We all don a psychological mask every time we enter into a public situation. The Ascendant in the chart is what represents this mask. Everybody has an outer surface, and when we get to know others we enter into their interior selves. Inside of us is a unique piece of our world that is ours and only belongs to us, and it is only when we are not wearing our psychological makeup that we reveal our hidden selves. We always wonder what other people are really like underneath, and when social eyes are not upon us, we’re at our most natural. There is a definite boundary between our ‘outer and inner life. Astrologer Liz Greene associates the ascendant with the Two-headed Roman figure of Janus.
In Roman myth, all gateways and doorways, visible and invisible, were under the rule of the enigmatic two-faced god Janus, who looked both forward and backward, and presided over all futures because they are mirrors of the past. Doorways are not just physical spaces through which we pass, but define separate territories and symbolize the link between one reality and another. The psychological boundary between self and others is invisible, yet as real and effective as a stone wall. We speak of being “walled in” when we cannot communicate, and we often “open doors” to invite another into the private domain of our feelings and dreams…The Ascendant is the point of contact between us and the world, and the two-headed Janus is a vivid image of the mysterious way in which our worldview is shaped, not by experience, as we like to think, but by our pre-existent images of what the world is like. Mythic Astrology
We have two versions of the self – one private, the other public. When we step out of the door, we stride into our public selves, donning a particular style, adornments, and psychological mask. When we return home we throw off the public persona (mask) and enter into our private world. The ascendant has also been described as the ‘mask’ or persona we wear and present to the world and this is the face we show strangers, acquaintances, and people we meet for the first time. As a result, the Rising Sign often hides our inner personality, and it’s as if the whole world is a masked ball in which people are hiding more and more of their true selves.
The Plain Vanilla Astrologer says,
The Ascendant is like the first impression made by the guest who walks in the door for a cocktail party. When he or she appears, others react to what they see and the individual’s assimilation into the group begins. After a drink or two, the individual relaxes and deeper qualities – those of the natal Moon sign – usually begin to show. If drinking progresses to the “drunken” stage, the most profound characteristics of the sign qualities emerge as all but the core falls away.