Astrology is the use of the placement and movement of celestial bodies to determine human events and personality characteristics. Although not considered a science, and scoffed by skeptics as superstition, Astrology was one of the oldest subjects mankind researched. Astrology may have been practiced as early as 3,000 B.C.; ancient cultures developed it as a means to interpret the movement of celestial bodies as signs of divine communication. Although it is the subject of both scientific and theological criticism, an estimated 30-40 percent of Americans place some belief in Astrology. Carl Jung used astrology to form his theory of the collective subconscious and his development of archetypes. This "search for meaning in the heavens" also influenced Shakespeare and Chaucer in their character development.
The two most common uses of astrology in pop culture are the Chinese Zodiac and the Western, or Tropical Zodiac. The Chinese Zodiac calendar is over 2,000 years old. The Chinese Zodiac's 12 animal signs represent the 12-year cycle of the Chinese lunar calendar--your animal is determined by the Chinese year in which you were born. The Tropical Zodiac, based on the seasons, provides your "sun sign." When people ask the common question, "What's your sign?" this is the Zodiac they are referring to. The sun signs are Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, and Sagittarius.
There is an abundance of extant writings on astrology, especially on the internet, so going to the astrology section of a local book store may be the best place to start. The terminology and information on a birth chart can be intimidating, but remember to take your time and enjoy yourself--astrology is an in-depth subject. Many beginners visit a professional astrologist to get a reading, which can be helpful in understanding the terminology and seeing what kind of information can be extrapolated from a chart. Another good starting point is to sign up on an astrology website and enter the information on your birth certificate to receive a reading.
Classes and conferences in astrology are available--one way to find out about these is to look for a "new age" or "occult" book store in your town and ask there. This is also a good way to meet other astrology practitioners.