Astrological Aspects

When interpreting an astrological birth chart, looking at the planets and their signs and houses is only the first step of the process. It is also necessary to look at the aspects between the various planets. These aspects give depth to a chart and interpreting them properly is one of the subtleties of astrology.

What Are Aspects?

An astrological aspect is simply the relative angle between two planets when plotted on the chart. So if, for example, Venus is directly overhead and the Moon is on the horizon then Venus and the Moon are at an angle of 90 degrees (it’s common to refer to the sun and moon as “planets” even though this isn’t technically correct).

All the major divisions of the circle are represented by aspects. For example planets at 90 degrees to each other are considered square. An angle of 60 degrees forms the trine aspect, etc. Two planets sharing the same place in the chart – an angle of 0 degrees – are described as being in conjunction, probably the most powerful aspect.

As well as the major aspects there are also minor aspects such as 45 degrees. These aspects are less powerful than the major ones but can assist in clarifying the interpretation of a chart.

The aspects are also divided into two other classes. Historically these were known as “good” or “bad” (“benefic” or “malefic”). The modern tendancy is to use less judgemental terms such as “easy”/”harmonious” or “difficult”/”tense”. The logic behind this is that too much of a good thing can itself be a problem whereas some difficulties can be character forming.

On an astrological chart the aspected planets are connected by lines, usually using different colours for the easy and difficult aspects. This provides an intuitive way of grasping the essentials of a chart at a glance. In addition, larger scale patterns sometimes appear. For example, three planets placed around the chart to form a triangle connected by trines is called the Grand Trine and is usually considered very positive. By contrast, four planets forming a square in the chart is a Grand Cross – this consists of four square aspects and two oppositions, a very difficult combination.


Astrological Aspect Table

Angle Name Type
0 Conjunction Major – neutral
30 Semi-sextile Minor – easy
45 Semi-square Minor – difficult
60 Sextile Major – easy
90 Square Major – difficult
120 Trine Major – easy
135 Sesquiquadrate Minor – difficult
150 Quincunx Minor – difficult
180 Opposition Major – difficult

Orbs

It’s unusual for two planets to sit at exactly 90 degrees, or 60 degrees or any of the standard aspects. Some variation is allowed when determining aspects and this is known as the “orb”. Planets within the orb are in effect “close enough” to the ideal angle to count as being aspected.

The degree of orb allowed differs between different aspects – and between different astrologers. In general more latitude is allowed for the major aspects than the minor ones. Commonly used orb values range from 6 to 10 degrees for major aspects down to 2 to 4 degrees for the minor ones.