Your Guide To Cardinal Signs

What Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn have in common.

by Kristine Fellizar
what to know about cardinal signs
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In astrology, the 12 zodiac signs can be broken up into elements and modalities. Both of these play a big role in shaping each sign’s personality. While your zodiac sign’s element shows your sign’s basic characteristics, your sign’s modality shows how you express yourself in the world. If you’re someone who enjoys staying busy, loves exploring new things, and takes pride in being the first to come up with something that’s never been thought of, you may be a cardinal sign.

As astrologer Clarisse Monahan tells Bustle, the modalities are broken down into three groups, each one corresponding to the point in a season at which the sign falls. The first sign in a season is a cardinal sign (Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn); the second is mutable (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces); and the third is fixed (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius). Your sign’s modality is useful to know because it explains why you behave the way you do. For instance, fixed signs like Taurus or Scorpio tend to be very stubborn, given that they’re “fixed” in the middle of a season, while mutable signs like Gemini or Sagittarius tend to be very go-with-the-flow — fitting, since they mark the transition to a new season.

Cardinal signs, the first in the season, are known as the leaders of the zodiac. “The word ‘cardinal’ comes from the Latin word cardinalis, which means 'serving as a hinge,’” Monahan says. “Hinge means to bring something forward, and Cardinal signs always initiate, or bring forward, the seasons. Their energy is very potent as it ignites and launches things forward.”

Even if you don’t identify as a cardinal sign, you may have cardinal signs in your birth chart. According to Monahan, wherever you have cardinal energy in your birth chart is where you tend to initiate most, or you may have more luck if you get things going first. If you want to learn more about cardinal sign energy, here’s everything you need to know.

What Are The Four Cardinal Signs?

Aries (March 21 - April 19) is the first cardinal sign and first sign in the zodiac. Aries season marks the beginning of spring. According to astrologer Theresa Reed, the ram is known for being a “take charge” kind of person. “They are bold trailblazers and like to be first in everything,” she says. “They can be found leading the pack and taking all the risks. When life gets boring, they simply start all over again. Life is never dull around an Aries!” Their impulsiveness can get them into a bit of trouble, but they have the ability to brush things off and keep moving forward.

Cancer (June 21 - July 22) is the next cardinal sign, which signals that summer has arrived. Those born under the sign of the crab like to be center stage at home. According to Reed, they’ll do whatever they can to protect and care for their families. “Although they get a reputation for being sensitive, they can have hard shells to protect their soft inner side,” she says. “Push a Cancer and you’ll get the claws!”

Libra (Sept. 23 - Oct. 22) is the third cardinal sign, and they’re associated with the beginning of fall. Libras value relationships and partnerships, and will often be the first one to make the first move in both love and business. Their sign is represented by the scales, so justice is very important to them. “When it comes to fairness, no one will fight harder to create seats at the table for everyone,” Reed says. “However, Libras may get paralyzed by indecision, which may stop them from making progress on their lofty goals.”

Capricorn (Dec. 22 and Jan. 19) is the last cardinal sign, and they herald the start of winter. Capricorns love creating order and tend to be very down-to-business types. “They are natural leaders who are easy to get behind because they inspire others with their courage and competence,” Reed says. “They are ambitious, so you can often find them at the top of their game in everything they do.” They’re notorious for being hardworking to the point they prioritize work above else. While there is nothing wrong with being motivated, Reed says they need to learn to stop and smell the roses on the way up the mountain.

Cardinal Sign Traits

Cardinal Signs Are Leaders

Cardinal signs start each season. Aries occurs at the beginning of spring, Cancer signals the beginning of summer, Libra season is the start of fall, and Capricorn happens at the start of winter. Because of this, cardinal signs are seen as the initiators of the zodiac. According to Reed, each cardinal sign possesses natural leadership abilities, even though they express it in different ways.

Cardinal Signs Are Creative

As the zodiac’s initiators, cardinal signs aren’t afraid to explore the unknown. They love starting new projects, and enjoy doing things that no one’s ever done before. If they’re presented with a problem, they’re the first ones who’ll look at the issue from a different angle and find a solution that actually works. According to Reed, this requires a lot of creativity, which all four cardinal signs have.

Cardinal Signs Are Active

You’ll never find a cardinal sign just sitting around. Even Cancer, the homebody of the zodiac, likes keeping busy, whether they’re baking a new recipe or redecorating a room. According to Reed, cardinals signs always need to be doing something that pushes them or furthers their growth. After all, cardinal signs are all about forward movement.

Cardinal Sign Compatibility

Are Cardinal Signs & Cardinal Signs Compatible?

The compatibility between two cardinal signs isn’t that great. According to Reed, cardinal signs will likely experience tension with each other as time goes on. “Initially, they are excited being with another go-getter,” she says. “The sparks fly and the passion is intense, but this wears thin when both signs want to take the lead. Suddenly, the thing that attracted them the most to each other becomes a bone of contention.” If they’re going to last, they’ll need to learn how to share the power.

Are Cardinal Signs & Fixed Signs Compatible?

Cardinal signs tend to get along well with fixed signs. However, it may not be love at first sight as fixed signs tend to be more slow-moving than cardinal signs. “Once they get used to fixed sign’s chill pace, they’ll appreciate the grounding effect,” Reed says. “Fixed signs remind them to keep going, finish the work, and get the job done right. Together they can rule the world!”

Are Cardinal Signs & Mutable Signs Compatible?

When cardinal signs pair up with mutable signs, it’s a match made in zodiac heaven. According to Reed, the energy is fun, spontaneous, and exciting. Cardinal signs love how go with the flow mutable signs are, and mutable signs don’t mind having a partner who likes taking the lead. “These two will have many adventures together,” she says. “Some does, however, have to be the adult and pay the bills. Once they figure that out, they are good to go (everywhere).”


Clarisse Monahan, astrologer

Theresa Reed, astrologer