Identifying the Major Aspects

An astrological chart, like any circle, has 360°, with each sign of the zodiac covering exactly 30°, or one-twelfth of the whole. Within that circle, each pair of planets is separated by a specific number of degrees. Planets at certain significant distances from each other form an aspect. Table 13-1 lists the major aspects, along with their symbols.

Table 13-1 Major Aspects

Distance

Name of Aspect

Symbol

Effect

Conjunction

Unifies or blends

60°

Sextile

*

Supports

90°

Square

Creates friction

120°

Trine

A

Assists and brings opportunities

180° Opposition o° Opposes

Roughly speaking, there are three types of aspects. If two planets are within a few degrees of each other, they're conjunct, which means that they operate in unison. If two planets are 60° or 120° apart, they support and assist each other. These aspects — sextiles and trines — are considered harmonious. And if two planets are at right angles (90°) or opposite each other (180°), they're basically at war. These aspects — squares and oppositions — are considered hard.

Look at Oprah Winfrey's chart (Figure 13-1). She's a forward-thinking Aquarian with the Moon in optimistic, freedom-loving Sagittarius. She also has a series of aspects, both easy and challenging. They include:

1 An exact conjunction between the Sun and Venus at 9° Aquarius

1 A harmonious trine between Mercury, the planet of communication, at 19° Aquarius and expansive Jupiter, the planet of good fortune, at 16° Gemini i A stressful square between aggressive Mars at 23° Scorpio and Pluto at 24° Leo

Like most people, Oprah has a mix of conjunctions, harmonious aspects, and hard aspects in her chart.

Surprisingly, an "easy" chart festooned with sextiles and trines isn't necessarily better than a "hard" chart crisscrossed with squares and opposition. Astrologers have long noted that people with harmonious charts run the risk of becoming lazy and self-satisfied, while highly accomplished achievers often have high-stress charts.

The most powerful aspects occur when the distances between the planets are close to those listed in Table 13-1. A 90° square, for example, is stronger than an 82° square, regardless of the planets involved. But observation indicates that an aspect doesn't have to be precise to have an influence. So astrologers allow a little leeway on either side. This leeway is called the orb of influence. Astrologers differ, however, about how large that orb should be. A few generous practitioners use an orb as wide as 14°. Stricter seers permit no more than a 5° orb. Most astrologers, myself included, fall somewhere in the middle.

In general, I recommend using an 8° orb for the conjunction, square, trine, or opposition and a 6° orb for the sextile, which is a slightly weaker aspect. (Minor aspects, which I discuss later in this chapter, can handle only a 2° orb.) In each case, you can tack on an additional 2° if the Sun or Moon is involved. This means that if your Sun is at 14°, any planet between 4° and 24° of your Sun sign is considered conjunct, a planet 52° to 68° away is sextile, and so on. Remember: The tighter the orb, the more powerful the aspect.

Here's how to locate the five major aspects in your chart:

1 Conjunctions: You can readily detect conjunctions. If two planets are within 8° of each other (10° if the Sun or the Moon is involved), they're conjunct. For example, if you have Mars at 5° Sagittarius and Jupiter at 7° Sagittarius, they're conjunct. The same rule applies even if the two planets are in different signs. For instance, if you have Venus at 28° Capricorn and the Moon at 1° Aquarius, Venus and the Moon are conjunct.

1 Oppositions: To pick out oppositions, look for planets on opposite sides of the chart. Planets in opposing signs often (though not always) form an opposition. To be sure, check whether they're within orb. If your Mars is at 18° Sagittarius, any planet between 10° and 26° Gemini is in opposition. A planet at 6° Gemini isn't in opposition.

1 Squares: Squares are more difficult to spot. Look for planets in signs of the same quality (cardinal, fixed, or mutable). Then check that they're about 90° apart, plus or minus 8°. If they are, you've found the source of your deepest frustrations. In Oprah's chart, for example, Saturn, at 9° Scorpio, forms a square to Venus — which definitely puts a damper on her love life.

1 Trines: You find trines between planets in signs of the same element — that is, both planets are in fire, earth, air, or water signs. Maybe you have Mercury in Gemini and Uranus in Libra? If they're within 8° of each other, they're trine — in which case, congratulations: You have a quick, original mind.

1 Sextiles: The weakest of the major aspects, sextiles happen between planets that are two signs apart. In Oprah's chart, for example, Pluto at 24° Leo is sextile Neptune at 26° Libra.

Table 13-2 gives you squares and oppositions at a glance, and Table 13-3 does the same for the harmonious aspects.

Table 13-2

The Hard Aspects

If a Planet Is In...

It Squares Planets In...

And Opposes Those In...

Aries

Cancer and Capricorn

Libra

Taurus

Leo and Aquarius

Scorpio

Gemini

Virgo and Pisces

Sagittarius

Cancer

Aries and Libra

Capricorn

Leo

Taurus and Scorpio

Aquarius

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