In astrology, the word “aspect” is used to refer to the relationship of one planet to another. Depending on the degrees separating planets (or angles of the chart), they may have either a very flowing, natural and easy relationship or they may challenge each other, causing a sense of friction. Learning about aspects will help you better understand your own natal chart, and will also aid you if you want to begin to read other people’s charts.
Although all the planets and angles in an astrology chart can be said to have some relationship to each other, only a few relationships are considered significant. Below is an explanation of some of the major aspects astrologers use.
When two planets are located at the same degree of the zodiac, or only a few degrees away from each other, they are considered conjunct. This is usually considered a positive aspect as the two planets help each other. However, this depends on the planets involved. Too tight a conjunction between the Moon and Saturn, for instance, may mean that a person’s emotions (Moon) are repressed (Saturn). Also, a planet within two degrees or less of the Sun is sometimes considered combust, as if the energy of the Sun consumed the planet.
Astrologers differ in how wide an orb they use to determine whether two planets are conjunct, generally most say there should be 8 degrees or less between them. Usually, conjunct planets are in the same sign, but sometimes one planet can be in the final degrees of one sign, while the other planet is in the early degrees of the following sign. Multiple planets forming a conjunction are called a stellium—you can read more about this planetary formation here: stellium.
Planets 180 degrees from each other are in opposition. This is a relationship which creates a sense of tension, but the challenges of a planetary opposition can be part of what drives someone to work hard and achieve their goals. Usually an orb of 8 degrees determines whether two planets are in opposition, but if the planets are close to the angles of the chart, there may be a wider orb. The polarity in which you have planets in opposition represents an area of life in which you must seek balance in difficult circumstances. It may be Aries (self) vs. Libra (relationships) or any of the other paired opposite signs of the zodiac.
If planets are 90 degrees from each other, that means they have another kind of tense relationship, known as a square. Whereas opposing planets can often find a point of equilibrium, planets which square each other represent mutually exclusive agendas in the personality which can sometimes make an individual appear to others dishonest in his/her inconsistency. Planets which oppose each other and planets which square each other are generally of the same modality—cardinal, fixed or mutable. However, opposing planets tend to be in elements which complement each other—earth and water or fire and air—while the elements of squared planets do not work together easily.
Trining planets sit 120 degrees from each other, with the usual orb of about 8 degrees, which tends to place them in signs of the same element. A trine is a harmonious aspect; the signs are able to work together with ease.
Two planets in sextile sit 60 degrees from each other. This is similar to the trine in having positive energy. However, trines tend to represent the gifts in life we take for granted, while a sextile shows a talent which provides a sense of pleasure and/or profit. Astrologers often use a smaller orb, about 4 degrees, to read sextiles in a chart.
These five aspects are the major ones most often referred to by astrologers. In future blog entries, I will talk about the minor aspects, as well as compound aspects.