When you think of astrology, your mind might head directly to what the OG sun signs (Aries, Capricorn, Leo, Taurus, you know the drill) or maybe even your moon and rising sign. That's all a great place to start — but your personal astrological signs are only one branch of an enormous astrological system.
Horoscope.com says that there are over 80 branches of astrology, a number that encompasses various "schools" of practice, as well as subsets of techniques within those schools.
Refinery29 asked Leslie Hale, psychic astrologer at Keen.com and Stephanie Powell, head of content for Astrology.com and Horoscope.com to explain the differences between a handful of the most common types of astrology being used today.
Natal astrology is what you're probably most familiar with. It's based off of your natal chart, which shows the placements of major celestial bodies at the time and place of your birth. (You can find and calculate your own birth chart on plenty of websites. I like ChaniNicholas.com).
"When you are looking at natal astrology, you're looking at the chart that everyone has, that's a blue print of their life," explains Hale. "We look at it and say, 'What is the promise of the natal chart? What is the promise of your life?' We can see what are your greatest strengths, greatest weaknesses, things like that."
Powell calls natal astrology "a deep dive into the soul" and a great tool for self-awareness. It's all about who a person is, what their personality and traits are, and what their promise is for the future. You'll most commonly look for your sun sign in natal astrology, but there are a ton of other aspects in your birth chart that can tell you about your personality and life path.
While you can review your chart for info on your own, the best way to get an inside look how your natal chart is working in your life is to book a session with an astrologer.
"Horary astrology goes back to the beginnings of astrology," Hale says. Meaning, way back when — we're talking 10,000 to 30,000 B.C. Powell also says that horary astrology is a divination tool.
Horary astrology is the type to use if you're seeking an answer to a specific question. The astrologer will create a chart for the exact moment (down to the minute) and location that the question was asked. The astrologer will read the chart, and give you a yes or no question based on what they see. Powell says this form of astrology reminds her of tarot cart readings.
Most of the time, you'll get an answer based on your question — but it is possibly to get a "block" in your chart, according to Hale. "If there are blocks in the chart, sometimes it's hard to answer the question or maybe you're not even supposed to know the answer. Most of the time, you're going to get an answer based on what your question is," she says.
It's a specialized type of astrology, one that Hale says is very accurate. But few astrologers currently practice it, and it's not something you can easily pick up on your own.
"A lot of people are self-taught with astrology, so I'm sure if you got horary books and read about it, you could practice," Powell says. "There's just something really valuable and meaningful about studying with a teacher, because it's been passed down from generations to generations." Powell explains that there's a lot that can be missed when you just read a book, so if you're interested in learning more about it try and take a class.
Electional astrology has to do with picking the absolute best time for an event (it's sometimes called "event astrology"). "The astrologer decides the most appropriate time for whatever the event is based on whatever's going on in the sky," Hale says.
It's mainly used to narrow down fortuitous dates for happenings like weddings or proposals. "But it can be anything," Hale says. "What's the best time to go on a job interview? I've met somebody on Match.com, what's the best time to meet that person? It can be anything you want."
An electional astrologers may suggest avoiding getting married during Venus retrograde, for instance. They might look at the moon, which rules emotions, and other important orbs to find a better time to walk down the aisle.
As with the other types of astrology, it's helpful to work with an astrologer that specializes in electional astrology. "There's just so much to know," Powell says.
Mundane astrology is a super-interesting one, especially now. It predicts world events and affairs. "This goes back hundreds, thousands of years, because in the very beginning astrologers weren't so much geared towards looking at individual charts they were geared towards looking at the astrology of nations and kings and queens," Hale says.
"For mundane astrology, you have to also kind of be a historian," Powell explains, "because it's all about looking at cycles. You're looking back at patterns. For example, the last time Saturn and Pluto met, did we see other pandemics? Yes. It predicts world affairs."
While nation's have their own birth charts (yes, even the U.S.) Powell emphasizes that it's mainly about cycles and patterns.
You can also look at the chart of an event that happened at a specific time and place — for instance, the death of George Floyd. "Astrologers would look at the exact time it happened and talk about where the planets were at that exact moment that led to his death," Hale says.
This is an ancient branch of astrology that associates various body parts and diseases with the planets and zodiac sign. Each zodiac sign rules a body part, and certain planet affect different organs.
"When you look at someone's birth chart, you can see different types of medical issues that they might have," Powell explains. For example, Leo rules the heart, Mercury shows where the "action" is in the body, and Mars is related to energy levels. In Powell's birth chart, Mercury and Mars are next to each other in Leo; and she has tachycardia (or a really fast heart rate.)
While medical astrology is definitely an interesting branch, it's still important to check in with your healthcare provider — not the stars — when you're seeking medical advice.
Relationship astrology is a form of natal astrology, and specifically looks at the compatibility between people. It doesn't have to be romantic, but that's definitely the most common use of it.
One form of relationship astrology is synastry. "It's when you lay one person's birth chart on top of another person's birth chart and see where the planets show up," Powell says. You'll see challenges, strengths, how they might support one another or not, and more telling info about the relationship. It's an analysis of your day-to-day life together.
Another form is composite chart. It's a midpoint between planets. So you take two people and for each of their planets and their rising sign, you find the midpoint in-between, and all of those midpoints become their own birth chart — like your own relationship's birth chart. "This shows how your relationship is viewed by the world, how you're seen as a couple, and can shine some light on the destiny of your relationship," Powell says.
You'll be able to find websites that can draw up compatibility charts for free, but for a more in-depth look at your relationship heading to an astrologer would be best (and hey, it's a great idea for a date.)