As you know if you've dabbled in astrology, there's so much more to this practice than just horoscopes and sun signs alone. There are the planets in astrology that move through the signs, as well as the 12 houses of the zodiac, which are important if you explore your birth chart. And then, of course, there are the 12 zodiac signs themselves, each with unique energies, qualities, elements, and strengths attributed to them. Modalities in astrology, on the other hand — which are broken down into cardinal signs, fixed signs, and mutable signs — are three major categories into which all signs are divided into, and they can tell us a lot about how we express ourselves in the world.
The three modalities in astrology (also known as quadruplicities, as there are four zodiac signs in each group) represent the unique ways each group of signs expresses their element's energy, reacts to circumstances, and moves through life. "The modalities are another way to break down signs and elements," explains astrologer Lisa Stardust, who spoke with Bustle. "They represent the sign and element’s ability to move and evolve with time."
Duplicities are not to be confused with elements in astrology (which are fire, earth, air, and water), although these are both systems in which the 12 signs are categorized. Elements represent certain qualities and motivations attributed to a group of zodiac signs, while modalities represent the manner in which those particular qualities are expressed. That said, each modality contains one sign from each of the four elements and each element contains one sign from each modality — meaning that the energy is evenly distributed.
How can you spot a sign based on their modality? "Cardinal signs are always moving on to the next project, fixed signs are usually stuck in completing projects, and mutable signs can be uncommitted as a result of their relationship to the modalities," explains Stardust. For example, while all fire signs are passionate and action-oriented, each of the four fire signs will express their energies differently based on their modality. For example, cardinal fire sign Aries is a motivated self-starter, while fixed fire sign Leo channels its passion into hard work and loyalty.
So are you a cardinal sign, fixed sign, or mutable sign? Discovering the modality of your zodiac sign can help you dive a little deeper into your personal astrology and understand the complexities of your sign even more thoroughly.
Cardinal Signs: Aries, Cancer, Libra, & Capricorn
When something is described as cardinal, it signifies that it's both fundamental and important — and such is definitely the case when it comes to the four cardinal signs of the zodiac. "Cardinal signs are the 'initiators' of the zodiac," shares Stardust. "They represent a spark or idea. They also signify the beginning of the season." All four of the cardinal signs could be described as "ideas" people. While not all of them exceed at completing every endeavor they start, you can count on them to get things going. The cardinals are visionary — they're able to make things out of thin air, and swiftly embrace new beginnings and change.
That said, it's also no surprise that the first day of each cardinal sign's sun season coincides with the first day of each meteorological season: Aries season kicks off spring while Libra season kicks off autumn, and Cancer season and Capricorn seasons mark the summer solstice and winter solstice, respectively.
Fixed Signs: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius
If the cardinal sign energy kicks butt at kicking things off, then we could say that fixed signs come in with their eyes *fixed* on the prize — these signs are here for the follow-through. "Fixed signs are the 'doers' of the zodiac," explains Stardust. "They carry out the ideas manifested by the cardinal signs [and] do all the work needed to complete the task at hand." Each of the fixed signs come from a different element, but they're similar in that they're laser-focused, hardworking, and great at coming up with (and sticking to) a plan. The fixed signs have a knack for identifying exactly what needs to be done, and then doing it.
Because the sun season of each of the fixed signs falls right smack in the middle of each meteorological season, the energy here is focused on momentum and dedication. This energy aligns with being in the thick of something — the fixeds are fully submerged. Without a plan, you'd drown in the intensity of the energy — which is why the fixed signs can be relied upon to capitalize on the cardinal signs' ideas and make them reality.
Mutable Signs: Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, & Pisces
Finally, we arrive at the mutable signs. Cardinal signs start things, fixed signs turn those ideas into solid plans, and mutable signs complete the endeavor. "Mutable signs are the end of the season and represent the finality of a project or task at hand," shares Stardust with Bustle. "They are flexible due to their understanding of change." And of course, as we know, not everything always goes according to plan — no matter how wonderful the idea or how much work was put into it. Thus, the changeability and adaptability of the mutable signs is absolutely essential to ensure the completion of each cycle. Whether it ends the way we want it to or not, mutable signs have the power to put a thoughtful, intelligent, and positive spin on any situation, bringing it to a natural conclusion.
The sun season for each mutable sign takes place during the final month of each meteorological season — meaning that as the sun leaves each of these signs, a whole season ends, too. That energy is fully reflected in the mutable signs' ever-adaptable ability to change form and accept things as they are.