Many years ago, when I was just beginning to think about astrology and what it could mean to me, I came across a group of women who were discussing their own signs. I had, up until then, only known my Sun sign and had spent many hours reading about it in the dusty corners of Barnes & Noble. There, I had learned that certain days might have certain meanings, that the differences amongst people born under the same sign might be related to being the same sign during different months. What I had yet to discover, and what would ultimately catapult me into a zodiac frenzy, was that everyone had rising signs and Moon signs—that knowing what these were would illuminate my understanding of self and reveal the tip of a very large fascinating iceberg known as one’s personal natal chart.
I can’t recall anymore who these women were or what they looked like. All I can remember is the analogy one of them gave me which would forever structure the way I help beginners think about their Sun, Ascendant (rising), and Moon signs. And, before I share this analogy with you, it’s imperative that you understand that, if you are thorough, you will discover you have as many personal planetary placements as there are planets in the sky and each one has a unique geometrical relation to the other. The more you know, the more nuanced and complex it gets and, honestly, the more real astrology feels. Because it is no longer generalized, because it has, angle by angle, acutely zeroed in on what ingredients influence the whole of who you are and how you experience this world.
Now, imagine a house. This is a house you inherit at birth, and it is notably yours. It’s not altogether complete and will need work to become the most resplendent version of itself, to honor its intended design. The work this house needs will reveal itself to you as you live in it and learn what is possible. The maintenance of its structure, foundation, and grounds will become the work of your life. Your Sun sign is this house, and it stands out, observable to passersby for its architecture and energy, the mound of earth it rises out of, and the neighborhood name by which that soil is known. There are certain things people will come to understand about you based on your Sun sign, your habits and preoccupations, your values and your small pleasures. Still, as you age, your house ages with you, you will develop a sense of personal taste and the house will require different kinds of care. Like a body, your house, your Sun sign will call you toward attention as you grow to become your own most reliable steward and charge.
As you move through your life and into adulthood, you will stretch into different modes of being, a collection of behaviors and mechanisms that serve to protect your from or endear you to others. You will find that, while you have a sense of who you are at your core, you contain multitudes and some of these multitudes rise easily to the surface. This aspect of your personality and persona is your Ascendant (rising) sign, and it mediates the space between your environment and your deeper sense of self. It is, in sum, the way you greet the world and ultimately, how you expect the world to greet you. If your Sun sign is your house, then your Ascendant is what you offer to your neighbors: your mailbox shaped like a little red schoolhouse, your Christmas lights left on all year long, your excess of wind chimes, your lawn left to grow wild, your wicker furniture with one seat pillow reeking of cat piss, your political placards stuck in the grass, or your one very vaginal sculpture leaning on a garden gnome. The Ascendant can read as a public face (or the inability to save face), yet it is also a highly personal aspect, which differs hour by hour, and can hold different answers for people born on the same day but minutes apart. Your Ascendant is part of a larger story that begins a birth (which, in truth, determines a great deal of your planetary positions and aspects) about who you are and how you move through the world, and for this reason, it is far from a false self or a mask. Everyone who encounters your house must walk past its grounds and decide to move on or venture forth and ring your bell.
If your Ascendant sign is highly dissimilar from your Sun sign, you might find that you experience dissonance when reading general horoscopes. And, you might find that people who venture toward knowing you will often express surprise at how you treat them versus how you initially come off. Still, intimacies abound, and there’s nothing more intimate than the inside of a person’s home. While visitors to the house of you might express an appreciation for your open beams and southern light exposure, your commitment to environmental concerns and your love of plants, they will have to earn the right to gaze lovingly at your family albums, to cook alongside you in the kitchen, to stay multiple nights in a room that wasn’t tailored toward guests. These vulnerable and sensual aspects of your nature, the privacies of the inner sanctum, are represented by your Moon sign which, as you might suspect, reflects the position of the moon on your day of birth.
Your Moon is your most protected aspect because it is the person you were born knowing how to be and so it is the place where you retreat to feel safe and to recharge when the work of becoming and the juggling of social graces begin to wear on you. Your Moon sign is precious to you and is in many ways unchanging. Yet, as you learn to be vulnerable with others, as you welcome visitors and give them shelter, you might find that the moon in you expands. This expansion is a form of illumination that only love can reveal in us, to know what parts of us thrive with care and beholding, to learn what boundaries we must erect in service to those we hold dear, and with reverence to our softest self.