Astro DIY #3: The three modalities in your birth chart

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

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

NOTE: If you’re new to this series, you’ll need to register an account with – a popular website that provides many free astrological tools you’ll use in this ‘course’. If you haven’t already done so, get yourself set up before delving in. Tabby will explain everything else!

I’m excited to share a milestone in my astrology journey.

I recently completed my first ever comprehensive birth chart report as a birthday present for my partner! It took lots of work but was so much fun and amazingly accurate.

I also went browsing secondhand book shops for astrology books – they’re great places to get awesome astrology books for cheap, so as this week’s subject is hard to photograph I’ve gone with photos from my adventures in the book shops. In two books I looked at I found people’s handwritten astrology notes that they had left there!

Last time we learnt about the four elements and their influence on our personality.

The 12 zodiac signs are grouped into three signs which each fall under one of the four elements – earth, air, fire and water. The elements describe a basic temperament in personality, the energy that is available to the signs under it.

You can read all about that here.

Today we’re going to learn about the modalities (also known as quadruplicities)

– which are a lot less know about than the elements, but another interesting factor in our charts. The modalities show us how the energy of the element, in a sign moves and acts.

There are three modalities – cardinal, fixed and mutable – so four zodiac signs come under each modality. The combination of a unique element and modality makes up the 12 different zodiac signs, so learning and understanding both elements and modalities and being able to pair the two together helps us understand each zodiac sign better.

So like last time with the elements, we’re going to figure out which modalities are stronger and weaker in our charts using a points system.

Give two points to the sign your Sun, Moon and Ascendant are in and one point to the other planets from Mercury to Pluto.

Pay attention to the modality that your Sun is in especially, even if you have less points in that modality overall, as it’s possible that the influence of the Sun sign (possible for the rising sign and even the moon too) overweighs the points system for some people.

Cardinal Signs are: Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn
Fixed Signs are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius
Mutable Signs are: Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces


Cardinal – Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn

These signs are called cardinal because they correspond with the start of a new season – eg. December 22nd is Winter/Summer solstice (depending on where you are in the world) and marks the beginning of Capricorn.

The key theme for the cardinal modality is initiation. Cardinal signs are usually outgoing, creative, purposeful, self-starting types. The initiators and leaders of the zodiac, they start things and like for them to go their way, so they can also be associated with impatience, power and forcefulness. They enjoy challenges and action and can easily adapt to different situations.

If you’re heavy in Cardinal signs, you’re probably always on the go, always trying to do something, starting a new project, someone who says yes to things and gets overcommitted. Take a break now and then and learn to say no! If you don’t have much Fixed energy then you are likely to abandon most of the things you start without finishing them.

If you’re low in Cardinal signs you’re probably someone who prefers not to initiate things and is happy to follow other people’s ideas and actions. It might help to work on your self-esteem and trust that your ideas are good ones too!


Fixed Signs – Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius

While the cardinal signs bring us into a new season, the fixed signs see us right in the middle of the season. The cardinal signs start up something and then the fixed signs come along to sustain it and see it through.

The key word for fixed signs is stability. Fixed signs are more introverted, receptive and bring stability and structure to things. Fixed signs are reliable, determined and see things through, but they can also make life hard with their stubbornness and refusal of change. Your energy might be slower and quieter but it is persistent and productive, so you get things done.

If you’re heavy in Fixed signs you would do well to focus more on meeting your own goals and expectations, rather than worrying about someone else not living up to the ones you create for them. Fixed signs are so reliable for other people that they feel it more intensely than other signs when someone lets them down. Fixed signs also need to learn to recognise when they are being stubborn and be more open to change.

If you’re low in Fixed signs, you probably lack the stability to see things through, moving quickly from one thing to the next, feeling like you aren’t accomplishing much. Giving yourself a routine, keeping a schedule or setting yourself a goal to finish something might really help!


Mutable signs – Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces

Mutable signs fall in the last months of the four seasons, signifying the change from one season to the next, ending one thing and preparing for another.

The key word for the mutable signs is flexibility. Mutable signs are adaptable and embrace change, more focused on the journey itself than the excitement of starting it (Cardinal) or where it’s going to end and what will come out of it (Fixed). Mutable signs tend to be resourceful and easygoing, but may have trouble fully committing their energy to something, or making decisions. They are the communicators of the zodiac and are great at bringing people together and creating connections.

If you’re heavy in Mutable signs your energies might be too scattered, you might have trouble settling down or sticking with one thing, or knowing what you want and you might experience lots of nervous energy. Finding ways to allow yourself that flexibility in your life, such as a job where you get to do a variety of things or travel a lot could help you. Taking the time to explore what it is you really want and making goals to get there would also be beneficial.

If you’re low in Mutable signs you probably aren’t very flexible and normally know what it is you want. You can learn from remembering to compromise and knowing that you can be adaptable too, rather than forcing others to change to suit you.


As with the elements, people who are weak in a particular modality are usually aware of how that plays out in their life and might try to overcome it.

Sometimes this can happen through overcompensation (the same with elements). It’s also important to note that not everyone will identify with how this exercise places the energy of the different modalities, because there are other factors in your chart at play that can contradict and compensate for things. Often this will be in the way of particular aspects, or the placement of planets in particular signs/houses. The more you get to learn about astrology and your birth chart, the more you’ll be able to understand, spot and explain these kind of things!

So I’m excited to hear what people have discovered and if you relate to it?

I have 8 Cardinal, 4 Fixed and 2 Mutable signs. I can definitely relate to the strong cardinal energy, I’m definitely someone that initiates things, can be easily self-motivated and I am terrible at saying yes to all the things. Luckily for me I have a fair amount of Fixed energy too (strengthened by my Taurus Sun) which gives me the ability to see the things that I start through. And yes I can definitely be stubborn at times and oversensitive to other people not meeting my expectations! Being lower in mutable energy makes sense for me too– I’ve generally always been someone who knows what she wants in life (yet is somehow still incredibly indecisive – and there’s no Libra in my chart!).

Next time we’ll bring what we’ve learnt about the elements and the modalities together to gain a better understanding of what each of the 12 zodiac signs is all about.

Your homework:

To learn which signs belongs to each modality! I found the modalities harder to remember than the elements for some reason, so when I was first learning about them I tried to do it by learning the first letters of each sign in three groups. I don’t think that is a very effective way at all, however, but if someone wants to do that and make some acronyms up for each one, that would be fun!

Now we all learn best in different ways, so do what you know works for you. It might be writing them out, saying them out loud, drawing a mind-map, or just through doing it – going through different charts counting up the modalities and becoming familiar with them. has a whole database of celebrity charts if you only have your own birth details to work with at this stage.

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  1. Danielle says:

    oh my god, cardinal 7, fixed 2, mutable 5, so, uh, can you tell that i’m a cardinal air sign? that thing about starting all the projects & then abandoning them seems…well, apt. (though i do recognize that & try to be better about actually finishing things.)

    • Tabby says:

      Thanks Danielle! Haha yeah that seems to be the biggest ‘problem’ all the cardinal air people I know face – but being aware of it is awesome. Setting smaller/shorter projects can be useful, and getting an earthy/fixed kinda person on board to work with you can be really helpful for seeing them through!

  2. Celia says:

    Clarification question because at first I thought I wasn’t reading this right because my numbers were way larger than y’alls:: the planets from Mercury to Pluto get one point, not three, while Sun/Ascendant/Moon get two points, correct?

    Anyways, I cardinal 5, fixed 6, mutable 3– my sun is a cardinal fire sign, so I’m really good at getting things started and finding inspiration most of the time, actually. I definitely need some help remembering to channel that mutable energy sometimes though! Feeling the pressure to always be reliable to the people around me is something I feel very intensely, as well.

    I love this series so much!!

    • Tabby says:

      Thanks Celia! That’s right, you’ve got it. 🙂 Awesome, yeah Aries is the ultimate sign for getting things started!

  3. Rebecca says:

    I’ve got 2 cardinal, 6 fixed, and 6 mutable. I’m definitely low in cardinal – ask me what I want to do, and a lot of the time, my answer is, “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” As for the others, I tend to go back and forth between extremes of “I will chart out my time and make sure I get X, Y, and Z all done today while making sure A, B, and C happen this week” and “I don’t know what to do next! I don’t want my life to be this structured!”

  4. Bobby says:

    Looks like I have 9 Cardinal… Sun, Moon and Ascendant are all in Cardinal, 3 Fixed and just 1 Mutable, unless we count my Chiron in Pisces!

  5. Beth says:

    Just realised I haven’t done this yet! I got 7 cardinal, 7 fixed, and zero mutable! Which seems to suggest I’m great at having ideas, great at making them happen…but a stubborn old thing who doesn’t like it if things take an unexpected twist.

  6. Wow so once again I am very evenly distributed! 8 Cardinal, 11 Fixed, and 8 Mutable, so very stable without being overmuch in one modality or lacking in another, and especially with having the most points in Fixed anyway, and yet able to start new projects and adapt to changes pretty well. I can see this in myself I think. I’m a pretty stable person, regardless of my environment. So overall very evenly spread out through both the elements and the modalities!

    • Whoa okay so I did this again CORRECTLY, taking the advice of Celia, and I’m EVEN MORE EVENLY DISTRIBUTED. 5 Cardinal, 5 Fixed, and 4 Mutable. Wow wow wow. Why am I so ridiculously even spread out in both elements and modalities??? Insane.

      • Tabby says:

        Oops sorry, it does say three where it should say one, I’ll get that changed!

        Wow that is pretty cool, astrological balance achieved right there! Will be interesting to see if there’s a similar pattern with your houses once we get into them!

  7. Megan G says:

    I’m right up there with the other balanced folks – I had 4 Cardinal, 6 Fixed, and 4 Mutable. My Sun sign was Cardinal, and Moon and Rising were both Fixed.

  8. Copper Doe says:

    These lessons are just fabulous! So now that I realize I need to not include the True Node and Chiron, my chart says I am Fixed (7), Cardinal (5), and Mutable (2). And along with my elements (again, now taking out my True Node and Chiron) of Earth (6), Air (5), Fire (3), and Water (0), that explains SO much to me… Fascinating!! Thank you for these lessons!!!

  9. Mnemosyne says:

    I have 5 mutables, 4 cardinal and 3 fixes. I found a easy way to remember the modalities if you know the order of signs from Aries to Pisces. The modalities order is always Cardinal-Fixed-Mutable, so you can relate it to the order of the signs and is very easy to learn it.

  10. Sian says:

    Thanks for these articles, I am learning alot. Mine are pretty balanced with 5, 5 and 4. 3 of the elements were pretty evenly balanced too (I only had 1 Earth and organisation is definitely not my strong suit) Hmmm, have to think about what that means.

  11. Jess says:

    I’m actually taking a course in mapping the moon with my chart! Just found this post as well, I have 10 mutable modalities in my chart (wow, ya). This actually rings true for how I am in general, I am very scattered and I’ve been starting to accept that fact lol! I tend to go from one subject to the next and so on, then come full circle again. It’s like my passions and hobbies flow in “seasons” for me, it can be very frustrating at times! (on a completely side note, I sent you an email regarding getting my password for the tarot forum, it’s still not sending one to me thats why I haven’t been active on it yet lol)

  12. Lisbeth says:

    So…10 cardinal, 3 fixed and 1 mutable, and my Sun and Moon are both cardinal.
    Totally fits though, haha – I’m creative and I’m always starting something, but usually don’t get around to finishing them, and I’m TERRIBLE with schedules…

  13. Lara says:

    What would you take from having pretty much even signs? I have 4 cardinal, 6 fixed, 4 mutable. I can identify with all of the traits mentioned, haha!

  14. tuitarot says:

    If I only count the 10 planets, I’m 5 Cardinal, 4 Fixed and 1 Mutable. With 14, I have 6 Cardinal, 5 Fixed and 3 Mutable.

    Tabby, I really love your Astro DIY – I have never really been doing astrology for myself (reserved it for my Tarot practice) and what I have found is extremely interesting. For all my life, I’ve just known that I am a Gemini. But apparently, most of my other signs are Earth signs! And the Cardinal and Fixed obviously means that I am great at starting new things (yup), but I do -not- like when things don’t go my way. Yup, that’s true 🙂

  15. soo this is why I’ve always been an indecisive, all over the place person haha mutable (7) – with both my sun and moon sign -, cardinal (4) and fixed (3) – with my poor alone ascending. I am also apparently more dominantly an air person.

    I most of the time don’t plan my future for example. not even my dinner. I tend to leave it to my whims and desires of the moment. I am very flexible to changes though and sometimes like them even when they are problematic. this is amazingly convenient when I face a lot of unexpected complications in a task (I tend to surprise people with my imaginativeness while solving them) but in a lot of aspects in my life when I have to be focused or unrelenting I tend to have a lot of trouble. As I even cannot plan my meals, it is a huuugee pain in the ass for me to lose weight. also I never felt like I know what I want in life. my moods and most current interests rule me.

  16. Hari says:

    7 fixed, 4 cardinal, 3 mutable. 3 major signs in fixed. Sun taurus, aqua rising, leo moon. Will be hell of stubborn..

  17. 8 mutable, 4 cardinal, 2 fixed I’m mutable water Sun-Pisces, Asc-Gemini, Moon-Capricorn
    I would say this is pretty accurate for me I’m like the least stubborn person I know. I go with the flow but I have my own mind. I hate authority but don’t mind being in charge. I’m a whole bunch of contradictions it’s quite sad honestly as the list goes on… sigh…

  18. Sarah says:

    This is so fascinating! I’m seeing a ton of back-and-forth, or maybe balance (all in the perspective, huh?) here. 6 Fixed, 6 Mutable, with 2 Cardinal. It’s true, though, that I love both doing things for their own sake/the journey, and getting shit done. I’m a process and a product knitter, haha! But I do have trouble getting started, and little faith in my own ideas. With the elements, I was 6 fire, 4 water–so something about energy and enthusiasm mixed with receptivity and emotions…though I think I’ve spent a lot of my life compensating for my 1 earth and some serious earth-related lacks. Hmmm…lots to think about here. They seem related to me, like fire and fixed share this quality of completion, drive, while mutable and water are both kind of adaptive, flexible. Thanks so much for these lessons!

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