Discover your ascendant sign to rise up and express your gifts
Establish your rising or ascendant sign, discover your helmsman planet, and identify a special gift you have to share.
During the itchy, insecure years of my teens and twenties I was convinced that becoming an “adult” would mean conclusively understanding and dismantling all of my flaws and weaknesses. Fine-tooth combing through faults was a hobby for basically everyone I knew and worked with.
Eventually I realised that taking a magnifying glass to everything I thought was wrong with me wasn’t helping me cultivate any of my strengths. Given the current historical moment, building up your strengths instead of over analysing your flaws might be a necessary strategy.
One of the incredible things astrology can do is help you cultivate your most potent gifts, so that you can show up for what you deeply care about. While the subtle nuances layered into the fine details of an individual birth chart can give precise direction towards your strengths and purpose, you can derive a lot of benefit from rising up to and expressing the talents of your Ascendant, also known as your rising sign.
What’s an Ascendant?
The Ascendant is the precise degree of the zodiac that was on the Eastern horizon at the time and place of your birth. That exact degree is part of the overall “rising sign”, which is named because it is the zodiac sign that is rising, like the Sun, into the sky.
In ancient Hellenistic astrology, the Ascendant was called “the helm”; it’s what steers your life in a specific direction.
Each zodiac sign will rise over the horizon once every twenty-four or so hours, taking an average of about two hours to fully rise. This is pretty fast and shows why it’s so important to have an exact birth time. Guessing a time that’s just a minute off can mean the difference between a Scorpio rising with the Ascendant in the 29th degree, or a Sagittarius rising with the Ascendant in the 1st degree.
If you have your exact birth time (ideally from a birth certificate) you can find out your Ascendant by visiting a website like astro.com and entering your birth data. The Ascendant will be the line at the 9 o’clock position in your chart.
The Ascendant is often described as a “mask” that you wear, which implies a performance that you’re putting on in an effort to conceal the “real” you. However, in ancient Hellenistic astrology, the Ascendant was called “the helm”. It’s what steers your life in a specific direction. The nature of the sign on your Ascendant describes what propels you and what you value on a fundamental level. I often describe the Ascendant to my clients in this way:
At the moment you were born, the sign on the Eastern horizon is the dominant “flavour” of the atmosphere. When you take your first breath outside of the womb, you’re inhaling that zodiac sign’s air; as your skin meets the outside world, you’re being enveloped with that sign’s care. Your rising sign brings you into the world, and it will continue to influence your movement through the world for every moment of your life.
Part of that influence can feel mask-like, as the Ascendant describes how others perceive you, as well as your physical appearance. Depending on where your Sun is located, there’s even a chance that most people will perceive you to be more like your rising sign than your Sun sign. This can be confusing, but when you understand that your rising sign directly supports you in showing up with your greatest gifts, it becomes much easier to accept and even love the relative privacy of a tucked-away sun.
Your Helmsman Planet
Your Ascendant will point towards a significant planet in your chart that can end up being more important than your Sun. This planet is called the “ruler of the Ascendant”, and in the “helm/Ascendant” analogy from Hellensitic astrology, this planet is the helmsman. Your Ascendant ruler is a kind of planetary mentor or role-model; its placement in your chart will help you to understand how you can best embody your essence and your gifts.
I strongly recommend using the traditional planetary rulerships when determining the ruler of your Ascendant. Look up your Ascendant here to find its ruling planet.
Matter and motion: Element and modality
It can be helpful to consider the element and modality of your rising sign. The elements point to what “material” your rising sign is most interested in and adept at working with, while its modality will describe the kind of motion a sign is invested in, like how it moves in the world.
As a Taurus rising, you are often admired for the inviting, reassuring stability your mere presence brings to any situation.
Earth signs, Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn, are interested in cultivating material and existential stability.
Water signs, Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces, appreciate emotional safety and experience.
Air signs, Gemini, Libra and Aquarius, prefer to develop their mental faculties, from humour to intelligence to conversation.
Fire signs, Aries, Leo and Sagittarius, are here to experience, create, and pursue the divine spark in life.
Cardinal signs, Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn are initiators, beginning seasons, stories, projects and so forth — a moving forward along a focused path.
Fixed signs, Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius, solidify and cohere what was begun, bringing depth and resolve to the table.
Mutable signs, Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces, create the transitions between by editing out, investigating, and/or dissolving so that new things can come to be.
The four elements and three modalities combine to create the 12 zodiac signs. Each zodiac sign is unique even as they each share qualities with other signs in the wheel.
You can use the following descriptions to help deepen your appreciation of your rising sign, as well as help you to understand the rising signs of your friends, family, neighbours and coworkers. This is just an introduction. You can go deeper by finding what sign and house your Ascendant ruler occupies, and what other sign and house it rules in your personal chart. This will help you to see where your rising sign strengths are most prominent.
Mars ruled: Aries and Scorpio rising
Mars is the planet of action and is forward moving and heat inducing. Literal and figurative warriors, swordsmiths, engineers and hunters all fall under Mars’ domain. The signs of Mars’ rulership facilitate the kinds of actions that such types might take: fighting, pursuing, separating, severing, penetrating, and so forth.
Steadiness of warmth and radiant presence is one of your gifts as a Leo ascendant.
Aries rising | Aries is cardinal fire. With an Aries rising, you embody an earnest enthusiasm, with all the vitality needed to achieve your goals. When doubts creep into the hearts of those you love, you infuse them with a hearty dose of your Aries confidence, reminding them that life is too short to live while in hiding. With Mars as your ruler, pursuing what you want with minimal shame is second nature to you, and that’s an incredible gift you can share with your less certain friends, or to use to get projects off the ground ASAP.
Scorpio rising | As the fixed water sign of the zodiac, Scorpio is less interested in blazing forth in a shower of glory and far more interested in diving deeply into whatever needs analysing. As a Scorpio rising, your modus operandi is to observe and assess before acting, and the foresight of your strategic orientation can often stop problems before they start. That observational skill gives you an ability to discern trustworthiness that indirectly benefits those with a less honed radar. Though you’d prefer not to shout it from the rooftops, your familiarity with the depths of human experience makes you an excellent listener and problem solver when others come to you with emotional conundrums.
Venus ruled: Taurus and Libra rising
Venus is the planet of all that attracts and unifies, including beauty in all its forms, from the simplest flowers to the most intricate painting. Relationships in the broadest sense are also described by Venus, as attraction requires at least two things coming together like magnets or crushes. Pleasure is a high priority for Venus. The signs Venus rules can be understood in terms of their ability to create a context within which delight can occur.
Jupiter is the most generous of the planets, dispensing wisdom, wealth and philosophy.
Taurus rising | Taurus is fixed earth, the most deeply rooted of all the signs of the zodiac. As a Taurus rising, you are often admired for the inviting, reassuring stability your mere presence brings to any situation. By simply being yourself, you provide an example of the pleasures of pure embodiment, and you act as a role model for those around you to love what they love, without reservation and with plenty of commitment. Trusting yourself enough to unquestionably honour your preferences isn’t something everyone can do, so own your ability to do so and encourage others to do the same.
Libra rising | Libra is cardinal air, propelled by a desire to create social connections. As a Libra rising, you have a knack for diplomatically navigating all kinds of social gatherings, and often serve as the amiable fulcrum to help create balance when disharmony has erupted. Embodying Venus’ grace and charm, your mere presence can magically lighten the mood of any room. Your innate aesthetic talent is unparalleled. Should you choose to cultivate it, you can be both muse and artist in a variety of contexts, adding beauty where and when it is needed.
Mercury ruled: Gemini and Virgo rising
Mercury is the planet of messages, communication, commerce, data and details. Just like your thoughts, Mercury can be a bit of a trickster, pointing equally towards focus and distraction. Never in one place for long, Mercury’s signs are places of mental movement, a very useful thing for people such as writers, scientists and entrepreneurs.
Gemini rising | Gemini is the mutable air sign, deeply fascinated by the ways in which ideas can flash and change. You have a wonderful capacity to perceive the first shimmers of potential in any given project, object or idea, and the quickness of your neural firings mean you can concoct jokes out of pretty much anything. Your fascination with a diverse array of subjects allows you to both see and create conceptual connections that are imperceptible to others. Humour and wordplay are some of your favourite toys, and the delightful joy of laughter is perhaps your least intellectual but most appreciated gift.
Virgo rising | Virgo is the mutable earth sign of the zodiac, deftly re-arranging reality. Sometimes stereotyped as a “perfectionist”, as a Virgo rising, you are, at heart, deeply invested in the innate perfection that you just know is possible to reveal. Your attention to detail can manifest in any number of ways, from merely noticing things that others overlook to providing the finishing touches others didn’t even realise were possible. The precise focus you bring to situations you care about is unparalleled and has likely helped prevent a problem for those you love more than once.
Ruled by the Sun and Moon: Cancer and Leo rising
The Sun and the Moon aren’t technically planets in the astronomical sense, but the two luminaries are major influences in astrology. The Sun is the centre of the solar system and its constant, steady warmth can remind you of your own heartfelt vitality. The Moon’s monthly cycle of waxing and waning relates to those aspects of life that come and go, such as the growth and decay of plants and animals and the passing nature of emotional states.
Cancer rising | Cancer is ruled by the Moon and is the cardinal water sign. As a Cancer rising, you seek and create emotional safety as that is of utmost importance to you. You are intimately aware of the cycles of emotions and you have a deep comprehension of the importance of healthy boundaries. The people you love know you love them by the way in which you express your deep caring for them; tending to their needs and nurturing them, encouraging their best and brightest growth. You have a knack for creating safe containers for emotional vulnerability. The tenderness with which you tend to others is a priceless gift.
Leo rising | Leo is ruled by the Sun and is the fixed fire sign. The “fixed fire” component is appropriate, given the steadiness of the Sun’s fires and the steadiness of the Sun’s movement through the sky. That steadiness of warmth and radiant presence is one of your gifts as a Leo Ascendant. Whether or not you mean it, the way you illuminate a room helps others feel seen. When someone in particular catches your eye, your loving encouragement is a confidence booster beyond measure. You may naturally adopt a leadership role. When love propels you towards leadership others will be glad to follow your guidance.
Jupiter ruled: Sagittarius and Pisces rising
Jupiter is the most generous of the planets, dispensing wisdom, wealth, philosophy and the stabilising nourishment needed for expansive growth. Jupiter encourages you to develop your beliefs by nudging you to seek beyond the confines of narrow closed-mindedness. The signs that Jupiter rules are perfectly suited to optimism, idealism and the pursuit of knowledge to which professors, priests and wise individuals of all kinds are so committed.
Sagittarius rising | Sagittarius is the mutable fire sign, fascinated by exploration of the wide world of creation. Gregarious and curious, as a Sagittarius rising you bring a buoyant optimism that can’t help but be appreciated and adored by those lucky enough to call you a friend. The diversity of your literal and metaphorical travels gives you a worldly wisdom, and you often dispense that wisdom with a good dose of humour. “Jovial” is perhaps too apt a description for you, as it’s a word derived from one of the alternate names of your planetary ruler, Jove.
Pisces rising | Pisces is the mutable water sign, completely immersed in the numinous, oceanic field of experience. Your innate interconnectedness with the stuff this world is made of gives you a deep, natural empathy for the plights of others. When directed with intention, that empathy can make you an excellent activist, friend or counsellor — all roles that emphasise the profound wisdom that empathy can create. You’re also gifted with slightly easier access to the more otherworldly strands of existence; whether or not you mean to you embody an incandescence that helps others believe, a little bit more, in magic.
Saturn ruled: Capricorn and Aquarius rising
Saturn is the last planet in our solar system that is visible with the naked eye, in perfect alignment with its significations of boundaries, edges and limits. Slow and deliberate, Saturn’s lessons teach discipline, perseverance, realism and responsibility. While not the most fun of planets, without Saturn your life would lack structure and the necessary grounding to create things that truly endure.
Capricorn rising | Capricorn is the cardinal earth sign, and building lasting things within the realm of reality is the task du jour. As a Capricorn rising, your mature focus on creating stability inspires others to take their own lives more seriously. The deeply rooted results of your labours often benefit far more than yourself. Those who earn your trust also earn the gift of your uniquely dark, dry sense of humour — that sober veneer conceals a selectively shameless comedian. That humour is important; why else would you work so hard to build the world the things it deserves if that world weren’t also a realm of enjoyment?
Aquarius rising | Aquarius is the fixed air sign. As an Aquarius rising, one of your greatest strengths is in the acute perception of conceptual limits; the limits of reality, of society, of propriety, of philosophy, and so forth. That awareness of limits often means that you see further into the realm of the possible than others, inspiring you to invest your time and effort in promoting positive change. Your willingness to sit with a conundrum for as long as it takes gives you a knack for creatively solving problems, and while your methods might be strange to some, what matters is that they work.