Micro-Lesson #4: the Qualities
From the previous lesson you know that each of the signs of the zodiac belongs to one of the four Elements: Fire, Earth, Air, or Water. The Element tells us the wavelength on which that particular sign operates, or, if you will, what that sign is made of. Fire signs revel in energy and ideas, Earth signs prefer everything tangible and material, Air signs are mad about information and communication, while for Water signs feelings and emotions are of utmost importance.
The idea to digest for today is that each of the signs of the zodiac also belongs to one of the three Qualities (or Modes): they can be Cardinal, Fixed or Mutable. The Quality of the sign describes its dynamic characteristics, but you'll better understand this from examples below.
Cardinal signs are Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn. The best way to describe them is to say: they are impulsive. Whatever they are doing, they start from a strong impulse -- a VERY STRONG IMPULSE. They throw all their energy in a particular direction, and that's usually a lot of energy. But as soon as they did that, they don't have much energy left anymore, so their output goes sharply down. They need to recharge their batteries for a while. As soon as they've recharged, they generate another very strong impulse -- in the same direction, or maybe in a different one. Therefore, Cardinal signs are great when something needs to be started, initiated, but they don't have stamina or persistence to carry on what was started.
Fixed signs are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius. For them, the most important thing is to avoid any changes. Whatever they are doing, they just want to keep doing the same thing forever. If they are working, they might keep working forever, but if they've somehow switched into having fun mode, they will be having fun forever, until something will force them into a different mode. So these signs are very persistent, they have plenty of stamina, and they possess strong unmovable opinions. Which means they can be very stubborn. Their weakness is that they need some strong impulse to switch them into a different mode. Of themselves, they won't start or initiate anything, they will simply stay where they are.
And you've already guessed that cooperation of Cardinal and Fixed signs can work very well. The Cardinal sign generates an idea: here is what needs to be done -- and blasts an initial impulse in that direction. If the impulse is strong enough, it will make a Fixed sign moving, and that one will be moving forever, so that something will be really done, finally. But neither the Cardinal initiator nor the Fixed mover will have any idea where to stop, when the product is ready, or whether it was needed at all, in the first place.
The problem of both the Cardinal and the Fixed signs is that they have no idea of what's going on in the surrounding world. The impulse of the Cardinal signs comes from within; these are the most subjective of the whole zodiac. Fixed signs do react to an outside impulse but it needs to be really strong to overcome their inertia. This is where Mutable signs come to help.
The distinguishing feature of the Mutable signs is that they are very sensitive to the outside world. They notice every change, they follow every trend, they pick up every influence. These are Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces. They know very well what's going around, what people want, what they like. That's why a Mutable sign can tell the Fixed sign: stop doing it, it's already done! You've already done everything that was needed. Or, it can earlier tell the Cardinal sign: that's not going to work, there is no demand for it! Mutable signs are the natural advisors, and marketers, and sales people.
I was speaking about the different signs of the zodiac like they were real people, but that's just a convenient way of explaining things. In reality, each of us is a mixture of different Elements and Qualities. At some point, we'll learn how to calculate more or less precisely the balance of the Elements and the Qualities in different people. Typically, however, one of the Qualities is predominant. So the first part of today's homework is to look around, look at yourself, and see which of the Qualities is the strongest in the people you know, and how it plays out in their lives.
The second part of the homework is to keep learning the typical patterns of the zodiac. Find the signs of the same Quality in the zodiacal circle, and connect them with coloured lines, different colour of your choice for each quality. Notice that they form a square, or a cross, in the zodiac. Therefore you might occasionally hear astrologers speaking of the signs of the Cardinal cross, or of the Fixed cross, etc.
Try the following: for any random sign of the zodiac (say, yours or your partner's Sun Sign) visualise the square connecting all the signs of the same Quality in the zodiac.
Going forward, you will need to remember very well for each sign whether it is Cardinal, or Fixed, or Mutable.
You might find somewhat useful my article about the Qualities.
Also, have a look at my astrological calculator called What Are You Made Of, Astrologically?. It calculates a balance of the Elements and the Qualities for a person, given his or her date, time and time zone of birth, and I hope it will help you in your discovery of astrological Qualities.