If the influx of astrology apps and memes have taught us anything, it’s that there’s a lot more to our natal charts than our sun signs. And though our sun sign is often the sign that everyone knows, and the one that our friends use to figure out which memes to best roast us with, it’s our rising sign that leaves that important first impression.
So what is a rising sign, exactly?
According to VICE senior astrologer Annabel Gat, your rising sign, or ascendant, is one of your “big three” signs along with your sun and moon signs. Based on the time and place you’re born, your rising sign determines the placement of the 12 divisions in your chart, called houses, which astrologers use to understand areas of your life when writing horoscopes. The rising sign “allows us to see what areas of life are influenced by which planets,” Gat says. (If you don’t know yours, you can find it out with Astro Guide.)
In astrology, your rising sign can be thought of as the way you express yourself—it’s the filter through which you process and exchange information. It represents your identity, physical body, appearance, and external personality.
Astro Guide’s (VICE’s astrology app for cosmic wellness) rising horoscopes take all of these factors into account to give you tips on how to put your best-self forward, including how to dress for the day’s cosmic weather, and when to watch your words. Here’s a quick guide to all that information, and how best to put it to use:
Figuring out your rising sign
“Your rising sign is the sign of the zodiac that was rising on the eastern horizon at the first moment you came into contact with the external world, and when your consciousness dawned on this physical plane,” says astrologer Priya Kale, who writes rising sign horoscopes for Astro Guide. To find it, you need to know your time of birth—to the minute—along with your birth date, and place of birth.
Don’t know what time you were born? Don’t worry
Astrology is based on precise calculations, so even a few seconds can make a significant difference. “Without the time of birth, astrologers can get plenty of information but it’s like seeing through a blurry lens,” Kale says.
If you don’t know your time of birth, you could investigate hospital records, or ask your parents or a relative that may remember. Even if they don’t remember the exact time, you can ask some other questions to help narrow it down to a less than two-hour window. Did the birds just start chirping? You were probably born around dawn.
Astrologers can also help using a technique called rectification, a process of examining major life events, physical characteristics reflected by the rising sign, and other factors, Kale says.
If none of that works, however, Gat suggests just using your sun sign as your rising sign to read your horoscopes. “The sun is a core part of ourselves, so reading your rising sign horoscopes for this planet will still bring you plenty of helpful information,” she says.
Putting your rising sign to work
Your rising sign horoscope can give you an additional, and equally relevant, layer of information. “When you first meet a Leo rising, you’ll likely notice their glamorous way of presenting themselves and that they’re the life of the party, or perhaps that they’re great leaders and hold themselves in a regal, dignified manner,” Gat says. “For example, humble Virgo might be a bit flashier if they have Leo rising, or childlike Aries might be a bit more mature with Capricorn rising, a sign famous for its no-bullshit, industrious energy.”
Because astrologers associate rising signs with your appearance and external personality, rising sign horoscopes offer clues for beauty tips, rituals, crystals, meditation, and other tools. Kale says this is to balance and ground the personal energy you exude into the environment around you. “When you are feeling centered and balanced, you can flow with life. And even if challenges arise, you will know how to deal with them,” she says.
Express your personality
Your rising sign rules your sense of identity, your physical body and appearance, and external personality; so depending on planetary activity related to your rising sign on a given day, there may be times when it’s more ideal to get a haircut, change your style, or get a beauty treatment, Kale says.
All signs have the ability to manifest in a full spectrum of good, bad, and everything in between, she says, and it’s on us “to be conscious of how we choose to express the energy of each of our signs.” For example, if you find yourself in the middle of undesirable circumstances, your rising horoscopes can help you reflect on the energy around you, and use that process to evolve from it, rather than succumb to it. Sometimes, Kale includes tips in her horoscopes for colors or stones that can help the situation along.
Using your rising sign to map out the rest of your chart
Your rising sign determines the placement of your houses, and each of those houses represents a different area of your life. The sign of your ascendant is the start of your first house, which is correlated with your appearance and style, and the second house, or the zodiac sign that follows it, represents financial and material matters, according to Gat. So if your rising sign is Leo, your second house is Virgo, and if your rising sign is Aquarius your second house is Pisces.
The cusp of your seventh house, or your descendant, is exactly opposite your ascendant. In astrology this relates to one-on-one relationships, and being that the ascendant and descendent are two ends of the same axis, this suggests our relationships are “a mirror of us at their best,” Kale says. “They reflect to us what we are attracting with our energy at any given point.”
Rising signs are the external-facing you, but they go deeper than the surface
People often say the rising sign is the “mask you wear,” but it goes deeper than that, Kale says. “Being human and having a physical body is the ‘mask you wear,’ so your rising sign describes the vessel for the spirit, soul, and consciousness within you.” In other words, your rising sign is much more important and integral to who you are than a mask you can take off. So don’t neglect it!
Download the Astro Guide app by VICE on an iOS device to read daily horoscopes personalized for your sun, moon, and rising signs, and learn how to apply cosmic events to self care, your friendships, and relationships.