Planetary Aspects


Planetary Aspects are some of the most insightful and specific sources of information in a person's chart. For a person who is trying to get a good grasp on planets, signs, and houses, apects can appear to be the straw that will break the camel's back. And yet, anyone who has studied Astrology in depth will tell you that they are worth the extra effort. The information offered by a knowledge of aspects is really pretty amazing.

Just what are aspects in the first place? Basically, aspects are geometry in action. For those of you who never thought geometry could possibly have a practical application in life, aspects offer just such a practical application. Don't worry! There won't be any Pythagorean Theorems here! And there won't be any quizzes either!

All you really have to remember are a couple of basic geometric shapes like squares, triangles, and hexagons. If you have your chart handy, take a look at it. What you have is a circle cut into 12 segments like a pie, and a few glyphs which represent planets sprinkled around the outer edge of the pie, I mean circle. That circle can be broken up into 360 degrees, as can any circle. Imagine dividing that circle into 4 pieces of exactly the same size. Divide 360 by 4 (the number of sides in a square), and you find that 1/4 of a circle is 90 degrees. This is the number of degrees in a Square aspect. This means that if 2 planets in a person's chart are approximately 90 degrees apart, they are in a square aspect. The following table will give you the number of degrees in the 5 major aspects:

  • Conjunction 0 degrees
  • Sextile 60
  • Square 90
  • Trine 120
  • Opposition 180

There are other aspects but these 5 are the most basic in meaning as well as the ones with the strongest effects. It is very seldom that a person will have an EXACT aspect in their chart, that is, 2 planets which are separated by the EXACT number of degrees specified. The amount of variation that is allowed for any particular aspect, or ORB, is a matter of much discussion and disagreement among Astrologers. Some Astrologers use wide, or large orbs, and others are more conservative, allowing only narrow orbs when they consider the nature of an aspect. There are also many factors that might expand orshrink an orb for a particular aspect. In other words, it isn't really possible to say exactly what number of degrees a person should consider when determining an aspect. As far as the aspects above are concerned, a good approximation of an allowable orb to use for the Conjunction, Square, Opposition and Trine would be 8 degrees. The average orb for a sextile, would be 5 degrees. In other words, using the square as an example, if two planets fall between 82 and 98 degrees apart from one another, you would consider them to be in a square aspect. As I hope I have made perfectly clear, these are only guidelines and can be modified depending on conditions.

When considering the meaning of an aspect one must consider the nature of the planets involved as well as the aspect that they make to each other. For example, a square aspect between the Sun and Mars will mean something entirely different than a square between the Moon and Mars. Before one can determine the meanings of a particular aspect, one must really understand the meanings of each of the planets individually. It is as if the two planets involved are the subject and direct object of a sentence, while the aspect is the verb. So let's get to the verbs.

The Conjunction

In a person's chart, 2 or more planets in conjunction will all be clustered together, as if they were children playing musical chairs and all trying to sit in the same chair at the same time. A conjunction is a true blending of the energies of the planets involved. It is as if you took 2 buckets of different colors of paint and dumped them together and mixed them well. While a conjunction is usually considered to be a positive aspect, there is a certain nebulous quality associated with it. It is not always easy for a person with a conjunction to recognize the qualities of the conjunction because the affects are so innate that the person who has them, fails to recognize them. It's as if the person with the conjunction is colorblind, and until they come to understand that their perception is in fact different than that of other people, they have no concept that there is anything peculiar or special about the way they see or experience reality. With the conjunction, more than any of the other apects, it depends on the nature of the two (or more) planets involved whether the overall affect of the conjunction is "positive" or "negative". Using the buckets of paint analogy above, it depends on the 2 (or more) colors involved whether you come up with a beautiful shade of blue or a loud garish dayglo orange or perhaps a rather boring brown.

The Square

Squares are the most fundamental of the challenging aspects. 2 planets in square aspect are in some sort of conflict. Many times a person with a square aspect will sort of jump back and forth between the planets involved, manifesting one at one time and the other at another time, but never seeming to get the 2 working together. Relating the 2 planets to each other is a constant struggle, which is why in the early days of Astrology, a square was considered to be an "unfortunate" aspect. This is because often a square will manifest as a problem which is seemingly without solution. And yet, if a person is faced with the same problem day after day, they may come up with a creative solution to that problem, one that makes the best use of the 2 energies and sort of harnesses them together. The fact of the matter is that a square is a very dynamic aspect, one that spurs a person onward into motion. A square introduces the concept of resistance, so that no solution or compromise comes without some degree of struggle and hopefully GROWTH as well. A square cannot be ignored. It has to be dealt with effectively or the problem it represents will return again and again and again. Kind of like the swallows returning to Capistrano every year, and watch out for those bird droppings!!!!

The Opposition

Oppositions are also dynamic, as are squares, but the energies while literally pulling in opposite directions seem to be a little easier to integrate than with the squares. This is like 2 (or more) people playing tug-of-war only the rope is YOU! Such concepts as polarity, strife and conflict are matched with other concepts like partnership and cooperation. Oppositions are inducers of change because the person with an opposition is constantly confronted with two alternatives throughout their life. Everything involving the 2 (or more) planets involved in the opposition is an either/or proposition, but unlike the square, the opposition seems to offer more opportunities for compromise. The conflict here, perhaps, because it is actually stronger than the square, is easier to recognize and perhaps that is why it becomes easier to resolve. Oppositions are really opposite to conjunctions in that they instill a certain degree of objectivity and insight that the conjunctions totally lack. Unlike the conjunctions which are so innate that the person may have trouble recognizing them, the opposition manifests in such a way that a person realizes quite early on HOW the opposition is manifesting in their life. Maybe it's because a person who is being pulled in two directions at once like a tug-of-war rope, experiences PAIN that makes it fairly obvious that something is going on.

The Trine

In traditional Astrology Squares were the bad guys and trines were not just the good guys, They were the DARLINGS, the cosmic gift, the wonderful showers of talents and goodness raining from the heavens like those fabled pennies and OF COURSE the umbrella is indeed upside down. And LOOK over there, isn't that just the most vivid and wonderful rainbow you ever did see!!!! And isn't that a pot of gold at the end? Well forget about these pennies! Well, after that build-up I'm sure you'll be scouring your chart for trines and even counting ones that are a little "wide". Come on now! 20 degrees is really stretching it a bit! The fact of the matter is that as beneficent as trines can be, they do in fact have a downside as well. The problem with the great gifts and talents that a trine can bestow, is that these very talents are often taken for granted and not used and developed as they might be. Unlike a square or an opposition, a trine is rather passive by nature, and a person may just never get around to taking advantage of these great blessings. Trines, nor any other aspects for that matter, do not occur in a vacuum and often a planet that trines one planet will also be squaring or opposing another planet and this usually provides the extra push to develop the latent talent that the trine represents. Just remember that while you're gazing lovingly at your trines and counting your multitudinous blessings, talents that aren't used, aren't really talents at all.

The Sextile

Sextiles are often considered to be "little trines" also beneficial by nature, but less intensely wonderful than the trine. The sextile aspect involves dividing a circle into 6 parts, and the number 6 actually is the product of 2 x 3 so that it contains a bit of the trine and a bit of the opposition in it. It is therefore a little more dynamic than the trine, and is therefore more easily manifested and USED by the person who has them. The sextile connotates a bit of organization and ability as well as just the raw talent of the trine. Because there is a bit of a challenge implied in the sextile, the quality of the sextile lends itself more easily to the concept of an "Opportunity" rather than an innate talent as with the trine. Using the "Pennies from Heaven" analogy that I used with the trine above, the person with the sextile also has their umbrella upside-down, but the sextile person has a couple of holes in their umbrella, so they have to concentrate more closely on what they're doing. But a person who is overly "blessed" with sextiles might have the same sorts of problems with expressing the talents as a person with many trines might.

Aspects, then, add a bit of spice to the lives of the planets in our chart. Charts usually manifest many types of aspects and while a difficult square or oppostion may tend to dominate the flavor of what is going on, but one mustn't focus entirely on the problems and challenges without giving oneself credit for the talents also represented. And it never hurts to remember that it takes challenge and sometimes struggle to manifest one's talents.

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