December 26, 2008

Modalities....Also Known As Quadruplicities

Our previous posts have been discussing elements of the astrological zodiac. Now I think it is necessary to discuss modalities, also known as quadruplicities, in order to gain a comprehensive view of the signs of the astrological wheel.

Quadruplicities are divided into three groups, each group comprising four signs (hence the root of the word "quad," meaning four). Each of these groups is associated with a period of each season of the year, and reflects the basic qualities of that quadruplicity. The three quadruplicities are Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable.

The Cardinal quadruplicity is associated with the beginning of each season. It represents the equinoxes and solstices. It is comprised of the signs Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn. Aries begins the season of Spring, and begins on the Spring equinox, when there is equal day and night (March 21st). Cancer begins the season of Summer and corresponds to the Summer Solstice and the longest day of the year (June 22nd). Libra begins the season of Autumn and corresponds to the Autumn equinox (September 23rd), when day and night are again equal in length. Finally, Capricorn begins the season of Winter and corresponds to the Winter Solstice and the longest night of the year (December 22nd). Cardinal signs are the initiators and leaders of the zodiac. They are associated with impatience, forcefulness, power, and initiative.

The Fixed quadruplicity is associated with the middle of each season, and a deepening of all the qualities of that particular season. These signs are located in the midst of a season, neither initiating it nor dispersing it into the next. They are the Fixed signs, and are associated with maintaining and stabilizing. The Fixed quadruplicity is associated with Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius. Taurus represents the full power of Spring, and begins on April 20th. Leo likewise represents the full power of Summer, and begins on July 23rd. Scorpio is associated with the full glory of Autumn, and begins on October 23rd, while Aquarius corresponds with the fullness of Winter, beginning on January 20th. These signs are associated with stubborness, persistence, and pride. Those of this quadruplicity are the stable, maintaining signs of the zodiac most resistant to change.

The Mutable quadruplicity is the last of the modalities, and is associated with the ending of each season. It dissipates the energy of the season into which it is located and prepares us for the coming of a new season. Those of this modality are Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces. Gemini is associated with the ending of Spring and the ushering in of Summer, while Virgo is likewise associated with the ending of Summer and the beginnings of Autumn. Sagittarius brings Autumn to an end and begins preparing us for Winter, while Pisces establishes the ending of Winter and the beginning of the seasonal cycle to a beginning once more with Spring. Those of this quadruplicity are associated with adaptability, friendliness, and nervousness. They are the signs most adaptable to change and a dispersion of the old and a beginning of the new. With their enormous adaptation to changing circumstances, they are able to fulfill appointed roles and tasks very well, but often have a problem taking charge due to their indecisiveness.

Quadruplicities break down each of the elements to differentiate them from their cousins. For example, the element of Fire contains one of each of the modalities: Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable. This is likewise for each of the other elements. Below is a list of each sign of the zodiac, along with its quadruplicity and corresponding element. This list is in order from the first sign of the zodiac to the last sign.

Aries - Cardinal, Fire
Taurus - Fixed, Earth
Gemini - Mutable, Air
Cancer, - Cardinal, Water
Leo - Fixed, Fire
Virgo - Mutable, Earth
Libra - Cardinal, Air
Scorpio - Fixed, Water
Sagittarius - Mutable, Fire
Capricorn - Cardinal, Earth
Aquarius - Fixed, Air
Pisces - Mutable, Water

There is a pattern for the quadruplicities just as there is for each of the elements. As we saw, the elements are Fire, Earth, Air, and Water. The quadruplicites are Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable. This is a helpful tool in understanding each of the signs of the zodiac.

December 22, 2008

The Element of Water

The astrological cycle of elements concludes with the element of water. This is, perhaps, the most complex and yet misunderstood of the elements. A mythological deity that comes to mind when we discuss the element of water is the Greek god Poseidon, also known to the Romans as Neptune (which is also a planet associated with this element). Poseidon was worshipped as a protector of all who ventured out to sea. When he was offended, tidal waves would consume coastal cities and ships would be mysteriously lost on their voyages. As water represents the element of emotion, the mythology would accurately describe those of the water element: protective and nurturing when appreciated, but destructively emotional to the point of hysteria when offended or neglected.

The water triad includes the signs of Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces. The planets corresponding to this element include the Moon, Mars (through its association with Scorpio) as well as Pluto, and Jupiter (the classical ruler of Pisces) as well as Neptune. When this element arrives on the astrological scene, they immediately urge us to bring depth and emotion to everything the preceeding three elements have established. "What good is identity and inspiration without depth and emotion?" water would ask fire. "What good is money, job success, and real estate without strong familial ties and an emotional base?" water quips to earth. "And why must all emotions be analyzed and intellectualized without being truly felt?" water would ponder to air.

This element is concerned primarily with feelings - those of the individual, and those of others. Although air rules groups, social occasions, and friendships, water lives for deep, meaningful connections. No human contact is taken lightly where water decides to flow; water wants to experience any and all emotion to its fullest. Those of this element are not afraid of the deep and sometimes messy emotions that the other elements would tend to shun. Anger, pain, sadness, joy, love, nostalgia - water craves experience with them all.

Think of a babbling brook. Up the stream, a gentle and beautiful waterfall pours into the stream, and the water trickles ever so gently and peacefully toward its final destination. As it picks up momentum, it makes its way to the sea, where it becomes more assertive in its final voyage toward a larger body of water. People often buy CDs and cassettes with sounds of brooks, waterfalls, or rain as a way of calming the mind and soothing the soul. We depend on this element for cleansing us before we rush off to work, and for maintaining our food sources and overall health. There is something calming and healing inherent in all the water signs. Just watch out for when those emotions spill out of control: they can easily turn into tidal waves ready to drown all within their path.

Water is associated with sensitivity and perception. You can always tell when you are in the presence of a water sign - their mooods and emotions tend to ebb and flow toward all those around with a persistence that resembles that of a river making its way toward the ocean. However, they tend to pick up all the nuances of human emotion of everyone around them as well. Water is compassionate and sympathetic. Air also strives for fairness and sympathy, but it is on a mental and social level. Water is not afraid of tears, temper tantrums, and all of the other many human emotions. It feels them down to its very core, and relates on a much more intuitive, gut level than any of the other elements.

This is the deepest of elements, and also the most mysterious. Legends of the sea and what lurks within its waters have characterized many human myths and heroic tales. Like those tales, water is deep and enigmatic - it is capable of confusing less watery souls by reflecting what it perceives in its immediate environment. Like the ebb and flow of the tidal waters, water sign people can be moody. Although others might be wary of their ever-changing moods, water signs find solace and comfort in feeling out their every emotion, whether dark or light. They have a need to feel, whatever the emotion. For this reason, water signs often need some alone time so that they can stop reflecting the immediate world and start reflecting their own moods and emotions.

Water is the element associated with dreams, the unconscious, birth and death. It is not afraid to go where the other elements feel wary. It is the element that feels the most comfortable perceiving the invisible: emotions, body language, even the existence of spirits or life after death. Water does not need rational explanations or realistic confirmation like air or earth. It is perfectly content to just feel and imagine, without sensory stimulation or theoretical hypothesis. Although it may feel the pull of the unexplained more than any other element, water urges us that "not all is as meets the eye." It encourages us to dig down into our deepest feelings and desires and truly feel without any conscious explanations.

December 21, 2008

The Element of Air

We have all heard the saying "like a breath of fresh air." Well, that is exactly what we feel when air rushes onto the astrological stage. As the third element in the astrological cycle, air floats over the astrological stage and perceives everything from a broad, detached perspective.

A mythological figure that comes to mind when discussing the air signs is the Greek god Apollo. Ruler of the light and the sun, and also of truth and of prophecy, this god was an epitome of a "kouros," or "beardless youth," associating the air signs as rather childlike and eternally youthful. Apollo's interests were diverse, just as those of the air signs, ranging from music to poetry to archery and the arts. He was the embodiment of the qualities that modern society has labeled the "Renaissance man."

The air triad consists of Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius. The planets associated with these signs include Mercury (through its association with Gemini), Venus (through its associated with Libra) as well as Saturn and Uranus (both associated with Aquarius). When the air signs arrive on the astrological scene, they seek a detachment and broader perspective from the trends already established by the fire signs and the order and responsibility put forth by the earth signs.

Air is concerned with the higher ideals of justice and equality. Just as Apollo was the patron god of light and also of truth, the air signs seek to breath a fresh perspective into the ordinary rituals of everyday living. Never one to be bogged down into heavy emotion like water or consummed by a preoccupation with personal identity like fire, air is the element that thinks of the broad picture. Air signs are more concerned with the collective, with the ideals of the group, and the idea that what is good for the many is good for society as a whole.

Think of a clear day with a light breeze that blows gently from the north, making the air crisp and clear, with visibility that can be seen for miles upon miles. One never knows if that breeze will change to become a sudden burst of severe wind, or whether the breeze will die away completely. There is a certain light, unpredictable quality to all of the air signs, just like the patterns of the air circulating all around us. Air never stays still for too long - it needs to circulate, to roam, to explore, to cleanse the atmosphere all around us of the filth that accumulates on a daily basis.

Just like the air we breath, the air signs seek truth, knowledge, and equality, but they are not always warm and circulating. Sometimes the air can turn cold and whip through the trees and around buildings with a persistent ferocity. This is when air confronts the things it cannot tolerate the most: injustice, irrationality, and ignorance. Like the icy chill of an arctic wind, air seeks to slice through ignorance and injustice with the icy edge of reason and rationality. Unlike the egocentric honesty of the fire signs or the realistic observations of the earth signs, air signs seek to enlighten and uplift through an adherence to the cold, hard facts, bereft of emotion, ego, or sentimental embellishment.

The triad of Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius is the most socially-oriented of the triads, as the air signs represent group consciousness and an ability to connect with many different types of people. There is a quasi-absence of ego present in all of the air signs: what is good for the group and society must be good for the individual. Always adept at conversation and social situations, air enjoys flittering from one topic of conversation to the next, as well as from one group to the other. However, the downside with this is that air can seem flighty, superficial, or even cold to the more emotional of elements. It is the element that is hardest to confine.

Air is always miles ahead of society's consciousness. There is something of a "mover and a shaker" or a "trendsetter" to this element's composition. Air governs thought and communication, as well as social situations. With its ability to detach and gain crystal clear perspective devoid of emotional or egocentric attachments, air has a prophetic quality for determining the direction of societal trends. It abhors violence and injustice, inequality and irrationality, and seeks to show us how detachment, rationality, and truth can enlighten all of us and help us to gain the clear perspectives it so desperately seeks.

December 20, 2008

The Element of Earth

The second element in the astrological cycle is that of earth. A prominent mythological figure that comes to mind when discussing the element of earth is the Greek god Kronos, which was known to the Romans as Saturn. This god was a patron deity of agriculture and also of law and order. Unlike the fire signs that burst onto the scene before earth, this element is concerned with, first and foremost, maintaining a realistic role in the material world. Mythology states that the time when Saturn presided over the earth coincided with the golden age of man, and the Romans dedicated a week around December 17th which they called "Saturnalia" which celebrated the order and prosperity that abounded during Saturn's rule.

Earth does not live in fantasy and the future like the fire signs that precede it. Instead, earth focuses the majority of its efforts on the "here and now" and maintaining prosperity and security in an ever-changing material world. This element is apt to look with disdain on its fire sign associates as child-like and irrational. Earth is always planning, preparing, and organizing so as to ensure order and stability.

The signs that correspond to the element of earth include the triad of Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn. The planets associated with this element include Mercury (through its association with Virgo), Venus (through its association with Taurus) and Saturn (associated with Capricorn).

Think of a warm, sunny day. All around, hills rise up against a bright, blue sky. Mountains tower overhead with a sense of permanence and strength, while birds quietly chirp their odes to mother nature amidst the green trees dotting the quiet, peaceful countryside. This is the image that the earth signs strive to project - a sense of order, stability, and strength in an often chaotic and unpredictable world.

When earth arrives on the scene, they find that the fire signs have already started many projects, established a strong sense of identity, and invested in a future full of possibilities. Earth, however, looks at the situation with immediate concern: what use are all these projects and plans for the future if the present situation is out-of-control? Earth immediately begins to organize its resources, establish boundaries and rules for maintaining order to the upmost, and hordes its resources for the possibility that chaos ensues when order has a meltdown.

The earth signs immediate concerns are with security, stability, and maintaining order. Think of that tranquil countryside once again. It gives the impression that time has stood still in its presence and that it has existed for millenia without interruption. It is the epitomized version of Mother Earth. Unlike the changing, dancing flames of fire before it, earth gives an impression of permanence. It is the element that is least comfortable with change. Like the roots of a tree that is over a thousand years old, this element plants itself firmly on solid ground and prepares for the test of time and disorder, and manages to do so while projecting an image of strength and tranquility. The earth signs appreciate the menial tasks of day-to-day living that the other signs often dislike: earning money, paying bills, maintaining a stable residence, cleaning up messes, and following a routine schedule for however long it takes to build a life that is stable and full of security. Consistency and reliability are the modus operandi of these signs, which makes them great for handling details and heavy responsibility

Being the most realistic and "down-to-earth" of the elements has its downside, however. The earth signs will be the first to admit their shortcomings, as they have a "shoot-from-the-hip" approach when it comes to communicating their thoughts and opinions. Yes, fire is honest and often times blunt, but earth signs just tell it like it is. They will be the first to admit that they abhor disorder and chaos. And they will also be the first to admit that they dislike change greatly. Simply put: earth has a hard time with the fact that things break, disappear, spill, get interrupted, or get delayed. This makes earth the least capable of dealing with change or chaos, whether it lies in the realm of finances or in the realm of human relationships.

Fire lives in its imagination and excitement for the future, as we saw in our previous discussion. Earth, however, is more than content to live in the present. Earth signs do not care for use of the imagination. They just see what appears right in front of them. To these solid souls, it does not exist unless it is able to be sensed through one of the five senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, or sound. Earth is, therefore, sensual in that it appreciates good tasting food and soft feeling sweaters, as well as the smell of hard-earned cash. It has a much harder time with speculating about the existence of a "higher power" and such things as the supernatural, let alone the unspoken nuances of human emotion. "What you see is what you get" is definitely the predominant motto of the hard-working earth signs.

December 19, 2008

The Element of Fire

The astrological cycle begins with the element of fire. The Titan Prometheus stole the element of fire and introduced it to the human race in ancient Greek mythology. Zeus sentenced him to an eternity on a mountainside having his liver eaten out by an eagle every single day, only to have it regrow and continue the next day all over again as punishment for this so-called betrayal.

What could fire have represented to the Greek pantheon that was so important as to keep it from mankind? Fire was the basis for invention. Just as fire represents the element of initiative and creativity in astrology, fire allowed humankind to stay warm, cook, and eventually to melt metals to allow for the construction of sophisticated tools, building materials, and even machines.

Think of a cold winter's night. Outside the wind is blowing, snow is starting to fall, and the wind whips through the trees and under the thresholds of doorways. In the middle of a living room is a fireplace, with a golden fire burning brightly on the winter's night. People gather around it - they rub their hands slightly as they put their palms face out toward the flickering flames. A little old lady brings a kettle to the fireplace, and places it on a rack above the flames, allowing water to heat for the preparation of hot chocolate. Sounds like a nice picture. Fire plays a pivotal role in that story - it provides heat for warmth and comfort, and allows those around the fire to keep comfortable despite the harsh elements outside. Keep this picture in mind while we discuss the element of fire.

Each element of the zodiac is assigned three signs. The fire triad is Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius. The planets corresponding to these fire signs are the Sun, Mars, and Jupiter. Just as the fire provides warmth and comfort to those shivering souls on a cold winter's night, the fire signs provide inspiritation, warmth, and courage to the human race.

Fire is the element of creativity, inspiration, and warmth. It does not dwell in the deepest realms of moody emotion like water, nor focus on the realities of paying the bills and succeeding at one's job like earth, nor examine minute details of intellectual knowledge like air. Fire lives in the future. For those that belong to this element, the future is the greatest possibility and excitement in existence. They have the most positive, courageous outlook of all the elements in the zodiac. The world is a bright, open place full of possibilities for those that are heavily fire-emphasized.

Creativity and inspirition are key traits of the fire signs. They strive to bring color and life to the world around them. There is no room for negativity and fear. Their only fear would be to have their enthusiasm for life and the future suffocated wtih details of the "how" and "why." Just as a warm fire brings cold souls toward its flickering flames on a chilly winter's night, fire signs' enthusiasm and joie de vivre attract people's admiration and attention. It is hard to stay truly negative and depressed in the presence of a strong fire sign, for they love to uplift and encourage through their positive expression and excitement for future possibilities.

At the risk of overly extoling all of the virtues of the fire signs and incurring the disdain of the realistic earth signs or the sarcastic remarks of the analytical air signs, every element does have its downfall. Yes, fire may be positive and enthusiastic, creative and enterprising. But who will think of the details when fire decides that it's going to produce a full-out Broadway production? Who will pay the bills when fire decides that it's going to quit its job and start its own business on the spur of the moment? To more practical or realistic souls, fire is the eternal child, always living in a dream or a fantasy where there is a hero and a villian. Fire is the eternal champion that lives to vanquish the dragon, but leaves the poor Earth sign maiden at home to clean up after him. It's true that those souls that are predominately fire in composition often neglect the harsher realities of life, and often forget that there is a big, broad world happening all around them.

Fire is the element that is associated with ego, and those that are predominately fire in composition can have a jaundiced view of their own inflated egos. Their enthusiasm and joie de vivre with their own causes and dreams often leave them frustrated when they are told "no" or when someone else gets there ahead of them in line. And god forbid you witness a member of this element get told that someone else was there first, or someone else has already completed that project "better" than him/her. Fire is capable of an infantile temper tantrum. Thankfully, due to their warm, generous nature, they are quick to forgive and forget.

In the end, fire is the element that warms us all. Just as the sunrise casts shades of crimson and gold upon the world below, fire signs live to ignite the world with their dreams and enthusiasm for life itself. Although they can aggravate others with their attention to their own egos at times, most find it hard to truly stay mad at someone as warm, generous, and enthusiastic as those of this element.

Introduction to the Elements

The elements of Astrology are the building blocks for astrological interpretation. The ancient Greeks saw these elements in everything and everyone around them. They were broken down into four simple categories: fire, earth, air, and water. Each planet and each sign is put under the label of one of those elements. The Sun, for example, is put under the element of fire. No surprise really, since one cannot help but think of the huge ball of flame that appears to float over the Earth's surface on a daily basis.

A thorough understanding of elements is essential to truly comprehending the nature of planets and the signs of the zodiac.

December 18, 2008

What Is a Sun Sign?

Hello everyone,

I would like the first "technical" astrological discussion to be about the basis of the astrological chart, and the source of much heated debate in regards to astrology. That topic would be the "Sun Sign."

Many of you are probably wondering - "what the heck is a Sun Sign?" Most of you have probably heard the term thrown around a time or two. Well, the Sun Sign is the astrological sign of which you classify yourself - namely, if you tell others "I'm a Gemini," then your Sun Sign is Gemini. Likewise, if you tell others "I'm a Leo," well then, you're Sun Sign is Leo. Below is a list of the astrological Sun Signs and the date to which they correspond. Do you know what your Sun Sign is?

Sun Sign Dates
Aries March 21 - April 19
Taurus April 20 - May 20
Gemini May 21 - June 21
Cancer June 22 - July 22
Leo July 23 - August 22
Virgo August 23 - September 22
Libra September 23 - October 22
Scorpio October 23 - November 21
Sagittarius November 22 - December 21
Capricorn December 22 - January 19
Aquarius January 20 - February 18
Pisces February 19 - March 20

So now that you can find your Sun Sign, you might be wondering why you act nothing like the qualities that many people have labeled for your sign. It's so common for me to meet people who say to me "I'm a Pisces, but I am nothing like people say I should be. I'm not sensitive, artistic, sympathetic, and prone to moodiness, and I certainly have no artistic or dancing skills." Well, that person has just emphasized the one issue that has undermined Western Astrology for many of us believers: Sun Sign astrology is the popularized version of Astrology, it is not the "real" astrology with which many of us are familiar.

If you look up your horoscope in the local paper, most of those horoscopes are written based solely on the Sun Sign. Also, if you go to buy a comical birthday card for a friend based on his/her astrological sign, and the qualities of that sign are strewn about on the face of the card, those qualities reflect solely the Sun Sign. The bottom line is this: there are so many more planets and signs in a person's astrological chart than just the Sun. So yes, you may be a Gemini. But what is your Moon Sign? And what is the placing of your Venus? These other planets influence important aspects of a person's life and personality. Hence there is much more to a horoscope than just the Sun.

That Pisces person that disagrees so adamantly with the classifications of his/her sign might be shocked to learn that he/she has a Moon Sign in Aries. Furthermore, as the Moon represents emotions, defense mechanisms, and needs, among other things, that doubting Fish might be a little shocked to learn that a Moon in Aries is rather assertive, forceful, and strong of will and personality, particularly where the emotions and needs are concerned. So it makes sense that this person viewed the description of Pisces as a sensitive, retiring artistic temperament so out of line with his/her personality because there is so much more to the horoscope than just the Sun Sign.

So what does the Sun actually do for an astrological chart? Well, just as all of our solar system revolves around the Sun, that giant celestial body forms the focal point of the astrological chart. Keep in mind, as we have previously mentioned, that it is not the total focus of the chart, just a broad outline that forms the foundation. The Sun represents a person's general personality, and it is modified by other planets in the chart, as well as any aspects it forms to those other planets. The Sun represents what Carl Jung labeled as the "Ego" in an astrological chart; that is, it forms the backbone of a person's identity and general personality traits. A thorough understanding of Sun Signs forms the basis for a beginning study of Astrology, although keep in mind that it will get more complicated and the picture will fill-up with many more planets and other astrological features.

We will expand on Sun/Moon sign combinations in further blogs, but for now the point is simply this: with an open mind it is easy to see how popular Astrology has severely misconstrued this ancient and valuable study in the public's eye. Just as this blog has shown how popular representations of Sun Signs have created doubt for the general populace, particularly for those who do not identify with their signs, it is easy to see that with a deeper study of this "science" (and to many ancient societies, Astrology was indeed a science), truth can be shed onto individual horoscopes that go beyond mere Sun Sign representation.