Astrology 101: A Guide To The Stars

Astrology 101: A Guide To The Stars

Do you bookmark your horoscope and put Mercury retrogrades in your diary? You’re not alone. According to recent statistics, more than a third of British adults read their daily horoscope and nearly a quarter have based an important life decision on what the stars hold in store. We sat down with SL’s resident astrologer Fiona Graham to better understand the zodiac.

What’s The History Behind Astrology?

Despite being hugely popular today, astrology has actually been mainstream for millennia – it was fundamental to the Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and many other cultures. Humans have always sought to understand their place on the Earth in relation to the sun, the moon, other planets and constellations of stars. While astrology experienced a decline in mass popularity in the late 17th century (when the subjects of ‘art’ and ‘science’ became gradually separated), it experienced a revival in the late 19th and early 20th centuries due to the dawning of another more holistic view of the world and the arrival of theosophy and psychology.

Is There Any Science Behind It?

Until very recently, astronomy and astrology were considered to be the same subject – for centuries every scientist, mathematician and philosopher studied astrology. Galileo, often referred to as ‘the father of modern science’, proved Earth was not actually at the centre of the universe but part of a wider solar system, and therefore one of several planets orbiting the Sun. Meanwhile, he was also casting and interpreting horoscopes for people and events. Simply put, a horoscope is a map of our solar system as viewed from Earth. Today, in very broad terms, one could see astronomy as the underlying science, and astrology as the interpretation of astronomical phenomena to apply to human lives.

What Does Your Star Sign Really Mean?

When someone asks you ‘What’s your star sign?’ they’re asking you to share your sun sign, which indicates where the sun was located when you were born. At any given moment, the sun is aligned with one of the 12 signs on the Wheel of the Zodiac. The sun spends around 30 days moving through each sign. Each astrological sign has its own set of archetypal characteristics and personality traits, as well as a ruling planet and an association with one of the four elements. For example, Leo is ruled by the sun and is considered to be a fire sign, explaining a passionate, usually extrovert, personality. Meanwhile, the moon and the element of water can influence the emotional, empathetic personality typical to a Cancerian. 

How Does Relationship Compatibility Work With Star Signs?

There are all kinds of theories as to which sun signs (e.g. Leo, Gemini) are compatible with each other, but in reality, it’s far more nuanced than that. To look properly at the qualities of a particular relationship, it’s best to have a trained astrologer apply the art of ‘synastry’ – i.e. the practice of examining your personal birth chart in relation to your partner’s birth chart. An experienced astrologer is able to compare and interpret all your respective placements.

Mainstream media astrology places a premium on sun signs, but there’s more to your horoscope than what you read in a magazine or online.

Can You Tell Us More About Birth Charts?

Mainstream media astrology places a premium on sun signs, but there’s more to your horoscope than what you read in a magazine or online. Taking into account your time and place of birth, a birth chart is a great way to take your horoscope to the next level. Your birth chart is a snapshot of the Wheel of the Zodiac and shows where the sun, moon and planets were placed within it when you were born. You can either do this through an astrologer or do it yourself online. A birth chart can reveal more information about your strengths and weaknesses, your opportunities for personal growth, and the best timing for your most important moves. They are an excellent way of understanding your own ‘blind spots’ and using that knowledge for your development and self-improvement on many different levels. 

What If You Are On The Cusp Of Two Zodiac Signs?

There is a lot of misunderstanding about ‘the cusp’. The sun clearly moves from one sign to the next at a precise moment each year, it’s just this precise moment varies slightly from year to year. If you happen to have a birthday on a ‘cusp’ date, it’s worth getting an accurate calculation of your birth chart. There is no such thing as being a combination of two sun signs simultaneously.

Is Mercury Retrograde Really A Thing?

It is certainly a phenomenon, although in my view it is over-emphasised by some astrologers. The science behind it is that for certain periods of the year, the planet Mercury appears to start moving backwards (i.e. retrograde) around the sun, before switching direction forwards again. During retrograde periods, it is believed areas ruled by Mercury, such as communication, travel and trade, may experience complications or delays.

Is it Worth Seeing An Astrologer?

If you want to delve further into your birth chart and understand your horoscope on a deeper level, then an astrologer can be helpful. Historically, monarchs, among others, regularly hired astrologers to cast horoscopes to predict their fortunes and to elect dates for significant events such as coronations, weddings or war campaigns. It is also well documented that Presidents Reagan and Mitterrand, Margaret Thatcher and Princess Diana often employed astrologers. 

If you are interested in seeing an astrologer, Fiona recommends visiting and for more information on studying astrology visit

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