The Astrology Page Blog: The Aspect Series

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Aspect Series

This is series on the aspects used in astrology. This series may seem technical to new readers, or new astrolgers, but I suggest you save it and print it out if you want to work with aspects.

This series is divided into several parts. Part 1 is a general introduction to the aspects. Part 2 will cover the square and the opposition, with example charts. Part 3 will cover the conjunction, the sextile and the trine. Part 4 covers the quincunx and minor aspects, such as the semi square. Part 5 will cover transiting aspects.

Part 1

This introduction covers the following topics:

General definition of aspects
Classical and modern aspects
Benefic or malefic aspects
Personal social and transpersonal planets
The order of the planets
Applying or separating

What exactly are aspects?

Planetary aspects are mathematical relationships between planets, whether they are aspects in the natal chart between the natal planets, or transiting aspects to the charts. They indicate how the planets and other points involved will interact with each other. Whenever planets connect, the connection is easy or difficult depending on whether the aspects are soft (benefic), or hard (malefic).

For an aspect to be valid, it must no more than a certain number of degrees of separation between the two planets. The limit is usually ten degrees.

The Classical and Modern Aspects

The classical aspects, (also called major aspects), as used by astrologers up until the 18 century, are the conjunction, sextile, the semi square, the square, the trine, the quincunx, and the opposition. Classical astrologers only used the quincunx under certain mathematical and relational conditions, which are too involved for this article.

There are many other aspects currently used astrology, such as semi squares, semi sextiles, quintiles, sesquisquare and noviles. I will discuss these aspects in the Part 4 of the series.

Benefic or Malefic Aspects

Aspects can be benefic or malefic depending on the aspect, and in the case of the conjunction, the planets involved. The sextile, trine and sometimes the conjunction are benefic aspects, while the square and opposition, and sometimes the conjunction, are malefic.


The conjunction is slightly different. The conjunction is a blending of two planets and can be either benefic or malefic depending on the planets involved. The conjunction is the only aspect that can be either good or bad. It is in either the same sign, or one sign apart.

Benefic and Malefic Planets

The benefic planets are the Moon, Venus and Jupiter; the malefic planets are Mars, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Mercury has a tendency to swing and takes on the characteristics of the other planet.

Personal, Social and Transpersonal Planets

Whether the aspect acts on subjective or objective level depends on whether the aspect involves the personal planets, the social planets or the transpersonal planets. The personal planets are the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, and Mars. The social planets are Jupiter and Saturn. The transcendental, or generational, planets are Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. (Yes, astrologers still consider Pluto a planet).

There is some confusion among modern astrologers as to the grouping of the planets. Some modern astrologers rank Jupiter and Saturn with the personal planets, but Jupiter and Saturn in traditional astrology were never considered personal planets. This changed in the last twenty years. Some astrologers do not even consider Mars a personal planet. Traditionally, a planet was only a personal planet if it was either the Moon, or in the orbit between the Earth and the Sun. To confuse you even more, the Sun and the Moon are not really called planets, they are called the ‘lights’ or ‘luminaries’.

According to traditional astrology, the way the personal planets affect you is just that, on a personal level. They involve such things as body, ego, feelings, family, and health; they are very subjective. The social planets are objective; they indicate how you are involved with the world beyond your door, and with ideas, values, rules and regulations. The transpersonal planets have come into use with modern astrolgoy. They were not used by the ancients, they are beyond sight; they are not visible to the naked eye. These planets indicate the collective, the universe, transformation, and regeneration. These outer planets move slowly, involve a generation, and work in an unconscious way, as opposed to being subjective or objective.

For a brief explanation of the characteristics of the planets, click here

The Order of the Planets

Planets in astrology have an order according to their speed around the Sun, or in the case of the Moon, its speed around the Earth. The order is Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and finally Pluto. The Moon is the fastest and Pluto is the slowest. This helps determine whether an aspect is applyling or separting.

Applying or Separating

Aspects are either applying or separating. In a natal chart, if a faster planet is lower in number than the slower planet that it aspects, it is applying. If it is higher in number than the slower planet, it is separating. For example, the Moon at 10 Capricorn in aspect with the Sun at 12 Capricorn is applying. If the Moon is 14 degrees Capricorn, it is separating. If Venus is 15 Aries and Jupiter is 17 Cancer it is applying. If Venus is 20 degrees Aries and Jupiter is 17 Cancer, Venus is separating.

An applying aspect is building to a crescendo, while a separating aspect has done most of its work and is winding down. However, this does not mean that the planet is finished wrecking havoc or giving rewards. It depends on the overall chart, the progressions, and the person. Some people are applying people, and some are separating types.

When interpreting Horary and Solar Return charts, separating aspects are not used.


Planets must have a certain distance between each other to be in aspect. This is called an orb. Many astrologers have their favorite orbs which are different, but I will give you the average. The tighter the orb, (the closer it is mathematically), the more impact the aspect will have, or the sooner it will manifest in a persons life.

The faster planets have a wider orb and the slower planets have a smaller orb. The Moon and the Sun are allowed up to a ten-degree orb. In other words, if the Moon and the Sun are anywhere from zero to 10 degrees apart in number, they are in orb to each other. If the Moon is 10 degrees apart from Mercury, this may not always be an effective orb; you will have to test it. You may want to limit it to 7 degrees.

Sun and Moon with each other –up to 10 degrees

Sun or Moon to the Ascendant – up to 10 degrees

Sun or Moon with other planets – this may be up to 10 degrees, but usually adjusted down to 6 to 8 degrees.

Mercury, Venus, or Mars with other planets – approximately 7 degrees

Jupiter or Saturn with other planets - approximately 5 degrees

Uranus with other planets - up to 2 degrees

Neptune, or Pluto with other planets – 1 degree

There are also aspects to other parts of the chart, such as the ascendant, midheaven, part of fortune, nodes, galactic points, and asteroids.

In the next part, Part 2 of this series, I will discuss the square and the opposition with example charts. I should be able to post it in the next week.


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