“Tell Me Now, What’s My Quality?”: The Modalities of Astrology

If you’ve had your eye on astrology in the past few years, you’ve likely heard phrases such as Cardinal Grand Cross and Mutable Grand Cross. These high-octane phrases denote astrological alignments involving several planets with the capacity to influence events with sudden and torrential results. There are excellent articles and podcasts available on the particulars of each of these major events, and you can find a list of some of these at the end of this article. In this post, however, we will explore the three modalities of astrology.

The Three Modalities of Astrology

The three modalities are cardinal, fixed, and mutable. If you are a Scorpio, you may have been told (with some consternation) that you are a fixed sign. If you are a Gemini, you may have been told (with some disapproval) that you are a mutable sign. Each of the twelve zodiac signs belongs to a modality, and it determines the flow of seasonal and kinetic energy in a particular sign. The signs by modality are listed below:

Cardinal – Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn

Fixed – Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius

Mutable – Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces

The Cardinal Signs

These indicate the beginning of a season in the Wheel of the Year, so they are the initiators, the innovators, the firebrands of the zodiac, blowing in change, often at a determined pace. They are edgy, and they comprise the four corners of the traditional chart wheel. Cardinal signs are welcome agents of a new era, but other signs can find them too unpredictable or too pushy in their desire to alter a situation.

The Fixed Signs

These indicate the middle of a season, once it is fully established and at its peak. Fixed signs can be stubborn, set in their ways, dogmatic, and immovable. Other signs can be frustrated with their inability to make room for new ideas or their need to stick to a plan and not modify it.

The Mutable Signs

These indicate the oncoming change of the season. They hear the call of a new day and can see past the limits of schedule and borders. They want to be open to adventure and see where the energy flows. Other signs find their inability to “commit” maddening; some may find their ability to see all sides of a situation flawed and perhaps even disturbing.

These are very basic overviews of each modality, meant to give you the flavor for their distinctions.

The Cardinal Grand Cross

Let’s take these modalities into the astrology of recent years by looking at the Cardinal Grand Cross of 2014. In the first half of that year, and peaking that April, a Grand Cross was in effect between Uranus in Aries, Jupiter in Cancer, Mars in Libra, and Pluto in Capricorn. Many astrologers, especially those in the evolutionary astrology field*, felt that this aspect was years in the making, beginning with Pluto’s ingress into Capricorn in 2008, an ingress that coincided with the crash of many world financial markets. This aspect amped up when Uranus entered Aries in 2010, and the two outer planets began to come into range of a square formation. When Jupiter and Mars entered the fray, so to speak, in 2014, friction and sudden events ensued.

The cardinal modality is the bringer of major action, commencing the next era. The four planets of the Cardinal Grand Cross sit in close degrees of each other, in 90-degree angles from one another, in the spaces reserved for the beginning of each new season (Aries for spring, Cancer for summer, Libra for autumn, and Capricorn for winter). When the four quarters are exerting their potential for change at the same time, the resulting energy is overwhelming.

In addition, three of the planets involved in the Cardinal Grand Cross are not the most easygoing planets in the heavens. Mars is the warrior, passion, action, and assertiveness his very modes of being. Uranus has been hailed as “the Liberator,” the Prometheus who gives humanity the spark it needs to be empowered to master its collective destiny, and therefore can shake up any stagnant situation with little if any warning. Pluto is the god of the underworld, death, transformation, and brutal honesty his tools for us. Jupiter, one of the two benefics, was a welcome piece of the equation, though still participating in the massive wave of phoenix-like energetics.

Effects of the Cardinal Grand Cross

So, what happened? Some of the major international news stories of the year included ebola becoming a global health crisis and the rise of ISIS as well as outbreaks of police violence in the United States.

In my own life I had personal breakthroughs in the realms of career and relationships and, with Pluto making a trine to my natal Sun, felt a surge of confidence in my own abilities and influence.

What happened to you? Look back on events in 2014 and then check out your natal chart to locate planets in cardinal signs falling in the degree range of 9-13.

The Mutable Grand Cross

A couple years later the Mutable Grand Cross occurred in early June of 2016. The energetics were different, however, as the modality was different. Other planetary players were involved as well. The New Moon and Venus were in Gemini, Jupiter was in Virgo, Saturn was in Sagittarius, and Neptune was in Pisces.

While all four corners of the cross were active for a much shorter period of time than the Cardinal Grand Cross, the impact was no less significant, though perhaps harder to quantify. As cardinal heralds the next era, mutable holds the space for the change. It is the liminal, the cusp, that moment between the old world and the new.

That potential energy is exciting and stressful, the incubation before the release of re/birth. It is not a time to take action, though the cloud of idealism and illusion that may seem to pervade at the time can drive some to escapist activities like substance abuse or otherwise checking out of reality. It is a time to determine what action we should take to build the ideal foundation for the next phase of our lives.

Effects of the Mutable Grand Cross

What happened in June of 2016? There was quite a bit of terrorist activity – an attack on the Istanbul Ataturk Airport that killed forty people and injured hundreds, a rampage in Kazakhstan, and two officers killed in Manganville, France – and the voters of Britain decided to leave the European Union in an upset called Brexit.

In my own life I faced the worst bout of depression I had experienced in years. I felt very disconnected from my body and from my passion for life. During that time, however, I made the decision to start seeing my psychiatrist again and embark upon recovery.

What about you? Look back on that month, then look to planets in your natal chart in mutable signs ranging from 11-15 degrees.

While this is a cursory overview of the modalities of the zodiac signs, if there are other topics of modalities or Grand Crosses that you would like to learn more about, please leave a comment, and we can look at providing more posts on these topics in the future.


This will be my last post on The Astrology Diaries. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working on this project with Kal and engaging in the wonderful community that has rallied around us. I am moving on to other projects, but I pass the reins fully to Kal, who is going to continue her incredible work with The Astrology Diaries!

*Evolutionary, or karmic, astrology, which is the branch of astrology I have studied most intently, is a tool for looking into a person’s chart to find information from family lineage and/or past lives to explore the challenges and opportunities in one’s current life.

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