The Two Hemispheres: Part One -- Upper and Lower
Among the crucial factors to understand in learning astrology are the two hemispheres of the chart and what they mean.
There are, of course, two pairs of hemispheres, the Upper and Lower -- which represent the visible sky and the part hidden beneath the Earth respectively, and the Eastern and Western hemispheres, which I will discuss at a later date.
How many times have you heard of a person who, in the view of the world, seemed like the nicest person, only to hear their family members tell tragic stories about how they were in private?
It is interesting that in Japanese, there are even words for one's public behavior (soto) and one's private -- at home -- behavior (ura).
The Upper half of the chart represents the public persona, and the Lower half the private face of the person. Additionally, the number of planets in, and which planets occupy, the upper half describe the degree to which a person is drawn towards the public. People with most or all of their planets below the horizons (in the lower half) either stay close to home or make their workspace outside of their home a "home away from home." They like a more active and alive home life, instead of seeking excitement by going out.
A friend of mine has only Saturn conjunct Neptune in Libra (Tropical) in the lower half of the chart. Home for her was literally a place to clean up (housework) and to space out. She didn't want to have people over, nor did she conceive of home as a place for play. Of course, the bottom half of the chart also describes the childhood and adolescent periods in a person's life, and if it's tenanted only by "unhappy" planets -- e.g. Saturn, Mars, the Outer planets (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) and planets that are receiving only squares and oppositions -- then the home probably was cold and "dry", or threatening, and not much of a real sanctuary or nurturing place.
I, on the other hand, have four planets in the lower half, including the enthusiastic, adventurous, and playful Moon in Sagittarius (Tropical), and have many of my social times and adventures in my own home, both in childhood and in adulthood.
The Importance of the Ascendant
I was just visiting with a friend, who said that she really didn't identify with how Western astrology describes the sign of Aries, specifically the word "fearless". Now, besides the incredibly clumsy attribution of fearlessness to Aries, there was an obvious reason why she didn't identify with that trait at all: her Ascendant is in Cancer (with Saturn in Cancer in the First House). That reflects a personality that is very sensitive and cautious, not fearless.
There really are twelve kinds of Sun-sign Aries people, one for each Rising sign. As students of astrology come to learn with time, the Ascendant or Rising Sign -- the sign coming up over the Eastern horizon at the time of birth -- not only is most identified with, but also controls the expression of every point in the chart.
I liken the Ascendant to the Gatekeeper, who decides who and what enters the inner grounds, and what is expressed from within. The Ascendant is so important that those who have an Ascendant in an element not occupied by any planet in the chart still come across as that element (e.g. firey if Leo, Aries, or Sagittarius is Rising).
In fact, if you want to know what planets will express themselves easily in a person's chart, focus on the element of the Rising Sign and see what planets are in the same element. They have a "free pass" to express themselves wholeheartedly, because they are more deeply seen as "self".
In other words, with a Fire sign rising, any planets in fire signs (except perhaps for the very un-firey-in-nature Saturn) will be identified with and expressed outwardly to the world.
As I alluded to, the Ascendant also controls what comes in (and one's approach to life, too). With a Firey Ascendant, the person is more likely to express than receive, while with a Water Sign rising, the reverse is true. Earth Ascendants control what comes in and what comes out the most, while Air Sign risings retain a certain detachment towards both life and (even) themselves.
Remember that all of these descriptions are sketches that only apply if, and only if, they are allowed to -- by one's upbringing, culture, and other parts of their charts. A person with most of their planets in Water and Earth, even if they have Aries rising, is certainly going to be more receptive than expressive (because the rising sign is outweighed by the preponderance of other factors). Similarly, an abused child who was forced to be quiet will be quiet no matter what their rising sign is.
Nevertheless, the Ascendant is the key to the chart. Whether one does Western or Vedic astrology, the Rising Sign, its ruler, planets that aspect the First house, and the occupants of the First and Seventh houses are the primary factors in describing both a person and the tenor of their life.
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