Hey, baby, what’s your sign?
When that nerdy guy in a bar asks you that question, the answer you give is called your “sun” sign. It denotes the position of the sun in the Zodiac the moment you were born. Your sun sign determines your basic approach to life and your general nature. Are you extroverted and grandiose? You might be a Leo. Are you idealistic and altruistic? You could be an Aquarius. Home-oriented and sensitive? Probably a Cancer.
But your astrological makeup is more complex than just your sun sign. Two other signs that contribute greatly to your character, dreams, relationships, and temperament are your moon sign and your rising sign. These two signs are more of an in-depth look into what makes you tick—they are determined by not just your birthday, but the place you were born and the exact time of your birth.
Simply, your sun sign rules your personality—it’s your soul. Your moon sign rules your emotional core—it’s your heart. Your rising sign rules your outer appearance—it’s your book cover.
Your Moon Sign
Your moon sign reveals your inner self. It can give insight into the way you handle your emotions and fears; it can also give insight into the way you love and feel. The moon also governs your moods.
Have you ever met someone with your same sun sign and found that person to be nothing like you? You probably have different moon signs.
When you go home after a long day, get into your PJs, and crash on the couch, this is when your moon sign comes out. It is the unguarded you, the you only those closest to you know. It is your subconscious.
It’s in times of significant stress that your moon sign can truly reveal itself. During trying times, your actions are influenced by emotion and instinct, so the side of you that you normally keep hidden can suddenly come to the surface and conflict with your usual outward personality. This can make you feel crazy, like you aren’t acting like yourself, but it’s in these times that you might be more “yourself” than ever.
Your moon sign also makes itself known in your intimate relationships. It can determine how you love and whether or not love is important to you—it can even play a role in the type of people you are attracted to. Scorpio—an intense and passionate sign—may be attracted to fiery, sensual types. Taurus—a steady and balanced sign—needs stability and may be attracted to the “strong, silent” type. Sagittarians need freedom; Aquarians can be unemotional and detached.
To calculate your moon sign, visit a Web site calculator or consult a book (I highly recommend The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need .) There are a lot of internet calculators, but this one  seems to be accurate and easy to use. Once you calculate your moon sign, you can do a search for “Moon in Leo” (or whatever your sign is). Most astrology sites will also give moon sign explanations; you can even search for moon sign compatibility in romantic relationships.
Your Rising Sign
Your rising sign—also known as your ascendant—represents the way others see you, your general impression on people, and your spontaneous reactions. It reflects the Zodiacal sign that was ascending on the eastern horizon the moment you were born. Until the early twentieth century, the ascendant, rather than the sun sign, was the dominant indicator of one’s nature.
Upon meeting you, people will interact with your rising sign. Have you ever been puzzled by how people describe you? That’s because it’s hard for us to see what others see—what you project may not be how you see yourself at all. If you feel nervous and anxious inside, yet everyone sees you as calm and laid-back, your rising sign may be dramatically different from your moon or sun sign.
Your rising sign is so outward, it can even influence your physical characteristics and mannerisms. Those with an Aries ascendant most likely walk quickly, have broad shoulders, and are prone to headaches and sinus problems. Those with a Gemini rising are often tall and slender with dark hair. Virgo ascendants may have weak chins, but they have big brains. Librans are often good looking and Scorpios often have piercing eyes.
Since the ascendant is specific to a certain time and place, and represents the environment you were born into, it often reflects your childhood and upbringing. It’s during this time that we learn how to navigate society and how to present ourselves to the world. If you were conditioned to present yourself as something contrary to who you actually are, your ascendant can function as a shield that obfuscates your real nature. In fact, many astrologers view the ascendant as a mask.
Here’s an easy rising sign calculator .
Understanding our sun, moon, and rising signs—and how they interact with each other—gives us a more complex astrological profile. If you want to get even deeper, you can have your chart done and figure out what houses all your planets are in, which will give you a more revealing—and probably more truthful—answer to the “What’s your sign?” question.
Photo source: joka2000  on flickr (cc)
Updated July 24, 2009