When people ask you what your sign is, your sun sign probably falls out of your mouth. It's certainly the easiest to figure out: All you need to know is your birthday — no need to rely on birth certificates or a family member's memory to nail down your birth time like you do to determine the rest of your astrological placements.
Although astrology, in general, has been practiced for thousands of generations, horoscopes, as we know them now with your sun sign as the main identifier, have only been the norm since the 1930s when British astrologer R.H. Naylor started publishing predictions for the royal family based on their birth charts in the newspaper. Readers were curious about their own astrological forecasts, so Naylor simplified his readings for them by focusing on sun signs. In the '70s, queer and feminist newspapers started publishing a similar horoscope format, and prominent astrologer Linda Goodman fully brought the importance of identifying with solely your sun sign to the mainstream with her popular book, Linda Goodman's Sun Signs, in 1968.
However, when you read a horoscope for just your sun sign, you are only getting a glimpse of what is in store for the most important people or facets of your life. Your sun sign — which is determined by the sun's placement on the day you were born — might be an important component of your identity, but it doesn't always comprehensively represent you. Your rising sign, on the other hand, does.
Knowing your birth time is crucial for your rising sign as it helps determine the sign that was on the eastern horizon at that very moment — down to the minute. Also known as your ascendant, it represents the integration of all the things that make up your chart and your life. The rising sign is about your identity and outlook on the world, versus the sun sign, which rules the issues signified by the House where you have Leo in your chart. Because of this, you may find the horoscope for your rising sign resonating even more.
To better understand this, you first need a quick breakdown of the techniques astrologers tap into when writing horoscopes.
When astrologers — like me — write horoscopes, we create what's called a sunrise chart with a zodiac wheel, which looks like a circle split into 12 sections to represent each astrological sign, as well as the 12 houses and planets. It's basically a symbolic depiction of the sun's path through the sky. Your birth chart also is based on the zodiac wheel.
For each sun sign's horoscope, we turn the wheel so the sun is seen to be rising, hovering right over the edge of the eastern horizon. In other words, it's placed along the lefthand side of the horizontal line on the wheel. For example, if you write a horoscope for a Cancer sun, you'll rotate the chart so the rising sign is also in Cancer and the sun is in the 1st house.
An example of a zodiac wheel
Then, we look at where and how the planets move within this constructed image of the sky at sunrise — taking things like retrogrades and eclipses into account — to predict what might be important to you over the course of a month, week, or day. Not everyone was born at sunrise, though, so your sun sign's horoscope can end up referring to other elements of your life, depending on where you have Leo in your chart. Only your rising sign represents you and only you.
But let's go a little deeper.
Although most astrologers rely on the chart rotation method to write horoscopes, some focus on the planetary ruler of the sign — which also includes the sun and moon in astrology — that they are writing for. I use this method when I feel like I need a little extra information to flesh out a horoscope.
For Taurus and Libra, someone using the planetary ruler method would look at what Venus specifically is doing throughout the course of a week or month. Then, they would write a horoscope based on Venus's apparent motion, rather than where every single planet sits in a whole, rotated chart. A Sagittarius horoscope, on the other hand, would depend what Jupiter is doing. Full moons and new moons, on the other hand, might affect Cancers a little more.
If you're taking this method into account, the planet that represents you best — and the astrological element that says the most about you — is your rising sign's ruling planet. Also called your chart ruler, this planet is responsible for steering your way through the journey of life. It’s the planet in your chart that truly represents you. Other planets might represent your relationships to other parts of your life, but only your chart ruler represents you. Any aspects, aka the relationships (or distance) your planets have with each other, determine the parts of your life that are most important to you, like your health, career, friendships, or intimate relationships.
To put it simply, when you read a horoscope for your rising sign, you're focusing solely on yourself. You are reading a horoscope in care of and in acceptance of your own existence. You are treating yourself as the center of your life. If you are reading only for your sun, the effects of the horoscope might still impact your life, but they might do so through things (or people) that are not concentrating on you.
Personally, I recommend reading the horoscope for your rising sign first before moving on to other planetary placements. If you were born during the day, look at your sun sign next. For those born at night, your moon sign should be read second. The Sun is the daytime luminary, aka guiding light, and the Moon is obviously the nighttime luminary,
From there, you can also read the horoscope for your Venus sign to learn more about love and heartbreak, or for any other planets that you might be more interested in exploring over the course of a month, week, or day. However, your rising sign's horoscope is the best one to read if you are interested in understanding yourself better.
Alice Sparkly Kat is an astrologer who looks to the planets and stars to rechart a history of the subconscious, redefine the body in the world, and reimagine history as collective memory. Their astrological work has inhabited MoMA, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and The Brooklyn Museum. They're also the author of Postcolonial Astrology.
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