This Week’s Astrology Term: Aspects
The term “aspect” refers to the distance between two or more bodies in a horoscope. Certain distances are considered significant. When the Sun, Moon or a planet are 180 degrees apart, for example, that is an opposition aspect. Other significant aspects are the conjunction (0 degrees apart,) the sextile (60 degrees apart,) the square (90 degrees apart) and the trine (120 degree apart.) Some astrologers consider more obscure aspects, such as the quincunx (150 degrees apart) and the semi-square (45 degrees apart,) important but the conjunction, sextile, square, trine and opposition are more-or-less universally accepted.
Aspects tell the astrologer how the Sun, Moon and planets relate to one another in the horoscope. The relationship between two planets that are in a square aspect will be characterized by conflict, aggression and tension while the relationship between two planets in a trine aspect will be cooperative, easy and generally pleasant. In this way the aspects tell us the story of the horoscope. They describe the way the various characters in that circular community will interact, who is on friendly and unfriendly terms with whom.
Obviously, there are not many aspects in any horoscope that are exact to the degree and minute of the arc and astrologers allow for a certain amount of separation for most aspects. For the major aspects this is generally anywhere between five and ten degrees depending on the astrologer and which planet is involved. This allowance is called the orb of the aspect. For some astrologers an orb of twelve or even fifteen degrees is acceptable for a major aspect to the Sun. Others, like yours truly, prefer tighter orbs for all aspects.
“Good” Aspects vs. “Bad” Aspects
In general, the sextile and trine aspects are regarded as “easy” or “good” aspects while squares and oppositions are considered “challenging” or “bad.” Conjunctions are generally neutral, depending on the planets involved. But that doesn’t mean that any astrologer wants to see a horoscope crowded with nothing but “good” aspects. People who have a predominance of trines and sextiles in their horoscopes often lack motivation. They can get along in life with very little effort and this can make them lazy and a little boring. The presence of a strong square or opposition in a horoscopes shows that there will be at least one area in which the person is going to have to work hard and overcome adversity. It represents a core of inner conflict that can develop into strength of will and wisdom. In the horoscopes of people who are successful, particularly those who succeed against the odds, you will invariably find a sizable helping of “bad” aspects.
Aspects also describe the relationship between planets in the sky today (or on a day in the future or past) and the places occupied by the Sun, Moon and planets in your natal horoscope. Again, these aspects tell a story, a story of how certain planets in the sky are relating to planets in your horoscope at a particular point in time. Some of these aspects are short lived and not particularly significant. The Moon, for example, moves around your entire horoscope, aspecting your natal Sun, Moon and all the planets, once a month. The influence of these aspects will not be particularly noticeable to most people. Saturn, on the other hand, takes 28 years to complete its cycle and the aspects it makes to your natal horoscope can go on for months and have a very definite impact on your life. And then there’s slow moving Pluto that can remain in an aspect to one of your natal planets for years.
Interpreting aspects is probably the most complex part of reading a horoscope. Many factors have to be considered such the type of aspect, the orb of the aspect, the Signs of the Zodiac that the planets occupy, the house positions and the relative strength and weakness of the planet being aspected. Often more than two planets are involved in an aspect and sometimes aspects form patterns that spread across the entire horoscope such as a T-square (two planets in an opposition aspect with a third planet in a 90 degree square aspect to the other two,) a Grand Cross (four planets, all 90 degrees apart and forming in a large box shape) or a Grand Trine (three planets each 120 degree apart forming a giant triangle withing the circle of the horoscope.) And yet, as difficult as it can be to understand them all, the aspects show us the hidden dynamics of the horoscope and the personality. They give life and movement to the characteristics of the Signs and the Houses and they give the astrologer insights into the workings of the human soul that is unparalleled.