12 Astrological Signs

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Each of the 12 signs expresses one of four familiar temperaments and three modalities. Learn to identify the 12 basic astrological rchetypes and enrich your life with Astrology.

Astrology is for everyone. Although the layers, complexities and nuances of this ancient art can take a lifetime to master, there are easy to learn basic building blocks. If you hang around astrologers or devotees you’ll hear the following terms being thrown around – planets, signs, houses and aspects. These are the four essential components. Master these and the treasures of this 5,000 year old system open before you like a magic carpet.

The best secret is not really a secret at all. Planets, signs, houses and aspects are all related to each other. No one needs to learn a multitude of ideas or memorize a bunch of definitions. All you need to do is grasp 12 central ideas or archetypes associated with the 12 astrological signs.

Each sign is a unique combination or energy pattern associated with one element and one modality. There are no duplicates; four elements multiplied by three modalities equals 12 unique astrology signs.

Elements: Temperament

Fire signs Aries, Leo and Sagittarius are associated with the spirit and on a good day naturally spark joy. Fire motivates, inspires and is action oriented. Fire needs fuel and seeks it in the form of adventure, experiences and recognition and approval from others. If you are looking for passion and inspiration, check out the fire signs.

Earth signs Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn are associated with the body, physical environment and all material form. These are the “doers” of the zodiac, industrious, organized, dependable, disciplined and practical. They can make order out of chaos. Quality of life, material resources and sensuality are important to them.

Air signs Gemini, Libra and Aquarius are associated with the mind, cognitive functioning and communication. These individuals love to play with ideas, concepts, values and ideals. Communication is vital to their well being. Usually social, they love chatting, writing, comparing notes and sharing ideas. Open-minded and idealistic, they tend to keep a youthful and humanitarian perspective throughout their lives.

Water signs Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces are associated with feelings and emotional expression. These folks are perceptive, intuitive, empathetic, creative and often mysterious. Although naturally nurturing, they are also emotionally thin-skinned and can be protective or withdraw into the safety of their imaginations.

Modalities: Styles and Ways Energy Flows

Cardinal signs occur at the beginning of a season. Aries ushers in spring; Cancer signals the beginning of summer; Libra coincides with autumn; and Capricorn brings in winter. Here you find initiation, action and new beginnings. These are the movers and the shakers of the zodiac innovating and acting as a force for change. You can depend on these individuals for generating new ideas and coming up with novel and refreshing designs and strategies.

Fixed signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius) fall in the middle of a season and help to stabilize, concentrate and anchor energy. They are known for their follow-through, stamina, loyalty and strong sense of values. If you want someone to complete a project, arrange all the details of a social gathering, or generally finish what has been started, these are your go-to angels.

Mutable signs, Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces emerge in the last month of a season and are known for their adaptability and flexibility. They are open to change, easily see both sides of a situation or issue and can quickly respond to new ideas and circumstances.

Putting it Together

Let’s explore how these unique combinations of elements and modalities express themselves in the 12 astrological signs. Please note the dates given are approximate. Exact dates vary slightly from year to year. Consult a professional astrologer or find this information online.

Aries – March 21 – April 20

Element: Fire

Modality: Cardinal

You are the warrior, pioneer, daredevil and survivor. You are energetic, willful, confident, impulsive, resourceful and headstrong. You didn’t come here to lead a boring ho-hum life. To be alive means adventure and willingness to take a risk. Challenge and competition are paths of growth and ways to sharpen your natural skills and talents. Your only direction is forward.

Maximize Your Potential:

  • Be willing to take the lead; others want to follow you
  • Stretch yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually
  • You are happiest when you are learning something new or pioneering a new path. Follow your curiosity

Taurus – April 21 – May 20

Element: Earth

Modality: Fixed

You are the manifestation of the spirit of nature, the Green Man, the cook, musician and the gardener. You love beautiful things, comfort and the good life. You may be a bit possessive, but you are also dependable, sensuous, practical, artistic and generous. You are one of the best listeners in the cosmos and a devoted friend.

Maximize Your Potential:

  • Think quality over quantity. Have only those things that reflect your values
  • Get your hands dirty; be outside, walk in nature, tend a garden, learn about nature spirits, trees, plants, ecology, green living and recycling
  • Express your creativity in physical activities. Consider specialty food preparation, working with fabrics, paint or clay, arranging flowers, or making music

Gemini – May 21 – June 20

Element: Air

Modality: Mutable

You are the storyteller, journalist, translator and ultimate communicator. You are curious, adaptable, restless, playful, multi-faceted, quick, clever, expressive, social and open-minded. Information excites you! You never tire of learning something new and can be counted on for knowing at least a little about everything.

Maximize Your Potential:

  • Follow your curiosity
  • Avoid scattering your energy or only skimming the surface by limiting the number of ideas you are investigating at any one time
  • Improve your communication, writing or public speaking skills with a class, workshop or on-line learning tool

Cancer – June 21 – July 20

Element: Water

Modality: Cardinal

The essence of mother, healer, feeler and protector, nurturing is your forte. You are sensitive, romantic, maternal, self-sacrificing, tenacious, cautious, creative and patient. You know the value of fostering close and positive relationships with family and those you define as family.

Maximize Your Potential:

  • Make yourself a priority by scheduling plenty of time for activities that are personally enriching
  • Think about and practice creating and maintaining appropriate personal boundaries
  • Learn about and develop your intuition and psychic abilities with books, movies, classes and on-line learning

Leo – July 21 – August 20

Element: Fire

Modality: Fixed

You are the ruler, performer and the actor. You are generous, affectionate, dramatic, proud, noble, playful, commanding and outspoken. Leo is all about the inner child and developing a strong sense of self. Creative and self-expressive, Leo entertains, leads and teaches. It may take time and many life experiences to develop self-confidence and to look inside for validation.

Maximize Your Potential:

  • Identify what you love to do and do it. Hear the lion roar!
  • Have fun with adoring audiences, but don’t let others opinions count more than your own. When you can be on stage enjoying the process without the need for applause, you have reached your nirvana
  • Be the regal and noble one enjoying your sense of style and leadership

Virgo – August 21 – September 20

Element: Earth

Modality: Mutable

You are the analyst, the server and the hermit. You were expecting me to say virgin? Yes, that too. But realize one of the original meanings of virgin is a self-contained and self-directed individual who belongs to no one. You dance the continuum between solitude and the need to serve others with humility. You are a paradoxical combination of sexuality, fertility and purity. Prone to being self-critical you are also discerning, observant, detailed, precise, pragmatic and unselfish.

Maximize Your Potential:

  • Make it your goal to learn to live with grace and acceptance in an imperfect world
  • Watch critical self-talk and practice psychological and spiritual disciplines that value non-judgment
  • Embrace and tout your mental skills, integrity and dedication to doing things to the best of your ability

Libra – September 21 – October 20

Element: Air

Modality: Cardinal

You are the lover, artist, peacemaker and arbitrator. You are capable of weighing both sides of an issue and making an impartial judgment. Sometimes a people-pleaser, you are also graceful, fair, loving, creative, considerate, cooperative and tactful. Valuing peace, fairness and balance, you easily use your charm to create nurturing partnerships and beautiful environments.

Maximize Your Potential:

  • Be in relationship with others – this is where you learn your greatest lessons and where you shine
  • Don’t take your natural creativity and artistic gifts for granted; explore them
  • Make the world beautiful; practice Feng Shui, learn how to arbitrate or negotiate; model behaviors of fairness, balance and peace

Scorpio – October 21 – November 20

Element: Water

Modality: Fixed

You are fearless in your pursuit of understanding what makes people tick. You are the detective, surgeon, hypnotist and sorcerer. Your goal is nothing less than transformation and evolution. People often describe you as intense, passionate, perceptive, creative, magnetic, heroic and even competitive.

Maximize Your Potential:

  • Put your powers of concentration to good use by studying a topic you want to master
  • Explore your creativity in whatever form it may take
  • Perfect your natural talents as healer, therapist, guide and counselor

Sagittarius – November 21 – December 20

Element: Fire

Modality: Mutable

You are the student, philosopher, traveler and teacher. You are known as optimistic, philosophical, independent, open-minded, athletic and somewhat of a risk-taker. You are motivated by the need to find truth, wisdom and meaning in life. Fences and defenses are not your style. Having the freedom to explore and expand your horizons is your goal. You continually seek to find patterns in life’s circumstances and events and usually enjoy sharing the wealth of your observations with others as a teacher and healer.

Maximize Your Potential:

  • Outdoor exercise including walking, jogging, hiking and yoga appeal to your need for freedom of movement
  • Make learning a part of your routine. Although you might prefer to learn through travel and personal experience, on-line classes and videos can expand your horizons
  • Investigate one or more healing modalities. The desire to teach and heal is in your astrological DNA!

Capricorn – December 21 – January 20

Element: Earth

Modality: Cardinal

You are the essence of father, authority, manager, builder and executive. Discipline is your middle name! You don’t shy away from a challenge or hard work and shine when you have a goal in your sights. You are ambitious, dedicated, motivated, determined, dependable, efficient and systematic. Don’t let the serious demeanor fool you; you revel in your sensuality.

Maximize Your Potential:

  • Dare to be the leader and the boss. Hone your natural management skills through workshops, classes or on-line training
  • Walk the middle road with money and resources being cautious, sensible and generous. Being either a spendthrift or miser does not become you!
  • Volunteer your expertise teaching, demonstrating or mentoring

Aquarius – January 21 – February 20

Element: Air

Modality: Fixed

You are the visionary genius, revolutionary, humanitarian and the scientist. Interested in social reform and making the world a better place, you aren’t afraid to be thought of as independent, eccentric, forward-thinking, unconventional or progressive.

Maximize Your Potential:

  • Get fired up and involved in a social cause that moves you
  • Be willing to think outside the box and imagine new designs and solutions
  • Practice self-acceptance and find inner strength and self-worth independent of others’ ideas or opinions

Pisces – February 21 – March 20

Element: Water

Modality: Mutable

You are the mystic, dreamer, poet and spiritual guide. Because of extreme sensitivity you can consciously or unconsciously lose yourself in an idea, cause or person. You are adaptable, romantic, devoted, idealistic, imaginative and did I say psychic?

Maximize Your Potential:

  • Create and maintain personal boundaries; this is important personally and professionally
  • You are a natural with essential oils, flower essences, crystals, energetic healing and complementary and alternative healing modalities. Use them for yourself or professionally
  • Include more organization and structure in your life. This is the way to turn dreams into reality


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The History of Astrology

Little did I know 30 years ago when I mistakenly purchased an Astrology book, believing it to be a novel, I had just opened the door to an ancient system of insight and divination. A system as it turns out that would profoundly change my life. Like Alice through the Looking Glass, I fell into a world of signs and symbols representing some of humankind’s earliest observations and collective wisdom dating back almost 5,000 years.

In the Beginning

Today astrology and astronomy are distinct and separate disciplines. This wasn’t always so. Approximately 2000 B. C. our ancestors watched, studied, and mapped the movement of constellations of stars and planets as these celestial bodies appeared to rise over the Eastern horizon, and move on their appointed course across the sky. What at first must have seemed like random occurrences or chaos began to appear as purposeful patterns.

Based on years of watching this cosmic dance, observers created theories. Knowledge of repeating patterns became useful tools to predict seasons and weather conditions. These in turn guided the planting and harvesting of crops, migrations from one geographical area to another, and similar behaviors. In no small way, I am indebted to these early astrologers for painstakingly crafting observations into recommendations. Otherwise, I might be planting my vegetable garden in February instead of May! Hopefully it comes as no surprise that we are the fortunate recipients of our ancestors due diligence in connecting the celestial dots.

From the Egyptians to the Babylonians, to the Greeks, and Romans, the growing body of knowledge known as Astrology spread across the world. Why? Because it works. Success with predicting weather and natural disasters evolved into more sophisticated and complex theories and beliefs. These allowed devotees to take another leap and use the mapping of the celestial bodies to understand and predict events in the lives of human beings.

Soon it was not just farmers who relied on Astrology, but also kings and rulers kept cosmic savvy advisors by their sides. Great philosophers and mathematicians including Ptolemy, Plato, Aristotle, Copernicus and Sir Isaac Newton were among those scientists who experimented with the application of theories of astronomy and astrology. Hippocrates, the famous Greek physician is quoted as saying “A physician without a knowledge of Astrology has no right to call himself a physician.” Historically Astrology has been used to plan important actions ranging from declaring war to celebrating a wedding.

Throughout the history of Astrology, various cultures adopted these principles in one form or another. Systems were revised and adapted. In some cases, cultures developed their own fairly unique versions and interpretations. For example, there are 5 chinese zodiac elements (fire, wood, earth, metal, and water) and 12 animals. Today, Vedic and Western Astrology are probably the most popular and prevalent systems, with Western Astrology also known as Tropical, being the most familiar. (As a Western Astrologer, this article reflects my understanding and experience with this version.)

We Are More Than Our Sun Signs

What first grabbed my attention and made me give Astrology a second look, was realizing the history of astrology provides a rich, complex, but cohesive picture that involves not only the Sun, but all the known planets in our solar system. “What’s your Sun Sign?” is not only an antiquated pick-up line; it’s only the tip of the cosmic iceberg.

Throughout time, astrologers have developed simple yet sophisticated meanings for each of the planets. For example, the Sun represents personal ego and how we think of ourselves. The Moon describes emotional expression and may also be a key to understanding the relationship with our mothers. Mars represents motivation; Saturn is the planet of discipline; and so on. The real practice of astrology is far more complex and interesting than the familiar paragraph predictions based on Sun Sign Astrology. However, these pithy daily, weekly, or monthly horoscopes can be amazingly accurate and helpful!

Comparing Sun Sign Astrology to the usual more comprehensive practice of Astrology feels something like this. It’s the difference between telling you I am a woman; or telling you I am a woman raised by Catholic parents with nine siblings, with a master’s degree in business, a practicing animal communicator, convinced chocolate is one of the major food groups, and has a thing for James Bond movie music. Can you appreciate the richness and depth in the second approach?

Astrology Charts

Getting useful information using Astrology usually begins with the calculation of a chart. Simply, it is a picture of the earth and the surrounding constellations and planets at a specified time. Historically astrologers have recognized 12 star constellations which in turn are associated with the 12 Astrological Signs – Aries, Taurus, Gemini, and Cancer and so on. Most often, Astrology charts are drawn as circles and divided into 12 sections that look like pie wedges. Each of the 12 constellations or signs has its place around the perimeter of the circle of the chart. Each of the pie wedges are referred to as Houses each representing an area of life. For example partnerships, home, parents, siblings, work, career, money, friendships, and health as well as other important components are represented.

Charts are drawn according to mathematical calculations factoring in time, and location. Using the calculations along with ancient charts and graphs, an astrology chart for a specific individual birth or event can be drawn. Thank God for computers and modern astrological software. They make it possible for modern day astrologers to cast charts simply and with great precision. Having started out manually casting charts with blank paper, pencil, calculator and reference books, I have great appreciation for those who preceded me and for those software innovators!

Why Astrology?

The History of Astrology can be fascinating. But let’s face it. What interests me more is what can I do with it now? Why should I bother?

Astrology is used very effectively in the hands of competent practitioners as a tool for choosing the perfect date for a wedding, a root canal, or launching a successful business. However, one of its greatest contributions is in demystifying the human psyche. Astrological interpretation provides the basis for building a psychological profile of an individual or event based on the placement of the planets in Astrological signs and in the 12 chart houses at the time of birth. Along with planets, signs, and houses, astrologers carefully consider the interaction and relationship of each planet to the others. Collectively, we can build an insightful picture.

Astrology charts hold the keys to understanding many of life’s conundrums. They can describe how a person is likely to express their feelings. Do they take their cue from the air element and think them over or talk them out? Maybe they get physical like doing housework, mowing the lawn or chopping wood to work out frustration or anger. We can look at Mercury for clues to how a person thinks, learns or shares information. An Astrology chart also holds information about where we feel wounded, alone, alienated or ineffective. Fortunately they also can tell us about our strengths and greatest personal assets.

Parting Thoughts

Like all tools, Astrology is best left in the hands of experienced and trustworthy practitioners. The good news is there are plenty available. More good news: astrology may seem complicated and you’ll get no argument from me. However, learning this ancient tool can be easy especially when approached like peeling an onion – one layer at a time. Every layer can be rewarding and can enrich our lives many times over.

Astrology remains a controversial science, praised and touted by some, debunked by others. However, history demonstrates its universal appeal.

It’s not just you and I who may keep an astrologer on our speed dial. We are in the company of kings, emperors, philosophers, physicians, notable scientists, rock stars, world leaders, entrepreneurs and many others who are open to using the art of Astrology to inform our choices. The key word in that sentence is “inform”. Astrology like many other disciplines and sciences should never become our only point of reference or source of information and guidance.

How to Get a Great Astrological Reading

  1. Start by finding a great astrologer
  2. Ask friends, family, or co-workers for referrals
  3. Often metaphysical and spiritually-oriented websites, stores, and businesses can provide names
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for references or ask the potential Astrologer for information about their background and their style of reading
  5. Be clear about the purpose or intention for the reading. Are you looking for general information? Are you trying to schedule an important event like a wedding? Are you looking for clarity about your love life or maybe you want direction about changing careers or starting your own business
  6. Most people remember only a small fraction of what they hear. If you are interested in getting a recording of your session, make this arrangement before your appointment
  7. Assume the posture of a student or “beginner’s mind”. If you have a genuine intention of hearing valuable information or gaining insight, chances are you will
  8. Don’t leave your rational mind, intuition or common sense at home. Although you are relying on an expert, no one’s opinion should be more important than your own. As many have stated or paraphrased before, “Don’t be so open minded your brain falls out”
  9. Expect that much of what you hear will confirm what you already know or suspect about yourself, your emotions, your attitudes, beliefs, motivations and personality. That being said, it’s lovely to get confirmation
  10. Resist the temptation to dismiss information without at least considering it. It’s very typical that clients tell me something they initially did not understand or found difficult to accept, later was proven accurate and true. This includes very positive qualities. It is sometimes hard to hear and accept reflections that are positive about ourselves
  11. Run away as fast as you can, if a reading even hints at manipulation or a reader attempts to coerce you into a behavior that is uncomfortable. This includes suggestions that you are under a spell, possessed, or in some way under a black cloud or karmic obligation the Astrologer can release in exchange for something – usually money! I’m embarrassed that I even have to mention this one; but unfortunately, in every profession there are those whose integrity or ethics are suspect

Unless your situation or question is very serious, have fun. And even if your situation is serious, try to enjoy yourself when you explore astrology.

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