The 3 Unique Astrological Modalities

The 3 unique astrological modalities

Absolutely everything is made of energy. Everything. In astrology, energy is broken into 3 basic types, called modalities.

Logically speaking, everything that exists has 4 major stages:

  • it is created, its existence begins
  • it sustains itself, existence is maintained
  • it is destroyed, existence is transformed

Where’s the 4th category? Exactly! Before anything ever existed, what was there? What will there be when everything ceases to be? What happens in between life and death? That is our 4th category of energy. Some call it G-d, Chaos, Infinity, or the Divine. I call it Nothing.

Nothing exists “underneath” of all creation, it is without beginning and without end, yet it exists in all of us. Check out the post Conceptualizing the Universe to read more about that!

But enough about that already. Today, we’ll be discussing Western Astrological modalities!

The Three Modalities

The 12 zodiac signs are categorized in lots of different ways. One of those ways is by separating the signs into 3 groups called modes or modalities. There are 4 signs in each mode, and each mode represents a type of energy.

The 4 elements and 3 modalities are combined to create 12 unique energies or archetypes, which are represented by zodiac signs. There’s one of each element in each modality, making 3 groups of 4.


Before reading any further, check out this Crash Course in the Elements!


Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable

Cardinal Signs

First up is cardinal. The cardinal mode takes place at the beginning of each season. I like to think of it as creative energy. Cardinal signs need to start things, create, initiate; they set things in motion. The things that are being started depend on the element of the sign. So, which signs are cardinal signs?

  • ♈Aries🔥
    • Aries wants to take charge of their passion and goals. It’s the start of the zodiac, and fire is seen as the first element, so the cardinal aspect of Aries is stronger than the other signs and can result in burns.
  • ♋Cancer💧
    • Cancer wants to take charge of domesticity and emotional matters. Cancer marks the beginning of summer. It can be seen as a river of feelings trying to carry you along with it, sometimes aggressively.
  • ♎Libra💨
    • Libra wants to take charge with new ideas and communication. Represented by the Scales of Justice, Libra tends to see matters in black and white, and can be manipulative to get others to see their way.
  • ♑Capricorn💎
    • Capricorn wants to take charge with organization and practicality. Marking the beginning of winter, cardinal earth has the foresight and patience to plan for the long-term. Capricorn can be formidable.

Cardinal signs catalyze, but they also need a solid foundation to build off of. For this reason, they can lean towards conservatism and tradition. Cardinal signs want growth, and they want to lead the way; the type of growth they want depends on their element. Think of cardinal signs as management material. Too much cardinal energy in a personality can make people into micro-managers, and not enough cardinal energy can leave people afraid of taking chances.

Once the season is underway, cardinal signs make way for fixed signs.

Fixed Signs

The fixed mode represents sustainability and routine. It is a maintaining energy. Fixed signs need stability, security, and independence. They know what they like and will want to put their own spin on projects started by cardinal types, preferring to develop and refine. The fixed signs are:

  • ♉Taurus💎
    • Taurus wants to maintain their possessions and routines. With springtime underway, expected showers will surely bring flowers;they trust routine. As a fixed earth sign, they’re of a “slow and steady wins the race” mindset. Taurus can get materialistic.
  • ♌Leo🔥
    • Leo wants to maintain their creativity and self-expression. You can expect bright sunlight in the middle of summer, and in this metaphor Leo is the sun. As a fixed fire sign, passions and the heart are a means to create stability. Think of it as a signature style! Beware, they can get big egos.
  • ♏Scorpio💧
    • Scorpio wants to maintain their emotions and sexuality. If Cancer is like a river, then Scorpio would be like an ocean. They want to get everyone in the same place emotionally, and like depth. But Scorpios can get controlling if they sense any resistance!
  • ♒Aquarius💨
    • Aquarius wants to maintain ideas and friendships. They’re like a steady winter breeze; cold and reluctant to show emotions. They’re constantly developing ideas and like to work with others to bring those ideas into fruition. The fixed air sign is objective, but can come off as condescending.

One of the key words to keep in mind in regards to fixed signs is permanence. The fixed signs don’t maintain because they like nurturing so much as they do it because they don’t like change. All of this fixed signs can be reluctant to change, and are known for being stubborn.

As the season comes to an end there will be…

Mutable Signs

What goes up must come down; mutable signs represent endings and transformation. It is a changing energy. Mutable signs need change, flexibility, and stimulation. They have many different interests and can be easily bored. The mutable signs are:

  • ♊Gemini💨
    • Gemini wants to explore ideas and communication. They’re like the winds of change; they want to know about a little bit of everything and like socializing. But they can just as quickly change their minds and have mood swings.
  • ♍Virgo💎
    • Virgo wants to prepare for change and work towards concrete goals. The mutable earth sign likes to have things planned out, but are flexible and accepting of changes in plans. They often like precision and can be prone to focusing on all the details instead of the big picture.
  • ♐Sagittarius🔥
    • Sagittarius wants adventure and philosophical exploration. Their passions are apt to change, and their self-identity depends on constant personal growth. The mutable fire sign tends to like travel and debate.
  • ♓Pisces💧
    • Pisces wants to explore emotions and relationships. They don’t like boundaries, and their emotions often change to match the mood of whoever they’re with. The mutable water sign can give too much of themselves to try and help others and end up receding into themselves to emotionally recover.

The mutable signs are all communicative. They like exchanges; exchanging ideas, shopping, and travel. They’re good at letting things go and don’t like to feel chained down or trapped. Too much mutability can make them unreliable, anxious, or indecisive.


The modes are creators, maintainers, and changers. Modalities are expressed through fire, earth, air, and water personality types, and these 12 types make up the zodiac of Western Astrology. It’s important to understand the energy of each mode and element as it’s own abstract thought before trying to understand them as combinations. The signs are the 12 basic archetypal personalities. Understanding the parts of the signs will give you a greater understanding of the whole!


Remember, just reading someone’s sun sign isn’t enough to accurately describe someone’s personality, so don’t be surprised if they’re not exactly like the descriptions given here! Check out this article to read about the different areas of Western Astrology that make up people’s personalities. Tell me what you think in the comments, and thanks for reading!

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