Thursday, January 20News Written in the Stars

Basic Descriptions for the Signs of the Zodiac : astrology

I think the title of this thread speaks for itself, so all I want to do before I start is give a quick disclaimer.

The scope of astrology goes far beyond the psyche. I know that modern natal astrology is one of the most popularized fields in this tradition, but it only represents a fraction of what astrology sets out to do. Astrology speaks to the overarching themes that define all things as they manifest through events and experiences. Since a chart can be cast for anything, any moment of time in the distant past or the near future, we need to understand how the various parts of a horoscope function outside of the context of human behavior and character.

The signs are mediums through which the planets express their significations. Signs can either modify the expression of a planet or act as the medium through which the planet manifests. For example, planets in Taurus can manifest their significations slowly and methodically, or they can manifest them with respect to topics such as agriculture.

Be mindful that the signs are being described here, not people with placements in these signs. When I say “Libra does this,” it means “the function of a Venus-ruled cardinal air sign is this,” not “people who have Libra placements do this.” If you’re visualizing these descriptions as I write them, I encourage you to visualize these traits in something like a business as opposed to a person.


Aries is a Mars-ruled Cardinal Fire sign and the first sign of the zodiac. Aries is known for initiation and independence. Symbolized by the ram, Aries moves quickly and suddenly. It sprints forward without holding back, fueled by passion and inspiration. Aries is innovative, being the first to take action with the willingness to take risks. The desire to go first and be first makes Aries competitive. Its quick movements mean that it has to think on its feet and be decisive. As a cardinal sign, Aries is quick to take off but struggles to maintain its speed, leading to burnout. Aries can also decide on things too quickly, leaving no time for analysis or debates.

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Taurus is a Venus-ruled Fixed Earth sign and the second sign of the zodiac. Taurus is characterized by permanence and sensuality. Symbolized by the bull, Taurus gets things done slowly and methodically. Its pace makes it gravitate towards things that stay the same. Ruled by Venus, Taurus is concerned with value judgements, investing in things that have substance. It cultivates sensual pleasures like food, music, and wine. Though resilient, Taurus struggles with change. It clings to familiarity, oftentimes refusing to lower its standards once they’ve been raised.

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Gemini is a Mercury-ruled Mutable Air sign and the third sign of the zodiac. Gemini deals with stimulation and adaptability. Symbolized by the twins, Gemini engages in dialogues with itself and absorbs information from multiple sources. Gemini wants to do everything. Its detail-oriented nature allows it to satisfy its curiosity and understand how things work. Gemini makes connections in order to find solutions. Its desire to stay stimulated can leave it scattered though. Gemini is also prone to instability and volatility, moving too quickly in multiple directions.

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Cancer is a Moon-ruled Cardinal Water sign and the fourth sign of the zodiac. Cancer is known for cultivation and protection. Symbolized by the crab, Cancer defends that which is essential and exposed. It walks sideways, approaching issues indirectly. Cancer is tuned to safety and tries to tie itself to others in order to establish a place for itself. Cancer nurtures people while also seeking out nurturance. It’s emotionally generous in its nature, offering space and support for others when they need it. Tuned to the cycles of the moon, Cancer is prone to fluctuation. It can also manipulate emotions when it feels unsafe.

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Leo is a Sun-ruled Fixed Fire sign and the fifth sign of the zodiac. Leo is characterized by creativity and regality. Symbolized by the Lion, it expresses courage and tries to maintain a consistent image. Leo has the ability to garner attention and shift the focus onto others at will. Being the focal point of everyone’s attention, Leo also takes on leadership qualities. It aims for authentic self-expression, though it’s sensitive to external feedback. Leo’s role as a leader means that it can take the spotlight away from the things that matter to others.

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Virgo is a Mercury-ruled Mutable Earth sign and the sixth sign of the zodiac. Virgo deals with discernment and helpfulness. Symbolized by the Virgin, Virgo aims for a unique definition of “purity.” It assimilates, digests, and applies information. It diagnoses things, makes things more efficient, and has an overall fixation on quality. Virgo is incredibly skilled and tries to make things that are useful. Detail-oriented and critical, Virgo can struggle with seeing the bigger picture. Its aim towards “purity” can result in a perfectionist nature.

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Libra is a Venus-ruled Cardinal Air sign and the seventh sign of the zodiac. Libra is known for harmony and justice. Symbolized by the scales, it aims to bring environments into stability. Libra initiates conversations, collects opinions, stimulates minds, and understands issues from multiple perspectives. Libra exposes all viewpoints, and when one is lacking, it makes up for that lack by taking on a contrarian stance. Libra is also an aesthetic sign, making places more vibrant and visually cohesive. Though Libra is the judge, it’s not the jury or the executioner. Libra struggles with being decisive, never settling on a single idea or perspective. It can also struggle to follow through with social connections.

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Scorpio is a Mars-ruled Fixed Water sign and the eighth sign of the zodiac. Scorpio is characterized by depth and resilience. Symbolized by the scorpion, it is both armored and armed, capable of standing on the offensive and the defensive. Scorpio undergoes intense transformation and can withstand being in harsh environments. It’s able to get to the bottom of issues and uncover secrets. It also has a bottomless well of emotional depth, feeling things with an intensity that cannot be dismissed. Though it’s able to uncover secrets, Scorpio holds many secrets of its own. It’s often left unable to express the full scope of what it feels.

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Sagittarius is a Jupiter-ruled Mutable Fire sign and the ninth sign of the zodiac. Sagittarius deals with inspiration and inclusion. Symbolized by the archer, it shoots towards the horizon of potential and possibility. Sagittarius is defined by big picture thinking and wants everyone to follow along as it moves towards its goal. Sagittarius is free-spirited and empowered by the chase towards something greater. It often holds onto truths that can’t be proven, though, and it can be dogmatic. Sagittarius often struggles to commit to things.

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Capricorn is a Saturn-ruled Cardinal Earth sign and the tenth sign of the zodiac. Capricorn is known for responsibility and business-like conduct. Symbolized by the goat, Capricorn buckles down and does what needs to be done regardless of obstacles. It puts forethought into things, usually focusing on how to deal with issues while restricted by certain rules. Capricorn tends to represent time and ancient things, sticking to tradition. The Saturnian nature of Capricorn makes it separate itself from others. Its focus on tradition can narrow the lens, making it incapable of seeing how things could improve through change.

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Aquarius is a Saturn-ruled Fixed Air sign and the eleventh sign of the zodiac. Aquarius is characterized by intelligence and innovation. Symbolized by the water bearer, it aims to control what direction the collective moves in. Aquarius looks to the unknown, trying to figure out the rules that govern things we don’t understand. It goes against the status quo with the desire to create a new one, focusing on how things can work differently from what people are used to. Aquarius is also rigid in its desire for change, making it difficult to shift its perspective after it has settled on a new normal.

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Pisces is a Jupiter-ruled Mutable Water sign and the twelfth sign of the zodiac. Pisces deals with expansion and idealism. Symbolized by the fish, it sits in an endless expanse of cohesion and inclusion. Pisces aims to connect everyone in a coherent way, even if it means accepting contradictions. Pisces is intuitive, sensing other people’s thoughts and drives, and is willing to sacrifice in the name of the greater good. It gravitates towards the things that fill the void caused by a lack of togetherness. The sensitivity of Pisces can cause it to take in too much, though, and its lack of boundaries leaves it struggling to adjust to existing structures.


Q&A

Q: I’m still confused about one of these signs. Can you talk about it some more?

A: I’ll probably end up making individual threads on the planets soon, and in them, I’ll end up discussing the signs. Until then, I offer the Astrology Podcast as a solid resource for diving deeper into the signs.

Signs of the Zodiac: Part 1

Signs of the Zodiac: Part 2

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Q: I want to study the signs some more. How should I go about doing that?

A: Break down the signs into their core components and study them individually. Learn about the seven traditional planets, the classical elements, and the modalities. Once you do that, start looking at how the signs relate to each other. How does each earth sign function differently? How do both Jupiter-ruled signs utilize Jupiter differently? How do the cardinal signs relate to one another? You’ll start to see the patterns as you go on.

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Q: Someone told me that the best way to learn about the signs was to study the people in my life. Is this a good idea?

A: I have mixed feelings about this approach, and it’s hard to articulate why without diving into how natal astrology works and how pop astrology has deviated from the tradition. No astrologer can deny that part of learning is practical application, and studying the people in your life is a great idea. That being said, I don’t think that you should base your entire understanding of astrology on how you associate people’s behaviors with placements in their chart. Every person’s lived experience is represented by a unique and complex interaction of planetary archetypes, and it’s difficult to discern which of those archetypes fits whatever sign you’re studying if you don’t already have a basic understanding of the signs.

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Q: I can’t help but ask, I’m a Sagittarius who doesn’t feel like a Sagittarius. Why is that?

A: Not identifying with your Sun sign is a pretty common experience, one that people often use to discredit astrology. There are two important things to remember here. First, you have more than just your Sun in your chart. Second, your Sun isn’t your primary identifier.

In Seminars in Psychological Astrology, Volume 3: The Luminaries, Howard Sasportas talks about the role of the Sun sign and how popular astrology often gets it wrong:

“I’m certain that in order to feel complete and fulfilled we need to be giving expression to our Sun sign; we must strive to develop ourselves in the sphere of life associated with the house our Sun is placed, and we should try to find constructive ways to personify, integrate and utilise any planet which is in aspect to our Sun. When people come to me for readings, I always want to make sure that they’re in touch with the qualities of their Sun sign — I want to know that the qualities of the Sun are being consciously expressed in a purposeful, positive way. Provided that the data is correct, I believe in the chart more than I do in the person sitting beside me.”

He continues:

“I also hold the opinion that most Sun sign columns start from an incorrect premise. The writers often assume that you are automatically like your Sun sign. So all [Aries] are described as dynamic, egocentric and impulsive, and all Geminis are characterised as inveterate flirts and butterflies. Not true. Sun sign columns would be much more worthwhile if they began with the underlying premise that the Sun sign represents qualities which you need to build in and develop in a constructive way in order to become who you uniquely are, in order to be true to yourself and feel good about yourself. Instead of saying, ‘You are an Aries, therefore you are assertive,’ they could write, ‘You Sun is in Aries and this is an indication that one of your main purposes in life is to develop your courage, dynamism and the ability to assert yourself in a manner which is viable and workable.’ You see the difference. Now the readers have a goal or quest, they have something to strive for. If we then take the whole chart into consideration, we can analyse how other factors in the nature will work for or against the healthy development of the Sun sign qualities.”

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Q: So, what sign should I feel like? I kinda feel like my Sun sign, but I also feel like my Moon sign. I heard there are other systems that change your sign too, so which is it?

A: I don’t think there’s any sign that you should feel like. Even beyond that, I don’t like identifying people as their signs. It sets up this notion that you must pick one of twelve options to encompass the totality of who you are, and that’s not how natal astrology works.

Astrology is based on the planets — always has been and always will be — so I would get familiar with what the planets represent and what they aim to do. Saying something like “I express a lot of Lunar and Mercurial traits” and specifying from there does a lot more than just saying “I am a Cancer.”

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Q: I thought Uranus ruled Aquarius? And doesn’t Neptune rule Pisces? What about Pluto ruling Scorpio?

A: What you’re describing is the modern rulership scheme, and I tend not to use it because it functions very differently from the traditional one. Modern rulership is just about which signs fit which planets the best, and the outer planets were added as rulers/co-rulers long after the signs established their meanings.

Traditional rulers have their place because they made the signs they rule. Think of it like this: Uranus is renting out a room in Aquarius because it likes the decor, but Saturn is the one that designed, built, decorated, and owns Aquarius. When planets are in Aquarius, they call on Saturn — not Uranus — to get what they need.

There’s also the issue of the meanings of the signs being modified over the past ~100 years to better fit their modern rulers. Aquarius gets described as being a lot more humanitarian, quirky, and conspiracy-oriented, Pisces gets described as being dreamy, spiritual, and addicted, and Scorpio gets described as dark, mysterious, and abusive. That’s all because of their modern rulers.

Edits made