The ascendant ( or As), or rising sign, is the zodiacal sign and degree that was ascending on the eastern horizon at the specific time and location of an event. According to astrological theory, celestial phenomena reflect or determine human activity on the principle of 'as above so below'. Thus astrologers believe that the ascendant signifies a person's awakening consciousness, in the same way that the Sun's appearance on the eastern horizon signifies the dawn of a new day.
Because the ascendant is specific to a particular time and place, to astrologers it signifies the individual environment and conditioning that a person receives during their upbringing, and also the circumstances of their childhood. For this reason astrologers believe that the ascendant is also concerned with how a person has learned to present themself to the world, especially in public and in impersonal situations. To astrologers, in some circumstances, it can function as a shield or mask to guard a person's real nature - in other words the 'defense mechanism' every person has to cope with unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations. Astrologers believe the ascendant also has a strong bearing on a person's physical appearance and overall health.
The Ascendant is thus considered to be of great significance in all schools of astrology because it in effect serves as the filter through which everything in a horoscope- including the Sun and Moon- is expressed. Most astrologers believe that the Rising Sign exerts an influence equal to or more powerful than the Sun and Moon. In Jyotish, the ascendant is without question the most individual and defining element in the chart.
The Ascendant, from an astrological point of view, is the value of the ecliptical geocentric longitude (aka Celestial Longitude λ) which is easterly on the horizon.
where A is the local sidereal time in degrees, E is the inclination of Earth's equatorial plane to the ecliptic (Axial tilt). For values referred to the standard equinox J2000.0 use 23.4392911°, for J1950.0 use 23.4457889°. L is the local latitude (Southern latitudes are negative, Northern positive). The Ascendant is then found in the correct quadrant (0 to 360 degrees) by using the two rules: If
(x < 0)
Ascendant = Ascendant + 180
Ascendant = Ascendant + 360
By definition of Ascendant, we have to take the point easterly (the rising one, less than 180° from the Midheaven) by using a final rule: if
(Ascendant < 180)
Ascendant = Ascendant + 180
Ascendant = Ascendant - 180
Otherwise a direct result in the correct quadrant can be determined if calculator or programming software has the atan2(y,x) math function and then using the last rule.
For latitudes north of the Arctic Circle (or south of the Antarctic Circle), the Ascendant function has two discontinuity points, occurring at instants where the horizon and the ecliptic planes do not intersect. Between those instants the Ascendant's longitude actually decreases.
Because the Earth's axis (see axial tilt) is tilted relative to the ecliptic, the twelve signs do not take the same amount of time to cross the eastern horizon. At the equator, there is very little difference (Pisces, Aries, Virgo and Libra take slightly less time than the other signs) but as one moves from the equator, larger and larger differences emerge.
In the northern hemisphere, the signs of Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus and Gemini take much less time than the theoretical two hours to cross the eastern horizon, whilst the signs of Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius take much longer than two hours to do so. For example, at the latitude of Paris, France:Pisces, Aries, Aquarius and Taurus take only about forty-four minutes to cross the eastern horizon (this is referred to as the length of ascension or simply as the sign's ascension)
Capricorn and Gemini have an ascension of only about seventy minutes
Cancer and Sagittarius have an ascension of around two and a half hours
Leo, Virgo, Libra and Scorpio have ascensions of around two hours and forty-five minutes
At higher latitudes, these differences become even more marked. At the latitude of St. Petersburg, Russia:Pisces and Aries ascend in only thirty minutes
Aquarius and Taurus ascend in only forty-five minutes
Capricorn and Gemini ascend in an hour and a half
actually individual degrees near Sagittarius or Cancer ascend twice as slowly as those near Aquarius or Taurus
Sagittarius and Cancer ascend in two hours and forty minutes
Leo, Virgo, Libra and Scorpio take as much as three hours and fifteen minutes to ascend
Astrologers consider the differences between the rate at which the signs ascend to be of importance. In many house systems, houses can become very large when they cover Aquarius, Pisces, Aries and Taurus because these signs are seen to be much smaller from the perspective of a northern hemisphere observer.
Some astrologers, such as Richard Nolle, consider the preponderance of Ascendants in signs from Cancer through Sagittarius (known as the western signs) to be symbolic of the highly relationship-oriented character inherent in a complex or civilized society as found today in the northern hemisphere but never developed in equatorial or south temperate latitudes where eastern (Capricorn through Gemini), individual-oriented Ascendants are equally or more common.
In the southern hemisphere, long and short ascension are reversed. For instance, at the latitude of Concepción, Chile:Pisces and Aries ascend in two hours twenty minutes
Aquarius and Taurus ascend in two and a half hours (see note about ascension in low latitudes above)
Capricorn and Gemini ascend in two hours twenty minutes
Sagittarius and Cancer ascend in almost exactly two hours
Scorpio and Leo ascend in about ninety minutes
Libra and Virgo ascend in about seventy-five minutes
At the Arctic and Antarctic circles, at roughly 66½° North and South latitude respectively, a degree of the ecliptic becomes circumpolar. If the sun for example occupies that degree, it will neither rise nor set, but will lie upon the horizon for 24 hours. As we move into higher latitudes, more and more degrees of the ecliptic will neither rise nor set, until at the north pole half of the ecliptic degrees will not rise above the horizon and can never become the ascendant. There of the omission of extreme latitudes from most house tables due to the added complexity of calculating the ascendant, that there is no ascendant at these latitudes. This is of course untrue, yet there is a limitation on the degrees that can ascend at extreme latitudes and a further restriction on degrees that can form house cusps in time-based house systems. The simpler and earlier ecliptic-based house systems can form house cusps at extreme latitudes based on the available ascendant and midheaven degrees.
There are a couple of factors that influence how strong or weak a force in the chart the ascendant may be. Firstly, it is generally believed that the closer towards the beginning of the sign the ascendant falls, the stronger it will be. This is because most of the first house will fall into that sign. If the ascendant falls late in a sign, most of the first house will fall into the following sign, and thus weaken the effect of the ascendant's power. In addition the ascendant is thought to be stronger in influence when the sun is in a weak position in the chart. For example, it is traditionally believed that the sun is in a weaker position when it is placed at the bottom of the chart, near the immum coeli or IC. This is because the sun was literally on the other side of the earth when the subject was born, hidden from view. The sun may also be weaker in influence if it is unaspected, in other words if it forms no strong aspects or connections to the other planets.
Another factor concerning the effect of the ascendant is the theory that people become more like their sun sign after around 29 years old, as they grow older and more confident and thus have less of a need to present a public face to others. It is also theorised that when the progressed ascendant moves into the following sign, it weakens the influence of the natal ascendant.
Planets can assume added importance in the birth chart due to their relationship to the ascendant. The planet that rules the astrological sign of the ascendant is called the chart ruler, and is said to be of particular importance. So for example, if the ascendant sign is Libra, Venus will be the chart ruler, and so 'set the tone' for the chart in many ways. In addition, the planet nearest the ascendant in the first house is usually called the rising planet and has a particular importance in the chart. However, if a planet in the twelfth house is very close (within one or two degrees) to the ascendant, then it can be taken to be the rising planet instead. If a planet is actually in conjunction with the ascendant it then becomes vitally important in its effect on the personality, to the extent of being almost as important as the sun in some cases. Finally, any planets in the first house will always have an added emphasis to them.
The effect of the ascendant varies according to the zodiac sign in which it is placed.
The fire signs of Aries, Leo and Sagittarius are noted for their energy, enthusiasm and optimism. When a fire sign is on the ascendant the outer manner is friendly, uncritical and non-hostile, which makes such people good mixers and public relations executives. They typically send out friendly, but professionally competent signals which draw out a friendly and rather respectful response from others. Aries rising gives out a well-organized, slightly military bearing which makes them fit for any kind of military or civil service organization. Leo rising subjects have a dignified and rather formal manner which inspires confidence; while Sagittarius risers have a cheerful, pleasant and rather witty outer manner which suits all kinds of teaching, training and public speaking situations.
The earth signs of Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn are noted for their practicality and security. When an earth sign is on the ascendant the outer manner is shy, serious and cautious. Taurus risers are the most sociable of the three and are often musical or artistic. Virgo risers look for mental stimulation in others, while Capricorn risers enjoy both work and social pursuits. People with these ascendants send out signals which are pleasant and tactful suggesting that they prefer to form part of a team - at least to begin with - than to push themselves immediately to the front.
The air signs of Gemini, Libra and Aquarius are noted for their communication skills. When an air sign is on the ascendant the subject is friendly and sociable, but also independent and somewhat detached. The Gemini riser is constantly busy, fully engaged in a kind of juggling act, with at least a dozen activities on the go at any one time. The Libra riser occupies him or herself with business schemes which often need the aid of a more earthy partner to make them come into fruition. The Aquarius riser makes wonderful plans for himself and others and may even carry some of them out.
The water signs of Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces are noted for their emotion, intuition and feeling. When a water sign is on the ascendant the subject will hide their true feelings and have a strong need to protect themselves from the world around them. What you see is often not what you get with water ascendants. In other words, the signals they send out are consciously or unconsciously chosen for effect. Cancerians appear chatty and helpful and they do well in any situation that requires tact. Scorpio risers can use many different forms of camouflage with people they do not know, one of their favourites being offensiveness and an off-putting manner. Pisces risers appear soft, gentle, self-sacrificing and sometimes even helpless, but this is misleading, as they will fight strongly for what they think is right.