The biggest secret an astrological chart reveals is the rising sign. But, what is the rising sign?
The rising sign, or ascendant, is the astrological sign that is rising on the eastern horizon at our moment of birth. It's what we show people when we first meet them. It's what we hide our true personality behind. And everyone else is doing the same. They are showing us their rising sign characteristics—which is why we cannot hope to really know people on first meeting.
The rising sign, like the rest of the chart, has more than one level of interpretation. Newbies to astrology have to first learn the basics like what the astrological signs mean, because that's what the rising sign is: one of the twelve astrological signs.
Often, those just beginning with astrology confuse the astrological signs with the planets, which are the real power-houses. One of the first lessons we learn is that the astrological signs in our chart are not fully activated until there is a planet in that sign.
But, the rising sign is completely different in this respect. Whether there is a planet there or not, we consciously use the characteristics of the astrological sign rising at our moment of birth as a disguise and protection. So, the rising sign is definitely the most important of the astrological signs because of how we actively use it in our everyday life.
Layer Number One
What is it about the rising sign that it so important, yet so hard to grasp? The easiest way to understand it is to think of it as having two layers. The first layer is all about self-protection. We feel vulnerable to attack if we stand "bare" and revealed in front of new people because we have no idea if they will use what they find out against us. We hold up our rising sign characteristics as a battle-shield to fend off unwanted trespassers until we have had time to decide if we have enough shared interests and beliefs on which to base a friendship or relationship. Only then do we lower the shield and start to reveal our true selves to others. The rising sign is what we want the world to believe we are really like, so we filter everything we do in the outside world through its protective layer.
For example, if your rising sign is Capricorn, you want the world to think you are a grounded, hard-working, family-minded, traditional individual, yet underneath you may have a changeable Gemini Moon, making you in reality emotionally unreliable and keen to seek variety.
Or maybe you have an emotional and moody Cancer rising. You want people to see you as caring and considerate of their feelings, and you act as if you are an emotional person. Yet, perhaps underneath you are a strong—even tough—character with a Leo Sun and Aries Moon.
Two of my friends are good examples of their rising sign being "not who they truly are." One has Aries rising. Her kind, generous and fun nature—she has a Gemini Sun and a caring Cancer Moon—is not obvious at all on first acquaintance but everyone is aware of her forceful opinions, her desire to be first in everything, and her quick-to-rouse anger if someone thwarts her.
Another, a deeply-driven Scorpio Sun doing ground-breaking post-graduate research into dementia, has Gemini rising and is always late for meetings, whether business or social (and not just ten minutes, but often an hour). Yet, it is hard to be annoyed at someone so outwardly cheerful and apparently unaware of any irritation their unreliable Gemini rising sign may have caused.
Our rising sign is really good at its job of disguise because people who just meet us really do think we are that Capricorn, Cancer, Aries, or Gemini. But we are not what we at first seem, which is why it is so important not to make snap judgements about people, but instead to get to know them a little more before forming our opinions.
Layer Number Two
Go deeper, and the rising sign has another important job. Think of the chart circle as us—our whole being—enclosed in that circle. This chart shows the essence of who we are, and our life purpose. Everything we think and do emanates from within this circle. Now imagine the space outside the circle as everything and everyone else. I call it the Impersonal World. If we try to please this impersonal world by being who we are not, we lose our sense of "self."
Our rising sign is our doorway for interacting with this impersonal world, and it is there for this purpose, so that we don't lose our sense of self in our interactions with other people. Everything that comes out from us, and in to us, passes through this doorway, so the astrological sign that sits here colors everything we receive and give out. But it is not who we are in essence; it's like putting on a coat to go outside. It keeps us warm and safe
The best way of understanding how this important astrological sign works is to discover what your own rising sign is, read all about it, then analyze how you use that sign in your everyday life. For that, you also need to understand some other important aspects of your chart, like your Sun and Moon signs. Once you see how you disguise your own Sun and Moon motivations behind your rising sign characteristics, you can begin to understand how other people are using their own rising sign to protect themselves.
My book, What's Your Big Three? How the Sun, Moon and Rising Signs Reveal Who You Really Are, provides additional information on this concept, and is a great resources as you start your own fascinating journey to self-discovery.