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Volume 2, Number 9

Opinions presented in Metamorphosis are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of others associated with the newsletter.

 

A New Approach to Chart Interpretation

by Rusty Hamilton

 

Part 2: The Qualities, When Added to the Elements,
Form the Signs

We’re back for another installment! Once again we’ll delve into the abstract but fundamental concepts of astrology that inspired me to develop my own wholistic system of chart interpretation rather than relying on “cookbook astrology” descriptions.

Astrology rests on the symbolic elements of creation, as pondered in Part 1 of this series. The manifestation of reality moves from the first fiery spark of an idea, through the airy and ephemeral information-gathering process, and then down through the watery emotional matter of committing to bringing it into earthly reality, where it is manifested in a form that can be perceived by the senses. In a shuffled order, appearing successively as Fire, Earth, Air and Water, those same elements, and the potential energies they represent, underlie the basic meanings of the zodiac.

Element
Meaning

 

Fire

Spirit

 

 

Earth

Reality/Form

 

 

Air

Information

 

 

Water

Emotional Matters

 

Rarely given more than a passing nod in popular astrology books, this elemental basis is vital to understanding the new techniques in chart interpretation I’ll be laying out in Part 4 of this five-part series. An understanding of qualities, the other fundamental concept of astrology, is just as important and is usually given equally short shrift. The elements and qualities are what really form the basis of modern western astrology; combinations of the two are key to truly understanding signs, houses, and aspects. Every combination that can be made of the four elements and three qualities exists as one of the 12 signs of the zodiac.

If, as discussed in Part 1, the elements are potentialities of something, then the qualities, also known as “directions,” are the way these potentials will work towards manifestation. It’s fine to know what something essentially is (its element), but until you know what it does (the quality through which it expresses its element) you can’t do much with it. The element of Air, for example, was described as being a potential of information; it is data itself, without any real-world application. The elements themselves do not actually exist in isolation in our world, nor do the qualities. Only the varying combinations of elements and qualities can exist on the physical level.

The reason for this restriction can be explained fairly easily; all you have to do is think back to your last (insert your native language) class. As far as I know, most languages do not treat sentences missing either a subject or a verb as complete. Some languages are a little more flexible and allow for “understood” subjects. In Japanese, for example, if a subject is named once it is generally not repeated throughout the rest of the conversation! Even in colloquial English we have examples like the one below:

MOTHER: What is your brother doing?

KID: (My brother is) Playing.

In this sentence, “my brother is” is an implicit subject. The mother knows that when the boy says the single word “playing,” he is referring to the brother she just mentioned. Although the boy did not actually mention his brother in his sentence fragment, he didn’t necessarily have to because both he and the mother understood what he was talking about. You can have a complete idea, if not a complete sentence, using implicit subjects.

However, if the boy just ran up to his mother and shouted the word “PLAYING!” without her having asked about his brother, she’d probably give him a rather odd look. This is because “playing,” a verb, cannot describe a complete idea. Who is playing? Is the boy simply articulating what he, himself, is doing? Verbs cannot exist in isolation. Similarly, neither can nouns. If the mother approaches the boy and says, “Your brother,” in a totally unreadable tone of voice, the boy will have no idea what she’s talking about. She mentioned his brother … but what about him? What does she want to know about him?

In like fashion, neither elements nor qualities are capable of being truly separate from each other, just as nouns and verbs are inseparable. This is because elements are the nouns of astrology while qualities are the verbs. The elements symbolize what is going to be manifested into reality, while the qualities indicate what the energy does to make itself manifest. Does it move in a singularly focused way? Does it instead move in a couple of different ways, incorporating course corrections while essentially staking out a solid stretch of middle ground? Or does it flow outward in all directions, becoming somewhat dissipated, but encompassing a fuller range of territory? As you may know, the three qualities in astrology are called Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable, and these names, in a rather vague sense, describe exactly what they do.

Unfortunately, there tend to be a lot of superficial and dismissive references to the qualities floating about. Trish MacGregor’s The Everything Astrology Book even states that the qualities “apply only in a general sense.” Others tend to classify the Cardinal signs as hasty self-starters, the Fixed as stubborn, stable individuals, and the Mutable signs as versatile yet inconsistent. These attributions can be true at times, but these astrology texts seem to be missing the point. The elements and qualities are not just trivial “extras” of astrology; essentially, they are astrology. The full range of combinations of the elements and qualities make up the zodiacal signs, which serve as vehicles for the expression of the facets of the conscious self and the human global consciousness, both of which are symbolized by the planets. And aspects, as well, arise from the interactions of two or more element-quality pairs.

The Cardinal Quality

So how do the qualities work? Let’s examine the Cardinal quality to start with. While it’s true that Cardinal signs often initiate projects and have a tendency, at times, to not finish them, this is only a mundane application of the Cardinal energy. The Cardinal quality is named thus because it was named after the four cardinal directions - north, south, east and west. Not surprisingly, another name for the qualities is directions, as I have mentioned before. The four signs associated with the Cardinal quality, namely, Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn, do correspond with the four directions on the natural zodiac. If we look at the zodiac starting with Aries as the first house, Aries is located in the east, Cancer is the north, Libra is the west, and Capricorn is the south.

But, interestingly enough, the Cardinal signs and their associated directions share more than just a correspondence. They also share a basic simplicity, or purity, if you will. The only difference between the Cardinal quality and the others is the number of directions they take to manifest the element they are partnered with in their given sign. The Cardinal quality is the one that moves with a pure, singular focus. Think of the direction north. Is it any other direction but north? No, of course not. North is north; it isn’t northwest or northeast or any other combination. It’s a singular direction, pointing one way. The compass points and the Cardinal signs share this uni-directionality.

What this means is that whatever element is associated with a Cardinal quality is going to go through one singular process to manifest whatever it’s trying to create at the time. This may be the reason for the supposed Cardinal inclination towards starting new ventures and then leaving them unfinished. However, as far as the Cardinal quality is concerned, it may feel it has finished what it started, at least for the time being. We may not see things the same way, since in our world an emerging reality must undergo the full gamut of all the qualities before it actually becomes “real” or finished. But the Cardinal sign did its job; the delay in the completion of its project may simply be that whatever it started has reached a stage that needs feedback from signs of other qualities. If this feedback results in the termination of the project, it’s not the Cardinal sign’s fault.

Whatever element is connected to a Cardinal quality will undergo a “purer” process than the other qualities would take it through. By “purer” I don't mean that it is somehow more holy or sacred; all I mean is that energies working through a Cardinal cycle will be less affected by internal feedback or testing processes than otherwise. A Cardinal cycle focuses on itself and itself only; it is a cycle of pure “being.” This is why it should be considered “uni-directional.”

The Cardinal quality is like a single arrow, propelled in a single direction, and as such, there is no “feedback and adjustment” process along the way. There is only one process going on at a time in the Cardinal quality. Quite simply, it just wants to move. It doesn’t care about what anyone else thinks.

This may sound self-centered, but remember, we’re talking about processes through which potential energy is manifested, not about people. If everything in the universe had the kind of self-regulation system that is inherent to the Fixed quality, in contrast to the Cardinal, things would be done a lot slower, if at all. Of course, I’m a little biased towards Cardinal planets, as I have five of them in my chart. I can say from experience that sometimes, if you’re being besieged by transits from Cardinal planets, the best way out of whatever mess you’re in is, in plain English, to just go out and do stuff. You don’t always get this luxury with the Fixed or Mutable qualities.

The Fixed Quality

The Fixed quality is quite aptly named. Think about the word “fixed.” What does it mean? If you’re like me, the definition that comes to mind first is the one that means something was broken but is now repaired. Elements joined with the Fixed quality do indeed “fix” things in this way; they correct imbalances in whatever house in the horoscope chart the Fixed sign is located. For this reason, some Fixed signs, such as Scorpio, can have a destructive aspect to them, since the amount of correction needed dictates the amount of energy used by the Fixed quality to correct the imbalance. In other words, if something is very wrong in some area of your life, and a planet in a Fixed sign transits that area of your life, expect some big changes.

But correction is only one aspect of the Fixed quality. Anyone who has spent any time doing even amateur photography may have thought of another definition for “fixed.” In developing photographs from negatives it is necessary to immerse the emerging photograph in a solution called (surprise!) fixer, and what this does is “fix” the image to the photographic paper. So, we can say that “fixed” can also mean “established” or “put into place.” The Fixed quality does this as well. Let’s use the same example as above, where a planet in a Fixed sign is transiting a particular area of your life. After getting rid of whatever is inconsistent or wrong in that area, either through gentle reminders or outright obliteration - depending on what is wrong, the transit of the Fixed energy will signal the establishment of new and more efficient patterns of behavior in that area of life.

So, in essence, we can say that the Fixed quality actually has two modes of operation: correction of old patterns and establishment of new ones. It shouldn’t be too much of a stretch, then, to classify the Fixed quality as “bi-directional,” or moving in two directions. Any element paired with a Fixed quality will manifest its energy through the two directions of correction and establishment. Both directions work off each other, as well; each gives the other feedback on its operation. The patterns that need correction are erased to make way for the newer, more appropriate patterns, and these newer patterns, in turn, will someday become obsolete and need correction.

This bi-directional movement of the Fixed quality means that feedback and adjustment are an inherent part of the process. In contrast to the Cardinal quality, the propelled arrow to which feedback is irrelevant, the Fixed quality moves in something of a loop, mapped out by feedback and adjustment. This is because the Fixed quality has two separate processes going on at a time; the actions of one process influence those of the other.

The Mutable Quality

And what about the Mutable quality? I’ve saved this one until last because, in its own way, it’s very difficult to understand. The Cardinal quality was hard to grasp, and I still feel I haven’t explained it as well as I would like, but this is only because we were talking about a single, abstract process of pure manifestation and being, unhindered by self-regulation. The Mutable quality, in contrast, is a difficult concept to understand because it appears to be another singular process, but actually it is not!

If the Cardinal quality is composed of a single, one-directional energy interested solely in getting to a particular goal, while the Fixed energy is a two-directional energy that remains in a continuous loop of correction and establishment, the Mutable quality seems to me to move in a practically unlimited number of directions. As far as I can tell, there are no clearly defined processes inherent to the Mutable quality. Instead, an undefined number of “sub-processes” occur for a single common goal: gathering information. I refer to the Mutable quality as “multi-directional,” despite the fact that all the sub-processes work towards the same end, because the quality is the sum of all the sub-processes.

Have you ever seen a diagram of the molecules in a gas? Unlike the nearly stationary molecules of a solid, or the somewhat more mobile molecules of a liquid, the molecules of a gas bounce around madly until they hit either a neighboring molecule or the walls of whatever container they inhabit. Think of the Mutable quality’s sub-processes as being similar to this, except that every time a sub-process hits another sub-process, they trade information. If a sub-process bounces into a “wall,” physical or otherwise, it will return details about the wall. Once enough details are acquired, an analysis can be made and decisions can be made about that analysis. Any example of a system of individual entities working towards a common end is an apt metaphor for the Mutable quality. Oddly enough, the scientific method, which begins by formulating a hypothesis, testing its validity, then forming a conclusion, is also a parallel to the Mutable quality. The same processes occur in both.

Combining Elements and Qualities

So now we have considered all three qualities, but this lesson is not over yet! To finish up, we’ll go through all 12 combinations of the elements and qualities; we know these combinations as the zodiacal signs. For the purposes of this exercise it is necessary to summarize the information about the qualities into a few key phrases. The Cardinal quality was a single process of pure being, so we can summarize the Cardinal quality as Direct Action; when an element pairs with this quality, it symbolizes a very distilled manifestation of the element’s energy. The Fixed quality’s two-way process can be summarized as Correcting/Establishing; when an element pairs with this quality, it feeds back on itself. And we’ll condense the description of the rather vague Mutable quality into Learning/Decision-Making, representing the process of learning as much about a target as possible, then forming a conclusion.

The descriptions and key phrases I have settled upon for the signs come from my conclusions about the elements and qualities in combination. They may vary from, or even clash somewhat with the usual definitions. If my definitions don’t work for you, feel free to use your own or the ones you are used to. It seems to me, though, that the average astrology text comes up with the meanings of the signs through means other than by analyzing the interactions of a sign’s constituent element and quality. In my opinion, working with astrology without a firm foundation in elements and qualities is like the tale of the three blind men who each felt a different part of an elephant and all came up with entirely different ideas of what animal they were touching.

The key words and phrases I used to arrive at the sign meanings are summarized in these tables. Using the color code of the first table to distinguish the elements - and the different type styles of the second table to denote the qualities - we can illustrate the make-up of each sign.

Element
Meaning

 

Fire

Spirit

 

 

Earth

Reality/Form

 

 

Air

Information

 

 

Water

Emotional Matters

 

Quality

Meaning

Method

Cardinal

Direct Action

Uni-directional

Fixed

Correcting/Establishing

Bi-directional

Mutable

Learning/Deciding

Multi-directional

Please remember that these descriptions are abstract and impersonal and are not meant to describe individual people. Please do not use these descriptions for “Sun-sign astrology.” That said, here are the signs:

ARIES 

Quality/Element Keywords:

Key Phrase for Aries:

 Cardinal Fire
 Spirit
moves uni-directionally

 Spirit + Direct Action
 = Self, Being and Beginnings

In this, the first of the zodiac signs, the vital, living energy of the element of Fire is distilled through the single process of the Cardinal quality. In the first lesson, the element of Fire was described as the original creative “spark” we get when first coming up with an idea. Combining the element of Fire with the focused, driven Cardinal quality is like shooting this “spark” out of a cannon! Actually, a more appropriate metaphor might be shooting a rocket into space; the rocket needs a certain amount of force to escape the gravitational pull of the Earth. Likewise, the Cardinal quality infuses the creative, life-giving energy of Fire with enough force to escape the bounds of the mundane, material world.

In saying that “Spirit + Action = Self, Being, and Beginnings.” The “self” and “being” part of the definition refers back once again to the first lesson’s discussion of the elements. In it, we considered a metaphor of a project being manifested into reality, starting with the beginnings of the creative process (Fire). Using this metaphor once again, the “self” is attributed to Aries, because at this point nothing else outside the project exists. The project has not branched out into reality at all; instead, it exists solely as a single point, a sort of superconscious, non-rational exclamation point, or “self.” Even so, we must remember that Aries only uses the condensed energy of Pisces, its previous sign. If Pisces can be imagined as the innumerable tons of hydrogen in the Sun, Aries is the fusion reaction that condenses hydrogen into helium and, in the process, gives off heat and light.

We also associate the Aries energy with “beginnings” because both Fire and the Cardinal quality often initiate processes. However, if neither your natal chart nor your transits/progressions/etc. have anything in Aries, this does not mean that nothing will ever begin anew for you! Any of the other signs can initiate changes; the problem is that we tend to confuse changes with beginnings. The other signs can produce sweeping, radical changes in your life, but more often than not they will all be part of the same basic cycle. An Aries-style beginning is the start of a completely new cycle; so much so, in fact, that you might not notice that you’ve changed until long after the Aries influence is over!

TAURUS

Quality/Element Keywords:

Key Phrase for Taurus:

 Fixed Earth
 Form
moves bi-directionally

 Form + Correcting/Establishing
 = Value Assessment/Growth Process

Aries energy, a dynamic, powerful energy that is essentially a sort of accelerated creativity, has two major downfalls, both of which are addressed by Taurus energy. While the Aries energy is immensely powerful, it derives much of this power from its concentrated, one-directional path. The often-lauded Aries lack of “follow-through” really stems from the fact that if the Aries energy does actually bump into something a lot bigger than itself alone, it will come to a complete stop. Since the Aries energy can only go in one direction at a time, it finds it difficult to make the multiple changes in direction possibly needed to get around the obstacle. As a result it may just abandon its original path entirely and head off in a completely unrelated direction! The other downfall to Aries is, unfortunately, a human-produced one primarily. The Aries energy is undoubtedly totally centered on itself, but since it is also pure purpose, there is nothing distorted about it. Humans misuse this energy by turning the Aries energy’s fixation on its purpose into fixation on themselves.

So how does the Taurus energy help correct the problems of Aries energy? First of all, the self-fixation inherent to Aries is remedied by Taurus’ Fixed quality, which can loop back on itself to correct imbalances. Since Taurus is Fixed Earth, this means that what is corrected by Taurus is practical and reality-based. The Taurus energy looks at where Aries is “stuck” and asks itself, “What is needed here and what isn’t?” This is why Taurus is partially associated with “value-assessment.” If Aries, or any other sign for that matter, is spinning its wheels uselessly on a given problem, Taurus comes along and says, “Stop. This isn’t necessary.”

Also, the problem of the lack of follow-through that Aries has is solved by Taurus’ Fixed process of establishment. Once Taurus determines what is necessary from what is not, it takes what is needed and drives it further into the earth. While Taurus, on its own, cannot actually germinate new processes, it does “plant the seeds” of these processes. This explains Taurus’ association with nature and natural processes. Where you find Taurus in a chart is where and/or how the native will tear up any metaphorical “soil” that lacks nutrients needed for development, and then will subsequently plant the seeds of the other energies in the chart.

GEMINI

Quality/Element Keywords:

Key Phrase for Gemini:

 Mutable Air
 Info
moves multi-directionally

 Info + Learning/Deciding
 = Communication/Info-Gathering

Since Gemini’s Mutable quality signifies a branching out in all possible directions to obtain information, and its Air element essentially is information, you get a process as a result that is entirely information-based. However, it should be noted that Gemini’s information processes are not the discriminating, “studying”-based processes of Virgo, nor the ability to see relationships inherent to Libra, nor the “if this, then that”-type logical analysis common to Aquarius. Gemini is almost the epitome of the Mutable quality; it wants to run around and collect as much data as possible ... on everything.

Of course, once Gemini collects data, it does not necessarily do anything with it. If Virgo is a researcher, Aquarius is a scientist, and Libra is a judge, then Gemini is a journalist. Gemini collects findings from all over the place so that they can be used by the other energies contained in a chart. The trend that should be coming clear by now is that no individual sign is capable of doing everything itself, and that each successive sign corrects the problems and imbalances of the former.

In this case, Taurus was the former sign. If, to use the same analogy as before, Taurus planted the seeds of a new process, Gemini looks at the bare earth containing these seeds and asks, “How do seeds develop in general? How do these particular seeds develop?” From there, it goes off to learn everything it can about the subject. Like any other sign, Taurus’ strengths, which included patience and the rather destructive ability to tear up what has not proved useful, are also its weaknesses, and Gemini addresses these as well. Gemini is as fast and versatile as Taurus is slow and deliberate, and Gemini is as connection-building as Taurus is destructive.

CANCER

Quality/Element Keywords:

Key Phrase for Cancer:

 Cardinal Water
 Emotion
moves uni-directionally

 Emotion + Direct Action
 = Finding Foundations

Like Aries, Cancer is a Cardinal sign, meaning that it has a single, focused process. However, this process is combined with the emotional element of Water in this case, rather than the creative urge of Aries. It is my belief that emotions, being rather nebulous, undefined things, are rather unhappy being condensed by the Cardinal quality into a single, focused beam of energy. This may help explain Cancer’s reputation for moodiness. But another reason for the Cancerian mood swings may be simply part of the general Cancerian process.

Whether it likes being distilled into a single process or not, the element of Water within Cancer knows what it has to do. Like Aries, it targets where it wants to go, but, in this case, its target is defined by the emotions rather than the will. Cancer wants to go “home.” Where you find Cancer in a chart is where and how the native will emotionally seek the roots or foundations of the rest of the chart. An explanation of this is no doubt necessary. Gemini’s problems were in its superficiality and over-versatility. In contrast, Cancer takes some of the things Gemini spent time finding and tries to take them to their proper place; their emotional home, if you will. The emotionality and dreaminess of Cancer is basically the way Cancer sends Gemini’s data home.

While such Cancerian dreaminess may seem more like the Mutable quality’s process of sending everything out in all directions and seeing what comes back, it has nothing to do with the Mutable quality. Cancer doesn’t especially care what comes back. As a Cardinal sign, Cancer can pick up and start over again anew, but it doesn’t adjust for feedback along the way. Cancer’s apparent non-rational, emotional meanderings are akin to Aries’ charging headbutt of creativity; neither sign looks back on itself to see what it has done with its energy, and neither sign is interested in the overall “radar picture” of what it has sent out. Cardinal signs only want to shoot themselves out in one direction at a time towards a particular target.

LEO 

Quality/Element Keywords:

Key Phrase for Leo:

 Fixed Fire
 Spirit
moves bi-directionally

 Spirit + Correcting/Establishing
 = Self-Expression

Continuing the cycle of addressing the flaws within preceding signs, Leo is the next sign in our discussion. Cancer took Gemini’s data and, through trial and error, found the safest place for each piece of data. You may find this to be similar to Taurus, and, in a way, it is. Both Cancer and Taurus are “negative” signs; they are directed inward rather than outward. Leo, however, as a “positive” sign, looks at what Cancer has done and wonders why nothing is being done with the things Cancer sent home. It then takes these things and shows them to the world.

Like Aries, Leo is a Fire sign, meaning that it represents our creativity and our highest desires. However, Leo manifests this in an entirely different way than Aries, which was a rather single-minded, one-shot kind of energy. Since the Fixed quality is self-referential to begin with, I actually believe that Leo is far more self-absorbed than Aries. It may seem odd to astrology veterans to see Leo (Fixed Fire) described as more self-absorbed than Aries, but notice I said self-absorbed, not self-centered. The former requires far too much “backtracking” for Aries’ tastes. I’m sure there are exceptions, and I have met Arians who were as self-centered as infants, but I have met few, if any, who were preoccupied with themselves in general.

The distinction between self-centeredness and self-absorption is a fine one, but critical to understanding the Leo energy. Leo as a sign is constantly monitoring the way it expresses itself, hence the association between Leo and self-expression. Since Leo can correct the way it is expressing its Fire-based desire, it can create a far more solid and stable product than Aries. However, this need to correct one’s self-expression can lead to the aforementioned self-absorption, as the Leo native constantly needs to reference the self in order to correct its imbalances. In some highly unbalanced Leos this can produce a sort of arrogant tyranny - “Why didn’t (person) like me?! I’m the BEST!” But, overall, wherever you see Leo in a chart is where and how the native will express him/herself.

VIRGO 

Quality/Element Keywords:

Key Phrase for Virgo:

 Mutable Earth
 Form
moves multi-directionally

 Form + Learning/Deciding
 = Analysis/Adaptation

It should be noted that in a “natural” chart, where Aries is on the 1st-house cusp, Virgo will be the last sign in the lower half of the chart. The upper half of the chart, from Libra to Pisces, signifies the outer, objective world as opposed to the more inward-based, subjective world of the other six signs. Thus, you can say that Virgo represents the last gateway before something can enter the “real world.” It can be a rather unpleasant journey through this gateway, since, in the Tarot, Virgo is associated with the Hermit card. This card, among other things, symbolizes a solitary journey into the depths of the underworld, where one is melted down into one’s constituents and then re-forged. A difference needs to be noted here between the dissolution of Pisces and the “forging” process of Virgo; after the former, what was dissolved is reborn into a completely new spirit in Aries. Virgo simply takes what already was and makes it better.

This melting and re-forging process can be explained through Virgo’s Mutable Earth combination. The Mutable side of it widely collects data about the practical matters and form of an object. Like many radar beams, the Mutable processes are sent out to determine exactly what the object in question is and what it is made of. This is the “analytical” side of Virgo, and the one that Virgos are unfortunately saddled with in Sun-sign astrology. The facet of Virgo they ignore arises when the Earth element of Virgo takes center stage from the Mutable quality. When this occurs, the practicality of Earth comes in and directs the Mutable processes to determine any flaws within the object in question, and what, if any, solutions there are to those flaws. This is where Virgo’s association with “adaptation” comes from.

Although Leo, preceding Virgo, may be the strongest-willed sign in the zodiac by virtue of its combination of the almost stationary Fixed quality with the highest state of being (Fire), it can get to be too stable, not to mention arrogant in some cases. Virgo cheerfully picks apart anything Leo has that is wrong, no matter how highly Leo thinks of it. Where you find Virgo in a chart is where and what the native will analyze and adapt to outside stimuli.

LIBRA

Quality/Element Keywords:

Key Phrase for Libra:

 Cardinal Air
 Info
moves uni-directionally

 Info + Direct Action
 = Dualities/Close Contacts

Libra is the first of the “public” signs, located in the upper half of the natural zodiac wheel. Anything that gets here has to have passed the “acid test” of practicality by Virgo, the previous sign. As a positive sign, though, Libra seeks to unite disparate parts rather than tearing them apart the way Virgo does. The Air-ruled Libra energy is usually a good deal more upbeat or at least more optimistic than the often dour and morbid Virgo energy.

Libra is the combination of the information of the Air element and the condensed focus of the Cardinal quality. The Air element, as we mentioned in the first lesson, can tend to be rather black-and-white in terms of its makeup; logic is an either/or proposition. The Cardinal quality squeezes these two apparent opposites into a single channel, and the resulting interaction is a constant attempt to reconcile these two by finding what, if anything, they have in common. This process of determining the common bridge between two unrelated subjects is, in essence, the Libra energy. Notice, of course, that although there is a duality within the Libra energy, which would suggest a Fixed process, once the common ground between two subjects is found, the Libra energy immediately moves on to the next pair of opposites.

Although we won’t be discussing aspects until the next lesson, it is important to go over the difference between Libra and Aries, since they form an opposition to each other in the natural zodiac. Aries is a singular blast of energy that, in an abstract sense, is unaware of anything outside itself. As we said before, Aries represents the self in general. In contrast, Libra represents duality as a whole. Any set of polar opposites falls under Libra’s dominion. Libra is associated with close contacts as well as just dualities in general because, after all, it is still an information-based process. What logical gap is harder to bridge than the gap between the consciousnesses of two different people? This is a Libra task.

SCORPIO 

Quality/Element Keywords:

Key Phrase for Scorpio:

 Fixed Water
 Emotion
moves bi-directionally

 Emotion + Correcting/Establishing
 = Sharing, Control Issues, Rebirth

And here we have Scorpio, which is often seen as the most frightening sign of the zodiac. In a way, this reputation is deserved, but many people who are afraid of Scorpio are completely missing the true meaning of the sign. As a Water sign, Scorpio is linked with the emotions, and its Fixed quality means that these emotions will be constantly monitored and revised.

To achieve these ends, Scorpio takes the relationships and dualities formed in Libra to a new, deeper level. Scorpio is seen as frightening because, like its opposite sign, Taurus, it has a destructive side; however, what is destroyed here is incorrect or unbalanced emotions. We humans tend to be rather attached to our feelings, especially when they are taken to the depths that Scorpio requires within a committed relationship. Scorpio is associated with sex because of the intimacy required for this act; Scorpio requires the participants in a duality to stand naked before each other and share all their vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Scary, huh?

But Scorpio doesn’t stop here. Once the vulnerabilities are revealed it requires both parties in the duality to test these weaknesses in each other. This is why Scorpio has an association with control issues. The positive side to all this is that if the duality survives this testing, the establishment processes of the Fixed quality can begin to create an extremely strong bond between the two members of the duality. This is more than the mental link between the two created by Libra. Through Scorpio’s tests, two can be completely reborn as one, so as to stand up to the trials and quests required of them by Sagittarius, the following sign.

SAGITTARIUS 

Quality/Element Keywords:

Key Phrase for Sagittarius:

 Mutable Fire
 Spirit
moves multi-directionally

 Spirit + Learning/Deciding
 = Learning and Life Experience

From the often dark and gloomy, if not downright scary, sign of Scorpio we move on to Sagittarius, the last of the Fire signs. Here we have a rather interesting combination - the creative urges of Fire coupled with the Mutable process of running around collecting data. What you get when you put these two together is fairly obvious: the life energy and creativity of Fire is scattered all over the place by the Mutable quality. Essentially, this creates a need to go out and experience everything for the purpose of learning about it first-hand. Sagittarius is like the knight who got on his horse and rode off in all directions.

Scorpio’s focus on control for the purpose of rebirth is, like the processes of any other sign, vital to the operation of the natural universe, but it tends towards fixation within narrow confines. Sagittarius recognizes the dangers of stagnation and so it continually goes off and has a number of little adventures everywhere. Like Gemini, every time it comes back from what is essentially a data collection trip, it has new information to share. However, Sagittarius also shares with Gemini, its polar opposite, a tendency towards not doing anything with the wisdom it accumulates from its adventures. It should be noted that while Gemini collects superficial, Air-based information, Sagittarius collects experience-based wisdom.

CAPRICORN 

Quality/Element Keywords:

Key Phrase for Capricorn:

 Cardinal Earth
 Form
moves uni-directionally

 Form + Direct Action
 = Building Structures/Rules

Capricorn, of course, corrects for the weaknesses of Sagittarius. Like Gemini, Sagittarius’ weaknesses lie partially in its over-versatility, though in Sagittarius’ case this refers to a versatility of active, rather than mental, experiences. While the Sagittarian pursuit of a wide variety of life experiences is absolutely necessary in the grand scheme of things, it may not necessarily produce anything lasting during its many adventures. Capricorn looks at the scattered, sometimes unproductive Sagittarius energy and wonders what it can build from the gems of wisdom Sagittarius produces from its quests.

As we saw with the other three Cardinal signs, the Cardinal quality takes whatever element it is paired with and repeats the manifestation of it directly and endlessly. The Aries energy eternally creates, the Cancer energy eternally seeks, and the Libra energy eternally unites. Following this progression, and considering the Earth element the Cardinal quality is paired with to form Capricorn, we can conclude that Capricorn eternally builds. The concern with reality and form inherent to the Earth element unites with the focused, directed Cardinal energy to produce an energy that continually seeks to build structures that will last forever. But, like the other Cardinal signs, Capricorn never looks back to see if these structures, including the mental structures we call rules, are still there. Once Capricorn builds something it instantly becomes dissatisfied with it and moves on. The metaphor of Capricorn as the mountain goat that finds a higher mountain to climb is an apt one.

In addition, Capricorn in the natural zodiac rules the tenth house, and the cusp of this house is referred to as the Midheaven, or MC (short for Medium Coeli). This point in any chart represents the chart’s highest potential, no matter what sign it is situated within. It is important to remember that, like Capricorn itself, the MC is a potential, and as such can never be completely accessed or achieved. However, we’ll never evolve as a species unless we try.

AQUARIUS

Quality/Element Keywords:

Key Phrase for Aquarius:

 Fixed Air
 Info
moves bi-directionally

 Info + Correcting/Establishing
 = Making and Breaking Rules

Here we have the last of the Air, or information-based, signs. By combining information with the Fixed processes of correction and establishment, you get something close to what we know of as binary logic. If you are unfamiliar with this, it is simply a term for the black-and-white, either/or thought processes we have briefly touched on prior to the discussion of this sign. Aquarius is always looking at information and testing it for validity. Although this may appear similar to the analytical processes of Virgo, Aquarius is not concerned with the practical aspects of information the way Virgo is. In fact, there are often times when Aquarius comes to a conclusion that is logically sound but practically impossible! This may have given rise to the common belief that Aquarians can be eccentric.

As I’m sure you’re sick of hearing by now, every sign is expanded on by its successive sign, and Aquarius is no different. It is true that Capricorn builds a variety of structures both physical and mental, but Capricorn is limited by its need to create things that it hopes will last forever. Aquarius’ establishment process also wants to create mental frameworks, but is less concerned with how long they last than with whether or not they are logically sound. Scientists in our world are human and can get personally attached to their theories. Most of them, however, once they are met with a logical, coherent refutation of one of their theories, and/or a chance to test this refutation for themselves, will leave behind their old thought patterns and embrace the new theories.

As a final note on Aquarius, the association traditional astrology makes between Aquarius and groups is accurate as well. In Libra, we touched on the idea that the most opportunities to unite opposing principles come about during the course of a normal human relationship. It doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship; it just needs to be a situation in which two people are forced to deal with each other on a one-to-one basis. Similarly, multiple heads are better than one in testing a new hypothesis; each one may notice a logical flaw that the others missed.

PISCES

Quality/Element Keywords:

Key Phrase for Pisces:

 Mutable Water
 Emotion
moves multi-directionally

 Emotion + Learning/Deciding
 = Summation/Transcendence

And finally we have Pisces, the last sign of the zodiac. As was said before, Pisces shares certain characteristics with Virgo, its polar opposite. Like Virgo, it is a Mutable sign, meaning that it sends out multiple independent processes in the hopes of bringing back new information. Pisces, however, is a Water sign, so the data it brings back is emotion-based.

Aquarius’ task of validating old systems of thought and establishing new ones based on logic is an important one, but the binary logic of Aquarius can lead to a certain detachment and lack of feeling; Aquarius considers only a part of the whole at a time and loses sight of the rest. Pisces’ job, then, is to reunite everything with the whole, the sum of everything in the universe. It does this in a way similar to Sagittarius. By sending out multiple “feelers,” it brings back the emotional state of everything in the universe and experiences it for itself. Thus Pisces is able to bring things together that not even Libra can unite, since Libra is still based on information. Libra can only reconcile opposites, while Pisces is perfectly capable of finding links between things as dissimilar as a fish and a bicycle.

Once Pisces unites, however, it packages the united data and finishes it up, in a sense. Like Virgo, whatever comes to Pisces will be transformed. But, because of the difference in elements (Virgo’s Earth and Pisces’ Water), the mutable process each goes through seems quite different. Virgo re-forges the incoming data so that it can withstand the processes in the upper, public half of the natural chart. Pisces, on the other hand, forms an whole new “soul” for what it has united, so that it can be reborn in Aries as a new potential.

Coming up in Part 3

That’s all for now. The next lesson, Part 3 of this five-part series, will contain information about aspects and a variety of other astrological topics that will give you at least the basics of delineating your own chart, if you do not already know how to do so. However, the techniques I’ve developed for chart interpretation do not appear until Part 4.
 

Astrology glyph arts courtesy of Cristina C. Santos,
Copyright 2003, Cristina C. Santos, C.C.S. Graphics Associate/CCSWebline