses on each star sign and writes a paragraph or two on what each sign can expect to encounter in their day, week, or month. These predictions are made within the context of how planets and other celestial objects will be moving in relation to the constellation for each sign within the selected period of time. 

A natal chart on the other hand is an entirely unique display of the sky in regard to the exact day, time, and place of your birth. This method of astrology is able to provide great detail into your personal astrological placements. Birth charts can be purchased through astrologers who are able to go into extreme detail and explanation. There are also calculators online that can generate one for you. These charts at the very least provide your “big three” of sun sign, moon sign, and rising sign. Your moon sign is the zodiac constellation the moon was in at your time and place of birth, while your rising sign is the zodiac constellation that was rising over the eastern horizon at the time and place of your birth. Complete birth charts will give you further information on your astrological houses and how all of the zodiac signs are positioned within your chart.

Is There Any Truth to Astrology?

There are no scientific studies that support the accuracy or validity of astrology. However, as new historical texts are translated, it’s clear there’s still a lot that we don’t understand — even Carl Jung studied astrology and didn’t dismiss it outright. 

This hasn’t deterred people from seeking guidance through astrology. There are those who say their own experiential evidence is enough, while others believe the meanings ancient people gave to the stars, planets, and moon were divinely inspired. Regardless, modern astrology is more focused on self-reflection and introspection rather than prophesying, so what is real and true comes down to each individual’s experience. 

How Much Does an Astrology Reading Cost?

If you’re wanting to know more about your own astrology, there are many online tools available for free. To generate your own birth chart you can visit a website like This calculator gives you all the details on your celestial alignments and provides interpretations of the different aspects of your birth chart and how they relate to each other. 

Having a conversation with an experienced astrologer is another way to receive and interpret your unique astrological placements. Birth chart or compatibility chart readings are usually scheduled as an hour-long reading ranging from $50 to $500 depending on the astrologer.