The Difference Between How and Who

Examining the effect that your Sun, Moon, and Rising sign have on you...

astrology traits: two women

The complexity of being human is reflected in the variety of information we get from a single birth chart. The planets represent basic drives while their signs, houses, and aspects with one another fill in details of their expression in a person's life. Yet while each of the Sun, Moon, and planets plays a vital role in a personality, they are not equal with respect to their meaning and influence. The two core pieces are the Sun and Moon, which represent the primary forces of day and night, spirit and soul, consciousness and instinct. Yet how we behave is often quite different from the essence of the Sun and Moon.

If you're not sure what your three main signs are, stop over and try out our free Cosmic Profile to find out what your Sun, Moon and Rising sign are.

The planets Venus and Mars, for example, are keys to relationships. Venus is what we like (and want to be liked for) and Mars is how we go out and get it. They are a social pair that operate as connectors to other people. In some cases, they closely reflect the core identity points of the Sun and Moon, but in most instances they diverge from them. For example, an individual with the Sun in Leo and Mars in Cancer may have the solar qualities of the Lion but tends to act in the less assertive manner of the Crab. They may be a bold Leo yet how she or he reaches out to others will be with the tentative, protective, and have the sensitive nature of Cancer.

A mixing of the elements

A Capricorn with Venus in Aquarius may have the core solar qualities of discipline and commitment of a dutiful Goat, yet wants to be loved like a liberated Aquarian. The solar Capricorn takes him or herself seriously, and usually has clearly defined goals. Yet the responsible nature of this sign may not be as obvious in social situations where the freedom loving and unconventional qualities of Venus in Aquarius are more evident. These differences between the sense of self indicated by the Sun and Moon and the means of acting and attracting, represented by Mars and Venus, can mislead others and sometimes even mislead ourselves.

Your public persona

The Ascendant, also known as the Rising Sign or cusp of the 1st House, is the most obvious example of the contrast between appearance and essence. This point represents the face we usually present to the world. It is the first adaptation to the environment and might or might not be similar to the qualities of the Sun and Moon. I'm a Taurus with a Scorpio Moon, which are two fixed signs that are supposed to be resistant to change. Yet my Ascendant is spontaneous Aries, which often presents an image of aggression, impatience, or originality that doesn't reflect the slower moving characteristics of my Sun and Moon.

The point of this blog is to help us refine our astrological understanding of ourselves by recognizing the differences between overt behavior and underlying motivations. A Taurus Sun like me who has Venus in flexible Gemini can appear socially adaptable and easygoing when seeking the approval of others. Yet I'm not a shape-shifting Gemini and only use the tools of this changeable sign to put people, pleasure, and approval into my Taurus Sun vault of contentment. This illustrates the idea that we often behave in one way to fulfill a deeper need that operates quite differently. We don't do this to trick people, yet finding fulfillment is difficult when we fool ourselves about our needs. Methods and meaning -- the how and the who -- serve us well when we are cognizant of their different roles and can lead us astray when we forget this critical idea.

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