A Chart is not only about the planets’ positions by sign. Planets’ emanations can interact with each other to various results, and the aspects between them establish how they combine to stimulate, moderate or diminish each other’s influence. Aspects to the ascendant, Medium Coeli, Descendant, Imum Coeli, and Nodes or other points of interest in a Chart are also considered, although these points and angles only “receive” an aspect made by a planet.
Aspects are actual lines of force between the various focal points in the energy field that’s mapped by the chart (either Birth Chart or Progressed or Synastry/Composite), and they are measured within the 360° circle of the Zodiac. The theory of Aspects, as perfected by Greek Astrology (Babylonian mathematics and astronomy were relatively lacking in geometrical concepts) contemplates several geometrical relationships between the Zodiac signs; we could say aspects are based on angles, since they equal the angular distance, in degrees and minutes, of ecliptic longitude between two points in the Zodiac, as seen from the Earth.
American Assyriologist Francesca Rochberg-Halton tells us that four varieties of aspect were originally recognized by Greek astrologers from the first century onwards: opposition, quartile, trine and sextile. Claudius Ptolemy lists conjunction, sextile, square, trine, and opposition among the aspects that are known to him. As for Babylonian proto-Astrology, according to the same author only Trine has appeared thus far in cuneiform sources.
Speaking of nowadays, aspects are conventionally divided into major (Conjunction, Opposition, Trine, Square, Sextile), and minor (Inconjunction/Quincunx, Quintile, bi-Quintile, Semi-Sextile, Semi-Square, Sesqui-Quadrate), the former being generally thought of as more powerful than the latter. You don’t have to memorize all of them for now, it will suffice to keep the major ones in mind, although I will personally include Inconjunction/Quincunx in the former category since in my personal experience it has proven to be anything but a lesser important angle. Another important categorization distinguishes between so-called “harmonious” (Conjunction, Trine, Sextile, Semi-Sextile, Quintile, bi-Quintile) and “challenging” aspects (Opposition, Square, Inconjunction/Quincunx, Semi-Square, Sesqui-Quadrate); this can be misleading, because it could lead to the assumption that an aspect is either “good” or “bad”. The truth is, it would be a misinterpretation, since nothing is inherently “good” or “bad” in Astrology. Any aspect signals a contact between two (or more) forces, the difference only laying in the amount of intensity and balance between the two. A conjunction, which should virtually be the easiest of all aspects, could be equally as problematic as a square if it involves, for instance, a personal planet crossed by Neptune, the latter representing a kind of vibration not everyone can easily attune to.
I will now list the most commonly used aspects and briefly explain how they play out in a Chart.
As the name suggests, it’s formed by two or more planets (or points) found approximately on the same degree, or very close. This indicates a blending of energies/functions, in such a way that they cannot stand alone, and are nearly unable to acknowledge each other as distinct. The two planets cooperate towards the same goals and operate in the same fashion.
It occurs when two planets are about 180 degrees apart, facing each other off from complementary signs. Opposition divides the Zodiac Circles in two halves, thus it has a strong dual vibe that manifests in the form of conflicting tendencies within the individual, or projections of someone’s internal struggles onto the realm of interpersonal relationships. As such, Opposition is about creating balance, since it brings the native to feel torn between two poles of his personality and therefore creates the need to conciliate them, which makes for a notable potential for personal evolution. If this potential remains unused, the native winds up swinging from one side to the other instead of becoming able to consider the “Other Side” and master the skill of negotiation in relating to otherness.
Planets in Trine are found at an angle of approximately 120 degrees, which usually places them in the same element (out-of-sign trines are contemplated but they’re not as powerful as the harmony of elemental energies goes missing). A Trine represents an easy flow of energy between the two planets channeled into second nature, completely natural talents/abilities – in fact, so natural that the native normally takes them for granted. Since everything comes natural, the individual needs not to actively work on adjustment or new structures to use the Energy, and as such the Trine is not a dynamic aspect; it doesn’t challenge us to grow, its nature being that of an unconditional gift. Trine represents a way of being, it creates luck and psychological comfort in the areas it affects, but an abundance of trines in the Chart can favour self-indulgence and passivity since it is no incentive to effort.
Squares occur when two planets are approximately 90 degrees apart; they involve planets in inharmonious elements, which means they call forth notable effort to conciliate divergent energies. Very conflicting, dynamic, charged aspect, the Square (unlike the Trine) forces the native out of complacency in order to actively move towards progress. This can of course be stressful at times, especially in young age, when the person is yet to master the aspect and has not learned how to properly harness its power.
Formed between two planets 60 degrees (two signs) apart, the Sextile is another harmonious aspect that points at the talents and skills in a personality. It is not so almost compulsively embedded in the individual as the Trine, but it’s something that can be “activated” upon necessity. Its expression is also more concrete, practical and extroverted and it can especially play out in the communication/intellectual field. Unlike Trines, Sextiles’ talents tend to be less taken for granted and more overt to the native and they can bring forth a certain deal of self-appreciation.
Quincunx or Inconjunction:
The two terms are employed interchangeably. Planets or points involved are found 150 degrees apart. The functions represented by the planets or points are compartmentalized; not only they cannot “understand” each other, but in extreme cases they can be downright unaware of each other’s existence/expression. The native finds it difficult to remain aware of both of them simultaneously, and therefore has to make a conscious effort to do so. The Quincunx aspect usually involves signs that are not only of inharmonious elements but also of different modalities.
The exactness and efficacy of the aspect depends on the Orb: this word defines the number of degrees off exact the aspect can be in order to still being called an aspect. A tight orb, with an almost exact distance, will make the aspect more powerful; a wide orb will make it weaker. Not only is each aspect allowed a different orb, but there’s also lack of a set rule among astrologers when it comes to coefficients. Generally, wider orbs can be accepted in Natal Charts, while smaller orbs are used in forecasting and synastry.
In a natal Chart, usually accepted orbs are 9-10 degrees for oppositions and conjunction, 7 to 9 degrees for trines and squares, 4-6 degrees for sextiles, 2 degrees for quincunxes and even less for the minor aspects.
Not every planets or points can or must form aspects on other planets or points in the Chart; from time to time, we might run into unaspected planets too. They are interpreted differently by different Astrologers. The nature of the planet itself indicates whether the fact of being unaspected is most likely to represent a problem, or rather an asset. It can either render the planet “unbridled” or constrained (since no other functions are stimulating it and bringing it out).
Questions? Contact me.