Like gods and goddesses of mythology in which our planets are named after, the planets have their own way of interacting and playing in an astrological natal chart. Astrologers call these interactions “aspects” as they refer to the connection or relationship between two planets. Aspects are one of the most important components to interpreting a chart and describe whether the interactions between planets may express themselves harmoniously or with tension requiring more integration and attention.
More technically speaking, aspects are the degrees of separation between planets with respect to Earth. Though the Earth moves around the sun with the other planets of our solar system, the aspects correspond to the movements of the various planets at different speeds in relationship to Earth. The result of these movements creates an angle that shows the arc and motion of planets with an intersection point, or vertex, as Earth. The number of degrees connecting the planets in relationship to Earth is an aspect.
This may sound complicated, the more important thing to remember is that these angles also create the major points on the chart of ascendant, midheaven, descendant and nadir. The varying degrees of angularity create different relationship dynamics categorized mostly as harmonious (conjunctions, trines, and sextiles), disharmonious (oppositions and squares), or neutral (minor aspects). These aspects are also considered “major,” holding more importance in the chart, or “minor,” which add more depth and detail, but aren’t necessarily as powerful.
Major aspects: • Conjunction- 0 degrees or when two planets are next to each other. Often considered harmonious though if the planets are close it can be difficult to experience one without the other as they are somewhat enmeshed. Having three planets in conjunction results in what is called a “triple conjunction” and four or more refers to a “stellium,” which can involve even more complexity than just two planets. Example: Someone with a Sun conjunct Mercury may be so identified with their intellect that they cannot separate themselves from their mind. • Opposition – 180 degrees or when two planets are opposite each other in the sky. I think of oppositions as being a balance beam of attempting to integrate two planets, which creates tension and also dynamism. Example: Venus opposite Saturn may express itself as a polarity and confusion between extremes of wanting to relate and be close (Venus) and wanting to distance and feeling lonely (Saturn). • Square – 90 degrees apart. Deemed the most disharmonious or difficult aspect, squares between planets in relationship have a difficult time communicating or relating and can feel at odds with each other and unable to reconcile. The awkward angle between them commands more effort in helping them get along and integrated with one another. This angle usually shows up in places where hard work will pay off. I’ve also noticed square aspects becoming easier with age, particularly after the Saturn Return. Example: Mars square Neptune may have difficulty integrating their need for action (Mars) with feeling overwhelmed (Neptune), and offers an opportunity to become a spiritual warrior in its highest expression. • Trine – 120 degrees or 1/3 of the circle away. Trines are the most harmonious aspect between planets as they occur when they are in the same sign and where they seem to agree and energy flows naturally. They may reveal where we have natural gifts we may take for granted or the planets have more opportunity to express their most uplifting qualities. Example: Mercury trine Saturn may memorize poems or quotes easily or have a natural affinity for grammar that they may not realize. • Sextile – 60 degrees. An ease and flow between the planets can indicate talents and that the two planets work well together. Example: Uranus and Mars sextile could indicate a natural expression of change and progress.
Minor aspects, I am not going to go into them, but good to know their names if you are more curious about them or hear someone speaking about them: • Quincunx • Semi-sextile • Semi-square • Quintile
Another important aspect of aspects are the orbs, or the exactness of an aspect. For example, if Mercury is 15 degrees Gemini and Saturn is 19 degrees Libra, the planets have an orb of 4 degrees. Astrologers differ on orb distances, but I tend to pay more attention to under five degree orbs and up to 10 degree orbs for all major aspects as if even if it isn’t tight aspect, the impact may still be felt of that dynamic.
How the planetary archetypes interact and engage with each other is in my experience the most complex aspects of the chart. Planets with closer orbs have more communication, while wider orbs may be felt, but not necessarily as often. Trines can feel like comfortable close friends whereas squares often are the parts of us most in conflict. These connections in our chart offer entire worlds of self-awareness and the aspects may take more time to understand and really dive into their nuances, so don’t feel frustrated if you don’t understand them right away. Aspects, like people, reveal their playfulness with time and comfort.