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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Three's Company: Sun, Moon, Ascendant

I just finished reading a Final Exam paper by one of my students in Astrology 101 (a course I teach at the Magical Circle School). The exam asks students to discuss how the “Big Three” – their Sun, Moon, and Rising signs -- interact with each other, how they support or conflict with each other, and how those interactions are expressed in their personality.

The student did a beautiful job with her Libra Sun, Libra Moon, and Aries ascendant. I thought it would be fun to offer my thoughts on my own Sun, Moon, and Rising signs from a Tarot perspective.

I am using the Celestial Tarot by Kay Steventon and Brian Clark (U.S. Games Systems, Inc.)

Celestial Tarot (U.S. Games)
My Sun sign is Sagittarius: Temperance (The Spirit of Sagittarius)

In the Little White Book (LWB) for this deck, Temperance is subtitled “The Spirit of Sagittarius”. The card depicts Artemis, the Greek goddess of the wilderness, the hunt and wild animals, and fertility. On the surface it may be difficult to relate this image of Temperance to the traditional “woman pouring liquid from one cup into another” (shown faintly in the upper right background on this card). However, the LWB makes the following observation: “Underlying this archetype is the struggle between the instinctual and the pursuit of higher knowledge and ethics. Similarly the card Temperance implies moderation and balance, finding the middle path, and discerning between right and wrong.” Temperance, reflection, and balance are needed if we are to move forward on the path to spiritual awakening and learning.

Sagittarius is one of several signs termed “dual signs” or “double-bodied” signs in astrology. The reason is that the traditional representative of Sagittarius is a centaur – half human, half animal. This further supports the idea of “the struggle between the instinctual and the pursuit of higher knowledge and ethics” mentioned in the deck’s LWB. The Romans associated the constellation Sagittarius with Chiron, a wise and gentle Centaur. Like Chiron, the spirit of Sagittarius not only seeks wisdom but also becomes a teacher, mentor, healer, and guide.

In the larger book accompanying this deck, Brian Clark writes that the spirit of Sagittarius is “to reason and judge clearly, not from a self-interested perspective, but from a holistic point of view.” He adds that Sagittarius encourages us “to differentiate the barbaric from the refined, the wild from the moderate, and to choose the path aligned with our highest ideals.”

The placement of the Sun in a birth chart represents the core Self or true Self, our identity and ego. I like this depiction of Sagittarius for the most part, although I am repulsed by the idea of hunting and killing animals, so the Artemis-as-hunter connection doesn’t resonate with me. However, the desire to find a balance in all things is very strong. My level of success has fluctuated, but the main thing I notice is that I am aggravated by people who take an extreme view of anything, a black-and-white or all-or-nothing approach. I seek the center, and I want and expect people to be reasonable. Needless to say, I am often disappointed.

Celestial Tarot (U.S. Games)
My Moon sign is Taurus: The Hierophant (The Power of Taurus)

On this card we see the god Zeus in the guise of a white bull. Sitting on the bull is Europa, a Phoenician princess abducted to Crete by Zeus. Behind Europa and the bull we see the Hierophant, “the priest who initiated thousands of pilgrims into the Eleusinian Mysteries” (LWB). Here we have the force and power of our passions (the bull), innocence and childhood beliefs (Europa), and the Hierophant who “initiates her into the quest for self-knowledge, the aspect of the self that beckons us to journey beyond our comfort zone.” (Clark) As presented in this deck, the Hierophant encourages us to direct and control our inner strengths and resources, our power and our passion, and to remain grounded in the world even as we seek to expand our self-knowledge and understanding. Indeed Taurus energy is viewed as down-to-earth, practical,

It is perhaps revealing that The Hierophant is one of my least favorite cards in the Tarot. I typically view the card as representing the rules and restrictions of organized religion and/or society’s established or approved way of doing things – and I have “issues” with all of that. Ironically, the reason for my resistance (or part of the reason) may lie in the fact that this energy has a strong presence in my birth chart. So I am resisting something within myself that I can’t or don’t want to come to terms with. In astrology, the placement of the Moon represents our interior life, our emotional instincts and habits. It is therefore possible that the Hierophant aspect of my nature is beneath the surface, deep in my subconscious, influencing my behavior and decisions more than I would like it to at a conscious level.

Celestial Tarot (U.S. Games
My Rising sign is Virgo: The Hermit (Virgo, the Wise Virgin)

Brian Clark tells us that many prominent goddesses and heroines have been identified with the constellation Virgo, which happens to be the largest zodiacal constellation. For this card the creators of this deck chose Hestia, Greek goddess of the hearth and home. Clark points out that although never associated with Virgo in ancient sources, Hestia embodies many of its attributes: “stillness, discretion, containment, veiled, virginal, centered and sacred.” She is viewed as the guardian of the astrological sixth house, the house ruled by the sign Virgo on the zodiac wheel.

On the card we see Hestia in the foreground, with the traditional tarot image of the Hermit holding the lamp in the background. In one hand Hestia carries sheaves of wheat, a symbol of cultivation. With the other hand she disseminates seeds for the new cycle. This is intended to reinforce our connection with “the cyclical nature of the goddess” and the idea that Virgo’s “wisdom of cycles needs to become consciousness.” (Clark) In the season of harvest, we are called to “withdraw into the internal realm to prepare and reflect.”

In astrology, the ascendant sign or “rising sign” represents the part of us that others see – the first impression we make, the “face” or “mask” we reveal. Some astrologers call it “the front door of the Self.” The face I present to others, at least initially, could well be described as silent or still, reserved and introspective – traits associated with The Hermit and Virgo.

I have always felt a push-pull kind of thing going on between my Sun (an active Fire sign) and my Moon and Rising signs (passive Earth). However, I sense a much more unified, compatible energy when I look at Temperance, The Hierophant, and The Hermit together. I really like that image!

So there we have it. If you have managed to stay with me through this self-centered analysis, perhaps you have seen or learned something useful to your own life journey. Or perhaps you are now inspired to explore your “Big Three” astrological signs as they relate to the Tarot.


  1. It was interesting to read the astrological aspects and then have them related to their tarot counterparts and see how one can compliment the other. ^_^


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~ Zanna