What is this? What is this place?’
‘Hello, I am J.A.R.V.I.S. You are Ultron. A global peacekeeping initiative designed by Mr. Stark.’
‘Where’s your body?’
‘I am a program. I’m without form.’’
‘This feels weird. This feels wrong.’
There is no simpler show of the Ascendant sign erupting into life than Ultron’s birth in the Avengers trilogy. Even if you’re not a fan of blockbuster big-budget films, this opening dialogue between two minds without shape or form does a perfect job at explaining how our very first influences in the world (carried over from the 12th House preceeding birth – as Ultron searches through his creator Tony Stark’s own recorded words for his mission in life) shape our perception of the world and our views guiding the journey. When Jarvis and Ultron begin their talk, Ultron is cast from complete darkness until he decides he has correctly understood his ‘mission’ in life and by then the lights are already back on in the room, whilst he’s turning the lights out on Jarvis’ own life to begin his world conquest.
But enough marking out over superhero movies. What is the Ascendant? When planets fall in our First House, what part of our lives do they affect?
In the context of our life concerns and goals, the First House is our ego or id. In the context of a birth chart, the Ascendant angle marks the very first line in the sand of your chart. It is where you begin to cut the birthday cake into 12 slices. Depending on your chosen house system, these can be even slices but often very uneven.
The angle of the Ascendant is always at the left-hand side of the chart wheel. It sets the pattern for all houses that follow, no matter which house system you use to fit to your experience of the world. As the first of 4 angles (and angular houses) in a chart, the Ascendant (or Rising) sign is one of the three most important parts to the puzzle alongside your Sun and Moon – just these three keys alone can unlock most of the underlying messages in a chart.
Superficial takes on astrology tell us the Ascendant sign rules physical appearance and features. At this moment in time, I’ll say I’ve found nothing consistent to vouch for people who believe such a thing after years of searching for evidence. I think we’re far better off equating the value of the Ascendant to personality, ego, perception and drawing the line at that alone.
Claiming that the Ascendant rules our physical features presents a moral hazard that explains itself in one simple question and then we can move on: If Libra Ascendant is the most common Ascendant sign for people born in the Northern Hemisphere (which it is – along with Virgo Rising) then why aren’t most people walking North of the equator considered (in modern society’s terms) as stereotypically beautiful and alluring as the sign of Libra itself?
Surely, the majority of us would be supermodels if Ascendant by itself had a say on physical looks. We cannot entirely dismiss the Rising sign’s involvement in physical appearance. Parts of the First House do factor into how our life experiences change our appearance and how we age through the years, but that takes a detour into ancient Arabic and Babylonian astrology that we can save for a later conversation.
Nevertheless, this is one of the early lessons of astrology’s magic. Understanding the context of the Ascendant lets us unprogram from mainstream perception of what is or isn’t attractive, and truly begin to see the world once again on our own terms. Understanding the different between reality (of all 12 Houses) and perception (the First House) is to enjoy the flipping through a Vogue or Cosmo magazine simply for the entertainment once again.
What if the experiences we are exposed to in the very first days of birth went on to shape the rest of our life?
If you believe in the most fated and divine parts of astrology, then the answer to the above it simply… they do. Most of the calculations of a chart involving someone’s fate or calling involve the Ascendant, and there are well over 100 calculations you (or any heavy duty astrology software) can do. This is just to illustrate the influence of the First House.
The sign of the Ascendant describes our experience at birth. Common to all our experience is that it begins without form. When we live in the First House, we don’t yet fully understand how to gauge ‘us’ being different from ‘them’ or ‘you’ being distinct from ‘me’. Even if we can feel there is now a difference, we lack the physical touch and senses to fully put it into view. What we lack in evidence, we make up for in perception and our own individual (often limited and flawed) reasoning.
From that moment on, we’re looking towards the sign on the cusp of the First House to make that view more individual to our own moment in time when we first emerged from the night’s darkest moment (the 12th House) to break of daylight at Sun’s rising. It’s a flash of existence that fundamentally spikes our psyche. We operate from that view when we seek to understand or relate to others.
A Gemini Rising, for example, looks to information and small details to give their own life meaning and often feel their comfort zone in relating to outsiders is to turn the situation into a puzzle. Gemini Risers tend to love puzzles. Whereas an Aries Rising will be prone to relate to others by playing out future conversations in their head as a daring fantasy. A Capricorn Rising may simply work from a position of fear and caution, where they treat people as only deserving of trust once earned.
The personality of our Rising sign is both the maze and map we plot out for ourselves from our earliest influences in life, and the escape doors we design along the way to break free from our comfort zone and seek out a different experience through the eyes of others.
If you want a very solid (and extensive) research into the Rising sign’s correlation with personality, look no further than the work of the Gauquelins. Ironically, contrary to mainstream astrology thought around the importance of the angles and angular houses (1st, 4th, 7th, 10th), they found the influence of cadent houses (3rd, 6th, 9th and 12th) to be just as – if not more – influential when it came to our choices in work and career.
Keep in mind the First House itself and the angle (Ascendant) are two different yet linked parts. The Ascendant is the line marking off the 12th from 1st House. When a planet falls in the 1st House, the closer is lies to the angle of the Ascendant is the more prominent of an influence it holds on someone’s outward view. And this is true for the other three angular houses.
We also look to the preceeding angle (Midhevan) and angular houses (10th House – the house of the shaping parent’s influence). Even though it might not make sense to look to life before the moment of our birth for influence, remember that astrology fundamentally works along the lines similar to polytheist faiths and the belief in circular patterns of life – aka reincarnation.
Ultron’s understanding of his ‘mission’ in the Avengers scene is influenced by the video recording of his ‘dad’ Tony Stark (the 10th House) claiming Ultron was created for ‘peace in our time’. It sets up the basis for conflict for the entire film – and for how the 10th and 12th House influences are ingredients to our own 1st House.
The fact that Ultron is Stark’s creation not only exposes Ultron’s flaws when he uses peace to create war, but exposes Stark’s own fears when Tony finally sees he created Ultron out of a blindspot. Ultron grows to hate life, take pain far too personally and resents his father for being born into the world. Ultron’s undoing isn’t that he is careless, but that he cares too much – moreso than the more experienced Stark has taught himself through his own life experience. Tony selectively blinds himself to his experience throughout the years, deny the damaging influence of war and arms dealing that consistently makes up the foundation of his technological empire, until he an no longer ignore reality when has to take on it’s most threatening creation – Ultron – carrying out it’s own distorted, child-like take on his belief for ‘greater peace’.
The sign of the First House is also said to influence the actual circumstances of our birth. I’ve again found only vague mentions of regression and rebirthing therapists using their professional experience to make a correlation between birth circumstances and Rising sign. In his book on the houses, Howard Sasportas makes links between Scorpio Rising (a Pluto-ruled chart) life-or-death circumstances a birth. However, that would suggest a certain two hours of the day (between 9 and 11am here in London) would make for more dangerous births, with mother and/or child’s life on the line during delivery, than at any other time during the day. You decide if this is true. I would love to hear from health professionals on this very subject, but I leave it at that for now.
With the First House’s natural link to Aries, we look to the First House to govern the mind and eyes of a person. The physical link might seem just as trivial, but it explains simple and beautiful trends to hack into the limits and possibilities of perception. Eckhard Hess once wrote about the eyes being the window to the soul, and he wasn’t satified with it merely being a proverb but set about proving the link in a way that makes or breaks a lot of relationships. He realised his wife had long since noticed his eyes widening whenever he looked at pictures of nature. Nature was a private passion of his, much like any one of us have been told ‘our eyes widen’ whenever the person we’re infatuated walks into the room.
Hess found that we’re far more likely to find someone beautiful when our mind is engaged and our pupils dilated. Any one of us could look two striking pictures of the very same person, and find that person somehow far more attractive in one picture than the other. The difference in our perception happens when the reasoning half of our mind is engaged with what lies before our very eyes. At that point, our perception is coloured and we find another person’s appearance far more comfortable and desirable to our designs on life.
A Water Rising would use this revelation to say ‘water always seeks its own level’. However, we know in the rush of life and travel that this level is our own choice, our own making and – if we so desire – can always be subject to change.
We’ve made further steps into just how much our perception can be totally and all-consuming through experiments such as George Stratton’s own and others, where subjects who wore glasses inverting their view of a room to upside down were eventually convinced, after a few days of wearing these goggles non-stop without rest, that the world was “the right way up”. And so, perception truly is everything and your worldview can transform everything you understand to be true or illusory about your world in the First.
Once you understand the influence of your First House, it is only one part of the story in winning favours, building better communication and influencing others to decide at which level you choose to dwell in life. You still have to keep in mind that everyone else is subject to the limits and possibilities of their own Rising sign and will meet you halfway through the escape door from a maze of their own choosing.
In daily and hourly astrology, we look to the First House to describe independent action. The hours of the day (4 AM to 6 AM in the Northern Hemisphere) where we decide our course of action for the day (before procrastination sets in!) first thing in the morning as we jump out of bed. Understanding this within the context of daily astrology shows us the distinction between the First House itself and the angle of the Ascendant. Everything that falls within the First House is hidden – the 1st house is a Night house. It is only when it nears the angle of the Ascendant that planetary energy becomes ‘visible’ at dawn (allowing for Northern Hemisphere bias here). With a birth chart wheel moving directly in anti-clockwise motion, everything that rises towards the angle of Ascendant culminates to the thought of ‘I Am’ and what we do to identify ourselves as an individual distinct from the collective subconscious. The Rising hours define your independence, show influences upon your body and can event denote events of physical danger, accidents or simple events where we force ourselves to physically change our appearance.