Qualities and Polarities in Horoscope

Qualities: Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable

Each Sign of the Zodiac has a specific kind of energy associated with it, and peculiar for that sign. You already know that there are four elements - Fire, Earth, Air and Water - and each sign belongs to one of the elements. This tells us from what kind of matter, so to say, the sign is made - whether it is a liquid of the Water, a gas of the Air, a plasma of the Fire or a solid substance of the Earth.

In addition to its element, each sign has a specific dynamic quality: it can be Cardinal, Fixed or Mutable.

Cardinal signs are Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn. They are impulsive, full of initiative, like to make the first step. For their dynamism, the initial strong impulse is very typical. Dealing with something, they push it strongly, make it moving, but since the movement has started they don't really care what happens next.

Dominating Cardinal signs in a horoscope show initiators, generators of ideas, people making the first step in a new direction. They start plenty of things in their lives, but if this is not balanced by a decent amount of Fixed quality, they abandon most of their projects before completing them.

A lack of Cardinal quality shows a lack of initiative, passivity, a fear of novations.

Fixed signs are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius. They are obstinate, stubborn, like to stand on their own, and if they are doing something they will just go on and on and never stop. However, in order to actually start doing something, Fixed signs need an impulse of a Cardinal sign.

Dominating Fixed signs make a person stable, steady, persistent, able for concentration and prolonged effort in one direction.

A lack of Fixed quality says that the person is unstable. He or she should better do things that do not require a lot of time for completion.

Mutable signs are Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces. They are flexible and changeable, easily orient themselves in the surrounding world, notice every change in the environment and help all the other signs not to lose the sense of reality.

Dominating Mutable signs make a person versatile, easily adaptable, adble to follow all the subtle changes and nuances of the surrounding world.

A lack of Mutable quality shows that the person isn't well connected to the surrounding world and to the processes going on in it, isn't flexible and has problems with finding the path of the least resistance.

That was theory, now let's have some practice.

Calculating the Balance of Qualities

For practice, we are going to use again the horoscope of Angelina Jolie from the previous lesson. Here I've inserted it for convenience:

Angelina Jolie's Horoscope

In the same way as with Elements, we can use a simple approach, which means just calculate the number of planets in the signs of each Quality, or slightly more sophisticated approach, which means add more weight to the luminaries and personal planets.

Simple approach:

Cardinal: the Moon, Mars and Jupiter in Aries, Saturn and Venus in Cancer, Pluto and Uranus in Libra. Seven planets in Cardinal signs!

Fixed: nothing at all.

Mutable: the Sun and Mercury in Gemini, Neptune in Sagittarius. Three planets in Mutable signs.

Points approach:

Cardinal: the Moon (+3), Mars (+2), Jupiter (+1), Saturn (+1), Venus (+2), Pluto (+1), Uranus (+1): 11 points.

Fixed: 0 points.

Mutable: the Sun (+3), Mercury (+2), Neptune (+1): 6 points.

Both approaches give us the same result (which won't be always the case with the other horoscopes): very strong Cardinal quality, modearate Mutable quality and no Fixed quality at all. This show us a very dynamic personality. Angelina is impulsive and keen to start something new. She definitely doesn't complete most of here projects but she gives a lot of impulses to the other people who can continue to do what she has started. She also has a good understanding of the surrounding reality and is able to adapt her actions to the changing circumstances.

See, it was very easy, we just added together a few numbers, and here we have a good idea of what kind of energy moves the person. Now we can combine this knowledge with what we have learned in the previous lesson: that Angelina is a predominantly fiery and airy person, that she lives in the world of ideas and information but doesn't have any Earth.

Sometimes after calculating the balance of Elements and Qualities we shall find that a certain Element/Quality pair is very, very strong, and then we have a clear idea of what this person is very good at. Angelina Jolie, for example, is very good at generating ideas and sharing them with the other people.

In other cases, we might find that something is very weak or completely missing, like Earth and Fixed quality in Angelina Jolie's chart. We can then be sure that she does not have a vegetable garden and does not work hard there to grow crops.

You will also find cases when both Elements and Qualities are represented more or less equally in a horoscope. In that case the calculation of balances won't give you a lot of information, except of the fact that that the person is very versatile and can do many different things in any area of life, that he or she doesn't have any specific strengths or weaknesses.

The "Synthetic" Sign

Now you can see that each of the Signs of the Zodiac belongs to one of the Elements and one of the Qualities. For example, Aries is a Cardinal Fire while Taurus is a Fixed Earth. Here is a table that shows the information for all the signs at a glance:

  Cardinal Fixed Mutable
Fire Aries Leo Sagittarius
Earth Capricorn Taurus Virgo
Air Libra Aquarius Gemini
Water Cancer Scorpio Pisces

It is essential to memorise the information in the table above. As a reward for your patience and perseverance, I will offer you an approach that is very simple but can occasionally provide an unusual insight into a person's character.

The approach is called "the Synthetic Sign". To define the synthetic sign, we need to calculate the balance of Elements and Qualities in a horoscope and then find a sign in the table above which is combines the strongest Element and the strongest Quality. We can then say that the energy of that "synthetic sign" is very prominent in the character of the given person.

In the case of Angelina Jolie, the strongest Quality is Cardinal but there are two equally strong Elements: Fire and Air, so she has two synthetic signs: Aries and Libra. This is already interesting: she doesn't have any personal planets in Libra but the synthetic sign says that she is an Aries/Libra person, she can be direct and fast as Aries but also charming as Libra.

Sometimes, you will see even more interesting cases. Many years ago, when I was beginning to study astrology, I had a friend who was well known for bringing new interesting books and sharing them with his colleagues. Such an interest in books is a typical feature of Aquarius and I was puzzled because the friend didn't actually have anything of significance in Aquarius. The synthetic sign helped me to understand his personality. That friend of mine had a strong Element of Air and a strong Fixed Quality, so his synthetic sign was Aquarius, and his character resembled quite strongly a typical Aquarian.

Learning Elements and Qualities

Now that we've discussed how Elements and Qualities are calculated, you can look around and notice some people in your life who strongly represent some Element, or some Quality, or a lack of them. Have you already created their horoscope and calculated their balance of Elements and Qualities? If not, please do so - nothing can replace practice in studying astrology.

There are also a few other approaches that can help us to learn the Signs of the Zodiac and their Elements and Qualities.

For example, whenever you need to recall some Sign of the Zodiac for one or another purpose, don't dig into books and websites to find some lengthy descriptions compiled by the other people. Just recollect to which Element and to which Quality that sign belongs, combine what you know about that Element and Quality and see what it will produce. Say, Aquarius is a Fixed Air, so it lives in the world of information and is quite concentrated and persistent in what it is doing. It doesn't like to be distracted and has a strong opinion about whatever it knows. Arguing with Aquarians might not be easy because, on one hand, these people really know their stuff very deeply, and on the other hand, they are not prone to changing their opinion.

See, it's very easy: you take the basic ideas, combine them and then think how a person with this or that qualities would react to specific situations. You can now write your own popular astrology books!

Another approach is to make stories about the signs of the same Element and figure out what's the difference between them. Say, the signs of the Earth: Capricorn, Taurus and Virgo. They are all practical, pragmatic, prefer to deal with material things, so what's the difference between them? Imagine three people: one of them is a Cardinal Earth, a Capricorn. He comes up with an idea to produce a certain product. He does all the drawings, maybe even creates a prototype but he doesn't have patience and stamina required to produce ten thousand exemplars of the new product. So he pokes a Fixed Earth, a Taurus, gives him the idea and the prototype and asks to produce ten thousand things.

Taurus got the idea and begins to work. He doesn't really care whether he will produce ten thousand things or ten million, he just wants to keep going. Now, think about this: neither Cardinal signs nor Fixed signs actually know what's going on in the surrounding world. The Cardinal signs a moved by an impulse from inside, the Fixed ones need an impulse from the outside but rather strong, otherwise they will just ignore any disturbances. Who is then going to tell the Capricorn guy whether his idea is really good and there is a demand for his product in the world? Or who is going to tell the Taurus man that ten thousand things is enough and he should stop now because it will be difficult to sell more?

You guessed it, the Mutable Earth comes to the stage, the Virgo chap. He knows the prices, he knows the demand and how it was changing in the past, so he is the right person to ask all those questions about the surrounding world.

Now, try to write your own stories for the other Elements. How about this theme for the Fire signs: the spark that starts the boiler, the constant flame that heats the water and then the spreading warmth of radiators through the house?

Working on such stories will develop your interpretation skills very significantly. If you'll write something convinsing, you might want to send your story to me (alexander@what-is-astrology.com), and I will publish it here to help other people to learn astrology.


There is one more way how we can classify the Signs of the Zodiac. If you start from Aries and follow the sequence of signs you might notice that every next sign is somewhat opposite to the previous sign. Say, Aries is active and extravert, goes into sports, but Taurus is more introvert, will better go gardening or cooking quietly. Then Gemini can't be bothered with gardeningand will go chat with friends, but Cancer will definitely prefer to stay home and take care of the kids...

You will notice that all Fire and Air signs are active, extravert, open to the outside world while all Earth and Water signs are somewhat inrovert and pay more attention to their private life. This is why every odd Sign of the Zodiac, namely Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius and Aquarius, is considered to be positive, or masculine, while every even sign - Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn and Pisces - is said to be negative, or feminine.

Positive and negative doesn't mean good and bad, of course. Those are like two poles of a magnet - opposite but cannot exist without each other.

We can easily calculate which polarity is stronger in a horoscope. For example, since in Angelina Jolie's chart the strongest elements are Fire and Air, we can immediately say that positive, masculine energy strongly dominates in her chart.

Don't be tempted to think that a strong masculine energy in a chart that belongs to a woman, or a strong feminine energy in a chart of a man, is an evidence of hormonal anomaly of any kind. Astrology can actually be quite efficient in pinpointing potential for special cases related to gender, like homosexuals or transsexuals, but to be able to retrieve that information one needs to have a deeper knowledge of astrology.

At the level of polarities, a girl with strong positive signs will most probably be a tomboy while a boy with strong negative energy will be more quiet and contemplative than his peers.

There is however a confirmed evidence that the polarity of the Sign of the Zodiac in which the Moon was situated at the moment of conception defines the gender of the future child, but this is an advanced topic. We might discuss it in one of the later lessons.

For now, please have plenty of fun with Elements, Qualities and Polarities of the Signs of the Zodiac. In the next lesson we'll have a look at how planets interact with the Signs of the Zodiac, we shall learn about Dignities and Debilities.