Astrology 101
20-something miseries, things you might find funny

Astrology 101: A Quick Introduction to the Basics of the Zodiac

Astrology is a pseudoscience that investigates how the stars’ alignment at the time of your birth goes on to affect the rest of your life. I say pseudoscience because, as far as I’m aware, it’s not really taken seriously in the scientific community and relies heavily on anecdotal evidence. Still, if the moon can control the tides, who’s to say it can’t affect our personalities as well? Regardless of whether or not astrology is “real,” it’s just plain fun. And there’s actually a lot more to it than most people realize.

Getting to Know the Signs

You probably know your sun sign, you know, the one based on the day you were born. If not, find your sign below:

  • Aries: March 21st – April 20th
  • Taurus: April 21st – May 20th
  • Gemini: May 21st – June 20th
  • Cancer: June 21st – July 20th
  • Leo: July 21st – August 20th
  • Virgo: August 21st – September 20th
  • Libra: September 21st – October 20th
  • Scorpio: October 21st – November 20th
  • Sagittarius: November 21st – December 20th
  • Capricorn: December 21st – January 20th
  • Aquarius: January 21st – February 20th
  • Pisces: February 21st – March 20th

Each sign is defined by a few key properties: its element, essence, and place on the karmic wheel. The zodiac is made up of four elements: air, water, fire, and earth. Each sign falls into one of these categories, and the element gives you a clue about the person’s overall temperament. Generally, air signs tend to be more intellectual, while earth signs are typically grounded. Fire signs tend to be impulsive, and water signs are often very empathetic.

Essences, on the other hand, indicate how a person handles control (and a lack thereof). There are three essences in the zodiac: cardinal, fixed, and mutable. Cardinal signs like to take control by standing at the helm and taking charge of their destiny. Fixed signs, on the other hand, take control by staying true to who they are and letting changes wash over them. Finally, mutable signs take control by constantly adapting and changing to their environment.

Another factor when it comes to the zodiac is the karmic wheel. Basically, the signs can be arranged in a wheel that represents a soul’s journey from a new baby soul to an “old soul.” Aries is the youngest sign (hence why it’s usually listed first even though it doesn’t correspond to the beginning of the calendar year) and Pisces is the oldest. Younger signs are not immature, they are simply newer to the universe, and older signs are not boring, they have simply been around a long, long time.

Check out all the properties of your sign below:

  • Aries
    • Element: Fire
    • Essence: Cardinal
    • Karmic Wheel: 1st
  • Taurus
    • Element: Earth
    • Essence: Fixed
    • Karmic Wheel: 2nd
  • Gemini
    • Element: Air
    • Essence: Mutable
    • Karmic Wheel: 3rd
  • Cancer
    • Element: Water
    • Essence: Cardinal
    • Karmic Wheel: 4th
  • Leo
    • Element: Fire
    • Essence: Fixed
    • Karmic Wheel: 5th
  • Virgo
    • Element: Earth
    • Essence: Mutable
    • Karmic Wheel: 6th
  • Libra
    • Element: Air
    • Essence: Cardinal
    • Karmic Wheel: 7th
  • Scorpio
    • Element: Water
    • Essence: Fixed
    • Karmic Wheel: 8th
  • Sagittarius
    • Element: Fire
    • Essence: Mutable
    • Karmic Wheel: 9th
  • Capricorn
    • Element: Earth
    • Essence: Cardinal
    • Karmic Wheel: 10th
  • Aquarius
    • Element: Air
    • Essence: Fixed
    • Karmic Wheel: 11th
  • Pisces
    • Element: Water
    • Essence: Mutable
    • Karmic Wheel: 12th

Mythbusting Stereotypes About the Signs

There are a lot of stereotypes out there about the signs, and a lot of them have some basis in reality. The problem is, they are so lacking in nuance that they have become reductive and unhelpful. I mean, the whole point of astrology is to learn more about yourself and have fun, and no one laughs or learns from stereotypes. So here are some of the most common stereotypes for each sign, and why they don’t quite paint the whole picture.

Aries: Rage Machine

Aries are commonly known for being an out-of-control rage machine, throwing a fit at every little thing. Obviously this is a stereotype, and it isn’t true. Well, not completely anyway. Do Aries tend to get mad? Yeah, but is there a lot in this world to be angry about? Absolutely! Instead of thinking of Aries as unreasonable rage machines, think of them as the righteous defenders of what is fair and right. Sure, sometimes this tilts more toward self-righteousness, but their hearts really are in the right place most of the time.

Taurus: Lazy Bums

Does every Taurus enjoy a good lazy day? Of course, but who doesn’t? Taurus may indulge in lazy days more often than other signs, but that’s just because they’re very grounded in the simple pleasures. A Taurus will never take a comfy couch, soft blanket, or delicious burrito for granted. They understand the power of stillness, something many other zodiac signs could learn from.

Gemini: Two-Faced

Many Geminis get accused of being two-faced because they act different around different people. As a Gemini, I have to say this seems a little unfair. Different people expect different things from others, and Geminis simply make conversation and interaction easier by meeting the other person’s needs, even if it means shifting their personality a little. I’m happy to be a slightly more upbeat, philosophical, or chill version of myself if it will make someone else more comfortable. That doesn’t seem like such a bad thing to me.

Cancer: The Crybabies

“Oh, Cancer,” people often sigh, with a tone of pity and mild irritation. So emotional, so “weak.” Okay, this one is absolutely unfair. Do Cancers cry a lot? Yeah, usually. But that does not make them weak or pitiable. Cancer emotions are always right on the surface because they are the main way these people interact with the world. For them to shut down their emotions would be basically asking them to stop being a person. Walk a mile in their shoes, feel all of their emotions, and I challenge you not to cry a few times a day.

Leo: Attention-Hog

Leos may love the spotlight, but why is that such a bad thing? For some reason, our society has decided it’s a sin to ask for attention, and Leos simply do not ascribe to that false belief. They understand, better than any other sign, that attention is a human need, and they will take care of themselves and get it when they need it. If you befriend a Leo, they’ll help you get your attention needs met too.

Virgo: Perfectionist

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Okay, this one is pretty accurate, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing like many people make it out to be. Sure, perfectionism can be bad for you if taken too far, which is often the case with Virgos, but it really does come from a good place in their heart. Virgos want everything to be perfect, not for their own ego, but for others. They just want to make things as easy and good and happy for others as possible, and they’re often frustrated by how little they can actually control to make that happen.

Libra: The Zodiac’s Biggest Flirt

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It’s true that Libras generally like to flirt, but it’s not because they like the attention (like Leos). It’s because Libras just really love to connect with others. Their affections are endless, and they see no reason to hold them back when they can tell that others enjoy receiving them so much. I mean, no one gets mad about being doted on. Libras are happy to spread the love.

Scorpio: Emo Kid

Scorpios are water signs, meaning they’re highly emotional, but they’re also the most aggressive of the water signs, and that’s earned them a bad rep as the emo kid of the zodiac. Scorpios can be very intense and take their dark emotions very seriously, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a lighter side as well. Have you ever loved a Scorpio? They feel love with all the same intensity that they feel despair, and it can result in one of the closest relationships you could ever imagine.

Sagittarius: Flighty

Just because Sagittarius doesn’t love being pinned down, that doesn’t mean they will disappear from your life the moment you show more than a temporary interest in them, romantically or even platonically. They may take a step back, but they are only trying to protect their independence. Sagittarius wants to make you fit into their lives, not the other way around. That might seem selfish at first, but really, it’s wonderfully honest. They’re like the opposite of Geminis, always changing themselves for others. Sagittarius doesn’t change for anyone, so the relationships they keep around are unbreakable.

Capricorn: Workaholics

Capricorns find meaning in life through traditional routes, like success at work and a full bank account. How do you make those things happen? By working. A lot. But that doesn’t mean Capricorns are workaholics. They put in the work they need to put in to achieve their goals, and then they are very picky about how the spend their precious free time. They actually tend to have a very goofy side and can even be prone to laziness. If your Capricorn seems like a workaholic, you two may just not actually be that close.

Aquarius: Stuck Up

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Sadly, Aquarius is often accused of being stuck up when this couldn’t be further from the truth. When Aquarius is in a good headspace, they are basically very intellectual hippies. They want to help others and bring good vibes to all. The trouble is, when they’re in a bad headspace, they can get defensive and develop a superiority complex. This makes them come off as stuck up when really, they’re just dealing with their own issues and fears.

Pisces: The Victim

Many people who don’t have a close relationship with a Pisces see them as “playing the victim” because they have so many breakdowns. As the oldest soul on the karmic wheel of the zodiac, Pisces are definitely not playing at anything. They have a soul-deep understanding of the universe, and all that pressure takes its toll. They feel all of the pain of the smallest things, and they allow themselves to be upset by it. Unlike many of the other signs, they do not resist the way of the world. They allow it to be what it is, even when it hurts. They are not victims, they are honest in a way many people aren’t, and that can make them feel very lonely.

Moon Sign, Rising Sign, and More

Now that you know the basics about the signs in general, you can look into your other placements in your birth chart. Your sun sign, the one based on your birth date, is supposed to represent your personality, the way you behave and interact with the world in your daily life. But did you know you also have a moon sign? And a rising sign? And about a million other placements? Each one represents a different aspect of who you are, determined by when and where you were born, down to the minute.

The easiest way to figure out all your placements is with a sign calculator. Personally, I highly recommend Cafe Astrology. It will give you all of your placements, plus which house your various placements are in (I don’t pretend to understand that part, the houses are well beyond astrology 101 in my opinion). But don’t worry, it isn’t overwhelming. Basically, you just type in your date of birth, the time you were born, and the city you were born in, and it will tell you all about your different signs. Not only will it give you a full “birth chart,” which is just a list of all your signs and their houses, it also gives you a description for what all of that means, which is what I find most helpful.

For instance, I’m a Gemini sun, and I understand that pretty well. I’m indecisive, friendly, and have lots of energy. But what does it mean that I’m a Libra moon? Or a Leo rising? Do I just have a smattering of those personality traits too?

Well, sort of. Basically, each planetary placement represents a different part of you, and you may have certain traits from other signs come through in those specific aspects of your life. A real life example may be more helpful.

So your moon sign is all about your internal processes. Your emotions, unconscious patterns, etc. So as a Libra moon, most of my internal processes are all about trying to keep the peace and make sure everyone is happy, even to my own detriment. Oof. That sounds about right to me. I don’t have many of the outward personality traits of a Libra, but when you take a look at how I process my emotions, it’s Libra all the way. And that’s what a moon sign is!

Curious about what the other signs are and what they represent? Check it out:

  • Sun: personality
  • Moon: inner life
  • Mercury: communication style
  • Venus: interpersonal connection
  • Mars: energy levels
  • Jupiter: philosophical outlook
  • Saturn: motivation
  • Uranus: attitude toward change
  • Neptune: dreams
  • Pluto: transformation
  • Lilith: repressed desires
  • Ascendant/Rising: how we appear to others

Obviously there’s a lot going on here, but that makes sense, because each person is a highly complex individual with so many different aspects that make up who they are. If you want to delve even deeper, there are also houses and aspects that impact your personality, as I mentioned before. Those add a whole other layer of complexity though, so I thought for now we’d start with the basics. I hope you learned a little bit about astrology and enjoyed some of the silly memes I found! Let me know if you’d like me to do more astrology posts.

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