Identifying aspect formations is the first step towards unlocking the mysteries of an astrological chart. Geometric nature of aspect patterns is expressive and symbolic, it reveals an underlying framework behind complex interactions between astral energies of planets.
So many things begin to take shape and make sense once we can “see” them in our mind’s eye. Human ability to see is directly related to the sense of geometry and pattern recognition and as much as we live by numbers, the world of lines and shapes is our true native language.
When it comes to astrological charts interpretations, there are two ways to understand the chart: numerically and geometrically. Some astrologers “drive by numbers” while others tap into geometrical symbolism behind the chart’s “look and feel”. Both methods are valid.
TEASER: The comments section at the bottom has an interesting discussion about Adolf Hitler’s chart and the origins of his evil powers. Good to know!
This story will look into “looking at the chart”
Every chart’s geometry is striking and memorable, it evokes a certain range of unmistakable feelings. The beauty of geometrical approach lies in our near-instant recognition and appreciation of its nature. A numerical description of the chart takes longer to sink into our consciousness.
We do like numbers for their quality of precision and thus base most of our judgement and decision making on numerical assessment. Geometry is the visible side of mathematics notable for its expressive and symbolical power that is able to evoke rich visual associations in the observer’s mind.
Human consciousness exists in the ocean of lines and shapes. We inhabit the world of geometry with its language based on dots and interconnecting lines. We instinctively know how to operate with those principles.
Geometry is about patterns
The visual side of human mind recognises a shape by quickly identifying a pattern that best matches the shape. Our mind works really fast and we take this process for granted: it’s easy to discern every day objects like chairs, tables and trees.
When we encounter an object that we haven’t yet seen, our mind takes time to collect impressions and categorise the newly found entity in order to allocate a corresponding mental “shelf” that can hold this newly discovered item, possibly including similar objects that we may stumble upon in the future.
Astrological patterns and geometrical chart interpretation
The ability to recognise patterns of astrological aspects is the entry point to the geometrical chart interpretation.
Any astrological chart is a complex alchemical mixture of many principles. The astrologer’s mission is to uncover hidden connections between those units of energy, revealing the astral matrix on which the person’s individuality is built upon.
This art of interpretation rooted in the ability to identify two major areas: main chapters and key players.
The chapters are geometrical patterns. The key players are planetary energies that communicate with one another in accordance to the rules of patterns.
Once the initial work on separating chapters out of the chart is complete, the interpretation will begin to emerge as if by itself.
Below is the outline of a method that can be effectively used to visually grasp the chart’s main chapters and key players:
- Gaze for some time at the chart’s geometry without trying to make any early or even worse, logical, assumptions. In fact, resist the urge to produce any quick conclusions.
- Take a break and forget about the chart. Don’t worry, your mind will be processing the chart’s image in the background, it is perfectly capable of that.
- Return to the chart observation and begin unpacking its meaning, chapter by chapter. You may want to draw each chapter separately.
By separating basic geometrical patterns and gradually working through each of them, the astrologer is able to identify key driving energies within each chapter continuously adding more details to reveal the bigger picture.
Now that you, the reader, is ready to dive into the patterns, let us suggest that each time you need a refresher about astrological aspects don’t hesitate to revisit our stories that cover major and minor aspects: “Astrological aspects and sacred geometry” and “Minor astrological aspects and the domain of magic”.
The major types of aspect patterns
The visual web of astrological aspects produces many different geometrical formations, some simple others intricate and mysterious. We are going to look at several fundamental patterns, omitting exotic, rare and complex patterns.
Why not jump into the most intricate patterns? The fundamental patterns provide a solid predictable framework for chart interpretation. Exotic patterns are rare, their meaning can vary greatly depending on the planets involved and several other factors. They are both complex and notoriously unreliable. Their alluring nature is the beginner’s booby trap. A truly mature astrologer gets better and more precise results by working on simpler principles.
Choosing a simpler set of tools allows for a deeper immersion and produces a more nuanced chart interpretation. The principle of “less is more” applies to astrology really well.
The seven fundamental aspect patterns presented below constitute the framework that allows to construct other patterns. These seven aspect patterns can be seen as the framework for understanding a complex world of fluid interactions between planetary energies.
A cluster is formed by two or more planets being conjunct. Clusters symbolise accumulations of planetary energies, the person is likely to have a strong affinity with that combination of forces and experience strong influences from those planetary energies, especially during periods of transits to that cluster.
Cluster can be quite wide, sometimes spanning across a whole zodiacal sign. In most cases, only the neighbouring planets are truly conjunct while the planets at the extremities of the cluster aren’t in conjunction since their orbs are likely to be too big.
The chart below illustrates differences between a loose cluster of Mars–Mercury–Saturn and a tight cluster of Venus–Moon–Jupiter.
In a loose cluster the extremities are being mediated by an intermediary. In our example it’s Mercury that mitigates between Mars and Saturn that otherwise don’t talk to each other directly.
Tight clusters, like Venus-Moon-Jupiter on the right, result in a much more intense interactions between energies involved. They produce more impulsive gut-level psychological profiles that are more difficult to handle using one’s mind. But the strong factor of irrationality can be turned to one’s favour during certain transits. We will touch on that topic further down.
Cluster vs. satellitium
Satellitium is a traditional term describing a grouping of several planets (more than two) in a sign, or in a house. Modern astrology tends to call it “stellium”, the term that unfortunately obscures the original meaning.
An example below shows two satellitium groups, one Mars/Uranus/Saturn that has no conjunctions and another Venus/Moon/Jupiter/Mercury that has one conjunction, Venus–Moon.
An important difference is that the planets forming a satellitium don’t have to be conjunct, they just need to be colocated in the same sector of the sky. A satellitium is several magnitudes weaker than a cluster since there is no direct connection between the planets apart from them being colocated in the same sign or house.
The word “satellitium” comes from “satellite” or “companion” that makes perfect sense as the planets are companions to each other. The word “stellium” seems to be a new age astrological simplification that sounds sexier (as if related to the stars) but completely misses the original meaning.
Thus we are certainly voting in favour of a clumsier yet more precise notion of satellitium.
An easy opposition is formed when an “easing” planet is added to the opposition in such a way that it forms a sextile and a trine aspects with the opposing planets.
An opposition signifies polarity and tension between two principles or two planetary energies. In the example below, a Mars–Saturn opposition, when taken on its own, is certain to introduce significant difficulties resolving action vs reason, a need to advance vs a need to retreat. In other words, a typical Mars–Saturn malaise that so often results in fears and locked-up personalities.
But there is help in this opposition. The easing influence of Venus softens the drama of Mars-Saturn introducing a certain element of flow.
Easy opposition doesn’t mean that the opposition is resolved, it rather provides the person with the third force that can talk to polarised energies.
Easy oppositions provide clues that can help the person to handle inherent conflict in a creative manner that is guided by the easing planetary influence.
A T-square is a harder form of easy opposition. Being a combination of an opposition and two squares, T-squares point at solid crystallisation of forces and astral patterns in the person’s psyche.
Crystallised sides of personality may equally work for and against the native. In the example below, the Mars–Saturn axis is being “activated” by Venus that is square to both planets. Square is the symbol of manifestation and the material world we live in.
Having Venus equidistant from both planets may result in emotional swings. The person’s emotional state is likely to alternate depending on how Venus manifests itself on a given day. Such oscillations produce distinctly different Venus–Mars and Venus–Saturn sub personalities.
The T-square is an invitation to look for potential emotional blockages that relate to the three planets involved. Once identified and felt, use the power of transits to rectify entrenched patterns. More on that further down.
A grand cross is a combination of two T-squares. This clearly makes it a very powerful pattern that signifies astral crystallisations taken to their extremes.
The example below illustrates a grand cross that is made out of two oppositions, Mars–Saturn and Pluto–Venus, and four (!) squares.
Grand cross is a difficult pattern that requires a good amount of time and attention in order to identify and understand multiple swings between its polarities. The difficulty lies in the intensity of those swings. But once understood, the person gets a real advantage of being able to consciously steer their life.
The grand cross passes an inconspicuous resemblance to the steering wheel. The key to success lies in owning that wheel and thus the destiny.
A grand trine is made out of three planets forming three trines. This aspect pattern symbolises a perpetual flow.
Trines are good for smoothing things out and helping to negotiate or mediate between conflicting or opposing principles. Triangles provide necessary lubrication to the chart.
The big trick with the grand trine is its excessive mediation. In the example below Venus, Mars and Saturn are in constant dialogue that can go in circles infinitely long. We really need to have some red lines here!
The grand trine is a harmonious pattern that can become paradoxically counter productive in this material world. Grand trine is of great help when sufficiently supported by some concrete manifesting aspects in the chart. Grand trine brings the promise of immense potential provided there’s an action that actually makes things happen in the world, here and now.
A kite is made out of a grand trine by adding a fourth planet that is opposite to one of trine’s planets. Kite combines the power of trines, sextile and a healthy opposition.
The kite pattern is a more hands-on version of the grand trine. The example below shows how the Sun–Saturn opposition brings much needed polarity and tension that turns otherwise indecisive trine into a powerhouse fuelled by the energy of the Sun and supported by both Mars and Venus that counteract inherent indecisive attitudes of Saturn that often tends to over-think things.
The kite is a wonderful aspect pattern that naturally invites the native to focus on its dominant polarity and use its dynamic qualities while being helped by beneficial trines and sextiles.
Two similar aspects pointed at a planet form an arrow-like shape, or a spike. Two planets at the base of the spike form a second aspect.
In the example below Pluto is the main planet of the spike formed by two biquintiles (144º) with the quintile (72º) at the base.
Spikes come in many varieties, although the most powerful spikes are formed by wider minor aspects like sesquisquare (135º) , biquintile (144º) and inconjunction (150º).
The illustration below overlays several spikes to show the difference. The obtuse angle made out of two quintiles (72º) doesn’t produce an impression of intensity and can’t be qualified as a spike. On the other hand, acute angles formed by sesquisquares (135º), biquintiles (144º) and inconjunctions (150º) are reminiscent of sharp astral energies.
The spike is the symbol of “special” accumulation of forces: special abilities, special karma and anything that can potentially take the person out of the rank of ordinary.
Sesquisquare (135º) spike points at forces of karma relevant to the main planet of the aspect in relationship to the two other planets. It’s not just two sesquisqares but rather a double sesquisquare concentrated on one planet. What’s more, this spike has a square aspect at its base, a sheer smashing strength of this pattern earned it an evocative name of “Thor’s hammer” in modern astrological parlance.
Biquintile (144º) spike symbolises creative, occult and magical abilities. The connection lies in its relationship to the pentagon, the five-point star symbol traditionally related to the ability to make things happen via the magic of sheer will power. Our recent story “Minor astrological aspects and the domain of magic” discussed how star-like aspects are the link to magic and occult.
Inconjunction (150º) spike is also influenced by the magic of number five since an inconjunction is made out of five zodiacal sectors. As the illustration above shows, an inconjunction spike is a close cousin to a biquintile one with only 6º difference between the planets at the base.
Spikes and the “yod”
Some form of spikes were relatively recently popularised as “yod” perhaps to emphasise their hidden and mysterious powers. The word “Yod “ is the name of the tenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Traditionally, yod is said to represent an atomic divine quality, a singular point of energy out of which all manifested things came to being. Yod also means “hand” of a man in a prayer, reaching out for God.
Qualifying each spike as a “finger of God” is perhaps a romantic exaggeration that appeared only recently during the New Age. Some spikes do have meaning while others may lay dormant and not do much. It all depends on the overall chart configuration.
Thus we prefer the name of spike over yod. The term spike is more down to earth, covers a wide range of angular formations and doesn’t scream of divine powers.
What intensifies aspect patterns
Any aspect formation becoming significantly more intense when aligned to the angles (the Ascendant–Midheaven axes).
For example, a grand cross aligned with the four angles passes a sense of extreme density and raw manifesting will power.
If an aspect pattern rests on the nodal line between the South and North Nodes of the Moon, that pattern points at forces that the individual need to apply to ensure a successful journey towards fulfilment of their destiny.
The chart above tells us that using Mercury–Uranus faculties of innovation and originality is the way forward in this incarnation. The Uranus square comes with a warning that any revolutionary faces: the danger of losing one’s head. Introducing mercurial attitude of humour and relativity supplies much needed lubrication to overly electric Uranus. Note that there is a trine aspect between Mercury and Uranus.
Aspect patterns and transits
Having an aspect pattern in your natal chart invites for more careful observations of transits. Such time periods bring significant changes and also allow for rearrangements to take place.
A good approach is to pay attention to transiting planets that match those found in the pattern. For example, having an easy opposition with Venus being the “easing” force can be read as an invitation to watch Venus transits over natal Venus position, as well as the other two planets involved.
Practicing note taking during those periods may prove extremely valuable as you will begin to notice certain repetitions of circumstances around those periods. And this allow to introduce a powerful method for changing those circumstances.
If at the moment of transit you make a conscious choice tangential to usual “default” behaviour, a powerful redistribution of energies may be triggered thus raising the frequency of your chart.
As with many things astrological and magical, it’s all about the timing. Success equally depends on precision and relevance of action.