What is a Natal Chart?
A natal chart is the basic astrology tool for those interested in self-study. It is literally a map of the planets for the date, time and place of your birth, with the Earth at the center. If you are going to tap into the wisdom of astrology or want to be an astrologer, this is the point of beginning. Our current format of natal charts exists in recognizable form since about 100 BC.
The houses describe the environment in which a certain energy pattern exists. Houses describe actual places (your home, your office, your inner life). Signs more typically describe the style in which something manifests. Planets describe the type of energy that is being expressed, they represent people, and they represent specific situations.
There is no one correct interpretation for a chart. Astrology is interpretive, and based on the perception, philosophy and skill of the astrologer. Astrology is based on science (astronomy and math) but interpretation of a chart, and working with a person and their astrology, are more like art forms. Each astrologer works differently and the values of that person will inform what they say about you and your astrology.
The natal chart is related to another tool, called the progressed chart. Progressions unfold the story of your personal life as an internal phenomenon. Your progressions are unique in all the world, being entirely dependent upon your planetary setup at the exact time of your birth. They movements of progressed planets are symbolic; they are a scale model of time, usually one day per year. For example, the planets real position on your 29th day of life will repeat as a progression in your 29th year of life.
Transits are a different thing -- they are about the movements of the real planets in real time, which give another picture of influencing forces, circumstances and experiences. Many people can have similar transits at similar ages of life, though many transit patterns are highly individualistic, based on your time of birth.
How we respond to any of these factors is up to us.
Several sources exist to get information about your natal chart, including books, prepared reports and personal consultations. Only a skilled astrologer can assemble all the parts of the picture, rather than looking at the parts separately. Eric has more to say about that at this link on the Cosmic Confidential blog.