What is an Aspect?
The term “aspect” is used in astrology to describe a relationship between two or more planets and sometimes other horoscope components. Aspects are also called angles. Similar to the geometric angularities in the arrangement of houses in the horoscope, planets have aspects between one or more other planets and which gives specific information to an astrologer. E.g. an aspect between the sun and Mars gives increased physical energy, strength and possibly aggression. There are several different aspects and each may have several different meanings as well even between the same two planets or houses.
A planet may be in positive, negative or neutral aspect to another, or said to be aspecting another, and so the word aspect can act as a verb and other parts of speech in the language of astrology. A “trine” is a major positive and specific aspect; e.g. 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 interpret a horoscope. Aspects are just one part of the many components of a horoscope to be learned for accurately understanding and reading a nativity (another name for a horoscope).
Planets are considered to be negatively aspected or “afflicted” if influenced by the more difficult aspects square and opposition, or major configurations such as t-square or grand cross. The more positive major aspects are sextile and trine, with conjunction some minor aspects considered neutral. Kites and grand trines are two configurations that are usually mostly positive in influence. The best horoscopes contain a balanced mix of major positive AND negative aspects although some minor aspects can help achieve greater balance too. It’s as if the horoscope is more properly balanced with somewhat equal “positive” and “negative” influences. Yet as astrologers know squares are not always negative and trines are not always positive. Aspect interpretation can be tricky.
What is an Orb?
Aspects between planets are allowed a little leeway to being an exact angle and astrologers call these an “orb”. 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 and disappear. Other planets and aspects involved may give emphasis to an aspect’s orb and its importance in the horoscope.
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.
Types of Aspects
|0 degree angle||60 degree||90 degree||120 degree||180 degree|
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How Do Aspects Work?
Generally, planetary aspects bring planets and signs together in a neutral way, in conflict, or in cooperation or blending with one another. Whether this is positive, negative, neutral or a mixed outcome is dependent on which signs and planets are involved in the aspects.
The Major Aspects
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 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.
Trine – two or more planets that are 120 degrees away from one another and within an 8 degree orb. The trine is generally considered the most positive of aspects but there are some planetary trines that are “too much” and may have negative expression often to do with something being excessive. A horoscope balanced with a couple trines and negative aspects is often more successful than one with just trines. Trines are considered to be easy aspects and may bring good news or gentle, pleasant experiences. Two planets in trine to one another are usually expressed together very positively even if the planets and signs are not normally positive together. Some trines can save an otherwise difficult or negative horoscope.
Quincunx (or Inconjunct) – usually considered a minor aspect the quincunx may have greater influence in some horoscopes. It is comprised of at least two planets in the horoscope at 150 degrees from one 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 develop unusual solutions to work together. Oddly, there will be one major quality that the two signs share and this is part of the resolution that must occur for the aspect to be positive. This may require a letting go or a sacrifice of something involving one of the planets, signs, or houses for a later positive outcome to occur. It’s an aspect that is as unusual as it’s name and has both positive and negative qualities. Once the tension or negativity is resolved the aspect appears to “relax” and allow a transformation or opportunity to occur. It is a two-part process but many aspects in astrology are intended to instruct and help change behaviour for the better over time.
Opposition – two or more planets directly opposite another is called an opposition and corresponds to a 180 degree aspect. Oppositions may at first have planets in conflict and the challenge in most oppositions is to get the two (or more) planets and two opposite signs working together. The signs polar opposite one another can be said to be “two sides of the same coin” such as Taurus and Scorpio. Sometimes an opposition may occur between two signs not normally in relationship such as Taurus and Sagittarius. Oppositions may provide a “bridge” for two (or more) planets or two signs to cooperate and work out well. But not all oppositions.
The Minor Aspects
The major aspects were determined by dividing the 360 degree horoscope by 2 (opposition), 3 (trine), 4 (square). Minor aspects are determined by dividing the horoscope by 5 (quintile), and 6 (sextile). The numbers further dividing the planetary aspects or horoscope are not whole numbers but the other angles are half of other aspects as in semi-sextile and semi-square or in a sesqui-square, basically a square and a half. Some astrologers break down aspects further into bi-quintiles (144 degrees), nonile (40 degrees), and so on. Those listed below are most commonly used by some astrologers and ignored by others.
Quintile – two or more planets that are 72 degrees from one another and one-half of a biquintile. Considered to be a positive aspect but rarely used in personal natal horoscope interpretations.
Semi-Sextile – two or more planets that are 30 degrees from one another. Its expression may be like a softer, smaller sextile but in signs not normally favourable to one another as they are side by side and very different in character. Rarely used by most astrologers except in comparison, synastry and transit horoscopes.
Semi-Square – as a 45 degree aspect and half a square this minor aspect between two or more planets is normally considered challenging and rarely used by astrologers unless there is a dearth of aspects when it may have more meaning.
Sesqui-Square (or Sesqui-Quadrate) – another member of the challenging or tense square family of aspects this minor aspect is two or more planets 135 degrees from one another and may occur in two signs with similar elements or not. The latter may be more challenging and show long-term, unresolved challenges but is not commonly used by most astrologers.
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.
A moon with no aspect to another planet is very vulnerable to planetary transits. The person then 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 its 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 would have nothing to focus on but each other and 3rd house matters. This could be a very troublesome free-floater to the native.
What Else Do Aspects Do?
With each contact a planet makes with another planet there is a bit of a merging of influences (or not!) with the other planet that allows the planetary energies to be worked out within the specificity of the aspect. This works both internally for a native and also in connection or relationship with others. E.g. A person’s Saturn trining their own moon may indicate people who can maintain calm and be in control of their emotions more than usual. It is an emotionally intelligent, responsible trait by aspect. Between two people in a relationship horoscope one person’s Saturn trining the other’s moon may bring this quality to the relationship and the other person.
If the energies of the two planets or houses in aspect are dissonant there is more challenge to the aspect to be positive. If they resonate with one another a softer influence may be experienced. E.g. Saturn and Mars are more alike and would resonate eventually than Saturn and the moon which are even polar in their natural dissonance as they are so different in energies from one another.
Aspects appear to be instrumental in helping people learn and grow. The inter-relationships between the planets appear to motivate in certain directions. The interactions of aspects and planetary resonance and dissonance is cyclical and instructive when followed.
Aspects may formulate a network in some horoscopes that lend power to the native’s success or failure. Too many aspects and there can be a jumbled mess of a life. Too few and the native’s ambitions may be low or they are especially challenged and must work harder for their success.
Aspects can be interpreted in the natal horoscope for lifetime information about the persons. Past, present and future are all seen in the nativity. But following some planetary cycles and major aspects can reveal and assist major life changes.
As the planets are perpetually in motion they continue to form quite amazingly accurate and fixed angles to one another. These planets also make angles to each person’s natal horoscope (or any horoscope) on a constant basis and are called transits or transiting planets. Transits can make aspects to a person’s natal chart and indicate current conditions through particular planetary cycles and aspects.