Though we often speak of the Ascendant as representing our ‘face,’ that personality with which we meet the world, this is only partially true; even as we put our Ascendant characteristics forward on first meeting (and as a byproduct insist that others respect and respond to this ‘face’), we must remember that the Ascendant is a result of the interaction of the innate, Soul expressive characteristics and the environment in which we find ourselves as we are developing, and so does not exist when we are born, but comes to be with a combination of time and influences (both in the sense of timing, of entering the Earthly existence at a precise moment and place, and in the sense of the passing of time and how it changes things). It helps to think of the Ascendant as the result of a chemical reaction, the combining of two distinct elements to create a third that is itself distinct. All this is by way of saying that the concept of our ‘face’ in astrology is much more complex than just the Ascendant; let’s look at exactly what the concept of ‘the face’ signifies, and how we might pinpoint this astrologically.
The one thing about our own physical face that is uniformly true for each of us is that we will never be able to observe our own face directly, and this is true of the astrological ‘face’ as well. We need a mirror or reflective surface to observe our face in the physical world, and we need the reactions of others to us, and the reactions of the Universe (seen in events and situations) in order to derive an idea of what it is that we are presenting. Our entire reality is reflecting back to us our own essence, which is embodied in the spiritual equivalent of the face, the Soul.
In many traditions, the essence of God is equated to His face, which is consistently described as something that we cannot look upon directly. We see this in the Bible, where in Exodus God is reported to have said, “Thou canst not see my face: for no man shall see my face and live,” and this same concept is repeated in many writings, such as when St. John declares that “no man hath seen God at any time,” and Jewish tradition describes the face only in plural, punim, signifying the ‘greater than’ concept of Being. Since we are considered in multiple traditions to have been made in the image of God, then it’s reasonable to believe that directly observing our own face would be akin to directly observing God’s, which we cannot do in life. We even see this idea in the practice of not looking directly into the face of those who are considered chosen by God (such as the emperors of China); to gaze into the face of a divine Being was to show disrespect and to do that, we are told repeatedly in many traditions, is not possible while we live.
But, different facets of our own reality that reveal our ‘face’ will be reflected back to us in different ways, symbolized by certain astrological bodies, points, and interactions. For instance, our Moon, and any aspects it makes, will be reflecting our emotional reality as it is ‘thrown out’ into the World, and by studying these aspects, we can learn something about our emotional face, something which we cannot know without this interaction. So, we may indeed relate to our Pisces Moon, feeling emotionally imaginative, connected to the Universe, and open; but it’s in our Moon’s opposition to Saturn that we see bits of our emotional ‘face’ as it really exists, as we may find emotional security is gained with a sturdy or rule-centered world, that we are threatened by the idea of putting down roots, that we find physical labor untenable emotionally, or that we respond to those who offer us boundaries for our free-floating emotional nature. These are just some of the possibilities, and each allows us a glimpse of our own ‘face’ that we cannot see by direct observation.
Celtic culture has the concept of ‘face-price,’ which can have various applications, from a dowry to the price paid by the family of a murderer to his or her victim’s family, and this definition introduces the idea of value or cost (Venus) to the concept of ‘face.’ Venus and its aspects can tell us in what way we will engage in exchanges of one kind or another, what these will bring us, and what they will cost. Caroline Myss speaks of the ‘inner prostitute,’ and Venus in this sense is akin to the idea of the ways we will bargain for our survival.
For instance, a woman with Venus in Virgo might value her literal virginity quite highly (or might carry very high standards in some related area); but, we see by this Venus’ trine to Mars in Capricorn that the partner she would accept (as well as the nature of the actions she requires of herself) is serious, stable, and offers security–this is the price one must pay to be with her, and these standards may cost her someone she finds attractive but who cannot or will not provide the essential thing for which she will exchange her Venus (love). If, on the other hand, this woman had Mars in Gemini square her Venus, she might both idealize a glib, social, quick-thinking man and at the same time find she is unwilling to be with him (the square)–we see this typically with a ‘can’t live with him, can’t live without him’ scenario–and of course she would be at odds in a very real sense with her own way of acting in the world. Of course, there are many possible manifestations–the important thing is that all of them will reveal a little something more about our very personal essence, our own divine ‘face.’
This is a re-print of a piece that originally appeared on my blog at Yahoo360 pre-2008