I've studied astrology for about 15 years.
I don't remember what inspired my interest, other than a drug and alcohol addiction I was in full denial about and a vague desire to know what was wrong with me.
When I got sober, I had no television, and Netflix didn't exist yet. So, I read books.
They were astrology books to be specific because newly sober people are self-absorbed, and I wanted to read about myself.
Luckily, all that time studying my own astrological birth chart filled me with enough meaningless knowledge on the subject to share everything you'll need to know about interpreting your own.
So for any interested parties, here's the basic run-down of what to look for, from the best sites to find a free chart to the basics of how to read it.
Birth chart info
First off, if you're going to teach yourself astrology, you're going to need all your birth information.
This includes the exact time of your birth (within the half hour), the city, the state and the date.
The exact time is usually the most important, and it would be best to verify it on your birth certificate, since a parent can have faulty memory.
Regardless of the site you use, your birth chart will look something like this. I've used my chart as an example, so the right hand column, labeled signs, is specific to my chart.
When you look up your own chart, the right hand column will have different signs, and you'll need to look up those signs to fully understand your own chart.
Remember, this is just a guide for how to interpret your chart, not a personalized interpretation. The real work is up to you.
When you look up your chart on either of the sites I mentioned above, scroll down to the part where you see the Planetary Positions.
The only things you need to keep an eye on for a basic reading of your astrology are the Sun, Moon and (at the very bottom in bold) the Ascendent, and their corresponding signs.
The Sun is the part of your chart that you most likely already know. It's the sign you look for when you're searching for your horoscope, and it's determined by the day of your birth. As you can see in my chart, my Sun Sign is Pisces.
Pisces are known for being highly creative, prone to delusion and easily seduced, and all those things are true about me.
But, Pisces are also described as being shy, quiet and non-judgmental.
Sure, there are moments when I'm the shy one in the corner at the party or when I see someone crying uncontrollably in public and I completely get where they're coming from, but those are not consistent characteristics of my personality.
So, I don't always identify with the description of a Pisces.
If there are characteristics of your Sun sign that you feel don't describe you at all, I'm about to explain why.
The Moon sign in your chart is determined by the place of your birth.
When interpreted in the chart, the Moon (and the sign that corresponds to it) describes your inner self, the way you process emotions, your relationship to your mother and your subconscious thoughts.
When you look up your chart and you see the sign corresponding to the moon in your chart, look up the characteristics of that sign.
My Moon sign is Virgo, which is known for being highly critical, perfectionist and logical to a fault.
Now that I know these characteristics of Virgo, how does this change/add dimension to the qualities of my Sun sign?
Well, for one thing, it removes the quality of being non-judgmental.
While I'm very accepting of people's faults (a Piscean quality), I'm also highly judgmental of them (a Virgoan quality).
In other words, I'll accept that you're an emotional mess, but you'll also disgust me. This is why I can only be friends with people who are working to improve themselves.
Hopefully you're starting to see by now that an astrology chart is as nuanced as your personality is.
These charts aren't meant to give you a black-and-white description of who you are; they're simply meant to serve as a map through those nuances of your persona.
Ascendant (your "rising" sign)
If you scan down to the bottom of your chart, you'll see the Ascendant. Look at the sign corresponding to the ascendant, which may or may not be different from the sign in this example chart.
The Ascendant is determined by the exact time of your birth, and in my chart, it corresponds to the sign of Taurus.
The Ascendant, also known as your rising sign has to do with your outward expression of self, and is a description of your outer surface characteristics.
If you were to ask an acquaintance to describe your personality in a few short words, that person will most likely describe the characteristics of your Ascendant.
My Ascendant is in Taurus, which is described as being down-to-earth, level-headed, reliable, practical and independent.
This is a far cry from the flaky, zoned-out characteristics of a Pisces.
So, while a casual friend might describe me as level-headed and practical, someone who knows me better might describe someone who sounds like they have Alzheimer's disease because the truth is, I leave my keys in the freezer several times a week and am known for getting lost in my own neighborhood while walking the dogs.
What can I say? I'm a walking contradiction.
When you're looking at these three aspects of your chart — the Ascendant sign, Sun sign and Moon sign — look up the characteristics of each sign and apply them accordingly.
Your chart is like an onion; your Ascendent sign is the outer layer, your Sun sign is what's underneath it and your Moon sign is the deepest layer, the one that makes you cry.
There's so much more to learn, but your Sun, Moon and Ascendent signs are like understanding the ABCs of astrology.
Knowing these things are a great introduction to anyone who wants to dip their toes in the water.
If you're interested in learning more, check out the sites I referenced above and look into the meaning of Venus and Mars in the astrology chart.
Hint: Venus and Mars is where your chart gets sexy.