©2009 by Donna Cunningham, MSW
The following is an excerpt from the introductory section of my ebooklet, Aspect Analysis: the Building Blocks of Chart Interpretation. This 8-part tutorial includes step-by-step instructions on how to analyze conjunctions, sextiles, squares, trines, quincunxes and oppositions.
Aspects are the building blocks of serious astrology, moving you beyond single chart factors to integrating the many features a chart contains. Not only are they crucial in natal charts, they modify the qualities of transiting planets, progressions, and chart comparison. They powerfully impact outcomes in such diverse branches of our field as electional, horary, medical, and mundane. Here are some important stages in analyzing any given aspect.
Compatibility of the two Planets: First of all, think about how well the two planets partner one another. Are they compatible in nature? Are they arms-around-the-shoulders buddies? Respectful colleagues with similar aims? Worthy adversaries? Or are they better off not even in the same room together? For example, Mercury and Jupiter or Mercury and Uranus, all being mental in focus, are compatible and work toward common ends, even in hard aspect. The qualities of Mercury and Saturn or Mercury and Neptune are less at ease with one another and have more conflict, even in easy aspects.
I can’t really think of a bad aspect between Mercury and Jupiter. Though prone to garrulousness and excessive optimism, nonetheless such folks are capable of learning from their mistakes. On the other hand, it’s hard to think of a good connection between Pluto and Saturn. It can be a leaden and morose combination, even when trine. Though they show admirable perseverance in hardship, individuals with this combination typically pride themselves on being a “survivor,” even when leaving a toxic situation is the wiser choice.
Keyword lists for planets: If you’re planning on sticking around the astrology world for the duration, it‘s helpful to start a permanent collection of keywords and key phrases for each of the planets to store on your hard drive. That would be a useful step toward being able to interpret aspects without resorting to textbooks.Lists from astrology books or websites can round out your collection, but stretch your mind by jotting down all the ones you can come up with for any given planetary pair first.
Elements—Another Building Block: A thorough understanding of the elements is a good way to fathom the meaning of aspects. The four elements—fire, earth, air, and water—have been part of astrological lore since at least medieval times, partly because they describe the essence of the signs so well.
Air types (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) are said to be mental and communicative, sometimes living in their heads too much. Earth individuals (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) are often down to earth, productive, grounded, and practical, though sometimes materialistic.
Fire sorts (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) can be lively, action-oriented, and warm, yet often impulsive or even pushy. Typical water natives (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces) are responsive, adaptable, intuitive, and emotional, yet often too subjective.
The elements form two complementary pairs. Air keeps a fire going; fire warms up air. Earth contains and grounds water; water keeps earth from being so arid it can’t produce. Fire and air don’t mix well with water or earth. Here’s how the pairs of planets connect: conjunctions—same element and sign; sextiles—complementary elements; squares—mismatches between non-complementary aspects; trines—same element; oppositions—complementary elements.
The Modes as Modifiers: Another traditional—and highly productive—method of classifying the signs is by their mode: cardinal, fixed, or mutable. Cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn) are said to be action oriented, goal driven, and forever on the move.
Fixed signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius) are intent on preserving the status quo, stubbornly resistant to change, and gifted with endurance.
Mutable signs (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces) are adaptable, flexible, changeable, and sometimes scattered in their energy. This helps us only slightly with sextiles, since they pair planets in a mixture of modes.
Signs: The next stage in analyzing any aspect is to consider the signs involved and how they help or hinder one another. First think of the elements and modes of the two signs and how they complement or detract from one another.
There are more possible sextiles than any other aspect, two for each sign. For instance, Mars in the Cardinal fire sign Aires can sextile either Jupiter in the mutable air sign Gemini or the fixed Air sign Aquarius. The two sextiles would be fairly different. Aquarius adds theory to leadership, a trait that could an asset for a politician. Jupiter in Gemini with Mars in Aires gives an added dexterity and quickness of mind to an athlete.
Houses: Apart from most conjunctions, the aspects involve pairs of houses. The two houses involved help you identify areas of life where the energies, needs, and traits of both planets are most readily and consistently deployed.
You’ll find in-depth articles about all 12 houses on this site under the category Houses of the Horoscope
NOTE: This has been an excerpt from the introductory essay in my ebooklet, Aspect Analysis: the Building Blocks of Chart Interpretation. To order it, go to
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