“We are what we pretend to
be, so we must be careful what we pretend.” - Kurt Vonnegut
The body of knowledge we
call astrology has accrued over millennia, correlating countless
observations of “as above, so below.” This ancient discipline seems
to operate in a Quantum Mechanics fashion, using the language of
archetypes to describe the nature of energy expressing in three
dimensions of space and the fourth dimension of time. In today’s
world astronomy is seen as science, and measures the domain of the
sky, while astrology is often seen as superstition because this
discipline seeks to gain meaning from the same data.
Earth’s globe is delineated
by terrestrial latitude and longitude, imaginary lines drawn on
maps to provide a frame of reference for locating intersections
on a grid. Similarly, astronomers place Earth at the center of an
imaginary globe called the Celestial Sphere. Using Earth’s equator
and poles as fundamental reference points, terrestrial longitude
and latitude are projected into space, and vertical and horizontal
lines are etched onto this imaginary sphere. The Celestial Sphere
might be likened to cosmic graph paper.
Components of the Celestial
Sphere allow astronomers to identify the location and track the
apparent movement of objects in the night sky relative to Earth
at any point in time or any place on our planet. The celestial equivalents
of terrestrial longitude and latitude are termed Right Ascension
and Declination respectively. Right Ascension is measured in hours,
and declination, like latitude, is measured in degrees above or
below the Celestial Equator. Because of Earth’s rotational motion
these “grid lines” only match up once in twenty-four hours.
The section of this imaginary
sphere in which Earth and the other planets orbit the Sun is called
the ecliptic. Technically, the ecliptic tracks the path of the Sun’s
apparent motion. Astronomers divide the ecliptic into the twenty-four
hours of Right Ascension (Celestial Longitude), beginning at the
spring equinox point or zero degrees of Aries. Astrologers divide
the same area of sky into the 360 degrees of the Zodiac and the
twelve familiar “signs.”
As Earth travels each year
in its roughly elliptical orbit the changing relationship with the
Sun, Moon and planets is charted astrologically against the background
of the twelve zodiac signs. From our vantage point on Earth the
Sun appears to pass through the twelve signs in twelve months.
It’s important to mention
another motion of the Earth. Our planet wobbles as she spins, creating
a phenomenon known as Precession, which has two effects from the
sky-watching perspective. First, the slow wobble causes the polar
axis to shift relative to the night sky and over thousands of years,
slowly moves a different “pole star” into the northern sky. Second,
precession causes sunrise to move backward (toward the west), against
different constellations. This second motion is tracked against
the familiar constellations which circle the ecliptic, and what
evolved over time we now call the astrological ages.
Although the constellations
of the zodiac contain the stars themselves the zodiac “signs,” like
sign posts, are divisions of time and space based on the seasons
of the solar year. The signs are fixed reference points. Astrologers
call spring equinox the zero point of Aries even though the stars
of Aries no longer line up with equinox sunrise. Western Tropical
Astrology analyzes the positions of Sun, Moon and planets relative
to twelve temporal divisions of the solar year, beginning with spring
equinox. The twelve zodiac signs are symbolic stages in the annual
and mythic journey of the solar king.
Each day we observe the Sun
rise in the east, travel across the sky, and set in the west. We
know it’s an illusion created by Earth’s daily rotation on her axis,
but the illusion is compelling. In the same way, as Earth rotates
on its axis, each of the twelve zodiac signs rises in the east and
sets in the west in turn. In the language of the horoscope the zodiac
sign which appears on the eastern horizon at the moment of birth
is said to be “rising” or ascending, and every two hours a new sign
takes the eastern stage. As the Earth turns daily, different stars
and planets also move past that marker.
At dawn the Sun is rising
so at that time of day the “Sun Sign” is the same as the “Rising
Sign.” At noon, the Sun has advanced six hours, one-fourth of the
day (roughly three zodiac signs), and has risen to the zenith point
overhead. As the day progresses Earth’s motion causes the Rising
Sign to change every two hours.
Because Earth’s annual journey
around the Sun changes our reference point relative to the sky a
different part of the sky rises in the east at dawn as the seasons
change. In spring sunrise occurs in the sign of Aries (but the stars
of Pisces). The first sign Aries only rises at dawn for one month
in spring, the symbolic beginning of the year. In summer the Sun
rises in Cancer, in autumn Libra, and so on. When Precession moves
the stars of Aquarius to spring equinox sunrise, heralding the Age
of Aquarius, it will still be zero degrees of the “sign” of Aries.
Astrologers interpret someone’s
outer personality expression in part by the nature of the zodiac
sign rising on the eastern horizon at the exact moment of birth.
This eastern angle of the horoscope can be understood as our personal
horizon, representing the symbolic point where day begins and the
onset of life of the individual, beginning with the inhalation of
the first independent breath. This point of the chart shapes our
perspective based on the astrological lens we see life through.
Astrologer Isabel Hickey,
author of Spiritual Astrology, likens the significance of the Rising
Sign to a window through which we look out onto the world. Our personal
windows are unique in shape and size and therefore color our individual
outlook. The Rising Sign reveals the circumstances of birth and
early life which influence our perspective and shape our point of
view. The Ascendant is also seen to influence our physical appearance,
temperament, attitudes, disposition and personality.
In Eastern thought the sign
rising at birth is thought to be occupied by the Moon at conception.
In a mystical way this energy forms a matrix or template which shapes
the physical form determined by the Soul’s choice of a vehicle through
which the personality will navigate life events.
I see the Sun Sign as presenting
a major emphasis of lifetime learning, and the Moon Sign as revealing
our mental-emotional orientation, conditioned responses and genetics.
Both of these are inner and “energetic.” The Rising Sign is in a
sense more concrete. Seen one way the Sun Sign is like a light source,
and the Rising sign is like a lamp shade which colors or alters
the light and says something about individual personality.
The Ascendant can also act
like a mask or facade which we use to reveal some aspects of ourselves
and conceal others, affecting how we allow others to see us, and
functioning like a wall that keeps things in or out. Understanding
the Rising Sign can give insight into what’s visible for all to
see, versus other components of the horoscope which are hidden from
view in the depths of our psyche.
Archetypes & Stereotypes
What follows is an extremely
generalized description of the archetypal characteristics of Rising
Signs as they may express through human personality. The variables
in an individual horoscope create a rich tapestry of interpretation,
and an in-depth analysis is required for real understanding. However,
it’s possible to gain some insight (and entertainment), from generalizations.
Since one metaphor for the
Ascendant is the vehicle we utilize to navigate through life I’ve
included a “vehicle” to correspond with each Rising Sign. This is
a light-hearted attempt to show astrology’s versatility and have
a little fun. Laughter is the best antidote to taking ourselves
Aries, The Ram - High energy
and impulsive. Apt to act first and think later. Positive, masculine
and an assertive trail blazer. Head first with quick reflexes. Uses
anger as a back up mode. Needs to cultivate tact and diplomacy.
He drives a big, red pickup truck, probably a Dodge Ram Charger,
and passes everyone on the road.
Taurus, The Bull - Strong,
stable and persistent. Actions are deliberate and patient unless
backed into a corner. Focused on security and possessions. Watch
out when Taurus rising becomes overly charming. She likes feeling
safe in a Volvo sedan (or Ford Taurus).
Gemini, The Twins - Friendly,
witty, talkative and curious. Sense of duality is strong. Active
mental nature. Can be high-strung and temperamental. Changeable.
Non-stop talking is a typical defense mechanism. The twins are more
comfortable in a convertible.
Cancer, The Crab - Sensitive
and will retreat into a “shell” when uncomfortable. Sympathetic,
receptive. A home base is a vital concern. Can seem traditional.
Prone to emotional melt down when stressed. She likes to take home
with her, so she carries her stuff in a camper.
Leo, The Lion - Extroverted
and gregarious. Confident, proud, courageous and loyal. It’s important
to feel loved. Considerable roaring and tail lashing, but it’s mostly
show. High melodrama is a typical reaction to stress. He prefers
to be chauffeured to gala fund raisers in a stretch limousine.
Virgo, The Virgin - Ingenious
with an alert mind. Attention to detail is important. Quiet and
unassuming personality. Practical, analytical and thoughtful. A
perfectionist. Analysis paralysis can bring Virgo rising to a complete
halt when on overload. Ever practical and economical, she drives
a Honda Civic.
Libra, The Scales - Artistic
and creative. Always seeking balance and harmony, but can be a feisty
arguer as justice is the ultimate aim. Fair minded. Can be too eager
to please, and a deadly calm of sweetness should be a danger signal.
Classy, elegant and stylish he loves his vintage Mercedes.
Scorpio, The Scorpion - Self-controlled
and conceals much. Possesses depth of personality and can struggle
mightily to overcome powerful and conflicting passions. Willful.
Reserved. Goes for the jugular when backed into a corner. She’ll
surprise you as she speeds away in her Ferrari.
Sagittarius, The Archer -
Philosophical, outgoing and expansive. Talkative and loves to travel.
Restless and eager to be on the go. Direct and to the point. Denial
of reality can be a means of coping with problems, hoping it will
all go away. You never know when adventure will present itself so
he’s always ready to explore in his Hummer.
Capricorn, The Sea Goat -
Determined, reserved and sensitive. Outer reserve masks a great
ambition to achieve. Focus their duty can make them appear “cold.”
Lashing out in harsh judgment is a means of coping with perceived
failure. Expecting to meet responsibility at every turn, she prefers
a multipurpose mini van. It would be a Saturn if they made one.
Aquarius, The Water Bearer
- Intuitive, mental and idealistic. Capable and practical but can
also be impulsive and rebellious. Oriented to mind and not feelings.
A display of eccentricity is often a shield against vulnerability.
The “rebel-without-a-cause” likes his leathers and Harley Davison.
Pisces, The Fishes - Sympathetic,
hypersensitive, and highly impressionable. Often carries the emotional
weight of the world. Sentimental and secretive. Can be dreamy and
impractical unless galvanized. Will retreat and sink under the ocean
waves when threatened. She longs to sail away to Neverland on a