This is just something I felt the need to write about because I feel like many people don’t see the Ascendant in the light it should be seen in. It’s either given too much importance or not enough importance. It raises the question of what the difference is between how your Ascendant/Rising sign expresses itself and how your Sun expresses itself. I think it ultimately comes down to a question of “how you behave” and “who you are.”
People who say that the Ascendant is a mask are half-right. It is a mask but it’s not that superficial, either. When you wear a mask, it changes the way that you see everything around you. This is what our Rising sign is: it’s how we view life. It’s also what we think our role in life should be. So, the Rising sign is a character that we easily slip into. It’s so easy to be your Rising sign that I don’t think you even have to think much about it. There is a slightly unconscious element to the Ascendant, as it’s been there with us since birth. So, you just snap into it. If you’re a Scorpio Rising, you just automatically dig deep or search for mystery. Any planet conjunct the Rising sign will also have that effect, which is why Mercury rising people can be such compulsive talkers or stimulation junkies.
The Ascendant is not “just a mask”, though, because it’s a mask we can never take off. It’s a character we’ll be playing for our whole lives, in one way or another. That character just (hopefully) grows and changes and develops throughout each new chapter of life. And while the Ascendant and anything conjunct the Ascendant do emerge most strongly in new situations and around new people, it’s not like you just stop being a Scorpio Rising around someone once they get to know you. Your Rising sign/planet is there even around people who you’ve known for forever. It’s just that they know you well enough to be able to see past it and understand the vast other sides of yourself.
At the same time, I don’t believe the Ascendant is your identity, your sense of self, or your personality. It’s just how you behave. It’s a role you play and no matter how “real” you think you are, we’re all playing a role in this life. It doesn’t mean you’re being fake. It’s just the person you think you should be in your given circumstances, mostly because you’re so used to being that person. But, is that who you really are? No. That is, unless you’re one of those lucky people who has their Sun conjunct the Ascendant. Then, the character you’re playing is your true self. It’s just probably a heightened version of your true self. Having the Moon, Mercury, Venus, or Mars rising will also make your Ascendant feel much more personal and true to you. Those with personal planets conjunct their Ascendant come off as especially authentic. What we see is what we get with them. But, even they are playing a role. Yet, the role they’re playing is to be that very authentic, genuine person, sometimes over-emphasizing their sense of self (Sun) or emotions (Moon) to do so.
Yet, again, it doesn’t mean that those without personal planets rising aren’t genuine. There’s just a greater gap between the character we’re playing and the person behind that, which is understandable. I’ve realized that I think a lot in actor metaphors but I can see the parallel very clearly. The Rising sign is like the role the actor is portraying and the Sun, meanwhile, is who the actor actually is. And while people will play their Ascendant character very convincingly and sincerely, you (and they) have to know the difference between the two. Trying to identify with your Ascendant is like an actor staying in character all the time. Play the role but don’t get attached to it.
This is where your Sun comes in. My opinion is that your Sun is your actual identity. It’s not a persona you assume. It’s the person that you are and the sense of self that you’re developing. It can be easy to just call the Sun a person’s ego. Yes, it is. But, the ego is personal. Therefore, your Sun sign will resonate on a very personal level for you. Meanwhile, the Ascendant isn’t that personal. It can be but not as much as the Sun. Going back to the metaphor, you can see parts of yourself in the character you play. But, that doesn’t mean that this is who you are. It’s just a pattern of behaviors that you’re assuming for that particular situation.
Yet, when you embrace your Sun sign, you are embracing who you actually are. It’s a process that requires the raising of our consciousness and a necessary amount of self-awareness. I think there’s a feeling of discovery attached to the Sun. Nobody is born knowing who they are. They are born understanding how they should act (Rising). But, figuring out your true self (Sun) is a process, which will elevate your confidence, your self-image, and your ability to live life. So, the Rising sign is how you see life. The Sun is how you live it. That’s why the Sun is your personality, in my book. It’s because it takes over whenever you’re not saying the Rising sign lines that you’re supposed to say. It expresses itself by figuring out what makes you come to life and claiming that. When we really own our Sun, we’re creating ourselves. However, our Ascendant was more so created for us.
Let’s do a comparison, then, between a Gemini Rising and a Gemini Sun. Those with Gemini Rising are playing the role of the communicator in this life. From the moment they were born, they saw the world through inquisitive eyes. Their early environment was one that offered endless opportunities for stimulation. So, this is the way they’ve been conditioned to behave and to approach life. The Gemini Rising character is bouncing all over the place, in one way or another. They think that they should be the interesting one in the situation, the brainiac, and/or the comedian. Our Rising sign is what we’ve always been easily labeled. So, Gemini Rising has always been called “the funny one”, “the talker”, “the smart one.” Therefore, it’s very easy for them to label themselves that way. However, in order to get in touch with their authentic identity, whether it’s via a Leo Sun or Scorpio Sun or Pisces Sun, they have to regularly set aside the breath-of-fresh-air persona, stepping out of character to discover who they actually want to be in this lifetime.
Meanwhile, for a Gemini Sun, it’s the opposite experience. They could have any other Rising sign: Capricorn or Virgo or Aries. It’s not going to give them a role to play that is blatantly Gemini. In fact, people with the Sun in a sign often really admire people with their Rising in that same sign. There can be a perspective, from the Sun to the Ascendant person, of “I want to be like that.” But, is the character getting in the way? So, a Sun in Gemini person would have to learn how to snap out of having to always be “the old soul” (Capricorn Rising), “the reliable one” (Virgo Rising), or “the fireball” (Aries Rising) to find the intellectual Gemini within. They discover who they really are when they’re able to play around with different ideas, seek mental stimulation, and engage in fascinating conversation with other people. The exciting realm of the mind leads them to self-actualization.
People do regularly call the 1st House (the Ascendant’s house) the “house of self” but I don’t really agree with that. Unless you have the Sun in the 1st or rising, whatever’s going on with your Ascendant isn’t really about you. It’s more so about life: what’s expected of you in life and also how you put your best foot forward throughout life. It’s the way you welcome experiences in. So, let’s not overestimate or underestimate the Rising sign. It’s very important and we’ll always need it, as it gives us the necessary role and script required to live our lives. But, being too preoccupied with it just makes you a shell of yourself. If you have enough confidence to just put the role aside and really be the you that you want to be, you’ll be in your Sun’s territory.