Astrology is a complex art form that has been informed by a beautiful web of countless cultures, languages, and profound thinkers. Astrology as practiced today represents the sum of centuries of intellectual activity spanning the globe. There are no shortage of contemporary interpretation styles, schools of thought, and translation efforts to further complicate straightforward understanding of the nuanced language and technical jargon astrologers use. As a result, these concepts can feel overwhelming and inscrutable.
This Glossary is meant to help promote a shared understanding of some of these terms I commonly receive questions about. It is a living document that is updated regularly with words and concepts that clients, friends, and fellow astrologers suggest or ask about. Please note, that this page is grounded in Hellenistic and traditional techniques (as is the rest of my practice). If there is a concept you'd like to see explained or you have any further questions, shoot me an email!
First published: 17 October, 2023 ↀ Last edited: 2 February, 2024
Also called a "natal chart"; This document is a graphical representation of the sky in the moment of an individual's birth. Birth charts can look quite different from tradition to tradition—a Vedic natal chart will look different than a Hellenistic one (below) which will itself look different from a chart cast with the Placidus system—so experiment with the different systems and see which aligns best with your practices and beliefs (or which seems to be the most accurate for you). For instructions on how to cast a Hellenistic chart, view my tutorial here.
Joe Montana's birth chart cast using Hellenistic, whole sign house style.
Glyphs are small symbols that denote planets, luminaries (the sun & moon), comets, lots, zodiac signs, and other features on a birth chart. The most commonly used glyphs are reproduced below:
Signs of the Zodiac
Planets & other objects
Also called "places" in some traditions. Houses are the 12 demarcated sections of a natal chart which are each governed by a sign of the zodiac. Houses are numbered 1 through 12 and each house carries a number of significations that can help contextualize planets or points that fall in the bounds of the house.
Maya Angelou's birth chart showing the 12 houses,
numbered in Hellenistic, whole sign house style.
Houses' significations and physical boundaries can vary greatly from tradition to tradition, so experiment with different systems and see which aligns best with your practices and beliefs (or which seems to be the most accurate for you). The Astrology Podcast has a great deep dive on the Hellenistic house system. Here's a little cheat sheet of some of the most prominent significations I've found to be true in my practice:
The individual whose birth chart or experiences are being discussed. Ex: "Natives with Venus positioned in Libra often have a harmonious relationship with arts and aesthetics."
"Retrograde" refers to a time when a planet seems to move backwards in the sky from our perspective here on Earth. Here is a great video visualizer. The planet is said to "station" retrograde and, subsequently, station direct when the illusion stops. Though the planets are never actually moving backwards, these times are highly symbolic and often coincide with periods of re-thinking, re-visiting, re-negotiating, and all the other "re" verbs.
Each planet has it's own pattern and schedule of retrograde. Here's an idea from most to least common retrogrades:
Mercury stations retrograde 3-4 times each year for about 3 weeks at a time
Venus stations retrograde approximately every 18 months for about 40 days
Mars stations retrograde about every 26 months for 58-81 days
Jupiter stations retrograde approximately every 9 months for about 4 months at a time
Saturn stations retrograde roughly every 12 months for approximately 4.5 months
The outer planets (Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto) all spend 5-6 months of each year in retrograde.
Each retrograde combines the significations and traits of the planet that is stationing as well as the sign it is stationing in. The effects of each retrograde on the native will largely depend on their natal chart and what planets and rulerships exist there.
"Station" is a term used to define the moment a planet starts or stops moving retrograde or direct. Ex. "Mars stationed retrograde last week." or "Venus will station direct in Leo on July 31."