The 3 Modes: Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable

Every sign in the Zodiac associates with one of the four elements— fire, earth, air, and water.

There’s a second way we classify each sign, according to its mode (a.k.a its modality, quadruplicity, or quality). If you know a sign’s element and mode, finding the aspects is a piece of cake!!

The three modes are just as important as the four elements. Those modes are cardinal, fixed, and mutable. The signs of each mode appear in cross-shaped groupings.

Cardinal Signs

The Sun’s entry into each sign of the cardinal cross takes place at the equinoxes and solstices, marking the beginning of a new season.

The first day the Sun is in Aries is the first day of Spring (in the Northern hemisphere). The sign Cancer is the beginning of Summer. The first day in Libra marks the beginning of Fall, and the first day in Capricorn is winter.

Cardinal signs are energetic, dynamic, proactive, and unafraid to try new things. A preponderance of cardinal signs in a chart indicates a person who is always in “go” mode and doesn’t always take the rest they need.

  •  Aries is the cardinal fire sign: a straight shooter who moves fast and likes to be first.
  •  Cancer is the cardinal water sign. Cancer represents Motherhood, the first nurturing we receive.
  •  Libra is the cardinal air sign, and represents one-on-one relationships, the basis of communication and relating.
  •  Capricorn is the cardinal Earth sign— ambitious, driven to achieve and gain status.

Fixed Signs

Signs on the fixed cross are persistent, stable, and resistant to change. This is a major strength and a blessing at times— fixed signs are reliable and determined. They do not give up easily. But the unwillingness to change can also mean missing out on opportunities and getting stuck in ruts.

  • Taurus is the fixed earth sign: stubborn, inflexible, and reliable.
  • Leo, the fixed Fire sign, is fixed in its idealism. Loyal, proud, and steadfast.
  • Scorpio, the fixed water sign, is powerful and determined, jealous and controlling, unstoppable when they really want something.
  •  Aquarius, the fixed air sign, has fixed ideas and fixed opinions. It can be hard for them to take direction because they already know everything.

Mutable Signs

Signs on the mutable cross are more flexible, changeable, adaptable, and suggestible. They can go with the flow a little better than other signs. The mutable signs are good with relationships and the details of day-to-day life. Mutable signs are very good at multitasking (doing many things at once). But they also tend to struggle with distractions, scatter their energies, and lack the focus to move decisively toward a goal. When a chart has a preponderance of mutable signs, the person tends to have excess nervous energy, making it difficult to settle down.

  •  Gemini, the mutable air sign, has mental flexibility that gives them intelligence and ability to grasp new ideas and handle a lot of information.
  •  Virgo, the mutable earth sign, is the ultimate multitasker. Virgos are helpful, versatile, and attentive to the details.
  •  Sagittarius, the mutable fire sign, has a talent for seeing the “big picture” in situations. Good with philosophy, good at inspiring others.
  •  Pisces, the mutable water sign, is flexible on the emotional level. Their impressionability makes them so sensitive that they often feel other people’s feelings.

Putting it to the test

Count up the total number of planets in each mode in your chart. Give an extra count to the Sun, Moon, and Ascendant. Some charts have the planets balanced among each of the three modes. More often, a chart is heavy in one mode or the other.

Count up the number of planets in each mode in your chart. How do your totals describe you as a person?