star material

Rising Sign: What Is It, and What Does It Mean?

Photo-Illustration: by Preeti Kinha; Photos: Getty Images

Believe it or not, we’re not just a single zodiac sign; we’re the entire sky. At the exact moment you were born, every planet, celestial body, and galactic coordinate occupied a zodiac sign — and each has a specific astrological significance. Let’s dive into one of the most popular, and most misunderstood, placements: the Rising Sign, otherwise known as your Ascendant.

First, what actually is the Rising Sign?

That second you took your first breath, all the planets were arranged in a unique configuration. The snapshot of the sky at your exact moment of birth is referred to as your “birth chart” (or “natal chart”) and is calculated based on your precise date, time, and location of arrival. Astrologers believe that birth charts can provide powerful insight on an individual’s personality, identity, motivation, along with opportunities, timing, and even the recurring themes experienced throughout a lifetime.

Perhaps I’m a bit (a lot) biased, but I find birth charts to be absolutely extraordinary; they consolidate dozens upon dozens of data points, ultimately depicting the sky as a neat and orderly circle punctuated by various shapes and symbols (representing the planets and celestial bodies). While the location of the planets will vary from person to person, the architecture of the birth chart — that is, a perfect 360-degree circle — is always the same. And that steady shape is dictated by none other than the Rising Sign.

The Rising Sign refers to the zodiac sign that was rising (or ascending, hence why it’s also referred to as the “Ascendant”) in the eastern horizon when you were born. Although the stars overhead may appear static to the naked eye, the scene overhead actually moves extremely rapidly. Likewise, the Rising Sign is an extremely sensitive placement: The Ascendant changes zodiac signs every two hours, so in order to calculate your Rising Sign, you need to know your exact (not approximate) time of birth.

Once you are able to verify your to-the-minute time of arrival (check your birth certificate or text a parent), head over to your preferred astrology website or app (my recommendation is TimePassages, which has actually been around since the ’80s), to pull up your birth chart and discover your Rising Sign.

So what does the Rising Sign reveal?

The Rising Sign reveals your perception of reality. Although it is often erroneously referred to as the “mask you wear in public,” the Rising Sign is much more personal than your external, front-facing persona. Your Rising Sign represents the microcosm of your entire life experience, including the themes, cycles, and patterns that will show up in your life over and over again. It functions as the instruction manual for your reality, thus informing not just the way others see you, but also the way you perceive others. Trippy? Welcome to the world of astrology, baby.

What’s more, your Rising Sign also establishes your “chart ruler” — basically, the planet that calls the shots on your entire life. This planet is instrumental in shaping your lived experience, your long-term life trajectory, and how you relate to the world around you. Discovering your chart ruler is a powerful and eye-opening experience: It gives you powerful insight into the narrative that defines your reality. Likewise, understanding your Ascendant is key to understanding your truth. It sets the tone of your life and illuminates your reality.

And what does each Rising Sign mean?

All right, all right, all right. Now that you know how to find your Rising Sign, what it represents, and why it’s so extremely important, let’s explore how each of the 12 Ascendants express their truth.


Chart Ruler: Mars

Those with an Aries Ascendant see the world as a competitive, exciting, and spirited place. Winning is everything for Aries Rising, who believe that — in order to live the life they were destined to experience — they’re going to need to come out on top. Since Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, the energy around this fire sign is all about the initial spark of life, momentum, and charisma. With Mars — the planet of action and motivation — as your chart ruler, you are happiest when you’re working towards exciting achievements and accomplishments. Aries Risings can be a bit reckless at times (this sign is known to lack impulse control), but at the end of the day, that’s what it takes to live the fast life.


Chart Ruler: Venus

Taurus Risings value lasting stability. Those born under a Taurus Ascendant seek to build lives they can trust, and prioritize security, comfort, and long-term investments. As the first earth sign of the zodiac, Taurus appreciates physical, tactile experiences, so people with a Taurus Ascendant tend to enjoy working with their hands. Venus — the planet of love and beauty — is the chart ruler for a Taurus Rising, which means romance, sensuality, pleasure, stability, and longevity are extremely important for those born under this sign. Taurus Ascendants can be a bit stubborn and averse to change, so learning to trust the process is crucial.


Chart Ruler: Mercury

Gemini Risings are driven by curiosity, play, and social connection. The notorious air sign known for its intrinsic duality, Gemini Risings are inspired by… well, everything. Folks with a Gemini Ascendant see the world as an exciting place, filled with interesting people to meet and fascinating subjects to learn. Mercury — the planet of communication and information — is the chart ruler for those with a Gemini Ascendant; hungry for conversation and tidbits of wisdom, communication plays a critical role in every Gemini Rising’s experience. Although Gemini Ascendant can be a bit flighty and have a tendency to gossip, this placement thrives on novelty, making fun an actual core value for Gemini Rising.


Chart Ruler: The Moon

Cancer, symbolized by the crab with its hard exterior shell, needs to feel safe and supported in order to let down its guard. Likewise, those born with a Cancer Rising often experience themes of trust, loyalty, security, and support throughout their life. Sensitive, nurturing, and extremely loyal, Cancer Risings often assume parental roles within their social life. The Moon is the Cancer Ascendant’s chart ruler. And just as the Moon is constantly oscillating through its 28-day wax-and-wane cycle, those with Cancer Risings may cycle through emotions rapidly. This can get exhausting, so learning to honor the ebb and flow of sensitivities is critical for Cancer Ascendants.


Chart Ruler: The Sun

Leo Risings experience life as high drama theatrics, regularly seeking out larger-than-life experiences. Bold, brave, warm, and courageous, Leo Risings are drawn to the spotlight — and not without good reason. The chart ruler for a Leo Ascendant is the Sun, the bright star at the center of our solar system. As you might’ve guessed, it’s extremely important that Leo Ascendants be seen, appreciated, and recognized for their talents and accomplishments. However, it’s important for Leo Ascendants to remember they’re not the only stars in the galaxy: By tapping into their innate generosity, Leo Risings can learn to share the stage.


Chart Ruler: Mercury

Virgo Risings experience reality through systems, structure, and productivity. Virgo, an Earth sign, is inspired by all that is practical, grounded, and rooted in reality. Likewise, Virgos Ascendants enjoy cultivating routines and habits that improve their day-to-day experiences. With Mercury — the planet of communication and expression — as the chart ruler for Virgo Risings, this placement is always collecting, processing, and sharing information. Dialogue is very important for this placement, so Virgo Risings deeply value relationships that enable easy and open conversation. Although Virgo Ascendants are often prone to perfectionism, the best antidote to this criticality is developing strong compassion for self and others.


Chart Ruler: Libra

Those born with a Libra Ascendant value balance, harmony, and diplomacy. Inherently social, Libra Risings are happiest when partnered, and may often assume the role as mediator on an interpersonal level. Venus — the planet of love, beauty, and values — is the chart ruler for those with Libra Rising, which emphasize this placement’s strong aesthetic sensibilities, appreciation for romance, and their emphasis on peace and tranquility. Because Libra Risings are so deeply committed to maintaining decorum, this placement can struggle with indecision for fear of upsetting others, so it’s important for Libra Ascendants to remember that sometimes the right decision is, in fact, the hard one.


Chart Ruler: Pluto

Those born with a Scorpio Ascendant see themselves as natural-born detectives — and perhaps they’re not wrong. Scorpio Risings use their emotional sensitivities to get to the root of every situation in order to excavate the truth, deeply linking complex nuance with powerful intuitive abilities. Pluto, the distant celestial body associated with deep and powerful transformation, is the chart ruler for Scorpio Ascendants, making metamorphosis a recurring theme in their life. Although individuals with this placement can often be hard to read (they after, after all, harboring countless secrets), once a Scorpio Rising builds trust, they prove to be deeply loyal friends and lovers.


Chart Ruler: Jupiter

The life of a Sagittarius Rising is defined by adventure. The final fire sign of the zodiac, Sagittarius energy is dynamic, spirited, and vigorous. Accordingly, Sagittarius Risings are most fulfilled when connecting with interesting people, pursuing new experiences, and deep-diving into bizarre esoteric topics with like-minded friends. Jupiter — the planet of luck and expansion — is the chart ruler for Sagittarius Rising, emphasizing this placement’s intrinsic optimism. While Sagittarius Ascendants have a tendency to “truth bomb” and end up with their foot in their mouth, this sign is guaranteed to tell you exactly how it is … and then maybe a little more.


Chart Ruler: Saturn

Capricorn is the last Earth sign of the zodiac, and is known for its stern, stoic, and hardworking attitude. When this sign illuminates your perspective on reality, you see your life — and everything in it — as a physical manifestation of perseverance. You’re governed by Saturn, the planet associated with commitment and responsibilities, and you move through each and every day with a deep awareness of your relentless fortitude. Folks with this placement often feel that they have the weight of the world on their shoulders, which ultimately leads to their cold and hard-edged reputation. But when a Capricorn Rising remembers to not treat their friends like their employees, this placement reveals itself to be honest, steady, and refreshingly consistent.


Chart Ruler: Uranus

As the most innovative, progressive, and humanitarian sign of the zodiac, Aquarians are determined to make positive, lasting change on a large scale. For Aquarius Ascendant, their life trajectory is fueled by issues relating to collective ideals, so those born with this placement are determined to address injustices. The chart ruler for Aquarius Rising is Uranus — the distant gas-giant associated with revolution and rebellion — emphasizing this placement’s unconventional spirit. Because Aquarius Risings are thinking on a global level, this placement isn’t a huge fan of small talk, which is why they can come off as a bit cold or aloof. They’re trying to save the world, okay?


Chart Ruler: Neptune

Pisces Risings experience life through vibes. The last sign of the zodiac, Pisces has absorbed the wisdom, empathy, and experiences of the eleven preceding signs, which means this placement is embedded with emotions, memories, and information that define Pisces’ signature psychic abilities. The chart ruler for Pisces Ascendant is Neptune, the distant planet associated with dreams, illusion, fantasy, and the subconscious realm. In fact, because Pisces Ascendants are so connected to energy — the intangible astral realm — it’s not always easy for this placement to connect with the world through linear thoughts and ideas: Music, art, and poetry define this ethereal Rising Sign. When in doubt, this placement should embrace their creative sensibilities.

Rising Sign: What Is It, and What Does It Mean?