Introduction to Astrological Aspects (1)
– written by Philip Graves, 2002
– revised / expanded, 27th-28th Dec 2003
– reformatted for WordPress, June 1st-3rd, 2016
– reference to origins of septile corrected, 11th September 2020
What are aspects?
When the angle as viewed from Earth that separates the location of one body of matter in space from another (or from the Ascendant, Midheaven or Nodes of the Moon) is close to one of various significant angles in degrees longitude, then the energies of the two factors concerned will interact at their point of intersection (i.e. the Earth). The effects of the interaction will correspond to the combination of the general natures and functions of the two factors concerned, as modified by the nature of the particular type of angle linking them. These effects will be strongly reflected in the qualities of any person born on the earth at that moment in time.
The various different significant types of angle are collectively known as ‘aspects’, and when one factor is connected to another by an angle of one of these types it is said to be in aspect to the other.
When the two factors are in exactly the same part of the zodiac, that is to say, separated from each other by an angle of 0º, they are said to be in conjunction with or conjunct each other. This is the most powerful of all the aspect types in its effects.
The other aspects by longitude all result from dividing the 360º circle of the ecliptic by prime numbers or multiplied combinations of those, beginning with the smallest (2). The most important numbers of circle division to create aspects are 2 and 3. In fact, these were the only ones used until the late 17th Century, when a famed astronomer called Johannes Kepler, who also experimented with astrology, introduced the quintile series of aspects corresponding to the division of the circle by the factor 5. By the early 20th century, the septile series corresponding to the division of the circle by 7 had also been proposed. Since the late 20th century, even more obscure prime numbers such as 11 and 13 have occasionally been used by astrologers trying to extract the last droplets of detail from a birth chart, but are insignificant for the most part.
Thus, the division of the 360º ecliptic by 2 produces an angle of 180º, known as an opposition; division by 3 produces 120º, called a trine; division by 2*2 (4) produces 90º, called a square, division by 2*3 (6) produces 60º, termed a sextile, division by 3*3 (9) produces 40º, called a novile, division by 2*2*2 (8) produces 45º, called a semisquare, and division by 2*2*3 (12) produces 30º, called a semisextile.
When the division of 360º by any particular prime number or combination of prime numbers is complete, the resulting angle is known as the base aspect of its ‘series‘, and it is generally given a name that reflects the circle division factor(s) used to make it (hence three = trine, six = sextile, eight = semisquare, etc.).
The remaining aspects of the base aspect’s series, if any, are found simply by repeatedly adding it to itself until 180º is reached or exceeded. At each stage of addition, where the angle that results equals that of an aspect already derived from the division of the 360º circle by a lower number, it is passed over since it has already been named; but where it is found to be unique to the base aspect under consideration it is assigned a name that reflects the whole number multiplier which has been applied to the base aspect to reach it.
In the case of the semisextile (30º), which is the base aspect formed by the division of the circle by 12, the addition process produces the following results: 30º * 2 = 60º – already exists (360º / 6); 30º * 3 = 90º – already exists (360º / 4); 30º * 4 = 120º – already exists (360º / 3); 30º * 5 = 150º – unique to the semisextile series, so it is given a name that reflects its multiplier, 5: the quincunx. 30º * 6 = 180º – already exists (360º * 2). Any angle greater than 180º is really one smaller than 180º by a circuitous route, so the addition process always stops at 180º.
Aspect Type Influences:
The conjunction (1) blends the two energies into a self-contained unit driven to act out its urges behaviourally without compromise or adjustment to external influences.
The effects of the other aspect types correspond broadly with the balance of the prime numbers by which the circle was divided to create the base aspect from which each particular aspect type was formed, regardless of the multiplier (if any). The prime number 2 (opposition, square, semisquare, squisquare series) challenges the individual to action against resistance, causing struggle, conflict and impact; while the number 3 (trine) causes easy flow and harmony in the inner consciousness, but inclines towards passivity.
The sextile (2,3) gives eagerness for communication and new learning experiences, energizes the mind to apply intelligence and inventiveness in expressing the principles indicated, promotes objective observation and reasoning faculties, and stimulates self-exertion for benefit from the opportunities of external situations.
The novile series (3*3) is thought to describe the individual’s inner ideal; self-identification with a purpose and function related to a global or universal scheme; spiritual initiation or emergence into the realm to which the planets in aspect refer; subjective growth through sacrifice; the nurturing of energies striving to reach fruition; and even the potential marriage partner.
The semi-sextile (2,2,3) promotes the attraction of both practical, material resources and more abstract, intangible ones, but lacks sufficient energy and force to stimulate us to dynamically utilize these potential resources, demanding personal exertion and determination to this end. The interplay of two signs of different element and mode requires adjustment and causes tension. The (similar) quincunx pinpoints how we (unconsciously) unproductively drain our forces.
The quintile series (5) is associated with the use and abuse of authority; and a tendency to be very one-pointed and intensely driven in a specialized field of activity. It gives the mind uncommon insight and understanding, and the creative power to mould materials or thoughts into forms that are true to the idea they are meant to express. It is prominent in the charts of criminals and their victims, social revolutionaries, dictators, writers, inspired artists and composers, and scientists.
The septile series (7) is linked to the ability to see the whole formative idea or principle behind a subject which to the average mind is perceived only in disparate parts; and to the capacity to receive consciousness-expanding inspiration and to apply this to the fusion of form and matter. It is prevalent in the charts of people in society exercising priestly functions, and in creative artists. It causes self-sacrifice through acts compelled by a collective or fated need.
The influence of aspects also has some connection with the houses they would naturally link to from the 1st house – thus, an opposition is a 7th house aspect, while a trine is a 9th or 5th house aspect.
In addition to being considered separately as modifying influences on individual planets and points in the birth chart, aspects can be viewed as parts of configurations comprised of multiple interconnected aspects, called aspect patterns. Many of these descriptions lean on Bil Tierney’s assessment of their influences. All are applicable to the luminaries and planets but not the angles, nodes or minor celestial bodies, which do not qualify for inclusion in aspect patterns.
The grand trine consists of three planets trining each other. It inclines the individual to an easy and optimistic manner, with abundant self-confidence, faith and inspiration and a feeling of being protected, but a danger of stagnating and lacking the drive to get moving if there are not enough counterbalancing hard aspects or malefic planets tied in (it is statistically under-represented in famous people), and a tendency to avoid confronting difficulties.
The kite consists of a grand trine one of whose three planets is in opposition to a fourth, which sextiles the other two. This fourth planet serves as an avenue for the expression of the grand trine’s creative potential in the outer world; and the configuration thus is conducive to greater success.
The grand sextile consists of six planets evenly spaced around the zodiac forming two grand trines, three oppositions and six sextiles. This configuration increases charisma, and connects the individual to his or her environment, with an inclination to direct the varied opportunities and talents conferred by the trines constructively at aims in the outer world, often a social cause, but a danger of wasting them through lack of disciplined application.
The grand square or grand cross consists of two oppositions squaring each other, thus forming four squares. This inclines to a lack of inner harmony which seems to be reflected in limiting conditions and relationship difficulties in outer life. However, its awkward power can be motivating, and social awareness strong.
The grand quintile consists of five planets spaced roughly 72º apart from each other around the zodiac, thus each in quintile aspect to one neighbour on either side. It intensifies the drive to specialised achievement along creative lines.
The T-square consists of one planet (known as the ‘apex planet’ or ‘focal planet’) in square aspect to one neighbour on each side, with these two neighbours being in mutual opposition aspect. It is common in successful people. The energy of the apex planet characteristically is experienced as difficult for the individual to integrate with the functions of the two planets in opposition, continually and overtly generating tension, conflict, insecurity or blockage in their mutual association that ultimately manifests in relationship problems but will be felt especially in the area of life described by the sign and house placement of the apex planet. It has been suggested that the point opposite the apex planet, known as the empty leg, will offer clues to the resolution of this conflict by its sign and house placement, though in any solution the apex planet’s nature must be fully taken into account. The incompleteness of the configuration compared with the static grand square inclines it to energise the individual more to endeavour to overcome its conflicts.
The yod consists of one planet in sextile aspect to another, and both of these in quincunx aspect to a third, which is ideally the slowest-moving of the three, and is in any case known as the apex planet or focus planet and describes the motivation for the outer manifestation of the tensions caused by the quincunxes. These quincunxes exert pressures on the individual whose ultimate value is an intuitive confrontation with what impedes him or her from optimal functioning. Often a seemingly ‘fated’ crisis will bring on a dramatic change in outlook and direction, following which the freshly acquired consciousness may be invested in the application of the sextile to constructive social change or in personal change in the areas of life governed by the house occupied by the focal planet and reorientation in the areas governed by the house placement of its opposite point, which is known as the reaction degree.
The boomerang or closed yod consists of one planet throwing semisextile aspects to one planet on each side and an opposition to a fourth, which throws quincunxes to the second and third, these being in mutual sextile aspect. It is thus in effect a yod with a planet on the reaction degree, known as the reaction planet, which is thought to generate tensional conflict inhibiting the individual’s handling of the apex planet’s principles until it (the reaction planet) is applied to positive self-enlightenment on self-transformative possibilities.
The mystic rectangle consists of two oppositions, each of the ends of both of which is linked by sextile aspect to one end of the other and by trine aspect to its other end. It favours harmonious and effective resolution of the conflicts inherent in the oppositions, and adds insight to relationships. It was named by Dane Rudhyar, who suggested that the oppositions carry the potential for illumination, while the sextiles can promote the application of this awareness to inspired ends, aided by theh trines.
The hard rectangle consists of two oppositions, each of the ends of both of which throws a semisquare to one end of the other and a sesquisquare to its other end. The impetus to a conscious drive for reconciliation of the conflicts inherent in the oppositions is prodded at non-overtly by subtle additional conflicts thrown in by the semisquares and sesquisquares.
The stellium is strictly not an aspect pattern but a conglomeration of five or more planets in one sign, several of which will typically be in mutual conjunction orb (or all if using whole sign aspects). It intensifies the focus on the sign tenanted by them and converges the energies of all planets involved in an overpowering manner, lending a ‘driven’, narrow-focused, empassioned charisma to the individual, whose nature will be moulded by the general character of the particular planets involved and expressed through the sign filter in the areas of life indicated by their house placement.
For any circle division factor, n, by which the 360º ecliptic is divided, the resultant base aspect, dº, of n‘s series is sometimes known as the base aspect of the nth harmonic.
Harmonic charts are figures spreading out the first dº of the ecliptic over an entire 360º drawn circle, so that there are nº arc of the figure assigned to every 1º arc of the ecliptic; then looping round over the same circle for each successive dº, so completing n revolutions of the drawn circle in representing all 360º of the ecliptic.
On this basis, aspects formed from multiples (including 1) of the base aspect, dº, of the circle division factor n appear on the figure as conjunctions, and are therefore known as nth harmonic conjunctions. Similarly, aspects formed from multiples of (dº/2) form nth harmonic oppositions; aspects formed from multiples of (dº/3) form nth harmonic trines; aspects formed from multiples of (dº/4) form nth harmonic squares; and aspects formed from multiples of (dº/6) form nth harmonic sextiles.
The beauty of the harmonic chart as a device is in its clear visual representation of nth harmonic aspects in the nativity which otherwise would not be readily apparent in the natal figure. It serves as a tool for focusing on the role of a particular harmonic in the life of the subject. Astrologers most often study the fifth, seventh and ninth harmonics. But Uranian astrologers particularly favour the fourth harmonic, and call the fourth harmonic chart the 90º dial.