Unless you’re an astrology enthusiast and serious student, chances are you most likely only know your sun sign―which is the zodiac sign the sun was in on the day of your birth. But when you were born, there was a whole slew of configurations that included other planets besides just the sun. Astrology is ultimately the study of time and space and how celestial bodies correlate to our earthly experiences. Natal Astrology, in particular, works on the premise that how you begin your life holds the key to your life’s possibilities. And that beginning is marked by casting the chart of the moment—a snapshot of the sky at your birth.
The birth chart is technically called the Horoscope, which is the inception chart of a person (or event, or country, you get the idea). The word horoscope comes from the ancient Greek word hōroskopos, which means the Hour Marker. As the name suggests, it marks the exact time of your birth, and places the planets in their respective positions on the date and location you were born. So, if you’re serious about astrology, it’s worth learning how to read your horoscope using your rising sign. The rising sign—the sign on the eastern horizon when you were born—is also commonly called the ascendant, though there are technical specificities. The ascendant refers to the exact degree of the ascendant sign, whereas the rising sign pertains to the whole zodiac sign rising on the eastern horizon during your birth. Either way, the terms can be used synonymously.
It is confusing because most of us know the word horoscope to mean the columns published in magazines such as Chatelaine that summarize your day, week, month or year ahead according to your zodiac sign. But it’s actually more than that! Astrologer R.H. Naylor first published the horoscope (birth chart) of a royal family member in the 1930s with coinciding predictions about their future. Eventually, as the general public became interested in forecasts, he developed a simplified version for the 12 zodiac signs that the public could read in newspapers.
The reference system most commonly used in the West follows the path of the sun. In the span of the year, we track the sun’s journey and call its specific astronomical touchstones the equinoxes and solstices. Like now, the sun has just entered the cardinal fire sign Aries, which always marks the start of the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere.
As mentioned earlier, the ascendant locates the eastern horizon at the time of your birth. In other words, the rising sign is the zodiac sign rising in the eastern sky. So the ascendant degree actually pinpoints where planets first become visible, rising above the horizon.
Astrologically, since your rising sign signals the literal beginning of your life, themes signifying identity and embodiment are attached to this area of the birth chart. This is also the case because ancient astrologers saw the ascendant as where the land meets the sky. And therefore, they signified this as the ensoulment process of one’s embodied form.
As you notice from the diagram above, the sky is organized into 12 houses. The rising sign is always in the first house that represents you. Contrary to popular astrology, your sun sign is not necessarily the central marker of identity or personality; the rising sign is. Traditionally, the rising sign also indicates how you will continue to live your life! Unfortunately, you will need a precise birth time to determine your rising sign. You can go to astro.com or astro-seek.com to cast your birth chart for free. (I also like to use the Time Nomad app on my phone.)
Why should you read your rising sign’s horoscopes?
I’d highly recommend that you read your rising sign’s horoscopes first (if you know your birth time). This produces a much more accurate depiction of your astrological forecast. As mentioned, the sky was organized into 12 houses, and each house signifies a specific area of life. For example, the first house where your rising sign is can signal events about your health, since it represents embodiment. The opposite of the first house is the seventh house, which brings up other people and relationships. The fourth house is about the home and family. The 10th house is about your career and your overall life path. Everyone’s chart is different, so through your rising sign, you can gain more specific clarity around your forecast.
As a horoscope writer, I track where the current planets in the sky are travelling, which is part of how I determine how certain topics arise for the month ahead. When you read your horoscope for your sun sign only, the horoscope writer assumes that you were born at sunrise. And so we would cast a sunrise chart which would place the sun on the ascendant degree. As you can now hopefully understand, this is not necessarily accurate if you were not born at sunrise. But it can still bring up resonance since we will technically outline possible events of your life from your sun’s point of view, so to speak.
So, in conclusion, if you know your birth time, it’s best to read your rising sign first. Afterwards, you can go ahead and read your sun sign next, especially if you’re born during the day, or your moon sign next if you’re born at night. If you’d like to learn more about your birth chart in general, I recommend getting a birth chart reading with a professional astrologer to help you make sense of it all.
Charm Torres is a B.C.-based astrologer who provides astrology consultations at charmastrology.com.