Aspects: Relational Geometry
So far we have learned about the signs, houses, planets, elements and modalities, which are all individual concepts. But how do they ALL relate? How do these diverse moving parts get along? Remembering that Astrology is based upon cosmic forces in constant movement, figuring out how those movements are coordinated, if they are smooth or not, is very helpful. This is where determining the aspects come into play.
Aspects are determined mathematically and reflect the specific angular distances planets are from each other within the Zodiac. The relationships created between planets or between planets and house cusps, based upon their position within the 360 degrees of the Zodiac circle, are what are commonly referred to in Astrology as ASPECTS. Aspects fall into one of three categories: harmonious (meaning they are flowing and easy), inharmonious (meaning they are challenging and difficult) or variable (meaning their interpretation varies based on the combination of planets involved). For the sake of simplicity we will discuss mostly the major aspects; although, it is important to know, there are also minor aspects that Astrologers frequently use. The only minor aspect we will discuss is the inconjunct or quincunx, a surprisingly powerful minor aspect.
The MAJOR Astrological Aspects
The exact degree these aspects occur will be given with their definition but the energies of influence are felt with degrees +/- on either side. The degrees of influence on either side of the exact degree are called an ORB. Astrologers vary with how much leeway they give Orbs, it is an area of unresolved debate, but the commonly agreed upon number is 6-8 for major Aspects, +/- 3 or 4 degrees on either side of exactitude. If the luminaries (Sun or Moon) are involved, the degrees increase slightly. The strongest influence is exerted, of course, at exactitude.
· Conjunction – 0 degrees: Two or more planets at the same point in the Zodiac form the conjunction; it is the most powerful of all the aspects, especially if the Sun, Moon or Ascendant is involved. This is a variable aspect, meaning it is dependent upon which planets are involved and how their energies blend before it can be determined if it is harmonious or inharmonious; occasionally this relationship will cause tension. If Venus and Jupiter are in conjunction with each other or with the Sun, Moon or Mercury, it is usually harmonious. Conjunctions with Mars, Saturn or the outer planets are usually inharmonious, but other circumstances can alter this generalization. Conjoined planets are connected, for better or worse, and must learn to work with each other.
· Opposition – 180 degrees: Planets that oppose each other create an inharmonious aspect or tension. Oppositions generally fall in signs of the same modality, cardinal, fixed or mutable, and are naturally polar opposites. The energy that flows between opposing planets can lead to the lesson of balance and learning to reconcile extremes. When we learn to master inharmonious aspects it wakens a strength that no easy, harmonious aspect could give. Until it is mastered individuals seem often “to do a 180” in whatever area of their life is affected by house placement or they feel they are in a constant tug-of-war within themselves.
· Trine – 30 degrees: A trine is a harmonious aspect that flows smoothly. It is easy communication between two or more planets that get along quite well. Planets in trine with each other often occupy the same element so by nature they simply “understand” each other. Unless there are other elements within the chart that counter it, a trine usually offers ease and success in the area of life affected by the aspect via house, sign and element. The only caution with a trine is that it can flow so easily it can be barely noticed and therefore taken for granted and left undeveloped. When three trines form an equilateral triangle within the chart it is called a Grand Trine. A grand trine, unlike an individual trine, can be a difficult combination. The area of life reflecting the element involved tends to bring many lessons and challenges in the individual’s life, with the need to avoid laziness or else they feel at the mercy of others or fate.
· Square – 90 degrees: Planets that “square off” against each other compete for dominance and create tension. There is a need for self-discipline and sacrifice in order to meet the challenge of the square and for the involved planets to come into right relationship with each other. The square is a very challenging aspect but when overcome and integrated becomes a remarkable strength in our personality. It is an inharmonious aspect that has the potential to be a welcome gift provided it is consciously worked with and through. A T-square is a heightened aspect that consists of an opposition that is squared at both ends, three planets in disharmonious relationship. Four planets in disharmonious relationship that form a complete square are called a Grand Cross. The modality the cross falls into determines the degree of difficulty needed to integrate and manage the four energies at odds with each other. A cardinal cross lends itself to a more creative outlet; a fixed cross lends itself to a more prolonged, challenging path; and the mutable cross is perhaps the easier to manage although by nature all grand crosses are a challenge.
· Sextile – 60 degrees: The sextile, formed by planets 60 degrees apart, shows a harmonizing and blending of two elementals (either fire-air or earth-water) into an easy flowing energy that is favorable and often points to a hidden gift or talent. It is considered a beneficial aspect similar to a trine but less potent. Again, if left undeveloped, it could be wasted.
· Inconjunct or Quincunx – 150 degrees: The quincunx tends to be an aspect of strain. I liken it to a spiritual square, subtler than an actual square. I have also heard it described as a type of spigot, when one side is on the other is off and vice versa. Whatever the interpretation, a quincunx blends signs that would not normally go together harmoniously; therefore, it tends to agitate and create an uneasy friction that needs to be managed. A YOD can be formed when two planets are sextile each other and then both are quincunx a third. A Yod in the chart is also know as the “Finger of God” pointing the way to what we are here to learn. It is a difficult energy to interpret within a chart.
To summarize, aspects are how the planets get on with each other. The harmonious ones are beneficial and create ease and flow in our charts; the inharmonious ones provide opportunities via challenges. The challenges once known, met and integrated can become very valuable, hard-won gifts. Variable aspects are dependent on the planets, signs and combinations involved.