Astrology 101: Aspects – Meet the Majors (Part 1 – Conjunctions)

This is the interior of the chart of celebrated English Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley. That riot of colored lines isn't just a groovy visual: each line describes the particulars of the connections that the Planets make with each other in Shelley's chart...and each such connection is called an Aspect.
This is the interior of the chart of celebrated English Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley. That riot of colored lines isn’t just a groovy visual: each line describes the particulars of the various connections that the Planets make with each other in Shelley’s chart…and each such connection is called an Aspect.

Planets exist out there above us in the literal vacuum of space…but in an astrological chart, no Planet exists in a metaphorical vacuum. To some extent or other, every Planet in a chart is somehow connected with every other Planet in that same chart. Some of these connections are subtle and ephemeral, and others are very direct, and crackling with intensity.

The trick in becoming a skilled astrologer, then, is to be able to understand the characteristics of all of these diverse connections, and to recognize which of those that are on hand in a given chart will be the ones most likely to make their presences felt in the life of the chart-holder.

These connections are called Aspects. Most Astrology software presents these relationships graphically by rendering them as lines of various colors darting all about the interior of a chart.

Now, when it comes to the sort of triage process of deciding which possible Aspects we should include in chart analysis, and in what order of priority, it becomes apparent very quickly that this is another area in which it’s all but impossible to find any kind of consensus among astrologers. For every website that champions a certain Aspect as the most vital type of astrological connection known to humanity, five more minutes of surfing will turn up another site that just as passionately dismisses the same type of Aspect as being completely overhyped and unimportant. To some extent, you’ll need to keep this in mind as you study and practice, and begin to settle on which Aspects end up feeling truly important to you. If you’re just starting out, though, that’s obviously a lot more easily said than done.

Fortunately, though, there are several Aspects that are almost virtual locks for inclusion on nearly every astrologer’s list of must-haves. These are known as the Major Aspects:

Aspect

Glyph

Degrees

Character

Conjunction

360° (= 360°/1)

Variable

Opposition

180° (= 360°/2)

Hard

Trine

120° (= 360°/3)

Easy

Square

90° (= 360°/4)

Hard

Sextile

60° (= 360°/6)

Easy

Remember that in geometry, the distance around the circle is divided into 360 equal units of measurement, and these units are called degrees. This idea is critical in the realm of Aspects. It’s the number of degrees separating Planets or Points that determines which (if any) Aspects are held to be in operation.And this is where we start to make use of some of the nuts and bolts of the geometry of circles that we covered in the previous post…

The table above illustrates how we arrive at the Major Aspects: basically, we just divide the circle by one of the first few whole numbers. For example, dividing the 360° of the entire distance around the circle by 1, we’re left with that same entire 360° of distance. In other words, if we were to travel the full 360° around the circle, we’d be right back where we started. It may help to remember also that 360° is the same as 0° – consider that going all the way around a clock-face (the full 360°) from the 12 at the top would leave you right back at that same 12, exactly where you’d be if you hadn’t moved at all (0°)…

Zooming closer in on Percy Shelley's chart, we see a couple of outstanding examples of the Aspect known as a conjunction: his Venus and Sun, down at the bottom of the chart, are less than half a degree apart, while his Mars and Jupiter, at the upper right, are separated by a mere *two minutes* of distance! Each conjunction results in a merging of the energies of the involved Planets, because imagine trying to involve one of them, without the other half of the conjunction being a part of the action...
Zooming closer in on Percy Shelley’s chart, we see a couple of outstanding examples of the Aspect known as a Conjunction: his Venus and Sun, down at the bottom of the chart, are less than half a degree apart, while his Mars and Jupiter, at the upper right, are separated by a mere *two minutes* of distance! Each Conjunction results in a merging of the energies of the involved Planets, because imagine trying to involve one of them, without the other half of the Conjunction also being a part of the action…

But now insert that 360° distance between two Planets: say that in the chart that you’re analyzing, Venus lies at 14° Taurus. If I told you that Jupiter is located 360° from Venus in that chart, you could do the math/geometry in your head pretty easily, and you’d realize that Jupiter must then also reside at 14° Taurus. Two Planets that are 360° apart are essentially right on top of each other. An Aspect of this nature, in which two Planets lie that full 360° (= 0°) apart, is known as a Conjunction.

Conjunction.  In each of the major symbol-sets we’ve looked at so far, it was hopefully clear that each member of those sets has its own distinct personality. This holds true for the Planets, the Signs, and the Houses. No two of these symbols are alike. The same principle applies with respect to the Aspects. When we deal with the Conjunction – often held to be the most powerful Aspect of all – the watchword is fusion. When two Planets are conjunct one another, their functions and essences begin to flow together.

This idea confounded me when I first encountered it as a newcomer to Astrology, and I remember asking on a message board if this meant that, say, a Venus-Mercury Conjunction would result in something akin to a great, big, hybrid-Planet that would take on the form and function of a “Ven-Merc-us-ury” in the life of the chart-holder…? I was told gently that the two Planets don’t merge to that extent – they do retain their own identities, but they also do share an inextricable and fairly unavoidable link…

Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier are like the living embodiment of a planetary conjunction in 1958's
Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier are like the living embodiment of a planetary Conjunction in 1958’s “The Defiant Ones.” Imagine trying to bring one of these guys along with you to a party without his chained buddy also showing up…

Think of it this way… There’s a 1958 film called “The Defiant Ones,” in which Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis play a pair of convicts who escape from a prison transport vehicle and go on the run. There’s an added layer of difficulty in all this, even beyond what most would-be escapees would face, in that the two characters are chained together when they first hoof it away from the authorities. Where one goes, the other has to follow, and what befalls one, is pretty much guaranteed to happen to the other. If it rains on Sidney Poitier, Tony Curtis probably also needs an umbrella. If Tony Curtis falls off a cliff, Sidney Poitier either has to save him quickly, or join him in his terminal date with gravity. They still retain their individual identities, but you can’t really invite one of them to a party without the other one showing up, too.

Conjunctions work like that. The two Planets may not be literally shackled together, but they may function as if they are. Look again at that “Ven-Merc-us-ury” example I mentioned up above. If Venus symbolizes (among other things) our sense of what constitutes beauty and our drive to have relationships, and if Mercury is our communication function, then in the Venus-Mercury Conjunction, these two imperatives may seem fused.

Imagine that a person whose chart harbors a Conjunction of this type encounters something that strikes them as beautiful (i.e., their Venus function is triggered). They may then feel absolutely compelled to communicate about it (working their Mercury function). Some people can just quietly bask in beauty, keeping their thoughts and emotions to themselves, while just enjoying the experience. The person with the Venus-Mercury Conjunction, however, may be unable to keep from holding forth about that great beauty to anyone who will listen (and maybe also even to a few people who would rather not…).

Next imagine that the same person goes to work the next day, and is assigned to write a memo for their department at work that simply details the steps to be followed in the event of a mandatory safety evacuation of the building. Ordinarily, the memo in question should require only the most bare-bones language: a simple summary of action items in the proper sequence, and maybe a very basic map. The Venus-Mercury Conjunction person, though, might feel an uncontrollable urge to not just get the basics across (Mercury-style communication of data), but to do so in a way that’s also beautiful (Venus activity). They might use colorful and creative language, and they could conceivably experiment with striking graphic design principles so that the memo will have active visual appeal. In other words, the person’s Venus may not be able to sit quietly by and not contribute energy when their Mercury is getting busy – Venus may feel compelled to pretty everything up, whether the situation actually demands that or not.

So this is a person who might not be able to experience or perceive beauty without communication becoming a part of the proceedings…and who can’t communicate without including beauty as part of the package. The two Planets’ functions become linked in great part, and like the two characters in “The Defiant Ones,” they show up at every scene together.

Next time around we’ll start to look at the rest of the Major Aspects…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s