Updated: Jul 5, 2021
Aspects are generally the thing that confuse people the most, partly due to the fact that it conjurers up memories of high school geometry class. Yes, you read that correctly, geometry. That ancient mathematics system that was developed hundreds of years ago and popularized by the Greeks and Romans would, of course, have a role to play in Astrology.
Aspects are the angles and relationships formed between planets and heavenly bodies in our birth charts. They tell us how things relate and show how the planets actually form angular relationships with one and other. As McCarthy so elegantly puts it "They explain how different facets of our personality harmonize and blend - or how they create paradox, tension, and complexity."
Aspects are broken into Major Aspects and Minor Aspects. Major Aspects have the most significance and represent the strongest angles of relationship between planets. Minor Aspects therefor hold less significance over our charts and horoscopes and have minor influence over our lives. (These can be thought about in a similar fashion to the Major and Minor Arcana in the Tarot.)
In the section below you will find tables that outline the aspects, provide you with the angle of the relationship which always has 9 ° variance +/-, its symbol as it would appear on your chart, and brief description - as always I encourage to you to dig into these and find the meanings you resonate with the most - along with its general positive or negative influence over the planets; you can think of this as its light and shadow influence as well.
Now these all are noted in the center of your birth chart and can some times also be found at the bottom of your chart in a table format. Here is an example of how the layout on a chart.
This is an example of how they may be represented in table form. This is taken directly from my birth chart. You read it from top to bottom and from left to right. So in this example, my sun is Square to my Moon. My sun is also in Opposition to Pluto and direct with my midheaven.
Now that you can identify some of the aspects it is time to start looking for patterns in them to help add further depth to your horoscope.
Grand Trine This is a formation of 3 trines that form an equilateral triangle on your chart. These represent things that may come easy to you in life as the energy flows between all these planets with ease because they will always fall into the same elemental association. Each elemental trine has its own meanings:
Earth - gifts of grounding
Air - talents of the mind
Fire - gifts of inspiration
Water - gifts of empathy and emotion
This is a formation comprised of two squares and one opposition. This is a pattern of great difficulty and passion. This can often be something that you have to work incredibly hard at, but in the end it pays off big.
This is a formation comprised of two oppositions and four squares. These often represent aspects of our lives that we may be gifted in but find great struggle with. Things that pull us in different directions. Fork in the road type situations.
This formation is comprised of five quintiles that form a 5 pointed star or pentagram, an occult symbol often used for protection and represents the fives senses, or the 5 elements in perfect balance. Because of this the Grand Quintile in a chart represents natural or extraordinary gifts, such as genius.
There are many many MANY more patterns that have meaning and significance in a chart. I would highly recommend doing some research in this area since there are even some books written on this subject as it can get VERY complex. But don't fret - you dont need to know them all and in the end just having an understanding of the basic aspects is all you really need to successfully read your chart.
As always, remember: Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about - so be kind. Always.
Bedell, C. (2018). A little bit of astrology: An introduction to the zodiac. NY, NY: Sterling Ethos.
Gillett, R. (2012). The secret language of astrology: The illustrated key to unlocking the secrets of the stars. London: Watkins.
McCarthy, J. (2018). The stars within you: A modern guide to astrology. Boulder: Roost Books.