It’s 70% of you, and it’s 70% of the earth. It can be fresh, salty, stale, flow as a liquid, harden into a solid, and even linger in the air. Water. Water is an element that can take on all of these various forms, and this quality reflects what it symbolizes in Astrology: our emotions, our instincts, and our sensitivities.
If you think about all of the ways we can see water in daily life – from a placid lake, to our running tap water, to a crashing waterfall – you can start to sense how emotion and sensitivity emulate this element. Pivotal is the fact that water is a reactive element. The water in the lake isn’t going to move unless something else moves it. The running tap water is (hopefully) in our control, from the gentle drip to the gushing jet flow. The water before a precipice, which gravity controls, ironically appears to move quicker and more out of control before it crashes onto itself. In any case, water responds to whatever environment it finds itself in.
And so the water signs in Astrology do the same: they epitomize emotion, sensitivity, and instinctual reaction to the perceived environment; they are constantly moved by their realities. Of course, cardinal Cancer, fixed Scorpio, and mutable Pisces can certainly move us with their sensitive features too. Cancer, for instance: this sign is the protective mother in the zodiac (and whether we like or not, we are moved by our mothers even if only through birth). Traditionally, the mother is linked to the home – and that’s just what Cancer is about: protecting and maintaining the home. The Moon, which controls the tides like clockwork, is the ruler of this water sign, and this constantly moving display of immovability and permanence in nature exemplifies Cancer’s acute awareness of balance (it is a cardinal sign, after all). Cancer partners its perspective of the environment with the past – an unsurprising perspective as the tides’ perpetual patterning of movement, the somehow changing constancy of water succinctly echoes such a view.
Fixed Scorpio is next in the water trilogy. A scorpion represents this sign, and powerful Pluto (it’s still a powerful symbol in Astrology whether you want to define it as a planet or not) is its ruler; before Pluto was discovered, Mars was Scorpio’s ruling planet, which if you recall in Fire: the element & its signs, Mars is a planet designated to represent war and assertion. No matter how you look at it, Scorpio is the all-powerful! Or so it reacts. Scorpio energy is, ironically, powerfully reactive – that means it must be affected by something, which means something else must have the power to move it. It’s a Catch-22 (or a power struggle created by Scorpio’s perspective on its outside environment): at the very least, Scorpio is effectively overpowered by its own emotional power. You never know what will move a Scorpio, for better or worse – this passionate water sign may sting you like a scorpion when you least expect it!
Pisces, the mutable water sign, finishes the earth water cycle and the Astrological archetype, as it is the last sign in the zodiac. Ruled by elusive Neptune, Pisces has a sort of otherworldly, illusory quality about it. It is reactive, but it tends to engage its surroundings in the reactive process as well. So when a swimmer dives into a pool, and we think he has gone to the left, we are baffled and amazed that he has actually gone to the right. Pisces elucidates this puzzling, shifty nature of water – and you can trust that that’s all Pisces will make clear because the point of Pisces is to blur the details so as to see the full picture: all is One. Of course we had to go through 11 categorical signs before reaching this realization. Thanks a lot Pisces. Oops! Just reacting with misdirected blame there! Sorry Pisces.