The Cardinal Signs

Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn

Credit: Brooke Pennington / Getty Images.

Cardinal signs have initiatory force, and start each of the four Solar Seasons. They lead naturally, tend to lean into life, always pushing for new experiences.  

There's one in each element, beginning with fiery Aries in Spring, and ending with earthy Capricorn in Winter.  What follows is the rhythm of the season, since after initiation comes the flowering (fixed signs, and then disseminating (mutable signs).

Cardinal signs have a strong will for setting things in motion.  And in the natural chart, each quadrant is kicked off with a cardinal sign, starting with Aries at the Ascendant. 

Cancer is at the IC, the emotional wellspring and home base of the natural chart.  Libra is the first sign above the horizon, at the Descendent, where we first meet the other.  Capricorn is at the peak, and the Midheaven, representing personal high points of achievement. 

What Are the Cardinal Signs?

These are Aries (fire), Cancer (water), Libra (air) and Capricorn (earth).  So you see how each of the four elements have one that's cardinal. 

Why Are These Signs Grouped Together?

The twelve signs of the zodiac are grouped into quadruplicities (four), known as qualities based on how the sign behaves. Each element has one of each of the "qualities," also known as modalities.

Another name used for these groupings is "modes." The qualities are Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable. 

Cardinal is the beginning, with the fixed sign fleshing things out, and the mutable signs dissipating.  Each cardinal sign is a starter in that trio, and that's a way to understand the Zodiac, as well as the seasons. 

Where Does the Name Cardinal Come From?

This word means first, and comes from the Latin cardinalis, with the meaning of principal or pivotal. The role of cardinal signs is to push forward, be first, initiate.

What Do Cardinal Signs Have in Common?

They're the instigators, ready to forge ahead with plans, and attract those that can support their efforts. Cardinal signs are leaders, and tend to be outgoing because they're engaged with the world in a dynamic way. They're restless to start new projects, and happiest when running the show.

How Are They Different by Element?

Each projects the self onto the world in a different way, depending which of the four elements it's associated with.

Cardinal Fire (Aries) is a catalyst, a firebrand that inspires others by being totally committed to his/her own vision.  Cardinal fire is raw force, for setting wildfires and sometimes getting blowback!  

Cardinal Water (Cancer) leads by the heart, and casts a palpable emotional force that pushes into new territory, but does it sideways like the crab.  Cardinal water uses the force of feelings, to envelope, but sometimes manipulate others. 

Cardinal Air (Libra) initiates through new ideas, and by being a balancing force among people.  Cardinal air is forceful with ideas, sometimes using them as a weapon, with the sword being its totem.

Cardinal Earth (Capricorn) has a formidable, grounded presence, and a natural authority from being masters of the physical plane.  Cardinal earth is a force of substantial achievement, and is willing to work for longterm goals.  

Which Season Is Associated With Cardinal Signs?

As the first, they're positioned at the start of the season. This gives someone with a cardinal Sun sign, the force of the beginning, before energy has begun to dissipate.

In a gathering, cardinal signs often set the tone, and this occurs at the outset of each season, as well.  Cardinal sign times are turning points in the Solar Year. 

By season, the cardinal signs are Aries (Spring), Cancer (Summer), Libra (Fall) and Capricorn (Winter.) They're the kick off, and come across as active initiators of each time of year.

Aries begins the Spring Equinox (around March 21st).

Cancer begins Summer Solstice (around June 21st).

Libra begins Fall (Autumn) Equinox (around September 21st).

Capricorn begins Winter Solstice (around December 21st).