I always roll my eyes a little when I hear people skeptically toss aside the entire practice of astrology simply because they don’t identify with their sun sign. Sigh. There is so much more to astrology (and you!) than one single sign could ever represent. I can’t blame them, though — unless you’ve taken the time to research, it’s easy to assume that sun signs are the be-all-end-all of astrology. After all, that’s usually all we reference when we say something like “I’m a Libra” or look up our monthly/weekly/daily(/hourly?) horoscope. Understanding the difference between your sun, moon, and rising sign is a great place to start for anyone who wants to know about astrology and how it affects them — and TBH, it might even turn some of you astrology skeptics into believers.
You actually have many signs in your birth chart — one for each of the significant celestial bodies in our solar system! But the main three signs that can give you a very basic overview of someone’s ~true self~ are the combination of a sun sign, moon sign, and rising sign. Each of these signs is important (perhaps equally so, depending on who you talk to!) and each rules over different parts of your personality and overall self. Your birth chart is a wide and wondrous world of cosmic information that is uniquely you. So while sun, moon, and rising signs are really just the tip of a very large iceberg, understanding these three signs together will give you a much fuller look at your personal astrology than a sun sign will alone.
It makes sense why these three signs are especially significant to who you are. The sun is, quite obviously, necessary for our existence and is literally the center of our solar system, so naturally it has a significant place in astrology. The moon is the closest celestial object to us here on Earth, so again, one can see why it’s astrological influence would also be especially notable. Lastly, your rising sign represents the very beginning of your birth chart and from there, determines the rest of your chart’s placements, too — again making it a vital part of your basic astrological self.
That said, let’s take a quick journey through the basic explanations of sun signs, moon signs, and rising signs so you can start applying them to your life and making the most of astrology.
Sun signs are definitely the most popular and well-known part of one’s birth chart when it comes to mainstream astrology (sometimes even referred to as “sun sign astrology”). For many people, it’s the only sign they know! As mentioned earlier, many horoscopes are based on sun signs alone, and it’s usually what someone is referring to when they ask you what your sign is or state their own. All you need to calculate your sun sign is the month and date of your birth. This makes it easy to do simple pop astrology, as people don’t need to delve into the rest of their chart (or even find their birth time, in most cases) in order to find their sign.
So just as the sun is the center of our solar system and the root of life on Earth, your sun sign represents the center of you, or the core of who you are. “Your sun sign describes your basic nature and the personality traits that remain constant through the ups and downs of life,” stated ThoughtCo on its site. Your sun sign speaks to the big picture and grand scheme of your life, as well as to your ego and deep sense of self. When it comes to your personality, your sun sign is a constant; it’s your core at a basic level. As explained by Cafe Astrology, sun signs represent a person’s “life purpose and the style in which they leave their mark in the world.” In his book Astrology For The Millions, author Grant Lewi stated:
Basically, the sun relates your life path and the truest core of who you are — it’s generally considered your highest expression of self. That said, it does make some sense why there’s an added emphasis on sun signs in mainstream astrology. So whereas your rising sign is your surface-level personality and your moon sign is your private emotional self (as you’ll learn more about below), your sun is your personality’s center, much like the sun in the sky is the center of our little universe.
All right, 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 rules over the nighttime and all that hides there, so does your moon sign — so basically, it relates to the private, emotional, beneath-the-surface parts of your personality. In order to calculate your moon sign, you’re going to need a full birth date, year, and exact time/time zone in order to find out your moon sign. When you’ve got that, you can either consult an astrologer or use an online moon sign calculator to find out what sign rules your lunar self.
The moon has always been linked to our emotions, so it makes sense that your moon sign rules over your emotional and more intimate side. As explained by Tarot.com, “[Y]our Moon sign gives insight into your inner world, revealing what you need to feel safe, happy and comfortable.” The darkness of the night makes everyone a little bit more vulnerable, and so that vulnerability — things like emotional intimacy, your subconscious feelings, your base instincts — is exactly what a moon sign governs. Again, in the theme of darkness and shadows, your moon side rules the more shadowy parts of your personality — the sides that only the people closest to you get to see. This part of yourself can also come out if you’re in a highly stressful situation, and there are other times when your moon sign could eclipse your sun sign, too. In short, think of the moon as your inner self. It’s the emotional, vulnerable, and more private side of your personality that likes to feel comfortable and safe before it steps out of the shadows and reveals itself to others.
You at first glance — believe it or not, that’s probably going to be more your rising sign than your sun sign! Rising signs are also known as your ascendant, and they are always the sign that rules the first house of your zodiac chart (which is the “house of self”), where your chart begins. In order to calculate it, you’re definitely going to need your exact birth time and place (in addition to the date and year, of course), as rising signs change approximately every couple hours — meaning that even people born on the exact same date are likely to have different rising signs. Time to dig up ye old birth certificate and either consult an astrologer or use an online rising sign calculator to find out yours.
While the sun represents the core of yourself and the moon represents your inner self, you can think of your rising sign as representative of your outer self. “It can affect your appearance, your attitude, and the way you come across to others,” wrote AstroStyle. Rising signs are sort of like the mask you wear for the world, and it usually works in tandem with your sun sign to create the self that you project into the universe. “It represents the surface of your personality — what you show to the world on a day-to-day basis, like how an acquaintance might see you,” explained Tarot.com. “Think of it like the cover of your book — it’s just the first impression.” The main difference between a rising sign and a sun sign is that your sun sign represents the deeper core of your personality like your ego and values, and it governs over the big-picture aspects of your life. Your rising sign, on the other hand, is sort of like a nice veil wrapped over your solid sun core, ruling the surface aspects of your personality — 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. While it represents the more superficial part of your personality, it’s still a key ingredient in the cosmic blend that is so uniquely you.
Now that you know your sun, moon, and rising signs, it’s time to explore what qualities each of them brings to the table. For example, if you’re a Pisces moon like I am, rather than just trying to apply the basic traits of a Pisces sun sign to your lunar-governed aspects, you’ll want to specifically look into Pisces moon traits, because the Pisces vibe is going to manifest a little bit differently in a moon sign than it would in a solar placement (and the same goes for your rising sign, of course). If you want to dive in deep, I recommend consulting a professional astrologer, as they’ll be able to give you a comprehensive look at your birth chart on the whole. But if you’re not ready for that, Google is still is an amazing (and amazingly easy) tool for expanding your astro-knowledge. So get out there and embark on some cosmic therapy to learn more about the many sides of you — sun, moon, rising, and beyond!