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Astrology 101 - Modalities

I'm inspired to write a series of blog posts covering some basics of Astrology. I have found the language of astrology to be so relevant for explaining and understanding many qualities of life experiences - and see this language of myth, energies, and archetypes as a tool that has helped me (and many others) see the world with greater clarity. My hope is that I can create a series of posts that help you understand the words and symbols of this astrological language in a deeper way, and perhaps you'll find some relevance and clarity here as well.

In the previous post we looked at the Elements or Triplicities of Astrology. Now we'll look at the Modalities - also known as Modes or Quadruplicities. With the Elements we learned that each sign is one of the four elements; Fire, Earth, Air or Water. The zodiac signs are also divided up into three Modalities; Cardinal, Fixed or Mutable.

There are four Cardinal signs: Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn.

Four Fixed signs: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius. And four Mutable Signs: Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces.

Notice that there is one of each Element per modality grouping.

The Modalities reflect Modes of Operation - that is to say that there are three different modes of operation or ways to interact with the world around us. While the Element of a zodiac sign shares with us its root elemental nature, the Modalities show us a distinction in how each element can have different ways it interacts with the world. The astrological view of these interactions is based on the ever-changing nature of the Universe. Everything is always in a state of change. Within that process of change in nature we find three different states; Initiating Change, Resisting Change, or Flowing with Change. None of these are "better" or "more natural" than others - though the words "Resisting Change" may seem to carry some negative connotations. But what I mean here is similar to stages of rest, hibernation, or stillness - all of which are important steps in the process of change and growth itself. Let's take a look at each of these Modalities and how they reflect each sign's natural mode of operation. Another way to look at the Modalities is through the seasons. If we divide the horoscope wheel into four equal parts, we have a yearly cycle with one season per quarter. Each season has a beginning, middle, and end so each season itself is divided into three parts (Now we've got 12 zodiac signs in the horoscope wheel) So for Spring there is a beginning (Cardinal), a middle (Fixed) and and end (Mutable).

The Cardinal Signs: Aries (Cardinal Fire) Cancer (Cardinal Water) Libra (Cardinal Air) Capricorn (Cardinal Earth)

The Cardinal mode of operation would be that of Initiating Change. In the zodiac wheel of the year, these signs are found at the beginning of each season and either at a Sostice or Equinox. These times of new beginnings reflect the nature of the Cardinal signs - initiators, leaders, enterprising, creative, assertive, direct, and sometimes aggressive. The words "Force of Nature" come to mind with Cardinal signs as they bring across the energy of each sign's element in such a strong and direct way. The way a change of seasons can seem to rush in full throttle as if the weather has something to prove is relevant here - Cardinal signs have a point to make and a job to do, try not to get in their way! Cardinal signs reflect the nature of the beginning of each season; Aries is early spring, Cancer is early summer. Libra is early Fall, and Capricorn is early winter.

The Fixed Signs:

Taurus (Fixed Earth)

Leo (Fixed Fire)

Scorpio (Fixed Water) Aquarius (Fixed Air)

The fixed Modalities come in the middle of a season. The season isn't becoming the season anymore, it just IS that season. These signs are reliable and stable, primarily because they are predictable in how they act or respond. Once they set their mind to something, the Fixed signs prefer to stick to the plan with dedication. They are more resistant to change, operating best through routines and familiarity. Less pushy but a bit more stubborn, notice how each element can behave differently through the Modalities. Cardinal Earth (Capricorn) is quite different in behavior and habits than Fixed Earth (Taurus) - though they are both Earthy by nature - they interact with the world in different ways. Fixed signs represent the energy of middle of each season; Taurus is mid-spring, Leo is mid-summer, Scorpio is mid-fall, and Aquarius is the middle of winter. Here, each season is just solidly being that season. Leo season is undoubtably Summer. This is the nature of the Fixed signs.

The Mutable Signs:

Gemini (Mutable Air)

Virgo (Mutable Earth)

Sagittarius (Mutable Fire)

Pisces (Mutable Water)

The seasons are changing again and here are the Mutable signs; adaptable, flexible. ever-changing. The mutable signs can see things from all sides and are therefore less likely to stick to just one way of being or doing. All things change and the Mutable signs accept that - neither pushing for change the way a Cardinal sign tends to, nor resisting the change the way a Fixed sign might. Just going with the flow, these signs can take on the traits of those around them and adapt easily from one situation to the next. However, notice how each element has a different style when it comes to this adaptability and flow. Mutable energy is that of the end of a season. Gemini is the end of spring, becoming summer. Virgo is the end of summer, becoming fall. Sagittarius is the end of fall, becoming winter, and Pisces is the end of winter, becoming spring. Here we easily see how the Mutable signs' mode of operation lies in changeability.

Astrology Triplicities and Quadruplicities
Triplicities and Quadruplicities

Geometry and Aspects

Now we're starting to understand the basic structure of the chart's geometry through the Triplicities (Elements) and Quadruplicities (Modes). Pictured above the first image shows the geometry of the Elements and how each grouping creates a triangle. (Four groups of three signs). These create aspects known as Trines. In the second image you see the geometry of the Modalities and how each grouping creates a square (Three groups of four signs). These create aspects known as Squares.

Excersize: Now you can examine the blend of Elements and Modalities in your own natal chart (or for others) with a simple process called Chart Delineation.

Make a chart like the one above, with three columns labeled with the modalities. There will be four rows labled with the elements. In the boxes, find the proper placement for each planet in your natal chart. For example, my Sun is in Capricorn so I write "Sun" in the box that connects Earth and Cardinal signs. Here's what mine looks:


FIRE Neptune EARTH Sun, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter


AIR Pluto Venus

WATER Moon, Uranus

Here you can see I have three planets in Cardinal signs, three in Fixed signs, and four planets in Mutable signs. I have five planets in Earth signs, two in Air, two in Water, and only one planet in a fire sign. However, some planets have more "weight" or influence on the chart than others do - escpecially the sun, moon, and chart ruler (the ruling planet of your Sun sign) You can also add the Ascendant, Midheaven, and Asteroids to this to get a more precise delineation - keeping in mind though that the purpose of this excersize is the simplify the chart into a basic view of the Elements and Modalities.

What can you find about yourself or others by simply looking at the balance of the Triplicities or Quadruplicities? Is someone heavy in Fixed energy and lacking in Mutable energy? Is someone mostly Air and Water, with little or no Earth or Fire? How do the behavior patterns of an individual become more apparent when you break down the chart and look at their life in terms of their basic nature (elements) and natural modes of operation? Have fun with this excersize! When I was first learning astrology, I spent some time playing around looking at the delineated charts of my friends and family members and I really feel this gave me a good understanding of the basic structure of astrology which helped me greatly in moving forward to learn more.


Want to have a fun place to discuss astrology and learn with others? Join my Facebook group - Unwinding The Universe With Hestia's Muse !

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