Sextiles, Trines & Squares, Oh My! A Guide to the Planetary Aspects
Sun conjunct Mercury, Mercury trine Saturn in Capricorn…what does this mean?
We often talk about our charts, synastry (comparison between two charts) and the aspects on the skies and hear all the time expressions like “Moon is conjunct Saturn,” or “Sun trines Jupiter,” or even “Mars quincunx Uranus,” but what are the meanings of these expressions? What does “conjunct” mean? Is it positive or negative; challenging or helpful?
In astrology, we have team major aspects and the underdog team minor aspects. let’s break them down to better understand their influence over us!
Major & Minor Planetary Aspects
Among the major aspects, we find the:
The minor aspect players are:
- Quintile and
Now, let’s explore each of them, so the next time you see these planetary aspects, you know exactly what to expect!
A tension aspect is normally associated with negative connotations, but they are as necessary as the easier aspects; they motivate one to act and create opportunities for growth. Too many of the so-called ‘easy’ or soft aspects can create a personality that is lazy, complacent and sluggish.
In addition, regarding an unfavorable situation, easy aspects do not activate change, they will support to maintain the situation. We would need a hard aspect to shake things up.
The conjunction is probably the most popular aspect - it’s when two or more planets merge with each other. A conjunction is not necessarily a hard aspect or a harmonious one, it largely depends on the planets involved.
A Mars-Moon conjunction could be considered a hard aspect due to Mars nature, a Moon-Venus would be considered a soft aspect, yet in both examples, the energies of the planets are combined and focused on the same goal.
The conjunction shows us an immediate resonance between the planets. Let’s pick the “Moon conjunct Saturn” example. This Moon would merge with Saturn, meaning the Moon would have a more sober and serious quality about it, toning down even the most extroverted sign.
Next we have the opposition. This 180º aspect is often regarded as tense or dynamic and has an energizing effect. Generally, this tension creates opportunities for both energies to cooperate and compromise with each other, to find the balance between them. Sometimes an opposition can make us wobble from one side to the other until we find that balance!
Oppositions can work like a mirror, where the lessons are learned through interactions with the external world.
For example, if you have transit Mars opposing your Sun, you may have built some anger and/or frustration inside you, there is some kind of unbalanced energy that needs expression and consequently is projected.
So, around this time you could encounter people who create challenges for you, you could find your relationships a bit strained as other people could be trying to bite your head off.
The key with an opposition would be to compromise and allow your ego to make a tactical retreat and avoid any confrontations. With oppositions, there are usually positive results.
The square usually has a bad reputation, the kind that makes you run at the sight of it! A square is a 90º tense aspect that doesn’t allow the planets and points involved to ignore each other.
A square represents an internal energetic conflict that forces us to act upon it in order to resolve it, forcing us out of our comfort zone and making us grow further.
It’s an aspect that creates action, and without squares, there would be complacency and no achievement!
The danger is when one tries to resist the square, allowing the inner stress to build up causing the energy to become destructive. The point is to give in and work on the issues presented by the square so that the growth potential can be manifested.
Let’s say you go through a Mars square Pluto transit or you have it in your natal chart. This is a super Mars, with so much energy present, so much determination and willpower that can move mountains - or destroy them. It can create huge inner power struggles and aggressiveness if the energy is not utilized. The key is to find a creative and constructive way to express this excessive and powerful energy, it could be through sports, through creative projects, etc.
The trine is an easy harmonious aspect. There is no resistance and the energy flows effortlessly. The planets involved support each other naturally.
Trines represent innate abilities - those that are second nature.
For example, a Sun trine Moon shows a natural harmony between yin and yang, masculine/feminine, active/receptive archetypes.
Having a transit with Uranus trine Moon is an easier experience than Uranus square Moon. Both point to emotional changes but the manifestation is different. The person with the trine would naturally go through the necessary changes, he/she would adapt more comfortably to the new conditions. The person with the square would have a more challenging time coping with sudden changes and instability.
The last of the major aspects is the sextile. This is also a harmonious aspect flowing with ease between the energies involved. The sextile is less dynamic than the trine but has more “oomph” to it.
Sextiles are skills or talents that are drawn upon when required and trines are those that are always there, being naturally expressed.
The Minor Aspects
The minor aspects are often overlooked, but they can highlight important details in a chart or synastry. The semisquare and the sesquisquare are weaker versions of the square.
The quincunx or inconjunction is a tense aspect that demands adjustments.
The feeling of a quincunx is the same as when a mosquito tries to bite you; the buzzing in your ear is annoying and persistent until the necessary adjustments are made.
A semisextile is half a sextile, it is a subtle tension and has a growth undertone, in fact, it is the movement towards growth itself.
Finally, we have the quintiles and the biquintiles. These are harmonious aspects which indicate the presence of a creative energy, they represent a gift, a developed capacity.
Quintiles and biquintiles can be powerful benefic influences.
Aspects are an integral part of astrology, and all of these can come together and form aspect patterns between them, creating powerful geometric configurations. Labeling aspects as good or bad is not really my cup of tea, because, as you can see, all of them have a purpose!
The ideal is always to have a balance between easy and hard aspects in a chart, synastry or even during transit cycles. Besides, once you understand the influences the different aspects can bring, you don’t need to fear them - just to figure out how best to use them in your own world.
Related article: Astrological Forecasts: When to Bring an Umbrella