The Aspects are the ever changing angular relationships of the Sun, Moon and Planets relative to each other, as perceived from the Earth’s standpoint. These angular distances are measured in degrees of Longitude along the Earth’s own orbit (the Ecliptic) or in Declination, North or South of the Earth’s Equator.
Some angular distances have been discovered to have more significance than others. This knowledge is the product of centuries, probably millennia, of painstaking observation of natural phenomena, including human nature. When two or more Planets are at a particular distance (in aspect to each other) their energies combine.
The effects of these combinations are felt on Earth, as in the rest of the solar system, affecting all life on this planet, and, first of all, our psychic life, unconscious and compelling.
The angular distances of the major aspects are not arbitrary measures, they are part of a complex Philosophical Geometry which recognized, in regular geometrical figures, such as Squares, Triangles, Hexagons etc, an archetypal whole or reality. These express themselves on Earth and in the life of human beings each in its own particular fashion, due to its specific rate of vibration and intensity. The discovery of these archetypes preceded by a long time Pythagoras’ Mathematical Philosophy, considered the forerunner of our modern exact sciences.
Reading the following descriptions of the major Aspects will make the above statement more clear.
This aspect represents the coming together of two or more Planets around the same degree of the Zodiac. It is the most powerful of all aspects. In conjunction each Planet tends to take on the colour of the one/s in its vicinity, thus markedly changing the way it expresses its own energy. Planets in conjunction also form identical aspects with other planets on the wheel, making those aspects and the Signs in which they occur more significant. The Moon is conjunct the Sun at New Moon, every month.
In Synastry (the art of Charts’ comparison) the conjunction is the most intense of all possible aspects. It shows a strong affinity between the two people. The nature of this affinity is revealed by the Planets involved in the aspect. The Conjunction often represents shared experiences and, at some level, a common destiny.
Keywords: for all Conjunctions: assimilation, union, synthesis, the effect of which depends on the individual nature of the planets.
Possible effects of Conjunctions in different Elements, in the Birth Chart and Synastry:
Conjunctions in Fire Signs stimulate passion, creativity, intuition, hope and optimism, or, negatively pride, selfishness, anger, violence, dominance, ego trips.
Conjunctions in Air Signs engender communication, learning, knowledge, diplomacy, but negatively they may be expressed as coldness, indifference, intellectualism, superficiality.
Conjunctions in Water Signs enhance feelings, emotions, empathy, imagination, but also moods, emotional dependency and fears.
Conjunctions in Earth Signs indicate practical goals and talents, sense of security and continuity, but, negatively, also opportunism, greed, cynicism.
The Semi-Sextile, 30° degrees angle
Dividing the circle by 30° angles we obtain a perfect Dodecagon, twelve sided geometrical figure, a reflection of the twelve fold Zodiac itself. This is however a minor Aspect that is effective mainly when very close to exactness or exact. It involves Planets in Signs close to each other and non complementary Elements (Fire and Earth, Earth and Air, Air and Water, Water and Fire). It seems to entail a struggle to evolve and grow out of old patterns of behaviour. Together with its complementary Aspect, the Quincunx or Inconjunct (150˚), it signifies more subtle nuances of personality when compared with the obvious and intense effect of the major Aspects. These Aspects also express more clearly personal attitudes rather than compelling external circumstances. According to which author one reads they are considered a little negative or mildly positive. The fact that they allow the Planets to make some sort of contact, I feel, it’s what matters here.
The Semi-Square, 45° degrees angle
Dividing the circle by 45° angles we obtain a perfect Octagon, eight sided geometrical figure. A very important magical figure in all occult sciences, Eight being a power number. An eminent example of this is the Eightfold Path and Eight Spokes Wheel of the Buddhist tradition.
The Moon every month enters into eight major phases in relation to the Sun, each phase 45° away from the previous one: New, Crescent, First Quarter, Gibbous, Full, Disseminating, Last Quarter and Balsamic. It is not considered a major aspect, saying to bring mainly feelings of malcontent, irritability or friction. More significant when numerous semi-squares are present, or in the absence of major aspects. Sometimes associated with wilfulness and rigid mental, emotional, physical habits. The Moon is in actual semi-square to the Sun twice a month, three and half days before and after the New Moon (Balsamic and Crescent Phases).
Keywords: need for adjustments, unnerving circumstances, running around in circle situations. Purpose and stamina its best expressions.
The Sextile, 60° degrees angle
Dividing the circle by 60° angles we obtain a perfect Hexagon, six sided geometrical figure. A very important magical figure, always symbol of harmony and balance. It is a beneficial aspect, connecting Signs of compatible Elements. It brings opportunities and motivation, easing the expression of the Planets, but also stimulating them. Creative aspect, but not the most powerful. It needs to become fully conscious.
In Charts’ comparison this is also a stimulating contact, each person nurturing the talent or offering a positive opportunity to the other.
Keywords for all Sextiles: incentives, positive drive, ease, every day opportunities, creativity, stimulus to learn, try, search.
Fire and Air Sextiles combine Intuition and Logic; creativity and communication; ideals and ideas; passion and reason.
Water and Earth Sextiles harmonize sensitivity and practicality; psychic perception and realism, nurturing the down to earth expression of imagination.
The Quintile, 72° degrees angle
Dividing the circle by 72° angles we obtain a perfect Pentagon, five sided geometrical figure. This is an ancient symbol of wholeness, including the number of the Elements Fire, Air, Earth and Water and an extra unit for the subtle Element Aether (Vedic Akasha). This is a combination of power. The aspect is therefore considered positive, indicating special talents and opportunities, but it is considered strong enough only when very close to exactness. It also seems to be connected with very intense sense of purpose and a one pointed obsession with something.
This is a relatively modern Aspect, having been introduced by Johannes Kepler, astrologer/astronomer/mathematician of the sixteenth century (born in 1571), while the other more traditional Aspects were first described in detail by Claudius Ptolemy, a Greek citizen of the Roman Empire who lived in the second century AD, and whose writing are still the base of our modern Western Astrology.
The Square, 90° angle
Dividing the circle by 90° angles we obtain a perfect Square, four sided geometrical figure. A very important magical figure, symbol of planet Earth itself and all physical manifestation, containing the order of the universe and the balance of opposites.
Planets are in Square when at right angle with each other. This is a very dynamic aspect, representing energies at cross purpose with one another, often clashing and disruptive. They happen between Planets in Signs of the same Mode, but different Element. There is here a great potential for growth, but also for difficulties and pain. The squares in our birth charts often lead us to confront our own demons.
The Moon is in square to the Sun twice a month (First and Last Quarter Phases). In Synastry this aspects show the most dynamic areas in the persons’ relationship. Often difficult, conducive to conflicts, but also extremely creative and a learning experience. Each may be able to confront his/her own demons through the other.
Keywords for all Squares: inner conflict, outer obstacles, challenges, character building crisis, make or break situations, need of self discipline.
Possible effects of Squares in different Modes, in the Birth Chart and Synastry:
Cardinal Squares: ambition, drive, initiative, or restlessness, anxiety, bossiness, greed, rivalry, inconsistency. Effect accentuated in Cardinal Grand Crosses (Grand Crosses occur when four or more Planets are in Square to each other from four different angles of the chart, forming a proper geometrical square).
Fixed Squares: desire for purpose, pose, thoughtfulness, or wilfulness, excessive control, stagnation, fear of change, intolerance. Effect accentuated in Fixed Grand Crosses.
Mutable Squares: striving toward flexibility, tolerance, responsiveness, wholeness, or scattering of energies, waste, irritability, unreliability. Effect accentuated in Mutable Grand Crosses.
The Trine, 120° angle
Dividing the circle by 120° angles we obtain an Equilateral Triangle (Trine in astro-terminology), three sided geometrical figure, symbol of perfection and mystery. Also of ascent, evolution, Grace. This is the most harmonious of all aspects, connecting Planets in Signs of the same Element. It can make our lives easier and more fulfilling, creating opportunities and attracting good fortune. On the other hand this aspect can also act as a spoiling influence, the talents and positive opportunities that we tend to take for granted. In Synastry the Trine aspect is a bit of a blessing, showing the areas of experience and traits of character that work well for the relationship.
Key words for all Trines: inborn talents, positive traits of character, easy going responses, joy and all pleasurable experiences, evolution, expansion, harmony.
Possible effects of Trines in the four different Elements, in Birth Charts and Synastry:
Fire Trines: inspiration, passion, creativity, faith, generosity, joy, romance, artistic abilities, intuitive awareness.
Air Trines: refinement, sociability, friendliness, fairness, learning, communication, cooperation, intellectual awareness.
Water Trines: empathy, sensitivity, caring, psychic powers, imagination, psychical awareness.
Earth Trines: practicality, efficiency, sense of responsibility, power for service, reliability, calm, concentration, physical awareness.
This is the complementary aspect to the semi-square (135° + 45° = 180° or half the circle). This is generally considered a minor aspect, manifesting as inconsistency, small shocks and discordance in our lives.
The Moon is i the Sun twice a month, three and half days before and after Full Moon (Gibbous, Disseminating Phases). Keywords: delays and hindrances, requiring patience.
The Quincunx or Inconjunct, 150° degrees angle
This, with the Semi-Sextile, its complementary Aspect, is considered a minor influence, effective only when very close to exactness or exact. It involves Planets in Signs of non complementary Elements (Fire and Earth, Earth and Air, Air and Water, Water and Fire). Please refer to the Semi-Sextile for meaning.
The Opposition, 180° angle
This is a powerful aspect which links Planets in opposite and complementary Signs. It indicates the potential for wholeness and awareness. But, negatively, it manifests as conflicts, antagonism, tension, living uncomfortably with one‘s own shadow, and the projection of our psychic baggage onto other people. Every month the Full Moon is opposite the Sun.
In Synastry this is one of the most important, if not the most important aspect between two people. It is often found, sometimes in abundance, in the charts of married people or blood relatives. This is potentially soul mates’ stuff, but it can also manifest as antagonism, tugs of war, negative projections.
Key words for all Oppositions: culmination of experience, becoming aware, polarity, completion, success, projections.
Possible effects of Oppositions in complementary Elements, in Birth Charts and Synastry.
Fire-Air Opposition: intuition combined or opposite to logic; passion and reason; creativity and communication; or selfishness, anger, arrogance, pride, antagonism.
Water-Earth Opposition: sensitivity combined or opposite to practicality; nurturing and serving; or fear, cynicism, insularism, intolerance, greed, co-dependency.
Important note on Dissociated Aspects: sometimes the Aspects do not fall in the combination of Elements and Modes described above, when Planets are close to the beginning or end of a Sign. This because in Western Astrology we allow a number of degrees of ’orb’ to the Aspects. These are known as Dissociated Aspects. They are more complex than other Aspects and come in many combinations, their effect depending on the nature of the Planets and the Elements and Modes involved.
Parallels of Declination
The Parallel of Declination is a different kind of Aspect, because it does not refer to the Planets’ longitudinal positions but rather to their positions in Declination (North or South of the Celestial Equator). Planets in the same degree of Declination (both North or both South) are said to be in Parallel of Declination.
The effect of the Parallel is similar to that of the Conjunction, but in most cases not as intense.
The Counter-Parallel of Declination occurs when two Planets are in the same degree of Declination, but one is North and the other South of the Celestial Equator.
The Counter-Parallel’s effect is said to be similar to an Opposition, but perhaps not so powerful.
Planets can be in Parallel or Counter-Parallel of Declination with each other, while at the same time forming other Aspects in Longitude with the same Planets and other ones.
Mutual Reception is one of those astrological terms that often baffle the beginner. It may be at first a bit difficult to understand, having to do with the Planets’ connection to the Signs rather than with actual distances or angles between Planets. To ‘notice’ these types of Aspects in a Natal Chart one needs to know the Planets’ rulership over the Signs by heart. This Aspect joins the Planets in a mysterious, subtle but very real way. Such mingling of energies can be very creative.
Definition: two Planets are in Mutual Reception to each other when one is positioned in the Sign ruled by the other and vice versa.
A few examples should make this more clear:
Venus in Gemini (Sign ruled by Mercury) is in Mutual Reception to Mercury in Taurus (Sign ruled by Venus).
The Moon in Capricorn (Sign ruled by Saturn) is in Mutual Reception to Saturn in Cancer (Sign ruled by the Moon).
Jupiter in Virgo (Sign ruled by Mercury) is in Mutual Reception to Mercury in Sagittarius (Sign ruled by Jupiter).
The Moon in Aquarius (Sign co-ruled by Uranus) is in Mutual Reception to Uranus in Cancer (Sign ruled by the Moon).
The Sun in Aries (Sign ruled by Mars) is in Mutual Reception to Mars in Leo (Sign ruled by the Sun).
Orbs of the Aspects
This is a contentious issue amongst astrological students, different astrologers adopting different Orbs of influence for the Aspects. Let’s, first of all, spell out what is intended with an Orb of influence. Any aspect is absolutely exact only when the distance between two celestial bodies or other astrological points is exactly that of the Aspect. For example: exactly 90˚, or 45˚, or 120˚. But all Aspects begin to be felt (meaning to have an effect on the individual and the environment) a while before this exact moment, and they will continue to exert an influence for a while longer after this exact moment. This ‘while’ before and after is what we call the Orb of influence.
When all planets involved in the aspect are moving in a direct motion (not retrograded motion) it is always the faster moving planet which is said to ’apply’ (getting close) to the aspect, before exactness; or to ‘separate’ from the aspect, after exactness. A good example of this is the swift moving Moon forming different angles with the Sun in her monthly orbit around the Earth. In Natal Astrology we never say, for instance, that the Sun is in Square with the Moon (unless we are talking about Progressions or Transits to the Birth Chart), but always that the Moon is in Square, Opposition or Trine to the Sun.
My own method follows very much traditional lines. But I also recommend students to be flexible when it comes to Orbs, different situations often requiring a different approach.
As a rule I use three separate sets of Orbs: one for the Luminaries (Sun and Moon), another for the Personal Planets (Mercury, Venus and Mars), and another again for the slower Planets, from Jupiter to Pluto.
Major Aspects’ Orbs
Conjunctions, Oppositions, Squares and Trines
An Orb of 8 to 10 degrees, when the Sun or the Moon are involved, seems to work well with me. I would choose the lesser Orb (8˚) mainly for Aspects that are separating.
I generally allow an Orb of 6 to 8 degrees, when one or more of the Personal Planets are involved. I would choose the lesser Orb (6˚) mainly for Aspects that are separating.
An Orb of 5 to 4 degrees, when the Aspect involves only the Slower moving Planets. I would choose the lesser Orb (4˚) mainly for Aspects that are separating, or for Applying (approaching) Aspects between the very slow moving Chiron, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.
Minor Aspects’ Orbs
Sextiles, Semi-Squares, Sesqui-Squares
An Orb of 5 to 4 degrees, when the Sun or the Moon or the Personal Planets are involved, is what I usually allow for these types of Aspects, applying or separating.
An Orb of 2 to 1 degrees, when the Slower Planets are involved.
I would choose the lesser Orb (1˚) mainly for separating Aspects.
Other Aspects’ Orbs
Semi-Sextiles, Quincunxes, Parallels/Counter-Parallels
An Orb of 1 to 2 degrees, when the Sun or the Moon or the Personal Planets are involved, is as little as I would allow for these more subtle influences, applying or separating.
An Orb of only half to one degree, when the Slower Planets are involved.
The meaning of the term ‘Translation of light’
The above rules were created, of course, only to be broken, but with much discretion. The term ‘translation of light’, sometimes found in astrological works, is an example of this. It refers to a well known phenomenon: if two Planets are within Orb of conjunction (or any other Aspect), but only one of them is within Orb of a Sextile (or any other Aspect) to a third Planet, the first Planet will also be considered in Sextile to the third, due to translation of light from one Planet to the other. This is a real effect and should be considered when ‘reading’ Aspects. The rigid Orbs adopted by computer programs should never completely replace the astrological student’s own judgment.
Applying and Separating Aspects
Tradition says that applying (forming) Aspects are more powerful and have to do with the future, while separating Aspects are losing power and belong to the past. There is an undeniable truth in this statement. However a very close separating Aspect may very well have to do with the past of the person, another life or the early life, but will also powerfully affect the present and therefore the future. My personal experience is that the closest the Orb of the Aspect, the more intense and obvious the Aspect seems to be, irrespective if applying or separating.
Configurations of Aspects
Aspects are not isolated things. While one Aspect has just been exact, another, involving the same Planet or other Planets, is forming, fresh relationships amongst the celestial bodies being formed all the time, only to dissolve soon, giving room to other relationships.
This brings us to the subject of the so called Configurations of Aspects: different Aspects connected to each other in specific patterns, which bear special significance to the students of Astrology.
Following is a list of the most common configurations, some more rare than others, all very interesting.
Stellium or Stellatium
A group of four or more planets in Conjunction to each other
This is basically a Multiple Conjunction. Naturally this configuration will give strength to the Sign in which it occurs, revealing much about the person’s psychological make up. This would be true especially if the Sun, Moon or Personal Planets are involved.
Tree or more Planets connected by Trine Aspects to each other
This is traditionally a beneficial, truly positive Aspect, indicating potential talents and opportunities. But the study of numerous Charts and dramatic events in history led many astrologers, ancient and modern alike, to believe that there is more to the Grand Trine than mere blessing or joy. This beautiful configuration can sometimes be inauspicious too, exaggerating perhaps the positive influences to the point of self inflation. Or expressing in a climax type of atmosphere that entails some danger.
A Grand Trine whose apex Planet is in Opposition to another Planet, itself forming a Sextile with the other Planets of the Grand Trine
This can be read as a Grand Trine, because it is one, with the added blessing and stimulus of the Opposition and Sextiles. The Planet which forms these extra Aspects becomes a very important indicator of the type of energy needed to make a success of the talents and opportunities indicated by the Grand Trine in the first place.
Two Grand Trine interlocked to form a ‘Star of David’
The orb of these Trines have to be very close for the Grand Sextile to form. This is a relatively rare combination, involving at least six Planets positioned at regular 60˚ distance from each other, or thereabout. This configuration looks like an Hexagon (six sided polyhedron) including three oppositions. It is a more auspicious pattern than the simple Grand Trine, because the Oppositions make it more dynamic and conducive to greater self awareness. Not an easy pattern to fathom, so many functions being energized at the same time.
Minor Grand Trine
One or more Planets Sextile two or more Planets in Trine to each other
This is a common triangular formation, made up of two Sextiles and a Trine. The Planet/s that Sextile the others could help to make the Trine more conscious and its opportunity for fulfilment more obvious to the individual.
This Configuration is sometimes more active than the somewhat static Grand Trine formation, where talents and opportunities are often taken too much for granted or even ignored.
Two or more Planets in opposition to each other and both Square another
This is a rather common pattern, but very important in shaping the life and character of the individual. The Planet/s that forms or receives the Squares from the opposing Planets is the most dynamic factor in this configuration, helping or hindering the positive resolution or outcome of the Opposition.
This combination of Aspects can be seen also as half a Grand Square (following paragraph), the degree opposite the Planet in Square, even if not occupied in this case by another Planet or Planets (as in the Grand Cross), becomes nevertheless a very sensitive point during Transits and Progressions. This because, while opposing one side of the configuration, it will also Square the other two, and thus trigger the effect of the whole T Square all at once.
Grand Square or Cross
Four or more Planets locked in Opposition or Square to each other
This is not an uncommon pattern, but certainly rarer than the T Square. It consists of two Oppositions and four Squares, connected to each other. This is often described as the most challenging and hard of all the possible configurations. Personally I’ve seen Grand Trines bring more difficulties than these notorious Grand Crosses. They are in fact often found in the Charts of very creative people, with intense, perhaps full on lives, but not more difficult than other people.
The Grand Cross’ mode of expression (Cardinal, Fixed or Mutable) is the most important factor to consider in order to predict the possible effects of this configuration.
Cardinal Grand Crosses make life more active and eventful. There is drive, perhaps strong ambition, or restlessness, anxiety, bossiness. The task is to learn to complete projects and jobs one has initiated.
Fixed Grand Crosses make life more static and predictable. There is will power, strong intent, but also the tendency to get bogged. It may prove difficult to change and adapt to new circumstances and people.
Mutable Grand Crosses make life feel more fated, with a ‘go with the flow’ attitude. Adaptability and a questing spirit the strength of this configuration, while its shortcoming are superficiality and the tendency to scatter and waste energy.
As with the T Square any transiting or progressed celestial body, by contacting only one of the points of the Grand Cross, will energize the whole lot, because each point is connected to all the others.
Two sets of Oppositions whose ends are in Trine and Sextile to each other
This Configuration, despite the Oppositions, has a general good reputation. The potential for awareness of the Oppositions is greatly helped by the inspiration, talent and opportunity signified by the Trines and Sextiles. The Sextiles here help to make the Trines more dynamic, with Planets in different but complementary Elements. While the Trines and Oppositions tend to strengthen the not so powerful Sextiles.
Two sets of Oppositions whose ends are in Semi-Square and Sesqui-Square to each other
In this case one is pressed into solve the tension implied in the two Oppositions by indirect means, within the person and without. The Semi and Sesqui Squares could cause the Oppositions to display more of their antagonistic nature, and thus perhaps hinder attempts to find the middle ground of harmony and tolerance. The added tension however, if well managed, may, in the end, produce greater results.
Yod or ‘Finger of God’
Planets in Sextile to each other, both in Quincunx (150˚ distance) to a third
This is an important formation, especially if a slow moving celestial body is at the apex of the configuration, in particular one of the Trans-Saturnians. It indicates choices to be made, often many times over similar issues (depending on the Apex Planet), or in similar areas of experience (depending on the House position of the Apex Planet and its opposite). Some astrologer define them as ‘crisis of self-awareness’.
There are many and diverse possible effects of a ‘non aspected’ planet. Not in itself a sign of weakness, the expression of the particular psychic function represented by the planet could be greatly altered by the lack of connection with the psychic principles or functions represented by other planets. In fact the more connections a planet makes (including difficult ones like squares and oppositions) the more avenues open for the planet’s expression, via the modifications brought about by the planets is connected with. So, for instance, any planet connected to Jupiter will tend to enlarge its scope, to gain greater confidence, but also, negatively, to take over other planets’ function, to expect to rule the roost. Planets connected with Saturn, on the other hand, will tend to be more cautious, realistic, constructive and practical in their expressions or, negatively, they could become overwhelmed and limited by doubts, cynicism and fears of failure. And so on, each planet contributing its own particular hue.
A useful way, in my view, to describe a ‘non aspected’ planet is that it may feel less integrated within the overall personality. This could have a double edged effect: the isolation could cut the planet off, to the point of acquiring a psychic life of its own. In the most difficult cases the isolation can become absolute and therefore pathological.
Even when not reaching pathological status the above could mean a withdrawal of the planet’s function, causing it to become extremely introverted. In other cases, instead, it could trigger over-compensation, by somehow taking over the personality, becoming too consequential and often problematic; a painful thorn in the psyche. And the two effects could even alternate, leaving the individual in a sort of psychic split.