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aspect(configuration) The apparent position of any of the planets or the Moon relative to the Sun, as seen from Earth. Specific aspects include conjunction, opposition, and quadrature, which differ in the elongation of the object concerned.
Aspect(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
Aspect (from the Latin word aspectus, meaning “to view or to look at”) refers to the angular relationship between various points in a horoscope (an astrological chart), especially to a series of named angles, such as trines (120°) and squares (90°). (For a discussion of the very different notion of aspects in Vedic Astrology, refer to the entry on drishti.)
The 12 signs of the zodiac, in addition to being bands of astrological influence, also provide astrologers with a system for locating planets and other points in space. A circle contains 360°, so when it is divided into 12 equal regions for the 12 signs, each sign encompasses an arc of 30°. Hence, a planet located near the beginning of Aries, for instance, might be at 1° Aries; in the middle of Aries, at 15° Aries; and near the end of the sign, 29° Aries. Earth, which is understood to be at the center of the horoscope (unless one is using a heliocentric or Sun-centered system), constitutes the vertex for any angle between planets or between other points in the chart. Thus, for example, if Mercury is located at 1° Aries, it would make a semisextile (30°) aspect with another planet—let us say Venus—that is located at 1° in the very next sign, which is Taurus. If we move Venus forward another 30° until it is at 1° Gemini, Mercury and Venus would form a sextile (60°) aspect. Another 30° to 1° Cancer forms a square (90°), and so forth.
The interpretation of a horoscope is built around three primary factors—signs, houses, and aspects—that make aspect interpretation one of the most fundamental components of astrology. In a natal chart, the planets represent, among other things, the various facets of one’s psyche, and aspects between them indicate how these facets conflict or work together. Mars, for example, represents the forceful, outgoing, aggressive side of the self, whereas Saturn represents the security-seeking, self-disciplined side. While everyone experiences some tension between these two principles, an individual with a Mars-Saturn square (a conflict aspect) in her or his chart experiences this conflict in an exaggerated manner, often over-repressing outgoing, aggressive urges and at other times exploding with impulsive actions or words. A trine, on the other hand, represents the easy flow of energy between two points; so an individual with a Mars-Saturn trine would find that these two facets of the personality work together easily, bringing patience and discipline (Saturn) to the side of ambitious aggression (Mars), and vice versa.
The major aspects are the conjunction (0°), sextile (60°), square (90°), trine (120°), and opposition (180°). Squares and oppositions are regarded as hard aspects, meaning they usually present challenges the native must face and overcome. Sextiles and trines, on the other hand, are regarded as soft aspects, meaning the energies represented by the planets and other points in the aspect combine in an easy, harmonious manner. The conjunction indicates a powerful blending of energies that can be easy or challenging, depending on the planets involved and the aspects that other planets make to the pair in conjunction. The traditional names for hard and soft aspects (names one still finds in older astrology books) are malefic and benefic. Beyond the undesirable connotations of malefic, these terms were dropped because malefic aspects are not always “bad,” nor are benefic aspects always “good.” For instance, an individual with numerous soft aspects and no hard aspects can be a lazy person who is never challenged to change and grow. On the other hand, an individual who has risen to the challenge of numerous hard aspects and overcome her or his limitations can be a dynamic, powerful person.
The “traditional” minor aspects are the semisextile (30°; sometimes called a dodecile), the decile (36°), the semisquare (45°; sometimes called an octile), the quintile (72°), sesquisquare (135°; sometimes called a sesquiquadrate or sesquare), the quincunx (150°; sometimes called an injunct), and the biquintile (144°). Other minor aspects are the vigintile (18°; also called a semidecile), the semioctile (22½°; sometimes called the semi-semisquare), the quindecile (24°), the novile (40°), the septile (513/7°), and the tredecile (108°). The ancients, who referred to the aspects as familiarities or configurations, used only the major aspects. The major hard aspects come from dividing the horoscope circle into halves and quarters, soft aspects from dividing it into thirds and sixths. Some of the minor aspects derive from further dividing the circle into eighths and sixteenths (semisquare, sesquisquare, and semioctile) and twelfths (semisextile and quincunx). Yet other minor aspects derive from 5-way and 10-way divisions (quintile, biquintile, decile, and vigintile), a 7-way division (septile), a 9-way division (novile), and a 15-way division (quindecile). For general interpretation purposes, the minor aspects are rarely used unless they are very precise.
Few aspects are ever exact (exact aspects are referred to as partile aspects). For this reason, astrologers speak of the orb—or the orb of influence—within which specific aspects are effective. For a sextile, for example, many astrologers use a 6° orb in a natal chart, which means that if any two planets are making an angle anywhere in the 54°-66° range, they are regarded as making a sextile aspect with each other. The closer an aspect is to being exact, the stronger it is. For the major aspects, astrologers often allow an orb of 8° or more; for minor aspects, 1° to 3°.
Why should some aspects produce harmony and others conflict? Although astrologers have speculated on this point (often making numerological speculations), the question has never been satisfactorily answered. In terms of the astrological tradition, it is easy to see that the trine, the primary soft aspect, usually brings a sign of one element into relationship with another sign of the same element (e.g., 15° Gemini is 120° away from 15° Libra, which is 120° away from 15° Aquarius, which, in turn, is 120° away from 15° Gemini, making a grand trine composed entirely of air signs), and signs of the same element tend to blend together harmoniously. By way of contrast, the square, which is the primary hard aspect, brings signs of very different, potentially conflicting elements into relationship (e.g., a planet in a water sign squaring a planet in a fire sign).
But such an analysis breaks down as soon as we compare oppositions and sextiles, which involve precisely the same kinds of elemental combinations (e.g., the natural opposition to a planet in a water sign is a planet in an earth sign, and the natural sextiles to water signs also involve earth signs). Thus, at this stage in our understanding, we can only observe that a certain aspect produces a certain effect, without fully knowing why. This should not be too bothersome as the situation is not much different from the natural sciences, in which one can describe the effects of, say, gravity without being able to explain why gravity works.
Because aspects are a basic part of astrological understanding, every astrology software program automatically calculates the aspects between the planets. These aspects are displayed either as lines drawn between the planets and/or in an aspect grid. All major programs also calculate and display aspects to the midheaven, the ascendant, the north lunar node, Chiron, the four major asteroid, and, depending on the program, to other points as well.
Versions of ASpecT are available for Sun, Ultrix, NeXT, Macintosh, OS/2 2.0, Linux, RS/6000, Atari, Amiga.