“ASPECTS ARE THE angles the planets and other cosmic bodies make to each other in the horoscope. Different aspects differ in their angles between the aspected bodies.
Aspects tie the disparate elements of the horoscope together to create a cohesive story. It’s a highly complex subject that can only be mastered by practice, and one must learn the basics first.
Aspects refer to the distance, in terms of degrees, between points in the horoscope. The horoscope consists of 360° and each aspect is a division of that 360°. For example, the square aspects divide the horoscope by four to make a 90° angle. Like everything in the horoscope, aspects are both yin and yang or day and night. Some are more action-oriented and some are more receptive and connect the other day and night placements.
All aspects create a motivational element and some tension that inspires a person to act. How motivational an aspect is depends on the aspect itself and the elements involved. There are no good or bad aspects, as the less harmonious aspects tend to give more impetus but cause more stress, and the harmonious aspects tend to require conscious effort to be activated but are more easeful. We’ll look at this more in future chapters.
Generally speaking, the aspects that divide the chart by an even number are seen as night aspects, as they have to integrate disparate energies, and the aspects that divide the chart by odd numbers are day aspects, which have a more energized way of working together.
The angles that are most important are the Ptolemaic aspects, the conjunction (two planets together), the opposition (180° separation), the square (90° separation), the trine (120° separation), and the sextile (30° separation). I suggest focusing on these the most, especially if you are a beginner. Use the other aspects to create an even more nuanced reading as you grow your practice.
An orb is the number of degrees apart from exact that is allowed for each aspect. Orbs are a contentious issue within astrological traditions, and every astrologer has their own view on them. Generally speaking, the Sun and Moon are given a wider orb, as are the Ptolemaic aspects, with the conjunction and opposition being given the widest orbs.
Please take these suggested orbs as a guide. With practice, you will come to find what works for you and understand whether a combination needs to be given a wider orb.
- The Conjunction: 10° orb for the luminaries and 8° for other planets
- The Opposition: 9° orb for luminaries and 7° for other planets
- The Trine and Square: 8° orb for luminaries and 6° for other planets
- The Sextile: 4° orb for luminaries and 3° for other planets
- The Quincunx, Quintile, Semisquare and Sesquisquare: 3° orb for luminaries and 2° for other planets
- The Semisextile: 2° orb for luminaries and 1° for other planets
THE CONJUNCTION 0°
A conjunction is when two planets or other essential bodies are together or within a few degrees of each other in the horoscope. This aspect can be either night or day in tone, which is dependent on the blending of the planetary bodies, sign, and house.
A conjunction is a powerful blending of the two planets or bodies, which both intensifies the symbolism of the two planets and confuses the energies, creating difficulties in seeing the energies of the two separate bodies. The individual planets seem to lose their individuality and take on some of the characteristics of the other, with the outer planet usually having more of an impact on the inner planet. The closer the conjunction, the stronger the merging of the symbolism and the greater the difficulty in separating out and feeling the individual strengths of each planet. It is generally considered a harmonious aspect but is one that requires a more complex understanding of how the symbolism of the planets, sign, and houses work together.
For example, Neptune conjuncting Venus means that the individual may have difficulty seeing those they are in relationships with clearly and will have an ethereal quality to others. They will also often have unrealistic idealism they cannot see within themselves.
THE OPPOSITION 180 °
The opposition is when two planets or other essential bodies are visually opposing each other in the horoscope and are approximately 180° apart. In other words, the 360° of the zodiac is divided by two to create the 180° aspect. Traditionally said to be a disharmonious aspect, the key to working with an opposition in the chart is integration of the opposing energies. This is a night aspect and is an exhalation of breath. To understand how they can work together, it’s necessary to blend the symbolism of the planets, signs, and houses.
This is an aspect that has more perspective than the conjunction. The opposing planets can see each other and, therefore, the subject finds it easier to understand how to integrate the two. The two planets communicate and negotiate with each other, which can feel like an inner negotiation that is true of any two differing subjects meeting face to face.
For example, the Moon opposing Jupiter will, at a simple level, give the subject very big highs and lows emotionally, since Jupiter expands and the Moon symbolizes emotions. The sign and house placements will give a deeper understanding.
THE TRINE 120°
The trine is an aspect in which the planets are approximately 120° apart, which means that the 360° of the zodiac is divided by three. These aspects are almost always in the same element, unless they are dissociated. This is the most flowing and harmonious aspect. The planets work effortlessly together, complementing and enriching. This is a day aspect or inhalation of breath.
The trine shows us where our natural strengths are. The two planets are in signs of the same element and work in a symbiotic relationship. However, since the aspects flow so easily, there is little impetus to consciously embody those strengths. This aspect is an instinctive one but one that can bring a feeling of being truly in alignment when activated.
For example, Venus in Libra trine Neptune in Aquarius means a person is likely to be highly intuitive and creative, but since it comes so naturally, they may not actually utilize that strength in their daily life. Because trines are usually in the same element (in this case air), it often means the subject is not able to bring the impetus of another element to maximize the aspect. When the person becomes aware of this, however, and begins to integrate these strengths into their life, they can fulfill their soul’s potential with greater ease.
THE SQUARE 90°
The most challenging and most energizing aspect is the square, which means that the two planets or other essential bodies are separated by approximately 90°, and the 360° of the zodiac is divided by four. This is a night or exhale aspect.
In a square aspect, the planets are in the greatest tension to each other. The angle of the square suggests that the planets can’t see eye to eye and yet are affected by each other. This is said to be a disharmonious aspect, yet it also gives the most impetus to break through the evolutionary blocks and lessons that the aspect requires. The planets are almost vying for preeminence, and yet if the subject can consciously integrate the conflicting energies, this aspect has great power.
For example, Venus square Saturn can indicate blocks in intimacy in relationships and/or frugality with money. With conscious awareness and maturity, the tension can be relaxed and transmuted into stability in a relationship and/or the ability to build great financial success.
THE SEXTILE 60°
The sextile connects two planets that are approximately 60° apart, and the 360° of the zodiac is divided by six. The sextile is an aspect of opportunity that is also considered to be harmonious. The sextile also requires conscious effort to assimilate and embody its potential power, but when activated it opens pathways to growth that can bring great potential. This is sometimes described as a weaker trine, but that description is overly simplistic; with all aspects, the planets, signs, and houses involved change the power of the aspect considerably. This is generally a day or inhale aspect, but consideration of the elements involved must be used.
The sextile is generally an aspect that brings mutual stimulation to both placements, because it usually connects planets in two different elements to create extra stimulus and results.
For example, Mars in Gemini might be sextile to Saturn in Leo and the combination of both Mars (will) and Saturn (determination) in air (Gemini symbolizing communication) and fire (Leo symbolizing leadership) would make for a very strong leader who communicates with authority.
THE QUINCUNX OR INCONJUNCT 150°
This is a challenging aspect that involves planets in both different elements and different modalities, so it’s difficult to find any common ground between the aspected planets. It’s a breakaway aspect that invites adjustment to understand that the two aspected planets really cannot be integrated in the way an opposition or square can. The two are conflicting because the differences are very complex, and it’s necessary to encourage deep awareness and acceptance of an internal drive to compartmentalize the two areas of life so that the subject understands why this need exists.
The discordant nature of this aspect is reflected by the fact that 150° is not a whole-number division of the 360° of the zodiac.
For example, a person with Venus in Leo quincunx or inconjunct Saturn in Capricorn has a love nature that is very playful and joyful and often a desire to be around children, aspecting a need to work hard and build great security. This person will feel torn between the need to play and the need to work and find it difficult to resolve the two, always feeling like they “should” be doing the other, which leads to feelings of guilt.
THE QUINTILE 72°
The quintile divides the 360° of the zodiac by five to create a 72° aspect between two planets in the chart and, as such, is a day aspect or an inhale. In a horoscope, a quintile usually denotes creative talent, especially regarding patterns and structures. Those with a quintile or quintiles in their chart are usually more fulfilled in life when they create or find patterns of behavior that make the most of the two aspected planets, because these planets is where the subject is powerfully driven.
A quintile between Mercury and Jupiter, for example, will mean that the person is driven to learn as much as they can, since Mercury is the mind and information and Jupiter is expansion. This person may constantly be reading and/or taking classes.
The Sun can never be quintile to Mercury or Venus, as the three travel too closely together and are never 72° apart.
THE SEMISQUARE 45°
The semisquare divides the 360° of the zodiac by eight. It is half a square and similar to a square in that it represents a block. Awareness of the block is often activated by external events that invite the subject to work to integrate the two energies. It’s often an area of inflexibility and the aspect is actually inviting you to become more flexible and to learn ways to move past blocks. This is a night or exhale aspect.
A semisquare between Mars and Saturn, for example, is one that often brings a tendency to give up when things feel too hard, when you are actually being asked to face your responsibilities and commitments with patience and perseverance in order to move through the block. When that lesson is learned, the person with this aspect can move mountains.
THE SESQUISQUARE 135°
This is another minor aspect, the discordant energy of which is reflected by the fact that it doesn’t divide the 360° of the zodiac into a whole number. It is also known as the sesquiquadrate. This aspect is, however, a semisquare times three (3 × 45°), or a combination of a square and a semisquare, and this gives an indication of what it symbolizes. I would describe this as a holding of breath, neither inhale nor exhale.
This is another aspect that causes tension and challenge and one that is said to need control, as the two aspected planets often lead to poor choices in life that amplify the lowest symbolism of the two aspected planets.
THE SEMISEXTILE 30°
The semisextile is an aspect that divides the 360° of the zodiac by 12, which means the aspected planets are in adjacent signs. The suggested orb of 2° for luminaries and 1° for other planets means that this would very rarely be a dissociate or out-of-sign aspect, though it does occur. This aspect has mixed interpretations, with one school positing that since the signs are adjacent and, therefore, of different modalities and elements, it can be a challenge for the planets to work together. However, there are others who believe that the zodiac is ordered the way it is purposefully and that the energy of the signs is of personal growth and evolution, with each sign building off the preceding one. Because of that, this aspect is a helpful one for the soul’s evolutionary growth and is a day or inhale aspect.
Both interpretations can be true depending on the level of awareness and consciousness of the subject. A person who is already on the path of personal growth is more likely to be able to integrate the two planets to create opportunities out of any difficulties the two energies bring.
Most Aspected Planet
The planet that is aspected the most by other planets and essential bodies is important to look at because that planet becomes one of the focal points in the chart, since it’s connected to so much else in the chart. This means that any interpretation of the chart must include a close examination of this planet. Much of the client’s life will be associated with this focal planet.
The most aspected planet is challenged because the energy of that planet must integrate so many other aspects, but this also makes the planet a powerful focal point for the same reason. The nature of that challenge is symbolized by a synthesis of all the aspects, and it can get very complex.
For example, if Mercury, the planet of learning, is the most aspected planet, great wisdom can be gained by integrating all the wisdom from the planets aspected, but it can also lead to hyperanalysis because there is so much information to integrate. Much of this person’s life will be connected to the gathering of information, learning, and communication.
Unaspected planets are very important. They should always be noted and are usually considered to be those that make no Ptolemaic aspects (conjunction, sextile, square, trine, or opposition) with any other planet.
Unaspected planets represents parts of the self that stand alone and can be a challenge to integrate in life. They can, however, represent an area of great strength or an area of vulnerability and weakness, depending on how the subject responds to the unaspected planet and its other strengths, such as dignity or debilitation. Since unaspected planets can represent both gifts and challenges, both difficult for the person to embody, an understanding of the planet by sign and house can help the person both face those challenges and embody the gifts that planet offers.
An unaspected planet can mean a person feels out of step with and misunderstood by the rest of the world, especially if the unaspected planet is a personal one, like the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, or Mars.
We have now looked at most of the building blocks of an astrological chart, including the elements, modalities, planets, decans, and aspects, and in the next chapter we’ll look at the houses that indicate the areas of life in the chart.
Harmonics are a different way to look at aspects and were developed by John Addey in his 1976 book, Harmonics in Astrology. Harmonic horoscopes are based on resonance and overtones that are present in the chart.
To put it briefly, the whole 360° of the zodiac is the basic tone and represents the number one, and the harmonics charts seek to unite planets that work together in a chart. This is a complex calculation that, thankfully, most good astrology software will calculate for you. There are no signs and houses in a harmonics chart, only aspects, and each harmonics chart rearranges aspects that are connected by the number of that harmonic chart, making the aspect connections easier to see.
For example, and put very simply, the fourth harmonic shows how we deal with stress and struggle and unites aspects that divide the zodiac by four, the fifth harmonic indicates talent and unites quintiles and biquintiles, and the seventh harmonic represents inspiration and illusion. Since there can be as many harmonics as there are numbers, I suggest studying this after you gain some mastery of the basics of chart interpretation.
Dissociate aspects are also known as “out-of-sign” aspects and can be less easy to spot.
Most aspects are from and to signs of a certain modality or element. For example, a square from a planet in mutable sign Sagittarius will usually involve another planet in Virgo or Pisces, also mutable signs.
However, because of orbs, an aspect can occur in what appears to be the “wrong” sign, and this happens when the aspected planets are in the very last degrees and the very early degrees of signs.
For example, if the Moon is at 28° Sagittarius and Mars is at 1° Aries, they would still be in a square aspect, as they are separated by 93°. An exact square would be 28° Sagittarius to 28° Pisces, and the extra 3° takes the aspect into Aries, but the aspect is still “in orb.”