This is the 12th post in Astro DIY – our very own ‘learn astrology’ column. Your fabulous mentor-tutor is Tabby Besley!
Understanding Aspects in Astrology
Okay we’re finally here! The moment many of you have been waiting for – it’s time to uncover the mystery that is aspects in astrology. Lots of people have a good understanding of the signs, planets, even houses in astrology but are unfamiliar with the meaning of the aspects in a birth chart and their significance.
Aspects are the angular relationships planets make to each other (and also to chart points such as the Ascendant) in a chart. Aspects show how the planets in our birth chart work together – they can show us all these little details about people that you can’t see just from a sign or house position. This makes them a really important part of reading a chart.
If we go back to the analogy we learnt early on in Astro DIY we can think of the aspects as the dialogue that the actors (the planets) are having with each other. The type of aspect tells us the type of conversation they are having, the tone they are using.
Reading aspects in the chart
The aspects are all the coloured lines in the middle of the chart that are going all over the place, making triangles and all sorts of shapes. ??On Astro.com the red lines on your birth chart represent ‘hard’ aspects (conjunctions, oppositions, squares) and the blue lines represent ‘soft’ aspects (trines, sextiles). Green dotted lines represent the minor aspects (eg. inconjunct, quintile).
To read an aspect you’ll need to memorize the angle or number of signs between each one ( eg. a square is three signs apart).?? It can help to really know your stuff before delving into aspects. Ideally you will be able to memorize the elements and modes for each sign (eg. Taurus is Fixed Earth), the polarities (water and earth are harmonious, fire and air are harmonious), and the signs that are opposite each other in the zodiac (eg. Aries and Libra). Knowing this will make it easier to spot an aspect – you’ll know for example that trines are always between planets in the same element – so it’s much easier to look for.
In astrology, an orb is a circle of up to 10° radius around the position of a planet. An allowable orb is the amount by which the two planets involved can deviate from the exact number of degrees of the aspect and still be considered to have an aspect influence.
A common allowable orb is 8° for the major aspects, and 3° for the minor aspects. The allowable orb may increase to 10° for the Sun or Moon. The allowable orb is a matter of preference – the smaller the orb, the more significant the aspect is (eg. an orb less than 1° will show a really strong aspect). You can play around with using different orbs and see if you still relate to the energies of an aspect with a larger orb. You can easily change the orb settings on Astro.com, which are set at a default of 10° for most major aspects, 6° for sextiles and 3° for minor aspects.
Come back to this chart after you’ve finished reading and see if you can find one of each of the major aspects in it.
Guide to the major aspects:
Conjunction – within 0-10 ° apart/in the same sign
A conjunction shows two planets that are working together with a joint front – they have kind of blended into one. The closer they are to being conjunct (so the closer to 0°), the more intertwined these energies are. Conjunctions focus and intensify energy. The qualities and ease of the conjunction is really dependent on the planets involved.
Opposition – 180 ° angle, six signs apart, opposite sign, or same modality, same polarity
An opposition is found in two planets that are directly opposite each other in the chart. It can indicate exaggeration. Often an opposition might feel like being pulled in two different directions, or having contradicting tendencies. Oppositions are usually felt in relationships with others, and often people will project one side of their opposition onto someone else – mirroring their own challenges back to themselves. Oppositions can feel uncertain, insecure, on edge. Oppositions describe a tension between two planets, but if you work through the tension and try to balance the different energies, there can be really great results.
Square – 90 ° angle, three signs apart, same modality, different polarity
The square usually involves planets in inharmonious elements, so it can create a lot of work for someone trying to integrate such different energies. Any close square involving one of the personal planets represents a major life challenge. A square aspect shows where energy must be released, usually through action of a definite sort, in order that a new structure may be built. The square is often associated with Saturn – it represents challenges that we have to face and fear of dealing with them. When we fear our challenges, we are restricting our ability to use the energy of the square and deal with the problem. Squares represent learning the hard way.
Trine – 120 °angle with a 5-10 ° orb, four signs apart, same element
A trine aspect represents an easy flow of energy, natural talents (often creative). A trine is usually between signs of the same element, making for harmonious relationship. It’s kind of like the planets are old friends who help each other out and can communicate and explain things easily to each other. People can often take the abilities and talents shown by a trine for granted and become lazy, not making the most of them – especially if you don’t have many hard aspects in your chart.
Sextile – 60 ° angle, two signs apart, different element, same polarity, different modality
The sextile represents opportunities – it represents harmonious energies like the trine, but requires more effort to see the benefits. Sextiles show where you are open to new experiences, people, ideas and where you might have connections that lead to new discoveries.
Aspects are one of the hardest parts of astrology to understand and remember; especially if like me you’re not naturally big on numbers or seeing visual patterns! So don’t worry if this takes you a while to get the hang of and as always, please comment below if you have any questions.??If you really want to know what your aspects are but can’t work out how to read them, or want to check your work afterwards, try using the aspect grid next to your chart on Astro.com or scroll to the bottom of the ‘Personal Portrait’ report for a written list.
Your homework: Without using an aspect grid/or another easy method, see if you can work out and note down all the major aspects in your chart just from using what you’ve learnt here, counting between signs and spotting the patterns. How many of each aspect type do you have? Have a go at interpreting what the aspects mean for you – eg. what does having your Sun Square Saturn mean? Take into account the signs those planets are in, how large the orb between them is and what houses are involved?
Coming up on Astro DIY we’ll learn the meanings of all the minor aspects in astrology too and then start learning how to use our knowledge about aspects to read our transits.