A Sign at a Time: Leo

This is the first post in the “A Sign at a Time” series. Ordinarily, a listing of the signs would start with Aries and end with Pisces, because the astrological year begins at the Aries equinox (the sun enters Aries on the March equinox, spring in the northern hemisphere, autumn in the southern). In honor of the sun currently being in Leo, its home sign, I am starting here. 

I do not know how long it will take me to go through all the signs, but probably not a whole year. Cancer and Gemini people will not have to wait that long to see their signs.

The king of beasts. Royalty. A roaring lion. A purring cat. A child who lights up the room by her presence. A comedian telling jokes, and telling more in response to the audience’s laughter. A campfire inviting songs, storytelling, and performances.

These are some things that fit the Leo archetype.

Leo’s qualities are fixed fire. The growth energy of a fire sign, with the steadfastness of a fixed sign. Its ruler is the sun, and its message is similar: personality growth. 

For people with the sun in Leo, the sun’s message is amplified by its sign. All other signs modify the sun’s message, providing a hint of what exactly you need for core personality growth. For Leo, the message is, simply, grow. Be yourself, as much of yourself as you can. Be all you can be. The house placement modifies the message of a Leo sun, but the sign placement does not.

Pop astrology claims that Leos are self centered, generous, outgoing, and need to be the center of attention. These are possible ways a Leo-driven personality could develop, given that the sign’s message emphasizes personality growth, but far from the only ways. 

For every solar Leo (and rising or lunar Leo) who thinks highly of him/herself, at least as many struggle with self esteem. For every one of them who is outgoing, at least as many are introverted, more like a shy kitty cat who will only approach a few select people than one who will demand attention from all. For every Leo who really does command the center of attention, at least as many shy away from it. 

However, for all Leo-driven individuals (this includes Leo moon and Leo rising as well as Leo sun, and sometimes those with a significant planetary presence in Leo even if it’s not one of their prime triad), a strong desire to be appreciated exists. It might be quiet, personal appreciation, or it might be adoring crowds. Either way, “I want to be appreciated” is a very Leo desire. It may be modified to “I want to be noticed,” or, “I want to be accepted.”

Leo represents the kind of personality development that happens through interpersonal exchanges, give and receive and react. A comedy duo play off each other. That is a Leo exchange. A performer adjusts their performance in response to the audience’s response. A cat purrs when petted, prompting the petter to pet the cat more, prompting the cat to purr more. All of this is very Leo.

Archetypally, Leo is the king or queen: regal and dignified. Leo is the performer. Leo is the child: playful, curious, wondering. A healthy response to Leo placements is to have a solid sense of self. Paradoxically, Leo is the most selfish sign (though not necessarily selfish in a bad way) and the most generous sign.

Leo generosity stems from having enough, and enough for Leo means a full sense of self. A happy, fulfilled Leo is compelled to share the happiness, because that makes him/her the happiest of all: just like the purring cat or the joking comedian, Leo energy is, and thrives on, unselfconscious, shared joy. It is a creative, joyful, in the moment, sharing energy. However, without a healthy sense of self, or without joy, the Leo-driven person can become arrogant and demanding, or depressed and withdrawn. There’s nothing to give if the Leo-self is not being properly nourished.

If you have Leo placements, particularly a Leo sun or moon, and do not have a healthy sense of self, or are generally unhappy, the solution is to do what brings you joy, as much as you can. If you are uncertain of what brings you joy, the first step is to go looking for it. What have you enjoyed in the past? Does that bring you joy now? If not, is there something similar that you can do? Or perhaps something you’ve thought you would enjoy but not tried?

“Follow your bliss” is a very Leo saying. All of us can find the Leo in us by doing so.

This post is dedicated to all Leos everywhere. Happy Birthday! Publishing it three days before my own birthday, I must include myself. 

Ask the Astrologer: Career For Soon To Be Graduate

Birth chart: Kat  Placidus houses, true node  Source of birth information: Hospital record

Birth chart: Kat

Placidus houses, true node

Source of birth information: Hospital record

This is the inaugural post in the Ask the Astrologer feature. Once or twice a month, I will answer a question in a way that aligns with what you might hear in an actual astrological consultation. This is not your usual advice column, and not your usual astrology column, either. The frequency of it may increase if I receive enough letters, so if you have a question, please ask! See the end of this post for how to submit.

I'm 25 years old and finishing up my undergrad degree in business management with an emphasis in Human Resources. I'm debating what to do post-graduation in December. 

I've TA'd for my finance professor and enjoyed that immensely. I like the compensation/benefits/performance management side of human resources. I greatly enjoy working on the business side of the health industry, like insurance, medicaid/medicare for patients in hospitals. I'm good at call center work and very good at collegiate fundraising. 

Whatever I do, I need to feel like I'm contributing to something greater than myself. 

When I worked at the call center, I raised money for scholarships or other philanthropic programs. I contributed to the bigger picture with my individual work. When I worked at a hospital in the financial services, I was helping patients with health insurance and facilitating smooth operations. Even as a waitress at a local restaurant, I feel that I'm contributing to the customer experience and creating an atmosphere where people can connect and feel part of the community. 

I have the opinion that I can succeed at anything I put my mind to, but where do I focus my efforts? - Kat

First, congratulations on your near graduation!

I really see the Aries in you with your “I can succeed at anything I put my mind to” statement. Aries is the sign of self will, and loves challenges. Add to that goal-oriented Capricorn rising and self disciplining Saturn conjunct your Moon, and I get the picture of a person who thrives on having a goal and meeting it, and is very driven to achieve. Plus, you have all of your planets on the eastern side of your chart, between houses 10 and 3. That’s the “me” side. An eastern hemisphere emphasis indicates a person who needs to do for him- or herself, and usually has an “I make my own luck” kind of worldview. 

I also see your need to contribute to something greater than yourself, especially through your work. Pisces, where you have so many placements--Saturn, Moon, Mars, and Mercury--is the greater than yourself sign. Pisces is about the greater whole, the all encompassing oneness that we all come from. It really does want to make people connect, feel included, and make things work smoothly for all.

Pisces also contains, in a way, every house in your chart that has to do with work and how you make your living. Your second house cusp--money, how you earn it--is in Pisces. The rulers of your sixth house, which describes what you need in your day-to-day work, and your tenth house of career (for you, that’s Mercury and Mars,* respectively) are also in Pisces, in that second house. So whatever you do, you need it to come back to that Piscean message of facilitating inclusiveness and connection, helping others in that way.

I see your interest in finance in that packed second house. When the second house is emphasized so much, it’s only natural to have money and financial matters be a focus for you. I also see it in your MC (tenth house cusp) being placed in Scorpio, which is the sign associated with other people’s money, collective resources, and the field of finance in general. In a neat mutual reception, you have Jupiter, traditional ruler of your Pisces second house,* on your MC, and Mars, traditional ruler of Scorpio, in your second house! That reinforces this theme.

Jupiter on your MC also reinforces the message that you need to contribute to something bigger than yourself. Jupiter is the planet that makes everything bigger. 

It doesn’t really matter what specific field you go into. While something related to finance is suggested more than once in your chart, and it appears to be your interest, you could do anything in the realm of HR, business administration, or finance, and it would work with your chart. There are also other ways that Scorpio, Pisces, and the second house could be interpreted, and if you weren’t telling me that you’re interested in corporate administration or financial services, I would be reading them for other meanings.

What I do think is important is that, whatever job you take, you need it to be one that involves human connections, face to face. Both the strong Pisces and your description of your previous jobs tell me that. In all the jobs you’ve mentioned, from TAing to call center to waitressing, the common thread I see is that they all entail plenty of interpersonal interactions. I don’t think you would be happy with a job that has you interacting mostly with a computer, even if it does contribute in a positive way to the greater whole. I expect you’re someone who needs to directly interact with people. If that element were missing, you would not be motivated or fulfilled.

- Megan

*Actually, the tenth house in this chart has two rulers to choose from: Mars is the traditional ruler of Scorpio, and Pluto is the modern one. So does the second house: while Jupiter is the traditional ruler of Pisces, Neptune is its modern ruler. I work with both modern and traditional house rulers, but for simplicity’s sake, I’m using the traditional ones in this post. Considering the positions of the planets in this chart, I’m seeing the most relevance to the question in the traditional rulers.

Do you have a question for Ask the Astrologer?

This feature currently runs once or twice a month, and may increase if there are enough submissions. Click here to read the ground rules for Ask the Astrologer questions and here to submit your question. Pseudonyms are used for all letter writers, including the one above.

Interested in a more in depth consultation?

Contact Megan to inquire about current rates and availability. Consultations last an hour and a half for new clients and an hour to an hour and a half for returning clients. Available everywhere in the world by Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangout. For residents of the San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA, in-person options may also be available.

New to astrology? See an unfamiliar astrological term in the above post?

Look it up in the astrological glossary. If you don’t see the term you’re looking for in there, please drop me a line. The glossary is an ongoing work in progress.

Signs: What They Are, and Introducing Elements and Modalities

An astrological sign is, as mentioned in a previous post, one of twelve 30 degree sections of the sky. The names of the signs are associated with constellations, and once upon a time, they aligned almost perfectly. The sun rose into the constellation Aries on the March equinox (the Aries ingress, which is at the moment of equinox, is still considered the beginning of the astrological year, and Aries the first sign of the zodiac, just as January is the first month of the calendar year), into the constellation Taurus approximately a month later, and so on. 

Thanks to the slight wobble of Earth’s axis, this is no longer true. As I write this, the sun is in the sign of Cancer--and also the constellation Cancer, as it happens--but transiting to Leo within a few days. However, if the constellations were the signs, the sun would still be in Cancer for several more weeks.

There are astrological systems that match signs more closely to the constellations. This is called sidereal astrology, and it is the basis for the Vedic and Chinese astrological systems. There are also a few Western astrologers who use sidereal signs, although this is a hybrid of Western with Vedic, not the norm for the Western astrological system. Western astrology is tropical: based on measurements of the sky taken from the ecliptic. (The ecliptic, for those who don’t know, is what appears, from an earth-based perspective, to be the sun’s orbit around us.) Since the ecliptic is based on the sun, not the constellations, the tropical zodiac stays the same regardless of where the constellations are.

While the signs are associated with seasons--Cancer and Leo generally being considered summer signs, Capricorn and Aquarius winter signs, and so on--they are seasons of the whole earth, not local seasons. Cancer month is summertime north of the equator and winter south of it, but the sun is still in Cancer everywhere. That is because, at this point in the earth’s orbit, the sun appears against the backdrop of Cancer to us. Because all of earth is one planet, on one orbit, which sign the sun is in at any given time is the same all over the earth.

The moon and planets also move through the signs. At this writing, the moon has just entered Pisces, Saturn and Pluto are coming together in Capricorn, while Mars blazes through Leo and Venus and Mercury are with the sun in late Cancer. Uranus has plowed into Taurus, and Jupiter and Neptune sit in their home signs of Sagittarius and Pisces, respectively. An infant born at this moment would have those sign placements in their birth chart. Cancer, Pisces, and Capricorn would be their most highlighted signs, along with whatever their rising sign is.

Each sign has its own flavor, its own set of archetypes, its own particular energies. Planets are flavored by the signs they’re in. Mars acts like Mars no matter what, but Mars in Aries is a very different flavor of Mars from Mars in Libra.

In a more general sense, we can get a big picture view of the flavor of a chart by picking out the signs with placements and noting which elements they are. Signs are divided into the four triplicities, or elements: fire, earth, air, and water. Some charts highlight a balance of elements, but in most cases, one or two elements dominate. While all charts have all the signs in them, the ones with placements, especially the sun, moon, ascendant, or multiple planets, are the signs that are highlighted.

Fire is the action and expansion principle. The overall message of a fire sign is self expansion. Being the earliest element in each third of the zodiac, fire is like the beginning of the hero’s journey in a folktale. Fire signs have a certain youthful quality to them. Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius are the fire signs.

Earth is stability, groundedness, practicality. The overall message of an earth sign is the physical, material, health, structure. Whereas fire tends to be quick and impulsive, earth tends to take it slow and think things through and look before leaping. Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn are the earth signs.

Air is communication, ideas, movement. The overall message of an air sign is communication, either personally or for the masses. Air signs can have both the moving, sometimes impulsive, quality of fire and the detached discernment of earth. Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius are the air signs.

Water is emotions, intuition, sensitivity. Just as actual water can exist in three states--solid (ice), liquid, and vapor--the element of water can act similarly to each of the other elements, although it does so with a water quality. Like fire, water can be self expansive, although usually in a more “selfless” way. Like earth, water signs have a certain stillness and inwardness to them. Like air, water is communicative, although the communication of a water sign is more intuitive, often more listening than talking. The overall message of a water sign is a heightened sensitivity that none of the other elements share. Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces are the water signs.

Signs are also divided into modalities, based on seasonal order. There are three modalities: cardinal, fixed, and mutable.

Cardinal signs are the signs that the sun enters on a solstice or equinox. A cardinal sign starts its season. Similarly, cardinal energy starts things. Individuals with a lot of cardinal placements in their charts tend to be the kind who create change around them, usually unconsciously, just be being there: the cardinal person doesn’t change, but others around them do. Things change because a cardinal person was there. Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn are the cardinal signs.

Fixed signs anchor the season. When the sun is in a fixed sign, it is solidly summer, autumn, winter, or spring. Pagans and astronomers are familiar with cross quarter days, the halfway points between a solstice and equinox or equinox and solstice: they fall in the fixed signs. Fixed energy is stable, stays the course, doesn’t change. Individuals with many fixed placements tend to stay the course, be loyal, even to a fault, and for them to be comfortable with change, it has to come from within. They will not change unless it’s their own idea. Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius are the fixed signs.

Mutable signs shift the season. When the sun is in a mutable sign, spring is shifting into summer, summer into autumn, autumn into winter, or winter into spring. The sun’s transit through a mutable sign ends on a solstice or equinox, when it enters the next cardinal sign. Mutable energy is changing energy. Individuals with many mutable placements are process oriented, feeling the process is more important than the goal, and more comfortable than anyone else with change. They embrace it, flowing with it like a willow in the current or the wind. Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces are the mutable signs.

Most natal charts have a combination of cardinal, fixed, and mutable sign placements. The question then, is to what extent an individual is mutable, fixed, or cardinal. Does one modality predominate? Or two combined? That gives us a general sense of their approach to things.

Next, I intend to explore each sign in more depth, both going through the individual signs and looking at them in pairs or groups. This will not necessarily be a continuous series. I will also post about other topics throughout, but hopefully, readers will gain a much more in depth perspective on the signs.

Up next: New Series: Ask the Astrologer

Ascendant: Rising to Meet the World

Along with sun sign and moon sign, rising sign is the third leg of the prime triad. Taken together, the sun, moon, and rising signs sketch out the overall flavor of an astrological chart. If you know nothing else about your own birth chart, know your sun, moon, and, if possible, your rising sign. If you are interpreting someone else’s chart, consider those three signs first.

The ascendant--commonly abbreviated AC, or Asc--is the point exactly on the eastern horizon. In a birth chart, this is the point that was on the eastern horizon at the moment of birth. The rising sign is whichever sign of the zodiac this point is in.

To understand this more clearly, it helps to look at what exactly the zodiac signs are. A brief detour for that:

An astrological chart is a map of the sky surrounding earth: the sky above, and the sky below. If you lie on your back in an open meadow, looking up at a clear sky, you will notice how the sky seems to curve above the earth, as though it were a bowl laid over us upside down. 

Imagine that the sky is, in fact, a bowl. Now, imagine that it is actually two bowls, one arcing above us, the other below us. The one below is the sky below.

In fact, the sky below does exist. It is where the stars and planets, and the sun and moon, are when they are below our horizon. They may be visible on the other side of the world, if not to us, but even when we don’t see them above us, they’re still there. Astronomers can measure where we are in relation to each of the other heavenly bodies, whether we’re seeing them at the moment or not. Astrology, in fact, is based on exactly that kind of measurement--once upon a time, astrology and astronomy were the same discipline--but taken from an earth-centric point of view. Astrology measures where the planets are in relation to us. It also measures where the sun is in relation to us--which reflects where we are in our orbit around the sun.

This measurement is taken, in part, by determining which section of sky the planets are in. Each zodiac sign is a 30 degree section of sky. 180 degrees make up the sky above, another 180 make up the sky below, for a total of 360 degrees: a complete circle. 12 x 30 = 360. 

The signs continuously rotate through the sky, above and below, making a complete rotation in approximately 24 hours. At any given moment, one sign is rising, straddling the eastern horizon, while its opposite sign descends, straddling the western horizon. Between them, five signs lie across the sky above, the other five across the sky below.

Which sign is rising at a given moment depends on where exactly you are and what the given moment is. At sunrise, the zodiac sign that the sun is currently in is rising. At sunset, that sign is descending, while its opposite sign rises. Anytime in between, the rising sign is whichever sign is at the right distance in the zodiac from where the sun currently is, to be on the eastern horizon.

The times of sunset and sunrise vary from one location on earth to another, especially during the times of year closest to a solstice. But even if we’re looking at a time solidly in the day or night, where exactly the ascendant is will vary somewhat based on location. For that reason, exact time and exact place of birth are needed, along with the date, to cast an accurate birth chart.

Some people do not know their times of birth. That information is not always recorded on birth certificates, and when it is recorded, it may be rounded off to the nearest hour, nearest half hour, or nearest five or ten minutes. The ascendant moves approximately one degree every four minutes, changing signs approximately every two hours. (It’s not quite that exact. Some signs rise faster than others. Still, of the most crucial pieces of a birth chart, the ascendant is the one that moves and changes the fastest.) So, if you have a birth time that puts your ascendant in the very last or very first degrees of its sign, an inaccurate birth time could give you a different rising sign from the one you actually have.

Without knowing the rising sign, a fairly accurate chart can be cast. It just doesn’t include the ascendant piece. There is also a technique called rectification, practiced by advanced astrologers, that determines a more correct chart if birth time is unknown or rounded. If you do have an accurate birth time and can draw a chart with an accurate ascendant, you get more information.

Your ascendant shows how you meet the world, and how the world meets you. Surface personality, what people see in you when they first meet you, tends to reflect your rising sign. If you have any planets in that sign, and/or close to your ascendant, they add their message, so the rising sign alone is not necessarily a complete picture of how you appear to others. It is, though, one of your main archetypes. It is the mask you wear.

The ascendant is also the lens you filter the world through. If your sun and moon are both in water signs, but your ascendant is in an earth sign, you meet the world in an earth way, although the water element is also strong in your chart. (Sign elements are coming up in the next post.) A fiery Aries sun person may not meet the world in such a bold way if their ascendant is in dreamy Pisces. A Virgo with Sagittarius rising may present as more happy-go-lucky than analytical.

Finally, the ascendant is where your entire chart meets. Every planetary placement you have, every message in your birth chart, manifests in the world, and in you, through your ascendant. (If this statement is your first introduction to that concept, it may take a while to understand. Feel free to put it aside for later.)

In short, your ascendant tells us how you rise to meet the world.

Up next: Overview of the signs

Moon: The Other "What's Your Sign?"

If the sun in your birth chart represents what you need for your personal growth, the moon shows us what you need on an even deeper level. Moon is where your emotions stem from, and your deepest desires, and your deepest sense of security, and your most deeply unconscious beliefs, feelings, and reactions. It shows how you’re inclined to process emotion, what you need to feel secure, what makes you feel the most at home. Moon sign and house reflect what you’re inclined to want in your home. They also reflect your family of origin, ancestors in general, your early experience of family life, how you were parented (especially by the mother), and if you yourself are a parent, your likely approach to the emotional aspects of parenting. 

To be well functioning is to be making positive responses to both your moon and your sun. Sometimes the moon and sun require similar things. Sometimes they represent very different, but equally important, needs. Either way, we all need a balance of moon and sun in our lives.

Steven Forrest assigns archetypes to each sign and a quick shorthand for sketching out sun, moon, and rising: you are your sun sign archetype, with the soul of your moon sign archetype, wearing the mask of your rising sign archetype. Or, we could say your sun is your brain and moon is your heart (however, this is just in a poetic sense. Astrological correlations with the body give the sun rulership over the heart and circulatory system and the moon rulership over the belly, stomach, and all hollow organs.)

Determining your moon sign takes slightly more work than determining your sun sign. Just knowing when your birthday is, day and month, does not reveal your moon sign, because which sign the moon is in on a given date varies from year to year. For example, one April 1st might see a new Aries moon, while another sees a full Libra moon, and yet another sees a Gemini moon. 

Knowing the year you were born as well as day and month does reveal moon sign for over half of the population, and for the rest, narrows the possible moon signs down to two. The moon changes signs every 2 ½ - 3 days. Consequently, slightly more than a third of us were born on a day when the moon changed signs. If you are one of those people, you need to know your birth time to determine whether you were born before or after the lunar sign change.

Where your moon is in relation to your sun tells you which phase of the moon you were born in. If your moon and sun signs are the same (double Libra, double Taurus, etc.), you were born during a new moon. If they’re opposite signs (Leo and Aquarius, Virgo and Pisces, etc.), you were born during a full moon. Anywhere in between reflects the in between new and full phase you were born in.

If your moon sign comes later in the zodiac than your sun sign but earlier than the sign opposite your sun, you were born during a waxing moon. If it’s earlier than your sun but later than the sun’s opposite sign, you were born during a waning moon. While the details are beyond the scope of this post, the phase of the moon in your natal chart adds an overall tone to the theme of your life. (More on that sometime later).

The moon is the fastest moving of the astrological planets, taking approximately 27 days to go through the whole zodiac. Some people find that they feel especially emotional, or in some cases especially energized, whenever the moon moves into their natal moon sign. Others do not notice this in particular.

It’s quite common for people to not feel like their sun signs, or at least not much like the usual descriptions of the personality their sun sign is supposed to have. Often, who we feel we are has a closer resonance with our natal moon than with our sun. For approximately 11 out of every 12 people, the moon and sun are in different signs. Even for those with the moon and sun in the same sign, there’s also the rising sign to consider, which may be quite different from the moon/sun placement.

Up next: Rising Sign: Where It All Comes Together

Addressing Astrological Misconceptions: If I'm Not My Sun Sign, Where in the Chart Am I?

If anyone asks you, “What’s your sign?” you’ll probably answer with your sun sign. You know that by virtue of knowing when your birthday is. If you know anything else about your birth chart, you’ve either visited an astrologer or sat down with an ephemeris or, most likely, plugged your date, time, and place of birth into a free online chart drawing program. 

Western astrology tends to equate sun sign with the person, sometimes to the exclusion of considering anything else in the chart. Not every version of astrology does. Not even every version of Western astrology does.

Western astrology--the kind I practice, and the kind you are most likely to encounter if you are not from India or China--is divided into two basic forms: traditional astrology and modern astrology. 

Traditional astrology is, essentially, astrology as it was practiced for centuries before the invention of the telescope and the discovery of “new” planets that could not be seen with the naked eye. In traditional astrology, only the planets from Mercury to Saturn, plus the sun and moon, are used as astrological planets. Only the Ptolemaic aspects (sextile, trine, opposition, square, and conjunction) are used. Traditional astrology focuses mostly on predictive methods, not on explaining the personality. As one traditional astrologer friend of mine put it, the king didn’t consult an astrologer to find out what kind of person he was. He already knew that. What he wanted to know was if he would win the battle.

Modern astrology is the newer version, stemming from a revival of Western astrology in the late nineteenth century. Before that, astrology had fallen out of favor, and mostly out of use, in Europe and its conquests. The relationship between Christianity and astrology has never been an easy one, and after the Renaissance arrived, bringing with it the Protestant Reformation, the scientific method, and, most crucially, a gradual but eventually thorough divorce between the science of astronomy and the art of astrology, astrology virtually disappeared. It was ultimately revived by the Theosophists, by which time Uranus and Neptune had been discovered, and Pluto would be discovered within decades. 

This new version of astrology added the (relatively) recently discovered planets, assigning them astrological functions and sign rulerships. It also added other aspects besides the Ptolemaic ones, and brought more of a focus on psychology, explaining the personality, and matching personal traits with signs. While modern astrologers may also make predictions, they tend, overall, to have a less deterministic and more choice centered approach than traditional astrologers. (There are exceptions on both sides, but this is the general trend.)

Similar to how various cultures locate the center of personality in the heart, or the brain, or the liver, or the lower belly, various forms of astrology place the center of the birth chart, the primary indicator of the person, in different places. Modern astrology assigns that function to the sun, but in traditional astrology, the ascendant holds that primary role, with the sun providing some supporting detail. In Vedic astrology (India’s version), that function is assigned to either the moon or the ascendant, depending on which branch of Vedic we’re talking about.

Yet every form of astrology puts the sun or the ascendant or the moon at the center. There is no version (at least, no widely practiced version) that considers Mercury or Mars to be the center of the chart. (Chinese astrology is loosely based on Jupiter cycles, but that’s a subject for another post. It also gives the moon a central role.)  So, whichever way we look at it, the sun, moon, and ascendant are, in one way or another, primary indicators of the person.

Up next: A look at the moon

Addressing Astrological Misconceptions: Sun Sign

The sun in a birth chart represents your core being. Its placement, and its aspects, give us a very general sense of what you need most for your own personal growth. In other words, what you need to be happy.

Sun sign is part of this picture. But so is the house of the sun. If you are, say, a Gemini, your Gemini-ness will manifest quite differently if your sun is in the secretive twelfth house, than if it’s in the highly visible tenth. Still differently if it’s in the very Gemini-like third house. And that only covers a quarter of the possible house placements.

Aspects can modify the sun’s manifestation as much or more than house placement. A sun in tight conjunction to Mars gives us one kind of message. Square the moon, another. Opposition to Neptune tells us yet something else. And, of course, any two or all three of those aspects could exist in the same chart. As can seemingly infinite other combinations.

But even that says little about personality. Your personality is shaped by your personal growth and life experiences, which in turn correspond with the messages in your birth chart. But how it’s shaped depends on you. People with highly similar birth charts can, and often do, have very different personalities. That’s because they each respond in a different way to the birth chart’s messages.

The differences are even greater when we consider people who have the same sun sign but not much else in common in their birth charts. In those cases, each individual has the same basic message in their sun sign, but they are receiving very different impulses from the house placement of their sun, its aspects, and the placements of their other planets. They may be as similar to each other as a pair of jeans is to a window curtain: both are made from cloth, but the resemblance mostly ends there.

Your sun sign is not who you are. It’s how you become what you become. And even the how can have different manifestations.

Astrology As Story Medicine

You’re picky because you’re a Virgo. You’re stubborn because you’re a Taurus. You’re indecisive because you’re a Libra. You’re arrogant because you’re a Leo. You’re a chatterbox because you’re a Gemini. You’re a space cadet because you’re a Pisces.


What passes for astrology in pop culture is primarily that kind of silly sun sign astrology. That kind requires no work. Everyone knows their sun sign by virtue of knowing when their birthday is (except for those born on cusp dates, usually between the 20th and 22nd of the month, who get told by some astrology columns that their sun sign is one thing, while others assert that it’s the other - but even those people can narrow their possible sun signs down to two).

A full birth chart tells you much more about yourself. But to create one, you have to know not just your date of birth, but also the exact time and place. The chart must be cast individually. Today, you can plug your birth data into any of a number of free online sites and get a chart instantly. Even professional astrologers typically rely on chart casting software. Before the advent of software, knowing your birth chart required a painstaking search through the ephemeris, careful calculations, and drawing the entire thing by hand.

With a complete birth chart, you have a bigger picture. Not just a Leo, but an eighth house Leo sun with the moon in Sagittarius and Capricorn rising. Not just a Taurus, but a third house Taurus sun with the moon in Gemini and Pisces rising. Not just a Libra, but a double Libra in the ninth house with Aquarius rising.

Sun, moon, and rising sign are the primary triad. The rest of the chart tells even more of your story. It’s like narrowing your address down to the street, building, and apartment number, instead of just saying you live in Boston, or in Massachusetts, or in the USA.

Astrology is a tool for telling your own story. It can also be a tool for creating it.

Astrology is story medicine. A powerful kind, but one that is often misused, and misconceptions abound. To be continued….