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Zane Maser

One of the great lessons astrology teaches is tolerance: Tolerance of others, and tolerance of ourselves.
Liz Greene, astrologer

In astrology, there are a few broad factors that provide a basic overview of the birth chart. Two of these factors are the familiar four Elements (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water) and the less familiar three Qualities or basic "modes" of expression. The Qualities—Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable—are also referred to as the Modes or the Quadruplicities. Each Element is composed of three signs, and each Quality includes four signs. In their own descriptive ways, both contain the 12 signs of the zodiac circle. Each sign is thus depicted by an Element and a Quality. For instance, Aries is Cardinal Fire; Aquarius is Fixed Air; and Pisces is Mutable Water.

The three Qualities describe a profound yet broadly generalized typology of individuals. Within this range of general character, inclinations, and behavior, there is something of real, usable value in being able to identify aspects of our self, family, friends, co-workers, clients, and others. The importance of recognizing inherent "types" of people is that it promotes a greater understanding and tolerance towards others and our self as unique individuals. This can be likened to accepting that you are naturally either a round or square peg. If you are round, you can't fit yourself into a square hole with any degree of success or fulfillment—though many spend a lifetime trying! Neither can you expect your square friend to be gleeful of the ill-fitting, round hole she has gotten herself into. Whether round or square, you learn about truthfulness—which means to be authentically you, to live your life from the inside out.

The Qualities tend to show your most basic responses to the experiences of your life, as well as your broadest focus. Sometimes, one Quality will stand out in a person's chart and her or his "type" is clearly evident, but oftentimes we are some blend of these three Qualities. Due to these diverse modes of operating in life, we can begin to sense how the person with several planets in Cardinal signs will engage life differently than one with numerous planets in Fixed or Mutable signs. Conversely, when a Quality is lacking in the chart, there is a de-emphasis of the traits of that Quality. The active Cardinal signs—the sprinters of the zodiac—tend to be initiators and leaders, the ones who are independent, enthusiastic, and ambitious. The steadfast Fixed signs are concerned with the ability to stabilize, organize, and consolidate their energies through a determined, persistent, and patient effort. The versatile Mutable signs refer to those who tend to be flexible, adaptable to changing circumstances, easygoing, sympathetic, and tolerant.

Let's take a look at an overview of the three broad types. See where you recognize yourself and others. Persons who have an emphasis on the Cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn) tend to be outgoing in nature, relying strongly on self-motivation. Having a goal and purpose in life is a natural trait. They are the courageous, take-charge doers who love new beginnings and tend to step forward to make things happen. This is sometimes due to distaste for a subordinate position. With a pioneering spirit and the self-assertion needed to blaze a fresh trail, they can be the generators of momentum or the forceful catalysts that get a project or group moving. They have quick and avid minds but tend toward hasty impulse. They enjoy active challenges and meet situations directly, so they can rush onto something else, but they tend to have a low frustration level when there is no option for change. As you might imagine, those with a Cardinal emphasis have some rough edges; they may be impatient, restless, overly domineering, ruthless, opinionated, inconsiderate, self-seeking and opportunistic. As well, there is a tendency to act first and question or argue later and leave projects unfinished.

Individuals with a Fixed accent (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius) are the deliberate ones who are adept at maintaining the status quo and preserving deeply ingrained patterns or traditions and existing structures. Good planning and organization that creates an enduring continuity are their forte. They have penetrating minds, excellent memories, and are single-minded in their pursuits. They are known for their conservative stances and strong likes and dislikes. Due to remarkable stamina and reserves, they excel at efficient follow-through and slow but resolute dedication, where tangible results come to fruition. They are the methodical plodders. They tend to possess a grounded, very sensible nature that others can rely on. They can be powerful and unyielding forces to reckon with because they are not easily swayed. Their nemesis is change or deviation from a definite objective, especially if it is perceived as interference from others. Their initial reaction is to dig in their heels and resist the new course, even if it is a wiser one! Although they tend to be set in their habits and opinions, Fixed signs do not always detest change, but the impetus has to come from within. They like to control their own destinies. When the energy is used negatively, Fixed signs can be lazy, self-indulgent, willful, fearful of change and loss, possessive, slow to adapt to new circumstances, inconstant, tyrannical, egotistical, unimaginative, and dogmatically entrenched.

Those with the Mutable quality (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces) highlighted are pliable—sometimes too suggestible—and able to blend and get along well with others in cooperative ventures. In fact, confrontations are anathema to one who would rather be malleable than offensive. Due to their love of variety, they have a keen ability to adjust to and cope with diverse situations in order to keep the process moving toward a successful conclusion. They quickly learn new methods and make the most of the least. They thrive on intellectual exploration and honing their fine mental faculties, though they are also interested in people, relationships, and what motivates human nature. Theirs is the love of a broader perspective, where all sides of an issue are valid, which makes them well suited to endeavors that provide opportunities for movement, mediation, and dispersing their many ideas and inspirations through spoken and written forms, such journalism and teaching. They are skilled at synthesis and transforming their life experiences into wisdom that can assist and encourage others. Being the reluctant leader or authority figure, these inquisitive individuals enjoy supporting, advising, or laboring under the supervision of others, often with little recognition. Too much responsibility or restraint hampers their fluid spirit. The negative expression of the Mutable quality would include being overly compliant or a loss of a sense of self, unpredictable, vacillating, unreliable, irresponsible, scattered and ineffective, procrastinating, drifting, and lack of strength of will.

These three general types provide a full range of expression through which we act out our most basic urges. Human society would not function well if there were all leaders or managers or those cerebral ones who blend and serve quietly in the background. No type is thus superior to another. Each gives a rich diversity within the unity of the zodiac circle, in that all life arises—Cardinal; reaches a plateau—Fixed; and dissipates—Mutable, only to make way for the next cycle. It is through our exquisite differences and commonalities that we add our unique contribution to the evolving Consciousness of the planet. This is the magic that allows us to live fully with an understanding heart.

© Zane Maser 2005.
This article was published in Drumbeat, Journal of the White Eagle Lodge (Canada), Volume 13, Issue 1, pages 6-8 (2005).

For more information, visit The White Eagle Lodge, Canada


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