According to certain astrological theories, celestial phenomena reflect or determine human activity on the principle of 'as above, so below'. Thus some astrologers believe that the ascendant signifies a person's awakening consciousness, in the same way that the Sun's appearance on the eastern horizon signifies the dawn of a new day.
Because the ascendant is specific to a particular time and place, to astrologers it signifies the individual environment and conditioning that a person receives during their upbringing, and also the circumstances of their childhood. For this reason astrologers believe that the ascendant is also concerned with how a person has learned to present themself to the world, especially in public and in impersonal situations. To astrologers, in some circumstances, it can function as a shield or mask to guard a person's real nature. It functions as an interface between the many levels of personality makeup and the external reality. Astrologers believe the ascendant also has a strong bearing on a person's physical appearance and overall health. It is the 3rd most important influence in a horoscope.
The Ascendant is thus considered to be of great significance in all schools of astrology because it in effect serves as the filter through which everything in a horoscope is expressed. Most astrologers believe that the Rising Sign and especially planets on it or within a few degrees of the Ascendant exert an influence equal to or more powerful than the Sun and Moon. In Jyotish (Hindu astrology), the ascendant is without question the most individual and defining element in the chart.
Although Babylonian astronomers had observed the actual rising times of the signs, there is no specific mention of the ascendant in the texts that have survived on clay tablets. By the 3rd century B.C., Egyptians looked at the rising of specific asterisms to identify the ascending sign and get an approximate time of the night and that is reflected in the name subsequently given by the Greeks to the ascendant: horoskopos, or “hour marker”. ὡρόσκοπος in the sense of "ascendant" and ὡροσκοπία "observation of the ascendant" was used in the Greek manuscript of Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos.
The Ascendant, from an astrological point of view, is the value of the ecliptical geocentric longitude (aka Celestial Longitude, λ) which is easterly on the horizon. This intersection of the horizon with the ecliptic can be calculated from:
where is the local sidereal time in degrees, is the inclination of Earth's equatorial plane to the ecliptic (Axial tilt). For values referred to the standard equinox J2000.0 use = 23.4392911°; for J1950.0 use = 23.4457889°. is the observer's terrestrial latitude (Southern latitudes are negative, Northern positive). The Ascendant is then found in the correct quadrant (0 to 360 degrees) by using the two rules[further explanation needed]:
If (x < 0) then Ascendant = Ascendant + 180 else Ascendant = Ascendant + 360
By definition of Ascendant, we have to take the point easterly (the rising one, less than 180° from the Midheaven) by using a final rule:
if (Ascendant < 180) then Ascendant = Ascendant + 180 else Ascendant = Ascendant - 180
For latitudes north of the Arctic Circle (or south of the Antarctic Circle), the Ascendant function has two discontinuity points, occurring at instants where the horizon and the ecliptic planes do not intersect. Between those instants the Ascendant's longitude actually decreases.
Long and short ascension
Because the Earth's axis is tilted relative to the ecliptic (see axial tilt), the twelve signs do not take the same amount of time to cross the eastern horizon. At the equator, there is very little difference (Pisces, Aries, Virgo and Libra take slightly less time than the other signs) but as one moves from the equator, larger and larger differences emerge.
In the northern hemisphere, the signs of Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus and Gemini take much less time than the theoretical two hours to cross the eastern horizon, whilst the signs of Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius take much longer than two hours to do so. For example, at the latitude of Paris, France:
- Pisces and Aries take only one hour to cross the eastern horizon (this is referred to as the length of ascension or simply as the sign's ascension)
- Aquarius and Taurus have an ascension of one hour and fifteen minutes
- Capricorn and Gemini have an ascension of one hour and fifty minutes
- Cancer and Sagittarius have an ascension of two hours and thirty minutes
- Leo and Scorpio have an ascension of two hours and forty minutes
- Virgo and Libra have an ascension of two hours and forty-five minutes
- Pisces and Aries have an ascension of thirty-five minutes
- Aquarius and Taurus have an ascension of forty-five minutes
- Capricorn and Gemini have an ascension of one hour and twenty-five minutes
- Cancer and Sagittarius have an ascension of two hours and forty minutes
- Leo and Scorpio have an ascension of three hours and fifteen minutes
- Virgo and Libra have an ascension of three hours and twenty minutes
Astrologers consider the differences between the rate at which the signs ascend to be of importance. In many house systems, houses can become very large when they cover Aquarius, Pisces, Aries and Taurus because these signs are seen to be much smaller from the perspective of a northern hemisphere observer.
Some astrologers, such as Richard Nolle, consider the preponderance of Ascendants in signs from Cancer through Sagittarius (known as the western signs) to be symbolic of the highly relationship-oriented character inherent in a complex or civilized society as found today in the northern hemisphere but never developed in equatorial or south temperate latitudes where eastern (Capricorn through Gemini), individual-oriented Ascendants are equally or more common.
- Pisces and Aries ascend in two hours and thirty minutes
- Aquarius and Taurus ascend in two hours and twenty-five minutes
- Capricorn and Gemini ascend in two hours and fifteen minutes
- Sagittarius and Cancer ascend in two hours
- Scorpio and Leo ascend in one hour and thirty-five minutes
- Libra and Virgo ascend in one hour and fifteen minutes
Effects of polar astrology
At the Arctic and Antarctic circles, at roughly 66½° North and South latitude respectively, a degree of the ecliptic becomes circumpolar. If the sun for example occupies that degree, it will neither rise nor set, but will lie upon the horizon for 24 hours. As we move into higher latitudes, more and more degrees of the ecliptic will neither rise nor set, until at the north pole half of the ecliptic degrees will not rise above the horizon and can never become the ascendant. Therefore, the omission of extreme latitudes from most house tables due to the added complexity of calculating the ascendant, implies that there is no ascendant at these latitudes. This is of course untrue, yet there is a limitation on the degrees that can ascend at extreme latitudes and a further restriction on degrees that can form house cusps in time-based house systems. The simpler and earlier ecliptic-based house systems can form house cusps at extreme latitudes based on the available ascendant and midheaven degrees.
Effects of the ascendant
There are a couple of factors that influence how strong or weak a force in the chart the ascendant may be.
- Firstly, it is generally believed that the closer towards the beginning of the sign the ascendant falls, the stronger it will be. This is because most of the first house will fall into that sign. If the ascendant falls late in a sign, most of the first house will fall into the following sign, and thus weaken the effect of the ascendant's power.
- The ascendant is thought to be stronger in influence when the sun is in a weak position in the chart. For example, it is traditionally believed that the sun is in a weaker position when it is placed at the bottom of the chart, near the imum coeli or IC. This is because the sun was literally on the other side of the earth when the subject was born, hidden from view.
- According to some, the sun may also be weaker in influence if it is unaspected, in other words if it forms no major aspects (conjunction, opposition, trine, square, or sextile) to the other planets. According to other astrological observations, unaspected suns and planets show greater than usual effect and are more free.
- The sun in a sign that is intercepted, meaning its does not have a house cusp, may also be weaker and put more emphasis on the ascendant and house cusp of the solar house in such a chart.
Another factor concerning the effect of the ascendant is the theory that people become more like their sun sign after around 29 years old, as they grow older and more confident, as the sun embodies essential ego energy and self-esteem, and thus perhaps have less of a need to present a public face to others. It is also theorised that when the progressed ascendant moves into the following sign, it weakens the influence of the natal ascendant.
Planets and the ascendant
Planets have added importance in the birth chart due to their relationship to the ascendant. The planet that rules the astrological sign of the ascendant is called the chart ruler, and is said to be of particular importance. So for example, if the ascendant sign is Gemini, Mercury will be the chart ruler, and so 'set the tone' for the chart in many ways. In addition, the planet nearest to the ascendant especially located in the first house is usually called the rising planet and has a particular significant importance in the chart. However, if a planet in the twelfth house is very close (within one or two degrees) to the ascendant, then it can be taken to be the rising planet instead. If a planet is actually in conjunction with the ascendant (within the same degrees as the ascendant) it then becomes vitally important in its effect on the personality, to the extent of being as important as the sun. Finally, any planets in the first house will always have an added emphasis to them.
Modes of the ascendant
Ascendant cardinal signs
Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn are cardinal signs. The effect of these signs on the ascendant is to emphasize initiative, assertiveness and to some extent leadership.
Ascendant fixed signs
Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius are fixed signs. The effect of these signs on the ascendant is to emphasize stability, steadiness and commitment.
Ascendant mutable signs
Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces are mutable signs. The effect of these signs on the ascendant is to emphasize adaptability, dexterity, change and flexibility.
Elements of the ascendant
Ascendant fire signs
The fire signs of Aries, Leo and Sagittarius are noted for their energy, enthusiasm and optimism. When a fire sign is on the ascendant the outer manner is friendly, uncritical and non-hostile, which makes such people good mixers and public relations executives. They typically send out friendly, but professionally competent signals which draw out a friendly and rather respectful response from others. Aries rising gives out a well-organized, slightly military bearing which makes them fit for any kind of military or civil service organization. Leo rising subjects have a dignified and rather formal manner which inspires confidence; while Sagittarius risers have a cheerful, pleasant and rather witty outer manner which suits all kinds of teaching, training and public speaking situations.
Ascendant earth signs
Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn Ascendants are usually considered as calm and stress resistant individuals. The effect of the earth sign ascendant make people more material, reserved and collected, they don't tend to show their emotions and can be or appear to be cold. This particular effect is manifested to the least extent in Taurus sign. Each of the earth signs ascendants are usually thrifty and good with planning things beforehand.
Ascendant air signs
The air signs of Gemini, Libra and Aquarius are noted for their communication skills. When an air sign is on the ascendant the subject is friendly and sociable, but also independent and somewhat detached. The Gemini riser is constantly busy, fully engaged in a kind of juggling act, with at least a dozen activities on the go at any one time. The Libra riser occupies him or herself with business schemes which often need the aid of a more earthy partner to make them come into fruition. The Aquarius riser makes wonderful plans for themselves or others and may even carry some of them out.
Ascendant water signs
The water signs of Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces are noted for their emotion, intuition and feeling. When a water sign is on the ascendant the subject will hide their true feelings and have a strong need to protect themselves from the world around them. What you see is often not what you get with water ascendants. In other words, the signals they send out are consciously or unconsciously chosen for effect. Cancerians appear chatty and helpful and they do well in any situation that requires tact. Scorpio risers can use many different forms of camouflage with people they do not know, one of their favourites being offensiveness and an off-putting manner. Pisces risers appear soft, gentle, self-sacrificing and sometimes even helpless, but this is misleading, as they will fight strongly for what they think is right. Pisces are also known to be highly emotional and the most intuitive of the twelve signs.
- Jeff Mayo, Teach Yourself Astrology, p71, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1991
- Sasha Fenton, Rising Signs, pp 13-14, The Aquarian Press, London, 1989
- James Holden. "Ancient House Division" (PDF). Retrieved 4 August 2016.
- Jean Meeus, Astronomical Algorithms, p99, 1991
- Peter Duffett-Smith, Jonathan Zwart, Practical astronomy with your calculator or spreadsheet-4th ed., p47, 2011
- Richard Nolle, "Chiron: New Planet in the Horoscope", pages 78 to 82
- Holden, Ralph (1977). The Elements of House Division. Essex, UK: Fowler. pp. 117 to 121. ISBN 978-0-85243-354-6.
- Sasha Fenton, Ibid, pp17 - 18, 1989
- Sasha Fenton, Ibid, p 15, pp202-3, 1989
- Sasha Fenton, Ibid, pp 31 - 34