The most widely know astrological concept
Signs indicate where in the zodiac a planet is. The signs are derived by division of the zodiac into 30 sections from 0° Aries, an astronomically derived point.
They describe how the planet will manifest; the manner of the planet’s energy. If you imagine a church with a stained glass window, as the light goes through the window it picks up some of the qualities of the glass. So the planet will always have its core qualities but it will be expressed in a different way depending on the sign.
Many astrology books talk about Sun in Aries rather than the principle of Aries. It is important to realise you can have the sign in a pure form, and that you could have strong Virgo energy, for instance, without actually having the Sun in Virgo.
The essential dignity of a planet and the receptions with other planets is derived from their zodiacal position. See the section on Essential Dignity in the Concepts section.
The signs of the zodiac are divided into positive and negative. This is not a judgemental division and some people now prefer to use the terms Yang and Yin. They are also referred to as masculine and feminine. The language can prove difficult and get in the way of the concepts. This is nothing to do with the physical representation of gender or the judgement passed by a white, middle class, western heirarchy.
Less emotive terms could be outgoing/receptive, reflective/absorbing; the point is that the positive signs push their energy out into the universe and the negative signs absorb the energy of the universe. The positive/negative description makes more sense if you think in the same terms as electricity. Positive charges repel, negative charges attract but the descriptions got mangled when they were set up. This is also reflected in our bodies: masculine pushes out and feminine receives but this does NOT mean that male or female qualities are limited to these signs.
Most charts contain a mix.Signs which are of the same polarity are sextile, trine or opposed to each other. See aspects for more details.
Positive signs are Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius and Aquarius.
These signs could be characterised by the term extrovert; they are interested in seeking out, pushing out, all characteristically “male” behaviour. Active is another term that would fit well with these signs. I once met someone with all her planets in positive signs. As well as being extremely assertive and dynamic in her behaviour and challenging to western cultural assumptions in her lifestyle she also had trouble sleeping which gave her mother no end of problems when she was a child.
Negative signs are Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn and Pisces.
These signs could be characterised by the term introvert; they receive energy from others. The term reactive describes these signs well. This does not mean they are passive. An image which may help your understand ing is that of a goalkeeper in soccer or hockey. They cannot initiate action, they must wait for something to act upon. Until someone makes a shot at goal they cannot act; they may position themselves in order to reduce the shooting opportunties but of themselves they cannot greatly affect the game. Their action must be a reaction to someone elses action.
The elements divide the zodiac into three. Signs in the same element are in trine aspect. These determine the manner in which we perceive the planet.
The fire signs are Aries, Leo and Sagittarius.
Fire is optimistic, future oriented, visionary. It has some difficulty with dealing with routine and boredom.
The earth signs are Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn.
Earth is practical and wants to be useful. Due to the application and diligence there can be a lack of spontaneity and creativity.
The air signs are Gemini, Libra and Aquarius.
Air is concerned with communication, mental faculties, and objectivity.
The water signs are Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces.
Water is must be contained within a container or it leaks away. Water is concerned with non-verbal and emotional expression. It is essentially subjective.
The modes divide the zodiac into four sections. Signs in the same modes are in square aspect. These determine the way we go about things.
The cardianl signs are Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn.
Cardinal signs go about getting what they want in a direct manner. If cardinal energy was was driving a car which encountered a tree blocking the road, it would drive right over it. While brilliant at initiating new projects and starting things they are not so talented at maintaining and sustaining. Give them a goal and they will achieve it.
The fixed signs are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius.
Fixed signs edure. They will maintain their position and build upon it. Slow to start they will maintain and conserve. This is the energy you require to establish something once it has been established. They are conservative and tend away from innovation, even the Aquarians who, to be blunt, wish to establish their vision not yours.
The mutable signs are Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces.
Mutable signs adapt. Where cardinal starts and fixed maintains, mutable sees what needs to change. They swing between these two and for these reasons were referred to as common signs by older authors. Where cardinal starts and fixed establishes, mutable notes the need for change and adjustment.