Ingredients of Astrology - Planetary Aspects

© 2002 by Melanie Lichtinger




Planetary aspects are indicated by the lines from one planet to an other in your birth chart. They symbolize the complexity of our psyche and how its parts relate to each other. The word ‘aspects’ is derived from the Latin ‘aspectare’ which means ‘looking at each other’.

Technically speaking, aspects are certain significant
geometrical angles between planets in our birth chart. Those angles are considered significant if they are based on the division of the (360 º) circle by

2 = 180 º (red), called
opposition: Planets positioned at opposite sides;

3 = 120 º (blue), called
trine: Planets positioned 4 signs apart;

4 = 90 º (red), called
square: Planets positioned 3 signs apart, and

6 = 60 º (blue), called
sextile: Planets positioned 2 signs apart.

conjunction shows planets very close to each other, like a ‘bundle’.

And finally there is the
quincunx, an interesting aspect, with planets 5 signs apart (green).

These are the most important aspects which every astrologer is familiar with. To keep it simple, I will not introduce other minor aspects in this context.

Of course, the angles between planets are rarely exact (e.g. an exact trine would be between a Sun at 23 º Leo and a Saturn at 23 º Sagittarius). Therefore, astrologers allow for certain maximum degree tolerance (‘
orbs’) at which they still consider an aspect in effect. The orbs differ for each aspect. The orbs I use in my charts are:

For conjunction 6 º
for opposition 5 º
for trine 4 º
for square 4 º
for sextile 4 º and
for quincunx 3 º.

The more exact an aspect is (= the smaller the orb) the more powerful is that combination of planets in one’s chart. The bigger the orb, the weaker the planetary combination.

The more tolerant the orbs are handled (= the more difference is allowed) the more aspects one comes up with in a chart, leading to a more differentiated and more complex interpretation of a chart.

In my experience, it makes sense not to allow for too big orbs, so that only relatively ‘close’ aspects = the strongest, most obvious and effective interaction of planetary functions are being displayed. In the interpretation it is then easier to focus on the most important issues. The problem with allowing big orbs and displaying all these ‘wide aspects’ is ‘not to see the forest for the trees’: It would not be very useful and rather confusing to consider too wide and hence too many aspects.

There are specific symbols related to each aspect which you find on the actual line of each aspect and in the ‘aspectarium’, the step-shaped diagram in the lower left hand corner of your birth chart.

They are actually quite easy to memorize:

conjunction looks like one unified circle. Planets in conjunction operate in fact like a union.
opposition symbol looks like two poles opposing each other, which indeed is the case when two planetary energies operate in opposition. It is like a rope on which two parties pull.
trine symbol looks like an equally sided triangle - and in fact 3 connected trines would form such a figure. This is the most stable geometric figure and also the most stable and ‘relaxed’ aspect.
square symbol looks like an equilateral square, which would be composed of 4 square aspects. When a square operates in a person's chart, they would feel quite some pressure and dynamic in the related areas.
sextile symbol looks like a six-pointed star, and the rare case of six sextiles would shape a hexagon.
And the
quincunx simply looks like a picnic table (as one of my clients put it).

Aspects show how planetary functions in our personality combine their characteristics with each other. What does that mean in particular?

There are three groups of aspects:
dynamic aspects (red): Conjunction, opposition and square,
flowing, harmonious aspects (blue): Trine and sextile, and
the searching quincunx aspect (green)

conjunction between two or more planets is very significant. It shows a merging of different functions of our psyche. They tend to ‘come in one package’ which creates a focal point and concentration of energy..

E.g. a Sun-Venus conjunction could indicate joy and pleasure (Venus) of creatively expressing oneself (Sun), therefore an artistic talent, and a friendly, art, beauty, aesthetics and peace loving (Venus) personality (Sun).

opposition shows a tension of polar opposite tendencies in a person, which feels like being torn between contrary inner ‘parties’. Typically, one side (could be alternating) is being projected onto (somebody in) the outer world who can thus be vicariously experienced as the ‘evil doer’, enemy etc. Objectivity tends to lack in the ‘arena’ where the opposition plays itself out. Inner tension and outer conflict can become quite frustrating. The goal would be to balance ‘marry the opposites’, and synergize the opposing, usually complementary poles, which can release a lot of creative energy.

E.g. a Sun-Moon opposition (= birth at Full Moon) could mean that the person is torn between the wish to consciously and creatively express themselves independently (Sun) and the emotional need of being nurtured and belong (Moon).

square is typical for a strong inner tension that needs release. It can show where a person is compulsive and driven to take action. Especially if personal planets (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars) are involved, a square can mean a big challenge, but these people also tend to achieve a lot, because it feels like “something needs to be done”, often by overcoming fear.

E.g. a Sun-Uranus square can show that the person feels an inner pressure to liberate and revolutionize (Uranus) their whole being (Sun). It might indicate that they have to break out of old patterns and environment, to be wholly free and themselves.

trine shows where in the personality there can be free flow of energy. It isn’t necessary to establish new structures and overcome obstacles. Therefore, trines are considered as indicators for natural abilities and talents. But they can also make a person lazy, because everything is laid out, ‘easy’ and taken for granted. However, a trine is a wonderful opportunity to make use of its components, because there would be little effort involved, and the universe and circumstances are supportive.

E.g. a Mars-Saturn trine can be experienced as an alliance between assertion and competitiveness on one hand (Mars), and discipline, patience and perseverance on the other (Saturn), which helps with planning carefully one’s goals (Saturn) and having fresh vigor and energy (Mars) to follow through.

sextile symbolizes a potential for new connections and attitudes, and shows where one can tap into versatility and promote one’s learning. It indicates some concrete abilities that can be brought out and shows a natural flow of energy.

E.g. a Venus-Uranus sextile makes for a heightened interest in finding out about and approaching ever new, unusual, liberating, revolutionary, exciting and unconventional (Uranus) art forms and ways of connecting with others and with beauty in this world (Venus).

quincunx indicates an energy flow between parts in one’s personality that are rather foreign to each other (without being polar opposites). It requires quite some attention and awareness, but can also lead to a deeper understanding of these very different sides in oneself. It is important not to alienate oneself of the involved components but to integrate them and to sensitively adjust one’s approach, in order to find meaning.

E.g. a Mercury-Jupiter quincunx would ask for an adjustment between one’s analytical, skeptical, information oriented mind (Mercury) and one’s intuition about what is ‘true’ and one’s ability to see the bigger picture (Jupiter). Science / knowledge (Mercury) and philosophy / belief (Jupiter) can be mutually fruitful if there is an awareness that they don’t need to be kept apart in different ‘compartments’ but can actually synergize.

Home | Why Astrology? | Synchronicity | Journey through the Zodiac| Signs and Planets | Lilith and the Asteroids | Ascendant and Houses | Planetary Aspects |