Sun Sign

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….