Your birthday tells you your sun sign (usually!), but it’s only part of your astrological portrait. I usually recommend people try to find out their moon and rising signs if they’re just starting out with astrology — and to do that, you’ll need to see your natal chart.
Your natal chart is a map of sorts, showing where all the planets in our solar system were at the time of your birth. The more you know about your time and date of birth, the more accurate this chart will be.
Do you know your date of birth? First order of business. Pick a date that falls within the range you believe to be most accurate — and of course if you know your birthday, pick that!
Do you know your birthplace? This tells you what time zone you were in, which relates to the next question…
Do you know your time of birth? Some people know this down to the minute, which is great. Others may only have the rough hour, or may have no idea at all. If you do know your time of birth, you can learn your rising sign based on that. This is usually called the Ascendant in a chart.
If you aren’t sure of the exact time, choose something that falls near the middle of the range you know to be accurate.
Generating a chart
Traditionally, your first stop to mapping out your chart would be to consult a printed ephemeris and have plenty of pencils handy. I can’t tell you much about this approach except that it’s incredibly laborious, and there’s an easier way.
My personal interest in astrology overlaps perfectly with the years I’ve had internet access (since the mid-’90s), so the only way I’ve ever looked up chart information is via Astrodienst.
Start at astro.com, and then select My Astro from the menu. You do not need to log in; just proceed as a guest and you’ll be prompted for your birth info. The more information you can plug in, the better. Once you’ve logged that, go back to the homepage and select Natal Chart, Ascendant from the menu.
Not sure what to do next? Is this the strangest “map” you’ve ever seen? I have a few guidelines for how to make sense of a chart, which might demystify a few things.