How the astrological sign descriptions are assigned
You're a Cancer but people always ask you if you're an Aries, because you're so headstrong. People seem amazed when you tell them you're a Cancer; they have this idea that Cancerians are docile homemakers. Why is that, and why can't Cancers also be headstrong?

The short answer is that all signs have keywords which describe the most stereotypically common traits amongst people of a certain sign. However, people with their Sun in Cancer can be, and are quite headstrong people.

The long answer is that some traits are shared by certain signs. This can seem confusing unless you understand how the traits are classified. Astrology uses two general classifications to explain how the same characteristic can be shared by different signs. These two classifications also focus on the true nature of each sign, as they are distinct from each other. One classification is known as the Elements, which divides the twelve Sun signs into four groups: Fire signs, Earth signs, Air signs and Water signs. The other classification is known as the Qualities, which divides the twelve Sun signs into three groups: Cardinal signs, Fixed signs, and Mutable signs.


Defining characteristics in terms of Elements is based on whether a person's initial (elementary) reaction to everything in life is physical, pragmatic, intellectual, or emotional. An individual's first reaction to things is an instantaneous process. Describing it as though it occurs in slow motion makes it easier for us to understand how one individual's primary reactions may differ from another's, and how much the tendency of these responses influences the way we think and the things we do.

The first element is Fire, represented by the signs Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius. For these people, the first reaction to everything is a physical one. They are the ones most likely to "shoot first and ask questions later. " Before they assess the practicality of their actions, before considering the emotional consequences, and before intellectual perceptions have a chance to impose control Fire sign people need to do something. The moment their interest is aroused, they charge into battle unarmed. In their haste to do something important details may be forgotten or disregarded. They can be unmindful of how their careless actions may hurt or infringe on the rights of others. The positive side of their animated natures is that fire signs possess great courage. They are willing to take chances and do things others would not attempt. Their accomplishments can be legendary if they learn to channel their energy constructively into worthwhile endeavors and develop the patience to complete the projects they initiate. Fire sign people are the most physically active. Aries likes to be active simply as a release of energy. Leo wants to get around in order to enjoy the attention and sociable companionship of others. Sagittarius loves the freedom that comes from being physically independent.

The second element is Earth, represented by the signs Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn. These individuals are invariably of a practical nature and seldom do anything without a purpose. Before taking action that might be a waste of time, before allowing reason and logic to present all sides of an issue (some of which may not be of direct benefit to them), and before giving in to the sentimentality of emotions, Earth signs assess everything in terms of their personal goals. They expect some tangible reward or manifestation of gratefulness on the part of others in recognition of their efforts. At times it is hard to convince Earth sign personalities that everything cannot be measured in terms of its material worth. At other times, the practical nature of the Earth sign is a valuable asset. Their eye for value lets them see the worthiness of people as well as things that may not be so readily apparent to others. They are remarkable at discovering ways to conserve resources. They instinctively recognize and enjoy the material comforts of life and don't mind expending energy in that direction. Earth signs are not particularly motivated to do anything until they find it expedient to do so. Taurus will doggedly pursue anything that fills a basic need or desire. Virgo patiently tries to secure their own needs through service and responsibility to others, though they are not above using guilt as a weapon to get what they want. Capricorn will forego temporary needs and desires. They are in it for the long haul. No matter how long it takes to get there, their goals are met when they are put in charge and can do whatever they like.

The third element is Air, represented by the signs Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius. These individuals have an intellectual orientation to everything. Before taking action that might be unnecessary, before practicality distracts their attention, and before emotionalism can blur the facts, Air sign people focus their immediate attention on the available information in order to form a complete and unbiased judgement. They get sidetracked looking for some lesson to be learned. Attracted to all forms of education and communication, they are adept at making objective decisions and impartial judgments. Caught up in their intellectual approach however, they often fail to realize that no matter how rich the world of imagination, there is no substitute for experiencing the physical and emotional realities of life. In personal relationships, they have to remember that high-mindedness is no excuse for lack of sentiment or physical action. In practical matters, Air signs must learn that what works in theory may not work in reality. They are usually the quickest to acquire communicative skills. Gemini wants to find out what is going on. Libra does not like to be alone and therefore seeks the companionship of others. Aquarius, inherently intrigued by people and society, wants to be where others are gathered.

The fourth element is Water, represented by the signs Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces. Those born in a Water sign always lead with their hearts. Before taking action that might cause anxiety, before practicality imposes a limit on sentiment, and before intellectual reason offers irrefutable evidence that their feelings are unjustified, Water sign people react to everything on an emotional level. Feelings dominate their decisions. They can retard their own growth and development by giving in to feelings of self-pity or undue sentiment. On the other hand, when they allow intelligence to curb sentimentality and sharpen intuitive faculties, they can be unerring in their judgments. Emotionalism can raise them to singular heights of inspiration and achievement and also plunge them into the depths of degradation and despair. These personalities must learn to curb possessiveness and emotional dependency. Water signs are the most sensitive. The emotional environment in which they are raised plays a major role in determining their emotional and mental health as adults. They tend to be shy and in need of constant reassurance. Their willingness to do anything is largely a matter of how they are feeling at the time. Cancer wants emotional satisfaction through home and family. Scorpio seeks emotional satisfaction through manipulation and control, and Pisces seeks emotional satisfaction on whatever physical, spiritual, or creative level they can find.


Defining characteristics in terms of Qualities is based on three basic attitudes towards life. Does a person want to get things done, as do the Cardinal sign personalities? Is a person too stubborn or fearful of changing the status quo, as are the Fixed sign personalities? Or, is a person likely to go along with the prevailing situation by adjusting to change, as are the Mutable sign personalities?

The Cardinal signs are Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn. People born in these signs are strong-willed and have a desire for accomplishment. They are the doers, the movers and shakers in the world. Also known as "executive" signs, Cardinal sign personalities like to be involved in major projects and to take charge of whatever needs to be done.

The Fixed signs are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius. These personalities are cautious and tend to be extremely stubborn. Their opinions and habits are not readily altered. They do not appreciate unexpected, sudden, or imposed changes. The tenacity of these personalities is a valuable asset in research or other areas where patience and stamina are required. Their cautious nature prevents unnecessary waste of their time, talent, and resources.

The Mutable signs are Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces. These individuals have remarkable ability to adapt to all kinds of situations, making it easy for others to live and work with them. Their adaptability makes Mutable sign people survivors. However, their willingness to constantly adjust to the influence of other people's situations can seriously inhibit the growth and development of their own talents and personalities.

The Elements and Qualities Combined

Adding the descriptive Elements and characteristic Qualities together is the method that gives a unique personal profile to each of the astrological signs.

Aries is the Cardinal-Fire sign. Aries people need to keep physically busy. They accomplish many things simply because of their restless energy. They need to learn how to make constructive use of their energetic efforts. The typical Aries urge is to take on more projects than can be done reasonably well. Though others may find it difficult to physically keep pace, they are attracted to the animation and spirit of Aries personalities.

Cancer is the Cardinal-Water sign. Cancerians get things done through the power of their emotional commitment. Not only do they aggressively work to accomplish the goals inspired by their own feelings, they also know how to appeal to the emotions of others. By making other people feel like family members, Cancerians effectively inspire others to help get projects accomplished. They have to learn how to reach an emotional balance since they tend to be overly sensitive and moody.

Libra is the Cardinal-Air sign. Librans accomplish things because they intellectually evaluate what needs to be done, and then they charm others into cooperating with them to achieve the goal. By unselfishly sharing the success of accomplishment with those who assisted, Librans continue to engender the cooperative efforts of others. They have to learn how to deal with confrontations. Fear of hurting others or avoidance of hostile situations can keep them from pursuing their goals.

Capricorn is the Cardinal-Earth sign. Capricorns are natural goal setters. They willingly handle many tasks if it helps them get what they want. Many things get accomplished simply because they happen to be part of Capricorn's overall efforts to reach higher goals. They need definitive guidelines. Rules and regulations provide structure they need for establishing the pattern of their own actions. They must learn however, that the end never justifies the means.

Taurus is the Fixed-Earth sign. Taureans stubbornly cling to their own ideas and habits, and may fail to take advantage of new ideas or situations simply because they cannot see their practical use. They have to understand that while tenacity and a stable temperament yield rewards in many endeavors, tolerance and flexibility are the best assets when it comes to personal relationships.

Leo is the Fixed-Fire sign. Leos stubbornly cling to their pride. They resent the indignity of altering their opinions or behavior in front of or at the request of others. Their stubborn nature makes it hard for them to accept that there is no virtue in giving what they want to give rather than what may really be wanted or needed, and no reward in misguided loyalty to those who are not worthy of it.

Scorpio is the Fixed-Water sign. Scorpios stubbornly cling to emotional attachments. They rarely forget or forgive emotional rejection. They have to learn that jealousy and possessiveness are self-defeating. Rechanneling negative feelings and experiences into constructive activities benefits others as well as themselves. No other sign has the emotional strength of Scorpio.

Aquarius is the Fixed-Air sign. Aquarians are born looking for ideologies to which they can stubbornly cling. They refuse to budge whenever an issue involves what they believe to be a "matter of principle." As in the case of the Aquarian Abraham Lincoln, society greatly benefits when these principles happen to be noble ones.

Gemini is the Mutable-Air sign. Using their communicative skills, Geminis adapt to any situation they encounter. However, they must learn to speak with candor instead of simply repeating what others want to hear. Clever-tongued Geminis develop the amazing ability to obscure the facts in their stimulating and imaginative chatter.

Virgo is the Mutable-Earth sign. Virgos adapt to different people and situations by finding ways to make themselves useful. To hide their vulnerability, they focus attention on what they're doing rather than who they are. To deflect attention away from themselves, Virgos will also focus on other people by praising their talents and virtues, or just as likely, by listing their faulty behavior or personal defects.

Sagittarius is the Mutable-Fire sign. Restless energy and the need for personal independence keeps Sagittarians moving in many directions. They become experts at adapting to whatever culture and clime happens to fit their current interest. Always ready to travel for business or pleasure, and sometimes because of an overwhelming urge to escape (either figuratively or literally), they are all too willing to bypass the confinements of responsibility and work.

Pisces is the Mutable-Water sign. Pisceans adapt emotionally to the influence of their environment. Often painfully shy, they are adept at imitating the mannerisms of other people as a way of hiding their own personality. Pisceans can too easily become victims of their considerable ability to identify with the personality and problems of other people, since it severely restricts the development of their own personality traits and talents.

Next, we will go over what Signs are in a natal chart.

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Chart analysis provided by Stephanie, Copyright 2002-2008.