The interplanetary aspects
What is an aspect in astrology
In astrology, the aspects are the lines drawn between the planets, differing in their angles. They are perhaps the most potent influence within a chart, and are able to alter characteristics of planets within their sign.
Simply put, aspects in astrology refer to the distance between planets or points in the horoscope. Not all distances are relevant though; the angles that are considered important in traditional astrology (the “ptolemaic” aspects) are the conjunction (no separation), opposition (180 degrees separation), square (90 degrees), trine (120 degrees) and the sextile (60 degrees). Also the quincunx (150 degrees) and the semi-sextile (30 degrees) are used, although less commonly. These aspects correspond to the internal relationship of the zodiac signs, and are arrived at by certain divisions of the 360 degrees that make up the entire zodiac circle (for example the opposition, which is the result of a division by 2; 360/2=180).
Modern astrology has expanded on this concept to include further divisions of the zodiac, resulting in aspects such as the quintile (72 degrees), the septile (51 ½ degrees), the quindecile (165 degrees), the biquintile (144 degrees) and several others. While very useful and revealing in some circumstances, it is generally agreed that these latter aspects need a greater level of “exactness” in order to exert their influence.
The aspects establish “encounters” between planets. They add a new dimension to the bodies in aspect, blending and modifying their qualities and ways of functioning. Now wait, someone might say; then what is the difference between signs and aspects, since both color and change the expression of planets? Well, when a planet occupies a zodiac sign, it is in a definitive way colored and “clothed” by this particular sign. However, this state of affairs is primarily a passive, static one. Two planets in aspect on the other hand creates a clearly motivational quality that is not present with the sign position of a planet. Regardless, though even planets and signs may seem to represent similar characteristics, they are not the same thing.
The various aspects do indeed work differently in connecting planets, but vastly more important is the fact of which planets are involved – which archetypes, what energies. It seems the reality of there being a strong connection of any kind tells a whole lot more than the quality of the connection itself. Nevertheless, below I give some hints to the different ways in which aspects initiate relationships between planets. I also exemplify with interpretations to show the possible psychological result of one planet energy modifying another. The astrology of aspects is a complex, elusive subject, but an extremely essential one.
Seeing the angular relationships between planets tells us what planetary energies are interacting and how they are interacting. Although there are many angular relationships- “aspects” as they are called in birthcharts- I will be focusing on what most astrologers consider to be the five main aspects: the conjunction, the sextile, the square, the trine, and the opposition.
The mentioned distances between planets are practically never exact, and they don’t have to be. Astrologers use a certain room for divergence, an “orb”, to clarify when planets actually are in aspect and when not. So, two planets in square (90 degrees) are still considered to be in square aspect when the actual distance between them is 87 degrees (an orb of 3 degrees). The allowed divergence, or orb, for the different aspects is a heavily debated question within astrology. This is not very important though – what is important to realize is that the closer the aspect, the more powerful and dominant in its influencing the personality (or event, etc).
It is extremely tempting to think of aspects between planets as statements of human behaviour which are static and unchanging. While the chart may represent a frozen moment in time, the planets themselves continue on their way – and so does the person represented by the chart. People change, grow up and have new experiences. So the age of an individual will affect interpretation of a chart. You cannot interpret the chart of a young child in the same way as the chart of a twenty year old or a forty year old adult. A forty year old will, or should be, considerably wiser than a twenty year old and this needs to be taken into account during interpretation.
HARMONIOUS AND CONFLICTING ASPECTS
Whenever there is an aspect between two planets, the energies of those planets interact. They may do so comfortably or they may clash. The harmonious aspects, the sextile and Trine, generally indicate that the energies and tendencies mesh without conflict. The challenging aspects, the Square, Opposition and Quincunx, generally indicates that the energies seem contradictory to the individual and an inner conflict occurs.
Even with challenging aspects an individual is not doomed to lifelong unhappiness. The individual can learn how to combine the two incompatible energies (after all, people with harmonious aspects between the same two planets blend the energies without any conflict). Or if the individual cannot combine the energies he or she can alternate them and learn that the energies of each planet are valid and acceptable.
A trine represents an ease with issues over which the Square will tend to trip or hesitate. Although it is not possible to turn a Square into a Trine, the individual with a Square can learn to apply deliberate, conscious control over these tendencies. The person with a Square may never achieve the ease with issues that the Trine person has, but he or she can learn to manage them.
This being a modern website, it is important to mention that the dichotomy between “good” and “bad” aspects has fallen out of favor for less segregating descriptors: “harmonious” versus “problematic” might be more accurate for a division between aspects.
- Of the five major aspects, the square and opposition (and sometimes the conjunction) are considered to be the hard aspects. These aspects are the most dynamic, the most obviously observable, and often the most difficult.
- The trine and sextile, on the other hand, are the soft aspects, the aspects in which planetary energies are congruous and open to each other. There is a larger degree of free will with the soft aspects.
Individuals with many soft aspects in their chart have a greater degree of latitude to make manifest the planetary archetypes involved relative to their counterparts with many hard aspects.
The hard aspects create a more consistent pressure on the individual, and thus, demand more attention than the soft aspects. The hard aspects create a psychological need in the individual to relieve the tensions and strains created by the archetypes involved.
The conjunction occurs when two planets aren’t separated by any distance. They are closely aligned, working in unison.
Any two planets that are separated by around 8 degrees (as mentioned, the allowed orb varies) or less are considered to be in conjunction. The conjunction can with reason be entitled the most powerful aspect. True as it seems, for the individual trying to grasp how a certain strong conjunction manifests in their psyche, it may not be that obvious. This is because any two planets involved in a strong conjunction tend to lose much of their separate, identifiable modes of functioning. Therefore a conjunction can manifest as a “blind spot” that however intense, would make the areas represented by the two planets lack in perspective. The conjunction has a reputation for subjectivity.
The general effect of the conjunction is intensification. It always works in a magnifying, heightened respect; it adds a new dimension to the planets involved while at the same time hindering some of their natural expression.
Ultimately, the conjunction has no essential nature of its own (next to the above mentioned), but is dictated entirely by the qualities of the planets. As with all aspects, it is usually assumed that the planet that is further away from the sun in the solar system is the primary influence upon the nearer one, and not the other way around.
Now for an example: the conjunction of the Sun and Uranus is a sign of a certain personal originality and unpredictability (that however strong may express itself in a more “inner” fashion). Whatever characteristics this person possesses from the sign position of the Sun are heightened, yet moves in hard to anticipate ways. There is a certain electric, quirky charisma to the core being, an eccentricity of the typical “independent spirit” sort that is intent on going its own way. Taking pride in being unique. Whether this energy manifests “positively” or “negatively” is completely at the mercy of circumstance, arbitrary as these concepts are.
Read more about The conjunction
The opposition occurs between two planets separated by around 180 degrees (visually opposing each other in the horoscope).
In contrast to the conjunction, the opposition is an aspect of considerable perspective and distance. It contributes an energy that the person is quite conscious of, and that is almost always outwardly apparent. The opposition forces two planet-functions out in the open to confront each other. The qualities aren’t insolubly different; in fact they are quite complementary. Still their opposite natures bring the need for mutual effort of compromise that resembles any me-versus-you relationship. It is known as one of the “hard” aspects. The oppostion introduces a state of projection; internal matters are projected on external phenomena, outward things become inward matters. Keywords are: consciousness, perspective, mirrored qualities, strife, encounter, weighing, isolation, the “gap” between here and there.
The opposition between Mercury and Neptune causes the person to encounter or seek situations that are irrational and illusional, and perhaps they find themselves communicating with people who are artistic, poetic or elusive. But rather than this being a circumstance completely independent upon themselves, it has roots in their own psychological makeup which tends to steer away from logic and rational thought into imaginative, dreamlike spheres intent on distortion of reality. However, this person is likely to be able to “pluck” inspirational and creative ideas as if from out of the blue, and will probably in one way or another idealize and glamorize words and speech. The aspect associates with poetry, film, advertising, and other forms of alternate reality-creation.
Read more about The opposition
The trine occurs when two planets are separated by approximately 120 zodiac degrees.
The trine suggests that the energy represented by the planets involved merges effortlessly and naturally. The relation doesn’t require much modification to function as intended, and the planets complement and aid each other at every level on which they operate and signify things. The expression of the two forces isn’t so alike as to not notice each other’s separate natures, but similar enough to enhance, beautify and add to the other. Astrologers point out that even though the trine is traditionally the most beneficial and “easy” aspect, in reality it can leave much to be desired. Its quality of equilibrum and static contentedness may produce passive acceptance and indifference, with no dynamic impetus for growth and change.
The trine is probably best understood mentally and inwardly, as an indicator of a state of mind or more or less unconscious asset or faculty.
Key terms are: ease, a sense of flow, grace, charm, luck, talent, idea, ideality, harmony, balance, generalities, smoothing over, acceptance.
An example: the trine between Mars and Mercury shows that the individual will have mental agility and a natural sense for asserting herself and communicating her desires without being overly argumentative or imposing too much on others. However, the person may be too sure about their ability to reach and understand others intellectually, and lack awareness of the actual exchange with the receiving end. They may also enthuse about everything but care little for the end result of their ideas.
Read more about The trine
The square occurs when two planets are separated by approximately 90 zodiac degrees.
The square indicates a forceful, inner confrontational urge betwen the planets involved. The energies are powerfully affected by each other, yet held back by some kind of barrier. And somehow the desire to or knowledge of how to smoothly cross this barrier is lacking. It is uncertain (and dependant on the actual planets involved) whether the interaction is clear to the individual at a completely conscious level, but the battling always leaves essential traces. The planets are desperately trying to communicate, but are at cross-purposes in spite of (or because of) their intense connection. Imagine a packed crowd of people, each person elbowing their way towards freedom and expression but having trouble seeing and acknowledging the others, and you have the square energy.
While traditionally perhaps the hardest and most “adverse” aspect, the square is an aspect of power, great energy and individuality. If channeled properly, its manifestation may become the most significant of all. Key terms are: struggle, incompatiblity, action, energy, conflict, crudity, compelling, heat, stretching and pulling.
An example: the square between Venus and Saturn points to romantic and emotional inhibitions, difficulties with the spontaneous expression of affection, and feelings of being unloved. The flowing love nature of Venus is opposed and hindered by the dry, restrictive energy of Saturn, aiming for self-control, limitation and denial of pleasure. However, if the tension is realized and wisely channelled, the person will let their guard down and allow themselves to relax in being loved, in turn rewarding with a deeply loyal and very genuine love and affection. The square is hard to manage, but promises much.
Read more about The square
The sextile occurs when two planets are separated by circa 60 zodiac degrees.
Like the trine, the sextile is considered an “easy” or flowing aspect. It seems to be more outwardly evident yet less powerful than the trine. The general meaning of the sextile can be determined from the relationship between zodiac signs two signs apart. The spirit of the two planets involved in a sextile are not very similar temperamentally, but do not inhibit each other; in fact their potential dissimilarity is productive and causes the planets to grow individually. The sextile still requires more effort than the trine to recognize its potential, but runs less risk of siniking into passivity. Still, it is much like a less powerful trine.
An example: Venus sextiling Jupiter is a sign of general good fortune, personal sweetness and an openness to life and love that through its unstained heart and relaxed attitude brings much of life’s good without effort. This aspect creates a desire for pleasure in any imaginable form, and it is a lazy aspect (though not as lazy as the Venus-Jupiter trine). The sociable, people-loving strain of this aspect is considerable, but it also tends to give the person a sort of distracted naivety and gullibility.
This is by no means a complete take on the aspects, yet I will save the discussion of the quincunx, quintile and other important “minor” aspects for another article. They are often significant in describing more particular issues, obsessions and creative talents than the “major” tradtitional ones.
Read more about The sextile
An unaspected planet is a strong influence, because it represents completely pure, unmitigated energy – an energy that is abundant and flowing freely. However, the unaspected planet may be prone to uncontrollable excesses.