The term “aspect” is used in astrology to describe a relationship between two or more planets and sometimes other horoscope components that is also called an angle. Similar to the angularity in the arrangement of houses, planets can angle one another also with similar results.
A planet may be in positive, negative or neutral aspect to another, or said to be aspecting another, and so acts as a verb in the language of astrology but it is also a noun. A “trine” is a major positive and specific aspect for example; a planet could be said to be trining another. It is how a sign or planet aspects another that gives the astrologer clues to correctly interpreting a horoscope but aspects are just one part of accurately reading a nativity (another name for horoscope).
Planets are considered to be “afflicted” if influenced by the more difficult aspects squares and oppositions, or major configurations such as t-square or grand cross. The more positive major aspects are sextiles and trines, with conjunctions considered neutral. Kites and grand trines are two configurations that are usually mostly positive in influence. The best horoscopes contain a balanced mix of all of these major aspects although some minor aspects can help achieve balance too.
Aspects between planets are allowed a little leeway to being an exact angle and astrologers call these an “orb” and they differ depending on the aspect and the astrologers’ experience and discretion. The closer or “tighter” the aspect is the stronger influence it may have. The farther away in orb and the influence may weaken. Other planets and aspects involved may give emphasis to the aspect also.
E.g. – Mars squaring your Saturn at 90 degrees is exact, tight and very strong. If your Mars is squaring your Saturn at 82 or 98 degrees, the extent of the 8 degree orb commonly used for a square, the influence may be very weak or non-existent.
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How the Aspects Work
Conjunction – two or more planets that share the same relative point in the ecliptic circle or conjoined at a 0 degree angle or aspect within a 6 degree orb. Planets that conjunct are expected to blend together and when “friendly” to one another can blend together quite well. When considered “unfriendly” to one another they don’t blend as well. Even if they blend well or not, both positive and negative qualities can often be seen but influence will lean more toward one or the other depending on the person, the other aspects and the entire horoscope.
Sextile – two or more planets that are 60 degrees away from one another and within a 4 degree orb. The sextile had been considered a minor positive aspect but many astrologers today view it as having more than a minor influence. It usually occurs between two signs friendly to one another but any aspect could be an “out of sign” aspect. Sometimes an out of sign sextile, similar to an inconjunct “forces” two signs or planets to “get along” and work together but often without the stress.
Square – two or more planets that are 90 degrees away from one another and within an 8 degree orb. The square had been considered the most “negative” aspect and all doom and gloom. Today’s astrologers recognize that squares provide challenges and problems that must be resolved, and by resolving the issue one can grow and improve their lot in life. In that sense, squares are a lot less negative and may even be positive since, like in the human body, a pain is a symptom that something is wrong and must be fixed. The signs and planets involved will often dictate how positive or negative the experience can be.
Quincunx (or Inconjunct) – an aspect comprised of one planet in the horoscope 150 degrees from another. Also called an inconjunct, a quincunx brings two signs and houses together that have no quality of relationship by element or mode. This unusual aspect appears to require the planets to take over and work together. Oddly, there will be one major quality that the signs share and this is part of the resolution that must occur. This may require a letting go or a sacrifice of something involving one of the planets, signs, or houses for a positive outcome to occur. It’s as unusual as it’s name and has both positive and negative energies. Once the tension or negativity is resolved the aspect appears to “relax” and allow a transformation or opportunity to occur. I really did not mean for this to sound like magic. It is a two-part process but many aspects in astrology are intended to instruct and help change behaviour for the better.
Free-Floating Planet – a planet that has no aspect with another major planet is called free-floating. This rare occurrence of a solitary planet without contact with another leaves the planet, sign and house involved in a more vulnerable position. With each contact a planet makes with another planet there is a bit of a merging with that other planet that allows the planetary energy to be tempered within the aspect. E.g. A person’s Saturn trining their moon, whether any other planetary contact to the moon is made or not has an effect of making for people who are calm and in control of their emotions. It is an emotionally intelligent and responsible trait. When another planet afflicts the moon Saturn appears to provide a bit of a protective quality in this trine aspect as the native may be able to handle the aspect with emotional strength, responsibility and maturity. A moon with no aspect to another planet is very vulnerable to planetary transits. They may be prone to emotional upheaval, upset and extreme vulnerability in their emotional life when a heavy planet comes around creating afflictions to the moon. Without another natal planetary contact to buffer the planet it’s more excessive qualities are stressed usually by sign and planetary symbology. E.g. A free-floating Mars in Gemini in the 3rd house could be excessively accident prone and vulnerable but also overly aggressive and flippant in communications and activities. Likely nothing would be finished ever as Mars and Gemini have nothing to focus on but each other and 3rd house matters. This could be a very troublesome free-floater to the native.