Terms to know for this article:
The Three Qualities: Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable
The Polarities: Yin and Yang
An axis in astrology refers to two signs positioned 180 degrees across from one another. These are also known as opposition or opposite signs.
“Opposite” is a bit of a misnomer because it implies “different”. It refers to the signs being opposite on the zodiac wheel, however when it comes to symbolism and personality traits, opposition signs are very similar. In fact, they’re almost like twin signs. On the surface, people ruled by opposition signs can seem similar, but look deeper and you’ll see that their motivations are different, or vice versa. A good way to think of opposition signs is that they are two sides of the same coin, or opposite opinions on the same theme.
Symbolically, opposition signs will always have the same polarity and the same quality. ONLY opposition signs will share both of these traits.
The axes relate to the way we make decisions and the motivations behind them.
The Six Axes
Aries-Libra, Cardinal Yang
Taurus-Scorpio, Fixed Yin
Gemini-Sagittarius, Mutable Yang
Cancer-Capricorn, Cardinal Yin
Leo-Aquarius, Fixed Yang
Virgo-Pisces, Mutable Yin
The first six signs of the zodiac, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, and Virgo tend to be on the more internal, personalized side of their respective axes, while the last six signs, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces tend to be on the universal, “bigger picture” side of their axes.
Signs in the first three axes (Aries-Libra, Taurus-Scorpio, and Gemini-Sagittarius) behave very similarly to their partner sign, but have different motivations behind their actions.
The Axis of Identity: Individuality vs. Companionship
This is perhaps the most polarized axis. Aries is driven, decisive, and authentic, while Libra is fickle, indecisive, and duplicitous. On the other hand Libra is diplomatic, tactful, and contemplative whereas Aries is egocentric, rude, and hasty. In spite of this, both signs tend to manifest as a personality type that is likable, optimistic, popular, and extroverted. They also both enjoy the spotlight, however Aries prefers to be there through their own accomplishments, while Libra prefers to be there for being well-liked and admired. They both will take paths in life to lead them to distinction, however Aries following the principle of choice, freedom, and determination believing both that anyone can accomplish anything they put their mind to, but also that the world is everyone for themselves. Libra will follow the principle of fairness and seeks to create a level playing field and a system that benefits as many people as humanly possible. Aries is the poster child for survival of the fittest, while Libra is built to promote equal opportunity, liberty and justice for all. Both follow the theme of identity, either by distinguishing themselves from or comparing themselves to others. Libra’s weaknesses are Aries’ strengths and vice versa. Aries is the least capable sign in the zodiac of admitting their faults and seeing things from other perspectives, whereas Libra is the least capable of independence, decision making, or asserting themselves. Other themes of this axis are change, opinions, and improvement.
The Axis of Depth: Sensual vs. Intuitive
Taurus vs. Scorpio
On the outside both are calm, collected, mysterious, and captivating. There is something strangely attractive about both regardless of their physical appearance. They might not speak much, but when they do everyone listens. Taurus is a tree whose roots grow broad and deep, many times its size. Scorpio is a still lake that is far deeper and darker than it appears. Taurus is highly grounded, practical, and in tune to the environment. Tauruses are very aware of their surroundings and are more sensitive to light, sound, scent, beauty, taste, temperature, and texture than any other sign. Pretty is beautiful, tasty is delicious, hot is scorching, and pleasant is ecstatic. Of all the signs they are the most deeply connected to their body. Scorpio is as connected to the emotional world as Taurus is to the physical world. Their instincts are strong, their hunches are accurate, they have a knack for knowing things they ought not know. They have a deep understanding of their own emotions and have a talent for connecting their own experience to others. When you speak to a Scorpio you feel as if they really “get” you, or can even read your mind. Anything unknown, taboo, or forbidden is fascinating to Scorpios, not because it’s wrong, but because they are well aware that things are often forbidden because they are misunderstood. It is also notable that of all the signs, Scorpio has the most trouble trusting their physical surroundings, and Taurus has the most trouble accepting anything intangible or metaphorical. Other themes of this axis are perception, sensitivity, and certainty.
The Axis of Knowledge: Learning vs. Experiencing
Gemini vs. Sagittarius
Always on the move, and perpetually curious, both signs are built for exploration and discovery. Both signs come across as eccentrics, they are interesting, captivating, and impossible to pin down. Gemini seeks to know everything whereas Sagittarius strives to understand everything. Traveling is more important to this axis than any of the others, because it allows them to widen their perspective. Gemini tends to do this by seeking out the opinions of others and getting to know the widest variety of people while Sagittarius does this by exploring and witnessing the widest variety of experiences. Gemini wants to know all the perspectives, while Sagittarius wants to see all the world. Gemini is interested in facts, new discoveries, and logical information. They are the eternal students, always open to new ideas, and learn by interaction with others they perceive as experts. Sagittarius is more subjective, wishing to experience everything themselves and form their own opinions, which they will sometimes preach as fact. Both signs have a bad reputation for being exciting, but unreliable friends and partners, however the reasons are different. Gemini is always excited by new people, and will enthusiastically discuss and listen intently to everything a person has to offer, until they feel they have learned everything they can about a person, and then they move along to the next. Sagittarius will share all their knowledge and experiences, and is perfectly happy to go on new adventures with others, but once the adventure runs out, they’ve told all their stories, and taught all they care to teach it’s time to move on and make new memories in new places with new people. Other themes of this axis are exploration, diversity, and adaptation.
Signs in the last three axes (Cancer-Capricorn, Leo-Aquarius, and Virgo-Pisces) behave differently from their partner signs, but have the same motivations behind their actions.
The Axis of Security: Emotional vs. Practical
Cancer vs. Capricorn
Cancer is nurturing, expressive, compassionate, intuitive, and friendly with a tendency towards timidity. Capricorn is difficult, aloof, cold, closed-minded, and arrogant in a surefooted, dynamic package. On the other hand Cancer is unpredictable, moody, over-sensitive, and passive-aggressive, in contrast to reliable, level-headed, confident, and assertive Capricorn. Ruled by the theme of security, both determined to never be helpless or caught off guard, however this is achieved in opposite ways. Cancer achieves security by making friends in high places, and gaining proficiency in a wide variety of environments and situations, while Capricorn strategically builds their environment, and chooses their companions to suit their strengths. You can compare these signs to the two stereotypical parenting styles. The loving, nurturing, but sometimes overbearing parent, and the protective, responsible, but somewhat distant parent. These signs can appear very opposite in personality, but both are driven by the need for security. Cancer uses its talent for empathy to build a diverse network of loyal, stable confidants to accommodate their naturally fluctuating personality, whereas Capricorn is interested in more literal security. They strive to be prepared from all angles, setting long term goals with clear checkpoints to ensure success, with several metaphorical safety nets in place. In the modern world this is generally, but not always, expressed through their career. Both signs are savvy, observant, and prepared for whatever life throws at them. They tend to stay out of the spotlight preferring to work behind the scenes, and letting their accomplishments speak for themselves, however they will fill whichever role is necessary depending on the situation, including the role of leader. Other themes of this axis include guidance, preparation, and strategy.
The Axis of Progress: Leadership vs. Innovation
Leo vs. Aquarius
Leo is bold, caring, expressive, loyal, and just, while Aquarius is shady, distant, apathetic, deceptive, and underhanded. Alternatively, Leo is stubborn, absolutist, prejudiced, closed-minded, and melodramatic, while Aquarius is cooperative, unbiased, universalist, open-minded, and practical. Both signs treat life as if it’s a story, but this manifests very differently. Leo behaves as the protagonist of their story. They see the effects of the status quo on the people they care about and are determined to progress in order to fix (or preserve) this. They have the ability to inspire others to act within their sphere of influence, see the importance in every action no matter how small, and build from there. They go about life as though it’s a jigsaw puzzle, finding all of the pieces and putting them in the right place to eventually create one big picture. Aquarius on the other hand isn’t the protagonist of their story, but the author. They start with a general idea of their desired outcome and deduce the details as they go. A Leo slays the dragon with a magic sword, but an Aquarius wrote that there’s sword capable of killing said dragon in the first place. They want an outside role, so that they can make the most logical decision for the world as a whole, even if that means sacrificing a few, believing that attachment will skew their decision making. Leo wants to save everyone they come across, and will spend their life working towards that goal, while Aquarius is all about fighting for the greater good even if that means that sacrifices must be made. Regardless of their methods, both signs tend to have good intentions. Leo wants to inspire and lead others to change the world, Aquarius wants to change the world in order to help the people. On the negative side this is also the explanation for Leo’s hero complex, and Aquarius’ god complex. Other themes for this axis are ambition, unity, and heroism.
The Axis of Refinement: Perfection vs. Idealism
Virgo Vs. Pisces
Virgo is reliable, sober, responsible, persistent, and attentive while Pisces is flighty, hedonistic, careless, lazy, and negligent. Virgo is also considered rigid, judgmental, neurotic, harsh, and conservative whereas Pisces is intuitive, compassionate, polite, gentle, and imaginative. While it is expressed in different ways, both signs on this axis strive for excellence and to serve others. They are the most self-sacrificing and understated signs of the zodiac. Virgo focuses on the more practical areas, and you can count on the fruits of their labor to be of the highest quality. They also are incredibly consistent, so much so that those who know them don’t even realize how good they have it until it’s gone. This is where they get the reputation of being critical of themselves and others. They know if they’re a wreck, they can’t help others as efficiently, so they try their best to stay in top condition, but then will get fed up when others take advantage of this, believing that the people most deserving of their help should be trying to help themselves. They are truly the inventors of tough love. Pisces also seek perfection, but on a more universal scale. They have strong moral compasses and inherently know the way that the world SHOULD be. Pisces who hold onto their idealism, and vision for the future often go on to make the world a better place, however those who become disillusioned with the world tend to collapse under the weight of the world’s problems which they have taken on as though they were their own. While Virgo tends to take on the responsibility of the tangible problems of others (and the world as a whole), Pisces takes on the emotional problems. They are strongly connected to everyone, and cannot bear the suffering of others and will go out of their way to help someone in need, whether or not it’s within their ability. Other themes of this axis are sacrifice, charity, and selflessness.