It's a sad fact that figuring out your Ascendant is an arduous process. To do it yourself, should you be so inclined, you have to get your hands on the full collection of astrological gear, including an atlas, a Table of Houses, and an ephemeris (an almanac listing the positions of the Sun, Moon, and planets for every day of the year). You also need a book to tell you what time zone you were born in (they're occasionally relocated, as in Kansas in 1967 or Nebraska in 1968) and whether you were born during standard time, war time, daylight saving time, or the unanticipated extra months of daylight saving time that marked the winter of 1974, when disco ruled and an energy crisis forced President Richard Nixon to extend the time change.
Alternatively, you could go to the Internet, as described in Chapter 2. That's the fastest, cheapest, and most reliable way to get an accurate birth chart. If going online isn't an immediate possibility, I recommend that you abandon the search for precision, at least temporarily, and make an educated guess. I tell you how to do that in Chapter 3.
After you've identified your Ascendant, either via the Internet or by following the directions in Chapter 3, I suggest that you double-check it. Begin by copying the chart on the Cheat Sheet at the front of this book. Put your rising sign at the nine o'clock spot. Then write in the other signs in a counterclockwise direction. (That is, if you're Taurus rising, put Gemini on the cusp of the second house at eight o'clock, Cancer on the cusp of the third house at seven o'clock, and so on.)
The idea is to figure out whether the Ascendant makes sense by comparing the Sun's position on your birth chart to its position in the sky at the moment of your birth. Here's how: Imagine that the Ascendant/Descendant line, which runs straight across the chart from nine o'clock to three o'clock, is the horizon of the earth. If you were born around dawn, the Sun was on or near the horizon. Its symbol in your chart should also be near the Ascendant, perhaps in the same sign. If you were born around noon, the Sun sits near the top of your chart in the ninth or tenth house. If you were born around dusk, when the Sun was setting, the Sun in your chart is once again on the horizon, this time in the sixth or seventh house, near the Descendant. And if you were a midnight delivery, the Sun lies below the horizon, in the third or fourth house.
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