ascendantIn contemplating an individual horoscope one of the first things we notice is the twelve separate divisions or houses. The native’s personal birth data (day, month, year, time and place) determines the size of each house, the sign on the cusp of house, and in which house each planet resides. It is important to note that not every house will contain a planet, it is an early observation almost everyone makes when they first see their chart and wonder what the implications are of a vacant (or untenanted) house. Their minds are quickly put at ease when they realize it is mathematically impossible to have a planet in every house since there are ten planets (including the Sun and he Moon) and twelve houses. However, every house does have a sign on the cusp, and every house is associated with an element, a quality, and a natural ruling sign.

First House

Since we are in the month of Aries, the beginning of the zodiacal year, it is appropriate to consider the 1st house. This is where everything really begins since the 1st house represents the individual. Simply put, it is about image, personality, temperament and appearance.  It reflects how we show up in the world and how we respond to our immediate environment. The 1st house cusp is also the Ascendant and a very key element in any chart.  The sign on the Ascendant is considered the ‘rising sign’ and the planet that rules that sign is considered the chart ruler, having a pivotal role in the entire horoscope. Therefore, as we begin to read a chart we must consider the actual sign appearing on the Ascendant, but also take into account the nature of the house. The natural sign for the 1st house is Aries and so the elemental qualities of fire need to be considered.

Aries Ascendant

MarsLet’s look at the example of an Aries Ascendant. The Aries rising individual would exhibit qualities of that sign in terms of personality and temperament, how they express themselves and how they respond to various people and situations they encounter. Considering the appropriate key words such as brave, impatient, action, competitive, impulsive, reactive, and assertive, we can begin to get a picture of how the individual might appear to others. If we now also consider that Aries is ruled by the planet Mars that provides an even clearer picture of the nature of the house, and the individual.

Mars Influences Aries

The keywords for Mars have distinct similarities to the sign of Aries so we can consider there is some fuel being added to the fire and this person will likely appear to be very passionate, energetic, competitive, confident, fearless, and determined as well as quite bold and headstrong. This is how they will push forward with getting what they want and influence how they respond to things along the way.

Mars represents our desires, our drive, our energy. It is all directed forward and is very active in this 1st house position. When all of these things are considered together (rising sign, ruling planet, nature of the house, and element) we get a real sense of what a natural 1st house represents. To illustrate how an ‘Aries rising’ might appear consider the strong personalities of these famous Aries Ascendants: Errol Flynn; John Lennon; Bette Midler; and Barbra Streisand. All passionate about their goals, all assertive and outwardly confident, and some a little more impulsive than others. I think you get the picture.

Applying Keywords to the Ascendant

Statistically, we can assume that only one twelfth of the population has a natural first house or Aries rising. So, what does this mean for the other eleven rising signs? First of all, it means that whichever sign is on the cusp of the 1st house, or the Ascendant, reflects the individual’s personality, temperament and physical qualities. Once again, it is how they show up in the world, and the planet ruling the Ascendant is the chart ruler. For example, a Taurus rising would have Venus as chart ruler. Using some key words, it could suggest the individual is solid, reliable, hardworking, values beauty or is beautiful, sensuous or tactile, and values money or material things. This is how they will seem to others as they reflect their 1st house qualities, with the active energy indicative of Mars working through the expression of Venusian qualities. Basically, adding some fire to the more natural earthy qualities of Taurus to add some punch. Next, we could consider Gemini rising with Mercury as chart ruler, Cancer rising with the Moon as chart ruler, and so on.

Take a look at your own Ascendant and see where the key words for the rising sign combine with the 1st house representations and the underlying qualities of Mars to provide a description of how you may appear to others. We’ll build on this framework as we explore the next eleven houses in the months to come.