What can the seasons teach us about astrology?
A discussion of astrology usually begins with the old query, “So what’s your sign?” And in my case, of course, I’d answer, “Oh, I’m an Aquarius” and then sit back to wait for the other person to decide how weird I am. My husband would answer, “Oh, I’m a Gemini,” and then he’d keep talking and talking so that the other person doesn’t even have time to make such a determination. But what comes before the sign? We can better understand the significance of the signs and their influence over all of us by going back to the basics of Western astrology: modalities and elements.
For those on the astrology bunny hill, I’m talking about whether a we have a cardinal, fixed, or mutable sign and whether it is an earth, air, fire, or water sign.
As students of Western astrology, we base our interpretations of the planetary positions on the relationship between our home marble, Earth, and the Sun; therefore, the rotation around the sun (if you’re in that camp) determines whether we’re wearing a jacket today or not—everything is tied into the seasons. The real New Year begins when Spring begins on about March 20, at the beginning of Aries, the first sign. It doesn’t begin in the middle of Capricorn, the 10th sign, on January 1st. Next year you should try telling your boss that you’re not coming to work on March 20th because it’s New Year’s. See what happens.
So by considering at how the modalities and elements correspond to the seasons, we can not only see how each sign is playing out on Earth in our lives, but we can more fully understand the archetypes of the signs in our astrology practices.
If you look at a zodiac wheel, you can see how the signs follow the same pattern of modality four times: cardinal, fixed, mutable. Every season follows this same pattern. Cardinal starts the season, fixed is right in the middle holding it, and mutable transitions us to the next season.
The elements also follow the same pattern around the wheel three times: fire, earth, air, water. Every season will contain three elements. Which elements fall into which modalities in which season makes a lot of sense when you think about the personality of that season.
Aries. Cardinal Fire. March 20–April 19. In true Aries fashion, the year starts out with a fiery bang. Spring is here. Flowers are shooting the heck up from the ground. The Sun is back. If you follow a Christian tradition, not only is the Sun back, but the Son is back, as Easter happens during Aries. Everyone is over the winter and literally ramming out of their house to get into the warmer weather. This isn’t a time to over-think or over-process anything; we just want to get out and do.
Taurus. Fixed Earth. April 20–May 20. Now everything is in full bloom. Our five senses are being lavished with beauty. We can slow down a little bit here and just enjoy what the earth has to offer us and what our favorite things are. We are happy cows grazing in our green field. We don’t feel the need to hustle to do anything, as we are perfectly comfortable right here, thank you. Americans like to celebrate their mega-Taurean version of Cinco de Mayo during this time, which involves imbibing tacos and tequila and then more of both.
Gemini. Mutable Air. May 21–June 20. Now it’s time to start thinking about the next season. Summer’s coming up, and there’s possibilities. What am I going to do? What are you going to do? What are we all going to do together? I’m gonna go here, you’re gonna go there. Sound like any Gemini types you know? Memorial Day is during this time, and Americans celebrate their brothers who have given their lives for our country by getting together and being social.
Cancer. Cardinal Water. June 21–July 22. Another cardinal sign and Summer begins. We are all doing what we want to do and letting the things that make us happy drive us around. Rather than relying only on “should” and responsibility, during this time we make plans and take trips based on emotional desire. We’re ready to enjoy our summer, find fulfillment, and allow the season to take care of us and restore us. In America, Independence Day on July 4th is in Cancer season, during which time we are all celebrating our national home.
Leo. Fixed Fire. July 23–August 22. The middle of summer is hot and sunny, and so is Leo (all you Leos, I know how you’re taking the “hot” bit. You’re welcome). We’re all about enjoyment, creating things, and luxuriating in the light during this time. There’s not a major American holiday during Leo, but our friends to the north in Canada have Civic Day, or the August long weekend, during which time when they can step away from the office and be their truest selves doing what they want to do.
Virgo. Mutable Earth. August 23–September 22. Okay. It’s time to come back to reality now and start thinking about responsibilities and what we need to get done day-to-day. The weather is starting to shift towards cooler temperatures. School starts back up now and it’s time to start learning again and taking care of what needs our attention. The emphasis is less on us and more on other people and things that need tending. If we overdid it on the food and beverage during the summer, we might start thinking about a healthier lifestyle now.
Libra. Cardinal Air. September 23–October 22. Fall has started with another cardinal sign, and this time we’re in our heads. We’re thinking about what we’ve done in the warm months and what we’re going to do in the cool months. This is the Fall Equinox, so it’s time to find balance before the darkness overtakes the light. The weather is also pleasant and agreeable, much like Libra types. We seek out beauty and discernment and decide what people or things we want to hang onto and which aren’t quite up to snuff.
Scorpio. Fixed Water. October 23–November 21. We’re in the middle of Fall now and going deeper and deeper into the dark as the nights get longer. We’re also taking this time to go deeper into our selves, our true desires. We Northern Hemisphere folks don’t have the opportunity for beach vacations and other sun-centric things during this time, so we have to turn within. Halloween happens during Scorpio season when, according to Pagan tradition, the veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest, and everybody else is running around at night dressed as something they relate to on a deeper level. For a little kid that may be his inner superhero, and for a college girl that might be some state of undress where she can literally allow her true self to hang out.
Sagittarius. Mutable Fire. November 22–December 21. We’re starting to transition into winter, but before we get into these darkest and coldest months of the year, we want to go and get as much optimism and light as we can to hold onto. We’re coming to the end of the calendar year during this time and philosophizing about how the year has gone thus far and holding out for an even better next year. People are out jumping from store to store buying up stuff they think will make someone happy. Thanksgiving usually happens right at the beginning of Sagittarius season and families come together to eat and drink with abandon, expanding their joy and stomachs in true Jupiter style.
Capricorn. Cardinal Earth. December 22–January 19. Winter comes coldly and swiftly and with no nonsense. This isn’t a warm and fuzzy time; it’s a time to hunker down, keep the silliness at bay, and keep going until we get through the coldness and into the warmth. This is an aspirational time of planning how we’re going to move forward and what light we’re going to strive for, especially on a material level. Christmas, of course, happens during this time on the longest night of the year, which while it is a joyous celebration, also is one of reverence and aspiration of what will come as the light continues to grow.
Aquarius. Fixed Air. January 20–February 19. In the middle of winter, we’re given time to think more about how the world could be improved in the upcoming season and how we can help. With the small amount of light that we have during this time, we are compelled to band together. In centuries prior, communities worked together through the winter to make sure everyone was fed. Nowadays Super Bowl Sunday happens during Aquarius season and communities again come together to root for their team. By this point we’ve been cooped up in our homes out of the cold for a while, so people are starting to get goofy and strange, further fueling non-satisfaction with the status quo.
Pisces. Mutable Water. February 20–March 19. We’re at the very end of our cycle here, and in a Lion King circle-of-life sense, we’re preparing to let go and be reborn at the start of the next cycle. In fact, as I started writing this section, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by The Byrds literally came on my Amazon Music station. You can’t make this stuff up. We’re taking this final part of winter to commiserate with our friends and family half indoors and half outdoors as the weather starts to warm up. This area of the zodiac deals in part with matters of escapism, and St. Patrick’s Day falls during Pisces when people feel entitled to drink themselves into oblivion. No, not all Pisces are drunks, but they are prone to letting their minds wander.