When you begin to study astrology you are faced with an avalanche of myriad subjects and possibilities, the study of which can seem daunting. Astrology is a massive body of information that has been handed down for millennia, Ancient man could count and observe his natural surroundings and experiences. Through his observations of the heavens and the natural sequence of life he made connections or associations, built those observations into a body of information and then passed that knowledge on to the next generation. My point?
There is so much to learn, it is necessary to make choices in that study. Those choices become personal perspective not judgment. What has been retained and followed is valid to the user, we use what works for us. What has not been followed is simply another avenue that has not been explored. This series is intended to help you understand those choices. In previous articles we have looked at astrological choices in the material that is available for our study and use. Each decision requires that we make choices in what and how we will study, learn, and apply as astrologers, from our personal perspective. For this article we will look at aspects to determine our personal choices.
Just what is an aspect? In basic astrology, we primarily stay within our solar system: the Sun, the satellites of the Sun (the planets), and one satellite of one planet (the Moon which orbits our planet Earth). We use ten bodies: the Sun, Moon and the eight planets. Earth is not counted in this collection as it is the center around which the other bodies operate. (I know the Sun is in the center, I did take high school science.) However, we are all standing on the Earth, our physical location, so it represents the center of our personal experience (perspective). The angular relationship between those ten bodies (not including the Earth is what is termed as an aspect. Angular relationship equals aspect.
We are not limited to just those ten bodies. We may also use intersection measurements of space itself, with or without a physical body present. Those are called personal sensitive points (PSPs) and include important positions such as the Midheaven, the Ascendant, the Lunar Node, the Vertex, etc. These could also be included in our primary determination of aspects.
Aspects are really quite simple to understand. If you have two bodies that occupy the same part of the sky within reasonable measure, they will appear to be together (even though they are actually widely separated by millions of miles) and are considered conjunctions. The aspect literally indicates there is zero degrees of separation zodiacally. If two bodies were on either side of the Earth, they would be considered opposite because of their 180-degree angular relationship. The same is true of other measures as well, the square, the trine, the sextile, the inconjuncts and many more. As a developing astrologer how do you decide which aspects to study first and which aspects may be left for a later study? The division is simple and for convenience is labeled major or minor aspects.
Major aspects are determined by simple division of the zodiac, which is represented as a 360-degree circle. If I divide 360 degrees by one, we have two bodies together, the conjunction. If we divide 360 degrees by two, we have 180 degrees, the opposition described previously. If we divide 360 degrees by three, we get 120 degrees, the trine. If we divide 360 degrees by four we get 90 degrees, the square. If we divide 360 degrees by six we get 60 degrees, the sextile. Wait a minute, what happened to the division by five? If we divide 360 degrees by five, we get 72 degrees, very different from our previous 0 degree divisions, so this does not qualify as a major aspect; it is automatically thrown into the minor category. The major aspects are conjunction, opposition, square, trine and sextile and are easily calculated and observed. (Note: There is a 6th major aspect called the Parallel of Declination which is used rarely and which will not be addressed in this article). There is ample information available on the five major aspects outlined. All other aspects are considered minor.
Minor aspects are determined much in the same way but produce odd multiples or unusual combinations for answers. I do not want you to think the word minor means unimportant. Think of these aspects as less understood or less researched rather than unimportant. As mentioned the 72-degree division produced by the five is called the quintile. Dividing 360 degrees by seven produces a 51+ degree aspect called the septile, Dividing by nine produces 40 degrees, a nonagon or novile. The division by 11 is called an undecagon and this process of division to identify aspects continues on.
Did you notice I again left a couple of numbers out of the divided by series. Why? Because as the number of division increases we start to get multiples of previous calculations. For example, the sextile is a multiple of the trine, 60 degrees and 120 degrees. The division by eight is an exact bisecting of our division by four. In other words, the division by eight is exactly half the division by four so it is a multiple of the square. The division by ten is exactly half the division by five and is a multiple of the quintile, which is already classified a minor aspect. The division by twelve is the natural 30-degree division of the zodiac and exists within all major and some minor aspects. This division by twelve is the common base to many aspects but the 30 degree angle itself is considered minor in nature. When you get into these multiples later in your studies, you can also look to the field of harmonics for deeper understanding. Minor aspects are not less valid, they are less understood and studied.
One more consideration: it would be so simple to do these aspects if the planetary or PSPs were exact every time. It is not difficult to compare ten to ten. But it is possible for these positions to be close but not exact and still be in aspect. That allowed separation is called orb of influence. These space bodies are massive. The bodies occupy a physical space that can be distinctly measured but they have an area of influence around them so they physically affect a much larger space than they occupy. This in a human would be their aura. Scientifically this could be the magnetic field of a planet. Astrologically it is the planet’s orb of influence. The major aspects offer much larger orbs than the minor aspects. Traditional orbs for conjunctions, oppositions, squares and trines are eight degrees on either side of a body. While still considered a major aspect, sextiles (a multiple of a trine) have a six-degree orb on either side of the body. All other multiples have tighter orbs. A half a square (semi-square) or a square and a half (sesqui-square) usually carry a four-degree orb and as the aspects are refined, the orb diminishes to a single degree in many instances. Broad strokes (majors) carry broad orbs and tight multiples (minors) carry tight orbs.
So where do you apply your attention? Which aspects should you study early and which can wait? Which are most important? First, all are important. I doubt that whatever created the universe did anything unimportant. The universe is mathematical at its core, so the old Hermetic maxim “God geometrizes” is appropriate. Start with the five major aspects as given. Take the time to study, understand and apply through literally thousands of examples until you understand each thoroughly. Then turn your attention to a second group such as semi-squares and sesqui-squares, inconjuncts (quincunxes and their partners the semi-sextile), and quintiles. Work with these until your understanding develops then move on to the balance of the minor aspects. Hold in mind that a multiple of an aspect (minor) will operate in the same basic nature as the major aspect but with diluted impact. A half a trine is a sextile so the trine will be stronger than the sextile. A semi-square or a sesqui-square is of the same nature as the square but has half the power, and so forth.
As you develop your understanding, test various orbs of aspect to refine your understanding. I mentioned harmonics earlier, save this for your deepest study because this will take you the rest of the way in your understanding of aspects and the sky is truly the limit.