In the Taoist creation story, the universe begins with nothingness. From nothingness, duality arises. This duality is held within the ancient idea of 'qi' (pronounced ch-ee), our life force energy. This life energy is made up of two opposing, but interconnected ideas: YIN and YANG. One cannot exist without the other, forming a whole.
Astrology is an attempt to understand this 'qi' or 'life energy'. Astrology begins with these two same concepts - YIN and YANG. From the YIN energy comes the elements of Water and Earth. Water and earth (represented by two upside down triangles) symbolize the 'feminine' aspects of energy that sink, nourish, and receive. From YANG energy comes Fire and Air. Fire and air (represented by two upright triangles) symbolize the 'masculine' aspects of energy that rise, give, and explore. These elements then breakdown into modalities and orientations. All of these unique combinations of disparate parts, come together and fan out into a beautiful wheel, or mandala, we know as the 'Zodicall Wheel' or the 12 signs of the zodiac.
Zodiacal Wheel Breakdown
Polarity, Element, Modality, Orientation
Polarities show the underlying energetic resonance of YIN and YANG. Inner and outer, masculine and feminine.
Elements show how energy manifests as a form. YIN elements are Earth and Water. YANG elements are Fire and Air.
Modalities show how energy manifests as movement. Shows how to move and function in the world. Cardinal energy starts, fixed sustains, mutable moves & transforms.
Orientations shows how energy meets the world. Shows where our energy is concentrated and focused: personal, interpersonal, or transpersonal.
You can understand these four building blocks
by looking at your chart and asking...
What is the element and modality of my Sun sign? Do the descriptors below fit the element and modality of my Sun Sign?
Look through your Sun, Moon and Rising sign. Identify the elements & modalities. Do those fit your personality?
Does your chart have a lot of planets in a particular sign? Look at the qualities of that sign from the lens of the element and mobility. Do the pros and the cons fit your personality?
Polarities | Yin, Yang
The first division of singular source energy is into Yin and Yang. Sometimes these are referred to as ‘masculine’, yang energy and ‘feminine’ being yin. These principles do apply, but too often applying gender can lead to false conclusions or assumptions, so I like to just refer to the polarities as ‘Yin’ and ‘Yang’. This distinction is found in all ancient cosmologies which describe the universe as formed by the interplay of two opposing forces or polarities—Light and Dark, Positive and Negative, etc.
The polarities are like two sides of the same coin. Different expressions of the same essential energy. Fire and Water are the more intuitive of the polarities. Air and Water are the more earthly expressions of the polarities. All of the polities balance each other, and are interdependent.
Yin | Taurus, cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn, Pisces
Seeks from within, seeks internally. Yin energy is receptive, it is like an inhale.
Think about how the water needs earth to contain it. Water seeps into the earth to nourish it, and cause growth. Matter (earth) is necessary for water to contain it. They sink, they have gravity and weight to them. They are a grounding force to the YANG energy.
Earth and Water signs are more receptive and inward turning.
The Inhale, receptive, feminine, night force, introverted, negative pole of energy, magnetic, gravity, intuitive
Keyword = security
Yang | Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius, Aquarius
Seeks from without, seeks externally. Yang energy is external, thus both fire and air rise and project upward and outward, unlike water and earth that naturally sink and have more density. Think about how fire needs air to grow. Fires are most dangerous when there is too much wind, and can be extinguished by depriving fire of air.
Fire and Air signs are more outgoing and self-expressive—pouring forth their energies into the world
The Exhale, active, assertive, masculine, dayforce, extroverted, positive pole of energy, electric, logical
Keyword = freedom.
Polarities also can refer to what signs are opposite from each other in the zodiac wheel. Polarities will always be either yin or yang and share the same modality. These two energies balance each other out. They are also essentially two sides of the same coin. They show how two opposite energies express themselves in different ways, one above the horizon line, one below the horizon line. The sign below the horizon line shows the personal/individual energy, the sign above the horizon line shows the shared/collective energy. For example, Taurus shows personal wealth/values, while Scorpio shows us shared wealth/values. See diagram and descriptions below.
the Six Polarities
Aries // Libra | the axis of balancing the individual and the relationship. Shows how the self is reflected back to oneself through relationships. Aries is the self, Libra is the reflection or the other. This axis is about balancing the self with the outer world or partnerships.
Taurus // Scorpio | the axis of personal wealth/values and shared wealth/values. This axis has to do with the balance of personal and shared resources. Taurus expresses the personal wealth, like the money in your bank account, while Scorpio represents shared wealth like a merged bank account, taxes, debt, or a spouse's money. The Taurus/Scorpio axis also has a lot of energy of power, control, and learning to let go. Taurus and Scorpio both favor control and material stability, but together these signs must learn to be constantly growing and evolving despite of the risk of instability, vulnerability, and loss.
Gemini // Sagittarius | the axis of personal/relative truth vs ultimate/universal truth. Gemini (lower half of the chart) shows us the relative truth from our day to day experience, like it is OK to lie sometimes when we need too. Where as Sagittarius is the ultimate truth that says it is not OK to lie, period. These two signs create a dynamic of what truth is, when it can be relative, and when it cannot be.
Leo // Aquarius | the axis of the the unique ego self and its contribution to the collective, the collective ego. The Leo archetype (below the horizon line) has to do with the unique, individual ego and ones creative capacity. While Aquarius shows us the lack of the individual, and the collective whole. The key to this axis is the understanding that through everyone in the collective contributing their unique skills, the whole tribe flourishes. This axis also has to do with tribes/tribalism. Where Leo is like a nation (the US), Aquarius is like the United Nations. The energy plays with the individual and the collective truth that there is no individual, and we are all one.
Virgo // Pisces | the axis of theories and ideas, and how to put them into action. This dynamic is all about how to disseminate a larger idea through consistent practice and right action. Virgo (bottom half of the chart), is the earth sign that seeks to distill and make sense of the big concepts and ideas of the watery Pisces polarity. Pisces provides the beliefs, the ideas, and the big picture while Virgo takes these ideas and brings them to life through ritual and practice.
Elements | Fire, Earth, Air, Water
Elements show how energy manifests and takes shape and are used cross culturally to describe the building blocks of all organic physical forms.
Fire | Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Fire is the first element of the Zodiac. It begins the Zodiacial wheel, and is the first element in the three divisions of the elements (or orientation). Fire describes the principle of identity, self and the individual. It represents individual consciousness, and how the ego self realizes and self actualizes. The fire element seels to realize the identity of the ego through direct action or agency. The yang aspect of fire burns and rises and in doing so fire connects us to the ‘Gods’ or ‘Truth’.
Fire is transformative. Fire deals with the development of the ego. It uses the self as a change agent. Creative output, action, and dissemination of higher ‘Truths’ or ‘Knowledge’. Higher knowledge is disseminated through an ego. The development of this ego for agency is fundamentally fire energy. Fire signs can represent our animalistic instincts towards being. Aries, the ram charges headfirst at life. Leo, the Lion King rules over the animal kingdom. Sagittarius, the final fire is symbolized by the minotaur archer. Half animal, half human. Shooting towards the stars, some greater Truth.
Fire Sign Personality
Pros: playful, passionate, cheerful, excitable, expressive, fun loving, creative, enthusiastic, inspirational, change agent, glowing, exuberant, optimistic, courageous, assertive, agency
Cons: hot-headed, rash, impatient, impulsive, burn out, pushy, obnoxious, manic, overzealous
Earth | Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
Principle of physical matter and things that matter (values). The concept of the three dimensional material substance and materialization. Earth signs give form and nurture what has been created (by the fire signs that come before earth signs). Instinct to contain and sustain the impulses of the ego. Earth signs have an innate understanding of the physical world, its limitations, restrictions, and responsibilities.
Represents the development of the physical senses and mastery of our physical/earthly experience. Earth signs go through the process of understanding matter and value. With this comes the process of materializing goods, possessions, or money through hard work, consistent effort, practice, and resilience. Earth signs are intimately linked to how we work and manifest things in our material world. Earth signs are practical and are always willing to back up their ideas and ambitions with hard work.
EARTH Sign Personality
Pros: practical, down to earth, hard working, resourceful, no-nonsense, stable, sensible, enduring, patient, dependable, deliberate, resolute, sensable, manifestation, making your own reality through hard work and consistent effort.
Cons: Overly conservative, afraid to take risks, stubborn, rigid, security oriented opportunism, materialistic, inflexible, unchangeable
Air | Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Principle of connecting and relating through mental and social avenues. Sharing and communicating ideas. The impulse to connect connects with language, also relating of the mind to everything surrounding it. Elevating the material (prior earth signs) to the mental. Balance of maintaining relationships and independence. Aims to balance the poles of symbiosis and separation.
Development of the mind/intellect and language. Using the mind as a tool to connect. Connecting through language, art etc. As the mind develops, it can help to create balance to hold space for the tension of separating and merging (fire, airs polarity, depends on this rhythm). Fun fact, no air signs contain animal symbols. The twins, the scales, and the water bearer. There tends to be an air of pretension when we talk about air signs. Because they are so incredibly intellectual, air signs tend to detach from emotional and animalistic instincts of our human experience.
AIR Sign Personality
Pros: Intellectual, friendly, sociable, curious, smart, chatty, way with words, cerebral, conversational, clever, witty, versatile, unbiased, logical, ethereal
Cons: spacy, flighty, superficial, non-committal, over committal, overly intellectual that makes one unrelatable, ungrounded, detached, aloof, distant, removed, inconsistent, nervous
Water | Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
Principle of feeling and transformation. After the intellectual development of air signs, we're challenged to integrate watery emotions into our human experience. Water aims to gain awareness through assimilating the past and letting go of what's not useful. The impulse of water energy is to sink to the depths of our human experience, which comes from empathy and feeling.
The ego is developed in the order of fire, earth, air lastly. Water is the souls final stage of development of the emotions & feelings. Often through intense experiences or emotions, the ability to feel deeply water will initiate a death and rebirth of the ego. Water signs’ symbols relate to how the signs manage emotions. Cancer (the first water sign) is symbolized by the crab, whose hard exterior protects the mushy center. Scorpios, like Scorpions, are always ready to strategically attach with their stinger and defend themselves. Pisces, like fish absorbs water through the skin, absorbs energy from its surroundings.
WATER Sign Personality
Pros: Nurturing, compassionate, mysterious, intuitive, hidden, shielding, empathetic, emotional, deep, penetrating, soulful, feeling, intimate, sensitive
Cons: overly sensitive, too defensive or suspicious, deceptive
Modalities | Cardinal, Fixed, Mutable
Modalities are considered to be source energy describe in kinetic motion. The circular motion of the zodiac wheel manifests into these energies. Imagine a wheel spinning around and axis, like the wheel on your car or bike. Centrifugal motion pushes the energy outward, it generates energy, it is the result of inertia. This is the force that makes you want to fly off of a marry-go-round, you want to keep going but continue to get sucked back. That’s cardinal energy. The energy that makes you want to get sucked back into the circular motion is centripetal motion. This is fixed energy that represents perpetual, sustained force so we don’t fly off into outer space. It is the hub in the center and movement towards it. Mutable energy is when circular motion turns into spiralic motion. Similar to a vortex, or helical rotations, mutable energy moves onward and onward in a spiral motion without concept of starting motion or hub. These energies have a profound impact on the character and nature of each sign.
Cardinal | Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn
Cardinal signs represent the start of a new season. Each cardinal sign falls on an equinox or solstice. Aries is on the spring equinox, Cancer on these summer solstice, Libra on the fall equinox, and Capricorn on the winter solstice. Similarly, cardinal energy initiates new phases. Cardinal energy symbolizes outward centrifugal force that generates energy. This energy moves in a definite direction. It initiates action, starts things, and gets things going.
Cardinal Sign Personality
Pros: enterprising, natural leader, purposeful, original, innovative, pioneering, direct
Cons: overly competitive, loses interest quickly
Fixed | Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius
Fixed signs represent when we are in the middle of a season. Taurus is in the thick of spring, leo is in the thick of summer, scorpio is in the thick of fall, and aquarius is in the thick of winter (from the northern hemisphere). Fixed energy symbolizes inward centripetal motion that concentrates energy. This energy contains what is. It preserves and sustains what was started by the prior cardinal sign.
fixed Sign Personality
Pros: steadfast, consistent, persevering, structured, powerful, determined, persistent
Cons: controlling, stubborn, unwilling/resistance to change
Mutable | Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces
Mutable signs represent when the seasons start to change and adapt in preparation for the start of a new season. Gemini comes at the end of spring, Virgo comes at the end of summer, Sagittarius comes at the end of fall, and Pisces season falls at the end of winter.
Symbolizes every changing spiralic energy pattern. The last of the modalities mutable energy seeks to adapt energies to the changing conditions of time and space. Mutable energy transmutes and transforms. It changes things to make way for the new, it (re)distributes energy.
mutable Sign Personality
Pros: adaptable, connecting, versatile, ever changing, social, distractible, scatterbrained, eager to learn, mental, indecisive, quick witted, flexible, friendly
Cons: flighty, poor follow through
Orientation | Personal, Interpersonal, Transpersonal
The orientations refer to three stages of relationship between the individual and his or her environment. The unfolding of these three orientations parallels the evolution of the twelve zodiacal signs.
Personal | Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer
First stage of the development of the ego, where the ego is developing a sense of self, in relationship to oneself. It focuses on meeting primary needs and sees itself as the center of the universe. orientation, a person is denied his or her need for human contact.
The first four signs show the first stages of personal development. Aries through cancer we realize what it means to have an ego (Aries), what it means to have a body (Taurus), what it means to have a mind and language (Gemini) and what it means to have emotions (Cancer).
Interpersonal | Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio
The second stage of development, the soul sees itself in relationship to others in one on one relationships. Interpersonal individual may become too other-directed and thereby lose touch with his or her own sense of self. Yet, without this orientation, orientation, a person is denied his or her need for human contact. The second set of four signs shows us the stage of our egos development, relating to other people. Leo through Scorpio we realize what it means to ourselves out on a stage in front of other people (Leo), get feedback from others (Virgo), how we establish partnerships (Libra), how we merge with others to transform (Scorpio).
Transpersonal | Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces
The third and final stage of development is to see oneself in relationship to the greater collective. seeks to understand his or her relationship with the universe at large. Transpersonal signs may feel totally out of place in the mundane world. They are often very cerebral. They tend to be concerned about discovering the meaning of life, that such practical, day to day life like getting groceries, paying rent, are often missed, neglected or all too tedious for the transpersonal signs to care about. The transpersonal signs show how our ego adapts and relates to the world at large. Sagittarius bursts forth from the transformation of Scorpio and invites us to witness and define ‘Truth’ with a capital T. Sagittarius, the gypsy soul, finds ‘Truth’ across all cultural boundaries and people who may seem foreign to us. Capricorn shows how the structures and institutions hold up these Sagittarian ideals. Aquarius then seeks to liberate society and connect them. Finally Pisces shows the collective unconscious that permeates all things and transcends reality as we know it.