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The Basics of Astrological Aspects

Aspects. The degree angles between planets that weave together intricate communication systems between a series of planets. Just as all human beings exist in relationship to each other, bringing out different traits of character as we move from person to person, the planetary positions within our chart at the moment of birth also interrelate, creating friction, harmony, excitement, tension.

I remember the first time I started digging into astrological aspects. I would read interpretations of my Mars opposition Ascendant or my Moon square Uranus on the internet and say to myself, "Wow, this is getting really personal!" No planet exists in isolation, and astrology gains a greater capacity of accuracy when we are able to peer into the degree relationships between planets at the time of birth.

To keep it simple, it's crucial to understand five basic aspects in astrology. The conjunction (0°), opposition (180°), square (90°), sextile (60°), and trine (120°). Each of these aspect patters requires two planets which stand x° away from each other in the natal chart at the moment of one's birth.

I like to think of each of the aspects as a journey between two people at a crossroads. With a conjunction, two planets come together as one. Their energies may often be in the same sign and the same house, intensifying the energy they are capable of manifesting. There is no value judgment of flowing or challenging energy with this aspect; it can go either way. The key words are intensity, fusion and union. At a crossroads, let's imagine two people-planets named Mars & Sun walking the same path. Self and assertion come together as a package deal, and the person who holds these two energies may not even imagine it being any other way. But if you can imagine two people walking towards you with the same type of energy, it can feel quite powerful.

Following the lineage of Steven Forrest, the opposition, or 180° aspect between two planets creates a sense of tension. It is as if two people, minding their own business and walking down a path, suddenly encounter each other, coming face to face. It appears that they're just opposite of me, but we are walking the same path. This embodies the character of the opposition. An opposition aspect can take the metaphorical form of two trains crashing or of two cells merging. There can be projection of an archetype onto the outside world. A Venus opposition Pluto natal aspect may bring intense relationships that cut to the core, transform, and fall away, leaving you feeling like a new being. One part of you may seek ease, luxury, all that is lavish and good, while another part of you pulls you into the realms of manipulation, control, and power. Through the tension of the opposition, there is knowledge to be gained by seeing one's own reflection elsewhere, and to hold the paradoxes of one's own nature.

The square, or 90° aspect is another aspect that creates a sense of challenge. Forrest describes the energy between these two planets as friction, with all the sparks and noise you can imagine. Again, I'll invite in the metaphor of the crossroads. With the square aspect, two people approach each other at 90°. Two different roads, two different angles, an unexpected clash. When planets are square to each other, it can often feel harsh or stubborn. Square angles are almost always between two planets of the same denomination: cardinal, fixed, or mutable. If Sun and Neptune are walking this path, Neptune's appearance may confuse or riddle Sun, perhaps even dissolving away its grip on its strong sense of self. At the same time, it invites in something more fluid, ethereal, or maybe even spiritual. Square aspects certainly aren't needless friction; they serve a purpose to bring two placements together that may not easily see the other's perspective. By seeing it, a channel for growth opens.

The trine (120°) and sextile (60°) aspects are generally considered to be a flowing energy between two planets. At the same time, the connections between planets in trine or sextile may not always be activated; easy to let slide what we're not forced to face, such as in a square or an opposition. A trine always occurs between two signs of the same element (Wind, Water, Fire, Earth). Imagine you, Moon in Leo, are walking down a road when you see someone approaching from a 120° angle. It's Jupiter in Sagittarius! They're not exactly across from you, where you're forced to face the person. You can see them coming, and they can see you. You meet in the middle, forming an alliance based on mutual understandings, fire and fire coming together to work in harmony if they so choose. This is Moon & Jupiter, creating the potential for emotional expansion, a confident heart (Leo) fired up by goals of wisdom and growth (Sagittarus). This is a flavor of the psyche's interaction taking place in a natal Moon trine Jupiter, of which the harmonious dynamic can be applied to other trine aspects.

Finally, we can address the sextile aspect (60°). Between two planets, this aspect produces a relationship of excitement. Imagine two friends, Gemini and Leo, are walking on their own path. At a 60° angle to each other, they may not see the other person coming, but they arrive at a meeting point fro, the same general direction. Venus in Gemini may stoke the fire of Mars in Leo, and with a sextile such as that, sparks may fly. Again, as a harmonious aspect, it's energies may not always have to be harnessed, but knowing which sextile and trine are present in your own chart widen the potentials of your creative energies.

Outside of these five aspects, numerous others existing such as quintile, biquintile, sesquiquadrate, and inconjunct. These are commonly referred to as minor aspects, and these angles, such as 30° and 45°, are being studied more and more by astrologers interested in understanding their significance to the psyche. I encourage you to look into the aspects patterns of your own natal chart. What stories do your planetary placements tell you? Remember, if something doesn't resonate, hold it with curiosity. You are the one with the final say; trash it, or look deeper to become more acquainted with the infinite variations of archetypal possibilities in astrology.

Rosie's Tree, copyright Greg Tilden 2017