The elements and modalities are some of the categories that have been created for the signs in astrology. They help group and organize the information we are interpreting. We will first explore the elements and then take a look into the modalities.
Organizing + Interpreting Elements and Modalities
There is a lot of overlap when interpreting the elements and modalities. Four elements are used in astrology, fire, earth, air, and water, with 3 signs in each element group. We have 3 possible modalities, cardinal, fixed, and mutable, with each group containing 4 signs using 1 sign from each element group. Refer to the chart below for an idea of how the signs are organized in this way!
When interpreting your chart you want to take into account if you have an emphasis of planets in any one the element or modality groups. For example, if an individual has several planets in water signs we would say they are heavily weighted in this element. If one has planets in Leo, Taurus, Aquarius, and Scorpio, then we may want to explore how the fixed modality is coming through in this person’s life. Most people have several dominant elements or modalities in their charts. There are multiple ways to play around with these categories! Check your chart to see if you are dominant in any one area or spread out evenly among the zodiac.
The 4 elements in astrology let us know the symbolic “material” in which the signs are operating through. The groupings of signs in each element also let us know how those signs are related, creating a harmonious relationship with each other due to a shared way of being. Each element is working in duality with an opposite element: earth/water and fire/air.
🜂 Fire: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Keywords: Passionate, Competitive, Impulsive, Creative, Romantic, Fun-Loving, Adventurous
The fire signs are often quick to react and impulsive. Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius are known for creativity and a highly developed sense of personal identity. Planets located in the fire signs will often come through in one’s life with increased energy, competitive drive, and spirit.
🜃 Earth: Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo
Keywords: Stable, Practical, Analytical, Sensual, Slow, Artistic, Caring, Hard-working
The earth signs tend to be more methodical and analytical in approach. Capricorn, Taurus, and Virgo are known for being very focused on physical pleasure, health, and material comforts. Planets in the Earth signs have a tendency to be expressed in someone’s life in a well-thought out and hard working manor.
🜁 Air: Libra, Aquarius, Gemini
Keywords: Communicative, Social, Intelligent, Detached, Inventive, Original, Playful
The air signs are associated with communication and socialization. Libra, Aquarius, and Gemini are all able to possess an intellectual and detached approach to life but still have a sense of originality and inventiveness! Planets in air signs tend to need room for analysis and time to run through our mental pathways.
🜄 Water: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
Keywords: Empathic, Spiritual, Sensitive, Nurturing, Intense, Helpful, Gifted
The water element includes the signs Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces. This element tends toward expression of the sensitive side of human life. There is a desire to be protective of one’s feelings and secrets which can lead to moments of intensity. Planets in the water signs tend to provide nurturing and loving help to others.
The next major grouping of the signs are the modalities. There are 3 groups with 4 signs in each group. The modalities let us know what the quality of expression is like. The sign’s modality closely aligns with the 3 qualities of expression for the houses which are angular, succedent, and cadent. Are you starting to notice the overlapping patterns in the chart?
Cardinal: Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn
The cardinal signs most closely relate to the angular houses (1st, 4th, 7th, 10th) in the chart. These signs start off each of the 4 main seasons and are therefore associated with new beginnings and initiation. Cardinal signs are symbolic of leaders, operating with a bold and resolute nature. Planets in the cardinal signs can be expressed dominantly in a person’s chart, wanting to drive things forward, make moves, and start new projects as one goes through life!
Fixed: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius
The fixed signs are closely related to the succedent houses (2nd, 5th, 8th, and 11th). These signs are symbolic of the middle of each season. They have the most solid and determined approach to life. Known for persistence and at times inflexibility, the fixed signs help create stability and security in what we know and believe. Planets in the fixed signs are often tough, willful, and unshakable.
Mutable: Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces
The final modality group are the mutable signs and are most closely related to the cadent house grouping (3rd, 6th, 9th, 12th). These signs represent the final shift before the changing of the season. Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces are okay with changing their minds or shifting course when necessary. Planets in mutable signs are variable, movement oriented, and socially minded.
All in Aspect
An interesting approach to the elements and modalities is to look at the chart with the aspects in mind. You may have noticed that signs with the same element create a Trine to each other while signs with the same modalities create a Square aspect. This speaks to the dynamic approach we can take to our charts! In our exploration of self we start to see the combinations of energies the planets are expressing in our lives and psyche.