Meanings of the Zodiac Signs

Nearly everyone has heard of the signs of the zodiac, mostly through "sun-sign astrology" columns, where the signs are taken as major determinants of the personality. In fact, in natal astrology, the use of signs is much more modest. The zodiac signs are considered to modify or color the energies of the major planets (not just the Sun), bringing out certain traits of a planet, inhibiting others, but without wholly changing that planetary energy. Astrologers also view the zodiac as the archetype of "cycles" and "cyclic time", the signs being phases or levels of development within the entire cycle.

Links to the Zodiac Sign Profiles:

Aries - Taurus - Gemini - Cancer - Leo - Virgo
Libra - Scorpio - Sagittarius - Capricorn -Aquarius - Pisces

Each profile contains: the common symbol (also known as a "glyph") for the sign, the planetary ruler(s) of the sign; the various Sub-cycles that make up its core meaning; the main personality themes related to this energy; keywords and phrases of related topics.

General Info on the Zodiac

What is the Zodiac?
What are Zodiac Signs?
Sub-cycle Symbolism

What is the Zodiac?

If you could observe the motion of the Sun against the stars for an entire year, it would appear to trace out a large circle in the sky that we call the "ecliptic". This circle also happens to be the plane of the Earth's orbit around the Sun. The zodiac is a thin band of the sky on either side of the ecliptic. The word "zodiac" literally means "circle of life", since most of the zodiac signs are animals or people.

What are Zodiac Signs?

The zodiac is divided into 12 signs, each 30 degrees long. The cycle of zodiac signs starts with Aries, which begins at the spot on the ecliptic where the Sun is on the first day of spring. These 30 degree sections of the sky are actually blocks of space, not time.

Zodiac signs are often confused in the popular mind with "sun signs". When a person says, "I'm an Aries!", what they're really saying is they were born at a time of the year when the Sun is in the zodiac sign of Aries. Because our calendar is designed to mimic the motions of the Sun around the zodiac, the Sun is in Aries at nearly the same time period each year (roughly March 20th or 21st to April 19th or 20th). Hence the 12 sun signs are like months of a calendar based on the zodiac. They represent time, not space.

The motions of the other planets through the zodiac signs can be quite irregular, compared to the Sun's motion. On average, they range from the fast moving Moon (which spends about 2-1/2 days in each sign) to the slow poke Pluto (roughly 12 to 24 years in each sign).

Planetary Rulers of the Signs

Each sign is associated with a planet that is called the "ruler" of that sign. Usually, there is some similarity in meaning or energy between the sign and its ruler. A planet is supposed to express its energy in the most natural, straight-forward fashion through the sign it rules.

Some signs (Scorpio, Aquarius, Pisces) have two rulers, an old, traditional ruler and a modern one. Since the discovery of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto the last few centuries, these planets have replaced the traditional rulers. And with the introduction of Chiron and the major asteroids into astrology, yet-another-round of arguments about rulers is breaking out. Perhaps the entire notion of "rulership" should be taken with a grain of salt.

Sub-Cycle Symbolism

Although a certain amount of mythology is associated with the meanings of each sign, most of these meanings are actually derived by looking at the zodiac as a collection of overlapping cycles within cycles.

For instance, the cycle of the 4 elements (fire, earth, air, water) describes 4 different personality types. This cycle is repeated 3 times around the zodiac.

The 3 modalities (cardinal, fixed, mutable) establish 3 distinct styles of expressing energy; this cycle is repeated 4 times.

Each sign has a polarity (positive/negative, or in the older texts, masculine/feminine) that alternates with each sign.

Further, the zodiac is divided into thirds (primordial, individual, universal) and halves (subjective, objective), which suggests a life-cycle of growing emotional and social maturation.

The interweaving of all these sub-cycles then creates the overall profile of the zodiac sign.


Ruler: Mars / Element: Fire / Mode: Cardinal
Pole: Positive / Third: Primordial / Half: Subjective

Unbridled expression of your inner nature; activity that is self-motivated, unaffected by others; new beginnings, the start of new cycles, birth; enthusiasm and vitality.

Aggressive, willful, powerful, assertive; enthusiastic about whatever interests you at the moment, focused in short bursts, unlikely to sustain interest in the long term; ego expression; adventurious, pioneering; Warrior-type energy; impatient with having to cooperate with others, works best alone or in leadership role; unconcerned with approval or acceptance; lacks persistance and stamina; honest and forthright, "what you see is what you get", not given to airs or pretenses; the first expression (or incarnation ) of spirit within a new cycle on the physical plane.


Ruler: Venus / Element: Earth / Mode: Fixed
Pole: Negative / Third: Primordial / Half: Subjective

Grounding, bringing down to earth; constancy, steadiness, fixedness; spirit becoming embodied, entering matter, taking on a form; a vessel or container for spiritual forces.

Earthy, grounded, in touch with the body; sensual, pleasure seeking; stubborn, fixed, stands their ground; focuses and concentrates energy, gives it concrete expression, practical, provides stamina and persistance; slow, steady, methodical; fertile, productive; unreflective, content to simply be; spirit becoming involved with the material world.


Ruler: Mercury / Element: Air / Mode: Mutable
Pole: Positive / Third: Primordial / Half: Subjective

Curiousity, cleverness, skill, communication; making connections with surroundings, trying to "figure things out"; the first display of intelligence by embodied spirit.

Talkative ("a Gemini is born with a telephone in each hand!"), communicative, sociable; loves to interact with others (at least on a superficial level); unemotional, impersonal, ruled by "rationality"; requires great mental stimulation, curious to a fault; playful, the Trickster, the Devil's Advocate; changable, inconstant, attention easily drifts to something new, seeks novelty.


Ruler: Moon / Element: Water / Mode: Cardinal
Pole: Negative / Third: Primordial / Half: Subjective

Nurturing, support, belonging, emotional bonds; your roots, source, ground of your being; the unconscious, feelings, emotion; the Great Mother, Universal Womb; spirit's first emotional attachments to the world.

Mothering, emotional and physical nurturance; experiences and imprinting during infancy and childhood; family, ancestors, heritage, relationships to the past; belonging, feeling "at home"; maternal love, caring; feeling supported by the world, that your needs are provided for; insecurities and fears if your needs haven't been fulfilled; possessiveness, "twisted love", inability to nurture others are negative expressions.


Ruler: Sun / Element: Fire / Mode: Fixed
Pole: Positive / Third: Individual / Half: Subjective

Spirit entering the realm of the individual person; ego development, setting yourself apart from the rest of the world, becoming your own person; self-expression, being true to your inner nature, acting from the heart; dawning awareness of self in relation to others.

Ego, self-centered, arrogant; fixed, stubborn, persistant; artistic or creative expression as a vehicle for revealing "who I am"; needs to be a center of attention, requires acknowledgment and approval, likes to be noticed and appreciated ("ego-strokes"); personal integrity, true to self, honorable, trustworthy; kingly, self-assured, confident.


Ruler: Mercury / Element: Earth / Mode: Mutable
Pole: Negative / Third: Individual / Half: Subjective

Embodiment of the individual in the world; problems of adjustment dealing with the world and others; perfection of your approach to life, development of mundane skills; ability to change to adapt to life better.

Service, helping, self-effacing; perfectionist, always seeking to improve, efficiency; practical, functional, interested in crafts and projects; true to self in a simple, unassuming manner; reacts to defeats and setbacks by pulling back and altering approach, lacks confidence in the face of opposition; lives up to duties and responsiblities; interested in maintaining the body as a fit vehicle; diet, exercise, herbs, etc.; aware of conflicts with others, of the give and take required by life.


Ruler: Venus / Element: Air / Mode: Cardinal
Pole: Positive / Third: Individual / Half: Objective

Spirit as individual entering into relationship with others; partnership, one-to-one relationships, meeting others as an equal, interdependency; encountering repressed parts of yourself through others (via projection); going beyond ego boundaries; peace, harmony, balance; social awareness.

Partners, marriage; learning how to get along peacably with others, treating others as equals; "I vs. You", conflict, enemies; art, beauty, harmonious surroundings; distressed by stressful, inharmonious interactions; intimacy; people in counseling professions.


Ruler: Pluto / Element: Water / Mode: Fixed
Pole: Negative / Third: Individual / Half: Objective

Transformation, change, ego-death, rebirth, transcendence; intense emotional involvement with the process of personal growth; movement from individual certainties to the "mysteries of life"; spirit breaking through the limitations of individual ego.

Intense, passionate, brooding, magnetic; stubborn, unyielding, driven by emotions; stands up for self, usually covertly, manipulates power; understands deeper layers of the psyche beyond the ego, unable to communicate this well leading to misunderstandings; intrigued by the "dark side" of life; the underground, people whose job involves going beneath surface appearances; sexuality, especially the transformative power of the orgasm; self-mastery, breaking free of illusory limitations, the Hero.


Ruler: Jupiter / Element: Fire / Mode: Mutable
Pole: Positive / Third: Universal / Half: Objective

Spirit moving beyond the realm of the individual into the world at large; becoming a member of a wider society; experiences that lead to consciousness expansion, being receptive to new points of view, wisdom, enlightenment; using your talents for the benefit of the greater whole.

Freedom loving, idealist, unfettered by "small thinking"; inspiration; religion, philosophy, the law; awareness of your connections to the rest of the world; can be distant from others, afraid to give up freedom, reluctant to be tied down; on the other hand, aware of the value of the social contract; enthusiastic, gregarious, generous; loves abstract, theoretical ideas, sees the big picture, ignores the details; in love with an ideal; foreign travel, liberating experiences.


Ruler: Saturn / Element: Earth / Mode: Cardinal
Pole: Negative / Third: Universal / Half: Objective

Spirit's attempt to bring about the perfect society, to create heaven on earth; making practical, efficient connections with others on the physical plane; ambitious, feels pride in accomplishments; concern with truth, reality, "hard facts"; relationship to authority.

Serious, determined, disciplined, focused; needs to play more; fathering, disciplining love; authority figures; seeks certainties in life, wants things "cast in concrete"; the Businessman, concerned with the practical relationships to support yourself within society; not interested in "blue sky" ideas, needs to bring theory into concrete reality; "knowing the rules and playing the game"; making a niche in the world.


Ruler: Uranus / Element: Air / Mode: Fixed
Pole: Positive / Third: Universal / Half: Objective

Spirit's attempt to create ideal relationships and organizations, based on freedom and cooperation between individuals; free-thinking, unorthodox, not shackled by outdated ideology; the perfection of society.

Even though ideas are often far-sighted, they can be held and expressed in rigid, dogmatic fashion (this is a fixed sign, afterall!); "everyone should be free to be just like me!"; idealistic, utopian; derives sense of identity from groups and their goals, tends to dominate them; impersonal thinking, detached from emotional considerations; produces "humanitarian without compassion"; friendships based on common goal.


Ruler: Neptune / Element: Water / Mode: Mutable
Pole: Negative / Third: Universal / Half: Objective

Surrender to the universe, to higher goals; ego sacrifice; compassion and empathy, selfless work; seeing the unity of all things; the ends of cycles, forming "seeds" for the next cycle of growth; spirit as individual dissolving back into pure spirit.

Mysticism, escape into the One; sees the unity, fails to make "normal" distinctions, often weak ego; victim, martyr, servant; tends to escapism, fantasy, drugs (especially alcohol), religion; very receptive, sensitive, even psychic; co-dependency, care-taking; withdrawn from the world; release from the world.