The Ascendant in the horoscope chart is often seen as representing the point a soul enters into a physical form. This view is especially true if we lean heavily towards spiritual astrology. The angle is elevated to the rank of being an extremely important degree on the horoscope. So much so, that it falls into the same league as the Sun and Moon on the astrological chart. The Sun, Moon, and Asc have always been generally referred to by astrologers as the Big Three in the nativity, known to rule our general fortunes in life. Dane Rudhyar’s The Three Faces of Your Horoscope (brilliant article) is an interesting and enjoyable read. It explains in more depth the trinity of the birth chart, specifically emphasizing how there always seems to be a magic triad throughout life.
In most cases, when astrology students are longing to study this part of the chart, it is usually found that, while plenty of astrological material can be found on the Sun and Moon; the Ascendant would most likely only earn a few sentences at best. Howard Sasportas once commented that it took him about 15 years to begin to grasp the significance of the Ascendant. The author’s description of this ‘angular energy’ takes its meaning from coming out of the darkness of our watery birth and into the emerging light. He writes that we must learn to use the traits of our ascending sign so that we can carve a path towards expressing our solar qualities. The Ascendant is described as holding the key to unlocking a greater destiny described by the Sun in our horoscope.
Howard Sasportas also gave the best response to people always asking if their Ascendant is wrong since they never experienced a natural birth:
It doesn’t matter if you were dragged out, squeezed out, cut out, or allowed to slide out in your own good time. I have no strong investment in this…but in the end I must simply work with the chart in front of me, however the person might have arrived in this life. The Inner Planets
The Unformed Part of the Personality
The Ascendant is thought to be an unformed part of the personality, but it is also, conversely, a vital facet of the horoscope – one would stand naked in society without a mask. Most importantly, integrating those qualities symbolized on the Asc over a lifetime would provide the essential glue of the character, bringing everything together. The more consciousness we bring to the Ascendant, as we further embody its archetypal themes, those values become an important part of our own identity. The Ascendant has been treated superficially in the past, suggesting it only represents our apparent image. Older astrological textbooks, in particular, would refer to this part of the horoscope when interpreting the health, vitality, and physicality of an individual. Traditional astrologers writings on this area of the horoscope were obsessed with a person’s physical appearance. Typical readings would describe a person’s face, weight, and complexion, and most of them were never particularly flattering descriptions, but it’s not like we’re all supermodels.
The Eastern Angle (left side of the chart) is called the Ascendant because, as already said, it represents the sunrise point; it is the degree of the zodiac which rises in the East as a newborn takes his first breath. Its opposite is the Descendant, or sunset point….Because we are dealing here with a physical and organic factor, the Ascendant is understood to be the symbol of the body, or perhaps more accurately, of the individual rhythm of the physical organism. For Theosophist Alan Leo — the birth of a body was merely one of many episodes in the cyclic development of a spiritual Self (or “individuality”) which time after time incarnates into such material earthly organisms. Thus the Ascendant was said to refer only to the “suit of clothes” worn by the spiritual Self during one of its incarnations.
Modern astrologers have completely reversed direction and now place greater emphasis on the spiritual meaning of the Ascendant. It is, thus, a marker of the reason why one incarnates and where the soul penetrates into reality. It is also given the suggestiveness of being a ‘new personality’ and this fresh awareness of being carries within it the energy of sunrise, birth, and coming into being.
To him also the Ascendant, as the symbol of dawn and sunrise, will have a special meaning; he may think of it as the way in which spiritual-solar illumination reaches a particular earth-born human being…The Ascendant may symbolize for them the first moment of human existence; and, as astrology always primarily deals with “the beginning of things” and the starting point of cycles, they may feel that this astrological factor contains the key to the whole of life development of the individual — somewhat as the germinating seed contains in potentiality the entire form of the mature plant.
The Ascendant take us into some interesting terrains, from the most mundane interpretation of the physical carcass and energetic force to there being a deeply numinous reason behind the soul’s ascension onto this earth plane. To end, here is Rudhyar’s advice on how best to deal with it. All of his counsel is valuable for dealing with one or more planetary objects on this angle of the natal chart.
For instance, if you have one planet rising in your natal first house, use it for all it is worth to you, but do not overuse it. Do not become altogether identified, as an ego, with it. If there are two or more planets rising, the problem is how not to become “split” in trying to become identified in your personal character partly with one and partly with the other. A problem of personal integration is shown for you to solve. It is easier, of course, if the two planets push you, as it were, in the same direction; but a man with Saturn and Neptune in the first house must watch lest he become pulled apart by opposite trends in his ego life. If there is no planet in the First House, the whole emphasis is thrown upon the ascendant; we must consider not only the characteristics of the rising sign but also those of the planet which “rules” this sign — what the planet is, where it is placed in the birth-chart, how it is aspected by other planets and what position it occupies structurally within the entire “planetary pattern” (for instance, if it is a “singleton”). The planet “ruling” the sign at the ascendant is always theoretically the “ruling planet” of the chart; however, if a particularly emphasized planet is in the first house, this first-house planet becomes, as it were, an all-important “prime minister” to the theoretical “ruler”. The ruler holds the realm of the ego together; the prime minister does the most effective external work!