Introduction to Aspects in Astrology (3)
– written by Philip Graves Dec 28 2003
– reformatted for WordPress, June 1st-4th, 2016



A planet or point receiving from any planet an aspect derived from the division of the figure by the prime number 2 or combinations thereof (particularly the square, semisquare and sesquiquadrate but also the opposition), or receiving from a malefic planet (Mars, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune or Pluto) a conjunction or parallel, is said to be afflicted.


Unaspected Planets

Where a planet forms no major (Ptolemaic) aspect to any other planet within a reasonably strict orb, it is considered unaspected, and characteristically seems poorly integrated into the conscious personality, self-contained, and solitary in action. It may appear often to act as a law unto itself in the particular area indicated by its house placement, unmoderated by the rest of the individual’s nature. Sometimes, unpredictably, it will shoot off into a crescendo of autonomic activity. Then at other times it may disappear from view completely. Its behaviour is thus erratic and can seem uncontrolled by either the individual’s conscious will or any social conditioning. Additional emphasis will be lent to the sign it occupies in the life of the individual.


Declination, Parallels and Contraparallels:

In addition to being measurable by signs and degrees longitude around the celestial ecliptic or zodiac, the positions of the celestial bodies relative to the earth can be expressed in terms of their declination by degrees north or south of the celestial equator. Maximum northward declination is reached around 0º Cancer, and maximum southward declination is reached around 0º Capricorn.

If all the planets revolved around the Sun along exactly the same plane as the Earth and as each other, it would be simple to deduce declination from longitude. In practice, there are some variations in the plane of orbit within the band of space we know as the ecliptic which all the planets broadly follow. As a result, the declination of a planet at any given longitude will vary slightly at different times and for different planets, and it is ultimately necessary to look up declination data in a complete ephemeris which lists it in addition to longitude data.

The final major aspect type is measured by declination, not longitude, and is called the parallel of declination. It is found where two planets in the same celestial hemisphere (on the same side of the celestial equator, which traces a line from 0º Aries to 0º Libra) as each other share the same declination to within a one degree orb. In such circumstance, the effects are varied depending on the planets’ mutual relation by longitude:

(1) If the planets are on the same side as each other of an imaginary line through the celestial sphere connecting the tropics (0º Cancer to 0º Capricorn), then in most cases they will also be mutually conjunct, and then the parallel of declination is dwarfed in effect by and becomes assimilated into the conjunction. In rare cases where despite the parallel being in orb they are out of conjunction orb (which will only occur at latitudes close to one of the tropics, where for a given change in longitude declination changes much more gradually than it does at its maximum rate of change over the equator), then the presence of the parallel will draw them together almost as though they were in weak conjunction orb.

(2) If the planets are on the opposite side from each other of the line through the celestial sphere connecting the tropics, then they are situated at each other’s solstice points and said to be related by antiscia. This provides the strongest classical condition for considering the presence of a parallel in chart interpretation, and is considered similar in effect to a conjunction. Planets related by antiscia are said to behold each other (the defining classical stamp of qualification for being in aspect, which is also granted to conjunctions, sextiles, squares, trines and oppositions) and to be in signs of equal power.

Another aspect derived from declination is the contraparallel. This occurs when two planets in the opposite celestial hemisphere from each other share an equivalent degree of declination, albeit one northward and the other southward declination to the same value, again within a one degree orb. Again, the effects are slightly variable depending on the planets’ mutual relation by longitude:

(1) If they are on opposite sides of the line through the tropics, then in most cases they will also be in mutual opposition aspect, and the contraparallel is dwarfed by this and can be disregarded. Rarely, and only at latitudes close to the opposing tropics, they will then be out of opposition orb but in contraparallel orb, and then the contraparallel may be felt as a very weak opposition.

(2) If the planets are on the same side as each other of the line through the tropics, they will form a contraparallel without any chance of an accompanying opposition by longitude. They will then be said to be related by contra-antiscia. This fulfils the strongest classical condition for considering the presence of a contraparallel in chart interpretation; and is considered similar in effect to an opposition, balancing the factors in mutual contraparallel aspect with some tension. Planets related by contra-antiscia qualify as beholding each other, but are said to be commanding and obeying, with the one in the northern hemisphere commanding, and the one in the southern hemisphere obeying.

Antiscia are distinguished from parallels in being measured by longitude not declination; only some planets in parallel are related by antiscion too; and most but not all planets in close antiscion aspect are parallel. Likewise, only some planets in contra-parallel aspect are related by contra-antiscia; and most but not all planets in close contra-antiscion aspect are contra-parallel. Planets parallel or contra-parallel qualify for antiscial / contra-antiscial relation by whole sign relationship, with no regard for orb. A rare antiscion or contra-antiscion aspect between planets out of parallel or contra-parallel orb, however, will need to be exact to within 1-2º longitude to be felt much, and then will resemble a weak-orbed conjunction or opposition.


Quincunx vs. Inconjunct:

The term ‘inconjunct’ has sometimes been loosely used by modern astrological textbooks to refer to the quincunx. This is incorrect, since the classical meaning of ‘inconjunct’ is ‘not in mutual aspect’. Since conventionally semisextiles and quincunxes were not considered true aspects at all, planets in mutual quincunx or semisextile aspect by modern astrological thinking would have been regarded as ‘inconjunct’ in the past, unless they also beheld each other (as defined above) by virtue of being in mutual antiscion or contra-antiscion relation, in which case they would not be inconjunct. The term ‘inconjunct’ thus applies to the relation between planets in mutual quincunx or semisextile aspect only when they are not in antiscion or contra-antiscion relation by whole sign.


Aspects in Ancient Astrology

In ancient astrological practice, aspects are measured primarily by whole sign distance, and without regard at all to any degree-precise measurements, orbs of allowance, or harmonic circle division factors, such as are used by moderns. There is some recognition of the added power of exact aspects where the two factors concerned shared the same whole degree value, these aspects being called partile. Dissociate aspects (those between two points that are in a particular type of aspect as measured by degrees but not as counted by signs) are completely unrecognised, however. Only whole-sign conjunctions, sextiles, squares, trines and oppositions (collectively known sometimes as Ptolemaic aspects since they were the only established aspect types noted by Ptolemy) are counted. Planets in whole-sign conjunction are known as ‘with’ each other; those in other types of mutual whole-sign aspect ‘behold’, ‘witness’ or ‘throw rays at’ each other.

Similarly, in predictive astrology, transits of a particular aspect type to a specified point in the birth chart are considered to be active from the moment the transiting planet ingresses a particular sign that is naturally in this type of aspect to the sign in which the natal point is found, and to retain this activity until the transiting planet exits this same sign. Yet, they are considered strongest when the transiting planet is in the same whole-number degree as the planet being aspected.

A connection is drawn between the character of each type of aspect and the character of the particular planet serving as the domicile ruler of the pair of signs naturally related by this aspect to the domiciles of the Moon and Sun (namely Cancer and Leo). Thus, Mercury being considered a neutral planet, domiciled in the pair of signs in semi-sextile aspect to the domiciles of the Lights, the semi-sextile is considered of neutral character (in fact, not regarded as being an aspect at all); Venus being considered the ‘lesser benefic’, domiciled in the pair of signs in sextile aspect to the domiciles of the Lights, the sextile is considered of mildly benefic character; Mars being considered the ‘lesser malefic’, domiciled in the pair of signs in square aspect to the domiciles of the luminaries, the square is considered of mildly malefic character; Jupiter being considered the ‘greater malefic’, domiciled in the pair of signs in trine aspect to the domiciles of the Sun and Moon, the trine is considered of strongly benefic character; and Saturn being considered the greater malefic, domiciled in the pair of signs in opposition to Leo and Cancer (although also quincunx them), the opposition is considered of strongly malefic character.

However, in some traditions the general character of the planets in aspect was often considered more important as a determinant of benefic or malefic influence than the aspect type. Thus, an inharmonious aspect from a benefic would still be considered mildly benefic, while a harmonious aspect from a malefic would be considered malefic.

Aspects were not anciently considered as mutual connections between two functions of life, so much as unidirectional influences acting upon a particular planetary significator governing an area of an individual’s life under consideration. The general (benefic or malefic) nature of the planet throwing an aspect to this significator, combined with the aspect type, determines its positive or negative influence upon the principles of life governed by the significator.

Planets related through their sign tenancies by semisextile or quincunx, unless mitigated by one of the criteria of familiarity, as discussed below, are variously termed in aversion, unconnected or alienated (equivalent to the term more used today ‘inconjunct’).

Aversion by whole sign from the position of the lord of a house to that of the house itself (using whole-sign houses) debilitates the house.

The mitigating condition of familiarity occurs when (1) the signs are in antiscion or contra-antiscion relationship, or (2) the signs share the same domicile ruler.

According to Joseph Crane, the ancients often distinguished between the planets in aspect to each other with regard to which of them was located ahead of the other by the shortest connecting path around the zodiac. A planet in Gemini would be ahead of one in Capricorn, while one in Sagittarius would be ahead of one in Libra. The planet behind ‘looks ahead’ to the one ahead, initiating the contact by scrutinising the one ahead; in turn, the planet ahead ‘throws rays back’ at the one behind, conveying a reaction (moulded by its general nature) to the manner in which it has been ‘looked at’ back to the one behind. The planet behind and looking ahead is generally regarded as superior in position, particularly where a square is involved.


Aspects in mediaeval astrology

By mediaeval times, whole sign aspects had been superseded in practice by an early system of aspect orb allowances. These are set according to the moiety of (i.e. half) the sum of the standard orbs accorded as a general rule to each particular luminary or planet involved in the aspect. The standard orbs are in theory loosely based on the visible arc radius of light around each planet. The following table shows the planetary orbs assigned by Al-Biruni.

Planet Orb
  Sun  15º
  Moon  12º
  Mercury   7º
  Venus   7º
  Mars   8º
  Jupiter   9º
  Saturn   9º


These assignations notably exclude the angles and Arabian Parts, which as points rather than celestial bodies are considered to have no orb; and so the orb of an aspect from a planet to an angle or Part is the moiety of the standard orb for the planet. Since Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and the asteroids are not visible from Earth, Joseph Crane infers that they too would have no orb by the mediaeval logic of orbs.

Applying and separating aspects are accorded more particular significances in mediaeval astrology than in modern astrology. Each planet is particularly strongly associated with the next planet (in time) with which it will form an exact aspect by application, and is said to be joining this planet. This aspect is given priority over all others as a conditioning influence on the applying planet as a significator. Various associated rules include the following:

1) A planet joining or being joined by the lord of the Ascendant is considered harmoniously integrated as a significator.

2) The planet being joined by the Moon is considered dignified as a significator; and it is also thought to be harmoniously connected with the planet being separated from (i.e. most recently aspected) by the Moon, since the Moon is held to transfer the light of the separated planet to the one being joined.

3) Two planets not in mutual aspect but both joining a third are connected by what is known as collection of light by the third planet.

The phenomenon whereby a planet apparently being joined by the significator under consideration (since the significator is the closest planet applying to it) is on course to join a third planet currently ahead of it before the significator reaches it is called abscission of light. When a planet apparently joining a slower-moving planet moves into retrograde motion before reaching it, it is said to ‘refrain’ from perfecting the aspect. These are examples of frustrations.

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