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Modes of Activity

(the quadruplicities)

In describing a personality, it's important to check the mode of activity or the manner that a person adapts to circumstances in his/her environment. These modes of activity are sometimes referred to as the quadruplicities.  Modes or quadruplicities are divided into three groups of four planets each. Each group has one sign from each of the four elements. The three groups are the cardinal signs, the fixed signs, and the mutable signs.

The cardinal group includes Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn. These signs are more inclined to embrace activity and have a quick grasp of situations and opportunities. The fixed group consists of Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius. This is a goal oriented group that succeed by unwavering resoluteness and even stubbornness. The mutable signs are Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces. These signs rely on flexibility, experiences, and memories.

Consider only the Personal Planets (The Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars) plus Jupiter and Saturn

In evaluating which type you or your subject may be, you will need to review the chart to determine the number of planets in each group. Most horoscope programs list the raw number of planets in Cardinal (Car), Fixed (Fix), and Mutable (Mut) signs. Many astrologers merely apply this raw number to evaluate the mode of activity of an individual. I prefer to consider only those planets that shape the personality and exclude the more societal trans-Saturn planets. I also tend to weight the modes in favor of the Sun and Moon. My method for evaluating the strength of each mode in a birth chart is to assign a value of 4 to the mode associated with the Sun; the Moon's mode is assigned a value of 3; Mercury, Venus, and Mars sign are assigned a value of 2 each, and Jupiter and Saturn each have a value of 1. Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are disregarded because their mode of activity is more societal affecting large groups of individuals born during a period. Using this approach, if as many as 8 points are concentrated in one mode, it is considered a preponderance in that element.

How I tally the modes in my chart

Here is my scale applied to my own chart:
Sun x 4, Aquarius, a fixed sign=4
Moon x 3, Libra, a cardinal sign=3
Mercury x 2, Aquarius, a fixed sign=2
Venus x 2, Capricorn, a cardinal sign=2
Mars x 2, Sagittarius, mutable signs=2
Jupiter x 1, Pisces, a mutable sign=1
Saturn x 1, Aries, a cardinal sign=1

Thus, I have tallied 6 in the fixed signs, 6 in the cardinal signs, and 3 in the mutable signs. While this shows some balance, I would place myself in the Cardinal/fixed category as outlined below. A few of you may end of using two of these mini readings. If you have a preponderance of one mode or a combination of two, and also an absence of another, then both the preponderence reading and the absence reading would be appropiate.

Mini Readings for Each Type

Here are delineations of the different mode of expression types, combinations of two of the mode of expression types, and the possibilities when one of the modes is mostly absent in your birth chart or the birth chart of your subject:

Cardinal Preponderance

The concept of cardinal planets is synonymous with movement or the nature of planets giving movement or action to the nature. This suggests that you are a person who is inclined toward constant activity, with efforts directed at the here and now. You are ambitious and ready to go after whatever it is you want without hesitation. You are likely to act immediately on issues that come to your attention, never sitting idly by waiting for someone else to get things started. Positively expressed, cardinal signs produce constructive initiative. Yet sometimes they produce thoughtless actions that gain little.


The combination of most planets in cardinal and fixed signs suggests that you are a person who is inclined toward constant activity, while holding rigidly to your views and convictions. Your efforts are directed at the here and now, and you are usually able to achieve whatever it is you undertake, purely from the strength of your determination. You are ambitious rather than adaptable, strong-willed and resistant to external influences, and yet always ready for the next challenge. You set values and ideals high, and attainment is a constant goal. The Cardinal influences may make you charge off in many different directions and the fixed signs will want to finish everything that you start. So, you are the type of person that is apt to overload and over-extend yourself.


The combination of most planets in cardinal and mutable signs suggests that you are a person who is inclined toward constant activity, but this activity must provide variety and change. Your efforts are directed at the here and now, but decision-making can sometimes be a problem. You are likely to act immediately on issues that come to your attention, but not without paying attention to the lessons from the past. Sometimes, you may dwell on the past a little too long. Positively expressed, cardinal signs produce constructive initiative, while the Mutable tone allows you to always be flexible. You are able to fit easily into most situations, and you produce results wherever you fit in. You are devoted rather than ambitious.

Cardinal Absence

A lack of cardinal signs suggests a lack in initiative and drive unless these attributes are shown elsewhere in the map. Not one to pursue desires actively, you sometimes look to others to satisfy them for you. You wait for opportunities rather than forcing the issue and making your own breaks.

Fixed Preponderance

The strength in fixed signs in your chart suggests that you hold to fixed or rigid ideals and goals. What you may lack in daring, you make up for in perseverance. You are usually able to achieve whatever you undertake, purely from the strength of your determination. You are extremely strong-willed and resistant to external influences. You set values and ideals over individuals and situations, often in an uncompromising manner. Your great strengths are loyalty, constancy and dependability. The down side of a fixed chart is the likelihood of too much of a "fixed" or stubborn nature. Compromise is hard for you because giving in is nearly impossible. You may be so rigid that you can't roll with the punches.


The combination of most planets in fixed and mutable signs produces certain conflicts in your nature. Although these two approaches are quite different and contradictory, you are apt to express both; a rigid and unyielding, persistent and determined fixed approach, but with the ability to adapt, change, and work around obstacles when it becomes clear that flexibility is the only way to win. Your freedom is extremely important to you because you're set in your ways.

Fixed Absence

Because your horoscope is void or nearly void in fixed signs, you may be better at starting things than finishing them. Either you become bored with something soon after beginning it, or you take on so much that you don't have the energy or focus to accomplish anything. You may have difficulty in various aspects of your life, frequently changing jobs, lovers, residences, and even your beliefs and ideas on many of life's weightier issues.

Mutable Preponderance

The preponderance of mutable signs in your horoscope denotes adaptability, and you may be so changeable that it is almost impossible to pin you down. You are apt to find yourself going off in several directions at the same time as you have great difficulty focusing your attention to one thing. You are able to fit easily into most situations. You adapt yourself to all sorts of experiences in life, and like a chameleon, you are able to adjust. Personal and sentimental, you are concerned with people rather than ideals or personal ambitions. You have an inner desire for much personal freedom, though you may find decision-making and self-directed actions difficult. You learn from the past, and in fact, you may occasionally dwell in the past rather than concentrating on the future. You're flexible and ingenious in emergencies because of your innate ability to improvise.

Mutable Absence

Your chart is nearly void of planets in the mutable mode suggesting that you may have difficulties with changes in your life. You are very cautious about trying new things and prefer to remain loyal to the status quo. Because changes threaten you, you may stay stuck in a rut. Your inflexibility isn't necessarily due to stubbornness or ego (although both may contribute in this case), but stems instead from a desire to maintain order and stability in your life.

Modes Balanced

Since the modes of activity are so well balanced in your horoscope, you have enough of the cardinal influence to get a project going; enough of the fixed influence to stay on track and get the job done; enough of the mutable mode to generally be flexible and accept change when necessary.

© Michael McClain 1996-2012.  Permission is granted for unlimited noncommercial use.  All other rights reserved.

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