Astrology 101: Meet the Signs (Part 1)

In the previous post in this series, we looked at the Signs in a broad and conceptual way: “How did the Signs come about? What are they based on in our physical reality? What overall function do they perform in Astrology…?” We also touched on some sub-groupings of them – Polarity, Mode, and Element – that help with understanding them better.

Before we launch into more personal introductions to each of the Signs on an individual basis, here’s the chart again that presents them by name, symbol, Polarity, Mode, and Element:

Sign

Glyph

Polarity

Mode

Element

Aries

Yang

Cardinal

Fire

Taurus

Yin

Fixed

Earth

Gemini

Yang

Mutable

Air

Cancer

Yin

Cardinal

Water

Leo

Yang

Fixed

Fire

Virgo

Yin

Mutable

Earth

Libra

Yang

Cardinal

Air

Scorpio

Yin

Fixed

Water

Sagittarius

Yang

Mutable

Fire

Capricorn

Yin

Cardinal

Earth

Aquarius

Yang

Fixed

Air

Pisces

Yin

Mutable

Water

And now let’s meet them, these filters through which the energies represented by the Planets will always be shining. Due to length considerations, I’ve decided to break this post into two parts, with the first one appearing here/now, and the second to follow in a couple of days…  Here, then, are the first six of the 12 Signs of the Zodiac:

With a charge-right-in attitude, Aries the Ram gets around! Here's Aries posing briefly for a photo just outside of Joshua Tree National Park in California...
With a charge-right-in attitude, Aries the Ram gets things started! Here’s Aries posing briefly for a photo just outside of Joshua Tree National Park in California before charging off to the next order of business…

Aries. Yang/Cardinal/Fire. Look at that mix of subcategories right there: outward Yang focus, impulsive Cardinal habits, passionate and equally impulsive Fire qualities… It’s no accident that Aries leads off our traditional sequence of the Zodiac Signs: among other attributes, Aries likes to be first! Aries energy lends itself well toward being a leader, a trailblazer, the first one into a breach. Remember that Aries is symbolized by the Ram, a creature designed by nature to charge headfirst into things, while sustaining minimal damage to itself… When a Planet is working through the Sign of Aries, it may seem to operate much as that Ram would. Aries is fiery. Aries isn’t likely to make decisions in a careful, measured, calculated way – Aries will want to follow the swell that it feels within its own spirit, and ask questions later. This Sign can have a penchant for anger, for lust, for competition and confrontation. At its worst, Aries energy can result in bullying and needless conflict, but at its best, it lends courage and conviction. It’s always difficult to try to boil down an astrological symbol such as a Sign or Planet into a single keyword, but if there is a primary archetype that best sums up the kind of energy that the Aries filter lends to any Planet (and to any person whose chart features an abundance of Aries energy), it would be the archetype of The Warrior.

Willing to stand up for what it believes in if necessary, Taurus the Bull is nevertheless, at heart, a big believer in the appeal of beauty, peace, and comfort...
Willing to stand up for what it believes in if necessary, Taurus the Bull is nevertheless, at heart, a big believer in the appeal of beauty, peace, and comfort…

Taurus. Yin/Fixed/Earth. In marked contrast to its predecessor in the sequence, Taurus tends toward being a far more relaxed and grounded Sign. Consider the Bull that’s used as the visual icon for Taurus: when roused and angered, this is one terrifying beast! But it usually takes concerted effort to goad the Bull into becoming that steam-snorting, hoof-scraping, red-eyed, charging menace – given the choice, Taurus would more likely opt for a peaceful nap in the Sun, a nice graze, pleasures of the flesh… When not provoked into an active fury, Taurus energy prefers to move at a languid pace, to revel in its own physical sensations, to exist in a given moment without racing onward to the next. Taurus can at times seem slow-moving, overly cautious, stubborn, and possibly even lazy…but this Sign is also very in tune with its own physical self, extremely durable, practical, it can be blessed with a real knack for cultivating green and growing things, and it’s often exceptionally charming. Masterful when it comes to enjoying the world through the body and its five senses, Taurus might best be summed up as the archetype of The Sensualist.

Gemini, symbolized by the Twins, can best comprehend its own identity by seeing itself reflected back in the eyes of an ever-changing cast of Others...
Gemini, symbolized by the Twins, can best comprehend its own identity by seeing itself reflected back in the eyes of an ever-changing cast of Others…

Gemini. Yang/Mutable/Air. All of the Air Signs share a need to define and understand themselves in great part through interactions with others. Gemini is represented by the Twins, because to some extent, this energy needs to see itself bouncing off of some “Other” in order to know itself. It’s during such interactions that Gemini really shines. This Sign is extroverted, adaptable, and highly mental in its approach to life. Gemini likes to converse, to sample things, to collect experiences. This Sign may in fact see life itself as one massive buffet table from which it can endlessly nibble. Sameness and repetition will feel like torture to pure Gemini energy. The more negative manifestations of Gemini can include a tendency toward being overly talkative, having a short attention span, and exhibiting a difficulty in forming any kind of deep connection…but Planets operating through the filter of Gemini can also be lightning-quick in their processes, they can function across a wealth of different situations and interact with a wide variety of characters, and they will likely possess extraordinary problem-solving skills. If we define “communication” as including both reception and transmission of information, then we might summarize Gemini as The Communicator.

Cancer the Crab: an emotion-based being, vulnerable at heart, but hidden away inside a semi-impregnable protective shell...
Cancer the Crab: an emotion-based being, vulnerable at heart, but hidden away inside a semi-impregnable protective shell…

Cancer. Yin/Cardinal/Water. Like all of the Water Signs, Cancer exists first and foremost in the realm of the emotions…and like the Crab that symbolizes it, Cancer is a very vulnerable creature that, for its own protection in a hazardous world, surrounds itself with a thick shell of armor. Cancer energy has a deep-rooted need to bond, and to act as a caretaker, but at the same time, because this Sign is so empathetic, each new interaction also carries a risk of considerable emotional pain. With its strong affinity for the Moon, Cancer may also be one of the most cyclical Signs, shuttling through phases that the rest of the Zodiac may not experience (or even perceive). As a result, Cancer can be very guarded at any given time, unwilling to share or reveal very much…but the Cardinal nature of the Sign means that at times, an impulsiveness will rear up, and result in knee-jerk actions that might seem otherwise atypical for the careful Crab. In its more negative expressions, Cancer can offer too little emotional availability (being withdrawn) or too much (being smothering), Cancer can be fragile beneath that armor, and the Crab can at times fall victim to parasitic or codependent types. On the positive side, Cancer energy can be sweet, creative, maternal, powerfully healing, possessed of keen instincts, and terrific at protecting its loved ones. A fitting archetype for Cancer would be The Nurturer.

Leo the Lion: here we have a Sign that shines forth like the Sun, often dazzling us with its sheer life-force and charisma...
Leo the Lion: here we have a Sign that shines forth like the Sun, often dazzling us with its sheer life-force and charisma…

Leo. Yang/Fixed/Fire. Like the Sun, Leo needs to shine forth. Not for nothing has Leo become associated with the Lion, the “King of Beasts.” There’s an air of celebrity about this Sign, and something of the rock star when it comes to Leo’s natural charisma – Leo energy can be difficult to ignore. This is a Sign that feels compelled to express itself, and to see the effects of that expression reflected back to the source. This can translate into a great natural aptitude for performing, or for appearing before large groups of observers as a spokesperson or figurehead. When expressed in less than ideal fashion, Leo energy can be loud, self-aggrandizing, egocentric, or too dependent on the approval and applause of others. When brought forth in a more positive manner, though, Leo can be inspiring, joyful, energizing to others, and highly effective as a rallying point or a center around which others can gather together. Leo might be described well by the archetype of The Monarch.

Virgo: the detail-oriented eye of a critic, combined with a priestess' or priest's desire to be of service to others...
Virgo: the detail-oriented eye of a critic, combined with a priestess’ or priest’s desire to be of service to others…

Virgo. Yin/Mutable/Earth. One of the more outwardly reserved Signs of the Zodiac, the prim-seeming Virgin may also offer more overall than what initially meets the eye. Virgo has a knack for keen perception and for tracking fine details, and has the gift/curse of being able to perceive “what could be” in a given situation, versus “what is”…so Virgo is often the first on a scene to notice shortcomings and failings. This can lead to criticism, but while Virgo may turn that exacting eye and sharp tongue on others, the most cutting and merciless criticism by Virgo energy is often self-directed. There’s a very compassionate and humanistic side to Virgo, as well, though, and being of service is an extremely beneficial state for this Sign. When poorly expressed, Virgo energy can be overly perfectionist, hyper-analytical, eager to lay blame, and at times unforgiving – this side of Virgo says, “You’re doing it wrong!” When expressed well, though, Virgo can be kind, reliable, restorative, humble, giving, and thorough – this side of Virgo says, “How can I help?” Given this Sign’s powerhouse perceptions, its eye for detail, and its inherent desire to serve others in some capacity, a rather appropriate archetype for symbolizing Virgo might be that of The Analyst.

We’ll break here for the moment, and reconvene in two days’ time for the second half of our tour through the Signs of the Zodiac…

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