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The Real Meaning of the Zodiac in Modern Times - Part 2

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

Art by Andy Kehoe -

All life is energy. Processes in Nature and all physical and psychological conditions of living organisms, including humans, are based on the specific, unique interplay of the same common energy patterns. In astrology these are known as FIRE, WATER, AIR and EARTH. Everything is made of a mixture (in different proportions) of all four. The symbols are universal, present in almost any culture and tradition of the past, under different names and sometimes with slight modifications, but with the same basic meaning.


The Zodiac is the embodiment of the principle of energy interaction. It is an imaginary band surrounding our planet and divided into 12 equal sectors. As the Earth travels on its course around the Sun in a year, it consecutively reveals to the observer on the surface the 12 sections of space (the Sun from our position on Earth appears to be located in one of the 12 signs every month, constantly moving to the next, counter-clockwise). The 12 signs are a manifestation of the 4 elements in 3 different styles of action (called MODES). There are 3 fire, 3 air, 3 earth and 3 water signs, making up a total of 12. In a certain way, we can speak of 3 zodiacs, as the 4-fold pattern which marks the start of each season (spring – Aries, summer – Cancer, fall – Libra and winter – Capricorn) is repeated twice more during the year in the periods between the Equinoxes and the Solstices.

The 3 MODES of Energy Expression:

The elements themselves are quite broad categories of 4 general styles of adjustment and perception, but each of them operates in one of 3 ways as what the Zodiac describes is in fact a cyclic process of growth – a new form is being born, it grows up, matures and dies. Everything has its beginning, mid-period and end and these 3 life phases require a different mode of activity if the cycle is to follow its natural path and all phases of transformation it includes. And this cycle may be of the lifetime of any form of organized activity, be it a person or a business organization. Anything which at some point appears, has its life span and then disappears or gets modified. Thus, we have the MODES:

Cardinal: motion is straightforward – initiates, leads to new territories, expands field of action

Fixed: motion in a circle – manages, controls and makes productive, sustains and develops over time

Mutable: motion in a spiral – combining the other two, brings change always at a higher level

Psychological Implication of the 4 Elements and the 3 Modes

All 4 elements in their 3 modes exist in every person, but everyone is consciously more attuned to some and less to others. There are also conflicting pairs, as well as mutually supportive, compatible energies. The combinations are infinite, but the particular one we were born with (reflected in the sum total of factors in our birth chart), puts a definite stamp on the way we would perceive the world and react on all kinds of life situations. Our predisposition to one or several will suggest the specific way we feel about ourselves and our approach to relationships. Different energy patterns will imply areas of talent and skills, as well as others of struggle and sense of inadequacy. The elements are thus the very substance of what both the body and mind are made of and the study of the birth chart can show how we can make the best use of the energies we can tap on while balancing the expression of those we are not so attuned to. There is a direct parallel between the meaning or the Zodiac signs in astrology and the archetypes in Carl Jung’s depth psychology. Jung’s division of architypes in 4 groups (Intuition, Feeling, Sensation and Thinking) also links to the characteristics of the 4 Elements.

The Element Fire – INTUITION Masculine, active, assertive energy, characterized by spontaneity and vitality. It dwells in the world of imagination and abstract future-oriented action. Fire can be speculative, gambling, unstable and capricious, often highly detached from the material world and its demands. Living in a state of constant expectancy of the next step on the road, bound by the need for constant motion and expansion. The whim of the moment can push it in ever new directions, making it unreliable, but never boring.

The Element Water – FEELING Feminine, passive, receptive energy, seeking to flow and merge. For all 3 signs interpersonal relationships are of major importance. Perception of life can be very subjective and judgement is often made on the basis of how something or someone makes them FEEL. Water is emotional, subconscious and highly perceptive of other people’s moods, also deeply sensitive and compassionate. Due to its dependence on intensive and positive human contact, it can be clingy, fluctuating and unpredictable.

The Element Air – THINKING Masculine, dynamic, mental energy, probing into the mechanisms of the intellect and operating through logic, set frameworks and abstract ideas. Air signs work with information, exchange of thoughts and constant communication are vital needs for them. It is the most human of all elements and the one associated with reason and objectivity, often at the expense of the feeling function which here is very weak and difficult to connect with.

The Element Earth – SENSATION Feminine, grounded, practical and very physical. Earth lives in the world of material objects and tangible reality. Only what can be perceived through the senses is regarded to be factual and worth accounting for. Stable, reliable, sustaining and predictable, but often stubborn, slow to change and stuck in repeating, obsolete patterns. Can become depressive and cynical due to lack of positive intuition.

ARIES (CARDINAL FIRE) – its goal is to become more courageous and to strengthen his/her will, fighting battles of all sorts under pressure from external forces. Moving forward in to a new territory where it’s scary, unfamiliar and risky and doing that in spite of fear. Being motivated to act with initiative and trust in the positive outcome of future endeavours. Aims to put the past behind its back.

TAURUS (FIXED EARTH) – stabilization of the uncontrolled conquering impulse by demanding practical and material realization of the new ideas, so a process of efficiency and productivity can be achieved. Utilizing of resources so they lead to some form of harvest at a later stage. Sustained labour for the sake of a tangible result which is then to be used as a building block for personality.

GEMINI (MUTABLE AIR) – expansion of the personal sphere of operation and mobilizing of a new type of resource – a wide field of contacts and information exchange. On a mission to gather as many details about the immediate environment as possible and include them in his/her arsenal, so a sense of order in the mind is eventually achieved. Through mental perception and adaptation, one seeks orientation and classification.

CANCER (CARDINAL WATER) – how I feel about myself and those closest to me, this question needs to find a definite answer through painful soul-searching in conditions of great vulnerability. Personality tries to define its roots and boundaries, so it can withstand the test of meeting the outer world with an open heart. A new direction is again set, but this time leading inward to the depths of the psyche and the hidden world of the unconscious which is to guide the way forward.

LEO (FIXED FIRE) – here fire is active, expressive, seeking demonstration of its core energy in palpable, registrable terms. Generosity and grandiose gestures need to receive adequate feedback. Talent and achievement are to be appreciated and allowed to impress upon the environment and especially on other people. Fire needs to be given a field to build and create with its own means.

VIRGO (MUTABLE EARTH) – corrections and re-evaluations have to be made to regulate the urge for expansion and these stem from a sense of failure and inadequacy. Something in the process of materialization of the personal potential has not worked out and there must now be a pause for reflection and then humble choice of a new direction, implying discipline, learning from superiors and a readiness to take a new road beyond the individual ego and towards equal relating.

LIBRA (CARDINAL AIR) – joining hands with others for the sake of the common good becomes a defined goal which needs to be put to practice. Entering into relationships follows a compulsive feeling of it being the only positive next step, as difficult as it may feel. The future is in mutual inter-relatedness and air need to permeate through all walls so far dividing people and force them to connect despite differences. And that is to be achieved through air means – words in dialogue.

SCORPIO (FIXED WATER) – the dangerous journey into merging with another, especially the mate, has already been taken. Now there must be and will be results, positive and negative. The union will produce a new strength for the parties or will shake them down to their roots if they are not prepared to work for a balanced union with all compromises and sacrifices that it entails.

SAGITTARIUS (MUTABLE FIRE) – for change to be brought and for it to be effective and ubiquitous, the sphere of operation has to be expanded in large scale, reaching out to foreign cultures, exotic concepts, philosophical ideas. A dream for something larger than the individual person’s aspirations needs to be born and offered out as a solution to the need of whole groups to move on to the next level and live together in harmony.

CAPRICORN (CARDINAL EARTH) – provided all previous levels have been passed successfully, the accumulated resources and experiences would eventually crystallize and form a stable structure, a universal system of organization which now sets the tone for the life of whole groups and societies. What has been built must be preserved and for that to happen, a strong, resilient container should be used in the form of institutions of authority and large managerial systems.

AQUARIUS (FIXED AIR) – the structure of the massive ‘house’ build by this point is now under review for design imperfections, proper functionality of services, quality of life of the people occupying it. These are all being reassessed. Great scrutiny of the intellect is used to estimate the value of the building and if found defective, to trigger quick reform and alterations. And even the most solid of structures gets old and derelict under the pressure of time, calling for total renovation or demolition.

PISCES (MUTABLE WATER) – death or rebirth, only two options for change at the end of the cycle exist. It is now important to SENSE which parts of the old are worth preserving and which ones must definitely be relinquished without sentiment or regret. Only the essence must remain if the old house’s foundations are to be used to build a new future in the next cycle of life.

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