Welcome to Demystified, Unbothered’s monthly spirituality series for Black and brown folx. Through a lens of reclamation, Unbothered is helping its audience reconnect with ancestral practices while debunking myths and misconceptions. As stigma surrounding non-Christian spiritual practices fades and Black and brown folx reclaim spiritual tools for self-healing, we’re educating our readers while making spirituality accessible for the seasoned practitioner, the curious and uninitiated, and everyone in between. This month, we’re exploring astrology as a tool for self-understanding alongside professional astrologer Janelle Belgrave.
What makes up a birth chart? How do I find my ascendant? What in the world is a house? If you’re into astrology, you’ve probably asked yourself these questions and more when looking at your birth chart for the first time. In our last astrology edition of Demystified, we unpacked how astrology has aided journeys of self-exploration during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how it can help us understand the things happening both within and around us. This month, we’re diving into the nitty gritty — from birth chart hierarchy (does it exist?) to sign elements and their traits to everything in between.
“A very loose definition [of astrology] would be the study of the heavens, meaning the planets, the stars, fixed stars, things that are above our heads in the celestial sphere and how we basically interpret them,” says astrologer, acupuncturist and clairvoyant intuitive Janelle Belgrave. “I think the reason why astrology is so great is because it shows a spectrum. We can all fall on this spectrum of energy and it allows for everyone to be represented.”
In part two of our conversation about astrology, Belgrave dives deeper into how to read one's birth chart for self-understanding — from planets and their energies to how signs elements’ can affect our personalities.
R29Unbothered: Many rely heavily on sun, rising and moon placements to better understand themselves and others, but there are so many other parts of our chart that speak to who we are. Can you talk about what parts of our charts are equally as important that people may overlook?
Janelle Belgrave: “It depends on the charts. For example, if you're a Leo sun, you might have a very strong ego because the sun is most comfortable in Leo. Overall, there is a whole layer cake kind of system that you have to look at. There are the planets: the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. If you want to go into Uranus, Neptune and Pluto as well, then you have the 12 houses, which is basically how the sky is broken up into 12 different parts.
Each of those houses have a different set of meanings attached to it or different parts of your life are represented through those houses. Then you have the signs themselves — Aries, Taurus, Gemini and so on — and how those signs can color those houses and planets and add a different flavor. Those signs will give us a lot of influence on how those planets and houses want to act and be expressed. Then you have the aspects, which is how the planets are talking to each other within the chart and how that manifests. Then there's a lot more to that, too.
So it's not about importance per se because the chart is also activated at different parts of our lives; it's really about seeing how the life flows energetically through a chart and how we manage it. [It’s not about] trying to rank your chart, but embracing it in all of its highs and lows, light and dark, because that's really what astrology is about. It's about the balance of our universe represented to us on Earth.”
That makes a lot of sense. You mentioned houses. Can you talk a little bit more about them and what role they play in our chart?
JB: “This is why the rising sign is so important and why so many astrologers want people to have their birth signs. The ascendant represents the first house, which represents you. It is yourself, your body, your character, your personality, your appearance. The breath of life starts with the first house. After we know what sign is your rising sign or your ascendant, we can then count out the houses.
I'm a Sagittarius rising, so my first is Sagittarius, my second house is Capricorn and so on and so forth. All 12 sides are represented around my houses. Each house has a set of meanings. For example, the second house is talking about your finances, your income and all possibilities related to that. The third house might talk about your siblings, your communication skills and so on and so forth. So when you start adding the signs to the houses, when you start putting planets into houses, then you start to see what people are really here for.”
How would you explain each of the sign elements and their traits?
JB: “Fire and air are masculine elements, and when I say masculine, I'm not so talking about gender per se. I'm talking about their energy. Masculine energy tends to be what we call young or active. It's seeking energy. It's going out there. It’s intellectual. So fire signs tend to be in the realm of enthusiasm and excitement, adventure, entertainment. All that fiery, sparkly kind of energy, we see that with the signs of Aries, Leos and Sagittarius. Aries is the pioneer. They go out there, they rush headfirst into danger. They're warriors. Leo are the entertainers, so they want to be the fixture and have eyes on them around the fireplace, telling stories. Sagittarius as a fire sign tends to be about spreading information, so sharing candles and lighting the way forward. Air signs seem to be very intellectual, also living in the realm of the mind, ideas, thought, and conversation.
The feminine signs, earth and water, they're more yin. They're more receptive. They tend to have life come toward them. They tend to be more stable. They want more concrete and stable lifestyles. They tend to be more interested in the material world, whether it's money or resources or physical, tangible things. They tend to be a lot more practical in nature. Water signs tend to be more emotional, more feeling, more psychic in nature. Think about when you drop a drop of ink in a water glass, for example. See how it spreads. That's how watery people tend to respond to life. Anyone that stands next to them, they tend to feel their emotions and latch on to it.
Everyone typically has a mix of these elements, but there are those of us who have one element more than another, and then you have to think about what that would look like. I think the reason why astrology is so great is because it shows a spectrum. We can all fall on this spectrum of energy and it allows for everyone to be represented whether you're cis male or female or trans or otherwise. Your chart is going to be reflective of you. It’s not about either or. We can exist anywhere in the spectrum between yin and yang, masculine and feminine through your astrology chart.”