Of the 3 water signs, one is Cardinal, one is Fixed and one is Mutable. When a zodiac sign is Cardinal, that means it sends its elemental energy in a directed way. If it’s Fixed, then it consolidates and contains its elemental energy while the Mutable signs disperse and diffuse their elemental energy. What does this mean for the 3 water signs, Cancer (Cardinal), Scorpio (Fixed) and Pisces (Mutable)? Looking at physical symbols for the water signs is an excellent way to understand them and their relationship to each other.
Cancer, The Mountain Spring
Cancer, the Cardinal Water sign is the first to appear in the zodiacal order. It represents directed water. This means moving water, symbolized by a mountain spring, born out of the earth, the freshest of waters and the Water sign with the most drive. Cancer’s Cardinality carries fresh water to ecosystems that need it, nurturing and growing life.
Cancer combines Water’s fluidity with Cardinal motivation, drive and leadership. Cancer is the water sign with energy and direction. Cancer has focus in a way the other two do not. Think of a busy mother (this is, after all, the mother archetype) involved in her energetic nesting activity or think of a fierce mama bear, defending her cubs. Think of a mother duck, lining up her chicks and leading them to water for the first time. This sign has force, motivation and purpose to it.
Scorpio, The Lake
Scorpio is the second Water sign and it’s Fixed. Imagine that Cancer’s mountain spring has flowed downhill and gathered momentum until it’s become a rushing river. Now imagine all the force of that river dammed into a lake and you have Scorpio. Another way to think of Scorpio is to look at a glass of water. It looks placid and still but actually, the contained liquid is exerting a tremendous amount of force on all sides of the glass. If there’s a crack in the glass anywhere, the water will find it and press through. That’s Scorpio.
Scorpio combines the fluidity of Water with Fixed strength, solidity and continuity. Scorpio has amazing staying power, sometimes obsessively so—in fact, Scorpio has the capacity to use obsession and compulsion to its own advantage. And Scorpio’s tremendous sensitivity, though often experienced as a problem, is actually an advantage because it is the root of Scorpio’s ability to find weaknesses in the enemy or in the problem that can be used to overcome it.
Pisces, The Vast Ocean
All waters eventually lead to the sea. Pisces, the Mutable Water sign, combines fluid Water with flexible, ever-changing Mutability. Mutable Water is best symbolized by the vast oceans, filled with eddies, currents and tides. The ocean is ever-changing and always moving, but never moving in a given direction. In the ocean, change is the constant. And so it is with Pisces.
Pisces is the only water sign that doesn’t need a shell to protect itself. Cancer hides in its Crab shell while Scorpio hides behind a cool exterior (occasionally coming out to sting with its Scorpion tail), but Pisces can defend itself while remaining soft. This is because Pisces is adept at shapeshifting and mimicry. How can you attack something when you don’t know what it is? Pisces meets confrontation indirectly (as do all the water signs) and preserves itself by slipperiness and evasion. Pisces is the ultimate moving target.
Which of these do you resonate with most? Are you an energetic, bubbling spring, flowing downhill, gathering force as you go? Or are you a still-waters-run-deep lake, sensitive to all that touches your surface? Or are you the huge, ever-shifting ocean—permeable and connected to everything, remaining soft and open to experience?