Almost exactly this time last year, I did an article on what I saw as the major difference between the Sun and the Ascendant. A lot of what I wrote revolved around the notion of the Ascendant being a role that you play in life and the Sun being your actual identity, in spite of the fact that the “Rising sign is your identity” thing is repeated quite a bit. I still think that this is true. But, I have been thinking more about this subject and I would like to expand even more on this. I have realized recently that the Ascendant and the Sun are both about self-awareness. They just both represent two different kinds of self-awareness.
The awareness of yourself that stems from the Ascendant is a very immediate one. The Rising sign is the way of describing yourself that is basically your first impulse. You don’t even have to think about it. It is the first thing that comes to mind when a person is speaking about themselves. It’s because the Rising sign governs your stance on life and how you see your place in life. But, it is a place in life that is very much in-the-moment. It’s almost comparable to a flight-or-fight response. Just what are you going to do when something or someone comes your way? This can reveal a lot about how a person views life and what they think life is generally about.
The impulsiveness of the Ascendant occurs because it is conditioned within us during the first several years of our life, in which we are very actively following our impulses. Small children do not have to worry about an identity; at least, not beyond “Hi, my name is…” But, they do have to deal with their environment and they cultivate a pattern of reactions to help them handle their environment. The Ascendant is about acting but it is also a response; not an emotional response, like the Moon, but a sense of “this is how I’m going to act and this is what I’m going to do.” And, after a while, you get so used to acting that way that this because an inseparable part of how you see yourself, especially since it has been unconsciously instilled within you.
Meanwhile, the self-awareness of the Sun is different. It is something that requires more conscious energy. We have to work more toward being our Sun, to really put the energy into it. This is because the Sun rules the will. So, essentially, you have to want to be your Sun. If you encounter someone who isn’t really living out their Solar traits and principles, it’s often because they just don’t want to. Either that or they haven’t reached the level of consciousness to express that energy. Through our Sun, we are able to find ourselves.
This is the essential contrast between the persona, which is the Ascendant, and the identity, which is the Sun. You might be able to say that there is less meaning in the Rising sign, which is why it’s sometimes dismissed as a more “shallow” expression of whatever sign it is in. As I said before, this is not just a mask you can simply take on and off. But, the Ascendant is not a discovery. It’s always there to be acted on. So, when acting out these traits, you don’t feel like you’re on some heroic journey to find your confidence. You just feel like you are just living your life and doing what comes naturally to you.
However, in regards to the Sun, it is a quest for these traits that allows us to claim our self-confidence and to shine. We can feel quite heroic, even grand, when we really own our Sun’s traits because it takes time and energy to get there. I feel like many people don’t begin really being awakened to their Sun sign potential until they are in their preteen or adolescent years. If the Sun is really strongly placed in your chart (angular or in Leo), the awakening may be much earlier. Yet, it still definitely feels like an awakening. It is not as if your Sun isn’t there before then, though, because nothing in the chart can ever truly be repressed. It gets expressed, in some sort of way. But, it is often expressed without consciousness. And it takes some effort for you to be able to step back and say, “Hey, I like those things about myself and they make me who I am.” In contrast, the Ascendant, I feel, is a lot more arbitrary. It’s something about us that just sort of is what it is.
For example, if you had an Aquarius Ascendant, like I do, you would really have no qualms about being weird or different. The first thing you think of yourself is “unique”, “quirky”, “free-spirited”, “gifted” or some variation of that Aquarius archetype. But, it’s not really a big deal. You don’t even think about it! You’ve just always been on the outside, looking in, and have always had an air of nonconformity. This just defines your general scope of and experience of life. The Ascendant, basically, is a fact of life for you.
But, for those with the Sun in Aquarius, it is more about discovering just how unique, quirky, free-spirited, and gifted you are. It is realizing that you have the power to make a difference and finding your confidence in that. The Sun is what makes us feel self-assured. So, Aquarius Sun people gain the most self-assurance in life through knowing how to be different in order to make a difference. This is how they build their actual identity, which manifests on a deeper level, while I just have the simple persona of the different one.
It's a comparison that can be made through all of the other signs. It’s also why I stated in the last article that a person with their Sun in a certain sign while admire someone who has their Ascendant in that sign, as they can serve as a sort of “model” of how the Sun person wants to be. A Capricorn Rising would immediately describe themselves as being “on top of it”, “someone who’s going places”, “a person who never gives up”, etc. While they assume and live out the persona of the persevering one, the Sun in Capricorn person ends up finding their self-confidence through discovering their ability to persevere, to be on top of things, and to be an important person who is going places. This is how they are meant to shine in this lifetime and find their truest self.
It’s not like the Ascendant isn’t the real you. It’s a real part of you. But, basically, you already know how to do it. It’s something that comes automatically, which is why it rolls off the tongue so easily in terms of talking about yourself, while the Sun is a part of you that is more so earned. Not through hard work like Saturn but through a self-awareness and self-acceptance that is more conscious. (But, of course, you could have Sun conjunct the Ascendant and if so, you have pretty much known exactly who you are from the get-go. So, lucky you!)
Also, this can be another way to figure out someone’s Rising, if you’re playing this guessing game. Just ask them, in the most natural way you can, to define themselves in very few words; maybe even just one word, without thinking about it or trying to give the correct answer. In some way, the answer will align with their Rising sign’s traits. Aries Ascendant would call themselves fearless or driven or some other synonym. The Libra Ascendant labels themselves as loving or kind or relationship-oriented. The Taurus Rising would end up telling you what a simple, relaxed or practical person they are and if the Pisces Rising doesn’t say that they are spiritual or empathetic, you would just get a confused stare and an “I don’t know” (truth be told, though, they are the trickiest ones because they have always seen themselves as everybody and nobody, at the same time).
Speaking of guessing Rising signs, there are too many famous people out there without an official chart. So, I’m beginning another series soon where I guess celebrities’ Ascendants, either those without a birth time or with a chart that seems dubious/not a good fit for them. I already have a few in mind (I’ll attempt to tackle a few people per post) but if you have any who you would like me to tackle, leave a suggestion in the comments and I’ll see if I can solve that mystery throughout the series. I’m really enjoying learning and developing the art of guessing Rising signs!