Mutable sign

In astrology, the mutable signs (also called common signs or bicorporal or double-bodied signs) are a subgroup of the zodiac. They are Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces. The mutable signs straddle two temperate zone seasons, encompassing an inherent duality in its symbolism.

In the tropical zodiac, mutable signs coincide with the times of change in the seasons. They are associated with change and versatility. Individuals born under the four mutable quality signs are thought to be adaptable, impressionable, sharp, sympathetic, communicative, resourceful and restless, with a gift for seeing both sides of a situation at the same time and an immense desire for knowledge, variety and new ideas. They supposedly adapt very well to new situations, possess much flexibility, seldom have any particular agenda and are perfectly happy to fill in an assigned role. However, they are also said to be inconsistent, changeable, nervous, indecisive and irresponsible, with a tendency to get wrapped up in tiny particulars. There is also a certain duality associated with all the mutable quality signs.

Features of the signs

The mutable or bicorporal signs signify a duality of life experiences, and those individuals who are influenced by these signs are likely to have two main experiences, two main vocations, or two main loves that will strongly affect them for the totality of their existence. Some features of the mutable signs include:

  • Gemini : - between the spring and summer seasons. As an air sign of the mutable quality, Gemini individuals are said to have the best communication skills of all the signs of the Zodiac. Many astrologers also believe Gemini to be the sign in which the duality associated with the mutable quality is most clearly defined. Gemini, because its symbol is that of the twins, indicates an individual who quite often has a duality of purpose, feeling that he or she has two separate destinies that must be pursued before feeling fulfilled as a human being.
  • Virgo : - between the summer and autumn seasons. A mutable sign of the element of Earth, Virgo is strongly associated with precision, detail, research and the preservation of health. The mutable metaphor may seem to fall short when applied to Virgo, which does not appear to be a sign with much duality at all. This may be because it is viewed from a literal sense as "The Virgin" in the sense of having not actually had sexual intercourse, rather than in the sense of a Maiden; some one who is ready for sexual intercourse, adult romantic relationships, marriage etc. (relationships beyond the self being a core concern of the following sign Libra). Virgo is considered mutable because of their flexibility in filling for other people, their reliability, and ability to work and think in the spur of moment. Also, there is a distinct lack of stubbornness in virgo in comparison to the other earth signs. They are happy and can adapt well into most positions, without necessarily wanting leadership. As such Virgo represents an archetype of transition, and its bicorporal forms are based more on age/initiation rather than across species as per Sagittarius, or in two bodies or paths as with Pisces and Gemini; The Child/Adult; Innocence/Experience etc. Virgos are said to rule the earth best, with the most grace, as compared with the other mutable signs

  • Sagittarius : - between the autumn and winter seasons. A fiery, mutable, quality sign, Sagittarius is most often associated with travel and learning. Sagittarius is half-man, half-animal, although this definition tended to overlap into the areas of human signs vs. bestial signs. Nevertheless, Sagittarius' lofty and intellectual nature, deriving from its ruler, Jupiter, does coexist with a Zeus-like moral short-sightedness when it comes to fidelity in relationships. Due to its mutable nature, Sagittarius is thought to be the most adaptive and sympathetic of the Fire signs.
  • Pisces : - between the winter and spring seasons. Pisces individuals are said to express their mutable duality in an emotional manner characteristic of water signs, fluctuating from one emotional extreme to the other. The symbol of Pisces is that of two fish swimming in opposite currents to one another. Quite often individuals who are strongly influenced by Pisces feel a deep frustration in their lives because they are being pulled in two opposing directions at the same time. Some individuals will try to stick with one path and others will try to maintain both paths, which is often unrealistic. Others try to maintain one path, but periodically veer onto the other path.

Historical definitions

In a Byzantine scholium to Chapter 2 of the Introduction to astrology by fourth-century Hellenistic astrologer Paulus Alexandrinus, the following clear definition can be found:

"A double-bodied zoidion [sign] is said to be between two seasons, such as Gemini between spring and summer, ending the spring and beginning the summer [...] That is to say, double-bodied as being between the two bodies of spring and summer."

900 years later, when medieval Italian Guido Bonatti wrote his Liber Astronomiae, in the final years of the thirteenth century, the definition remained the same and his is quite elegant:

"The moveable (cardinal) signs are so-called [...] because at the time when the Sun enters them the disposition of the air is changed [...] The common signs are so-called because when the Sun enters any of these signs it makes the time common, neither truly fixed nor truly movable, but it partakes of both, fixed and moveable. Whence part of that time it is of one [nature] and part of the other [...] when [the Sun] leaves Leo and enters Virgo, then the season is changed, and is made partly summer and partly autumnal."

However, by the time William Lilly wrote Christian Astrology, in 1647, a subtle change had taken place. Lilly writes, describing Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces:

"The Signs [...] are divided into moveable, fixed and common, [...] [Common] Signs are constituted between moveable and fixed, and retain a property of nature, partaking both with the preceding and consequent Sign [...] They are called bi-corporeal or double bodied, because they represent two bodies: as Gemini two twins, Pisces two fishes."

The seasonal connection had become more tenuous, although it was doubtless still understood.

Lilly goes on to say that mutable signs are inherently "unstable, and of no resolution, and mutable, perverted, wavering [...] inconstant." This is a rather dramatic overstatement, but Lilly is trying to create the most striking comparisons he can between the three classes of sign.

Modern astrology does tend to regard mutable signs as more unstable and wavering, less strong-willed, than either cardinal or fixed signs, but also more adaptable and dealing more easily with change.


See also

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