A term originating from ancient Greece which combines the words 'hora' (hour, time) and 'scopein' (watch, observe). So, horoscope literally means the "observer of the hour" and is sometimes translated as the "observation of time".
The term horoscope usually refers to the graphical portrayal of the natal chart, i.e. the graphical portrayal of the planetary positions at the time of birth or the beginning of any particular process as viewed from the location at which it occurs. The sign that rises on the Eastern horizon at this point in time, the Ascendant, indicates the hour, whereas the planets generally move only little during the course of a day, except for the Moon which nevertheless remains a far less accurate indicator of time than the Ascendant.
The horoscope is the basis for astrological interpretation. It is erected on the basis of astronomical calculations, if possible using a time accurate to within a minute. The collected data are then plotted on a circular diagram, though at one time it was also common to use a rectagonal diagram.
In a broader sense, the term horoscope also implies the interpretation of astrological symbols.
Up until ancient times, horoscopes were usually only erected for rulers, high ranking priests or for whole communities. Individual horoscopes first became more common among wealthy Romans. Today anyone who is interested can have their natal chart erected and interpreted.
Many people who know little about astrology think that a horoscope is equivalent with the general character descriptions and prognoses that have become an indispensable feature in many newspapers and magazines. This often leads to comments such as "my horoscope is wrong", although the individual making the comment may not even know their exact time of birth, never mind having had their natal chart erected.
Notes and References
- From Robert Fludd's Utriusque Cosmi Historia, 1617