When we deal with what in astrology are called aspects, we deal with stages in life-processes whose rhythms are symbolized by planetary motions and dynamic interrelationships. From the point of view of a symbolic approach to astrology, however, we must keep in mind that the planets do not impose anything on us or 'influence' us. Rather, whatever orders their rhythms and interrelationships also orders our lives and life-processes on Earth: both celestial and terrestrial rhythms 'dance' to the beat of the same drummer, however we envision that drummer.
What we actually see from Earth is that planets periodically come together in the sky, separate and conjoin (or conjunct) again. After two planets come together (conjunction), the faster-moving planet travels away from the slower one. (Since no two planets move at the same rate, there is always a faster and slower in any pair.) As the faster planet travels away from the slower, the slower planet also moves, following the faster, but it can't keep up. Progressively, the distance between the two increases as the faster planet moves farther ahead and the slower planet fails to keep pace. The distance increases until the two planets oppose one another; they appear at opposite ends of the horizon.
A change in their relationship then occurs, for the faster planet no longer moves away from the slower, but instead appears to move back toward it. The slower planet moves away from the faster one, but since it cannot outrun it, the faster planet eventually catches up with the slower one, and finally rejoins it in the sky. This second conjunction begins a new cycle, but it occurs at a different place in the sky and in the zodiac from the first conjunction.
When we deal with aspects, we deal with the stages of this progressively unfolding, dynamic continuum of changing relationships between planets. The whole cycle of relationships refers to the process whereby the capacities or activities represented by one planet grow and develop in cooperation with those of another. Some life-task or function that cannot be performed by either planet's function alone must be developed by both together.
For example, Mercury represents thinking, but in order for thinking to be useful it must be either logical and directed toward some particular subject or end, or visionary and innovative. In the first case, Mercury would 'need' Saturn, which would help set goals and enforce the rules of logic. In the second instance, Mercury might need Uranus, Neptune or Pluto. In either case, if action needs to follow thinking, Mars would be needed to do what had been conceived or planned. With Mars, Saturn and/or Jupiter would be required: Saturn to keep Mars working toward definite goals, Jupiter to invite others to share in the endeavor or to make it relevant, and therefore acceptable and successful, in a broader social context. Venus could contribute by making the effort harmonious and its results beautiful or love-enhancing.
In a cycle between any two planets, the conjunction represents the time when the
two agree, as it were, on a task to accomplish, a capacity to develop between
them. In the first half of the cycle, while the faster planet moves away from
the slower, it 'carries out' this agreement. When the two stand facing each
other at opposition, they 'see' what together they have produced. They 'decide'
what to do with or about what they have jointly achieved or failed to
accomplish. As the faster planet moves back to the slower, it brings with it the
harvest of their cooperative experience.
Aspects are phases, successive steps, or turning points in this cyclic interplay. They are based upon dividing the 360° circle of relationships into various numbers of phases, most commonly two, three, four, and six. When we do this, we derive angular values measured in degrees of arc. The phases, turning points, and angular values derive their meanings by logic and analogy.
For example, in a three-phase process divided into beginning, middle and end, we would have three segments, each measuring 120°. When planets are separated by this angular value, they are said to be in trine, and their relationship enters a new phase in which a new type of activity is anticipated.
The meaning of a four-phase process is derived from such examples as the day (whose turning points are sunrise, noon, sunset and midnight), the month (whose turning points are measured by the phases of the Moon - New Moon, First Quarter, Full Moon, and Last Quarter), and the year (spring, summer, fall and winter).
If we translate these models into planetary terms, we would have planets in conjunction (separated by no angular distance), in square (separated by 90°), in opposition (180° distant), and in square (90°) again.
the three- and four-phase sequences we derive most of the
planetary aspects. If we were to superimpose them on a wheel, and add two points
near the beginning of the cycle to complement the trine-points near the
opposition, we would create aspects called sextiles (an angular value of 60°),
and we would have a schema for the major turning points or aspects in planetary
A discussion of the basic meanings of each follows:
A conjunction releases the power and impetus for a new cycle. As it forms, an old cycle ends and a new need becomes apparent. At exact conjunction the two planets involved 'agree' to try to satisfy it. The first phase of a cycle — between the conjunction and the next major aspect, the sextile (60°) — is a period of overcoming the inertia, unfinished business, or 'ghosts' of the previous cycle, and of discovering the limits and the special purpose of what is beginning.
A conjunction may be an especially powerful time, for something is just
beginning and the atmosphere may be charged with an air of exuberance or
expectancy. This sense of new possibilities may come as a relief from the
pressures of winding down an old cycle, but since by definition we cannot know
exactly what will come of something so new, what concrete form or direction the
new cycle will take or what its ultimate implications will be, we need to be
especially open and without fixed expectations.
Days on which conjunctions occur are especially appropriate for beginning new
endeavors, especially those symbolized by the two conjoining planets or those
which will call for the kind of activities the two planets' functions can
perform together but may not each represent alone.
There are two sextiles in every cycle between two planets. One comes during the first half of the cycle, after the two planets have conjoined but before they square and oppose one another. At the first sextile the faster planet is 60° ahead of the slower planet. The other sextile occurs during the second half of the cycle, after the two planets have opposed and squared one another and before they conjoin again. At the second sextile the faster planet is 60° behind the slower planet.
The keynote of the sextile in the first half of the cycle is
What began at the conjunction must be organized into some kind of form, be it a
plan, an object, an interpersonal relationship, a job, etc. This is why sextiles
are often associated with opportunities: opportunities come to give us a chance
to get organized. The cycle that started at the conjunction began in order to
satisfy a need. If a true need exists, 'universal ecology' will operate to fill
the vacuum by making appropriate opportunities available.
The sextile falling in the second half of the cycle stresses
the need to regroup after assimilating and integrating experience. Here, too, we
can expect that opportunities for appropriately reorganizing our endeavors will
appear. Days during which sextiles occur are especially appropriate for
expanding involvement in ongoing endeavors, and for working productively,
especially in activities which involve primarily ourselves. Under sextiles, we
have primarily to see that what is presented to us is indeed some kind of
opportunity, and we have to be able to understand how best to use it.
There are two squares in every cycle between two planets. The first goes halfway between the conjunction and the opposition between the two planets, when the faster planet is 90° ahead of the slower planet. The second comes halfway between the opposition and a new conjunction of the two planets, when the faster planet is 90° behind the slower planet.
The keynote of the square during the first half of the cycle is to establish. What was organized at the first sextile must be definitely and 'squarely' decided upon and committed to at the square. In order to make a full commitment or an unambiguous decision, we may be challenged to break away from previous types of attachments or activities as any decision requires us to reduce alternatives by closing out some option in order to pursue others.
The square during the second half of the cycle challenges us to establish and act upon the understanding we grew into as a result of the first hemicycle's activities. We may be challenged to abandon old ways or models of thinking in order to put the harvest of our experience to innovative use. The keynote of this second square is reorientation which literally means finding a new 'east,' a new sunrise point or source of animating power.
This is because the first half of the cycle between the two planets (from
conjunction to opposition) exhausts the power released at the conjunction.
Between the opposition and the second square we bask, as it were, in the
reflected glow of the first hemicycle's accomplishments. At the square midway
through the second half of the cycle, we have to become responsible for
re-animating our activities. We do this by understanding (at the second trine)
how they fit into a larger picture, and the new perspective reinvigorates us.
In contrast to sextiles and trines, which are traditionally categorized as 'fortunate' or 'easy' aspects, squares (and oppositions) have been called 'difficult,' 'negative' or 'hard' aspects. We may indeed feel tension under both types of squares because they challenge us to look at and compare where we're coming from and where we think we're going. What got us where we are may not be appropriate for getting us where we'd like to go, or where we'd like to go may not be appropriate in light of where we've been. We may be forced not only to ask these questions, but to answer them honestly and to act upon what we decide.
Creatures of habit that we tend to be, we don't readily alter our plans or direction, and we do not welcome unexpected changes. Days on which squares occur may be especially dynamic, and appropriate for pursuing activities in which we expect to encounter obstacles. We can try to harness the dynamism of the square in constructive ways. On days during which squares predominate we may also feel the pressure of what we interpret as outside demands. Disguised or hidden in the tensions or demands may be significant messages, if we could only be open enough to recognize them.
There are two trines in every cycle between two planets. The first occurs when the faster planet is 120° ahead of the slower planet, after the first square between them and before the two planets oppose each other. The second occurs after the opposition between the two planets, when the faster planet is 120° behind the slower planet.
In the first half of the cycle the trine is an aspect of harmonious expression. Having decided what to do at the square, and acted upon the decision in the interim, at the trine we become able to fulfill the need in answer to which the cycle developed. After the decisive commitment required at the square, the trine may feel like an easier period in which things operate smoothly. This may be the case, if we met 'squarely' what faced us previously. If we did not, we may tend to scatter our energies unproductively under the trine.
In the second half of the cycle, after the opposition between two planets but
before their square, the trine is an aspect of harmonious understanding or
This is because at the opposition before the second trine, we have to take into
account the environment in which we are operating and the others our actions
affect. By the second trine we should be operating according to a broader
perspective which includes others and our relationship with them. This can lead
to a new level or reinvigoration of activity at the following square, or by
finding ease in cooperating with others a valuable cross- fertilization process
may occur as we integrate others' perspectives into our own point of view.
Days in which trines predominate are therefore appropriate for activities
requiring others' cooperation or approval, but we should take care not to shift
the burden of activity onto them. We must continue to work with others once we
have interested them in our activities or point of view, and not look solely to
them for future direction.
As with squares, the opposition has traditionally been considered a 'hard' or 'difficult' aspect. But it is actually the culmination of the cycle. At the opposition the results of what occurred during the previous conjunction, sextile, square, and trine become set, and we can objectively see them. At oppositions we face the fruits of our labors, and see mirrored therein the reflection of our own capabilities, or failures. We may examine what we've done, or receive feedback from others.
If we feel tension under oppositions it may be because we’d rather not face what we see, or hear what others are telling us, but such meetings under oppositions should not be considered confrontations with adversaries. Our sternest critics (often ourselves) may be our most important sources of help, for criticism brings us objectivity and a chance to begin anew with the benefit of previous experience.
At oppositions we may have opportunities to enrich our viewpoints by contrasting them with others'. By moving toward what seems to oppose us, rather than forcefully trying to shut it out, we can use a confrontation constructively, by including what it represents in our perspective. This 'moving toward' nourishes cooperation and mutual understanding, which can become whole and harmoniously integrated within us and within the pattern of our lives at the trine that follows the opposition.
Days on which oppositions occur are therefore appropriate for tending to interpersonal relationships in a spirit of mutuality and cooperation. They are also appropriate for reflection and contemplation, and for finishing projects started earlier.
The Shambhala Astrological Calendar 1982 was written by Leyla Raël and designed by Antony Milner, with the assistance of Ricia Doren, Kathleen Fitzgerald, Sandra Maitri, and the inspiration of Dane Rudhyar.
Used with the kind permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill.