It might sound strange for an astrology blog to focus on data, especially when astrology is so often dismissed by the experts as a pseudo science… yet paying strict attention to the data we use for our birth charts, or to cast charts for any event, is critically important. If the data is wrong, the interpretations are wrong and the chart is useless.
If you take nothing else from this post — always, always, always check and recheck your data. Do this before you do anything else.
Consider the most basic of all astrological studies — the birth chart. Just as our physical body is what the outside world sees of us… our birth chart (also known as a natal chart) is a picture of our inner world, taken at the exact moment we entered this world. Your birth chart shows the traits and talents and challenges you were born with, and gives clues as to how these might play out over your lifetime. A serious study of your natal chart can help you learn much about yourself… as well as where you came from and where you’re headed.
In fact, you’ll find that identical twins always have slightly different birth charts. Often astrologers find that twins split up the energies of the chart… which might explain why they are so different from each other. Twins tend to divide the energies of the chart between them… each choosing different ones to act out. One twin may own the Sun sign energies, while the other might choose the Moon sign… or one twin may live out the other twin’s shadow. Sharing features leads us to a false expectation that twins will be just as much alike on the inside. Yet this isn’t the case, each has his or her own unique journey to make through this life.
Thanks to the internet there are any number of places (Astrolabe and Astrodienst being two of the best) to get a free natal chart. This can be a blessing if you have all the correct birth information; a curse if you don’t — especially if you guess at your birth time or give in to the temptation to use a default (noon or 6:00 AM) time. The chart that will be generated for you will be misleading and largely inaccurate — like using another person’s x-ray to see if your hacking cough is really pneumonia.
Which brings us to an often overlooked point — any birth chart, whether computed online or by a professional astrologer as part of your reading, is only as good as the data you supply. To get a truly accurate natal chart, you’ll need to know your birth date (month, day and year), the exact time you were born, and the location. Before you convince yourself your own data is beyond reproach… ask yourself — are you relying on the memories of your parents or grandparents or do you have a birth certificate or other more unimpeachable record? Do you know the exact location of your birth… big city hospital or at home?
If you were born more than 20 or 30 years ago, the records of your birth may not be all that accurate, and tracking down the truth can be a challenge. Still there are ways to resolve an unknown birth time, and you should make the effort before you have a chart cast. A difference of 4 minutes can change things in a chart… which is why astrologers work so hard, and put such focus on having an accurate birth time. Using the right time ensures that the birth chart you end up with is truly representative of you.
If your own investigations into the time of your birth fail you, you might consider birth time rectification (the process of pinpointing your birth time based on the dates of other key events in your life). Be prepared to spend at least $100 to $150 for the service and be sure to use an astrologer who specializes in this type of work. You’ll be asked to supply dates and times of important events in your life, and the astrologer will use these to back into the likely time of your birth.
The accuracy of birth chart data for well known public figures has taken a huge step forward thanks to the lifelong dedication of Lois Rodden who collected data on 26,000 births over her 40 year career. Her high standards for data integrity have changed everything… and have given astrologers and students of astrology a way to tell good data from bad. The Rodden Rating system is now the universal standard for rating the accuracy of birth data according to where it comes from. Data marked with an AA, A and B are the best sources for information on the famous (or infamous) who are notorious for misrepresenting their birth data… except when visiting an astrologer.
You see now how critical it is to have the right data… an accurate time and place of birth (or accurate details for any event)… so that the chart you get back reflects the real possibilities and potentials inherent in that moment, at that place. By ensuring the data you use is the best it can be, you’ll avoid having a chart cast that won’t fit — and instead get one that contains valuable astrological insights to help you along the way.