Here’s What Your Rising Zodiac Sign Actually Means

It's about how you show up in the world.

Originally Published: 
Here’s What Your Rising Zodiac Sign Actually Means
bojanstory/E+/Getty Images

When we think of astrology, most people think of their sun sign first and foremost. But did you know that when someone meets you, they’re actually more likely to pick up on the qualities of your rising sign? A rising sign (aka your ascendant sign) is the part of your astrology that dictates how you come off to other people and the way you show up in the world — and it’s arguably one of the most important pieces of one’s astrological chart. But what is a rising sign and how do you find out yours?

Unlike your sun and moon signs, your rising sign isn't based on the placement of any particular planet. It refers to an angular point in the birth chart that is based on the position of the eastern horizon in the zodiac at the time that you were born. Whatever sign happened to be rising at the sunrise point at the exact time of your birth is considered your rising sign. (That's where the term “rising sign” comes from!) In your astrological birth chart, the ascendant is always the sign that rules your first house — meaning that it determines the cusp of all 12 astrological houses that follow.

The rising sign is one of the “big three” signs in astrology (sun, moon, and rising) that represent the core of our cosmic self. The sun sign represents our ego and the core of what drives us, while our moon zodiac signs represent our private, emotional, and vulnerable sides. But our rising signs represent a significant piece of our personality, self-image, and our outward-facing selves in general. “The ascendant in astrology shows your mannerisms, your persona, your direct personality, and your identity,” astrologer Alby Toribio tells Bustle. "Understanding the rising sign is about understanding how you like to express and project yourself to the world.”

The ascendant is one of the key astrological ingredients when it comes to understanding ourselves through a cosmic lens, so read on for the scoop on how to find and understand your rising sign.

How To Calculate Your Rising Sign

In order to find out your rising sign, you need to know your exact birth time (as the sign on the eastern horizon changes approximately every two hours!) in addition to the date and location. Dig up your birth certificate and consult a professional astrologer to get the scoop, or use an online birth chart calculator to figure it out at home. If you already have a copy of your birth chart, you can look at which zodiac sign the cusp of the first house (the point on the center-left side of the circle) falls into. That's your ascendant sign — and the qualities of that sign can tell you a lot about how you show up in the world, as well as the way you see yourself.

What Exactly Does Your Rising Sign Represent?

Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

You can think of your rising sign as representing who you are at a glance. It's the version of yourself that is presented to the people around you and it dictates the energy you project to others, intentionally or not. "Knowing your ascendant is important, as it represents how you appear to the world, your general nature in day-to-day existence, and the manner in which you meet life's lessons," astrologer Caitlin McGarry tells Bustle. "Having a grasp on your rising sign helps in evaluating how you interact with new people and how others might perceive you."

In a group setting, the first impression you give off to others will usually align with the energy of your rising sign, and it can influence how you react to things off the cuff. But your ascendant isn’t just about how others see you — it also sheds light on how we see ourselves. "People call the rising sign the 'mask' that we wear around others, but it’s much more significant than that," astrologer Jake Register tells Bustle. "It’s more like the lens that we perceive the world through and the filter that our personalities have to go through as we live life and express ourselves."

As the ruler of our outward-facing self, our rising signs are also believed to influence our physical appearance and overall look. "The ascendant is the part of ourselves that we show the world,” astrologer Lisa Stardust tells Bustle. “It’s the part of ourselves that we willfully express [through] our personalities, our appearance, and even our taste in clothes." Your fashion sense, your mannerisms, and your overall presentation are governed by your rising sign, so you can think of it as the zodiacal representation of your overall vibe and aesthetic. Look to your rising sign for inspiration when getting dressed or putting together a new look.

What You Can Learn From Your Rising Sign

courtneyk/E+/Getty Images

Understanding the qualities of your rising sign could completely change your relationship with astrology. That’s because the ascendant rules your first house of self (which represents our identity, will, and personal appearance), and it also dictates the placement of each of your 12 astrological houses. "Birth charts [are like] a roadmap of one’s personality, and the rising sign is the starting point," Register says. "As the cusp of the first house, it’s the most sensitive degree in the chart and it determines where all of the other houses in your chart fall — that’s why knowing your rising sign is so important if you want a truly accurate and in-depth look at yourself from an astrological perspective."

Because your rising sign (not your sun sign) dictates the layout of your birth chart, many astrologers recommend that you read your horoscope for your rising sign in addition to (or even instead of) your sun sign. For many people, the rising sign horoscope offers a more accurate view of what's going on in their lives — which could be a game-changer for anyone who doesn’t usually vibe with the themes of their sun sign horoscope.

And getting to know your rising sign offers us more than just more accurate horoscopes. You may actually find that you identify more with your rising sign traits than you do your sun sign altogether. “The rising sign is often the sign that people in general resonate with most,” Register says. "I consider the rising sign to be the most important part of the chart — more significant than the sun sign or moon sign — so people who don’t identify well with their sun sign almost always identify with their rising sign.” Some people write off astrology entirely based on the fact that they don’t identify with their sun sign, so knowing that there’s another equally important zodiac energy at play could change someone’s outlook on the practice as a whole.

This article was originally published on