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Introduction to Aspects
Table of Aspects & Orbs
Applying & Separating Aspects
Unaspected Planets
Aspects in Dissociate Signs
The 'T' Square
The Grand Cross
The Grand Trine
The Yod
The Mystic Rectangle
The Kite


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An Introduction to Aspects and Chart Shaping in Natal Astrology by Nicholas Campion

New astrologers will sooner or later come across references to unaspected planets, dissociate aspects, aspect patterns and chart shapes. This article, adapted from the text of Nicholas Campion's compendium of astrology - The Ultimate Astrologer (published by Hay House, 2003) - offers an introductory guide to their meaning in the birth chart.


An aspect is the precise distance between any two points in a horoscope. Almost all aspects measure distances around the ecliptic. Usually aspects are formed between two planets, although aspects between any one planet and the angles (Ascendant, Descendant, MC and IC) are also considered.

The aspects are used to establish how the planets combine to stimulate and moderate each other's influence. They are divided into two categories, major or minor, and harmonious or tense. Generally, major aspects are much more powerful than the minor; but there are certain astrologers who place a greater than usual emphasis upon the minor aspects.

Aspects are formed by division of the circle of 360 degrees by certain numbers, and may be understood through the laws of numerology. Division of the circle by 3, 6 and 12 is harmonious and flowing, while division by 2, 4 and 8 is rigid, structured and difficult.

Harmonious aspects are also known as good, easy, positive, soft or benefic, and tense aspects are also known as bad, difficult, negative, hard or malefic.

The tense aspects cause friction between the planets involved. This friction brings difficulties and problems, which may be psychological, environmental or a combination of the two. In coping with these problems many people experience failure, but some will be driven to overcome their difficulties and in the process develop their astrological potential.

The harmonious aspects bring an easy relationship between the planets involved. They provide a helpful environment for innate abilities which the individual may take for granted, but fail to develop fully.

Each type of aspect, therefore, has two faces. The tense aspects bring difficulties which can result in great achievement, while the harmonious aspects bring easy conditions which can lead to wasted opportunities.

It is preferable to have a balance of tense and harmonious aspects. Individuals with only harmonious aspects may have plenty of potential but no drive to develop it, while those with only tense aspects may lack the faith and optimism to overcome difficulties.

There are nine aspects in common use: the five major aspects - conjunction, opposition, trine, square and sextile - and four minor aspects - the semi-sextile, semi-square, sesquiquadrate and quincunx. The quincunx is also known as the inconjunct.

Table of Aspects:

NameGlyph Degrees
ConjunctionSymbol for conjunction08 °MajorNeutral
Semi-sextileSymbol for semi-sextile30MinorHarmonious
Semi-squareSymbol for semi-square45MinorTense
SextileSymbol fors extile 60MajorHarmonious
SquareSymbol for square 90MajorTense
TrineSymbol for trine 12012°MajorHarmonious
SesquiquadrateSymbol for sesquiquadrate 135MinorTense
Quincunx or
Symbol forQuincunx or Inconjunct 150MinorTense
OppositionSymbol for opposition 180MajorTense
* When Exact

* Orbs
An orb is the distance by which a planet is allowed to deviate from the exact aspect. The modern standard sets an orb according to the aspect, but traditional techniques allow for the prominence of the planet involved, so that an aspect between the Sun and Moon, for example, is allowed a larger orb than an aspect between Mercury and Venus. The more exact the aspect, the stronger the influence, the looser the aspect the weaker the influence.

Conjunction is the most powerful aspect and combines two planets in a single force. [See Table]

Opposition is extremely powerful and places the planets in conflict with each other, producing difficulties, but increasing the range of possibilities open to the individual. [See Table]

Trine is the most powerful harmonious aspect, bringing the planets together in an easy combination. [See Table]

Square is strong, but less powerful than opposition, and creates friction between planets. [See Table]

Sextile is a strong harmonious aspect, but less powerful than the trine. [See Table]

Semi-square, sesquiquadrate and quincunx are all minor tense aspects. Psychologically their effect may be seen as a very weak version of the square. Some astrologers give 'them additional importance in predicting events. [See Table]

Semi-sextile is the only minor harmonious aspect, and psychologically is a weak version of the sextile. [See Table]


When two planets are moving together to an exact aspect they are applying. When they are moving apart from the exact aspect they are separating. Applying aspects are uually stronger psychologically than separating aspects. In event and horary horoscopes separating aspects refer to past events and applying aspects refer to future events.


Opinions differ over the interpretation of unaspected planets. It is best to learn from experience, but the following guidelines are useful. First, the planet may be difficult to express. The principle it represents may be badly integrated with the rest of the personality and may even be neglected. In complete contrast, the lack of aspects may mean that the planet is unrestrained by other planets and therefore assumes an exaggerated importance.

Sun unaspected: these people may have a poor sense of self-identity, but may appear to be very egotistical.

Moon unaspected: these people may feel out of touch with their home, family, emotions and roots, but make strenuous efforts to overcome the problem.

Mercury unaspected: these people may find it difficult to express their thoughts, may be quiet, but strive actively to develop intellectual skills.

Venus unaspected: these people may find it difficult to form close relationships, but may make great efforts to be sociable.

Mars unaspected: these people may find it difficult to motivate themselves but may have uncontrollable energy.

Jupiter unaspected: these people may have Difficulty in creating opportunities, but spend a lot of energy looking for them.

Saturn unaspected: these people may find it difficult to recognize limitations and cope with difficulties, but may develop strong self-discipline.

Uranus unaspected: these people may have difficulty in expressing their personality, either neglecting or exaggerating it.

Neptune unaspected: these people may have difficulty in giving expression to their imagination and mystical aspirations, but become very dedicated to artistic work or religious activity.

Pluto unaspected: these people may find it difficult to harness emotional energy, and may seek emotional commitment and confrontation.


This would occur if, for example, the planet in Scorpio was conjunct a planet in Libra or Sagittarius, trine a planet in Aquarius or in opposition to a planet in Gemini. If the planets in an aspect are in dissociate signs this makes the issues raised more varied and potentially complicated, but a true understanding of this can only be gained with experience in chart interpretation. Much the same occurs when two planets are in a conjunction but in adjacent houses rather than in the same house.


When three or more planets are connected to each other by aspect, they form a pattern with a meaning of its own.


T-square Two planets in opposition are both in square to a third planet. This brings tension and sharp, pressing problems, the result of which may be great energy and consequently a better than average chance of success throughout life.

When interpreting a T' Square all the factors involved - planets, signs and houses - must be taken separately and then built up into a picture of the choices, difficulties and solutions which each planet suggests.

When the 'T' Square is in:

Cardinal Signs
, there is exceptional dynamism and energy;

Fixed Signs, people may be excessively stubborn, fighting personal battles to the bitter end.

Mutable Signs, they may try to solve, or even avoid, the problems associated with the 'T' Square by being flexible and adaptable.

Solution to the 'T' Square

T-square resolved through harmonious aspects
A: via harmonious Aspects.

The tension of the 'T' Square can be released or positively expressed through the planet which makes the closest sextile or trine to any of the three planets in the 'T' Square. In this example the emotional tension of the Sun-Mars-Saturn 'T' Square can be released through the sextile to Jupiter in Cancer.

B. Development of Opposite Characteristics

T-square resolved through opposite characteristics
The tension of the 'T' Square focuses on the planet at the apex, in this case Venus, and the part of the chart immediately opposite may also act as a focus for problems. By coping with them the whole situation can be eased and turned to advantage. In this example Venus in the eighth house, squared to Uranus and Saturn, suggests business difficulties. This may bring second house problems - personal financial ones with an inability to handle money. By learning how to deal with these issues, the eighth house problems, and the whole 'T' Square, can be helped.


Grand Cross The Grand Cross consists of four planets connected by four squares and two oppositions. In effect this consists of four 'T' Squares and, although the process of interpretation is essentially the same as that for a 'T' Square, the complexity and possibilities are considerably more varied. This pattern is not necessarily more dynamic than the T' Square.

When the Grand Cross is in:

Cardinal Signs, problems and difficulties are more likely to result in energetic and assertive behaviour.

Fixed Signs, people may hang on to their problems and be exceptionally stubborn and resistant to change.

Mutable Signs, they may be very adaptable but may also exacerbate their problems by evading them.


Grand Trine Three planets are connected by three trines to form a triangle, the Grand Trine, around which planetary influences circulate with ease. This brings a wealth of natural talent indicated by the signs and houses containing the planets, but may require tense aspects to provide the motivation for its expression.

When the Grand Trine is in:

Fire Signs, talents lie in enthusiasm, and the search for new possibilities.

Earth Signs, talents lie in practical work and experience.

Air Signs, talents lie in intellectual work and the communication of ideas.

Water Signs, talents are rooted in sympathy, compassion and intuition.


Yod Also known as the Finger of Fate or the Finger of God, Yod is the name given to two planets in opposition connected to two other planets, one by semi-sextiles and the other by quincunxes. There is a consensus that this pattern is important, but few astrologers make much use of it. The two additional planets provide a choice of paths for the individual to express or discharge the tension of the opposition.


Mystic Rectangle This consists of four planets connected in a rectangle of two sextiles and two trines, together with two oppositions connecting the opposite planets. Despite the name there is nothing mystical about this pattern. The combination of tense and harmonious aspects produces the best possible potential for the constructive use of natural talents.


Kite The person with a kite pattern may be a 'high flyer'. All three planets in a grand trine are connected to a fourth planet, one by an opposition and the other two by sextiles. This is useful combination of tense and harmonious aspects in which the two planets connected by trines and sextiles provide outlets for the tension of the opposition.


The general location of planets in the chart has long been an important consideration, but it was only in this century that certain patterns were formally identified and labelled, initially by the American astrologer Marc Edmund Jones. Examination of the chart shape forms a very useful part of any basic reading of the horoscope.


See-Saw The planets are gathered in two opposing groups. This suggests a person who may be pulled in two completely different directions. There may be an awareness of opposing possibilities and an ability to manipulate these.


Splay The planets are grouped in tight bunches emphasizing a few houses and signs. This suggests a person who may be highly motivated in several completely different directions.


Locomotive All the planets are gathered within 2400. The unoccupied sector of the chart tends to remain unexpressed.


Bucket All the planets are contained in one half of the chart except for one 'singleton' in the opposite half. This planet is the 'handle' of the bucket and assumes extra importance.


BundleAll the planets are contained within 1200. The individual tends to focus on one part of life's potential and ignores the rest. This pattern is especially strong if all the planets are on one side of either the Ascendant-Descendant axis or the MC-IC axis.


SplashThe planets are evenly dispersed around the zodiac. The individual has a wide range of abilities and experiences but may fail to concentrate sufficiently on any one goal.

Nicholas CampionNicholas Campion is an award-winning, internationally recognized authority on astrology, and past president of The Astrological Association of Great Britain and the Astrological Lodge of London. He has written many bestselling books and taught astrology both in the UK and around the world since 1980. He is the author of numerouds titles, including The Essentials of Vedic Astrology, The Great Year, Astrology, History and Apocolypse, Mundane Astrology: An Introduction to the Astrology of Nations & Groups, and The Book of World Horoscopes. He is currently a lecturer for the Cultural Astronomy and Astrology Degree Course offered by the Bath Spa University College. His astrological features have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines, notably The Daily Mail, Company, New Woman, Bella, Woman's Realm, Nineteen, Zest, Eve, and Vogue.

© Nicholas Campion.
This article is reproduced with the permission of Nicholas Campion and the publishers of The Ultimate Astrologer.

This article is
adapted from:
The Ultimate Astrologer

The Ultimate Astrologer by Nicholas Campion

By Nicholas Campion

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