©1-13-2011 by Donna Cunningham, MSW
Since some of our readers are relative newcomers to astrology, I like to include an occasional article that covers the basics. An aspect occurs when two planets form certain kinds of angles to one another in the birth chart, by transit, or when comparing two charts.
If you’ve ever had a chart done, even by computer, there may be a printout of the aspects in your own chart, called an aspect grid (see an example below).
To me, aspects are the building blocks of almost all applications of astrology from natal chart interpretation, to transits and progressions, to chart comparison, to horary and other advanced specialties. Here’s my personal take on the four major aspects—conjunctions, squares, trines, and oppositions.
For those starting at the very beginning: Conjunctions are between planets that stand next to one another in the zodiac, within 8° or so. Squares are between planets that are 90° –3 signs—apart. Trines are 4 signs or 120° apart. Oppositions are 6 signs or 180° apart. (The orbs I use—how far from exact the two planets can be—are 8° for a conjunction or opposition and 5-6° for a square or trine.) You’ll find the symbols for the various aspects below beside their descriptions.
As an example of what aspects do, let’s first compare the conjunction—two planets standing next to one another—versus the opposition—which occurs when they are directly opposite one another by sign, house, and degree in the chart.
These two connections provide perhaps the starkest of contrasts, for the energies of the two planets are most closely merged in the conjunction and seem to hold each other at arm’s length in the opposition.
Conjunctions are a bit like glass, which is made from sand combined with various minerals that are heated to such a high temperature that they’re fused. When you look at a piece of glass, you don’t generally recall that it started out as a handful of sand.
To narrow it down to something these folks could wear on their tee shirts, the slogan for conjunctions might be, “I yam what I yam,” while for the oppositions, it would be “Look what you made me do.”
When you compare Michael Jackson (Venus conjunct Uranus) with Queen Latifah (Venus opposite Uranus), you could say Michael was more unconscious—almost naïve—about his strange sense of style—more shocked when we were shocked or disapproving of it. Queen Latifah has a sly sense of fun in her style—inviting us to react and laughing at our response.
Conjunctions CAN be hard aspects, if the planets involved are difficult ones or not readily combined. Conjunctions don’t come any harder than Pluto and Saturn, unless you catch Neptune and Saturn together on a really bad day.
Trines are viewed as fortunate aspects that convey blessings, benefits, and good luck to those who have them.
Squares are supposedly the bearers of strife and tough obstacles. When a pair of planets is square by sign, the natures of the two signs create inner conflict and conflicts with others that make it harder to take effective action.
After studying the charts of many successful people, however, it has become clear that they seldom have easy charts. Squares, oppositions, and other hard aspects create tensions and conflicts that drive us to make things happen; the ease experienced with trines can create a habit of lying back and waiting for good things to come.
People with trines as the dominant aspect in their charts tend not to capitalize on the lucky breaks that so often come their way: “easy come, easy go.” The best mix is a balance between hard aspects and easy ones, but the stimulus of a square or two is energizing.
People with trines to outer planets (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) tend to share their generation’s goals and beliefs about matters related to that planet. Society is less resistant to their attempts to impact the collective, because they create change or evolution in ways that are agreeable to their peers.
- When Neptune is involved in a trine, these folks share the culture’s dreams, visions, addictions, sympathies, and sensibilities.
- With a trine to Pluto, they’re in accord with how the culture deals with power — or share their era’s desire to create change in the use of power.
- With Uranus, they embody qualities that the culture finds exciting, trendy, and innovative and may themselves become trendsetters.
Individuals with hard aspects like squares or oppositions to an outer planet pit themselves against the prevailing winds. Their ideas, goals, and tactics go against the grain of the culture — they may even be counterculture types.
Where the four Elements come in: Characteristics and elements of the signs involved in the aspect modify the picture considerably. Air signs generally abound in communication and verbal skills, while fire signs are energetic, lively, and often vivacious.
The three earth signs are likely to be practical, stable, and down-to-earth. Water signs are often sensitive, emotionally responsive, and empathic.
The elements of signs that are square to one another are naturally incompatible. Water and fire conflict (water can put out a fire), and earth and air are also at odds (it’s hard to see in a dust storm).
Signs that are opposite one another fall into compatible–and mutually dependent–elements: water with earth, air with fire. Earth without water is too arid and desert like; fire cannot survive without air.
They are also in opposite houses, with concerns that have the potential to support one another if there is give and take. (The 10th–the career–can be nurtured by the 4th–the home life.) That’s why oppositions are not as bad as they are reputed to be, if we take care to give both ends of the opposition an equal place in our lives.
Signs that are trine are in the same element–earth to earth, air to air, fire to fire or water to water.
The two signs are harmonious, so actions performed under trines flow more smoothly than those under hard aspect like the square or opposition, with better results. The elements involved in a trine suggest the types of skills, tools, and tactics that increase the effectiveness of the aspect.
(For more information about the elements, start here: Four Kinds of Smart—Air, Earth, Fire, and Water.)
Hmm. Since I’m trying to come up with a new series of Q&A topics for myself, it occurs to me that aspects would be a good choice, since they’re an important foundation for chart interpretation. I like that idea, since aspects are one of my special interests.
Readers, What type of aspect is the most common in your own chart, and what do you think it says about you? Leave your answer in the comment section.
Articles from the Series about the Lesser-Known Aspects:
- The Not so Minor Aspects—Results of Our Research
- Understanding Semisquares—Your Input Needed
- Understanding the Sesquiquadrate—Your Input Needed
- Understanding Septiles–Your Input Needed
- Understanding Quintiles—What’s YOUR Talent?
- Understanding the BiQuintile—Your Input Needed
- Quincunx vs. BiQuintile–an Answer from Numerology?
- Understanding the Mundane Square—Your Input Needed
- Mundane square case study: Outtake from a Moon-Pluto Life
- Breathing Refined Air: The Esoteric Aspects
- Is the Semi-Sextile a Good Aspect or a Bad One?
- Pluto and the transiting Antiscia–not Over ’til It’s Over
- The Antiscia are Coming! The Antiscia are Coming!
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