A look at how the planets talk to each other and interact.
Aspects describe how the planetary energies interact with each other. The original meaning of aspect is to behold, the planets were considered to regard each other from their positions around the zodiac. There is some debate as to how aspects developed. The different aspects do follow the various numerological values obtained by dividing the circle by various numbers but extending the relationships between the various groups of signs is also highly likely.
The orb is the range around the exact aspect within which the aspect is judged to be active. It is an area which causes almost as much discussion amongst astrologers as house systems does. Standard orbs, as used by the Faculty of Astrological Studies, are:
- Conjunction, opposition, square, trine: 8°
- Sextile: 4°
- Others: 2°
For example, a trine is an aspect of 120 degrees. If Saturn is at 10 Cancer and Mars is at 10 Pisces they are in exact trine, but if Mars is at 5 Pisces they are still deemed to be in trine within standard orbs.
Some people give larger orbs for aspects including the Sun and Moon. If you have a complex planetary configuration the orbs can widen. For example if you have several planets in one sign from 10 degrees to 20 degrees, I would say that they are all in conjunction although the two outermost planets are 10 degrees apart. I would not extend this more than 10 degrees. My policy is to use very tight orbs.
Hard and Soft Aspects
Standard aspects can be separated into hard and soft aspects. These describe the nature of the energy exchange. Hard aspects are divisible by two – opposition, square, semi-square, sesquiquadrate – and these are more challenging and taxing. Events signified by hard aspects happen with resistance and
Soft aspects – trine, sextile, semi-sextile – are divisible by three and are more flowing and adaptive. Some people judge that hard aspects are “bad” and soft aspects “good”. I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Hard aspects have a great deal of energy associated with them. What ever is happening is not easy and for that reason they are usually associated with disruption. Soft aspects happen easily and for that reason they don’t cause problems, there is no resistance. What ever happens under soft aspects appears somehow right because it seems so natural. The character of the aspect does not give us enough information.
While considering a chart of a man who had been struck by lightening many time it was remarked that he had more soft aspects than hard which was not what was expected. Lightning takes the path of least resistance, literally in this example. This is a good example to demonstrate the lack of resistance soft aspects give.
These are the only aspects used by Traditional astrologers.
Division of the circle by 1: neutral flow of energy.
0° or 360°: planets are within 8° and 352° apart. The energies of the planets involved are merged and cannot be easily separated or differentiated. This is sometimes described in the old texts as being corporeally joined. It is difficult to be objective about energies which are joined together in this way. Strictly speaking this is not an aspect as they cannot behold each other as they are together.
Division of the circle by 2: hard aspect, difficult flow of energy
180°: planets are 172° to 188° apart. The planets literally oppose each other, one on either side of the circle. This can be played out symbolically by different parties in the life, sometimes very literally. The energies are difficult to resolve or bring together. They are usually in opposite signs – both signs will have the same polarity and mode- so there is some common ground – but they will be a different element: Virgo moves towards organisation to combat chaos/Pisces. Pisces becomes more chaotic in order to move away from the over regimentation of Virgo. If a planet is transiting your chart by opposition, the chances of that being played out by an external event are higher.
Division of the circle by 4: hard aspect, difficult flow of energy.
90°: planets are 82° to 98° apart. The planets conflict with each other which drives movement, challenge and conflict. Overcoming these obstacles leads many to achieve much more than those with trines. This may form the itch which drives a lifetimes work. Signs are usually of the same mode – cardinal, fixed or mutable – so they use the same methods but have different aims – the elements.
Division of the circle by 3: soft aspect, easy flow of energy.
120°: planets are 112° to 128° apart. The planets join harmoniously; this is a comfortable and largely unconscious position as there is no desire to move from this position. This does not provoke challenge or resentment. Signs are usually of the same element – fire, earth, air or water – so have a common frame of reference but different application. In natal work it is usual to find talents described by soft aspects to be largely unappreciated by the client, after all it’s so easy, can’t anyone do that?
Division of the circle by 6: soft aspect, easy flow of energy.
60°: planets are 56° to 64° apart. More challenging than the trine but still an easy expression. Signs are usually of the same polarity but different element – they have the same frame of reference but not the same methods. There are usually enough differences to move things along but not as much as with a square.
Semi – Square
Division of the circle by 8: hard aspect, difficult and stressful flow of energy.
45°: planets are 43° to 47° apart. Similar to a square but with more likelihood of action taking place. Associated with physical manifestation of the aspect i.e. accidents. In a natal chart the client will want to deal with the issue in a concrete way.
135°: planets are 133° to 137° apart. As for semi-square.
Semi – sextile
Division of the circle by 12: soft aspect, easy flow of energy.
30°: planets are 28° to 32° apart. A very minor aspect. Important only if backed up by more major aspects. It indicates there is an energy flow between the two planets but little more.
Division of the circle by 12: difficult flow of energy.
150°: planets are 148° to 152° apart. There is much debate on the importance of this aspect but like an itch, if it is active you certainly know about it. The principle here is a need for adjustment between the two planets. There is no common ground. Like looking over one shoulder: you need to move to see what’s going on. There is no common ground between the planets. For instance, Aries = cardinal fire; planets in Aries will quincunx planets in Virgo = multable earth or Scorpio = fixed water.
Division of the circle by 5. 5 is associated with style and with the mind. What occupies your mind. Describes your style and manner of thought.
Division of the circle by 7. 7 is associated with inspiration and the ability to inspire; a romantic aspect, your vision and wishes.
Division of the circle by 9. 9 is associated with your highest, deepest joy.
Aspects are applying if they have not yet reached the exact aspect. In the above example used to demonstrate orbs, with Mars at 5° Pisces and Saturn at 10° Cancer, we have an applying trine. Applying aspects show things which have not yet happened in a horary or event chart and in a natal chart the aspect will become exact by progression during the lifetime of the individual probably symbolising an event. Some people give applying aspects a slightly larger orb.
Separating aspects have made the exact aspect but are still within orb. If we have Saturn at 10° Cancer and Mars at 15° Pisces these are in separating trine. These aspects show events which have already happened in a horary or event chart. They can also show events before birth. They are sometimes given a slightly smaller orb.