Most people know about the four elements — fire, earth, air, and water. However, far fewer people know about the three modes, even though they are just as important to know, if you want to read charts.

Cardinal Signs

Cardinal Wheel

The Sun’s entry into these signs marks the equinoxes and solstices. The first day the Sun is in Aries is the first day of Spring (in the Northern hemisphere). The first day he is in Cancer is the first day 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 “do” mode and needs to take time to rest.

Aries is the cardinal fire sign: always first, known for being subtle as a sledgehammer.

Cancer is the cardinal water sign, and 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

Wheel showing fixed signs

Fixed signs have persistence, perseverance, and immobility, stability and resistance to change. This is a major strength and a blessing at times— fixed signs are reliable and determined. But unwillingness to change can also lead to getting stuck in ruts.

Taurus, the fixed earth sign, is known for being stubborn and inflexible, and reliable.

Leo, the fixed Fire sign, is loyal, and absolutely dedicated to an ideal.

Scorpio, the fixed water sign, is powerful and determined, jealous and controlling, unstoppable when they really want something.

Aquarius, the fixed air sign, is logical and objective. Can be quite hard-headed.

Mutable Signs

Mutable Wheel

Mutable means flexible, changeable, adaptable, suggestible. They have a talent for being “in the moment” and are good with relationships and the details of day-to-day life. They are good at multitasking (doing many things at once). Their weakness is that they can get too scattered. Too many mutables in a chart indicates nervous energy, difficulty settling 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, can easily recognize the reality of the present situation and serve where they are needed.

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, has an emotional flexibility that makes them so sensitive that they can often feel other people’s feelings.

Putting it to the test

Count up the total number of planets in each modality in your chart. Give an extra count to the Sun, Moon, and Ascendant. Some charts are balanced, others are heavy in one modality or the other. How do your totals describe you as a person?