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The Cardinal Signs:

Inspiring Initiators

Ahead of their time or foolhardy and irresponsible? Cardinal signs you know and love can be both of these things, but one thing’s for sure: without the cardinal personalities of the world, everything would be very much duller and not a great deal would get done. But what exactly is a cardinal sign and how do these high energy zodiac signs contribute to the zodiac overall?

What are the Cardinal Signs in Astrology?

The four cardinal signs in astrology are Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn. Aries is a cardinal fire sign, Cancer is a cardinal water sign, Libra is a cardinal air sign and Capricorn is a cardinal earth sign.

You may have noticed that each of these cardinal signs belongs to a different astrological element. This is critical to understanding how these signs work and how they differ from each other and from other modes.

What Does Cardinal Mean in Astrology?

The word cardinal has its roots in the Latin cardo meaning hinge or pivot. In astrology, it’s the cardinal signs which are the pivot points for change and initiation. Without the input of cardinal energy, nothing happens, so the cardinal zodiac signs are known for their ability to stir things up and to get things going.

The cardinal signs are all about initiation and action. They start things. Whether they finish them or not is another matter entirely, but they set things in motion. With cardinal signs, it’s about the new, the fresh, the untried and untested. These signs take risks, try new ideas, and pioneer new ways of thinking and doing. This cardinal nature means that these signs are the zodiac’s go-getters and self-starters. Often highly ambitious, they don’t take no for an answer. Strong leaders and typically quite confident personalities, the cardinal signs are a force to be reckoned with.

Spontaneous and impulsive, the cardinal signs don’t like to wait, for anything or anyone. ‘Do it now’ is their motto in life and by and large this serves them well. Sure, they sometimes take a risk too far and they often fail spectacularly – but at least they try, and everyone loves a trier. Fearless, bold and brave, it’s the cardinal signs who lead the charge in any metaphorical life battles, and they lead by example, upfront and center.

The downside to the cardinal sign personality is that these signs can be domineering and bossy, and sometimes arrogant. There’s a fine line between assertiveness and aggression, and cardinal signs sometimes don’t have a clue where that line is. Their passionate nature can sometimes overstep the mark, but nobody could fault their intentions – they’re sometimes just that little bit too fast, too innovative, too much for the rest of us.

What is the Significance of the Cardinal Signs in Spiritual Astrology?

In esoteric or spiritual astrology, each of the astrological qualities – cardinal, fixed and mutable – plays a role in the journey of the soul through the zodiac, starting from birth and ending in death and the return of the soul to divinity. We can think of the zodiac signs in turn as signifying a journey, during which we all mature, learn and grow.

The cardinal signs, Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn mark the start of earth’s four seasons. In the northern hemisphere, Aries represents the spring equinox, with Cancer making the summer solstice, Libra the fall equinox and Capricorn the winter solstice. If we think of the zodiac journey being split into four stages, in line with the seasons, it’s a cardinal sign which initiates or begins each stage of the journey.

In spiritual astrology, then, the cardinal signs are the initiators and the creators in life. They start a new direction, take on a new challenge, face new circumstances and create new opportunities. Before each cardinal sign comes into operation, a mutable sign has dissolved and transformed the end pieces of the previous journey stage, clearing the way for the fresh new beginning the cardinal signs alone can create.

How is Each of the Cardinal Signs Different?

Each cardinal sign operates slightly differently, because they each belong to a different astrological element.

Aries is a cardinal fire sign and the very first sign of the zodiac, so the very first stage on the soul’s journey. Eager to get started, Aries expresses the need to initiate in its purest form – this sign’s energy is highly impulsive, forever at the forefront of what is new, different, exciting and bold. Impatience is a real problem for Aries, however, and this cardinal sign struggles with completing what it has begun.

Cancer, however, is a cardinal water sign. Here, the need to initiate is manifested via the emotions. Cancer is an open book emotionally, with their moods on full display for all to see. In this way, Cancer people create beginnings and changes by sheer force of emotional will. Not as foolhardy as Aries, Cancer energy is more about creating a long-term plan which works.

It’s a different story for Libra, the cardinal air sign. Libra expresses the need to initiate via interactions with ideas, ideals and people. Very charming and diplomatic, Libra is one of the most persuasive signs in the zodiac. Rather than getting something started themselves, sometimes this sign shows its cardinal nature by persuading others to do something instead. After all, Libra does have a reputation for avoiding hard work!

The last cardinal sign is the earth cardinal sign, Capricorn. Initiation for a Capricorn is in a highly hands-on, practical, material sense. Enormously ambitious, cardinal energy for Capricorn is all about moving forwards towards success. One of the things Capricorn wants more than anything else is respect, so this sign initiates ideas, changes and concepts which will bring it the status it deserves.

Are Cardinal Signs Compatible with Mutable Signs?

It’s vital to remember that astrological compatibility involves the whole birth chart of both parties – it’s impossible to determine compatibility simply through Sun signs, so this question is really too broad to answer.

On a very basic level, however, yes, cardinal signs and mutable signs can get along well enough. Sometimes the cardinal partner will be frustrated with the mutable partner’s indecision, however, which they see as hesitancy. The mutable partner may also be horrified at the cardinal sign’s single-mindedness. But they each bring the other something they lack – the cardinal sign helps the mutable sign to find focus and direction, while the mutable sign helps the cardinal sign to be more flexible.

Are Cardinal Signs Compatible with Fixed Signs?

As above, remember that astrological compatibility is highly complex.

Overall though, cardinal signs and fixed signs sometimes struggle to get along, probably because the cardinal partner constantly wants to change things up while the fixed partner wants to stay, well, fixed. Nonetheless, this combination does have advantages, especially when the fixed sign can calm and slow down the cardinal sign, or when the cardinal partner can help the fixed partner get out of a self-imposed rut.

Can You Have Too Much Cardinal Quality in Your Astrology Chart?

Your birth chart will have a combination of qualities represented in it, but yes, it is possible to have a bit too much cardinal, or indeed not quite enough cardinal. A very simple way to test this is to note your Sun sign, Ascendant Sign, Moon sign and the sign containing your ruling planet. Are any of those cardinal? If they are, you’re probably good. If they aren’t, you may have a lack of cardinal quality in your natal chart, although an astrologer would need to look at the total birth chart in order to calculate this properly.

If you are lacking in cardinal energy in your birth chart, you may just allow life to happen to you instead of taking charge of your own future. To counter this, it’s a good idea to work on your assertiveness. You can choose what happens to you; you’re not a victim of circumstance. You always have options.

On the other hand, if you have lots of cardinal energy in your chart, you’re probably kick-ass boss but someone that people are a bit scared of, to be honest. Try to slow down a little bit and be more understanding of those around you.

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