- The word 'aspect' comes from the Latin aspicio, 'to regard'. It is first encountered during the Middle Ages but before this similar words were used to say that the planets 'regarded', 'beheld', 'viewed', 'looked at', 'witnessed' or 'saw' each other.
Aspects are measured in celestial longitude and aspect meanings are affected by the geometrical and numerical relationships they make within the zodiacal circle: hence what is usually called the square aspect today was traditionally called the quadrate or quadrangular aspect (referring to the plane figure that the aspect is able to create) or the tetragonal aspect, referring to the number of sides that its associated geometrical figure possesses (from the Greek tetra, 'four').
The Conjunction denoted by the symbol .
This is when the planets are together. There is no symbolism of division with the conjunction. The effect is to unite and merge the influences of the planets involved.
Planets that meet by conjunction have no associated plane figure because they do not blend their rays over a line of sight but through direct union in the sky as perceived from the Earth. Therefore, it is more correct to refer to conjunctions and aspects, and many traditional texts note this distinction by referring to conjoining planets as making a corporeal conjunction, i.e., 'bodily meeting'.
The Sextile denoted by the symbol .
This is when the planets are 60 degrees (two signs) apart. Its symbolism is partly derived from the fact that a sextile aspect is a division of the whole chart into six. The effect is to harmoniously combine the influences of the planets. Though considered less productive in beneficial effects than the easy-flowing trine aspect, the sextile is often associated with a greater application of energy or will-power.
The Square denoted by the symbol .
This is when the planets are 90 degrees (3 signs) apart. Its symbolism is partly derived from the fact that a square aspect is a division of the whole chart into four.
The effect is to unite the influences of the planets but with some strain, resistance and tension involved. This often leads to friction or problems, though not necessarily insurmountable.
The Trine denoted by the symbol .
This is when the planets are 120 degrees (4 signs) apart. Its symbolism is partly derived from the fact that a trine aspect is a division of the whole chart into three.
The effect is to harmoniously unite the influences of the planets so that there is an easy flow of their combined energy.
The Opposition denoted by the symbol .
This is when the planets are 180 degrees (6 signs) apart.
Planets in opposition confront each other from opposing areas of the sky. Its symbolism is partly derived from the fact that an opposition aspect is a division of the whole chart into two. The effect is often a clash of opposing interests, which are not easily overcome. Alliances shown by an opposition aspect are often unstable and in natal astrology it can represent a frequent alteration between extremes, rather than a true unification of energy.
The semi-sextile denoted by the symbol .
This is when planets are 30 degrees (1 sign) apart. Its symbolism is partly derived from the fact that a semi-sextile aspect is a division of the whole chart into twelve. The semi-sextile is of relatively minor importance amongst the traditionally-recognised aspects and in classical times was often considered too weak to produce a noticeable effect without supporting factors.
In classical astrology, planets that are 150 degrees (or 5 signs) apart were not considered to be linked by aspect and were termed inconjunct, averse or alien to each other. This simply demonstrates an inability to combine energies and work together effectively. This element of being devoid of a willingness or capability to relate to each other has been incorporated into modern astrology by the 'inconjunct' becoming an aspect in its own right. Also known as the quincunx and denoted by the symbol , it is said to represent a harsh or tense relationship based upon incompatibility.
Aspects are recognised even when they are not exact. Ie, two planets that are roughly 120 degrees from each other are said to be in a trine aspect because an allowance of contact is considered in the effect. For details of these see the glossary item on orbs.
Johannes Kepler introduced some of the 'minor aspects' used in modern astrology in the 17th century. These include the Quintile (Q - consisting of 72°), the Tredecile (Td -consisting of 108°), the Biquintile (Bq - consisting of 144°), the semi-square ( - consisting of 45°) and the Sesquiquadrate ( - consisting of 135°). Most astrologers regard these new 'minor' aspects as too weak to be of major significance and recognise a danger of putting too much inconsequential detail into the chart which, unless skilfully employed, may detract from the more obvious relevance of the major (traditional) aspects.
The following articles are recommended for a fuller discussion of aspects:
The Classical Origin and Traditional Use of Aspects by D. Houlding
An Introduction to Aspects and Chart Shapes by N. Campion.
Related glossary items:
Dexter & Sinister
Partile & Platick
Application & Separation
© Deborah Houlding