What Does Your Rising Sign REALLY Mean? Veteran Astrologer Christopher Renstrom Breaks It Down

Most people are familiar with their star signs, determined simply by the sun "in" a constellation during your birth, but did you know that your rising sign can also play a major role in how the world sees you?

Christopher Renstrom is a columnist and veteran astrologer whose new book, Rise and Shine: An Astrological Guide to How You Show Up to the World, is all about the topic of this lesser-known, but no less important, part of our star charts. Rising signs actually determine the first impressions we give off to others, and can explain some of the common misunderstandings we face every day. We got the chance to ask Christopher our most burning questions about rising signs—and learn a little more about ourselves in the process.

Sweety High: What exactly is a rising sign? Why is it considered one of the three most important facets of someone's star chart in astrology, and what role do rising signs play in our lives?

Christopher Renstrom: The rising sign is the face of the horoscope. It's not a persona, a mask or a role that you play, but a face, and like a face, it is every bit as spontaneous, expressive and reactive as your own face is. But even though your face makes you recognizable as you, it doesn't tell us everything that there is to know about you. It doesn't tell us your identity or the way that you truly feel about things deep down inside or even what you're thinking. The rising sign stands at the threshold between the private you and the public you.

Yet the rising sign is what people see first. That's because it was the zodiac sign that was rising over the eastern horizon at the time of your birth. Like a label or a book cover, it can warn away or invite according to that particular rising sign's disposition. Let's say you were born with Sagittarius rising. A Sagittarian ascendant is going to make you loud and boisterous regardless of what your sun sign is. This is great if you were born under an outgoing sign like Leo or Libra because you're ready to make the rounds and enjoy lively conversation. However, it can be hard to cope with if you were born under a more introverted sign like Cancer or Virgo, because that Sagittarius rising keeps calling attention to itself whether you like it or not.

The sun sign tells us who you are, the moon sign tells us what you feel, and your rising sign tells us how you face the world, interact with others and the kind of impression that you make without knowing it. If you come across as stuffy when you're really quite funny or if people perceive you as someone they can boss around when you're actually the CEO of the company, then that's the rising sign talking. Sometimes it works with the sun sign—and sometimes it doesn't.

That's why it's so important to understand the face that your chart is making—especially if you're not aware of it.

Shutterstock: Double multiply exposure abstract portrait of a dreamer cute young woman face with galaxy universe space inside head. Spirit cosmos astronomy life zen concept Elements of this image furnished by NASA

(via Shutterstock)


SH: How are rising signs calculated? Why is it that if you're born at dawn, you're born with your rising sign the same as your sun sign?

CR: The rising sign will always tell us the time of day you were born. If you were born at dawn, then your sun sign and your rising sign are the same because this is when the sun was rising. However, if you were born at 12 noon, then your sun is at the top of your chart, which means that the sign three signs after yours was the sign that was rising when you were born. If you were born at sunset, then it will be the zodiac sign that is directly opposite yours that was rising, etc.

The rising sign changes every two hours. That's because we have 12 signs in the zodiac and 24 hours in a day. Each sign takes two hours to rise over the eastern horizon before it is replaced by the following one in sequence. This is how we calculate the rising sign.


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SH: Why do you think rising signs are so often ignored, when they're so key to first impressions and how we're viewed by other people?

CR: I don't know if rising signs are ignored as much as they're overlooked, and I think that comes from our own relationship to our face. We know that our face is important, but how much do we think about it during the course of a day?

Who looks at your face more during the day? You or other people? It's other people. Other people are constantly reacting to your expression, reading your social cues or even walking past you because they don't know you from Adam. In this same way, the rising sign is given great importance at the same time as it is taken for granted.

Like with any problem that calls attention to itself, it's when the person we feel we are isn't being recognized that the rising sign suddenly becomes quite pertinent.

Shutterstock: Couple in love. Stars are taken through my telescope.

(via Shutterstock)


SH: Why can our rising signs, and how they pair with our sun signs, sometimes make us feel misunderstood?

CR: Rising sun-sun sign mismatches are quite common. These might result from the signs being of different elements—one sign is watery (private) while the other is fiery (showy) or the signs are different modes—one sign is naturally accommodating while the other one is set in its ways.

The most common feelings of being misunderstood show up in sunset charts. Here you have the sun setting at the same time that the rising sign is ascending and this creates a split. These are the charts where I often hear clients say that they don't identify with their sun sign at all but rather their rising sign, or vice-versa.


SH: What sun-rising combinations can feel like they have the most contradictory personalities compared to the "faces" they put on?

CR: Sun-rising combinations where the sun is six, seven, or eight signs away from the ascendant. These are the most contradictory and, as you can imagine, the most intriguing.


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SH: How can knowing our rising signs help us better engage with the world as it sees us?

CR: It's important to understand how people see you and to own it. For some people, the rising sign is easy because it makes harmonious aspects to their sun. What you see is truly what you get with them. But that's not true in most cases.

The rising sign, like your face, is doing most of the relating in your life. The earliest games we play in childhood involve the face—whether it's making faces or playing peek-a-boo. These games teach us how to interact and behave. They also teach us how to get a laugh when things are tense or to act like we mean business when we're really a bundle of insecurities underneath.

When we understand our rising sign, we understand the way that we face the world and that we may face the world in a way that's totally different than who we are. This can sometimes feel awkward or uncomfortable, but it can also open up an entire range of expression that we can use to our advantage—in our personal lives and our professional careers.

Shutterstock: Amazing heavenly background - beautiful glowing sunset with falling comet - mystical sign in sky, rising crescent moon and stars. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

(via Shutterstock)


SH: Is there anything else you'd like to add about the topic?

CR: Rise and Shine is the first book about rising signs that takes the 12 sun signs and the 12 rising signs and presents every conceivable combination. That's 144 combinations —or rather 144 horoscopic facial expressions.


Curious about how to boost your energy? Click HERE for an astrologer's tips, based on your sun sign.