Astro DIY #4: The 12 signs of the zodiac

This is the fourth post in Tabby’s Astro DIY column on Little Red Tarot. It’s all about getting started with astrology, beginning with the basics. 

View all posts in this series here, or get to know Tabby better here!


Aren’t all Water signs just overly emotional, and all Fixed signs stuck in their ways?

Well, it’s not quite that simple.

So far in Astro DIY, we’ve broken the 12 zodiac signs down into the four elements and the three modalities.

Now it’s time to put that knowledge together and look at what makes each sign different.

four-elements-three-modalities-astrology

If you’re here to learn astrology, make sure you read about each sign – not just the main ones represented in your own chart! The more we learn about all of the signs the more fun astrology is, and the more we can use it to learn about other people and our relationships to them in the world.

So to start with we need to look at our birth charts and see which different signs are in there.

Once we understand the meaning of the planets in astrology, we’ll know more about what it means for signs to be ‘in different planets’, but for now we’re just going to do a general overview of the zodiac signs. The way the energies of a sign are expressed is different depending on which planet and which house it is in. We’ll explore these topics in future lessons.

To start with, just concentrate on thinking about the qualities described in relation to the signs your Sun, Moon and Ascendent are in, and any other signs that are overly represented in your chart.

Remember, these descriptions aren’t complete – there could be a whole book on each sign! I’ve just focused on some of the key themes and typical behaviours of each sign. Some of us will strongly relate to our sun and/or rising sign and some of us will have other influences in our chart that change the way the energies of it are expressed.

 

A guide to each of the 12 signs of the zodiac:

Aries – Fire – Cardinal – Ruled by Mars

Aries is the initiator of the zodiac, bringing invigorating energy to the table. They are known for being adventurous, pioneering, always up for a challenge and they like to be the first to do something (and the first to finish it!). They are fast-paced people and can’t wait to do whatever it is they want to do, living in the present. They can be self-centered, dominating and impatient – there is no need for pre-planning or strategy with Aries, the only way is to jump right in and do! Aries is active and energetic and tends to always be on the go. They are direct, enthusiastic, confident and uncomplicated – it’s unusual for there to be games with Aries, they say what they mean and you get what you see. Aries expects other people to match their eager attitude to life and can be easily angered and frustrated when things don’t go their way.

Taurus – Earth – Fixed – Ruled by Venus, though some say by Earth

Taurus is the loyal and patient, trustworthy best friend that you can rely on in the zodiac. Providing stability for others and themselves is important, and often material things hold more value for Taurus than other signs, because having a house, things, money or people they can count on give them the sense of stability they need to feel safe. Taurus is ruled by Venus, so they enjoy pleasure and sensuality – things like art, beauty, sex, food. Taurus can be described as lazy – but are actually incredibly hardworking and persevering – the catch is they don’t want to work for something that they don’t personally value. As one of the fixed signs, Taurus is known for being stubborn and resistant to change. They feel safer doing things the tried and tested way that they know already works for them and often hold onto things and relationships longer than they should, finding it hard to let go.

Gemini – Air – Mutable – Ruled by Mercury

Gemini is known as the most flexible sign of the zodiac – its symbol of the twins represents their adaptability – at times appearing as if they have two different personalities, or adapting the qualities and moods of those around them. Communication and exchanging information and ideas is important to Gemini – they are known as the connector of the zodiac. While other people would rarely find a Gemini boring, they can easily be restless and bored themselves without enough mental stimulation. Gemini can be superficial as they form opinions quickly, without taking the time to explore something or get to know someone fully. They can also be untrustworthy – spilling secrets or easily going back on their word, because they change their mind so easily. Gemini prefers to live on the lighter side of life and it can be difficult for you (or them) to tell what they’re really feeling.

Cancer – Water – Cardinal – Ruled by the Moon

Cancer has an extra special relationship, unlike the other signs, with it’s ruling planet – the Moon. The Moon is the fastest moving planet, changing sign every two and a half days and so Cancers are known as moody, rarely known for a consistent temperement, their moods extremely affected by the phase and sign the moon is in at any given time. Cancer is sensitive and often withdraws when they are hurt and their home and private space is very important to them. Cancer is the nurturer, the mother figure of the zodiac, protective and intuitive, hospitable and caring. They are defensive and tough on the outside, protecting their vulnerabilities and highly sensitive nature. Cancer finds it hard to trust people. They are easily hurt and tend to live in the past – with strong memories and nostalgia for what has been and gone.

Leo

Leo – Fire – Fixed – Ruled by the Sun

The lion is a great symbol for Leo, because Leo often comes across as a larger than life, proud personality, that wants to be treated like royalty. Of course there are quiet, shy Leo’s out there too and expressing themselve is still really important, but might be more in the form of art or spirituality. Leo rules the heart and can radiate warm, loving energy. They are creative, self-assured and optimistic and probably the most generous sign of the zodiac, but on the flip side they are also easily jealous and posessive. They like to feel special and in turn like to give to make other people feel special. The sun, which rules Leo, is the centre of the solar system and Leo sure likes to be the centre of attention. They are dramatic, a storyteller for sure, though their stories are usually somewhat exaggerated. Leo hates to be ridiculed – which their overbearing, dramatic personality can easily be, because other people don’t get it. Leo just wants everyone else to give them the appreciation and attention they know they deserve!

Virgo – Earth – Mutable – Ruled by Mercury and the asteroids

Virgo’s reputation often precedes them as perfectionists, nit-picky and obsessive. While often these qualities will ring true and it can be an easy way to spot a Virgo from afar, there’s a lot more to them than that. Virgo is hardworking – they can have a fear of underperforming and want to do well in everything they do, constantly striving to improve. They are analytical, precise, intellectual and practical. Virgo’s desire for perfection means they can be very critical and judgemental, both of themselves and others. They are also kind and helpful and will go out of their way to to be of service to others. Virgo is usually very health concious, and when their overthinking and nervous energy isn’t in check, this can result in hyperchondria or anxiety. Virgo is humble and despite their desire to do even better, everyone else can clearly see just how well they are achieving.

Libra – Air – Cardinal – Ruled by Venus

Libra is the peace maker of the zodiac, with words such as equality, justice, balance and harmony coming to mind as important themes. Libra tries to be the middle ground for other people, though sometimes this can result in lying so as not to ‘sway the boat’. Libra rules one-on-one relationships and they bring their values of balance to these too – they expect things to be equal and to receive as much as they give. They are known for being indecisive – needing to weigh up all sides of a question before making a decision. Libra has an appreciation for the fine things in life – beauty, art, music and they tend to be sociable and easygoing.

Scorpio – Water – Fixed – Ruled by Pluto and Mars

Scorpio is the most intense of all the signs, known for their depth of emotion and staying willpower. Passionate and determined, they will fully throw themselves into whatever (or whoever) they do – only things they’ve decided they want to do, mind you. Scorpio knows what they want and just the right moment to go for it and they want to hold the power. Power and control is a big theme for Scorpio – which can negatively manifest into possessive and manipulative behaviours if they’re not careful. Scorpio has great perspective and makes a fine detective and excellent researcher. Scorpio is the sign of the zodiac associated with sex and so this can be another strong theme for them. Scorpio is very self-controlled, secretive and strong. They are loyal to themselves and others, though if you betray their trust you might feel the wrath of the Scorpion’s sting, as they are known as the sign of vengeance.

Sagittarius

Sagittarius – Fire – Mutable – Ruled by Jupiter

Sagittarius is the restless adventurer of the zodiac. Whether off on a new adventure, travelling, finding new interests or starting another project, they are always on the move in some way or another. Sagittarius moves in order to grow and expand their knowledge, experiences and to better understand the meaning of life. They rarely finish things and strongly value freedom and independence – preferring to move on as soon as things become boring or they feel trapped. Sagittarius is witty, optimistic, intellectual and philosophical. They are laidback and tend to speak without thinking, having an honest and straightforward, but sometimes tactless approach. Sagittarius can have a tendancy for arrogance, using their knowledge to rule over others, and their optimism can turn into exaggeration.

Capricorn – Earth – Cardinal – Ruled by Saturn

Capricorn strives for achievement. They are ambitious and tend to set their eye on the prize and steadily work towards it, no matter how long it takes. Capricorn is grounded, structured and practical. They are usually fond of tradition and have a strong sense of responsibility. Some say that Capricorn ages backwards – they act a lot older than they are when they are young and seem younger when they are old. Capricorn prefers to be the boss, the leader in situations and success both materially and in status is important to them. They will often put work or family needs before their own, doing whatever it takes to see things through as they have planned, in order to suceed. Despite being one of the most serious signs in the zodiac, Capricorns are also known for their wit and ability to make people laugh.

Aquarius

Aquarius – Air – Fixed – Ruled by Uranus

It can be hard to believe an Aquarius sometimes. Not because they are untrusworthy, but because they can’t even trust themselves that they are going to follow through with their promises. Aquarius is forward thinking and has great ideas, but they don’t really know what way they’re going or where they will end up – they love change and personal freedom. Aquarius is known as the humanitarian sign – they are interested in people and the concerns of the group or the world and in how they can help. Aquarius values their individuality – they aren’t like everybody else and they want you to know it. They seek validation from their peers and groups and place this above individual relationships. Aquarius can be detached and aloof and are more interested in worldy ideas than talking about their feelings. They also tend to have an inherent sense of being superior – they aren’t very good at taking other people’s thoughts or opinions into consideration and can easily end up dominating, believing their way and their beliefs are the only ones worth following. Aquarius can make a great leader and visionary, especially when drawing on their intelligence and creativity.

Pisces – Water – Mutable – Ruled by Neptune

Pisces is the chameleon of the zodiac – some say that Pisces is a bit of all the other signs rolled into one. They are open-minded, adaptable and easily take on the moods of those around them. Their strong mutablity can result in avoiding responsibility and having weak boundaries. Pisces can be a bit all over the place – dreamy and vague. Reality can be too much for Pisces to handle, as they are drawn to the mystic, the dream world, and they often abuse alcohol and/or drugs as a way of escaping reality. Creative expression is usually where Pisces shines – often using their sadness to create music, poetry, dance, art in some shape or form. Pisces is compassionate, highly sensitive to other people’s feelings and to any criticism or negative behaviour towards them. They can be dramatic and emotionally manipulative and may glamorize suffering in some way – trying to gain sympathy, or taking on self-pitying behaviour.

 

Wheel

 

So that’s an overview of the 12 signs – hopefully you spotted the themes of the elements and modalities throughout them.

You’ll also have noticed that there are awesome and not quite so awesome qualities to each sign. Knowing our natural strengths enables us to utilise them to to their best, and being aware of our weaknesses give us the power to catch ourselves in our habits and change the way we do things. The energies of the different signs at work in our birth charts show our natural talents, our challenges and our potenial for growth.

Now we’ve got a good feel for the different archetypes that make up the zodiac, we’ll be moving on to a general overview of what each planet means, so we can start interpreting the placement of different signs in our charts! Share your questions and observations in the comments! Do you relate to the qualities of your sign? Is there something you want everyone to know about your sign that I haven’t included?

Your Homework:

One thing you could do that will help if you’re really keen on learning astrology beyond just your own birth chart, is to spend a little time with each zodiac sign, getting to know it better. Dedicate a page to each sign in your astrology notebook and add to it the more you learn about that sign. You can start with the element and modality for each sign and any key words you already know for it, people you know with that sun sign, symbols, pictures you associate with it, lines from astrology books and so on and you’ll end up with a great little resource to help you in your interpretations.

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12 comments

  1. Celia says:

    I love the natural/flat astrological wheel at the bottom– very straightforward and pleasing on the eyes :)

    This past year has been the year of me embracing the more abrasive side of Aries (my sun sign) as a positive, trying to get back into the habit of saying what I mean to say even when it’s the hard thing to do.
    Scorpio is in my chart under Pluto, does that mean that the influence would be stronger since Scorpio is ruled by Pluto?

    I had never heard Pisces being described as the chameleon of the zodiac, but the description also quite resonates with me, which makes me return to the question that will (probably) never be settled in my mind about the truth/relevance to being born on a cusp!

    • Tabby
      Tabby says:

      Thanks Celia – my mum (Bobby who comments) drew the astrological wheel! :)

      Good spotting with Scorpio in Pluto! You’re right, that’s a really good principle to apply and this kind of influence is especially stronger when a sign is in it’s ruling planet if that planet is a personal planet (we’ll learn more about that next time). Pluto however is an outer planet – it stays in the same sign for an average of 21 years so it’s more about generational change – and means our generation has more of that Pluto influence!

      Yeah I haven’t met/analysed enough people on the cusp to have a strong opinion but I’m really interested in figuring that one out! I imagine it would have some impact, though.

  2. Beth
    Beth says:

    I laughed so hard at the Aquarius description (yeah, that’s me).

    Big ideas/promises with no clear ideas how to deliver them? Check. Deciding (constantly) to do things without knowing how? Check. Innate sense of superiority…eeeek I hope not!! I enjoyed your pull-no-punches tell-it-like-it-is writing this week Tabby ;)

    I just booked flights for a three-month trip to the states. I have no idea where I will go or what I will do when I get there but it’s part of some bigger plan and I’m not sure what it will be yet. Does this count as an Aquarius thing to do? :D

    Thanks as always for a really interesting article!!

    • Tabby
      Tabby says:

      Haha I was actually a bit nervous about sending this to you, I was like hm, should I try make the Aquarius bit less harsh for Beth?! I hope all my friends don’t think this is what I think of them!

      Yay that’s awesome, go you! So exciting! And yes TOTALLY an Aquarius thing to do!!! I find one of the super fun bits of astrology and knowing the signs well is being able to comment on people’s behaviour like that. I catch myself going *cough* VIRGO or ‘that’s so Aries’ etc so often to people now!

      • Beth
        Beth says:

        I CAN TAKE IT.
        Just.
        Resolution: grow a thicker skin.

        Honestly though Tabs (may I call you Tabs?) much as I would love it if you built this whole column around saying Aquarians are just the best people ever (superiority, anyone?) I don’t think that would do at all…. hehe!

  3. baretoedgirl says:

    So I think it’s interesting that I actually do have Scorpio in both Mars and Pluto, even though none of my other signs are in the planets that they are ruled by. Am I putting that right? I don’t know if that could possibly have any significance.

    I really relate to the description of Sagittarius here, as far as valuing independence and freedom, and to the Aquarius description of being detached and sometimes feeling a little superior, arg. Scorpio strikes a very strong chord, basically everything in that description, but especially as far as needing control of my environment and throwing myself into things (whether or not I finish them haha).

    Even though Capricorn is both my sun sign and in two other planets as well, I’ve never really related to it. Like, I guess I can be kind of ambitious, but it really doesn’t feel like an overriding part of my personality. Even though it’s like crazy in my chart. Hmm.

    • Tabby
      Tabby says:

      Yeah having Scorpio in Mars will definitely have a strong affect! So you do have Sagittarius and Aquarius in your chart?

      That’s interesting about not relating much to Capricorn – hopefully it’s a mystery you’ll uncover as you keep learning!

  4. Wow, wow, wow, wow.

    So Scorpio Sun, Libra Moon, Aries Rising, and Capricorn Saturn & Uranus & Neptune. Sooo, maybe I am pretty gosh darn elementally balanced. I know that I am one of those people who change with the seasons. Right now in the US, it’s winter. I definitely follow seasons and moon cycles, etc.

    I definitely relate to all of my signs here. One of the most “aha!” moments was the Capricorn popping up everywhere. “Fond of tradition and strong sense of responsibility….work and family needs before their own.” Holy freaking crap. Those things never made sense to me as I tended to only focus on the Scorpio bit and I just attributed those to “I’m the oldest child” so, there.

    Love, love.

  5. Ifat says:

    Hi Tabby
    I really enjoy all the info you have been sharing here. Also loved what you wrote about yourself and Astrology….my story is a lot alike….and I am taurus too (only born much sooner than you I suspect…)
    Hope you can clearify something for me….: how does Cancer expresses his being a Cardinal sign (initiative) ??
    Where is the initiative being expressed through Cancer? After all It neads security, intimacy, and is an introvert in nature….
    Can you help me out here?
    Give my best regards to New ziland. Been there 18 years ago…had the time of my life:-)
    All the best
    Ifat

    • Tabby
      Tabby says:

      Cancer is definitely the most subtle of the Cardinal signs, but still a powerful initiator! Mostly in terms of emotional experiences – it leads by the heart. It is emotionally assertive – it can initiate those hard conversations, make changes as necessary, makes decisions based on instinct. Cancer is also associated with the mother – usually the first nurturing and love we receive, so another example of it’s Cardinal Water! Hope this helps. :)

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