In "Astrology's four elements: Fire, earth, air & water" you'll learn that the elements divide the zodiac signs into four groups, each of which contain three signs. The elements describe four very basic and distinct personality temperaments. But each of the twelve astrological signs also has a mode of operation, or modality.
While the elements divide the twelve signs of the zodiac into four groups of three signs and the modalities divide the twelve signs into three groups of four signs. Each of the astrological signs has a distinct temperament and distinct way of expressing that temperament.
For example, consider the fire signs, Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. All three have fire in common, but each is unique in the way it expresses it's fire. Aries provides the spark that lights the fire. Leo maintains the fire and radiates its warmth, while Sagittarius adapts the fire to changing conditions and spreads it around. These different behaviors arise because each sign manifests it's fire through a distinct mode, modality or quality of expression.
In short: The elements describe the energy available to each sign, and the modalities depict how the energy moves or acts or behaves.
The Cardinal Signs, Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn
The Cardinal modality is associated with the beginning of each season. It represents the equinoxes and solstices. The Cardinal sign are Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn
In the Northern hemisphere, Aries begins the season of Spring. The Sun enters Aries on the Spring equinox, when day and night are equal (about March 21st).
Cancer marks the beginning of Summer, corresponding to the Summer Solstice and the longest day of the year (about June 22nd).
Libra begins the season of Autumn, corresponding to the Autumn equinox (about September 23rd), when day and night are once again equal in length.
Capricorn begins the season of Winter and corresponds to the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year and the rebirth of the Sun (about December 22nd).
Cardinal signs are the initiators and leaders of the zodiac, they get things moving. They are associated with impatience, forcefulness, power, and initiative.
The Cardinal Signs correspond to worldly activity and authority. They make things happen. They are the primary essence of the social order of our planet and in our personal lives.
Aries initiates, motivates and opens new territory. Cancer nurtures and cultivates so firm foundations can be laid. Libra brings about social interactions and relationships to further the process and Capricorn make the best use of what Aries initiated.
Cardinal Key Words: Beginning, generating, doing, initiating, originating, enterprising, active, direct, purposeful, impatient, dissatisfied, overactive, over commitment, forceful.
The Fixed Signs, Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius
The Fixed modality is associated with the middle of each season, and the deepening of all the qualities of that particular season. Because these signs are located mid-season, they neither initiate nor end the season. They represent the full power of the season.
The Fixed signs, Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius maintain and stabilize.
In the northern hemisphere, Taurus represents the full flowering of Spring, and begins about April 20th.
Leo represents the full heat of Summer, and begins about July 23rd.
Scorpio is associated with the full glory of Autumn, and begins about October 23rd.
Aquarius corresponds with the full coldness of Winter and begins about January 20th.
The fixed signs are associated with stubbornness, persistence, power and pride. Like the hub of a wheel, they provide stability and are the most resistant to change.
The essential nature of Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius is to preserve and sustain what the cardinal signs initiated.
The cardinal signs start things moving, but it's the fixed signs that stay with it. Cardinal signs act, fixed signs draw action to them. All the fixed signs are similar in that they are persistent, have endurance, and fixity of purpose.
Keywords for the fixed modality: Concentrating, stabilizing, sustaining, finishing, establishing, preserving, conserving, steadfast, focused, powerful, persistent, constant, determined. stubborn, rigid, resistant to change, stuck. obsessed, overly retentive, inert, habit bound.
The Mutable Signs, Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces
The Mutable signs are the last of the modalities. They are mark the ending of each season, dissipate the energy of the season they end and prepare us for the coming of season. Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces are the mutable signs.
In the Northern hemisphere...
The Sun enters the sign of Gemini on or about May 22. Gemini is associated with the ending of Spring and the beginning of Summer.
Virgo (about August 23) is associated with the ending of Summer and the beginning of Autumn.
Sagittarius (about November 22) marks the ending of Autumn and prepares us for Winter. Pisces (about February 22) moves us from winter to the beginning of a new seasonal cycle.
The mutable signs distribute energy. They are associated with flow, adaptability, friendliness, and nervousness. The mutable signs are the signs most adaptable to change. They are flexible, thrive on variety, and are resourceful.
Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces are go betweens that make contacts and connections.
The cardinal signs, like the rim of a wheel, move us. The fixed signs, like the hub of a wheel, hold things in place and generate power. The mutable signs, like spokes, connect power with action.
Keywords for the Mutable Signs: distributing, adaptable, flexible, adjustable, connecting, linking, learning, changing, versatile, dual, scattered, unfocused, diffuse, restless.