The First House
The ascendant, the cusp of the first house is located at the eastern horizon point for the time of birth. It is where the Sun would be rising if the birth were at dawn. Hence, it is also referred to as the “rising” sign. It is a very sensitive point, like the dawn it is a gap between two phases of light, energy, and consciousness. It represents the point where we entered the physical dimension and where we can merge with the world. The Ascendant is the door, the first house of “I AM.”
The first-seventh axis is the most important in the chart for it describes our view of ourselves as well as our capacity for interpersonal relationships.
The first house and the ascendant describe the persona, the mask through which we project ourselves into life and our window onto the world. The world sees us and we perceive the world through it. The first impression we give when meeting someone for the first time, including our “armoring,” is seen here. It can be described as the facade or wrapping on the package. It is the outer, superficial self and not the ego, not our fundamental being. It is an exterior device through which we interface with others.
The two major functions of the Ascendant are:
- to protect or to hide us; and,
- make a statement about who we are; our advertising of the self.
As protection, it is our way of coping and the first line of defense in dealing with the outer world. The more insecure the person, the more the tendency to rely on the persona. When one is all personality it is difficult to get to where they really live. A heavily armored person, stuck behind the mask may show a stereotype of his rising sign for he is defending himself, hiding what is going on inside and shows only what is consistent with the ascendant. He may be concealing himself from himself as well as the outer world. It may be seen as a quality of “woodenness” or rigidity of face and body. There may be a peculiar inappropriateness in emotional expression. The character played by Mary Tyler Moore in the movie “Ordinary People” is a good example of someone overly invested in the persona.
We make statements about ourselves through our body language, facial expressions, clothes, and the hairstyles and make-up we wear.
The Moon in the chart reflects how “I feel.” The Sun in the chart reflects how “I see me.” The personality can mask both. When a person has an undeveloped consciousness and/or is insecure, the personality tends to be overdeveloped. Teenagers, and emotionally immature adults, talk a lot about personality. They do not yet really know who they are and put great emphasis on the external package.
Yang signs (fire and air) have a generally extroverted persona, while the Yin (earth and water) signs are introverted. “What you see is what you get” with the extroverts; “What you don’t see is better yet” with the introverts. The Yang signs use the persona for advertising; the Yin signs for protection and concealment. Example: a Sagittarius Ascendant, Sun in Cancer man comes across as “Hail fellow, well met,” straightforward and blunt. It is only when you really get to know him that you realize how sensitive he is. A Virgo Ascendant, Sun Aquarius lady comes across initially as Miss Prissy, only to have shocked more than one lover by her wildly uninhibited behavior in the boudoir.
The extroverted persona sometimes works too well; it is so successful that the person does not develop inside or experience much soul growth. The introvert has to work harder to develop the inner person and values because he cannot get by on appearances and personality.
Cardinal signs rising tend to give the impression of going out from the self towards others, towards external goals. They put out energy and are responsive. Fixed signs seem solid, settled, rooted, or stubborn and are rarely rushed. They move deliberately and with dignity. Mutable signs seem to be in motion, vibrating like humming birds. There is a nervous restlessness about them.
Fire sign ascendants tend to appear exuberant, highly energetic with lots of dynamic vitality. They give an assured, commanding impression. Air signs communicate and appear to be good listeners. They need space, distancing themselves from others with a congenial coolness. Both Fire and Air are charming.
Earth signs appear slow to react, taking time before responding, not too spontaneous. They appear solid, real, grounded and often sensual. They are conscious of their bodies, either comfortable or uncomfortable in them. Water signs appear sensitive, vulnerable, and sympathetic. They show their feelings, but do not necessarily speak them.
The Personal (Aries through Cancer) rising signs appear subjective, naive, childlike. The Social (Leo through Scorpio) signs are aware of others, sensitive to social games going on, interested in other people. Meeting a Universal (Sagittarius through Pisces) sign Ascendant sometimes feels like an encounter with an abstract force or a phenomenon. The individual may be hard to get to know personally.
Two acquaintances that work in TV media have Sagittarius and Aquarius Ascendants and their Suns are in personal signs. On camera and screen they give a “universal” impression. Off-camera they look very different and are rarely recognized by their public.
Outer planets (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) in the first house will give an impression similar to a Universal sign ascendant.
Sometimes the first house acts like a parfait. For example: 28 degree Scorpio Ascendant, Sagittarius intercepted, 4 degrees Capricorn on the 2nd house cusp. The first layer is the intense, contained, erotic Scorpio. The next layer, the enthusiastic, intellectual, talkative Sagittarius, followed by the managerial, down to business Capricorn.
Planets on or near the ascendant (+/- 10 degrees) will often dominate the ascendant sign qualities. Planets making exact aspects to the ascendant and first house planets will color the ascendant qualities as well.
When you know the rising sign, look to the sign and house placement of its ruler to find the door into the inner person. This is a very good way initially to approach a client coming for a reading. For example, if the ascendant sign’s ruler is in the fifth house, start asking about his or her hobbies, children and creative projects
About the author:
Eleanor Buckwalter has studied, practiced and taught astrology in Los Altos, CA for more than twenty-five years, including three years with the late Richard Idemon, a psychological astrologer. Her primary astrological focus of interest is parent-child relationships and family dynamics.