Astrological aspect

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In astrology, an aspect is the relative angle between two heavenly bodies. These aspects are held to influence human affairs: the more exact the aspect is, the more important it is said to be. The difference between the exact aspect and the actual aspect is called the orb.

As an example, if an astrologer creates a birth chart showing the apparent positions of the heavenly bodies at the times of a person's birth (a natal chart), and the apparent angle between Mars and Venus is 92°, the chart is said to have the aspect "Venus square Mars" with an orb of 2° (the orb is 92 minus 90 = 2).

To the ancients, certain aspects and certain planets were either good (benefic) or bad (malefic). Modern usage is different from this, with less emphasis placed on simple divisions.

Modern approaches to astrological aspects, grounded more on current research rather than historical references, are more in alignment with research on astrological harmonics, of which John Addey was a major proponent in England. In routine practice, the German schools of Uranian astrology and its derivative Cosmobiology have taken a wholly empirical approach to the aspects, largely divorced from traditional assumptions, and based on extensive research. In the process, they have come to conclusions different from traditional astrologers about the power and effect of the various types of aspects. Among the Uranians, the term 'aspect' is even sometimes avoided, to divorce traditional beliefs from current observations.

The research of Françoise and Michel Gauquelin on the significance of planetary configuration in the astrological chart showed strong signs that the semisquare and sesquiquadrate, "minor" aspects according historical assumptions, might in fact be relatively "major". Many of these valuable realizations have been lost in a recent wave of return to traditional astrological 'beliefs'.

A list of traditional aspects below presents their angular values and a recommended orb for each aspect -- the orbs are subject of controversy even today.

The traditional major aspects are the conjunction (0-15°), sextile (60°), square (90°), trine (120°), and opposition (180°).

  • A conjunction is an angle of 0°. If one of the bodies is the Sun or Moon, a separation of 0±10° is considered a conjunction. If neither the sun or moon is involved, a conjunction is a separation of 0±8°. This is said to be the most powerful aspect, intensifying the effects of the involved planets — and whether the union is to be regarded as "positive" or "negative" depends upon what planets are involved: Venus, Jupiter and the Sun, in any possible combination, is considered the most favourable scenario (and all three actually met on November 9-10, 1970, for example), while the most unfavourable configurations involve Mars, Saturn, and/or the Moon (with all three conjoining on March 10 in that same year). If the planets are under stress from other configurations, then the conjunction will be said to intensify the stress.
  • An opposition is an angle of 180°. A separation of 180±8° is considered an opposition. Oppositions are said to be the second most powerful aspect. They are looked on less negatively than in the past, providing challenges in life, but also providing an integrating link, like a backbone.
  • A trine is an angle of 120°. A separation of 120&plusmn 8° is considered a trine. The trine has been traditionally assumed to be extremely beneficial, providing ease even if undeserved. Too many trines are said to make a person weak and unable to cope with adversity. The ancients considered an abundance of trines as a "sign of evil".
  • A square is an angle of 90°. A separation of 90±8° is considered a square. The square is said to indicate strain, tension, and energy, presenting challenges to achievement and an opportunity to develop strength of character.
  • A sextile is an angle of 60°. A separation of 60±6° is considered a sextile. The sextile has been traditionally said to be similar in influence to the trine, but only provides opportunity, requiring effort to reap its benefits.

The traditional major aspects are sometimes called Ptolemaic aspects since they were defined and used by Ptolemy in the 1st Century, AD.

The traditional minor aspects, introduced by the famed astronomer/astrologer Johannes Kepler in the 16th Century AD, were long considered to be of relatively secondary importance, although many modern astrologers are not in agreement with this. These included the quincunx, semisquare, sesquiquadrate, semisextile, and quintile. More progressive research-oriented schools like Uranian Astrology and Cosmobiology consider the semisquare and sesquiquadrate to be relatively "major" while the traditional sextile and trine are relatively "minor" in influence -- this based on current research rather than historical documents or beliefs.

  • The quincunx is an angle of 150°. A separation of 150±3° is considered a quincunx. The quincunx is said to be of moderate but somewhat unpredictable influence, bringing strain. This aspect is also sometimes called the inconjunct, though this usage is technically incorrect.
  • The semisquare is an angle of 45°. A separation of 45±2° is considered a semisquare. This aspect is considered a weaker version of the square.
  • The sesquiquadrate is an angle of 135°. A separation of 135±2° is considered as sesquiquadrate, and is considered similar in influence to the semisquare.
  • The semisextile is an angle of 30°. A separation of 30±2° is considered a semisextile. This is considered a weaker version of the sextile.
  • The quintile is an angle of 72°. A separation of 72±2° is considered a quintile. This is considered similar to a semisextile, but effort is not needed to reap its benefits.
  • In addition, Uranian Astrologers consider the 22.5-degree multiple aspects, including also 67.5, 112.5, and 157.5-degree aspects, as being more significant than the traditional "major" sextile or trine.

The parallel and antiparallel (or contraparallel) are two other aspects, which refer to degrees of declination above or below the celestial equator (rather than degrees of elevation in relation to the horizon). Most astrologers do not use them because all of the planets except Mercury and Pluto are always within 3 degrees of the ecliptic. They are considered strong influences, though not much research has gone into studying these particular aspects.

  • Parallel: Same degree±0.5 This is similar to a conjunction, but usually provides benefits.
  • Contraparallel. opposite Degree± 0.5 Said to be similar to the opposition, but weaker.

References: Addey, John: Harmonics in Astrology, Fowler, London, 1976. Brau, Jean-Louis: Larousse Encyclopedia of Astrology, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1977. Brummund, Ruth: Brummund Technique Book for Uranian Astrology, Llewellyn Publications, Saint Paul, 2005. Dean, Geoffey: Recent Advanced in Natal Astrology, Astrological Association, Bromley, 1977. Ebertin, Reinhold: Combination of Stellar Influences, American Federation of Astrologers, Tempe, 1972. Gauquelin, Françoise: Psychology of the Planets, Astro Computing Services, San Diego, 1982. Gauquelin, Michel: Cosmic Influences on Human Behavior, Stein and Day, New York, 1973. Meyer, Michael: Handbook for the Humanistic Astrologer, Anchor Books, New York, 1974. Rodden, Lois: Modern Transits, American Federation of Astrologers, Tempe, 1980. Soric, John: The New Age Astrologer, Star Astrology, San Antonio, 1976.


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