The Big Three – Sun, Moon, & Rising

Taking a step deeper into exploring the complexities of a person’s astrological makeup.

By Victoria Derr Valencia

Oh…astrology? Again? Skeptics all balk at this categorization, this condensation of the complexity of human experience into twelve ancient archetypes. And they have a point. At first glance, sun sign astrology seems to do this. Instagram memes, learning a few of the assigned personality traits, only 12 personality types? How could the millions of people, born during the same 30 day span, all be the same? That’s where the rest of the chart comes in.

Astrology doesn’t aim to boil down millions of people into condensed, undersaturated, overexposed versions of archetypes.

You are not solely your sun sign (the sign most people associate themselves with – for example, folks born in early September are Virgos, whereas folks born in late September are Libras, and etc.). Oui, the sun was placed somewhere in the sky when you were born; but so was the moon. So was Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and all the planets and certain asteroids and certain invisible nodes. To get a full screenshot of the cosmos when you were born, you’d need a trained astrology and some willingness to open-mindedly listen.

But for the locals who are just curious about what astrology has to offer at a basic level, I invite yallz to go deeper beyond sun signs…to explore your moon sign and ascendant (aka rising sign). Sun, moon, and rising are known as the big three in astrology – vitally important to a soul blueprint and perhaps the driving forces behind a human’s way through humanhood.

I’ve heard many beautiful metaphors to explain the big three. The way I like to visualize the big three is through the image of a ship – the sun is the captain of the ship, and the moon is the underbelly inner workings of the ship. The rising sign is the flag being waved way up high, for all to see upon approaching.

With delicate urging, I invite you to remember the big three are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring a natal chart. Astrology aims not to categorize folks, nor label their personality traits. Astrology aims to go deeper, exploring soul urges and learned patterns, a cosmic blueprint for who we are as beings. And voilà. With that intro, comes my own apprentice astrologer explanations of sun, moon, and rising.


Life force. Driving energy. Core being.

The captain of your ship. The leader, the driving force, the life energy that pulls you, guides you, is embodied in you. The ego. The life force. The brightest star in the solar system. There’s a reason why sun sign astrology, or pop astrology, is the sign most folks know themselves as being. Without the sun, we wilt.

The sun is the main focal point in a person’s astrological makeup for a reason. The sun is not only the brightest star in the solar system, but the grounding gravitational point of the other planet’s orbits and cycles. Similarly in astrology, the sun in your chart is not only the brightest star, the guiding light, but what co-creates the rhythms and the structures of who you are.

It’s your sense of self, you’re driving forces. The captain of your ship.

The placement of the sun, which is probably what sign you know yourself to be, depends on the sun’s placement in the sky during the time you were born. The sun takes 30 days to move through a sign’s corresponding constellation, moving one degree per day. After moving thirty degrees, it spins off into the next sign, and a whole slew of posts about “Gemini szn” (or whatever corresponding season) blow up on Instagram (or is that just my feed…)

However, some folks don’t resonate with their sun sign. They find their personality traits to differ. All they read about Capricorns has to do with power, and solitude, and being success-oriented. But they themselves don’t feel large amounts of drive to be successful, nor consider themselves money hungry. Again, these are personality traits that are exaggerated. Signs don’t strive to express personality traits, but rather urges, impulses, embodiments. An archetype is an example of a person or thing, a recurrent symbol or motif throughout ages. Maybe you as a Capricorn aren’t money hungry, but find staying on track professionally comes very easily to you. Maybe you have a good relationship with success (not what society defines as success, but what you personally define as success); the opposite can happen as well. Just as much as your sun sign can be balanced, it can reside as an unconscious, hidden part of you. Maybe you abhor others for their successes, or find an immense pressure to find success in life.

And this isn’t stretching the case to make it work – this is how astrology works. It works for you, if you wish to work through it. Astrology is a tool – a point for you to self-reflect.

Then again, plenty of folks don’t one hundred percent relate to their sun sign. And this is where the whole rest of the chart comes in. But specifically, onto the next of the big three. The moon sign.


Emotional realm. Intrinsic reactions. Daily shifts.

Oh, moon signs. The inner workings, what keeps the ship going. The underbelly of the ship, the collection or conglomeration of many moving parts, many changing parts, that really does keep the ship going. The moon changes each night – waxes and wanes through a cycle of 27 days. This reflects how much our inner workings go through cyclical shifts and changes as well.

A bit about the moon cycle: the moon rotates around the Earth every 27 days. Through that orbit, it begins at a new moon (completely darkened), waxes to a full moon, and wanes back again to a new moon. The moon, just like the sun, moves through the constellations in the sky – at a much quicker pace. Whereas the sun takes 30 days to go through a sign, the moon takes 2.5 days. Ever changing is right.

But what does your moon sign represent? What does it explain in a chart?

The “nighttime” part of you, so to speak. The part that doesn’t see daylight, the part that conceals and covers up. Think of all the cultural associations in regards to the moon – emotional energy, submissive energy, changing through cycles. Reflecting the light of the sun, being fully bright during some parts of the month, and fully hidden other parts of the month. The processing that happens behind the scenes. The day to day life, because the moon changes so quickly: it takes attention and consistency.

In contrast to the sun, which represents spirit and the life-giver of the solar system, the moon is much more carnal. It’s Earth’s own personal satellite, the messenger to the solar system beyond. It represents the body, the nurturing of. When I first discovered my moon sign, I resonated so deeply with its placement that I denounced my sun sign for a while (which, as an Aries sun, didn’t last long). A moon sign placement can resonate more deeply than a sun sign placement because it’s the inner workings of their emotional realm, of their body. The unconscious, intrinsic reactions.

For example, for someone with a Scorpio moon to feel emotionally satiated, they may need to nurture themselves through the style of the Scorpio archetype – deep levels of emotional intimacy in relationships, releasing resentment to not harbor difficult emotions, a passionate expression of sexuality, and perhaps some kind of relationship to practices considered mystical or metaphysical. These examples would need to be honed, and honored in day to day life in order for them to feel at ease.

To calculate your own moon sign, follow this link.


The mask. The persona. First impressions.

Oh, rising signs. Not uprising, not arising, but simply: rising. A liftoff point. A first step from the horizon. A taking off. An ascent.

Your rising sign is your persona, how you first come off to people. How your soul filters into your personality. I once heard an astrologer describe it as the stained glass that your sun and your moon shone through. I describe it as the flag your ship waves (with the sun as your captain and the moon as the underworkings of the ship, of course).

NOTE: Rising signs is synonymous with “ascendant” and “first house.”

  If you were to look for that eastern rising constellation represented in a natal chart, it would be represented in the first house. In the adjacent image, look for the house labeled 1. The corresponding glyph, shaped like a V shaped, stands for Aries – thus rendering this person an Aries rising.
If you were to look for that eastern rising constellation represented in a natal chart, it would be represented in the first house. In the adjacent image, look for the house labeled 1. The corresponding glyph, shaped like a V shaped, stands for Aries – thus rendering this person an Aries rising.

For rising signs, this one will need a graph to explain the placement. Unlike the sun and moon placements, the ascendant isn’t a planetary placement. The rising sign, or first house, (pictured adjacent as the slice with the number 1) is determined by which constellation was on the horizon at the time of your birth. Which constellation was rising in the east as you were brought into this earthly plane.

Carl Jung describes the social personality as the persona, which means mask in Greek. And it’s not so much the mask that you choose to present to people, but more so the mask people perceive you as wearing. It’s how we interact to our everyday relationships, how we portray ourselves to our more superficial relationships. The part of us that interacts with the barista at our local coffee shop, or our coworker whose middle name we don’t know.

Rather than discarding the persona as something untrue, false, or frivolous, it’s important to acknowledge how much of our day and energy is spent wearing this mask – we’d be emotionally exhausted if we let each of our interactions reach a depth that touches on the inner workings of our soul. As nourishing as these moments are, the bulk of our daily moments are spent protecting our inner landscapes, and projecting ourselves as the mask we wear. The personality traits we choose to let others see. The first impressions, or surface impressions we radiate. The way we take ourselves through life.

This placement could be the most relatable aspect of a person’s chart because it is the persona through which we engage with everyday life. The sun and the moon are the guiding forces – but the rising is the filter through which these guiding forces manifest. Your presentation of yourself is an everyday gig – most of your day is spent “out in the world,” and the part of us that engages most with being out and about is our rising sign. Because this is a mask we wear so often, it’s understandable how this placement could be the part of our astrological makeup that we resonate with so deeply.

The rising sign translates the complexities of who we are into a digestible, everyday version.

To find your own rising sign, follow this link.

The sun, the moon, the rising. The ego, the emotions, the mask. The way these three interact all together is the guiding and grounding aspects to what makes you, you. The sun and moon together represent who you are during your alone time, time with yourself. The sun and the rising sign together are who you are once you are lit up, in a charged social situation. The rising and the moon are who you are when you’re with close friends, in a cozy space.

We are not bound by our natal charts; we are predetermined to being or acting a certain way because of an astrological system. Astrology acknowledges the conflicting and confusing aspects of who we are as messy, alive, and co-creating human beings. To use the information gathered form your chart is a jumping off point to understand yourself further. As a tool for self-reflection. As a moment to invite in deeper understanding about self and the way you interact with not only the world around you, but the world within you as well.

As an apprentice astrologer, I must give gratitude and credit to teachers and mentors. Listed below are those who I’ve studied, the sources of the bulk of the astrology information I gather and process. Gratitude for their acquired and embodied wisdom funneling into my apprenticeship stage!

For more info, seek out…