The Ascendant is the sign of the zodiac which rises to the East, at the exact time of your birth, and thus requires for its calculation that you know the precise hour of this event. It provides information about your physical appearance and your health, the way you come across when people first meet you, as well as your spontaneous behaviour and reactions. It is the apparent part of your personality, unlike your Sun sign, which indicates your deeper part, more authentic and less accessible, since it is reserved only for those who are close to you.
The Ascendant rules the physical body, the constitution, appearance and childhood environment. The Ascendant is the physical envelope through which man, of necessity, expresses himself in his present life. It is the instrument through which the higher principles that make up man manifest naturally.
The Ascendant is said to be the mask one wears in public… it is the first impression we make when we meet new people. Often, if you are confused at how others have described you, it is because they are describing this aspect of your personality. The Ascendant takes part in your appearance and personality, going as far as influencing physical characteristics sometimes. The Sign becomes expressed in your image, style and mannerisms. It is also expressed in how you act. Some astrologists theorize that the Sign becomes weaker after a person reaches 30 years of age, as their confidence grows in who they are.
Everything in the horoscope, good or bad, must manifest in our daily lives through the Ascendant, the Rising Sign. Thus it is the lens through which all influences have to pass, suffering modification in doing so.
The Message of the Stars tells us that the Rising Sign, or Ascendant, is the basic factor in determining the constitution and form of the physical body. Further investigations have shown that the reason for this fact is that at the time of conception, when the seed atom was planted in the ovum, the Moon, which is the Cosmic Agent of Fecundity, projected its fertilizing ray through the sign and degree which later rises at the moment of birth (or its opposite). (Reference, The Message of the Stars, pages 88 - 91.)
Your Rising Sign appears as the first personality traits you exhibit. It is your autopilot it responds to your environment. Your Sun Sign gradually becomes more noticeable over time. The two Signs will eventually blend, creating an outer layer and an inner layer, enclosing the Moon Sign deep inside.
Whatever phase of the chart is being delineated, see what agreement, assistance, or cooperation; or what disagreement, discord, or variance, it has with the Ascendant. Then qualify its manifestation accordingly.
However, for the purposes of analyzing your horoscope, you really need to know the exact degree of your Ascendant. Calculating this without the aid of a computer requires making some mathematical computations. First you must know the precise moment of your birth and also the exact atitude and longitude of the spot on earth where you were born. You must then convert the local time of your birth to Greenwich Mean Time (named for the town of Greenwich, England, the official point from which time is reckoned). Then you must convert Greenwich Mean Time into sidereal time at Greenwich. (Sidereal time, meaning star time, is measured in relation to the fixed stars; a sidereal day is four minutes shorter than twenty-four hours.) All of this can be quite complicated and involve a number of mathematical processes. For those of you who are interested, there are some excellent books that will help you to make these calculations in detail.
Like other Signs of the Zodiac, Rising Signs fall into fire, earth, air or water categories. Fire Signs like Aries, Leo and Sagittarius appear energetic, optimistic and enthusiastic. They usually appear friendly and non-critical, and they generally do well with others in social gatherings. Earth Signs like Taurus, Capricorn and Virgo come off as practical and secure. They may appear a bit shy, or cautious and serious. Air Signs like Gemini, Libra and Aquarius are good at communication. They are perceived as sociable and friendly, if a little independent or detached. The Water Signs of Pisces, Scorpio and Cancer are seen as emotional, intuitive and feeling. These people will usually hide their true feelings and feel a need to protect themselves from the world. How they present themselves to the world is done for effect so they do not feel they are at risk.