Sun, moon, ascendant signs: Since when did zodiacs become so complex?

·Contributor
·11 min read
Zodiac signs inside of horoscope circle. Astrology in the sky with many stars and moons  astrology and horoscopes concept
As I later realized, astrology is no longer just about having one of the 12 zodiac signs. Apparently, aside from your sun sign, you also have a moon sign and an ascendant sign. (Photo: Getty Images)

During a road trip with my best friends, one of them asked me: What is your sun sign? Moon sign? Ascendant sign? A couple of weeks later, during a get-together lunch with my workmates, I was asked the same questions by my colleagues.

My answer in mind: Since when did zodiacs become so complex? Can’t I just be a Gemini (my sun sign)? Why, all of a sudden, I am asked of the moon and ascendant signs?

In astrology, the zodiac is divided into 12 signs, each of which occupies 30° of celestial longitude and roughly corresponds to the star constellations: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces.

As I later realized, however, astrology is no longer just about having one of the 12 signs. Apparently, aside from your sun sign, you also have a moon sign and an ascendant sign.

But what are these, anyway?

Understanding the sun, moon, and ascendant signs

Zodiac icons on watercolor background. Freehand drawing.
In Western astrology, astrological signs are the twelve 30-degree sectors that make up Earth's 360 degree orbit around the Sun. The signs enumerate from the first day of spring known as the First Point of Aries which is the vernal equinox. (Photo: Getty Images)

I talked to Resti Santiago, who goes by the name the Filipino Astrologer, for some Astrology 101. He explained that the sun sign is usually what you answer when you are asked about your zodiac sign. This can be identified by just knowing your date of birth.

Almost everybody knows their sun sign by now already, but for the others who still do not know their sun signs yet, here is a quick guide; wherever your date of birth falls is what your sun sign is:

  • Aries (March 21 – April 19)

  • Taurus (April 20 – May 20)

  • Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

  • Cancer (June 21 – July 22)

  • Leo (July 23 – August 22)

  • Virgo (August 23 – September 22)

  • Libra (September 23 – October 22)

  • Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)

  • Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)

  • Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)

  • Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)

  • Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

Some people (like myself) like identifying with their sun signs; Aries people are proud of being ambitious, self-assertive, and unafraid, while Virgo people acknowledge that they are humble, self-effacing, and practical. Some others, of course, think that astrology is complete nonsense, although they cannot stop their friends from judging them based on their zodiac sign.

The moon sign, meanwhile, “varies every three days so it is more specific to compute than the sun sign, which you share with everybody else born during a particular astrological month (as demonstrated above)," said Santiago. "So when you talk about your moon sign, you share that only with the people born within three days of your birth date."

Santiago explained that the sun sign shows your personality, lifestyle, and talents, while the moon sign reveals your emotional range.

The sun sign shows your personality, lifestyle, and talents, while the moon sign reveals your emotional range.

So, for example, a businessman has Taurus as his sun sign; Taurus people are known to be diligent, hardworking, and dedicated. But the businessman has Pisces (a water sign) as his moon sign; Pisces people and other people with water signs are known to be more emotionally aware and sensitive. So, the said Taurus businessman may be a diligent laborer but he also uses his emotions in making decisions; other Taurus businessmen who do not have a water sign as their moon sign may not be leaning enough on their emotions when it comes to decision-making.

Lastly, the ascendant or the rising sign is, actually, “the most important factor in the astrological chart," said Santiago.

"As the sun sign is shared with people born in the same month and the moon sign is shared with the people born within three days of your birth date, the ascendant sign changes every two hours; so you only share it with people born within two hours of your birth," added Santiago. This makes the ascendant sign more personalized and specific.

Of course, to know what your ascendant sign is, it is important to know what your time of birth is – on top of the place, date, and year – as it helps in pointing out which zodiac sign the sun was rising on the eastern horizon during your birth.

The ascendant sign reveals your life purpose and direction; it gives insight into your style, how you look, and how you relate to other people.

The ascendant sign reveals your life purpose and direction, according to Santiago; it gives insight into your style, how you look, and how you relate to other people.

This may explain why in a room full of brazen Aries, there would be a few who would be more emotional or sensitive than the rest of the group. This is also why sometimes, when you read the traits of your zodiac sign, you feel, "Oh, I do not think I am this."

A person is a mix of many signs

To demonstrate how identifying the sun, moon, and ascendant signs works in describing the personality traits of a person, Santiago asked for the date, time, and place of my birth. He then used a birth chart calculator and later identified that my sun sign is Gemini – as I knew it – while my moon sign is Scorpio and my ascendant sign is Cancer.

With Gemini as my sun sign, I am believed to be highly flexible, adaptable, and clever, but I can also be indecisive and impulsive (guilty!). But also, Santiago added, Gemini is an air sign so it is associated with knowledge, information, communications, and technology, among others. He said, "There is gathering and sharing knowledge and information, which is what you are doing now as a writer."

A set of star constellations, with captions. File is built in RGB and contains multiple transparency effects as well as a gradient mesh background (only editable in Adobe Illustrator).
While you may share the sun sign with a larger part of the population, your moon and ascendant signs are what make you unique. These are the personalizing factors in astrology. (Photo: Getty Images)

But imagine that I am with 10 other Gemini writers. It would be illogical to think that all of us write the same way just because we share the same sun sign. We have different moon signs (which means we have different emotional characteristics) and ascendant signs (we have different life purposes and directions), so our writing still varies.

Now, given that I have Cancer as my moon sign and Scorpio as my ascendant sign – both of which are water signs – Santiago said that I may be more emotional and sensitive than the other Geminis.

"Before we started with the interview, you explained to me that you wanted to write an article that general readers would understand because that, you believe, is the purpose of your article," Santiago recalled.

"Normally, a Gemini writer would just be gathering information. But because of your Cancer and Scorpio signs, you do not intend to just gather information the way other Gemini writers do; you are also including an emotional and personal appeal to your article, you are considering how your readers will relate to your article," he added. "It was your Cancer and Scorpio signs that were talking to me."

Flat lay of twelve zodiac signs. Horoscope concept, top view.
The sun sign shows your personality, lifestyle, and talents, while the moon sign reveals your emotional range. The ascendant sign shows your life purpose and direction; it gives insight into your style, how you look, and how you relate to other people. (Photo: Getty Images)

Generally put, while you may share the sun sign with a larger part of the population, your moon and ascendant signs are what make you unique. These are the personalizing factors in astrology.

The growing popularity of Western astrology

While many have been obsessing over their (and others’) moon and ascendant signs lately, these are no new phenomena; these have long been identified in the astrology circle already, going as far back as 150 to 200 B.C. in Alexandria, Egypt and the Hellenistic World.

But Santiago said that the availability of free astrology websites and apps (a quick search on Google shows a lot of websites with birth chart calculator features such as Astrosofa, Astrology.com, and Santiago’s Filipino Astrologer) have made it easier for people to identify particularly their moon and ascendant signs.

"When I started studying astrology in the early 1990s, we had to make manual computations to identify people’s moon and ascendant signs. It was a very tedious process. This was why there was little interest in astrology – because people were not ready or willing to spend money and time in doing all that math," shared Santiago.

"But now, with the rise of the internet, the barrier of math is removed already,” he added. You have got free websites and apps – equipped with their sophisticated technology – that can help you identify your moon and ascendant signs in just a few minutes."

Santiago also holds AstroChat, a weekly live virtual discussion about astrology with other Filipino astrologers from different astrology groups such as Astrology Friends Philippines, Stargazer Philippines, and Filstrology. They welcome current and new hobbyists to participate in these virtual panels.

The rising astrology trend is also made evident in Facebook groups where aspiring astrologers and divination practitioners, spiritualists, and esoteric enthusiasts commune. Here, people talk about horoscopes and the dos and don'ts in 2022, help other members in calculating their moon and ascendant signs, or simply just share relevant information related to astrology.

Long-time astrologers like Santiago have long known that there would be a rise in interest in astrology because of the great conjunction, in which Jupiter and Saturn would be the closest since 1623 and the closest observable since 1226.

Male hand holding smart phone device with astrology app, close up. Astrology and horoscope reading concept.
There are now free websites and apps – equipped with their sophisticated technology – that can help you identify your moon and ascendant signs in just a few minutes. (Photo: Getty Images)

"I have been doing astrology since 1997; I think I was around 25 to 27 years old. I was the youngest practitioner at that time," recalled Santiago. "But now, the students of astrology are getting younger. Some of the students I met said that they started studying astrology at the age of 16. So, yes, I can say that there is a growing interest in astrology."

What to avoid in 2022, based on the retrogrades

Santiago also shared a long-term planning calendar that shows when retrogrades are seen to take place in 2022. In astrology, a planet is retrograde when it is moving backward in the sky. But particularly in Western astrology, the retrograde motion may come with negative implications such as mishaps and slowdowns.

“The purpose of this timing guide is to make suggestions to the user about the things that they should avoid doing in a particular week or month,” explained Santiago. “For example, if you have plans to open a business or to get married, it would not hurt to consider astrology in making decisions. It is totally up to you."

The guide shows, for example, that there is going to be a Mercury retrograde from January 14th to February 4th, March 10th to June 3rd, September 10th to October 2nd, and December 29th to January 18th of the next year. During a Mercury retrograde, Santiago explained that people should avoid making important communications such as sealing deals and buying gadgets or machines.

The long-term-planning calendar shows the retrogrades that are seen to take place in 2022. (Photo courtesy of The Filipino Astrologer)
The long-term-planning calendar shows the retrogrades that are seen to take place in 2022. (Photo courtesy of The Filipino Astrologer)

Further, it would be unwise to begin any relationship or alliance from December 19th of last year up to January 29th of this year as this period falls on the Venus retrograde.

"Venus is all about love or relationships, such as alliances and friendships. So, do not start a new relationship during Venus retrograde because the planet of love is weak," said Santiago. “If somebody is courting you now, or if you have a fiancé who is asking your hand for marriage, for example, do not say 'Yes' just yet. If you met a cute person during your Christmas party, you might want to pursue that person after the Venus retrograde, which is on January 29th.”

Business owners might also consider postponing major business activities from July 29th to November 24th, a Jupiter retrograde; buying machines and hiring staff members from October 30th to January 13th of the next year, a Mars retrograde; and constructing buildings from June 5th to October 23rd, a Saturn retrograde.

Lastly, the timing guide suggests avoiding making big decisions or enacting major activities during eclipse months. There will be a solar eclipse on May 2nd and October 25th and a lunar eclipse on May 16th and November 8th.

"Two weeks around the eclipse are not good for all major activities. The eclipses are the most major considerations that you have to take in mind," noted Santiago. "The eclipses tend to heighten tensions or intense emotional issues, so it is not good to get married or start a business when our emotional range is on a high."

Juju Z. Baluyot is a Manila-based writer who has written in-depth special reports, news features, and opinion-editorial pieces for a wide range of publications. He covers cultures, media, and gender.

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