Horoscopes are diagrams or charts displaying the positions of various celestial bodies during a certain date, most commonly the date of an individual's birth. Horoscopes are perhaps the most well-known component of astrology and interpretations of horoscopes are featured in newspapers and magazines, as well as entire books and websites.
The descriptions you see in a magazine are most likely an astrologer's interpretation of a horoscope, rather than the horoscope itself, which would simply appear as a chart. Astrologers use horoscopes as divination tools, interpreting the charts to draw some conclusion about past, present or future events. To best understand horoscopes, it is helpful to understand their history.
History of Horoscopes
Although Western astrology as we know it most likely originated in Babylonia, it was the ancient Greeks who first use horoscopes as a method of divination. The Greeks held that a person's life was predetermined and that certain predictions could be made based on the arrangement of the sun, moon and constellations at the time of that person's birth. In this way, horoscopes began as a kind of detailed birth certificate, filled with the information that an astrologer would need to make predictions. Likewise, the Greeks were advanced enough to be able to predict when certain arrangements would occur again, and could thus make predictions about specific dates in the future.
The practice of reading horoscopes then spread out of Greece into Rome, and from there into the rest of Europe as Rome expanded. The practice died down for several hundred years until the 17th century when an astrologer named William Lilly created what he called "Christian Astrology," designed to reconcile traditional astrology and its pagan roots with Christian thinking. Horoscopes have enjoyed consistent growth since then, and exploded in popularity in the early 20th century in the United States.
What You Should Know About Horoscopes
As you may be aware, horoscopes are strongly connected to the signs of the Zodiac. The signs of the Zodiac are associated with periods in the year when certain constellations, their namesakes, appear in the sky. The practice of interpreting horoscopes dictates that a person born under one of these signs often possesses certain characteristics that are common to others of the same Zodiac sign. For example, the constellation of Libra is thought to resemble a scale, and those born under Libra often exhibit a personal characteristic of balance and levelheadedness.
Astrologers must learn to read many charts and tables in order to construct an accurate horoscope. An inaccurate horoscope will most likely result in an inaccurate interpretation. Horoscopes include more detailed information than many people realize, such as the angle of important planets in relation to each other. All information factors into the astrologer's interpretation of the horoscope, so the more information that is accurately included, the more likely it is that the interpretation will be of high quality.
Horoscopes are a deep and complex topic in and of themselves, and as such are hard to briefly summarize. However, the information presented here should give you a basic overview of what horoscopes are and how they are determined.