The Ruler of Your Ascendant
by Steven Forrest
The sun just started to blaze over the Anza-Borrego desert where I live. I am writing these words in haste since I need to pack my bags and head for the Palm Springs airport in four hours. From there, I have to make my way up to San Francisco and points north to teach one of my Apprenticeship Programs. Michelle and I just arrived here in the desert a week ago, so it hurts to leave home again so soon. We live part of the time in New Orleans and we just completed the endless, three-day cross-country drive to get here from there. When I close my eyes, I’m still hallucinating the white lines of the highway stretching out before me.
When I get back from this teaching trip, I’ll only have about ten days at home again before leaving to teach seminars in Beijing and Shanghai. When I get back from Asia, I will once more only have about ten days at home before I leave to teach the southern California edition of my Apprenticeship Program. That one is easier—just a 90 minute drive and a five-day trip.
Does this sound like an insane way to live?
As I read over my words, that assessment sounds pretty accurate. But I am used to it. I have been living this way for last the three decades. Anyone who looked at my life from outside would see these same behavioral patterns consistently and prominently: traveling, teaching, and writing.
And of course doing astrological readings: talking.
Teaching, writing, and talking: what astrological house are we spotlighting? Most astrologers would say, correctly, the 3rd house. Some would astutely add the 9th house for its link to education and publishing.
Traveling: what house carries that symbolism? Most astrologers would say, correctly, the 9th. And some, if they had much practical experience, would mention the 3rd house too.
Let me clarify that last point. In some of the older books, the 3rd House was related to “short journeys,” while the 9th referred to “long journeys.” In my experience, it’s not the length of the journey that counts, but rather how exotic or familiar it is. The first time I went to China, it felt like a 9th House experience. This month, I’ll make my fourth trip. I will see familiar faces and places. I will hug old friends and catch up with their lives. The trip feels a bit more like “commuting.” That’s the 3rd house travel signature. It doesn’t have the “questing” feeling of the 9th house.
So, still using myself as an example, anyone looking at me from the outside would see a vivid 3rd/9th house fingerprint on my daily life. And, no surprise, both of those houses are activated in my natal chart. I have Pluto in the 9th and a Mars/Mercury conjunction on the cusp of the 3rd. But here is the critical link—and the actual point of this essay: two of those planets, Pluto and Mars, are “the rulers of my chart.” And that is what I want to explore here.
When I was born, Scorpio was rising. Go to an astrology conference and ask which planet rules Scorpio and you may start a fistfight. Classically, the answer is Mars. Modern astrologers favor Pluto. People argue vehemently on both sides of the question. To me, that is silly. Both rulerships are valid. Mars and Pluto each have an affinity with Scorpio, and that is what rulership is about.
And astrologers, since time immemorial, have recognized that the planet which rules the ascendant plays a dramatically underscored role in a person’s life. That’s why it came to be called “the ruler of the chart.”
But why exactly?
To answer that, we need to think some deeper thoughts about the nature of the ascendant. That is a big subject, but one elemental observation is that the ascendant represents a person’s style of manifestation. Here’s what I mean: You meet someone at a party, they say “how are you?” You say, “Fine thanks, how’s about you?” They say, “Fine thanks.” And you instantly like them—or dislike them! Something of their core nature shone through that superficial social behavior. We can learn a lot about someone by how they say, “Fine, thanks.” Energy comes through every human gesture.
I always think of the ascendant as the stained glass through which the light of the psyche is shining. It translates the deeper n-dimensional layers of the psyche into the 3D world of social behavior. The ascendant is how you act in the world.
And that is the key to understanding why the planet that rules the ascendant is so important. Like the ascendant itself, the ruler of the ascendant is behaviorally activated. We see it very clearly in the existential and social behavior of a person.
The astrological birthchart holds many clues about profoundly intimate, even hidden, elements of a person’s experience and character. The ruler of the ascendant may carry such deeper meaning as well. But it always carries that simple signature of the ascendant itself: visible behavior.
So, off I go to yet another airport, to teach yet another class. That’s what my life looks like. Is that what I am? Yes, sure—and I am grateful for it. But I am not that simple. And neither are you.
There is a planet that rules your ascendant too. It’s in a sign and a house and it makes aspects. Have a look at it from the point of view we have explored here. Do that, and you will, to paraphrase the words of the great Scots poet, Robert Burns, “see yourself as others see you.”
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Recordings Featuring the Ascendant
Learn 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
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This workshop includes detailed descriptions of Sun, Moon and Ascendant in each of the 12 signs.
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A look at the evolutionary journey of the progressed ascendant and also the ruler of the progressed ascendant.
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