Astrology Life + Arts

Astrology 101: Elements, placements, more

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

In a world of “Mercury is in Gatorade” tweets, there is widespread confusion about the fundamentals of astrology and how some believe it impacts daily life. 

While the study of astrology dates back to ancient cultures, applications like Co-Star and The Pattern have made once incredibly complicated concepts like birth charts and compatibility accessible to the average person. These applications are many people’s gateway to the practice and are a recommendable way to dive into astrology.

Zodiac signs 

To start off, it is important to recognize the twelve different astrological signs. Broken down into fire signs, water signs, earth signs and air signs, all of which contain three signs with different attributes.

Fire signs are notoriously some of the boldest signs, consisting of Leo, Aries and Sagittarius. As a whole, fire signs are confident, strong-headed, extroverted and ambitious. Fire signs’ strong sense of self draws people to them and makes them powerful and popular leaders. At their worst, fire signs can come off as bossy or arrogant. 

In contrast to fire signs, water signs are incredibly soft. The three signs are Cancer, Pisces and Scorpio, and all show different levels of emotional vulnerability and sensitivity. Water signs are sympathetic and kind souls who are intuitive and in tune with themselves and others. Negative qualities of water signs can be manipulation and being overly sensitive.

When it comes to air signs, many times they are the biggest astrology advocates in the room. Gemini, Aquarius and Libra are the three signs that make up the arguably most stylish element. Air signs strive to be unique in all aspects of their lives and love the finer things. Their weakness can fall in interpersonal connections and struggling to build deep bonds.

The last astrological element is earth, made up of Capricorn, Virgo and Taurus. As the name indicates, earth signs are some of the most grounded people you’ll meet. Earth signs are hardworking and are independently strong as they handle the struggles life throws at them. Earth signs can struggle with perfectionism and emotional availability, especially at early interactions. 

When considering signs, it is also notable to take into account modalities. There are three modalities, Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable, all of which contain four signs each.

The Cardinal signs are Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn, which are action-oriented and direct signs. The Fixed signs are Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius and Taurus, who are stubborn and more committed. The Mutable signs are Sagittarius, Pisces, Gemini and Virgo which are some of the adaptable and changeable signs. 


When someone asks you for your zodiac sign, your immediate reaction is probably to give them your Sun sign, which parallels what date you were born on. What some people fail to realize is you have many placements beyond your Sun sign which play different roles within your personality. 

To curve the common misconception of there being only 12 personality types, the specific sign you have in a certain placement takes the qualities of that sign and applies them to how that placement impacts your personality. 

You can find your birth chart either on an online generator or through applications like Co-Star. The chart is made by where the planets were aligned at your specific time of birth.

The main three placements within a birth chart are your Sun sign, Moon sign and rising sign, also known as your ascending sign. Your Sun sign is your basic personality and the core of who you are as a person. Your Moon sign represents who you are when you’re alone and your emotional side. Lastly, your rising sign is the first impression people see of you and how you outwardly appear.

Diving a little deeper, your Mercury placement impacts your communication style and your intellectual side. The Venus and Mars placements go hand in hand, with Venus reflecting love and relationships and Mars reflecting sex and aggression. The Saturn placement is indicative of responsibility and ambition. 

The last four planets placements that make a birth chart are Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus and Pluto. Jupiter is the placement of growth and healing within individuals. Neptune is responsible for dreams and inspiration while Uranus shows innovation. Finally, Pluto placements symbolize the underworld, creation and destruction

To reflect on a birth chart, take attributes of the zodiac sign and consider how they play into what the placement means.

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