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Astrology 101, Part 6: Signs and Elements

There are a number of ways to group the signs of the Zodiac, and in this post, we’ll look at them by element, which brings signs of similar energies together.  There are four elements – Fire, Earth, Air and Water – and you can get a good idea of the meaning of the elements simply by thinking about the characteristics of the physical elements of the same name.

There are three signs in each element and each sign carries much of the energy of its element.  When we see a planet in a sign, we know that it will somehow be influenced by this energy.

Fire Signs

Fire expresses energy, light and vitality.  It is the driving force from which newness arises.  This novelty may be in the form of material goods, ideas or emotions; but only with fire can anything new begin.  Fire is positive, exuberant, enthusiastic.  But, beware, if it gets out of control, it can consume all around it.

The fire signs are Aries, Leo and Sagittarius.

Earth Signs

Earth is stable, steady, dependable.  You place your feet on it and feel grounded.  Earth is the element from which we grow our bodies and create material goods.  It is sensuous and fertile.  In earth we connect to every molecule of the physical, living universe.  It is calm and peaceful.  But, it can also feel slow, heavy and stubborn.

The earth signs are Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn.

Air Signs

Air is in constant motion, ever changeable, abstract.  Impossible to grab hold of, air stands for thoughts and concepts, words and images; an unseen, yet vital, component of the human consciousness.  It allows us to dream and to plan, to plot and envision.  But, in and of itself, it is ephemeral; it can create nothing physical.

The air signs are Gemini, Libra and Aquarius.

Water Signs

Water is fluid, inconstant and physically powerful.  It seeps into the depths of our emotional core, finding its own path from wellspring to ocean.  It is the music of our souls, sometimes peaceful, other times furious.  Water expresses the principles of our feelings, our past and the emotional depths we strive to plumb.  But, dive too deep, and we may drown.

The water signs are Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces.


You may now be wondering how the three signs in each element differ from one another.  That relates to another characteristic called “mode”, which is the topic of the next post in this series.


Astrology 101, Part 4: The First Six Signs of the Zodiac

Let’s reacquaint ourselves with the symbolism of the signs of the Zodiac.  I say “reacquaint” because most people know of the signs in the context of their Sun sign (or star sign of the newspaper horoscopes).  In this context, the person’s identity (Sun) is described by the characteristics of the sign in which it stood at birth.  However, the signs’ unique meanings are also applicable to every planet in the chart, as we saw in Part 1 for Marilyn Monroe’s chart.   The signs can be considered as energy filters that colour the action of every planet in the chart.  In that sense, we look at them not only in terms of identity (the Sun sign), but also for emotional reactions (Moon sign), communication approach (Mercury sign) and so on.

So, let’s take a look at thumbnail sketches of the first six signs of the Zodiac.  What images do they conjure up for us?  What are their archetypal identities?  What growthful journeys do they suggest we need to take as we mature in life?

Aries, 1st sign of the Zodiac

The Ram is forthright and forceful.  It’s the pioneering spirit, the pure energy of action for its own sake.  The identity of Aries is the warrior; its journey is existential courage.

Taurus, 2nd sign of the Zodiac

The Bull stands calm and serene in the meadow.  It is connected to earth, its own strength, the music of the universe.  Its identity is the builder, constructer of security; the Bull’s journey is simply to be.

Gemini, 3rd sign of the Zodiac

The Twins’ duality is communicative, gathering data, seeking the lost other.  Gemini gathers the puzzle pieces of the world to try to make sense of them.  The Twins’ identity is endless curiosity; their journey to see everything.

Cancer, 4th sign of the Zodiac

The Crab is vulnerable, caring, loving.  Safe in its shell, it is creative, but only when it risks leaving its shell can it grow.  The Crab’s identity is mother, minder, nurturer; its journey is to love, trust and accept life.

Leo, 5th sign of the Zodiac

The Lion is the king or queen.  The sign expresses the strong and sure sense of self expression, heart, pride and creative energy.  Its identity is dignity and power; the lion’s journey is personal identity.

Virgo, 6th sign of the Zodiac

The Virgin is purity, attached to nothing, owned by no man.  She’s a seeker of perfection on earth, personal growth and bodily care.  Her identity is the servant and the goddess; her journey is humility.

Next up: The Last 6 Signs of the Zodiac