If you are curious about the signs of the Zodiac, you’ll soon discover that there are divisions by modality and element in astrology. The latter include fire, air, water and earth signs. Another way to group the zodiac signs in astrology is by modality: there are cardinal, fixed and mutable signs. Every zodiac sign is a unique combination of an element and a modality.
To fully understand how the zodiac signs operate, you need to gain a deeper understanding of their element and modality in astrology. This becomes even more important once you level up to studying the aspects. It makes a big difference whether you have a cardinal or a mutable square in your natal chart. Similarly, a fire trine will give you different energies than a water trine.
All elements are present in all of us, just in different proportions. A Leo Sun and Sagittarius rising person has a pretty fiery personality, while someone with Pisces Sun and a Moon in Cancer is more on the watery end. Nevertheless, all the zodiac signs are somewhere in your chart.
Element in Astrology
There are four elements in astrology: fire, earth, air and water. Each of the four cosmic elements has its own positive and negative traits.
This classification origins from alchemy, but the roots of the division by elements goes back to the ancient ages. Most of the ancient cultures used a similar division of energy. Aristotle added a fifth element, called ether or void. The famous Greek physician, Hippocrates described the human body comparing to the fluids to the four elements.
The elements are also called the Triplicities because there are three signs in each group:
- Fire signs include Aries, Leo and Sagittarius.
- Earth signs include Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn
- Air signs include Gemini, Libra and Aquarius
- and Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces are the water signs in astrology.
Now you have a basic idea about which zodiac sign belongs to which group. Fire represents the spirit, earth the body, air the mind and water the soul. Let’s see what are the characteristics of each element.
Fire Signs (Aries, Leo and Sagittarius)
Fire is the force of nature. It gifts us with warm and light. On the other hand, it’s important to keep it under control, because fire is so powerful that it can destroy everything it touches. Make sure it’s under control and you can do wonders with the help of fire. In astrology, fire signs represent the inner drive. Their enthusiasm lights the way and helps you get through life even in the darkest times.
These signs are full of energy. They are oriented on the future and focus on the possibilities. Fire signs are optimistic and driven. They have great leadership skills and enjoy the limelight. These signs are brave, enthusiastic and vivacious. Full of creativity, if you need some motivation, fire signs are the go-to person. They truly believe that every problem can be solved.
The shadow side of the fire element consists of self-indulgence, lack of follow-through and a bossy attitude that, khm, the other signs find hard to work with sometimes.
Earth Signs (Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn)
Earth signs are focused on the survival in the physical world. In the cosmic workflow, it’s their task to make sure there will be enough resources for the tribe. This makes earth signs practical and economical. They are goal-oriented and work hard to achieve what they set their mind on. These signs are famous for their persistence. Earth signs are delicate and refined.
A person with many placements in Taurus, Virgo or Capricorn is grounded and focused on the here and now. Their practical approach might make them seem insensitive, especially for more emotional signs. But this is rarely the case, it’s just that earth signs want to find a solution as soon as possible instead of dwelling on problems. Even though empathy is not why we love the earth signs, they offer stability and safety for the rest of the world.
Air Signs (Gemini, Libra and Aquarius)
This element has an intellectual approach. They are rather logical than emotional and aren’t focused on bonding on a truly intimate level. They are quite detached, more brain than heart-driven. Gemini, Libra and Aquarius share this element in astrology. Don’t expect these signs to express their emotions on a daily basis. Air signs are quick and alert, and they offer an invaluable objective perspective.
Air signs enjoy socializing. They are curious, skilled conversationalist and easily connect with anyone. Communication skills are one of their strengths. They have an insatiable hunger for information and they convert the new knowledge into actionable ideas. Their weak points are nervousness, superficial approach and sometimes they walk on thin air.
Water Signs (Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces)
Many placements in water signs add depth to the character. These signs are nurturing and gentle. They are extremely sensitive and full of empathy. Water signs make natural counselors. If you need compassion and empathy, you now know where to find it. Water signs have the ability to tap into the wisdom of the unconscious mind. Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces are all very intuitive. In some cases, this even means psychic abilities.
Water signs are very romantic. They love deeply and intimately. These signs often have artistic talent as they have a free entry to the world of dreams and inspiration.
Because of this sensitivity, it’s important for people with many watery placements in the natal chart to set boundaries and spend enough time alone. The negative side of water signs is that they are prone to exaggeration and mood swings. Because their feelings run deep, they can be hurt easily.
Quality in Astrology
Besides elements in astrology, there is another classification for the Zodiac. Here are three major categories: cardinal, fixed and mutable signs. The qualities are also called Quadruplicities because there are four signs in each group. Let’s see which signs belong to which group:
- Cardinal signs: Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn
- Fixed signs: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius
- Mutable signs: Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces
Cardinal signs: Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn
Cardinal signs mark the beginning of a new season (Aries – Spring, Cancer – Summer, Libra – Fall and Capricorn – Winter). They are initiators and they are the first to act. Cardinal signs like to have the control over the flow of events.
Fixed signs: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius
These signs are the ones who will turn ideas into reality, Fixed signs mark the midpoint of each season. They are infamous for their stubbornness (I’m looking at you, Taurus). They provide stability for the rest of the Zodiac.
Mutable signs: Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces
Everything comes to an ending sooner or later. In astrology, it’s the mutable sign’s job to finish the season. They stand for endings and for the transition process. Mutable signs embrace change which is their greatest asset.
Here is a handy table that shows the element and quality of each zodiac sign:
Bonus Division: Polarity in Astrology
There is one more division of the Zodiac in astrology. The signs can be active or passive. Active signs are focused on taking action and making things happen (you would never guess, right?). Passive signs, on the other hand, react to the events.
- Active signs: Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius, Aquarius
- Passive signs: Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn, Pisces
Another name for this classification is gender: active signs correspond to the male, while passive signs correspond to the female principle.
How to Read a Natal Chart
If you have wondered how you can put this new knowledge to use, your time has finally come. Elements and modality are super important when you want to know someone better based on their natal chart. Stay tuned to figure out why.
The natal chart shows your unique energetic signature, the planetary energies that were present at the moment of your birth.
There are ten planets in astrology, plus a few meaningful angles. Each of them takes place in a sign. To determine the strength of each element and mode in your chart, count how many of the planets are in each element or mode. Pay extra attention to the sign of your Sun, Moon, Ascendant and Midheaven. They play an important role in your overall personality.
The proportion of the elements and qualities in your birth chart describe your personality and show your approach to life in general. For example, someone with a stellium in a cardinal sign will get things started, while a person with a mutable stellium prefers to see first what others will do in a situation.
Similarly, the dominant element describes a person in a great amount. If you have many placements in a water sign, you will be much more focused on emotions than a person with air placement. They have a more intellectual approach to life.
Temperament in Astrology
Do you know people who get so angry that their face turns red and their temporal vein starts to pulse? If you see the first signs of a storm coming, it’s wise to take shelter.
These people have sanguine temper.
The four fundamental types are sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic and melancholic. Each of them relates to an element in astrology. Sanguine temperament translates to air, choleric to fire, melancholic to earth and phlegmatic to water. Most people don’t belong to one distinct type, the majority of us have mixed temperament.
To determine a person’s temperament based on the natal chart, add up the planets in each sign.