Astrology 101: Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable Signs

Ever heard someone refer to Pisces as a mutable sign? Are you confused what "cardinal" could mean in terms of astrology? Good news! We're talking all about modalities today.

By now we all know our sun signs and a lot of us know our moon and rising signs. Some of us even know our whole birth charts. If you want to see yours, you can calculate it here.

We’ve discussed what elements mean in astrology, too. Fire signs are characterized by their passion and adventurous spirit. Earth signs are known for their practicality and stability. Air signs are often seen as the intellectual egalitarians. And water signs are the creative empaths. The zodiac signs are only really characterized by their element right? Wrong!

When analyzing the traits of each sign we not only need to look at elements, we also need to focus on the signs’ modalities. Sometimes called “qualities,” the three modalities are cardinal, fixed, and mutable. Each zodiac sign is sorted into one of the three. I talked a little bit about the modalities in this article, but let’s dive a little deeper and discuss what it truly means to be a cardinal, fixed, or mutable sign. Don’t forget to check your moon and rising signs as well as your sun sign. 



Cardinal signs herald the beginning of each season. As the harbingers of the seasons, they are natural-born leaders. They are often seen as trailblazers due to their newfangled ideas.

Aries, as the first cardinal sign, not only kicks off spring, but marks the beginning of the whole astrological calendar. They exude their cardinal quality by motivating others to action. They don’t like to boss people around because they would rather lead by example or serve as an inspiration. It helps to think of Aries as the “Muse”. 

Cancer kicks off the summer season. Their cardinal energy is most prominently displayed when they are taking care of others or their own space. They work hard to provide a safe space for their community. As water signs, they are preoccupied with seeing to the emotional needs of their loved ones. It helps to think of Cancer as the “Protector.” 

Libra kicks off the autumnal season. Their cardinal energy is demonstrated through their sociability. They are always the first ones to break the ice at a social event. They do not keep up to date with the latest crazes because they start them. It helps to think of Libra as the “Trendsetter.” 

Capricorn kicks off the winter season. You could argue that they exude the biggest cardinal energy. For Capricorns, any job worth doing is worth doing correctly. Like Aries, they like to lead by example, but they have no problem gently bossing people around. It helps to think of Capricorn as the “Wise Grandparent.”



Fixed signs signal the midpoint of each season. They are the helpers and the managers. These signs like to take the ball and run with it.

Taurus is the fixed sign that signifies the midpoint of spring. Just as Capricorns have the biggest cardinal energy, Taureans have the biggest fixed sign energy. They will not bow, bend, or break for anyone because they believe so strongly in their convictions. Cancerians may create safe spaces, but Taureans create cozy, intimate spaces for themselves and their loved ones. It helps to think of them as the “Confidant.”

Leo signifies the midpoint of summer. Due to their fixed nature, they may not be the ones who start the party, but they are certainly the life of the party. They are fixed signs because they are the ones who turn any house into a home. Their entertaining personalities are able to put anyone at ease. It helps to think of them as the “Jester.”

Scorpio signifies the midpoint of autumn. The broody water sign often finds themselves engulfed in their darker emotions, and because of their fixed nature, they can get stuck in these baser feelings. It may be hard for them to let things go, but they are great at seeing things through to the end. It helps to think of them as the “Stalwart.”

Aquarius signifies the midpoint of winter. While it’s true that Aquarians do not like to be stuck in one place, they have the uncanny ability to turn wherever they are into a home, regardless of how long they stay. They see their homes and community for what they can be rather than for what they are. It helps to think of them as the “Visionary.”  



Mutable signs come at the end of each season. They are improvisers and the wild cards. It is easy for these signs to adapt to new information and go with the flow.

Gemini is the mutable sign that comes at the end of spring. Their mutability reveals itself in their verbal prowess. They are able to talk about anything with anybody. They easily navigate their way through conversations and situations using wit and humor. It helps to think of them as the “Communicator.”

Virgo comes at the end of the dog days of summer. I know what you’re thinking. “How can one of the most rooted signs in the zodiac be a mutable sign?” I’ll explain. As stable as Virgo is, they are still governed by the ever-changing Mercury. This planet allows them to help others and provide structures by staying alert and adapting easily to change. It helps to think of them as the “Jack-Of-All-Trades.”

Sagittarius comes at the end of autumn. Many might say that Sagittarians are the most adaptable of the mutable signs, and that is really saying something. Sagittarians despise stagnation more than anything else and they will do anything in their power to keep a job moving. Sagittarians are brimming with unbridled capabilities. Because of their potential, it helps to think of them as the “Matchstick.”  

Pisces comes at the end of winter. Pisces could never be anything other than a mutable sign due to their immense amount of empathy. The sweet water sign is so adept at reading and adapting to other people’s emotions, that it can sometimes take a toll on them. It helps to think of them as the “Healer.”

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