TBH, when you think about ~astrology~ or zodiac signs in general, your mind probably goes straight to your Sun sign. (You know, like Scorpio, or Gemini, or Taurus, etc.) And while your Sun sign is what you look at when reading your horoscope, there’s so much more to astrology than that sign alone. Example: cardinal signs.

Unfamiliar with this astro term? Think of it as just one way of categorizing each of the signs in the zodiac by various qualities—this time by modality, specifically. There are three different modalities in astrology: cardinal, fixed, and mutable, and each of them bring out a unique set of qualities in the signs that fall into the respective categories.

Four different zodiac signs fall under the cardinal sign category: Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn, says certified astrologer Donna Page. The mutable signs are Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces. Finally, the fixed signs are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius. (Pop quiz: Which modality are you?)

And while each of the modalities and the zodiac signs that fall within them bring something special to the astrological table, cardinal signs *specifically* are known to be the initiators of the zodiac, which means they’re the ones who incite change and lead. (Kinda cool, no?)

If you’re a cardinal sign and this resonates with you, or you’re just astro-curious and want to learn more, here's everything you need to know about being a cardinal sign, according to certified astrologers Page and Sanasjia Clervoix.

So what is a cardinal sign, exactly?

If you're a zodiac buff, you already know there are different types of signs in astrology: You have your Sun sign, your Moon sign, and your rising sign, among others. But while these are planetary signs—determined by where a certain planet was in the sky when you were born—a cardinal sign is a quality sign.

Quality signs help determine how you approach things in life. And, to make matters even more interesting, quality signs line up with the four seasons. In a nutshell, that means cardinal signs start each weather season, mutable signs end every season, and fixed signs are in the middle of each season.

Each of the four cardinal Sun signs is tied to the beginning of a new season. For example, Aries starts Spring, Cancer kicks off summer, Libra begins fall, and Capricorn rings in winter, says Page. So, yeah, you're kind of a big deal in the sky and on the ground.

What are the common cardinal sign traits?

It’s a little different for each Sun sign, but as a whole, being a cardinal sign can have a big impact on your personality. Some common cardinal sign traits include:

  • If you’re a cardinal sign, you’re, first and foremost, a born leader. "They initiate things," Page says. "Their energy is about jumping in and pushing things forward." Cardinal signs are movers and shakers, she explains, so you’re not the type who sits around waiting for things to happen. You also love uniqueness and are a total trendsetter (like, you wore army pants and flip flops way before Regina George did).
  • You’re the group planner. Yup, you’re also super amazing at coming up with plans and a total pro at getting others to rally around you. Need to get people on the dance floor? Everyone looks to you to get the party started.
  • In relationships, you want to make things happen. You’ll work hard to make sure your love life is thriving. And once it is, you're always on the lookout for the next step, whether that’s moving in together, getting engaged, or popping out babies.
  • On the career front, you’re the one everyone wants on their team. You have the motivation to push things forward and, honestly, you make everyone else look good in the process. (Go, you.)
  • You're all about building on any existing momentum to take things to the next level. For example, as soon as you finish running a 5-K, you’re ready for a 10-K. And, if that gets your adrenaline pumping, you’ll totally do a half marathon and full marathon at some point. That’s just how you roll, Cardinal.
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How does each cardinal sign live their life differently?

While there are lots of shared traits between the zodiac signs that fall under the cardinal category, the modality manifests itself in each of them a little bit differently. Ahead, take a deeper dive into how being a cardinal sign impacts Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn respectively, according to Clervoix.


ICYDK, Capricorn season signals the start of the new year, which is why there’s all that "new year, new me" energy floating around, Clervoix explains. Like a true cardinal sign, Caps are also the main initiators of the zodiac, and their self-starter behaviors allow for new things to open up and build in just about everyone else's lives, too.

Basically, Capricorns possess the mold for what comes to fruition in the following months. "They’re really good at knowing what needs to be done in order to achieve any goals," Clervoix says, which is why you probably go to your Cap friend for advice when you want to do tricky things that require a solid plan, like starting your own business, taking on big projects, or entering a new phase in a relationship.

TL;DR: Capricorns are the go-getters of the zodiac, but their cardinal energy also allows them to show people what’s missing and how to achieve their goals. By bringing in a new energy with their season, they light the path for everyone as a result, says Clervoix.


Like the scales representing this sign, Libras bring balance to the zodiac. They’re the mediators, with a knack for being able to reflect and manage the energy in a room, Clervoix says. Thanks to these talents, Libras channel their cardinal energy in a more social way.

"Libras show people in their social network what to do with the energy that they have based on what’s around them," Clervox explains. "Their energy is activating for the collective, and they’re able to communicate what needs to be done."

Basically, because of their penchant for balance and maintaining the social order, Libras use their cardinal energy to guide a group and help everyone get where they need to be in order to feel harmonious.

To learn more about all things astrology, watch this video about air signs below:

preview for Everything to Know About Water Signs


"Cancer’s cardinal activation is more subconscious," Clervoix says, which makes them facilitators. "They work with the subconscious to help people see what they may not have been seeing within themselves," allowing them to initiate change and inspire others, Clervoix explains.

And ICYMI, Cancers are known for being ~emotional~, creative creatures, but this tendency also helps them uncover any emotions hiding under the surface that need to be revealed and released—which is how they use their initiating cardinal power.

Because they’re so in tune with everyone around them, Cancer's energy can remove blockages by showing others where they’ve been lying dormant, then provide guidance on how to move forward, Clervoix explains.


A fire sign, Aries channels their cardinal sign energy by being the motivators of the zodiac. Among other things, an Aries will never sit around and wait for you to tell them what to do, Clervoix says. So if they want something, they work toward it until it becomes a reality, and they don’t care if you tell them no. (Which is why sometimes Aries are also labeled as impatient and impulsive, ha.)

And because they’re so intrinsically motivated, others tend to look toward Aries as an example of what to do, and then follow suit. "They’re the cardinal sign that leads the charge and shows what needs to be done," Clervoix says. Like the other cardinal signs, they show people what’s missing in the current environment before encouraging them to make necessary changes.

"Whatever it is that’s standing in their way, they’re going to figure out a way to go through it and lean in on courage," Clervoix says, which is probably why you look to the bold Aries in your life when you need some help working through tough times or challenging goals.

Being a cardinal sign is pretty d*mn awesome (hello, you lead everyone!), but just keep in mind that, sometimes, it’s okay to just kick back and be. Sure, pushing things forward is your ~thing~, but it’s also nice to just chill out and watch the clouds roll by. After that, you can totally get back to ruling the world, as you do best.

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Korin Miller
Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more. She has a master’s degree from American University, lives by the beach, and hopes to own a teacup pig and taco truck one day.