Astro DIY #11: Understanding patterns in your birth chart


This is the 11th post in Astro DIY – our very own ‘learn astrology’ column. Your fabulous mentor-tutor is Tabby Besley!

View all posts in this series here.

How’s everyone doing? How are your astrological studies going? I’ve been travelling around England (with a sneaky trip to a queer festival in Amsterdam!) over the last month and got to meet the lovely Beth in real life! It’s been a whirlwind trip but it was so nice to spend a few days in Manchester. I got to stay on the beautiful Empress and talk astrology into the night, visited the LGBT Youth North West Centre and allotment, got a tarot reading from Beth (go on, get your own!) and got nice and lost in the rain.


Astro DIY #11: Understanding patterns in your birth chart

So this time in Astro DIY we’re going be looking at the patterns planets make in charts.

Identifying what chart shape they make is a useful part of reading a birth chart – especially as it can add emphasis to certain planets in a chart, giving them more or less power.

Having awareness of the pattern in your birth chart can also give you insight on how you approach life, particularly around focus and goals.




The Bundle (also known as the Cluster) is produced when all the planets are grouped together within a third (120 degrees/5 consecutive houses) of the chart. This suggests that the person is highly-focused in one area – they may have a specialized career or approach to life and a limited range of interests outside of that. Look to the houses those planets occupy to see what area of life their strengths and resources lie in. There is great potential in this area, but it is good to be aware of what lies outside of it and the limited perspective you may have. People with a Bundle chart may find relating to others difficult and are at their best applying deep concentration and persistence to their specialized interest.


The Bowl pattern is when planets occupy half the chart, leaving the other half empty. The hemisphere where the planets are will show what your focus is.

This chart pattern shows a self-contained individual with great inner strength, who doesn’t need to rely on other people for satisfaction. The unoccupied half of your chart can show a challenge – a talent, quality or area of life that you feel a need to discover – and until you do it will probably feel like something is missing. People with Bowl chart shapes tend to be on a mission and always fighting for a cause.


The Bucket is like the Bowl, but with a handle, that is, when one planet or a conjunction of two planets (within 8 degrees of each other) are on the opposite side to the majority of planets, which form a Bucket. Your talents and strengths will be represented in the occupied area of the chart, and your goals and direction in the lone planet/s. The focal planet(s) show how you express your energies and where you want to achieve, often with a sole purpose.

SeesawSee Saw

In the See Saw pattern planets are grouped to form tight oppositions, two completely different types of experiences are calling and the person is pulled equally in both directions. They must decide whether to enter a continuous tug of war with these opposing urges, or whether there is a way to find a middle ground. Look to the opposing houses and signs to see what the urges are.

People with See Saw charts tend to always be able to see both sides of an issue, with a knack for reaching compromise between opposing points of view – they can be quite similar to a Libra personality.


The Locomotive pattern is found when the planets are spread out evenly occupying two thirds of the chart, leaving one third (two-four consecutive houses) empty. This indicates a strong desire to seek fulfillment, which is based on the feeling that something is missing. The planet that rises clockwise following the empty space in the chart acts as the ‘locomotive’, giving the individual a huge amount of drive and determination to achieve their goals.

People with a Locomotive chart tend to be able to accomplish any task and have a lot of energy. They will work relentlessly to do something, often in their own tried and true way.


If the planets are splashed all over the chart and fairly evenly distributed throughout the signs and houses (at least 8 of them), the Splash pattern occurs. This suggests that there is so many different interests that the person is likely to scatter their energies all over, making it difficult to be productive or accomplish one main goal. They will be well-balanced and feel like they can deal with any situation, as they have interest and awareness in so many different areas.

An individual with a Splash chart might find life frustrating when put under limitations or given too much focus.


The Splay chart can be spotted by the presence of at least two, but usually three pairs (or conjunctions) of planets randomly distributed in a ‘splay’ shape around the chart. If a chart doesn’t fit into any of the above categories, it is probably a Splay. This pattern usually shows three points of emphasis, someone who is not easily defined and can be quite intense. If in the three groups of planets one group only has one planet, this is known as the ‘reins’ planet which shows the real talent of the chart and leads the other planets.

Those with a Splay chart tend not to conform to rules and structure, usually having an individualist approach. Someone with a Splay chart may find that it’s hard to find a link between their different skill sets, so they may not obtain the full benefits of them. Focus is needed to make the most of their true potential.

There we go! These can take a while to get the hang of, so feel free to post your chart on the forums or comment with your birth date/time/place if you need a second opinion! There’s also lots of resources online that can give you more examples of what the patterns look like if you’re stuck.


Your homework: Work out the chart pattern of your own birth chart and share in the comments/forums how this relates to you. Then using either the charts of people you know or charts from the AstroDataBank, see if you can find one of every chart type.

Next time on Astro DIY we’ll be learning to understand the different aspects in astrology, which are vital to know for both understanding birth charts and your planetary transits/forecast!


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  1. Rebecca says:

    I have – Pluto in house 2; a cluster of three planets in houses 3/4; Jupiter in house 8; the Moon in house 10; and a cluster of four planets in houses 11/12. I think that makes me a Splay chart, with the 2/3/4 cluster, the 10/11/12 cluster, and Jupiter as the “reins” planet in house 8. So that means lots of optimism, expansiveness, and initiating energy in how I relate to others; focus on relationships; something transformative. Expresses the theme of my self being in multiple parts, along with the individualism of the Splay chart. The Splay chart complements the other contradiction of my chart: the majority of my planets are in fire signs, but in water houses.

  2. Erin says:

    do chiron and the north node count? If not then I suppose I’m a bundle in 4/5/6 with just the moon in 8. if they do count, it’s perhaps a weird bucket?

    I am really enjoying this series! I’ve got my chart printed out and all marked up and highlighted. so fun! thanks!!

    • Tabby says:

      Nope they don’t count for this, just the main 10 planets! Do you relate to the bundle description?

      Yay that’s so cool. I’d love to see photos of people’s charts and notes like that and maybe even use them in the posts! You could send me photos at if you like!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I’m so happy you two got to meet! Tabby, I’ve been loving this series so far. It’s been very informative, and a lot more helpful than some books I’ve read. I’m very much looking forward to learning aspects! 🙂

    I’ve always had trouble figuring out what shape or pattern my chart is in. Is it a bundle, or is it a bucket with two handles? Or perhaps a spay with Jupiter in the 11th house as a rein? I would love your insight, Tabby!

    • Tabby says:

      Sorry for the late reply! That is a hard one – I think it’s actually a locomotive pattern and Jupiter would be the leading planet. We look to the midpoint of the empty space (we don’t count Chiron for this) to see what is missing – which shows in your chart Cancer on your Midheaven.

      This chart uses a similar shape to yours so that might help you understand it:

      Do you relate to the locomotive descriptions?

      In terms of aspects, you might want to look into the meaning of your grand trine in Earth (the big triangle connecting your planets in Earth signs). 🙂

  4. Eli says:

    I really enjoyed this post because I’m a sucker for pattern-finding. I think my chart is a splay with an Aquarius Jupiter holding the reins from the 4th house. From what I read about Jupiter in Aquarius being quite a socially-conscious combo, it sounds like this makes for an interesting combination of the personal and social. So I’m driven by issues around home, family and security, but I approach those needs from an activist perspective.

    Then I’ve got the Moon and Venus hanging out in a Cancer 9th house, and then the Sun, Mars and Mercury gathered in a Leonine 10th house. Someone took a brief glance at my chart when I was born and said “Wow. Very sunny and very moony!”

    In my first house, ruled by Scorpio, I’ve got Pluto and Saturn. The second house is Sagittarian, and has Neptune and Uranus.

    From what little I know, a lot of the combinations seem sort of paradoxical or at least surprising, which I would like a lot. I also identify with the splay pattern–my life seems to have gone in so many different directions, and I feel really strong urges towards totally different sorts of activities, even though I know there are strong underlying values and drives that tie everything together.

    • Tabby says:

      Your chart is a bundle shape as described above, but quite a rare one as usually the planets are spread out a bit more, but there is no minimum. It means your energy is really concentrated on those three houses – I’d suggest reading this post about grouping the houses to learn more about what it means to have all your planets in that specific area of your chart:

    • Tabby says:

      This link isn’t working sorry May – if you upload it to a site such as imgur and share that link, or post your birth details I can look for you!

  5. Raychel says:

    Hello! First off- I want to say thank you for the very insightful, awesome article, and for also offering to help give those of us who are new to chart patterns an opportunity to get your advanced knowledge in assistance with figuring out our own charts pattern.

    Now, I’m having some trouble with what mine would actually be considered- I was leaning towards MAYBE either a bundle or possibly a bowl shape? My birth data is: September 20th, 1991- Anchorage, Alaska (Anchorage Municipal Airport is what it’s sometimes listed under) 9:15am (UTC -9:00) *Daylight savings Active.

      • Raychel says:

        Oh, I almost forgot to ask, is there anyway you could help me figure out which planet is the “leading” one or the focal planet? Prolly a lil too late to ask but I figured i’d at least try since that is the one part I’m confused about with studying my charts pattern.

    • Tabby says:

      Hey Devin, I think this is a Splash chart as your planets are pretty evenly distributed, in eight different houses!

    • Tabby says:

      Yep that’s a bucket/funnel! What a full 4th House! Take a look into your aspects – I imagine the oppositions your Moon is making to the other planets would be felt pretty powerfully!

  6. Siri says:

    Can you see what shape mine is? Here’s a link I personally think its some hybrid of see-saw/locomotive or see-saw/tripod, but can you help me figure it out? I just want another set of eyes on it. Thanks!

    • Tabby says:

      Hey Gillian,

      I think this is a Seesaw as it’s separated into two main groups with two strong oppositions between your Mars and Saturn and Sun and Neptune!

    • Tabby says:

      Hey! Your chart shape is a bowl with your Mars acting as the leading planet that will help you channel your purpose 🙂 Check out the grouping the houses post to look at what it means for your planets to mostly be in the Southern and Eastern hemispheres of the chart!

  7. Fitz says:

    Hey there! Thanks so much for sharing your journey and knowledge! I’m struggling to determine my pattern. I think it’s splay since it doesn’t appear to fit into the others. I was born at 8:30AM in Waukegan, Illinois on 18 March 1994. I’d appreciate your help c:

    • Tabby says:

      Heya! Your chart shape is a bucket/funnel (harder one to spot though!) and your focal planet/the bucket handle is the moon!

  8. Tabby says:

    Hey Jackie, yeah I would go for a splay for your chart. Your chart also has the t-square and the grand cross aspect patterns which you might be interested to look up 🙂

  9. Brooke Leach says:

    I know this is an old article but I’m actually completely unable to find any chart similar to mine (except the splay being the closest…) but the definition still isn’t right.
    I have 4 signs within conjunction ( 10 degrees) in Capricorn (3rd House) followed by my sun and 2 other planets in Aquarius (4th House) then finally Jupiter in Virgo (rx 10/11) moon in Gemini (8 house ) and Pluto in Scorpio. (1 house)

    Is it a seesaw? Any input is appreciated!

  10. Kathy Williams says:

    Katheryn Ann Fondren
    March 17, 1952
    Whittier, CA
    7:33 PM

    Larry Joe Williams
    October 25, 1944
    Muncie, IN
    11:46 PM

  11. Lydia says:

    Hi Tabby! I’ve been reading through all of your entries and let me just say you are great at simplifying this! I’ve been studying Astrology my whole life and only just began to study birth charts, and you have made it a lot easier. It seems like this is something a lot of people are having a hard time with. I’m wondering if you could confirm for me what I believe. Six of my planets are in the 10th House (SE), one in the 11th (SE), three in eighth (SW), one in seventh (SW), and one in the sixth (NW). Is this more of a bowl shape or a bundle shape? The other half of my chart is bare which is what leads me to believe it’s a Bowl,

    • Tabby says:

      Thanks for your lovely feedback! I would say that’s a bowl – as you said it takes up one whole hemisphere of your chart, and a bundle is usually across five consecutive houses where in your chart it would be across six.

      All the best for the rest of your astrology journey – the learning never ends!

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