The Ascendant, also known as the persona in psychology astrology is always innately fascinating to learn about. Perhaps being born with Saturn Rising, a particularly heavy exterior, it is the key reason as to why I feel something of a complete identification with how it functions in the horoscope.
The word persona means the person-as-presented and it represents the outer layer of an individual that we show the world. It is sometimes unfairly called a mask as if we have no relation whatsoever to our outer appearance and behavior; this surface veil is not perceived to be associated with the real personality.
The Ascendant is the initial presentation of the individual adopted to serve specific purposes. If we delve deep into the psychological elements that make up the persona we find that its intended use is a self-protective measure to play a role in society, and keep a kind of barrier to the interior self, especially – the shadow. Jung would equate the persona with hiding parts of the psyche, but we can also hide our sense of uniqueness.
To see the persona in action one only has to observe an individual closely, under changing surroundings, to witness a transformation from one milieu to another which brings about a sudden change in personality. The person believes that the interior parts of the psyche will be rejected, and wears an extra layer of skin that protects the inner-self. We can hide multiple sins behind a mask, like the man who is all smiles in the street and is a picture of an easy-going individual; only to turn into a mean drunk that hardly speaks to anyone at home. In psychology, character is situation, and the Ascendant serves as an important vehicle as we need something reliable when entering into social situations.
According to Jung there is this extreme sensitivity that human beings have to expectations, and sometimes we adjust ourselves to the flow of the mainstream. Liz Greene says, all the four angles of the horoscope are “related to the inward and outward flow of the reality of the person to the outside world. The Ascendant is the most personal and obvious and must be in accord with the more hidden, unconscious aspects of the psyche.” As Greene notes, the qualities of the Ascendant are not merely superficial but represent qualities we would ideally like to be.
In summary, the Ascendant is the role we play, and considering this aspect of the personality, we may begin to question the true face of any individual. We all have many depths and we spend a lifetime discovering, uncovering and realizing who we are. We don this mask when we enter into particular situations such as schools, workplaces and events. Over time, it becomes this habitual thing, and as soon as we step out of the front door we clothe ourselves in this particular behaviour as expressed by our Ascendant.
We all know cases when the mask slips and a person suffers from a ‘loss of face’ in public. The individual feels quite embarrassed to have some of his more personal contents on show. The Ascendant has to remain functional, and the mask has to be one that we can easily slip off without overly identifying with it. The Ascendant is that side of the self that faces out into the social world and isn’t wholly representative of our true inner identity.