Sun, Moon, Ascendant
what really is the difference?
Heather has written in with a question that expresses a confusion or uncertainty that bothers many people who are interested in Astrology. Rob Tillett, leading astrologer and founder of Astrology on the Web, responds with a brief explanation of the way the signs, planets and other factors interact to form the whole person.
Rob answers:Hi Heather and thanks for your thoughtful note.
To understand ourselves and to make sense of the way our lives develop is the ultimate purpose of the study of astrology. In all cases the whole person must be addressed, but the astrological keys symbolise different aspects of the whole person, depending on the side you are looking to analyse and understand. Each one of these symbols (Sun, Moon, Planets, Signs, Nodes, Houses, Aspects, etc) stands for many things and it's often hard to separate them, but here are the basics:
The Sun Sign
Despite what you may have read, the Sun Sign is the mark of the innermost structure of our character. It stands for the primary karmic shaping that is to be undergone in this lifetime. We respond at the deepest level through the filter of our Sun Sign, which is a mark of the soul's developmental needs in this incarnation. Your Sign (Sun Sign) is the Zodiac Sign that the Sun was in at the time and place that you were born. There are twelve Signs of the Zodiac and each Sign is made up of thirty degrees, making 360 degrees in the entire zodiac. The Sun travels about a degree a day and so gets right through the zodiac in a twelve month period.
The Moon Sign
The Moon Sign in terms of character stands for the outer, emotional personality (product of past karma) and in association with Mercury, the structure of the mental state. Naturally there are many other layers of symbolism attached to the Moon, but so far as our own personality is concerned, that's it in a nutshell. The Moon travels far more quickly through the Zodiac, taking only about two and a half days to transit each Sign. The Moon therefore completes her transit of the entire zodiac in approximately one month.
The Rising Sign
The Rising Sign or Ascendant governs the appearance and the self-image, which in conjunction with the Moon and ruling planet expresses the way others see you, and indeed (especially the Moon) tends to be the way you see yourself. The Ascendant or Rising Sign is the sign rising over the horizon at the moment of your birth. The Earth rotates once on her axis every twenty-four hours, so taking just one day to have all of the signs from Aries to Pisces rise over the horizon. Each sign takes about two hours to pass across the horizon, so the time of birth is quite critical in calculating the Ascendant. You can calculate your own Ascendant with our new Rising Sign Wizard, free of charge on this site.
The Ruling Planet
The Ruling Planet is also significant and will often be more important than the others, in terms of the experiences that are undergone. The Ruling Planet is usually the designated planetary ruler of the Ascendant, but can be another strong planet (such as the Sun-ruler, Moon-ruler, most elevated etc) if the ascendant-ruler is weak by sign or aspect.
Planetary Aspects and Position make a huge difference too, as a debilitated planet will have a quite different effect from the same planet (Sun, Moon etc) when fortified. I should also say that each planet has a primary influence at different times in the individual life, but this is best established by a good astrologer, not a website. There is much more that can be said, but it would take a book to do it in!
We do not have a Moon Sign directory on our site, because the Moon changes signs so frequently that the vast majority of people have no idea what their Moon Sign is. I suppose we could place a Moon Sign table on line, but it would be hard for most people to follow, because it requires complex calculation (which you would usually seek from an astrologer) to determine the true position of the Moon at your birth. We have however now placed a free on-line Birth Chart Wizard, which will calculate your rising sign and Moon sign if you know your time of birth, along with all the other planets and points. The same goes for the Rising Sign, but we now also have a free on-line Rising Sign wizard whereby anyone who has the correct birth time can calculate their rising sign, with a brief interpretation. If you know your Moon Sign, the Sun Sign descriptions on our site will fit well enough, but you should definitely get a proper, personalised interpretation for full details.
In Indian (Vedic) Astrology, the Moon sign and Rising Signs are considered primary, along with the Lunar Mansions. In Western Astrology, the Sun has come to be considered primary, but I suspect that that is due to the ease of identification (almost everyone knows their Sun Sign and it's relatively easily ascertained, unless you are born "on the cusp"). It is also due in modern times to the rise of Sun Sign astrology (Linda Goodman, daily forecasts etc).
I trust this has helped to clarify matters. You can get a better grasp of what the symbols mean by checking out more of the articles on this website, especially starting with our Introduction to Astrology and Relationships and following the links. There are some wonderful articles by great writers here on Astrology on the Web, so you might like to check out our Feature Articles, or our Site Map.
Questions of this type are perhaps best addressed through our Forum, which is accessible via the link at the bottom of just about every page on the site. It's a sort of Question and Answer system, which is open to the public and anyone can contribute both questions and answers.
This is the end of the article.