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Stained Glass

Is the Ascendant More Than Just a Mask?

by Steven Forrest

When I was a kid getting interested in astrology, I quickly learned that the Ascendant was a big piece of the puzzle. But what did it mean? The more I read, the more I heard astrologers rolling the drums and blowing the trumpets for it . . .  but I still didn’t get it. The Ascendant is “your identity.” It is “your ego.” It is superficial; it is more important than your Sun Sign. The more I read, the more confused I became.

I decided I needed to figure it out for myself. I began by thinking about it physically. The Ascendant is the sign that was rising in the east when you were born. It was “dawning,” just like the Sun dawns in the morning. And it then came to me in a flash: the Ascendant represents how you “dawn on people.” It is your style, your affect, the way you present yourself to the social world.

Pretty soon I found myself in my early thirties and under contract to write a book about the astrological basics for Bantam Books. It eventually became The Inner Sky, after passing perilously close to being given the corporate name “Astrology 101.” But that is another story! In writing The Inner Sky I spoke of the Ascendant as “The Mask.” I drew the term from Jungian psychology, where Carl Jung described our social personality as the persona, which is the Greek word for mask. Then as now, I prefer plain English, so I stuck with the simple word mask.

And mask is a pretty good term for the Ascendant. We are all wear a mask in the superficial social situations that dominate our lives. Someone asks, “how are you?” And we say, “fine, thanks.”

But when was the last time you were ever actually “fine, thanks?” Yet we all have to do this editing or streamlining of our “real” inner lives in order to function in the world. Few people are really interested in the nuances of our emotional lives. And we all learn to avoid people who waste half an hour of our own lives actually answering the question in detail! Do we really care about their migraine headaches? Probably only if they are among our near and dear.

It is an entirely different situation when your best friend, whom you have not seen for six months says, “how are you?” Then, you need an hour just to hit the headlines. But most of our relationships are superficial, and that is the natural domain of the Ascendant. Some of our relationships are really deep. Does the Ascendant disappear then? Is it all about social pleasantries and convenient over-simplifications?

Not really! It is that thought that led me to a deeper understanding of how the Ascendant works. I still call it The Mask sometimes. The term works pretty well. But I’ve come up with a better metaphor. The Ascendant is like the stained glass through which the rest of the psyche shines into the world. Stained glass filters the light that passes through it; it tints the light, gives it a hue. That’s exactly how the Ascendant works. It translates the inner complexity of the psyche into the three-dimensional terms of the social world.

Steven Forrest Say you have some red stained glass. You shine a yellow light though it. What do you see? Orange light - that’s the mix result of the mix of red and yellow. But shine a blue light through that same red stained glass, and you’ll see violet peeking through. So if someone asks what Cancer rising means, you had better ask about the rest of the chart! Cancer rising looks really different on a Leo than it does on a Scorpio. Making these kinds of blends is the real skill to understanding how the Ascendant works.

Even in our most intimate interactions, we express ourselves through the Ascendant. Sagittarius rising? You’ll probably put a plucky spin on everything you say, even when you are glum. Scorpio? There will be that lingering eye contract, that extra dose of intensity. Virgo? You won’t spare a detail. Even in the most intimate moments, we all have a style. And tuning it so it serves our real intentions is authentic evolutionary work.

-Steven Forrest

Save 20% off the following titles

The Ascendant: Your Rising Sign

The AscendantJodie Forrest examines the Ascendant through the lenses of the arts, psychology, relationships, evolutionary astrology and metaphysics. Beginners or seasoned astrologers will deepen their knowledge of the rising sign in this useful book. Includes an extensive Ascendant “cookbook” for each rising sign.  Now in ebook format as well as print. 214 pages.

Print | Kindle | Nook | Kobo

The Ascendant Workshop

The Ascendant WorkshopBased on Jodie Forrest's book The Ascendant, This workshop will leave you with a rich understanding of The Ascendant, or Rising Sign, and give you a starting point for working with this symbol in the birth chart. Presented by Jodie Forrest. mp3 format. 5 hours.

MP3 Audio Download

The Ascendant in 2 Octaves

The Ascendant in 2 OctavesThe astrological ascendant, or rising sign, is much more than just how we appear to others on first meeting. It also has to do with how we feed our own journey through the world. Steven Forrest. mp3 download. 1 hour 10 min.

MP3 Audio Download

The Ruler of the Ascendant

The Ruler of the AscendantLearn about the planetary ruler of the ascendant, whose house placement, aspects and progressions are so important to "get our act together" and express our ascendant in a vital and healthy way. Steven Forrest. mp3 download. 1 hour 45 min.

MP3 Audio Download

The Ascendant

The AscendantJodie shares an introduction to the Ascendant in this presentation for the San Francisco Astrological Society in March 2009. Jodie elaborates on ideas presented in her book of the same name. Jodie Forrest. mp3 download. 1 hour 48 minutes.

MP3 Audio Download

The Progressed Ascendant

The Progressed AscendantSymbolizing our evolving style of outward _expression, the progressed Ascendant reflects our need for continuing adaptation to the ever-changing shoreline that separates the inner and the outer worlds. Often overlooked, the planetary ruler of the progressed Ascendant plays a pivotal role in setting the tone of the various "epochs" of our lives. Steven Forrest. mp3 download. 80 min.

MP3 Audio Download


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