The Ascendant is the human being’s awareness arising to the world
As the germinal point – the first angular House – of domification, the Ascendant is the awareness of the human being arising to the world. In this sense, it represents the ego principle expressing itself as recognition of one’s figure. In other words, it is the specific way of manifestation of the self in a particular form; it is what we most commonly define personality and, from the external point of view, physical constitution.
In this regard, it is interesting to note how the term “person“, probably of Etruscan derivation, originally meant ‘theatrical mask’ and that only later did it take on the meaning of “individual of the human species”. That gives us the measure of how we should understand the role of the Ascendant in the context of an astrological interpretation: it is the appearance of an otherwise not perceivable essence, which as such needs a dress, a ‘mask’ in fact, which presents it on the stage of the world. However, our appearance on the scene has a double implication: we appear to ourselves and others, and the two images may not necessarily match.
When we observe our reflected image, either physically through a mirror or with the mind’s eye, we overshadow it with a meaning given by the sum of our egoic nature plus the formal covering. It is a composite aspect that tends to ‘evaluate itself’ from a privileged position, smoothing out the defects and enhancing the merits to support an imaginary ego. Of course, the other individuals will play the same game as us, and the result of their interpretation will be twofold: either they will comply with a superficial judgment based on what we want it to appear, as long as our ‘deception’ work is truly effective; or they will try to belittle other individualities through the exaltation of their central role. In both cases, a relationship is established between ‘appearances’ from which it is difficult to free oneself.
But if the Ascendant is the appearance, which astrological symbol plays the role of the content? The Sun, image of the Logos or principle of the self. Its twelve-fold modulation on a seasonal basis provides the energy and background tonality on which the individual weaves the weft of his destiny. As the germinal point of the earthly manifestation expressed by domification, the Ascendant acts as an adapter of the energies referred to the solar sign given their use on the contingent plane. We can deduce the need to find an agreement allowing the integration between the reference energy model (sun sign) and its earthly expression (the Ascendant) so that the mask is not just protection but also a living expression of our interiority. Promoting self-knowledge and having the courage to face the demons lurking in us is one of the possible ways to generate harmony between diversities, enhance differences to integrate them into the social organism.
The Sun sign-Ascendant combination generates 144 patterns, some of which are considered more favourable than others. The theme of positive and negative attributions in astrology is widely debated. Still, from the point of view of transpersonal astrology, a critical aspect expresses an energy that we can convey in an evolutionary sense. And since the Ascendant in itself represents only part of the forces at play, a reading of it without considering its solar counterpart would take on a minimal value. In general, the relations considered favourable between the Sun and the Ascendant (sextile and trine) are a viaticum for the harmonisation between the primary destiny of the individual and the bodily and psychological tools to achieve it. That raises the inborn ability or spontaneity in carrying out the tasks our nature reserves us. With critical aspects (square and opposition), one encounters resistance and blocks on the part of the family or social sphere in personal expression (square) and difficulties in seeing one’s role recognised in the relationships (opposition).
We must now examine the distinction between the Ascendant and the First House. Technically, the Ascendant represents the intersection to the east between the ecliptic and the plane of the local horizon, therefore the zodiac degree raising at birth. It is a single point where the meaning of the rising zodiac sign manifests itself to the utmost strength. The First House is the longitudinal extension that follows the Ascendant’s cusp and ends at the threshold of the Second House. There can be three cases: the First House remains confined to the sign of the Ascendant, extends to the next sign or still incorporates a sign . In the first case, the development over time of the personality follows the guidelines of the Ascendant sign, firmly adhering to the original traits: the evolution of the individual goes towards the improvement of the characters of the sign, or, in less favourable cases, their symbolic attributes are experienced as defects. In the second case, at a certain degree of their evolution, the individual ‘joins’ to the meanings of the next House and to the sign that hosts its cusp; here, the personality begins to resonate and identify with the environmental values that are the basis of its material development and acquired certainties.
The third and last case is distinct. The zodiac signs inside the cusps are said to be intercepted, representing a silent symbolism that we must acquire for full integration of the personality; otherwise, we will not see the individual’s fundamental values fully developed. In examining the intercepted signs, we will naturally take the couple present on the Ascending-Descending axis into consideration, which will constitute the background polarity on which the native will have to intervene. Let’s use the Leo-Aquarius axis in Houses VII and I as an example; we should act on Leo’s egoistic excesses present in relationships before integrating into the personality the values of altruism, friendship and intuitive understanding typical of Aquarius. Naturally, the interception of the zodiac signs is an aspect that can affect all sectors expressed by domification.
 This variability is due to the obliquity ratio between the earth’s rotation axis and the ecliptic, so in the northern latitudes, the signs from Cancer to Capricorn take longer to rise (signs of long ascension) than the others (signs of short ascension); the opposite for the southern latitudes.