As I have said before, I like to browse the horoscope section at Yahoo!Answers, offering help if I can, and to keep and eye on how people see & use astrology. (There sure are a LOT of people asking about boyfriends & girlfriends!)
Often, someone goes to one of the various websites online offering a free astrology reading. All a person has to do is plug-in their birth data and click. And what they get is a computer-generated list, detailing each part of their chart in isolation. (ie: Your Mars in Capricorn means… Your Mars in the 6th house means… Your Mars square your Saturn means…) Then they read through it all, and post a question asking “How come there are contradictions in my chart? It says I am outgoing and it says I am shy. It says I am pushy & overbearing yet I am also cooperative? What gives?”
A good astrologer knows how to balance a chart, how to weave together all the traits and work out the apparent contradictions. There are contradictions in every chart, and some elements in a chart will be stronger than others. Getting a list of traits at an online site, where everything is presented in isolation, with no emphasis or blending indicated, can be a good step in beginning to understand a chart, but people aren’t like that. Each one of us is a complex individual.
I have done charts for some people where the contradictions are a major part of their life, and they struggle with, as an example, being traditional and/or being offbeat, until they find a way to work out their internal balances. Some charts might indicate that some planets are much stronger than the others, so maybe a person could be essentially traditional, with a rarely seen wild streak that pops out at key times in their lives.
Or else, a particular trait might be assigned only to certain areas of a person’s life: as an example, maybe in their career and the outside world, they may be free and wild and unusual, but desire a traditional home life.
The birth chart must be interpreted as a whole. Ideally, this ought to be done after studying all the details and accumulating experience in putting them altogether. Aspects or placements may seem contradictory, but not when you take into account all the other information in a chart. It can be a challenge bringing it all together, and that’s where professional astrologers come in. We’re not foolproof, but you will get more insight into your chart and personality with one of us.
I think the type of website I described above is a decent place for beginners to explore. Anyone can start getting a handle on how complex reading a chart really is, and can offer you insights into yourself, but there are flaws in having just a computer look at your chart. You can give anyone a list of ingredients but it takes a chef to prepare a delicious and enjoyable meal. Same thing with a complete astrology reading. Enjoy the information, but take it all with a grain of salt.