You can spend a lifetime exploring what makes each astrological sign unique. But a great shortcut is to look simply at the external forces that exert their influence over the Zodiac. Last month, we took a look at how a sign’s ruling planet can affect personalities, and certain pairings made almost too much sense (we’re looking at you, Gemini and Mercury). But you can learn just as much about your sign by looking at its ruling element.
There are four elements: fire, earth, air, and water. Each element rules three signs (since there are 12 signs in the Zodiac), but how these elements affect a particular sign’s personality is unique to each sign. For example, Geminis and Libras are both air signs — but you won’t see a Gem channelling the air’s power in the same way a Libra would. And once you dive into the signs’ ruling elements, brace yourself for some curveballs: Scorpios and Aquarians may discover a side of themselves they’ve overlooked until now.
Of course Rams get their competitive and impulsive spirit from the all-consuming element of fire. That said, we most clearly see fire’s influence in Aries’ trailblazer tendencies. These natural-born leaders prefer to be at the front of pack, burning brightly for all to follow.
Sweet, safety-conscious Bulls like to keep all four hooves firmly on the ground — they are, after all, an earth sign. Tauruses can be dismissed as overly cautious (which even the boldest Bulls can be guilty of from time to time), but that actually makes them steadfast and strong companions. You have the earth’s influence to thank for your Taurus friend’s loyalty and level-headed advice.
It’s only natural that the Zodiac’s most mercurial sign be ruled by the lightest, most changeable element. Air signs are known to act on their whims and go where their moods take them — any Gem worth their salt knows what we mean. Geminis have been called the most versatile of all the signs, and they have their ruling element to thank for their ability to shift gears on a dime.
With quite a bit of help from Cancer’s ruling celestial body, the moon, water intensifies this sign’s signature sensitivity. Water signs are known for how much time they spend in their feelings, and as the first water sign in the Zodiac, Cancers can move quite fluidly between emotions. Crabs’ moods are like bodies of water — deep and always moving.
Think of Leos like roaring fireplaces: They’re happy to let you bask in their warmth, but they can just as easily burn you. In other words, the most generous Lion out there still has a jealous streak — and they won’t be shy about it when it comes out. You can also see the element of fire in how Leos throw their entire weight behind anything they set their minds to. That intensity has “fire” written all over it.
If they are one thing, Virgos are builders. That might mean they’re fantastic party-planners or process wizards at work, but either way, that precise, organizational nature is a telltale sign of their ruling element. Earth’s influence is also evident in Virgos’ attention to detail and love for multitasking — whether you look at the plants or animals around you, there are always more than a dozen things going on at once.
In the same way that air facilitates Geminis’ immutable energy, so too does it further lighten the easygoing nature we associate with Libras. Rather than blow through their interactions with others, Libras prefer to float from chat to chat, refreshing each conversation with their level-headed wit as they go.
They may not admit it as readily as a Cancer or a Pisces, but Scorpios feel their feelings just as much as any other water sign. Beyond that, Scorpios exhibit water’s ability to find its way into the tiniest spaces with their tendency toward the darker, unknown aspects of life. In that same vein, Scorps can be known to let the tiniest, most needling things get to them, though they need only remember that water can be expansive, too.
With their thirst for adventure to their constant curiosity, we’d believe it if Sagittarians had a fire lit underneath them at all times. Archers suffer from serious wanderlust and are happiest when they can move about without a care or concern. This can make them come off as reckless at times, but that energy is absolutely in keeping with what we know about fire.
The final earth sign of the Zodiac, Capricorns are as sturdy as they come. Goats are often cast as the taskmaster, and their responsibility and steady adherence to the rules helps them succeed in that role. But, bear in mind, as much as Caps like to be the bedrock of the group, their ambitions can reach as high as any mountain.
When Aquarians get behind a cause, they make sure everyone knows about it. And you’d be right if you guessed that air is the fuel for these humanitarian urges. Like a persuasive gust of wind, Water Bearers have a tendency to breeze into conversations with a clear purpose: to challenge the views of others, in the hopes that they can win over another ally for their cause.
Water signs are notoriously sensitive — but any Pisces will tell you that actually means that they’re in touch with their emotions. Pisces are able to express what their feeling and tap into how others may be feeling (more so than other water signs). Their symbol, the Fish, lives its entire life under water, so it makes sense that they most clearly embody the element’s depth.