Conjunction, Opposition, Square... How do the planets form aspects in our birth chart? What is the meaning of the aspects in Astrology?
The meaning of the aspects that the planets form in Astrology
Occupying a central position in astrology, the aspects that the planets form constitute geometric relationships; they can be formed between any two planets, between any one planet and an asteroid, or between any one planet and a significant point in our astrological chart (such as the Zenith or the Ascendant). These instances of interaction help us to understand the reasons why some types of energy are more prominent –and hence easier to express– than others in a birth chart and to examine the developments taking place in the different areas of our life based on whether the various connections formed as the planets transit our horoscope are favourable or not.
Each aspect results from the division of the Zodiac circle (360 degrees) by a specific number. Thus the division of the circle by 2 gives 180 and results in the Opposition aspect (which is a 180-degree angle), the division of the circle by 4 gives 90 and results in the Square aspect (a 90-degree angle), and so forth.
In order to make a more accurate assessment of the influence exerted on us by each aspect, astrologers have recourse to the orb, which shows how much the angular distance (or separation) between two points (two celestial bodies) can differ from the exactness of an aspect (the exact number of degrees specified/ the standard definition of the aspect) and still be considered to form this aspect. Although there is a lot of debate among astrologers as to the proper use of orbs, it is generally accepted that the tighter the orb is, the more powerful the effect of the aspect is.
There is a wide variety of aspects; in order to keep things simple, though, we will only discuss the most important aspects that can be formed between two planets.
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Separation: 0 degrees
Orb: plus/minus 8 degrees
The Conjunction aspect is formed when two planets are found right next to each other –as seen from Earth– and are therefore separated by 0 degrees. The conjunction constitutes the sole aspect whose energy is neutral; it is neither harmonious nor dissonant, and that is why interpreting it can be tricky. Apparently the conjunction affords a motive for the manifestation of the energies of the planets involved in it; yet its most important facet resides in the compatibility (or lack thereof) between these planets. In the case of a conjunction between the Moon and Venus, for instance, the energies are both female and are consequently compatible with each other –the same holds good for the conjunction between any two planets of a male energy, such as Saturn and the Sun. What can be said with certainty is that when a collective planet is conjunct a personal one, the former overpowers –and hence exerts a stronger influence than– the latter.
EXAMPLE: A conjunction of the Moon and Saturn in a birth chart could denote that the individual’s mother figure (the Moon) was particularly strict and instilled a rigid sense of discipline (Saturn) in him/her, thus causing him/her to excessively inhibit the expression of his/her emotions.
Separation: 180 degrees
Orb: plus/minus 4 degrees
The Opposition aspect is formed when two planets are found opposite each other. For instance, Virgo and Pisces are separated by 180 degrees (6 signs); if a planet is positioned in the former and another planet is simultaneously positioned in the latter, they are considered to form an opposition to each other. The same goes for all pairs of signs lying opposite one another in the Zodiac (Aries/Libra,Taurus/Scorpio, Gemini/Sagittarius etc). This aspect is active and hard in that it stimulates us to take action in order to progress and it mainly illustrates the conflict between two opposite yet mutually attractive energies. Oppositions generally find their expression in our relationship with the Other –the individual or the collective Other. They represent the vacillation and the clash between two contrasting standpoints, which motivate us to actively confront our problems. The opposition can be said to constitute the astrological counterpart of the psychoanalytic concept of projection.
EXAMPLE: An opposition between Venus and Neptune in a birth chart may suggest that the individual tends to put her/his romantic partners (Venus) on a pedestal (Neptune) and, by extension, create relationships that end in disappointment. Given that in the case of the opposition the effect is extraneous (i.e. it comes from the outside), this particular aspect can also be construed as an indication that s/he is usually attracted to people who have Neptune prominent in their birth chart.
Separation: 90 degrees
Orb: plus/minus 8 degrees
The Square aspect is formed between two planets positioned in signs of the same mode and separated by 90 degrees (3 signs); thus, a planet in Aries can form a square to a planet in Cancer and/or a planet in Capricorn, and so forth. The square resembles the opposition in that it is a similarly active and hard aspect. It represents adversities and hindrances; it is as if fears and insecurities inhibit the energies involved from harmonizing with each other, thus giving rise to tension and guilt whenever we attempt to bring them into consonance. This aspect mirrors those facets of our life that feel stagnant and seem to pose obstacles to our advancement. Its significance resides in the fact that the difficulties it confronts us with essentially compel us to grow by overcoming them; they pertain to our interaction with the external world and, contrary to those engendered and symbolized by the opposition, they do not manifest themselves in our relationship with other people, but in our way of perceiving and handling matters concerning our health, our work, and the material reality.
EXAMPLE: A square aspect formed between the Sun and Saturn in a birth chart may denote that the individual’s road to self-actualisation (the Sun) will be fraught with difficulties (the square) stemming from feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy (Saturn).
Separation: 120 degrees
Orb: plus/minus 6 degrees
The Trine aspect is formed between two planets positioned in signs of the same element and separated by 120 degrees, namely 4 signs (e.g. Gemini and Libra). The trine constitutes a soft and passive aspect; it is considered benign, as the energies of the planets involved in it are readily and harmoniously expressed, but it does not contribute to our personal growth, since this is inextricably linked to conflict and adversity. The trine represents a safe place where everything comes to us naturally and effortlessly –the facets of our life we find easy to navigate and consequently derive pleasure from. They are subjectively pleasant, though; they are not necessarily equally agreeable or appealing to others. When a transiting planet forms a trine to another planet (or to a significant point in our horoscope), it points to a development (in the relevant field) that will be rapid and will occur in the immediate future.
EXAMPLE: A trine between Pluto and Mars in a birth chart could denote that the individual tends to take action (Mars) in a markedly forceful manner as a result of being driven by a strong survival instinct (Pluto), which makes her/him defiant in the face of challenge.
Separation: 60 degrees
Orb: plus/minus 4 degrees
The Sextile aspect is formed between two planets separated by 60 degrees (2 signs); it connects Fire with Air and Earth with Water (Aries – Gemini, Taurus – Cancer, Leo – Libra etc). This aspect is soft and coaxing, as the interaction between the energies involved facilitates and enhances the expression of them both. It is considered advantageous, as it presents us with an opportunity we are called to capitalize on. Contrary to the trine, though, it does not reflect a comfort zone; the energies of the planets that are sextile each other will be harmoniously expressed as long as we are minded to put some effort into it. Even though sextiles are generally not viewed as particularly important, they help us to improve the facets of our life they influence smoothly and with ease.
EXAMPLE: A sextile between Mercury and Uranus in a birth chart may indicate that the individual tends to express her/himself (Mercury) with ease (the sextile) and in an honest, open-minded manner (Uranus).
Separation: 150 degrees
Orb: plus/minus 2 degrees
The Quincunx aspect is formed when two planets are 150 degrees (5 signs) apart; thus, a planet in Aries can form a quincunx to a planet in Virgo and/or a planet in Scorpio, and so forth. The effect of this peculiar aspect is difficult to describe, as the energies involved in it are simultaneously attracted to and repelled by each other. It can be conducive to growth, but not as strikingly as the opposition or the square; it does not denote strain or conflict, but an inconvenience that gets in the way. As the interacting energies are completely different from each other (incompatible both modewise and elementwise), the quincunx causes us to alternate between the two directions and makes us unable to combine them in a harmonious or effective manner. Its effect is subconscious and its interpretation varies depending on the signs and the planets involved in it.
EXAMPLE: A quincunx formed between Venus and Pluto in a birth chart could denote that the individual tends to alternate between two discrepant types of attitude towards her/his romantic partners: sometimes s/he is gentle and romantic (Venus); other times s/he becomes jealous, possessive, and controlling (Pluto).