In western astrology the zodiac contains 12 signs each of which is assigned one of 4 elements (fire, earth, air, or water) and one of 3 modalities (also known as qualities) (fixed, cardinal, or mutable). There are 12 possible combinations of element and modality and each of them is uniquely assigned to a sign: for example, Taurus is fixed earth, and Sagittarius is mutable fire.

In Hindu astrology the assignment is similar, except that the three qualities are fixed, movable, and dual, corresponding respectively to western astrology's fixed, cardinal and mutable: thus for example Sagittarius is dual fire.

Graphical symbols have been assigned to each of the signs and I am also aware of symbols for the four elements. Meanwhile there are symbols in astrology for planets and for aspects.

What symbols have been used, if any, for the modalities (qualities)?

1 Answer 1


What we call "Western" astronomy has its roots is Mesopotamian astronomy, it came to us by the book of Ezekiel, which copies the Babylonian model. The association of zodiac signs with elements and modalities is a Greek addition based on the work of Empedocles.

This uses the following symbols for modalities:

Cardinal Cardinal

Fixed Fixed

Mutable Mutable

  • Excellent answer. Did Empedocles himself use these symbols for the modalities? I'm not clear whether the "this" in your second paragraph refers to his work or to work based on it. He has the triplet {causation, perception, thought}, which perhaps he put into correspondence with {cardinal, fixed, mutable}? On the elements, I am not sure how far back the correspondence {lion, ox, man, eagle} ~ {fire, earth, air, water} goes.
    – user4244
    Apr 4, 2019 at 10:44
  • It's impossible to say - surviving accounts of Greek philosophy and theorems came to us indirectly (mostly from Arabic sources). AFAIK there is no surviving work where Empedocles himself used these symbols.
    – Codosaur
    Apr 8, 2019 at 11:04

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