When most people think of astrology, the first thing they're likely to think of is their sun sign. After all, that's usually the sign you’d reference when reading your horoscope or looking up the cosmic compatibility between you and your crush. But if you're looking to begin diving deeper into your personal astrology, understanding the difference between your sun, moon, and rising sign is a must-know place to start.
Your sun, moon, and rising sign are your big three signs in astrology — think of them as your most significant astrological stats. These three signs are super important in your birth chart, and each rules over its own part of your personality and overall self. While these signs are still just the tip of the very large iceberg that is your astrological birth chart, understanding them will give you a fuller look at your personal astrology than simply looking at your sun sign alone.
Even if you’re not into astrology, it’s only a matter of time until someone asks you for your big three — so it’s due time you got yours down pat. That said, let's take a quick journey through the basic meanings and differences between sun, moon, and rising signs so you can start applying them to your life and making the most of astrology. Read on to get the scoop on this important astro triad.
Sun Signs: The Core Of Your Personal Solar System
Sun signs are the most popular and well-known part of one's birth chart when it comes to mainstream astrology. For some people, it's the only sign they know! Most horoscopes are based on sun signs, so that's usually what someone is referring to when they ask you what your sign is or tell you their own. If you want to confirm your sun sign, all you need in most cases is the month and date of your birth — you can plug your deets into an online sun sign calculator to find out for sure.
There’s a reason why the sun sign is so celebrated in astrology. Just as the sun is the center of our solar system, your sun sign represents the core of who you are. "Astrologically speaking, the sun in a natal chart is the luminary that symbolizes one's vital life force, spirit, intellect, and identity," astrologer Ashley Otero tells Bustle. "Being the only star amongst the other nine spheres that our Earth mingles with in space, the sun is the symbol of centeredness, illumination, and life — because without it, we'd cease to exist!"
Your sun sign rules over your ego and sense of self, as well as your sense of creativity, vitality, and drive. It speaks to your life’s big picture goals and grand-scheme motivations. When it comes to your personality, your sun sign is a constant: It represent the center of you. "The sun is our ego and will. It shows what motivates and drives us, what pushes us to success," astrologer Lisa Stardust tells Bustle. "Our sun sign determines our passions."
In his book Astrology For The Millions, author Grant Lewi stated:
You may think, dream, imagine, hope to be a thousand things, according to your Moon and your other planets: but the Sun is what you are, and to be your best self in terms of your Sun is to cause your energies to work along the path in which they will have maximum help from planetary vibrations.
Your sun sign in astrology is also generally considered your highest expression of self. "Your sun sign is an indication of how you present yourself to the world and is associated with your unique identity," astrologer Renée Watt tells Bustle. "The sun’s placement in a chart will often tell us how one may express themselves and can often have an effect on creativity." That all said, it makes sense why there's an added emphasis on sun signs in mainstream astrology.
Moon Signs: The Shadow Side Of You
Let's step out of the sunshine and journey into the beauty and sensitivity of the moon-ruled night. Just as the moon in the sky governs over the nighttime and all that hides in the shadows, so does your moon sign in astrology — which is to say that it relates to the more private and emotional parts of yourself. In order to find out your moon sign, you're going to need a full birth date, year, and exact time/time zone. When you've got that, you can either consult an astrologer or use an online moon sign calculator to find out what zodiac sign rules your lunar self.
"The moon represents the mother/maternal energy in our charts," Stardust says. "It represents our desires and emotions, our memories — all that we keep internalized and do not show to others." In other words, the moon in astrology rules over your intimate side — think vulnerable things like emotional intimacy, deep-rooted feelings, and sentimentality. It’s about the more shadowy parts of your personality that only the people closest to you get to see.
"Moon signs tell us a lot about how one processes emotions and can give a lot of insight on how someone functions intuitively," Watt says. And lunar energy can manifest in very different ways, depending on the element of your moon zodiac sign. "Water moons are often very empathic and need emotional validation, while earth moons generally find comfort through financial security. On the other end of that, fire and air signs generally feel happiest when they’re free of responsibility and able to be their true selves,” Watt says.
The sun may represent your bright and visible core, but moon is like your inner self. It's associated with the emotional, vulnerable, and more private sides of your personality that like to feel comfortable and safe before being revealed to others. "The moon symbolizes the soul, our emotional reflexes, and our sense of belonging," says Otero. "It corresponds with the many stages of life, particularly early life when our existence depends on the sustenance of caregivers. Thus, the moon also symbolizes our past, our home, and our comfort zone."
Rising Signs: You At First Glance
Your rising sign is also known as your ascendant, and it’s always the sign that rules the first house of your zodiac chart (which is where your chart begins). "Being the first of the chart's four angles, this point symbolizes the merge of spirit and body," Otero says. "The rising sign is the sign that was on the horizon the moment you took your first breath [and it’s] one of the most significant areas of a chart." And unlike your sun and moon signs, your rising sign isn't a planet or a luminary. "The ascendant is the point where the sky meets earth and it's where the sun rises each day, hence the interchangeable term 'rising sign,'" Otero says.
In order to find out your rising sign, you're going to need your exact birth date, time, and place, as rising signs change approximately every two hours. This means that even people born on the exact same day are likely to have different rising signs. Dig up ye old birth certificate and either consult an astrologer or use an online rising sign calculator to find out yours.
So what does your rising sign mean? While you may think your sun sign is the most obvious in your personality, the version of you that people see at first glance is actually more likely to be explained by your rising sign. "Rising signs can be the mask we wear when we are first meeting someone, to protect our inner selves," Watt says. "It also gives information on self-awareness and how one adapts to new surroundings."
While the sun represents the core of yourself and the moon represents your inner self, you can think of your rising sign as being representative of your outer self.
Your rising zodiac sign dictates the parts of yourself that show up immediately on a surface level — such as how you appear to others, how you react to things off-the-cuff, how you relate to other people (especially socially), and your overall demeanor. It even symbolizes "the body, its appearance, and the persona," according to Otero.
"The rising sign or ascendent is the part of ourselves we show to the world. It’s the face we wear for others to see and view," Stardust says. "We show off more of who we are by our rising sign, meaning people pick up on the characteristics of this sign more than the other elements of our chart." Rising signs may represent the more superficial part of your personality, but they're still a key ingredient in the cosmic blend that is uniquely you.
Now You Know Your Big Three Signs — Here's What To Keep In Mind
There is so much more to astrology (and you!) than one single sign could ever represent — and know you know it. Once you have your own sun, moon, and rising signs down, you can start exploring how they work together to create your personal cosmic flavor. Consulting a professional astrologer will give you a comprehensive look at your birth chart, or you can start reading your birth chart at home if you’re willing to do a little extra research. So get out there and embark on some cosmic therapy to learn more about the many cosmic sides of you — using your main three signs and beyond.
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