All About the Ascendant

In 2007, Astrologer Jodie Forrest put a sharp focus on a topic seldom studied on its own, the Ascendant. Frequently studied as blended with the Sun and Moon signs, or as one of the angles of the chart, the Ascendant can take on a rather foggy identity as “Personality,” “Physical Appearance” or as something to do with our health. Jodie Forrest instructs us that our Ascendant describes the vehicle in which we negotiate our life in the world. While the Ascendant does to a certain degree describe the way others see us or a mask we wear, it functions primarily as a protective cover and a means by which we express ourselves. We grow into our Ascendant and learn to use its qualities to bring forward the gifts described by our planetary placements. But our Ascendant is not who we are, and if we over identify with its qualities, we lose the ability to live authentically. “Our Ascendants can’t express our entire selves,” Jodie Forrest writes, “nor should they. That’s not their job. But they should protect or express our inner selves well enough, and deal with the world well enough, that mistrust or misrepresentation don’t routinely occur.”

Jodie Forrest tells us that those with an Aries Ascendant navigate life most successfully when they project confidence and courage. Even if they have an anxious Virgo Sun or a sensitive Cancer Moon, having an outward bravado puts the Aries Ascendant in situations which challenge them to deal with their anxiety or use their sensitivity constructively. Overidentifying with the Aries Ascendant, however, can make one a bit self-centered and determined to win at all costs. Focusing on the challenge at hand and the courage required to meet it helps the Aries Ascendant avoid the ego-trap and use their fire power to live their best life.

Those with a Taurus Ascendant function best when they stay grounded in and aware of their body and senses. Moving through the world, they need to project a sensible, down-to-earth vibe which helps them direct and express even their most fiery impulses or airy dreams. Overidentifying with this Taurus Ascendant, however, can lead one to poor impulse control and an unwillingness to consider consequences. Staying in the moderate Taurus energy is the key, balancing one’s instincts with the grounded decisiveness which builds inner calm.

Those with a Gemini Ascendant need to motor through life with an ever-present curiosity and an ability to gather and process information as they go. Keeping this objective eye and willingness to be surprised will enliven even the most staid earth energies or balance out watery emotional excesses. Over-identifying with their Gemini Ascendant, however, can lead these folks to becoming too scattered and peripatetic, unable to focus or finish what they start. The answer for Gemini Ascendants is staying open to the new, fearlessly questioning everything and bringing that objectivity to meet each new challenge.

While Cancer risings do tend to exhibit a protective shell as they move through the world, they do well when they can project kindness and a sensitivity to those around them. Even a striving fire Sun or a determined earthy Moon will find they can realize their dreams or dig themselves in comfortably when they take others’ needs into consideration and go with the flow. Overidentifying with their Cancer Ascendant may cause these natives to be overly sensitive and withdraw from life – or else demand that the world meets all their needs. Living a heart-centered life is essential for Cancer Ascendants as they balance their drives and intentions with what they know if best for those they care for most deeply.

Those born with a Leo Ascendant must radiate the power of the Sun and pour their authentic selves into their interactions with the world around them. Showing a “positive, playful, creative and generous” face to the world gets them far in life, and can balance out even an inner Scorpio intensity or Virgoian anxiety. Of course, carried too far, overidentifying with a Leo Ascendant can lead one to a superiority complex, expecting everyone to be loyal and subservient subjects. Focusing instead on a joyful sharing of life’s gifts with others brings the Leo Ascendant into its best self.

Virgo Ascendants need to project helpfulness and practicality without seeming overly humble or subservient. Being the go-to person when there is a job to be done gives even the dreamiest water Moon or the most overly exuberant fire Sun a grounded persona for negotiating life in the world. Identifying too much with the Virgo Ascendant, however, can lead to becoming overly critical of oneself or of everyone and everything. Learning to see us all, including ourselves, as works in progress gives Virgo Ascendants the confidence they need to follow a basic plan for self-improvement without expecting perfection as the end point.

It's up to Libra Ascendants to convey civility, a sense of harmony, and a dedication to what is beautiful as they move through the world. Even a deeply entrenched earth Moon or a rebellious fire Sun can function best when they learn they catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Becoming too much a Libra Ascendant, however, can make one too much of a people-pleaser and can convey insincerity. Finding that Libra balance between self and other resolves this conundrum, as Libra risings work to understand both sides of an issue before reaching that harmonious sweet spot.

Scorpio Ascendants, Jodie Forrest tells us, must understand that their powers of perception and ability to tap into the unconscious are stronger than others experience. The mask they wear is a kind of invisible radar, as they quietly maintain an awareness of the undercurrents of the given situation. This composed self-control carries Scorpio Ascendants through whatever physical challenges an earth Sun is confronting or whatever confusion an air Moon might be experiencing. Staying too much in the persona of the Scorpio Ascendant, however, can lead to overly suspicious behavior or a desire to psychoanalyze everyone they meet. Accepting their feelings as valid and truthful without needing to act on or express them at every given opportunity keeps Scorpio Ascendants on an even keel, with a foot in both the conscious and the unconscious realms.

When we travel through life sporting a Sagittarius Ascendant, the priority if to present a tolerant, open-minded, and deeply curious face to the world. Sagittarius rising in a chart indicates someone who is on a constant quest to explore uncharted realms and understand and find meaning in all experience. A fire Sun or Moon would escalate this energy, while an earth or water Sun or Moon would experience fewer ruts in life and enjoy travels even from their own armchair. Too much emphasis on the Sagittarius rising, however, can lead one to become an overly exuberant commitment-phobe, or someone who thinks they know all the answers. Balance is achieved when Sagittarius Ascendants see life as an endless adventure which they share in companionship with others, whose opinions and experiences they find as fascinating as their own.

A Capricorn rising needs to project a rather buttoned-down image to the world, nothing splashy or eccentric, and tends to send out that responsibility vibe. Do you need someone to step up and manage the situation? Capricorn Ascendants are more than ready to volunteer. This stable persona balances out even the flightiest of air Suns, or the moodiest of water Moons. Too much focus on their Saturn-ruled Ascendant, however, can create control freaks, or people who find their best is never good enough. Changing focus to the great effort required to manifest their visions into the 3-dimensional physical world helps Capricorn Ascendants to keep their eye on the prize as they find a step-by-step gradual approach carries them from strength to greater strength as they grow older – and better.

Oh, Aquarius Ascendants, Jodie Forrest tells you that it’s OK – in fact, it’s essential – to fly your freak flag. Presenting as someone original, authentic and free-thinking carries you through life successfully. Even a more conventional earth Sun or a timid water Moon finds expression through a filter which insists upon being free of mindless rule-following. Too much emphasis on this Aquarian persona, however, can lead one to being contrary just for the sake of being difficult – or to become too detached by emphasizing independence over any connections with others. Staying in a space where you think for yourself, question assumptions, and seek out others who share your beliefs keeps Aquarian Ascendants free and yet grounded.

Pisces risings, while being open and welcoming to others and experiences, have the instinctive understanding that the earthly plane is not all there is. This makes constructing a persona rather tricky, so Forrest advises those with a Pisces Ascendant to have a regular meditation practice or some other method such as artistic expression which helps them tap into the other dimensions they sense around them. Otherwise, they could become lost in their lives, falling into forms of escapism such as addiction or excessive religious devotion. Using their awareness of altered states of reality to give their own lives meaning and purpose in the here and now provides those with a Pisces Ascendant the means for living a rich and luminous life.

Finally, Jodie Forrest reminds us that we incarnated into a specific body and a specific rising sign, which, like the body, serves as a vehicle to carry us along our soul’s evolutionary path. Understanding our ascendant helps us to identify the kinds of behavior which help us to function best in the world while working out the soul lessons we are here to learn in this lifetime. And just as overidentifying with the body and its needs and comforts can cause us to sidestep and miss the deeper meaning of life, clinging to a set of behaviors or a persona as our sole identity takes us off course and inhibits our soul growth. “In order for the totality of our birth chart to thrive,” Jodie Forrest reminds us, “we need to travel through the terrain described by the Ascendant.” Yet we need to never forget that this identity will one day be left behind and we move on to higher ground.