Ingredients of Astrology – 

Signs and Planets

© 2001 by Melanie Lichtinger




Signs and their Modalities

Signs and their Elements



What is a Horoscope?

A horoscope or birth chart is a 2-dimensional map of our Solar system at the time of birth (or at the start of an event or project), as seen from the Earth, exactly: from the vantage point of the place of birth / event. Time and place are therefore crucial.

It shows the eight known planets of our solar system, including the Sun (not technically a planet, but a fixed star) and Moon (not technically a planet either but our Earth’s satellite) - Sun and Moon are called Luminaries -, Mercury, Venus, Mars, (in my program also Lilith) Jupiter, Saturn, (in my program also Chiron), Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, as well as the North Node of the Moon, in relation to the Zodiac belt.

The Signs of the Zodiac

From Earth perspective, the planets (‘planets’ always include Sun and Moon) travel along the belt of the 12 Zodiac signs.

In order, these are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. Each Zodiac sign has 30°, each degree 30’. Until the Gregorian calendar was adapted in the 16th century in England (and in the 18th c. in North America), the new year began when the Sun entered Aries at the Spring Equinox and ended with Pisces. An astrological year still begins with 0° Aries and ends with 29° 59’ Pisces. Each sign has a glyph associated with which you find below.

There are different ways to categorize the signs. No one sign is ‘superior’, more 'evolved', or more desirable than any other. All of them are necessary and complementary parts of the whole. Here is a systematic overview for you:






initiating,                 leadership       


consolidating,  organization


alternating, adaptation


Aries ^            


Gemini `                    



Cancer a        

Leo   b               

Virgo c              


Libra d             


Sagittarius f  


Capricorn g   

Aquarius h      

Pisces i

Cardinal Signs: 

energetic, ambitious, involved, active, never bored/boring, project oriented, meeting challenges, managing crises, ‘doers’
Lack of Cardinal: observing, being without doing, passive, or: substituting with external challenges

Fixed Signs:

strong-willed, focused on goals and values, powerful, inflexible, resisting change, refuse to be pushed / pressured, slow starters but ‘powerhouses’ once determined
Lack of Fixed: difficulty developing structure and stability, following through and pursuing their goals, or: obsessed with organizing

Mutable Signs:

versatile, changeable, flexible, indecisive where to go, easily influenced, going with the flow, adapting to people and circumstances
Lack of Mutable: unwilling to compromise, insisting that other people accommodate them, difficulty making changes, forcing change in the outside world.

The signs are also associated with the four elements / temperaments:


Fire:  Aries ^ Leo    b     Sagittarius f

enthusiastic, energetic, passionate, impulsive, spontaneous, inspirational, intense, stimulating, creative, self-motivated, confident, idealistic, optimistic, subjective, dominating, activity oriented…

Lack of Fire: apathetic, passive, pessimistic, unmotivated, lacking energy, depressed…


Earth:  Capricorn g Taurus_ Virgo c

sensual, practical, materialistic, down-to-earth, realistic, security oriented, productive, methodical, thorough, orderly, patient, persistent, enduring, dependable, stable, attuned to physical body, comfort and pleasures…

Lack of Earth: ungrounded, impractical, disorganized, unstable, unproductive…


Air:  Libra d Aquarius h Gemini `

intellectual, conceptualizing, objective, detached, indecisive, cooperative, socially interacting, questioning, synthesizing, unrealistic, communicative, sharing thoughts, living in the mind/brain, seeking knowledge and understanding…

Lack of Air: subjective, misunderstood, learning through feedback and experience…


Water:  Cancer a   Scorpio e Pisces i

sensitive, artistic, moody, empathic, responsive, vulnerable, dependent, emotionally intense, sentimental, flowing, nurturing, protective, imaginative, intuitive, psychic, lost in feelings, compassionate…

Lack of Water: unresponsive, out of touch, impersonal, emotional vacuum, closed…

These are just a few general key words for each element. The individual astrological signs have certain characteristics that differentiate them. Cancer is a different water expression than Scorpio, as both emphasize the world of feelings in different facets.

Usually, the signs of the Zodiac are just associated with the position the Sun was in when a person was born (‘Sun sign astrology’). But there is much more to astrology (See: article ‘Why astrology?’). The statement, “I’m a Leo” is incorrect, or at least incomplete. It is true that the Sun in this person’s birth chart is in Leo if he/she is born between July 22 and August 22, but we don’t know which signs the other planets are in, unless an exact horoscope is cast. The Moon could be for example in Aries, Mercury in Virgo, Venus in Cancer etc., which ‘spices’ the personality with other additional ‘flavors’.

The Planets

The planets are the celestial bodies in our Solar system which are constantly moving, according to their specific orbit and speed, and are from our Earth perspective always seen as projected in front of the Zodiac belt with its 12 signs.

Moon takes 27 - 28 days for its journey through the Zodiac (and 29 days from New Moon to New Moon)

The Sun                1 year from Earth perspective (is 1 month in each Zodiac sign)

Mercury           88 days from Sun perspective (1 year from Earth perspective, due to vicinity to the Sun)

Venus               225 days (1 year from Earth perspective, due to vicinity to the Sun)

Mars                    2 years (average 2 months in each Zodiac sign)

Lilith                 9 years (9 months in each Zodiac sign)

Jupiter            12 years (1 year in each Zodiac sign)

Lunar Nodes   18 1/2 years - always moving retrograde (18 months in each Zodiac sign)

Saturn               29 years (average 29 months = 2 1/2 years in each Zodiac sign)

Chiron             50 years (average 4 - 5 years in each Zodiac sign)

Uranus              84 years (average 7 years in each Zodiac sign)

Neptune          165 years (average 13 1/2 years in each Zodiac sign)

Pluto               248 years (average 20 years in each Zodiac sign, less since the mid-20th century, due to orbit)

These speeds are average. Due to the elliptical orbit of most planets, they seem to move at times slower (creating retrograde effects from Earth perspective), and to 'speed up' at others.

When the planet Mars is moving through the Zodiac area of the sky called ‘Aquarius’ , astrologers would refer to it as Mars at for example 14° 32’ (14 degrees, 32 minutes) Aquarius. This means, Mars is at about the center of Aquarius (each sign being attributed 30°).

In astrological symbolism, each planet stands for a certain function in human experience. Humanity throughout time and in all cultures has been experiencing these essential functions. In antiquity, mythological deities were the symbolic carriers of these experiences. The famous Swiss Psychologist C.G. Jung referred to them as

These functions and archetypes are:


The Self, our core, vitality, life-force (chi in Eastern cultures), individualism, self expression, creativity; ‘the father' archetype



Our sense of belonging, roots, emotional life, habits, home, security, nurturing, womb; the ‘child/mother' archetype



Our way of communication, information processing, thoughts and words, mental interest, manual skills and craftiness; the ‘messenger' archetype



Love, (especially feminine) beauty, harmony, peace, pleasure, art, values, money, attraction and connection, erotic, intimacy; the ‘beloved'  or ‘muse' archetype



Action, assertion, drives, passion, sexuality, energy, aggression, going for what you want, fight, conflict, competitiveness; the 'warrior' archetype




Wild and free instinctual, uncontrollable feminine power, the bitch/witch, powerful female sexuality, vamp and spider woman, 'running with the wolves'; the 'wild woman archetype'



Expansion, optimization, growth (physical material or spiritual), trust, belief, philosophy, bigger picture, luck, gifts, wealth, generosity, excess, inflation; the ‘mentor' archetype



Contraction, concentration, tests, teachings, fear, control, discipline, authorities, planning, boundaries, protection, experience ‘in the bones', maturity, age; the ‘sage' or ‘teacher' archetype




Our vulnerability and awkwardness leading us to higher wisdom, our own initiation into healing and understanding, turning us into a wise teacher and 'elder'; the 'wounded healer archetype'



Revolution, breakthrough, freedom, invention, intuition, avant-garde, eccentricity, surprises, the unexpected, newness, liberation, rebellion; the ‘awakener' archetype



Spirituality, mysticism, compassion, ideals, dreams, infinity and eternity, heaven, oneness, dissolving and merging, surrender and forgiveness, the void, confusion, addictions; the ‘transcendence' archetype



Transformation, destruction and reconstruction, purging, cosmic change, regeneration, death and rebirth, fate, evolutionary power; the ‘shadow' or ‘magician' archetype


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