Your Sun, Moon and Rising: what are they and why do you need to know?

Only knowing your sun sign (as most people do) doesn’t tell you anything really about your astrological make up. Just because you were born in mid-August does not mean you must be a “typical Leo” in all areas of your life. Many people don’t even identify with the typical characteristics of their sun sign and, understandably, find mainstream “horoscopes” to be absolute crap (and I won’t disagree with that).

We all have a unique astrological identity that extends way beyond our sun sign to the almost unfathomable depths of the deeply nuanced layers of our bodies, minds and souls. Astrology is hugely complex, but a good place to start – a place that will give you a good general flavour of 3 very key aspects of who you are – is to find out your Sun, Moon & Rising. This article will focus on the importance of the Moon and Rising signs, but if you choose to request from me a natal chart reading (personal horoscope) then I will, of course give equal importance to the position of the sun (and other planets) in your chart.

Your Moon Sign

Your Sun sign you undoubtedly already know, as it is connected only with the day and month you were born. You don’t need to do any special calculations to find this out. But you may not know in what sign of the zodiac the Moon was at the time of your birth. The Moon changes zodiac signs not every month (like the Sun) but approximately every 2.5 days. The Moon is what drives us internally – it rules our subconscious and our emotional responses. You want to tell me that you don’t believe that at all? Okay, fine. But when we look at the connection between the Moon and the tides, when we look at the way women’s menstrual cycles sync up with the cycles of the moon naturally, and we consider that our human bodies are around 60% water, I personally find it illogical to say that the Moon doesn’t exert any influence over us.

The constellation (zodiac sign) through which the moon is travelling (transiting) at the time of your birth colours the way you feel and the way you express (or perhaps don’t express) your feelings in accordance with the characteristics of that sign. If you are quite an emotional person and an extrovert, what you express in your friendships and relationships will primarily be the qualities of your Moon sign, NOT your Sun sign. When you are a child and have little control over your emotions, what you will express will be the characteristics of your Moon sign, NOT the Sun. As an adult, you may not express the qualities of your Moon in a public setting, but privately – with friends, family and lovers – those Moon qualities will come out because you are in an environment in which you feel safe to express your private, inner self.

Let’s take a quick look at some examples. I’ll use myself. I’m a Virgo Sun. According to Virgoan stereotypes, that should make me a goody-two-shoes teacher’s pet who gets inappropriately excited about studying, alphabetising things and having their whole life in perfect order. It should also make me quite shy, self-deprecating, overly critical of myself and others and a perfectionist who struggles to just enjoy life without obsessing over the details. Now, I do have some Virgoan traits. Virgo is ruled by the planet Mercury, which represents communication, study and academia. I like communication, study and academia. I’m a teacher after all, and I’ve just completed a PhD. I’ve spent a total of 8 years in universities, and now I’m employed in one. Virgos are also often healers as Mercury also rules the medical profession. Obviously, I have an interest in healing or I wouldn’t have started this business.

However, on the inside – emotionally, privately, personally – do I embody Virgo traits? When I’m being my true self and my guard is down; when I’m impassioned, when I’m mad, when I’m in love, when I’m drunk… do I act like a Virgo? Not at all. If I had my Moon in Virgo, then I would. But the Moon wasn’t in Virgo when I was born. So those Virgo qualities in me are only kind of skin deep. It’s an element of my public and professional persona and not ‘the real me’. The real me, my emotional core, my Moon, is in a very different sign indeed. Aries. I’ve written about this in a different post about people who have radically different Sun and Moon signs (The Walking Contradiction: When your Sun and Moon are in radically different signs).

Aries energy is about as different from Virgo energy as you can get. There is nothing shy, self-critical or perfectionist about Aries. It is the sign of warriors, of those who choose professions such as the military, police force, firefighting, sports and athletics. It is ruled by Mars (the planet of drive, passion, aggression and sex) and has a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners, do-or-die, carpe diem / YOLO kind of energy. Whereas the symbol of Virgo is a Virginal woman and the sign has a feminine modality, the symbol of Aries is the ram and is the epitome of masculine energy. Putting those two things together can give rather an odd combination. I may, from a distance, appear to be demure and feminine, intellectual and relatively refined; but – up close – once I feel comfortable with you, I’m going to share a much more playfully aggressive, blunt and brutally honest, unapologetically passionate and sometimes quite domineering side of myself. It hasn’t been easy for me as a heterosexual woman to negotiate this dichotomy in relationships as a lot of heterosexual men are not looking for a woman with more confidence and raw appetite for life than them. I can be “too much” for a lot of people – especially people who don’t have Aries (or other fire sign) planetary placements themselves. Aries moon men on the other hand encounter less social resistance in sharing their inner self and tend to be jovial, popular life-and-soul-of-the-party types with lots of friends and active, exciting hobbies and possibly a leadership position at work.

My point here, in using myself as an example, is to illustrate that the nature of your Moon sign can completely blow away the characteristics of your (comparatively weaker) Sun sign. People might think I’m a typical Virgo in some sense until they mess with me, and then it’s pure Aries fire. It works the other way too. Let’s say you have Sun in Aries so you like to go to the gym, you’re tough and muscular and you compete in all those mad races where you have to crawl under cargo nets in the mud etc. and in your job you’re in a position of authority – BUT you have Moon in Cancer (a highly emotional and sensitive sign which is ruled by the feminine energy of the Moon). When you are alone, or when you are with your nearest and dearest, you are going to be a deeply loving and nurturing pussycat of a person who cries over Romantic Comedies and who prioritises to a high degree a feeling of emotional security in relationships beyond other things. You’re also going to have problems being direct about your feelings (easy for an Aries moon because the directness and fire of the sign comes out when expressing emotions) which could make you prone to disguising your true feelings and employing manipulation and passive aggressive approaches with others. Cancer is the crab; it hides in its shell sometimes and can be backwards in coming forwards.

The fact that the moon changes sign every 2.5 days means that 2 people born 2.5 days apart in the same month of the same year can have radically different personalities. And your Moon sign is most likely something totally different from your Sun sign, so it’s worth knowing what it is because it can tell you a lot about your emotional processes and reactions and why they are potentially so different from the more ‘surface’ aspects of yourself. Our Moon signs are probably the parts of ourselves that we identify with on the deepest level and it’s happened to me many times that I’ve told someone their Moon sign and I’ve described who they are on a deep level (as opposed to what they outwardly project) and they’ve looked at me with tears streaming down their face because they’ve never felt so seen or understood before.

Your Rising Sign (also called the Ascendant)

Now this is a bit harder to explain, but bear with me please. You were born in a certain location. At the minute of your birth, viewed from that precise location, the sky looked a certain way. Beyond the clouds and the atmosphere, up in the darkness of space, the constellations were in a specific position at that specific minute – and their positions would look a bit different a few minutes later because of the rotation of the Earth. This is important. We work with minutes and degrees in astrology. What may seem, to us, like a miniscule movement of the Earth between 15:30 and 15:45 on a given day, can make a world of difference to the specific degrees and angles between the Earth and all other celestial bodies in our Solar System at those times. This is why it’s important to find out your birth time if you want a detailed astrological reading. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t have it, but you’ll be missing many layers of detail and end up with a much simpler chart.

As you were born, the 12 constellations that represent the 12 signs of the zodiac surrounded the Earth and were slowly moving (or rather, the Earth was moving) in or out of the sky above your birth place. At the moment of your birth, one of the 12 constellations was moving up (ascending) from the Eastern horizon. At the same time, the opposite sign (or sister sign – signs 180 degrees opposed to each other on the wheel of the zodiac) was descending on the Western horizon. The visibility of constellations on the horizon changes approximately every 2 hours, therefore, someone born at 11:00 is likely going to have a different Rising Sign (or Ascendant) to someone born at 13:30 the same day. These days we use computers to calculate the Rising Sign at your time and location of birth. The calculation takes into account the latitude and longitude of the place you were born and calculates the “view” of the sky from that place, at that time, and calculates which signs were ascending and descending.

So, what does my Rising Sign say about me and why is it important? Astrologers believe that the Rising Sign puts a kind of “stamp” on your personality and appearance. Sure, you can argue with me about this and tell me that only genetics can affect the way a baby will look as it matures, but many years of experience has taught me that I can usually guess someone’s Rising Sign from looking at their physique, facial features, hair and way of expressing themselves with clothing and fashion choices. I don’t know why it works, it just does, and I’m alright with the fact that I can’t fully understand (same thing with Reiki).

Your Rising Sign not only defines some aspects of your appearance and the appearance-related choices you make (the way you carry yourself, haircuts and hair colour, beard or no beard, clothing choices, piercings and tattoos etc.) but it also defines the way you present yourself to the world. I’ll give you some simple examples:

People with an Earth based rising sign (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) will often have quite a natural, earthy appearance and come across as quite grounded individuals. They may enjoy wearing clothing in neutral colours (green, brown, grey etc.) and may even enjoy wearing outdoorsy, camo or hunting type gear. They will usually not make fashion choices that will draw attention to themselves so are unlikely to have crazy hair or obvious tattoos and piercings. They will also probably carry themselves in a humble way, blending in to a crowd as opposed to standing out. They will probably be kind and give strangers a reassuring feeling. If they work in helping others, they will have a good ‘bedside manner’, making their clients and patients feel that they are in safe, capable hands.

People with a fire-based Rising Sign (Aries, Leo and Sagittarius) are noticeable and have a star quality about them. They will command the attention of others, whether it’s because of a natural charisma and presence that they have, or because of their outrageous fashion choices. They are often naturals in leadership positions and have a way of expressing themselves both physically and verbally that gets them noticed. Perhaps they even embody some elements of the symbol of their sign – an Aries Rising could have very strong facial features and a large forehead, or large head in general, and appear to be a very solid person that you wouldn’t want to mess with. A Leo Rising will often have a “mane” of crazy or unusual hair which will likely be a source of pride for them. The Leo Rising will also have a naturally glamourous and sociable aura that attracts friends to them and they are likely to be the person in the centre of the room at a party.

People with Water signs as their Rising (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces) tend to come across as quite meek, shy and humble. They can be mistaken for victims and can have issues with bullying in their younger years. They have something other-worldly about them, something difficult to pin down, almost as if they are descendants of elves or fairies of some kind. They can be delicate and sensitive in the way they come across. Water signs are the most overtly emotional signs of the zodiac, so those with heavy Water sign placements – and Water Rising signs – are likely to display their emotions outwardly by being, for example, an Emo or a Goth. Tattoos and piercing, jewellery and clothing that are meaningful to them can also be important for these people. Scorpio Rising, for example, is likely to have a kind of dark, mysterious and sexy allure that is both inviting and off-putting at the same time. Scorpio Rising women often like dark colours, hair or makeup (think thick, black eyeliner) and Scorpio Rising men may hide their faces behind longer hair, hoodies etc. and walk around making no eye contact and imagining they’re a secret assassin.

Air signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) are often chatty social-butterfly types who like communication and have a friendly look about them. Libra is ruled by Venus and those with Libra Rising are often very beautiful (many models and film stars have this placement). These types are likely to be playful with their appearance and enjoy trying different styles and experimenting. Aquarius is symbolised by the water-bearer and white-skinned Aquarius Rising people often have blue eyes and fair hair (like me, and my sister, who both have Aquarius Rising and look similar to each other but quite different to our parents). Aquarius is also the most rebellious and non-conformist of the signs of the zodiac, so those with Aqua Rising are likely to enjoy provoking others by behaving like little anarchists and making odd fashion choices from quite an early age and using crazy hair colours, bizarre clothing choices, piercings etc. to make it very clear to society that they do not wish to fit in (from the age of 15 I started listening to 60s psychedelic rock and Indian classical music and went to school dressed as a 1960s hippy in clothing I’d bought in vintage shops, dyed my hair pink and got a few piercings etc. – very Aqua Rising… not that I knew anything about that at the time).

What I’ve written above very much focuses on appearance and demeanor. However, the Rising Sign also determines our interactions with the world and the environment in which we live. Whereas a Scorpio Rising person might really value their privacy and tend to stay inside their home, the Gemini Rising person will be out there meeting their neighbours and trying to get some social events happening. Where the Taurus Rising person may want to work with nature and animals in their local area, the Aquarius Rising person might be thinking about how they can work for the betterment of humanity in their community and beyond by starting some kind of esoteric group or business. Where the Capricorn Rising person might work themselves into an early grave trying to do everything for everybody around them, the Libra Rising person may prefer taking selfies and making money as an Instagram influencer. And so on.

Of course, all the examples I’ve given here are quite surface-level generalisations / stereotypes of the characteristics of certain signs, and they by no means apply to everyone with those same planetary placements and angles. But hopefully the examples serve to illustrate some of the incredibly diverse, and also quite powerful, influences that planetary positions can have on the different layers of our characters.

Finding my Sun, Moon and Rising

There are a number of astrological websites out there that will do these calculations for you for free, along with all of your other planetary positions and your whole natal chart. What those websites will NOT do for you is provide an integrated overview of how those placements work with each other. So, you can get a result which says you have Taurus Rising, Gemini Sun and Pisces Moon, but there won’t be any information about whether those placements work together relatively harmoniously or whether that’s going to be a challenging combination and how best to integrate those energies.

If you are interested in a written report from me on how your astrological placements work together in your chart then please contact me.

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