Regardless of whether you believe in astrology or not, there's a good chance you know the answer to the question, "What's your zodiac sign?" However, chances are you probably only know what your sun sign is. There's also such thing as a moon sign and a rising sign, and they're all different. So what's the difference between your sun, moon, and rising signs? When you put them all together, they create a much more nuanced portrait of a person. If you've ever felt disconnected to the characteristics of your "sign," this may explain why.
The practice of astrology that most of us in the United States follow is called Western Astrology, and it arose over 2000 years ago in Mesopotamia. The system, which was created by the Babylonians, refined by the Greeks, and preserved by the Arab Empire, simultaneously charted the path of the sun and planets through the zodiac constellations over the course of the year, and the characteristics of babies born under each sign.
The position of the stars and planets the moment a person is born comprise their natal chart; it's from this alignment that astrologists draw your sun, moon, and rising signs. No one has your exact natal chart. It's idiosyncratically you.
So here's what you need to know about each of your signs:
Your sun sign is what most people mean when they ask, "what's your sign?" It's the most well known of all the zodiac signs in a person's birth chart, and is calculated by figuring out in what zodiac sign, exactly, the sun was situated in when someone was born. As astrologer Susan Miller's Astrology Zone pointed out, it's said that people take on certain personality traits based on the zodiac sign the sun was in when they were born.
New York-based astrologer Lisa Stardust agrees. "The sun is our ego," she tells Bustle of sun signs. "[It's] how our ego relates and deals with the world and challenges."
Your moon sign, on the other hand, is the darker, more emotional side of your personality. Think about it this way: If the sun shines brightly for all the world to see — our ego, how it relates to the challenges we face in the world, and how we interact with others — moonlight is dim, and casts shadows on the deeper parts of yourself that not everyone in the world gets to see. This is the you that you hear inside your head whenever you think; your heart, your emotions, your feelings.
"The moon is our emotions — often our sentiments that we cannot and do not express with others," Stardust explains. Often times, she continues, this means that people will identify with their moon sign more than their sun sign or their rising/ascendent sign, even though large aspects of the personality they present to the world will seem to be molded after the latter two signs.
"I would say that the moon carries more weight because it’s our emotional reaction and we feel it more," Stardust says.
We talk a lot about sun signs and, though less frequently, moon signs — but not so much the rising signs. This should change, though. Your rising sign, also known as your ascendant sign, is the "you" that you consciously present to the world — the filter through which you put yourself every day, the style you adopt, the friends you identify with, and so on. Though that may not seem necessarily as important as sun and moon, what you're willing to reveal says a lot about you, and is thus just as important as your moon and sun signs.
"The ascendant dictates your fashion style, facial and body characteristics, and personality. It also shows how you relate to others," Stardust elaborates. "For instance, I have a Libra ascendant, a Gemini sun, and a Sagittarius moon. I don’t like conflict (like a Libra) and I emotionally process situations like a Sagittarius (very defensive). People rarely notice my Gemini side because my personality is shown by all three energies working together."
So What Do We Do With All This?
Put it all together, is what! All of this is to say, we cannot be boiled down to one sign, one simple horoscope.
You probably already know your sun sign (and if you don't, it's easily found — here's the list of signs by birth date); to find your moon and rising signs, meanwhile, you could have a couple of options. One, you could get your chart mapped out by a professional astrologist, though that costs money and often requires a waiting period and a sit-down meeting to go over the results. Secondly, you could try a website that provides a rough sketch of your chart; Cafe Astrology is a personal favorite of mine.
Regardless of the route, you'll need your date of birth, time of birth (as close to the minute as possible), and geographic location of where you were born.
Then, read your horoscopes — all of them. According to Stardust, you'll ideally want to read all three of your horoscopes once you know your signs for each. However, she says, if that's not possible, then you should ideally read the horoscope for "your ascendent/rising sign and then sun sign."