As the interest in astrology grows, so does the amount of nonsense and blatant fearmongering that shows up on the internet. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, which doesn’t just give astrology a bad rep, but also can cause a lot of stress and anxiety in people who don’t have the background knowledge to discern what’s true and what’s false. In a way, being a professional astrologer means having to do a lot of damage control. Both on social media and in my 1:1 client work, I often encounter people who are confused or scared about something they’ve read somewhere on the internet. Sometimes this is just an innocent mishap, other times false information on the internet can be extremely harmful.
Don’t get me wrong: I love seeing astrology becoming more part of the mainstream. It’s very common these days for people to know their ascendant, and almost everyone is aware when there’s a Full Moon. But when people think the world is going to end because Mercury is retrograde, you know there’s work to be done. And let it be known: learning about astrology through memes and clickbait articles is not the same as consulting an astrologer. Consulting astrologers do the incredibly challenging job of synthesising the different, often conflicting parts of your birth chart. And some of the things you read on the internet are true, they just are much more nuanced in real life. But some of the information you find out there is just simply incorrect, and I’m here to put it right.
One small caveat: some of the things I list below are informed by my background in traditional (mostly Hellenistic) astrology. You may find different opinions elsewhere, and that’s okay. I’m not here to call out modern astrologers who may subscribe to some of the red flags I mention below. However, most of the things I call out as “incorrect information” don’t have a strong foundation in the history of astrology, so their accuracy hasn’t been backed up by years of astrological practice.
Now, without further ado, let’s go over some of the biggest myths in astrology.
Signs are not “natural” rulers of houses
Let’s start with one of the things I love to hate most: the concept of the 12-letter alphabet/ABC houses (a.k.a. “natural houses”). This is the idea that there is an overlap in meaning between the zodiac signs and the astrological houses. In this framework, the First House has the same significations as Aries and its ruling planet Mars, the Second House is similar to Taurus and Venus, and so on. This kind of thinking is so prevalent in astrology that you often read interpretations in astrology books for placements “in Cancer or the 4th house”, as if they can be used interchangeably.
While there sometimes is some overlap between the zodiac signs and the houses (especially in medical astrology), their meanings are radically different. And if they weren’t, what’s the point of having both signs and houses. In fact, the rationale for the significations of the houses is largely based on a range of other things, including angularity, aspects to the ascendant, planetary joys, and their relation to other houses. The zodiac signs are at no point a decisive factor in this process. If you start thinking about the 6th house as the joy of Mars and a place that’s blind to the ascendant, there’s no way you can associate the meaning of this house with health or healing.
While the use of the 12-letter alphabet is often defended as a teaching tool, I think that it often creates too much misunderstanding to be of any use to people learning about astrology. So the best thing to do is just to discard this concept altogether.
Mercury retrograde is not the end of the world
Three times a year, the entire internet starts panicking about the next Mercury retrograde cycle. You’d start thinking the apocalypse is happening, what with all the traffic accidents, broken relationships, and malfunctioning devices. It’s very easy to blame everything that goes wrong on Mercury retrograde (even when the planet’s motion is direct), but the truth is that it usually isn’t that big of a deal. While the retrograde motion of Mercury can definitely mess up some of your plans, it’s hardly a life changing event – at least not for everyone, and not every time it happens.
Let’s keep in mind that the Mercury retrograde cycle is one of the more common and frequent events in astrology. If Mercury retrograde really was that disruptive all the time, we’d never get anything done! There are a few instances when a Mercury retrograde cycle can be more impactful for you personally, but in general, it’s not something you have to worry about a whole lot.
The ascendant is not “the mask you wear”
When you start learning about your “big three” placements (Sun, Moon, ascendant), you’ll often encounter descriptions of the ascendant or rising sign as “the mask you wear”. This makes it sound like your ascendant is a fake part of your personality you can consciously switch on and off, as a way to shield others from meeting the “real” you underneath the mask.
These kinds of descriptions don’t really sit right with me, because the idea that the ascendant is something inauthentic or performative couldn’t be further from the truth. Your ascendant sign is the zodiac sign that was rising on the eastern horizon on the exact moment you were born. It’s the most personal point of the chart, the moment where the sky meets the earth, and it represents your basic life motivation and needs, and the way you meet and filter the world. In that sense, it’s the most “real” and basic part of your personality, not something you can switch on and off at will.
Another thing to note about the ascendant is that it’s not exclusively associated with your physical appearance or outward expression, that part of your personality that you present to the world. In fact, the part of you that others get to see from a distance is often found at the Midheaven (MC), the point that represents the most southern point at the top of the chart. And for your physical appearance and body, we’d look to the ruling planet of your ascendant, as well as the Moon.
Empty houses are not that big of a deal
When I was younger and learning about my birth chart, my father said my chart was interesting because it contained “a lot of empty houses”. So when I started studying astrology myself, I became super interested about the idea of empty houses, until I realised (rather quickly, thankfully!) that having a bunch of empty houses is not only very common, it’s also not a big deal in any way.
Look, I get it. When you’re just learning about astrology and start getting a grasp of the meaning of the astrological houses, it can seem super terrifying to discover that your 7th house of marriage is empty. And while it can be tempting to conclude that this means you’re never ever getting married, astrology actually doesn’t work like that.
Yes, having planets in houses can point to a certain amount of activity in that area of life, but if you really want to know what’s up with a certain house, you need to have a very close look at the landlord, aka the ruling planet of that house. And if that house ruler is in good shape, you probably have some blessings in that area of life even if the house itself is empty. (And if that house ruler is not in a good shape, there are always timing factors that can lighten the situation!)
And before you go and freak out because your 7th house ruler is in detriment, keep in mind too that assessing the quality of natal planets is a complicated job that requires the expertise of a seasoned astrologer. But rest assured, if your 7th house (or any other house, for that matter) is empty, it’s really not the end of the world.
(Spoiler alert: I have an empty 7th house and a 7th house ruler in fall, and I’ve been happily married for the past few years).
Outer planets don’t rule signs
This is one of those topics that modern and traditional astrologers disagree on, which is fine. But modern astrology is still prevalent these days, so this perspective is not one you’ll encounter often, unless you’re exclusively consuming traditional astrology content.
And I have to say, the idea that the outer planets (Uranus, Neptune & Pluto) would rule any of the zodiac signs (Aquarius, Pisces & Scorpio, respectively) just doesn’t make a lot of sense in my opinion. First of all, the outer planets move incredibly slow, which would mean that anyone born between 1983 and 1995 with a Scorpio ascendant would be ruled by Pluto in Scorpio. That’s a lot of people! And since we know that the ascendant ruler is one of the most important placements in the birth chart, that wouldn’t make any of these people very unique (which is also why we call the outer planets “generational planets”).
In addition, assigning sign rulership to the outer planets also messes up the perfect symmetry of the thema mundi and the complex system of essential dignity. There’s a clear logic that explains why certain planets rule certain signs, and adding the outer planets in to the mix just ruins a perfectly good system. This is not to say that the outer planets don’t have any place in astrology: they can be super important in aspect work, or when they’re on an angle, for example. But they’re not really believeable or useful as sign rulers, so my advice would be to only stick to the traditional rulers of Scorpio (Mars), Aquarius (Saturn), and Pisces (Jupiter).
Cusp signs are not a thing
Another common astrological myth is that you can be born on the cusp of two seasons, which would allegedly make you “a little bit of both signs”. I once even heard the ridiculous story of a friend who was told she had to “choose” which sign her newborn son would fall under, since he was born right on the day the Sun switched signs. Of course, this is complete and utter nonsense: the Sun is either in one sign or in the other, not in two signs at once.
I think the appeal to this one stems from our need to feel special and unique. After all, doesn’t it sound more exciting and edgy to be a Libra with a little Scorpio? But as mentioned above, the Sun is either in Libra or in Scorpio, so there’s no such thing as a cusp sign. And if this information somehow shatters your carefully curated self image, I hope you can take comfort in the fact that you very likely have other placements in other signs, which would make you a well rounded and unique individual after all. Thank god!
There are some nuances though that make placements at certain parts of a sign a bit different than other parts. The final few degrees of every sign are always in the terms or bounds of Mars or Saturn, making the final part of every zodiac sign a bit extra spicy. And planets can also fall in the decan of another planets, which would also flavour the expression of that placement significantly. It’s a very nuanced story in many ways, but one thing is certain: cusp signs do not exist.
Remember: you are more than the sum of your planetary parts
It’s very easy to misguided by any of the claims I have debunked above. There’s so much information available out there that it’s hard to assess what’s true and what’s not. And clickbait articles are popular for a reason. We all love some quick and dirty astrology facts.
But the truth is often much more nuanced. It takes a lot of skill and effort to understand your own birth chart. Astrology is way more complex than some handy facts or cookbook interpretations on the internet, and mastering the language of astrology takes years of training. It really is an endless source of discovery, so it makes sense that we’re all constantly learning and unlearning new things.
That being said, some of the astrology myths I’ve debunked above are very pervasive on the internet. They can create a lot of anxiety or confusion about your own birth chart, which can lead to you feeling shitty about yourself for no good reason. Unlearning some of these myths in the early stages of your studies will help put your birth chart in a greater perspective and will also significantly improve your overall astro fluency.
When navigating the murky territory of the internet, it’s helpful to keep in mind that any definitive statements about any astrological placement usually aren’t that black and white. There’s a huge grey area of information that gets left out in any cookie cutter type of astrology.
Remember that no online horoscope, astrology app or meme account is going to be able to explain the contradictions in your chart in a way that feels uniquely relatable to you. They won’t listen to your stories and give you the personal advice that an actual astrologer is able to give you. They won’t be able to hold space for your struggles, sit with your grief, or cheer on your unique skill-set in a way that feels validating and empowering. And if you’re eager to dive into your chart with more nuance, clarity, and purpose, I’d love to see you in a consult.