The average person knows her Sun sign, and has a general idea of what characteristics that sign embodies. I.e. Virgos are clean. Aries are impulsive. Geminis are flaky. But fewer people know their full chart, and how the various aspects interact to create a more dynamic portrait. To put it simply: our Sun is our soul, our Moon is our emotional center, and the rising is how we present to the world. (If you want to go deeper: Venus is how we love, Mercury is how we communicate, and Mars is how we fight and fuck.) The rising sign became of particular interest to me after reading Jennifer Egan’s Look At Me, in which her main character frequently distinguishes between peoples’ apparent selves (how they appeared) and their shadow selves (“when they thought they couldn’t be seen.”) In astrological terms, the shadow self can be thought of as the Sun and Moon, operating in tandem, while the apparent self is the rising sign: what we project.
What I learned: I am Leo rising.
This meant that all this time, I, too, was a lioness. Looking back, my Leo rising was always there (I was a musical theatre kid, almost always in a tutu). The internet says Leo risings “radiate a special energy and magnetism” due to a “regal manner that simply demands interest from others.” My forever icon Mary Kate Olsen: Leo rising. Kate Moss: Leo rising. Meryl Streep. Kirsten Dunst. Marilyn Monroe. Rihanna’s rising sign is not known because her birth time is unavailable, but I’ve suspected she’s a Leo rising since reading a Vogue article in which Cate Blanchett describes her as “like the Sphinx.” (We are famously cat-like.)
Leo rising isn’t all good. We’re prone to “rash decisions” and “temper tantrums.” We can be obnoxious and provocative for no reason. (Lena Dunham, Donald Trump: Leo risings.) We go insane when people aren’t paying attention to us, which is probably why I couldn’t handle having a Leo sister, and also why I want to spend every second of my time writing personal essays.
The knowledge that I had some elusive magnetism determined exclusively by my birth time did wonders for my confidence. I started wearing crop tops and stopped wearing a bra. I enrolled in a dance class, during which I often become so transfixed by my own reflection that I zone out and miss the next step. Where I once felt nervous, I now think to myself: Anna, you have a ~presence~. You don’t have to do anything. Just sit there, and you’ll automatically look elegant. Like a cat.
Beyond leaning hard into my Leo rising, the mainstream popularity of astrology has helped me accept that maybe Virgos aren’t so bad. Amy Winehouse was a Virgo, a counterpoint to the prudish control freak that inhabits the popular imagination. Michael Jackson: Virgo. Same with Beyonce. We’re nothing if not dedicated to our craft.
Virgos are also good at Twitter. Ruled by Mercury (the planet of communication), we’re always ready to transform our free-floating nervous energy into a quip. Melissa Broder: Virgo. Cat Marnell: Virgo. Increasingly popular Twitter provocatrice Anna Khachiyan: Virgo. Actually, she’s a Virgo/Leo cusp, which makes her uniquely able to understand my struggle between Leo thirst and Virgo humility. Once, in a tweet nailing my essense, she wrote: “Story of my life is that I am forever vacillating between being a serious womyn theorist (Virgo) and a drunk meme slut (Leo).”
Twenty years ago, the New York Times reported that psychological research suggests that, in telling our life stories, “people invent a personal myth, a tale that, like the myths of old, explains the meaning and goals of their lives.” These psychologists — influenced by Jung — argued that understanding personal myths is important, because they “act as a sort of script that determines how that person is likely to act in the future.”
I know lots of people for whom astrology has provided a useful framework in learning to accept themselves and navigate their worlds. My girlfriend, a Cancer, told me it wasn’t until she learned of her Aries moon that she stopped internalizing her every emotion, and started being more assertive and expressive. A friend, a Leo sun AND moon, told me that learning her Taurus rising allowed her to see herself as less of a drama queen and more of a grounded presence. Another friend, a Scorpio — a sign known for being brooding and closed off — told me her Gemini rising has given her more confidence to navigate unfamiliar social situations.
That is, diving deep into various aspects of your chart can help you develop traits that seem desirable, in turn altering your self-perception for the better. Was I always a serious theorist with a thotty presence, or am I even now? Or did I just curate a series of descriptions and alter my style and behavior slightly in an effort to construct what I perceived to be my predestined personality? Does it even matter?
In an article on astrology’s trendiness among millenials, the Atlantic reported that “if you write a generic personality description and tell someone it applies to them, they’re likely to perceive it as accurate.” I’m always trying to guess people’s signs, and I’m almost always wrong. But once they tell me, I immediately see it. “Ahhh you’re a Sag,” I’ll say, “I see that because you get bored of your lovers with the quickness!”
My astrology fixation often invites eye rolls, especially when I leave my witchy Los Angeles bubble. But I’d rather be judged any day than listen to someone talk about their new diet or describe their job as if all jobs aren’t exactly the fucking same (“circling back,” “hopping on call,” “ping me!”). I mostly love astrology because it’s the universal language of cutting through the meaningless bullshit, and instead diving into the juicy stuff: our personality, our darkness, our soul.