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Written in the stars: The transformative power of fixed zodiac signs

The transformative power of fixed signs

Credit: Josh Rangel

Explore the fixed signs of Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius and discover why 2021 is perfect for long-term planning and embracing change

The cardinal signs — Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn — have dealt with a number of hefty planetary cycles in the past twelve months. Mars stationed retrograde in Aries in September 2020, three eclipses zinged along the Cancer-Capricorn axis, Saturn joined Pluto in Capricorn, and Jupiter amplified the whole affair with his signature King of the Gods growth hormone.

In December 2020 this focus on cardinal signs will dissipate as Saturn ticks into Aquarius on 17 December, followed by Jupiter on 20 December. It may comfort you to know, 2021 will feel different. Before we delve into how and why, let’s dip into the maths and myth of the fixed signs. Why are signs in the same modality so interlinked?

On modality

Though some astrology apps delineate your birth chart, known as a nativity, into tables, the zodiac — and your astrology chart — is first and foremost a wheel. The chart wheel simplifies the belt of constellations that can be seen in space. Astrologers count twelve constellations in the zodiac, and an astrology chart represents them in equal wedges, though realistically they sprawl that belt of constellations in different sizes.

Venus loves her sensual pleasures: gourmand chocolate, Egyptian cotton, essential oils

If you divide these 12 wedges by four, you’ll arrive at four quadrants of three signs, each in their own modality. Of course, the zodiac represents not only a spatial wheel, but also a wheel of time; of one year on earth. A journey through the signs from Aries to Pisces takes you from equinox to solstice to equinox to solstice, renewing once more at zero degrees of Aries; the first flush of spring or the first day of autumn, depending on your hemisphere. The three modalities in astrology are cardinal, fixed and mutable.

Cardinal, fixed or mutable signs

The cardinal signs of the zodiac are Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn. Ancient Greeks named these signs tropikos — the word used to describe a turning, as well as the summer and winter solstices.

If the cardinal signs initiate a season, the fixed signs sustain it. They are: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius. Here, you find yourself in the unbroken days of summer, or a persistent winter, or autumn, or spring.

Finally, the mutable signs help us morph from one season to the next — the dance of umbrella-sunglasses-scarf in a single day, or hour. Appropriately, the Greeks called these signs “double-bodied”, a reference to the double or hybrid constellations of Gemini (the twins), Virgo (the maiden — depicted historically with bird wings), Sagittarius (half man, half centaur) and Pisces (two fish).

If you draw lines through the wheel between each sign of the same modality, you will form a cross of vertical and horizontal axes. Signs of the same modality relate to each other by these 90- or 180-degree angles, known as a square or an opposition respectively. Thus, the sign of Aquarius opposes Leo and both those signs form squares to Scorpio and Taurus, who are in turn opposed to each other.

Squares and oppositions are considered “hard aspects” in astrology. They chafe, bruise and confront, but they also animate and mobilise. If you consider the angular houses of a natal chart (the 1st, 4th, 7th, and 10th — which will be of the same modality), you find the cornerstones of life: self, other, career and home. When a planet enters one angular house it will ruffle all four angular houses in your chart. Signs in each modality group will form squares and oppositions to each other around the chart wheel.

The original zodiac

The oldest records of Babylonian and Sumerian “star catalogues” can be traced to 1200 BCE. Originally, their zodiac comprised seventeen to eighteen constellations, but this number whittled down to the same twelve in use today — with one distinction. The ancient Sumerians began their zodiac with Guanna, the “heavenly bull” of Taurus. From here, the wheel proceeded as we know it: to Mashtaba (Twins/Gemini), Allul (Pincers/Cancer), and so on, ending with Kumal (Field Dweller/Aries) in the twelfth house.

Astrologers in the Middle Bronze Age assigned the cardinal points of the zodiac to signs we now conceive as fixed: the bull, the lion, the cutter (Scorpio), and the Great One (Aquarius), which came a bit later.

Similarly, the 22-letter Phoenician alphabet — one of the earliest known alphabets, from which Hebrew and Arabic derived — began with the letter ālep, which meant “ox” (a domesticated bull.) Today, the ox still begins the Hebrew and Arabic alphabets, by way of ālef (א) and alif (ا) respectively.

The fixed signs also housed the four “royal stars” before precession, the subtle wobble in Earth’s rotation, gradually nudged them one sign over. Ancient Persians viewed these stars as the guardians of the sky: Aldebaran, Watcher of the East (eye of the bull); Regulus, Watcher of the North (heart of the lion); Antares, Watcher of the West (heart of the scorpion); and Formalhaut, Watcher of the South, located at the feet of the water-bearer.

Of the four angles, astrologers pay special attention to the ascendant (self) and midheaven (career)

Like all signs in a single modality, Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius intersect through myth, history and geometry, but they’re also preciously distinct.


Taurus is the sign of fixed earth. A person with prominent Taurus may feel rooted in the sensory world; especially that which you can taste, touch and smell. Many Taurus people feel at ease in nature; among trees, or in the garden, the squelch of soil beneath their nails. Others prefer material comforts; glamping over camping. The link here is Venus, who rules Taurus. In nature, we see Venus in the connectivity of trees and mycelial networks. Yet Venus loves her sensual pleasures too: gourmand chocolate, Egyptian cotton, essential oils. Character-wise, it’s hard to rush a Taurus. They may be hardworking and steadfast — reliable as the earth underfoot — but they’ll set their own pace. And once they set or make up their mind, good luck trying to shift them. All fixed signs share this quality of steadiness (or stubbornness, depending on your point of view) but arguably, fixed Earth is the hardest to sway.


If Taurus is the generosity of a tree trunk or a sumptuous bolt of velvet, Leo is the bonfire. A hearth that gathers friends together, that warms a room, or a beach, from the centre. The Sun rules Leo, making this sign a natural creatrix. They may dance, they may act, they may write, they may sing. They may consider themselves uncreative but supply the most original ideas at the staff meeting. Because the Sun burns in Leo, some people misperceive their confidence as a need to occupy the centre of attention. They don’t need this, but it’s hard to feel vital if they’re not seen, if only by one other: a parent, a lover, a boss, a friend. And like the Sun, the warmth of their gaze, or their laugh, can pull you out of the dark. It can fill a room. The challenge for a Leo is to shine even if no one sees.


The fixed water of Scorpio dwells in subterranean cisterns (wells), in standing table water. Many associate Scorpio with “the mysteries”, the occult, or any hidden realm. They are historians, detectives, archaeologists, figuratively or otherwise. They probe to the heart of matters — even if it’s gruesome. Taboo subject areas do not tend to trigger Scorpio people. Not that Scorpios seek taboo, but often they feel an unflinching curiosity for what dwells behind shadow. Indeed, “unflinching” may be an appropriate description for those born under this sign, ruled by Mars, the warrior planet. Like Leo and Taurus, Scorpio possesses natural endurance — but this one tunnels into the deep.


Fixed air can sound counterintuitive because the element of air suggests movement itself; the wingbeats of speech and ideas. Air in this form suggests “thought sustained”, which leads to science and invention. All the fixed signs have a stubborn streak, but with Aquarius, their tenacity takes root in the mind. Aquarian people are always right, whether they are or not — though often, they are. Saturn rules Aquarius, and Aquarius shares Saturn’s rigour, as well as his discipline and rationality. While Taurus natives may need to “see it to believe it”, Aquarius needs, instead, to understand. Indeed, they possess immense capacity for understanding, quietly parsing entire systems and algorithms, even as they talk to you. This natural objectivity can make Aquarians appear distant or unapproachable, but there’s no malice here, simply an effort to comprehend.

Fixed signs and you

To find out which signs are dominant for you, look first to the signs of your luminaries, which reflect your centre and sense of purpose (the Sun), as well as your needs and instincts (the Moon).

If you know your birth time, you can also determine your rising sign, which identifies you, filters the world around you, and sets the houses. Have you ever noticed that the night sky looks different from different parts of the globe? Your placement on earth determines your vantage point — just as your dining table will appear different depending on where in the room you stand, even if the table itself doesn’t change. That’s what makes your birth chart so personal; it reflects the precise moment in time, and coordinates in space, when you were born.

“Long-term planning” may be a good phrase for the intellectual and community-oriented sign of Aquarius

Of the four angles, astrologers pay special attention to the ascendant (which represents the self) and midheaven (career). If you have Taurus, Leo, Scorpio or Aquarius rising, fixed signs will be dominant for you, because they will occupy your angular houses.

Your planets and the fixed signs

If your Sun or Moon fall in a fixed sign, you may also possess a lot of fixed energy. The same can be said if you have the faster moving planets, like Mercury, Venus, Mars, and even Jupiter in a fixed sign, especially if they form a cluster or stellium.

The farther the planet from the Sun, the more its sign placement reflects a whole generation. Saturn will spend two and a half in a sign, for instance, while Uranus spends seven. Neptune will spend fourteen years, while Pluto lingers between fourteen and thirty years in one sign. If your only fixed planet is Pluto in Scorpio, this modality may not be that dominant for you.

Regardless of your planet placements, you will have all four fixed signs somewhere in your chart. They will correspond to four houses and the associated areas of your life. To use the example of an Aries rising person: Uranus’ instalment in Taurus from 2018 to 2026 will subvert habits or expectations when it comes to how you earn income (second house, where you’d have Taurus), but it may also impact your creativity or children (fifth house, where you’d have Leo), other people’s money, including loans and shared resources (eighth house, where you’d have Scorpio), and friendships (eleventh house, where you’d have Aquarius).

The fixed sign emphasis in January, February and March 2021

The emphasis on fixed signs will feel marked during the first months of 2021, as the ingress of Saturn and Jupiter into Aquarius will be matched by Mars in Taurus from 7 January — 4 March (after six months — and a retrograde — in Aries.) Not only that, fleet-footed Mercury will spend more than two months in Aquarius from 8 January to 16 March, due to a retrograde that begins at the end of January. Like Mercury, Venus hugs the path of the Sun, and she too will move through Aquarius from 2-26 February.

While transits of these swift-moving planets are often overlooked, the addition of Mars, Venus and retrograde Mercury will certainly announce the shift to fixed signs. In the first days of February, for example, seven planets will dwell in fixed signs (excluding the Moon, who will, as it happens, enter Scorpio on 3 February), leaving only Pluto and Neptune in signs of other modalities. For our purposes, I’ll focus on Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus, as well as Mars, who may serve as an electric cattle prod or bring about a flashpoint.

Aquarius and long-term planning

While the activity in cardinal signs over the past few years, and 2020 in particular, have emphasised speed and “outbreaks” — an appropriate word for cardinal signs — the shift to fixity will prioritise endurance and long-term planning. Indeed, “long-term planning” may be a good phrase for the intellectual and community-oriented sign of Aquarius.

All the fixed signs have a stubborn streak, but with Aquarius, their tenacity takes root in the mind.

Saturn represents the bureaucrat, the judge, the hourglass. His transits can stir feelings of confinement and restriction, fear and insecurity. But he also teaches discipline and patience. Jupiter transits, on the other hand, bring prosperity over austerity and a glow of unsquashable optimism.

Jupiter’s ability to help in 2020 was hamstrung by his placement in Capricorn, the sign of his fall. Jupiter in Aquarius may lack the breezy positivity of a Jupiter in Sagittarius (which in 2019 helped buffer the mounting Saturn-Pluto conjunction of January 2020), but he’ll cushion Saturn’s sharp edges and help you find hope, even levity, in innovative thinking. While Jupiter is the visionary, Saturn can be, also, the architect: they complement each other when they play nicely. After the ridges of late Capricorn, Aquarius will offer both planets more air.

Uranus the disruptor

If Jupiter is the visionary and Saturn the architect, Uranus plays the disruptor. Uranus has been in Taurus since 2018, so you may have started to feel disturbances in the Taurus area of your chart. The fixed signs are less given to change than the other signs. Uranus favours unpredictability, so his passage through Taurus until 2026 may nudge you outside of your comfort zone — maybe far outside. Saturn is the last planet you can see with the naked eye, and Uranus sits on the other side of this boundary. His confabulation with Saturn in 2021 will bring plot twists; conventions or authority may be unseated. There will be an uncomfortable transition, no doubt, but some habits we’re meant to slough off.

Mars the instigator

I mentioned that Mars can serve as a cattle prod. He’s known to bring fire to a situation — literal or otherwise. Throughout 2021, Mars will pass through Taurus, Leo and Scorpio; acting to symbolically “strike a match” in each of these signs. Constructively, Mars may inspire you to take action or spur you to put a plan in motion. Less constructively, Mars can trigger aggression, impatience, and brash action.

To understand how these transits will manifest in your personal life, look at which houses host the fixed signs in your chart and where your planets fall.

For instance, if you have planets in Leo, or you’re a Leo rising, Saturn in Aquarius might mean you feel stifled by partnerships, or perhaps insecure regarding a relationship, but he can also teach you responsibility and how to truly show up for a partner. Meanwhile, Uranus in Taurus may see you defy rules and expectations in your career. If you’ve settled into a field that feels limiting or inauthentic, Uranus can challenge you to pivot, or at least devote more hours to that which animates you or advances you toward satisfaction, meaning or intrigue.

When Saturn and Uranus gridlock in February, June and December 2021, you may doubt yourself, or fear that a change of direction is impractical. If so, return to the strategic potential of Saturn in Aquarius and remember that you have time for a graceful rerouting (despite the triennial flashes from Mars). Dare to dream widely (Jupiter), then identify the first step (Saturn). An appropriate quote for 2021 comes from French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery who wrote, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Go through your own chart and pay attention to which houses contain the fixed signs, and whether your planets are in any of the fixed signs. While Uranus remains in Taurus until 2026, your habits and comforts may be disturbed and you may be unsettled. You may feel at the centre of a cosmic game of Blind Man’s Bluff — blindfolded and spun around. Happily, Jupiter and Saturn will help orient you in the right direction — Saturn with his avuncular pragmatism, Jupiter with his insistent self-belief — giving you five years to find your feet.

Mars in the fixed signs

Mars in Taurus | 7 January — 4 March, 2021
Mars in Leo | 11 June — 30 July, 2021
Mars in Scorpio | 31 October — 13 December, 2021


Eliza Robertson

Eliza is the author of three books, which have been shortlisted for various prizes and selected as a New York Times Editors’ Choice. She began formalising her astro-education at the Faculty of Astrological Studies in 2016, while finishing her PhD. Since then, she has also completed Chris Brennan’s Hellenistic Astrology course. She practices astrology under the banner Kosmic Tonic, a collaboration with her friends Jasmine Richardson and Kestrel Neathawk. Together they host a YouTube channel and podcast, as well as offer client consultations. Eliza lives in Montreal.