Know Thyself: the Zodiac, but Not Basic

I’m so fascinated with personality type systems. No, none are absolute, but they can be a fun way to evaluate how you relate to others and the world around you. I’ve created the Know Thyself series to introduce you to some fun frameworks that can help put you in touch with the needs of yourself and others. We could all be better friends. Especially to ourselves.


Do you love the zodiac? I do. Few actions bring me more joy than holding one shopping bag on each of my arms and saying, “Oh my gosh I am such a Libra.” And I adore reading through all those “the signs as” tweets and articles to see how aligned they are with my friends’ astrological signs.



For those who might like a refresher, here’s a really great summary from Astrology for Dummies. (No offense, kids.)



But if you’ve let the characteristics of the signs infiltrate your life (as I have), you’ve come into contact with a few discrepancies. Namely, when you meet two people with the same sign who, to you, could NOT be more different. (Other than Geminis, who according to stereotypes could NOT be more different depending on the day. Or the hour.)


For example, I have a myriad of wonderful Pisces in my life. Specifically, two of my oldest friends both fall under the fish umbrella, and their personalities are very different. One is a huge planner and loves to have a hand in everything, and the other very much goes with the flow and dutifully avoids conflict. How can astrology boldly wager that these two people are the same?


The answer? What you know as your sign is only part of the story. Your astrological chart is composed of three parts: your sun sign, your moon sign, and your rising sign.



Your sun sign is what you think of as “your sign.” The one that you can figure out based on your birthday and read the horoscope for. It’s “your personality’s boss,” if you will.



Your moon sign is who you are when you’re alone. Bustle described it as “you, drunk.” All your walls are torn down and you’re no longer influenced by how you’re perceived by society. If it helps you remember it, you can think of yourself as a werewolf, but instead of growing a bunch of hair and running into the night when there’s a full moon, you just turn into a Scorpio.



Your rising or ascendant sign is how other people perceive you. It’s how you present yourself to the world, and how you change yourself to interact with others. If you’ve ever been accused of being a two-face, it’s your rising sign’s fault. Hannah Montana was Miley Stewart’s rising sign. And Superman is Clark Kent’s rising sign. I don’t make the rules.



To figure out your moon and rising, call your mom and ask her what time you were born. If she doesn’t remember (like mine didn’t), it’s okay to estimate. Then, use a calculator to figure it out. AstroSofa has a pretty good one. Then you can do a little research on what your moon and rising signs mean for your particular chart.


For example, I’m a Libra sun, Scorpio moon, and Aries rising. My mindset is to achieve balance and peace, but I come off as a super-energetic go-getter. And by myself, I am an emotional mess. So there’s a lot going on in here.


I like looking into moon and rising because it accounts for a more multifaceted look at astrology. Because everyone is complicated, and it takes way more than a singular, vague description to define us. My two super-different Pisces friends probably have different ascendants. Or they’re just humans with birthdays in the same month, and all this planetary stuff is made up. Whatever. It’s fun.