The Ascendant, Sun, & Moon Signs
In natal astrology, three signs provide the keys to understanding the individual. They are the Sun, Moon, and ascendant. While the Sun sign gives us a general idea of the person being analyzed, the Moon provides a glimpse into their internal character, and the ascendant provides insight into their socialization and preferences. Horoscopes for each of these signs can be considered day to day, but will only provide answers relevant to the aspect they are describing.
Beyond the general zodiac sign each of these aspects is found in, we can also look at the degree to which each is found in its sign. These degrees—from 0 to 30—provide an additional subdivision for each sign, referred to as decans. Up to 10 degrees into a sign is the first decan, from 10 to 20 degrees is the second decan, and from 20 to 30 degrees is the third. The decans provide insight into secondary planetary influences and can provide further clues to the specific life purpose of an individual when read through the associated Tarot cards of the Minor Arcana.
For beginners in astrology, it is adequate enough to simply begin with consideration of the Sun, Moon, and ascendant holistically, without yet considering decans.
For many astrologers, the ascendant describes the way we are conditioned to perceive ourselves or to interact with the world. A better way to think about the ascendant might be to consider it a marker for what we get from the world growing up. It’s not just about how parents or communities raise us, it’s about the lessons we attract into our lives, the skill sets we fall back on naturally, and the characteristics we learn to master over our lifetimes. In these senses, the ascendant can be very strongly linked to our intuition and subconscious desires or motivations.
Water ascendants receive deep emotions from their social upbringing, but sometimes form layers to hide or suppress these in order to better acclimate to the world. Fire ascendants are taught to approach the world with spirit and cheer, and in this way usually develop into strong business and social leaders. Air ascendants learn to be cerebral and communicative, but at the same time, can become detached, aloof, or unfocused. And Earth ascendants are raised to value what they have. They carry with them a cautious, pragmatic, and thrifty nature as they grow up.
Horoscopic readings of the ascendant can help us to understand the affects of our childhood or socialization at any given moment. Because of this, the ascendant is perhaps even more important than the Sun sign, especially for the first 29 or so years of the individual’s life (prior to their first Saturn return). After this period, we are thought to develop more clearly into our Sun signs as we grow more comfortable with ourselves and eschew the social expectations put on us.
The Sun is our ego, our connection to the G-dhead of the universe into which we are born. The Sun sign is our embodiment of infinite light, and so is usually the most illuminated or apparent of all the signs on our chart. In practical terms however, the Sun sign is not always our best measure of individuality. Rather, the Sun sign corresponds more closely to the role we play in the symphony of life, while the decan of this sign focuses more specifically on life purpose.
Still, the Sun sign provides a general understanding of who we are and where we are going. Following horoscopes based on your Sun sign can also provide insight into obstacles or successes we can expect in these regards.
For Air Suns, your role in life is innovation and movement in one way or another. Air Suns can be daydreamers, highly intelligent thinkers, communicative friends, and aloof acquaintances. Water Suns bring emotional depth to life. They are nurturers, deep thinkers, loudly emotional beings, and natural introverts who treasure close friends and family. Fire Suns bring drama and direction to life. They set the temperature of the world, are passionate thinkers, and either light-hearted or indignant (or both). Earth Suns bring presence to life. They are cautious, grounded, pragmatic thinkers, and hard-workers.
Now just because our Sun is in a sign does not mean that it is a perfect representation of who we are. Part of any perceived disparity may actually come from our final key sign, the Moon. To understand how we perceive ourselves and the role our Sun sign provides us, it is necessary to consider our Moon signs as well.
The Moon is the inner you who comes forward in your emotional personality, your impulsive reactions or triggers, and the way you critique yourself. The Moon reflects the light of the Sun, and so astrologically corresponds to the way we reflect on our life purpose or the way we choose to enact it over our lifetimes. Depending on what motivates us to pursue an education or career, the Moon sign may be the most accurate indicator for these choices. For instance, my Moon is in Capricorn, my degree is in economics, and I find myself most actualized when I am working in business.
Earthy Moons lean towards engagement with the senses, money, resources, and data. They are often analytical, critical, and skeptical. Fiery Moons are naturally theatrically or even melodramatic. They perceive their life purpose as a starring role in the play of life, and adapt to it much easier than the other signs. Watery Moons are contemplative, feelers, therapists, and psychics. They have questions and deep concerns which must be felt out and learned over time. Airy Moons make natural academics, linguists, and communicators. They can easily become pioneers in new fields, excellent teachers, lifelong students, politicians, or engineers.
Following the horoscopes of your Moon sign will help you keep your impulses in check, and may also provide insight into your success or obstacles with regards to your career or other life goals.
Putting it All Together
Each of these three signs on your chart provide a beginning appreciation for who you are and what role you play in our world. From here, you may find it useful to start tracking horoscopes for each. While this post did not go in depth into each of the signs beyond their element, you may find it useful to consider more closely how your aspects relate to the zodiac. You may also find insight in considering decans and the Tarot to unlock even more about what these signs can tell you.
Proceed at your own pace. And look to your chart if you don’t know what pace that is.
Pat Mosley (NC LMBT #16882) is a licensed massage and bodywork therapist in the Winston-Salem area. His work is rooted in compassionate touch, permaculture, and deep ecology with the resilience of all Earth's children in mind. Connect with him via email to firstname.lastname@example.org