It has been said that in the natal chart, a planet is like an actor, its sign is its character, and its house placement is the stage setting. Still, occasionally I will hear someone say, “I don’t relate to my Venus in Aries at all,” or “I’m a Virgo but I always read the Libra horoscope because it’s just more me.” There are a few factors that can skew a planet’s expression, regardless of sign or house placement. Three of these are aspects to the planet, a stellium in the natal chart, and the sign on the native’s ascendant. This is part one of a three-part post that explains each of these in detail.
An aspect is an angle between two points in the natal chart. Look at it as a pie being divided into halves, thirds, quarters, eights, twelfths, etc. There are different kinds of aspects: flowing indicates ease between the planets involved, challenging aspects indicate tension, and others depend upon the involved planets.
The major flowing aspects are the trine and sextile, or a 120º and 60º angle, respectively. When two planets trine or sextile one another, they activate each other in a harmonious way. This can alter the expression of a planet by promoting its good qualities and easing the negative traits. In some cases, flowing aspects foster laziness or self-indulgence, because good things come naturally for the native.
The major challenging aspects are the square and opposition, or a 90º and 180º angle. These skew planetary expression by adding tension from another planet with a clashing agenda. Squares are dynamic and motivators for action, and oppositions are often played out by the native through one-to-one interactions.
Other angles include conjunctions (0º), which represent alignment of energy, and inconjuncts (150º), which are discomfort between planets. The nature and severity depends on planets/signs/houses involved. Conjunctions generally increase the concentration of energy in a sign or house. Inconjuncts generally require compromise and adjustment on the native’s part.
The precision of the angle also matters; the closer it is to a perfect aspect, the more powerful an influence. A perfect conjunction between two planets will be a greater than one with a 5º difference, for example. The accepted range for each aspect type (or, the orb) varies by astrologer, but generally conjunctions, squares, and oppositions are allowed wider orbs than trines, sextiles, and inconjuncts.
A final factor is whether an aspect is applying or separating. An applying aspect is building, or the faster-moving body has not yet reached a perfect angle with the slower one. A separating aspect is receding, after the faster planet has passed a perfect angle with the slower planet. Applying aspects are more powerful and generally have wider orbs (4-5º) than receding aspects (1-2º).
Occasionally, aspects make special patterns that take on their own special qualities, such as a T-square, grand trine, grand cross, kite, yod, mystic rectangle, etc.