The Ascendant is the symbolic point of entry for the individual, determined by the place and time of birth, the birth chart laying out the relative positions of the planets and lights as potentially observable (or as falling below the horizon) at that moment, at that spot on Earth (for Northern Hemisphere births, the chart is as if you are standing on the spot of birth, facing South, Southern Hemisphere, facing North). In a way the natal chart is a map of you sliding into the world, meeting the environment, showing your face, literally and figuratively, for the very first time–and the Ascendant describes your relationship to that world in a very specific way: it tells us how the individual, on first impulse, interacts with the world, and how that world receives the individual, ‘reading’ them through the attitudes and behaviors characteristic of the sign, the responses indicated in particular by the aspects the Ascendant makes and by the state of the Ascendant ruler, with these often funneled through matters of the House(s) an entity rules or is placed in.
This situation can make for an interesting paradox, as the individual sees themselves as having one particular interpretation of the sign energies in interaction, while the world may read them as having the same or other sign related qualities (and if the individual has Neptune or Pisces in the 1st, or Pluto in the 7th, they may be unable to avoid being a screen for the projections of others). For example, someone with Aquarius on the Ascendant may see themselves as unique, while others see them as too trendy, or too closely following ‘group-think’, or they see themselves as intellectually-oriented while others see them as so quirky they can’t relate or as erratic thinkers or even as so avant garde they leave others in the dust, or they may see themselves as using pure reason to navigate the world while the world sees someone so cold that the ability to find, much less join, their group is hampered–or the opposite, for all these, is possible–it’s only to point out that there are subtleties to viewpoints so that what one believes they’re conveying can be read in another light by those with whom they interact.
The Ascendant and 1st House also describe one’s survival methods–that is, what you believed the environment demanded from you early in life. In the case of Aquarius, the message may have been you have to be smart to survive–or maybe the world will only value you if you are totally original–or you need a role within the group to survive, and one day, you should lead it–or conversely, you’re only safe when you act as an individual–or even you have to be a rebel to be real. This point is in many ways about being seen, and that means one can feel less than, even invisible, if the Ascendant traits aren’t recognized and in some form validated by the world at large (with the potential that validation may come in negative interpretation of the sign qualities).
The way the Ascendant Self-image is mixed, more or less, with early childhood messages from the surrounding world and the way it can foster fears (because it’s natural to think about what you’re told and automatically draw the conclusion that if you don’t can institute disaster) means that operating mainly from the Ascendant energy can create barriers to operating successfully, and to understanding more completely why we were given those messages, as well as whether they’re still valid today. Often they are not; as adults it’s vital we reassess our Ascendant related persona in light of what behaviors and beliefs we still carry that may not serve our life and current reality. For instance, in our example Aquarian, if the message was you’ve got to be both smart and unique, and this individual has a Leo Sun, we may see someone who works very hard to excel, even to best, others, as if their life depended on it–that’s the ‘you’d better do this or else’ childhood message at work–and in Whole Sign astrology that places the Sun in the 7th, making for a built-in conflict, as the person has the urge to stand out from the crowd (which serves the Ascendant urge) but also the urge to partner, cooperate, connect, or to go before an audience and exchange energy that way–all of which to be successful require at minimum some humility, a willingness to see and regard others and their needs as equal to one’s own, and a non-competitive stance–not the easiest, when one is told that one must excel, because excellence can only be judged in juxtaposition with others.
There’s also the matter of the physical Self-image related to the Ascendant. Though our health largely resides in the 6th, and the Self-image of who we are and what talents we possess is found in the 2nd, the image we have of our own body interacting with the world is described in the 1st/ Ascendant. It’s how we picture ourselves in our own minds; as such, the image we hold may exaggerate some things, minimize or distort others, and is very likely to have a level of acceptability and appeal in our own minds that differs, at least somewhat, from how others see and assess our attractiveness (the world almost always sees us in a more positive light than we see ourselves!) This is one of those areas where it’s best to accentuate what we see as positive, and then go forward–otherwise we can judge and censor ourselves out of any number of paths and opportunities–go after what you want, and let the world respond!
What about other points or bodies found in the 1st? They definitely figure in to the ‘reaching out’ persona, and typically are qualities we will see as great strengths–until we push them too far (it’s inevitable, either by exaggerating their importance within the personality, or by giving them the lead, and so allowing those energies to run our interactions), at which point feedback prompts us to see them as our greatest weaknesses–and neither is precisely accurate. We understand these energies, yet they’re so integral to our ability to relate to the world that they are bound to take on too large a role in interaction–and then comes the swing in the other direction, where we condemn them, see them as liabilities, our Achilles heel. It’s only when we put them in perspective (often possible through funneling their expression through the House(s) they rule) that we find their best expression in the interaction equation–at which point they truly do become great strengths.
Let’s look at how something like the Moon in the 1st would play into personality expression and outreach to the world. Moon here makes one exquisitely sensitive and intuitive, especially in terms of allowing the physical reactions to the environment to inform the mind and perceptions–but what happens when one puts one’s feelings first and foremost in interaction with the world? Disaster, that’s what, as there are many situations in life that need to be met first with reason, situational awareness, and a decided lack of emotional response, required to assess reality in the first place. Yes, the feeling state and intuition is highly useful–but can’t always be the first thing exposed. The result is likely to eventually become a volatile, overly sensitive, ‘hurt’ personality that suffers unless met with 100% acceptance and love–and if the interaction ‘feelers’ are out principally for uncritical acceptance, other information won’t have a chance of getting in–with the likely result that feedback is negative, as others find it difficult to deal with what to them is an overly emotional personality.
If we have this 1st House Moon with the previous example of an Aquarian Ascendant, that means Luna rules the 6th, setting up an connection between the health and the emotional state, and offering these possibilities of channeling the sensitivity and intuition into a commitment, duty, obligation, or other work that specifically carries an aura of service. It’s in dedicating the emotional attention to something that takes one outside oneself that the intuitive and emotional nature can truly thrive. If that 1st House Moon were to rule the 9th, for instance, the outlet might be found in sharing knowledge or faith; ruling the 3rd it could be about writing out one’s feelings (anything from a diary to fiction to non-fiction that stirs the emotions), or concern one’s thinking/ ideas, one’s neighborhood (especially the childhood arena, perhaps re-visited), or in communication in general or with siblings in particular. No matter what, there’s a way to channel the energy that gives it grounding and perspective–and that’s what’s important.
And each year, when the Sun crosses your Ascendant, you can feel very vulnerable; there’s a floodlight on you and your interaction with the world, and it can be unnerving (unless you’re one of those people who loves the attention, who feels best when everyone’s eyes are upon them!) I think it’s a kind of animal response, one programmed into (most of) us for safety, and it may prompt us to hide. I suggest another tack, though: work up the nerve to allow scrutiny, and make sure that you’re pushing to the forefront all the things you’re most proud of, happy with, or hoping to connect to others through. You’ll be going into relative obscurity and isolation for the six months the Sun is below the horizon, so allow yourself to be seen–make it a Self-affirming experience. Though this only happens once a year, it’s good to be aware of, for matters of timing, and for awareness of the start of a personal year of your own.
Next up, the New Moon!