The Masks We Wear

We spend so much time, as a culture, trying to box ourselves and those around us (no one is more guilty of this than I). We so badly want to make sense of the world. “She’s an introvert.” “Oh, he’s definitely the type to avoid commitment.” “Well, she’s a Scorpio.” We do this almost without thinking. It’s part of human nature—to seek comfort in labels. Astrology, enneagrams, Myers Briggs, all of these help us make sense of others’ psychology—and our own. They give us parameters, but, like anything, the truth is always more complex. We can barely understand ourselves, yet we often assume we know the inner workings of another.

In astrology, the 1st House is our conditioned mask. It’s the personality we developed through our childhood, the first impression we give off when meeting others in person, how we greet the world. Depending on the placement of one’s planets, the 1st House can be deceptive. If, for example, we have several planets in the 1st house, what you see is what you get. If, however, the sign on the 1st House cusp—also known as the Rising or Ascendant—is markedly different from the rest of the energy in the chart, it can be a bit deceiving (not in a malicious or conscious way).

Take me for example: as someone with Cancer Rising (your rising sign is the sign on your 1st house), I show up in one of two ways: warm and maternal or crabby, hiding behind my self-protective shell. To others, it would seem, I alternately appear emotional, shut down, intuitive and vulnerable. While this is certainly an aspect of my personality, this portrait is far from complete.

Ask anyone who knows me well and they’ll tell you, without hesitation, that I can be equally intense, sardonic, intellectual, direct, cautious, ambitious, and fearful. Yet, this may not always be immediately apparent. What is immediately apparent, however, is my Ascendant.

Here’s a brief breakdown of the 12 Rising Signs and their qualities:

  • Aries: bold, brave, first out of the gate, determined, childish
  • Taurus: grounded, solid, earthy, sometimes carries a deep voice
  • Gemini: talkative, social, youthful, gossipy, quick witted, knowledgeable, curious
  • Cancer: moody, maternal, cautious, emotional, moves sideways
  • Leo: demonstrative, regal, generous, dramatic, a beautiful mane
  • Virgo: efficient, shy, perfectionist, critical, health conscious
  • Libra: partnership-oriented, polite, gracious, co-dependent
  • Scorpio: intense, penetrating eyes, secretive, strong willed
  • Sagittarius: lively, jovial, funny, sometimes preachy
  • Capricorn: serious, ambitious, cautious, fearful, parental
  • Aquarius: quirky, forward-thinking, brilliant, slightly detached
  • Pisces: often has dreamy eyes, warm, sensitive, empathic
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