Ascendant – mask or essence?

  The Ascendant (rising) sign is our first introduction to the world at birth. Modern astrology has tended to view it as a mask or persona we wear on first meetings and dictating appearance – the real person being hidden behind it. Whereas traditional astrology regarded the Ascendant as a fundamental key to the individual – the Ascendant and Ascendant Ruler being deemed the most important factors in determining personality. In a world ruled by the will of the gods, it was hour zero in the individual’s entanglement with fate – a moment in destiny.

  It is crucial since it sets up the entire structure of the chart by establishing the house layout and which planets fall where.

  I would have to confess to paying less attention to the Ascendant (than maybe I should) and focusing more on the subsequent houses which derive from it – plus Sun, Moon signs and aspects.

 What does interest me are planets that fall on the Ascendant indicating the experience around the time of birth. Caesarean or difficult births were always associated with Pluto on the Ascendant, signifying a difficult struggle to enter the world leading to a secretive, defensive personality.

  Neptune on the Ascendant used to be associated with a drug-induced birth and to producing a mesmerizingly attractive appearance.  [It struck me the other day that actor Cillian Murphy who has no birth time possibly has Neptune on his Ascendant. He has those Neptunian eyes.]

 Saturn on the Ascendant – defensive on first meeting.

  Taking an example of Greta Garbo, 18 September 1908 Stockholm, Sweden 7.30pm – Jupiter in Gemini on the Ascendant. Would her enthusiastic Gemini Ascendant define her more accurately than her self-sufficient Virgo Sun or hidden 12th house Moon square Saturn?

  Queen Elizabeth 11 was defined in terms of her outward appearance by her Capricorn Ascendant – status, conservatism, tradition, not overtly touchy feely. Yet those who knew her said her quick wit and mischievous sense of humour surprised them. Her 3rd house nature-loving Taurus Sun would seem a better guide to who she was, tempered by an overloaded Saturn on her Midheaven.

   Relocating charts does shift the Ascendant. Capricorn Ascendant Sean Connery became Venus on Libra Ascendant when jetted over to Los Angeles to boost him to superstar status, Though I would tend to look first at his Jupiter Pluto conjunction which landed on the midheaven in LA as being more to the point.  

  Meghan Markle moves from her natal Cancer Ascendant to a Libra Ascendant when in London which looks sociable enough but clearly did not work for her. More significantly it moved her  Moon, Jupiter, Saturn from the 3rd into the 12th along with Pluto which made her feel trapped and buried part of her personality. It did put her Leo Sun in the 10th in the UK which should have worked but obviously was not enough.

  Barack Obama was born an Aquarius Ascendant for his Hawaii birthplace but became a communicative Gemini Ascendant in Washington DC – which kind of makes sense but Washington, DC put his Uranus and Pluto in the 4th so it was clearly an unsettled domestic area for him.

  I remain to be convinced that the Ascendant has an overwhelming importance more than other planets/aspects/houses in a chart. If anything I would veer towards seeing the Sun sign as becoming more pronounced with age.   But I am sure there will be differing views so do pitch in.

46 thoughts on “Ascendant – mask or essence?

  1. In my case the ascendant has ruled my life, and not for the better. I am a Leo Sun but with Cancer rising, Moon in Cancer in the 12th conjunct-the ascendant, opposition Saturn in Capricorn. Leo needs to shine/radiate, but I need to hide, and life has punished me mightily for denying my Leo side. Now, in my elder years, with deep reluctance I am attempting to emerge from the shadows.

    • I am a Leo on the cusp of Leo and Virgo with a Leo Ascendant. I too try to cover-up my Leo characteristics. Mainly because I feel people are judgemental and look down on me. So I try not to be too pushy. And I basically try not to be Meghan Markle.

      It is easier as you get older. But as soon as I realised that people had a genuine dislike about Leo’s, I realised that it was down to me manage my faults.

  2. What do you think about the ruler of the ascendant as “chart ruler”?

    I am not great at guessing ascendants, but frequently I find I have guessed either the moon sign or the house of the chart ruler.

    • Wonderful, Tara! That’s amazing.

      That reminded me that I remember an astrologer saying Dominic Cummings probably has an angular Saturn – you never see him smile.

      • Thank you El Aznar. I am thinking of the traditional concept of a chart ruler, which most modern astrologers interpret as the ruler of the ascendant.

        For example, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex – Her ascendant is in Cancer, but her Moon is in the 3rd house – so perhaps less shy and chattier than many other Cancer ascendants. Interestingly, the Moon here, the chart ruler, is conjunct the ruler of the descendant (Saturn) and Jupiter. It’s certainly true that a lot of her energy or the perception of her is through communications about her relationship with her husband, and her sibling relationships – and the sibling relationship of her husband (his book!). Before she became involved in royal duties (which seems very Jupiter/Saturn – royal status and duty) she was an actress in a drama about corporate (Saturn) lawyers (Jupiter). So you see the chart ruler is very visible and is an additional lens of association. Although she is a Cancer rising, there is a Gemini aspect from the chart ruler house in the sibling theme, but also in how she worked to make her and Harry into their own “brand”, which is very 3rd house/Gemini. It is also interesting how Marjorie’s relocation chart above moves it from the 3rd to the swampier 12th house of “self undoing”, although she may be misunderstood to some degree.

        Looking at Marjories other examples above, I see Sean Connery has his natal chart ruler (Saturn) conjunct his acesndant plus his relocation chart ruler conjunct his ascendant, which is interesting to me as I have my chart ruler (also Venus) opposite my ascendant! He undoubtably had the Libra/Venus charm, but he was very much an action star (1st house = martian energy). Perhaps the perfect chart ruler placement for a Bond. However, sadly one of his wives I think said the marriage was abusive? And other strange comments from him about the physical abuse of women.

        Queen Elizabeth II has her chart ruler conjunct her midheaven – everything personal is public, must have been terribly difficult but that dutiful Capricorn asdendent and determind Scorpio MC carried her through. Quite literally, her head profile (ascendant) on all the public symbols, bank notes (Scorpio) and postage stamps, and may well continue to be for many years yet.

  3. My Taurus ascendant is at the 3rd decan, ruled by Saturn. Jupiter is in my 1st house but it squares my natal Saturn and my sun is in Libra also in a decan ruled by Saturn. I suppose this justifies my serious demeanor.

  4. When I was on a long coach journey , the lady who sat next to me told me that she was an astrologer, and she correctly told me that I was a Scorpio, she also said that there was a Libran influence in my chart. Many years later I had my horoscope done, l know my exact time of birth, and she was right! I am a Scorpio with my moon in Libra and my rising sign is Leo. I have always had very thick wavy hair. A real mane. Can astrology affect your physical appearance?

  5. Reading all these remarks make me think that no matter what the planets are doing, everyone has their own interpretation and nothing is certain.

  6. Maybe this thread reminded me that I should ask Marjorie to write a post about the condition of the 12th house as the description of prenatal experience. Things such as what she wrote about Neptune as an indicator of a particular birth, and I remember reading about a lady having Mars in the 12th who stopped a brawl between youths when pregnant and was hit in the stomach – I guess accidentally, ai’m not sure – while she was trying to end the fight. Luckily, nothing happened to the baby. But there it was in her chart as an indicator.

  7. Nicely done!

    I was born with Scorpio ascendant on July 3, 1954 at 3:14 pm EST in Providence, RI in the United States.

    I was what my mother deacribed as a “blue baby” and I was pulled out with forceps & have the dent in my head (Frank Sinatra had it too).

    I came in on the December 24, 1952 tragic death of my parents first daughters (my sisters I never knew) wgo died in a fire when a stove blew up. My parents were living in England and my Dad was stationed at Brize Norton.

    I always wondered why I never felt like a Cancerian. I really relate to the benefic aspects of Scorpio Rising – being an excellent researcher and detective and having an amazing curiosity. I was a newspaper reporter for my career.

    I think, although I am not really knowledgeable about my chart – but knowing my ascendant and how that set my chart has most likely kept me from going insane.

    My husband died of suicide on June 8, 2008. He was Cap/Cap/moon in Scorpio.

    Knowing that I incarnated with a big soul chart – and believing that my family in Heaven and the god I believe in keep me safe – gives me courage.

    Thank you, M.♥️

  8. I am sun leo with chiron, saturn, & moon in pisces rising. What does this mean? I feel hurt when I shouldn’t feel hurt. Ty terry

  9. In all my relocated charts (for the main countries I have lived in) my ascendant remains Cancer (albeit with differing degrees). In my birth country Libya I had a stellium in Leo in 2nd. The fact is that I am rather introvert and hardly behave like a larger than life Leo. As befits a Cancer I wear comfy clothes in fairly muted colours, although sometimes with a splash of colour reflecting the Uranus in my 1st house. However after relocating my chart to Europe where I have lived since infancy my stellium shifted in its entirety from my 2nd into my 3rd house, which also figures as I have always been a chatterbox and worked in communications of one sort or another. My official birthdate is 18-08-1955 but my daughter has cast doubt on that with her insistence that my moon is not in Leo but in Virgo, which indeed fits the picture better. This moves my moon onto 3rd/4th house cusp conj. Mercury as chart ruler which, again, makes sense as I work as an editor from home. And indeed my daughter complains that my house is excessively tidy (I don’t like clutter), but it also means that my birth certificate is wrong! I have long wondered why my Leo shine is so pale…

    • Not sure is this related. I noticed that my ascendent on relocation chart shifted one sign to cancer instead of gemini when doing natal chart. I have also dig a bit and realised my birth country changed the clock a few times before I was born. I think changing dates and time as a country are common practices in the past to align all their calendars and time to wealthy nations to benefit economically.

  10. Interesting point, Marjorie. I have both Pluto and moon perfectly conjunct my Asc. I was a cesarean birth and was told both my mother and I were at dangerous high risk. They had one doctor performing the c-section. Asked Dad who he wanted saved: his wife or baby? Before he could answer, another doctor showed up for rounds and was tapped to jump in. We both made it.

  11. With the t-square in my chart I’m not sure which houses I would want it to go across. I seem to have a choice between Greenland and Tasmania to get the inners on to the Ascendant or MC. Neither place seems appealing this late in life.

    However I see I could move to the West Country e.g. Devon/Cornwall and my Ascendant would shift back into Aries and my inners would move from the 4th where they are quietly hiding into the outgoing 5th.

  12. Here are some various notes I have jotted down to help me understand the Ascendant/First House. Still figuring it out. This is from Hellenistic astrology’s perspective:

    – The 1st house is YOU, the body, decision-making, it is the helm, the driver, all the other houses are the people, objects and situations that you relate to in your life.
    – The Ascendant and it’s ruler – your motivation for living and the direction your life is steered in
    – A planet in the first house will affect your appearance and disposition, for example, someone with Mars in the 1st will have a complexion that is redder (compared to their family), and will be energetic, take charge and prone to anger. Saturn in the first or Saturn ruling the first will be thin and grim. Etc.

    • That’s a very clear description and chimes with my understanding, and observations, as a traditionally inclined astrologer (amateur), thank you.

  13. I have an exact quincunx aspect between my Cancer ascendant and my Sagittarius Sun on the cusp of 5th and 6th houses. Always having to balance my role as a Mum of four and Grandma of three with my work as an artist/therapist and the tensions these produce. Both signs seem equally strong to me.

  14. I think I was more my Virgo Ascendant/Pluto as a child – difficult home birth, extremely shy, so much so that my primary school was concerned, liked to hide, hated attention, very self-conscious. With age, I feel increasingly Libra Sun square Saturn.

  15. “The Sun is what you do, the ascendant is how you do it.” So I have read somewhere. In my case the traits of my ascendant became more visible with age, but then there was no way of denying it.

  16. Couple of questions.

    How do you calculate your shifted ascendant according to what city you’ve moved to? Do you use your birth date and time and the new city as location instead of your birth city?

    Why does moving locations shift your ascendant?

    If anyone can answer those for me, I’d greatly appreciate it.


    • I never like to send people away from Marjorie’s site but … has a specific “Relocation chart” under their Chart Type options which will produce it for you.

      It is what your chart would like had you been born in the new city at the same moment. As the Ascendant is the point rising on the Eastern horizon at time of birth, moving East or West will change the rising sign/degree

  17. I find it difficult to assess the weight of the ascendant in a chart. I tend to interpret it as the first inclination when responding to eg. an event. Also as the initial go-to strategy for handling stuff.

    • I was taught that the ascendant is how you meet the world – which includes dress and mannerisms — and the midheaven is how the world views you. Obviously planets, and sometimes asteroids, forming aspects to the angles of the chart do affect the projection, as do progressions.
      Relocation, as M pointed out with a great example is, also, a big influence. I’ve often thought of moving to change things up, but recently — maybe via a comment by Marjorie? — that interacting with people and enterprises from a certain beneficial area can have a very positive effect (which has happened previously in a very Jupiterian way for me!).

      • Agree on dress- I see Ascendant as dictating the kind of clothes worn – Scorpio/Capricorn dark – Libra brightly coloured etc.

        • I don’t know. Do Aquarian’s dress conservatively?
          I’ve Aquarius rising 17 degrees but I’m a sun Taurus.
          I’ve always dressed conservatively, in a very practical way. I would think Aquarius would dress in quirky way.
          I was a teacher for 30 years—so that interest in groups & society sort of fits the ascendant maybe (my mid-haven is sage.)

          It’s all fun tho
          One of my kids has Taurus Ascendant & the other has Gemini Ascendant. The 1st kid & I have Gemini moons.

          Fun to see the links

        • Virgo ascendant here. Always have dressed nice, muted colors, earth tones, nothing bright or flashy. Cannot wear anything even remotely wrinkled, if I have a 3 mm stain on my shirt I’ll change even if I’m just going to get petrol.

          • That’s such a funny story. Thank you, Dave.

            Virgos are usually known as superneat, always cleaning and organizing, health- and maybe fitness-obsessed, but I know some seriously sloppy Virgos who couldn’t care less the dust their office desk and some who loathe cleaning the house.

  18. I’ve probably grown more into my Virgo Sun with age versus my Leo Ascendant, but my Leo Moon is closely conjunct my Ascendant so that’s always a strong factor. I think when I was young and dating, the guys would be attracted to the Leo and put off once they knew my underlying Virgo-ness (Sun but also Mercury, Venus, Pluto), and me them actually! I think I also much more enjoyed that Leo Ascendant/Moon vs my Virgo Sun (square Saturn) but have come to appreciate being a Virgo. But my progressed Sun shifted into Scorpio about 20 years ago in then into my natal 4th house so that may also account for being much a more retiring, home-body sort.

    Any thoughts on what shifts occur with progression? My Ascendant shifted 10 years ago into Libra from its original Leo (after passing through Virgo of course).

    • Les,
      I also have a Virgo Sun and Leo Ascendant..for the majority of my life I was very Leo I also have Venus/ Pluto and Ceres conjunct my Ascendant. It is only in the last few years ( now 70 ) that I have discovered my ‘ little Virgo sun ‘ it was worth the wait ‘ I have grown into myself ‘

  19. Here’s a real life ascendant connundrum:

    Princess Catherine has her ascendant at 20 Leo. On Mothers Day (10th March), transiting Mars was at 19 Aquarius 54. All her enemies crawled out, attacked her and issued “kill notices” for the photo (very Mars). But were they merely attacking her appearance/photo, or attacking the essence of Catherine the person.

    Also, if you look at photos of her 20 years ago, she has a proper glorious Leo mane of hair. But her chemo will cause some of her hair to fall out. Is the way her illness is manifesting merely destroying an aspect of her appearance? Or is it hurting the essence of Catherine the human?

    • It depends how much Catherine is identified with her appearance. If it matters a lot (as it probably does with her Leo Asc / Cap Sun / Libra saturn-pluto) then it will feel like they are attacking her.

    • For Catherine I think her ‘ reputation ‘ has been questioned and hauled over the coals..also her parents company going into bankruptcy and the whole Archie skin colour debacle..for her would have been an assault on her integrity..she seemed untouchable and on a pedestal but in truth she is like all of us flesh and blood and human..I sincerely wish her well.

  20. I think ascendent is important. I feel the intention of a guy more when they have their Mars conjunct my Gemini ascendent But usually the relation won’t work out. I have moon conjunct my best friends’ ascendent.
    I once met a guy who might (birth time not known, he gave me a rough time from his mom’s memory) have his Dc on my MC and my MC on his DC. That was one memorable relationship.

  21. To me, the Sun does become more pronounced with age but it is about social interaction. I am a Capricorn with Sagittarius rising, the Moon in Leo in the 9th house, Mercury at 0 Aquarius and a rather full 8th house with a Jupiter-Uranus exact conjunction in Cancer in opposition to the Sun, and Pluto in Leo square Saturn in Scorpio in the 12th. Outwardly, I am a serious Earth sign with an interest in politics and social reform. In essence, I am a mystic who defines himself as a believer of all religions and who practices Tibetan Tantra Buddhism.

  22. Thanks Marjorie
    I tend to agree not least as small errors in timing can drastically alter the ascendant. I think the mid heaven is in some ways a better place to start.
    That said, planets on the ascendant can be important especially as regards appearance. Baron Trump’s height, for example, can be attributed to influence of Uranus on the ascendant. It is important in determining first house/ twelfth house dynamics- and see your earlier post on the twelfth house.

  23. I forgot the rule exactly, but regarding cusps… Planets 3° from a cusp and 4° from the angle we regard as belonging to the next house, because through progressions people by the age 3 or 4 would have them there and live them as such.

  24. Being on cusp of leo Virgo with Capricorn asc…I read somewhere at after 35 the following sign or Virgo becomes more pronounced in individual n i can experience n feel it. I no longer m the leo sun which was all about style to gossip, now it’s more about being quiet n work interested. .i m not short as goats but people do seem to find my outer personality as strict,not gregarious as friends know

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