Introduction to Modalities

In addition to corresponding to an element, each of the Zodiac signs also corresponds to a modality. The Cardinal signs begin each new season, the Fixed signs represent their heart, and the Mutable signs give way to the ending before a new season begins.

Each element contains one sign from each modality.

The astrological wheel (in Tropical Western astrology used in the Northern Hemisphere) starts off with the Spring Equinox in March and ends with Pisces in mid-March as the cycle reaches completion before beginning again with a new burst of fire.

That fiery, passionate beginning is brought on by Aries (Cardinal Fire). Next we come to the heart of spring from April to May with Taurus (Fixed Earth). Spring surrenders to summer in Gemini in mid-June (Mutable Air).

Summer starts off with the Summer Solstice in June and the sign of Cancer (Cardinal Water). The intense heart of summer is July-August is ruled by Leo (Fixed Fire). Summer melts into Autumn in September with Virgo (Mutable Earth).

Libra (Cardinal Air) kicks off Autumn with the Fall Equinox in late September. Scorpio (Fixed Water) rules the heart of fall (including Halloween) from October to November. Autumn gives way to Winter in late November with Sagittarius (Mutable Fire).

Winter begins at the end of December with Capricorn (Cardinal Earth) and the Winter Solstice. Aquarius (Fixed Air) rules the heart of Winter from January to February. And finally Pisces (Mutable Water) takes us from Winter into Spring and a new year in mid-March.

Read below to see what each of the three energies – Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable are associated with. After this lesson you’ll have two pieces to work with already when it comes to learning Astrology. Between the elements and modalities you should be starting to get a picture of each of the 12 signs!

Signs: Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn

These signs begin each new season and represent the power of initiation, leadership, and new beginnings. They favor action, forward movement, and decisiveness. Cardinal comes from a Latin word meaning ‘hinge’ in that these signs indicate a change in season.

The energy of these signs is ambitious, ready to leap at new goals and ideas. They don’t sit by and wait to see how things play out, they take action immediately. This energy can be incredibly productive, beginning new projects and plans without pause. It’s the energy of leadership, drive, and willingness to take risks. Without it we would simply be stuck or directionless, Cardinal energy teaches us to focus, take charge, and to manifest things into reality.

Signs: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius

Fixed signs represent sustaining, focused, and steady energy. The sit at the core of each season and tend to be slow and steady, stubborn, and reliable. They maintain the energy started by the Cardinal sings and continue building. They are resistant to change and tend to be perfectionists and finishers.

They have a hard time letting go of things and are determined to get what they want. But without the fixed quality we wouldn’t get to experience the energy of standing firm in our beliefs and plans, or seeing things through to completion. Without the fixed energy we wouldn’t have the staying power and consistency to build great things, we’d be all beginning and change, but missing an ability to focus and hold fast.

Signs: Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces

Mutable energy is open, adaptable, and ever-changing. As this energy represents the way one season shifts into another it also represents that within us that can grow and shift depending on the situation at hand. If we were all Cardinal and Fixed energy we wouldn’t have ease and flow, we wouldn’t have the perception to feel another person’s emotions, and we’d miss out on so many types of connection.

Mutable signs teach us compromise, surrender, communication, and vulnerability. Their flexibility shows us that in nature change is natural – snow melts, leaves fall, heat fades into cold – but throughout it all change is the essential component of life. We too can bend and yield and explore and still trust that the cycle of life moves on and that we’re never stuck anywhere for too long. Natures moves on and so do we <3


Which energy is your sun sign? Do you feel like it describes you?

If not, which energy feels most like you?

We’ll be learning later on about dominants (the energies from all the planets combined), but looking at the energy of your ego/sense of self as represented by your sun sign is a great place to start!

Further Reading

The four elements and three modalities

The Wheel of the Year and it’s astrological connection

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