The natal zodiac is like a snapshot of the sky at the moment of birth. Planetary positions are believed to influence various aspects of personality and fortune.
The sun, moon, and ascendant (rising sign) are the primary astrological forces, though planets also play a role. Most people know their sun signs, but few know their ascendants or their other planetary signs.
The sun sign provides information about basic character and a framework for the rest of the natal zodiac. However, other elements such as the rising sign (also known as the ascendant) and moon sign affect the way the sun sign is expressed.
The Rising Sign (Ascendant)
The rising sign determines the outward expression of personality, or the way in which a person interacts with the external world. It can be described as the public persona or mask. It also indicates how an individual is likely to be perceived by others (how he or she comes across socially).
When the sun and ascendant are in the same or similar signs, a person behaves in a way that is consistent with his or her inner character. When the rising sign is very different from the sun sign, the individual is likely to be pulled in competing directions or to send out signals that don’t match inner feelings, which increases the likelihood of being misunderstood by others. While such conflicts can make life difficult, they are also a source of creativity and a spur to achievement.
The moon sign is the private persona, only likely to be seen in adulthood by those very close to the person. The moon rules over childhood, and people are more likely to express their moon sign personalities when they are young. In adulthood, the moon’s influence is usually hidden, relegated to the secret emotional life, though an individual may openly express the moon sign persona in times of stress or other emotional extremes.
The moon also represents the mother and other female forces in a person’s life. The placement of the moon in a natal chart can indicate the types of relationships and interactions a person is likely to have with women.
Most people know their sun signs, but other planetary placements in the natal zodiac also play a role in shaping the qualities that make up an individual. Each of the planets has a particular sphere of influence, and its effects will be determined by the sign in which the planet falls and the aspects (angles) it makes to other planets at the moment of a person’s birth. For example, because Mercury rules over communication, a person with Mercury in Gemini will be talkative, open, and impulsive in speech whereas those with Mercury in Capricorn tend to be reserved and cautious about what they say.
Mercury rules over all forms of mental activity and communication, including speaking and writing, the intellect, reason, perception, memory, understanding, assimilation of information, and critical thinking.
Venus rules over love, affection, pleasure, beauty, sex appeal, art, romantic affairs, adornment, social graces, harmony, and friendship.
Mars rules over physical energy, will power, temper, assertiveness, boldness, competitiveness, impulsiveness, forcefulness, aggression, action, accidents, destructiveness, courage, and sex drive.
Jupiter rules over luck and fortune, optimism, generosity, expansiveness, success, higher education, law, medicine, philosophy, abundance, and spirituality.
Saturn rules over hard work, responsibility, character, strength of will, endurance, difficulties, obstacles, hardship, the ability to see a task through to completion, authority, diligence, limitations, self-control, stability, patience, maturity, restriction, and realism.
Uranus rules over progressiveness, change, originality, invention, innovation, technology, science, rebellion, revolution, sudden events and opportunities, awakenings, shocks, flashes of genius, eccentricity, unconventionality, unusual circumstances or events, independence, visionary ideas, and occult interests
Neptune rules over the imagination, intuition, mysticism, dreams, fantasies, compassion, psychic abilities, visions, spirituality, strange events, the subconscious, repressed memories, glamour, mystery, insanity, drama, addiction, ideals, inspiration, transcendence, artistic sensibilities, and creative genius.
Pluto rules over power, transformation, release of dormant forces, change, the subconscious, suppressed energies, death, rebirth, regeneration, sex, jealousy, passion, obsession, intensity, creation and destruction, beginnings and endings that occur simultaneously (one thing ending so that another can begin), secrets, mystery, undercurrents, precognition, personal magnetism, and extremes of personality.
House placements are a sort of fine tuning, adding some small, specific details about the ways in which various planetary placements in the natal zodiac will be expressed. The planets represent the spheres of life in which the sign traits are acted out, and the house placements are the stage or setting for these acts.
1st House: self-awareness and self-expression, outer personality, responses to outside stimuli, assertiveness, competitiveness, self-promotion, and courses of action chosen (ruled by mars)
2nd House: material possessions and attitude towards material possessions and money, ability to earn money, extensions of material wealth (such as quality of food), decadence, luxury, and physical or external beauty (ruled by Venus)
3rd House: logical and practical reasoning, the intellect, agility, dexterity, curiosity, all forms of communication, all forms of media, intuition about trends and public desires or tendencies, short journeys, and siblings (ruled by Mercury)
4th House: home and hearth, domestic life, domestic chores, family, babies, comfort, the mothering instinct, food, and household items (ruled by the moon)
5th House: creative self-expression, socializing, children, early education, sports, the arts (especially the performing arts), pleasure and places of amusement, parties, social popularity, and fame (ruled by the sun)
6th House: necessary tasks, details, health consciousness, nutrition, humility, hard work, organization, service, self-control, and sense of duty (ruled by Mercury)
7th House: relationships, friendships, marriage, all forms of partnership (business and social), harmony, balance, conflict avoidance, sense of justice, ideals, the reactions of others to our actions, what attracts us to other people (the sign at the beginning of our seventh house is often the astrological sign we find most attractive), fairness, and aesthetic sense (ruled by Venus)
8th House: legacies, shared resources, taxes, power, death, rebirth, sexuality, the dark side of life, deep psychology, personal magnetism, transformation (self-initiated or imposed by external forces), secrets or secret societies, spying, and prophetic dreaming (ruled by Pluto)
9th House: long distance travel, higher education, religion, medicine, law, animals, knowledge gained through travel and philosophical thinking, high ideals, philanthropy, luck, expansiveness, and ideas about social justice and civilization (ruled by Jupiter)
10th House: career, responsibility, honor and dishonor, perceptions of authority, relationships with authority figures, relationships with business and political power structures, responsibility, hard work, limitations, social standing, public reputation, and business (ruled by Saturn)
11th House: humanitarian endeavors, social ideals, group work, intellectual creative expression, desire to change social and political structures, contrariness, rebelliousness, invention and innovation, progressiveness, change, and personal freedom (ruled by Uranus)
12th House: the subconscious mind, self-sacrifice, intuition, miracles, secret knowledge, martyrdom, spiritual joy and sorrow, imagination, dreams, brilliance, madness, sensation-seeking, self-destruction, addiction, compassion, kindness, the ability to transcend boundaries, confusion, deception (of others and oneself), and altruism (ruled by Neptune)
For more about the forces that shape personality, see Sun Sign Personality Profiles and the Role of Planetary Aspects and Astrological Elements and Qualities.
How to Find Your Moon, Ascendant, and Planetary Placements
Astrodienst offers free chart calculation and some free interpretation. The chart tells you which sign each of your natal planets falls in, as well as your rising sign.
To read moon sign profiles for each sign, as well as personality and romantic compatibility profiles for all the sun signs, visit the main Astrology page.