Aspect patterns are configurations of three or more planets that each aspect each other or are connected by a common aspect. The Grand Trine, T-Square, Yod, and Stellium are all examples of aspect patterns, and along with several others, will be discussed in detail shortly. The key to an aspect pattern, in fact, what makes an aspect pattern an aspect pattern is that the planets involved are so closely linked to each other that whenever one of the planets is triggered by transit, progression or direction, all of the other planets in the configuration are also activated at the same time. Planets in aspect patterns function as units, always working together.

Interpreting, understanding and working with aspect patterns is very complicated. Simply understanding how a single aspect between two planets may manifest is challenging enough: with aspect patterns, anywhere from three to six or more planets must be synthesized. The general level of confusion about aspect patterns is increased because aspect patterns are usually pretty easy to spot in a chart, and because they seem to be so important. It's impressive to be able to tell someone "you've got a Grand Cross in your chart" and if that individual actually does have a Grand Cross, it is certainly a very important factor to consider, but when it comes time to explain exactly what that means many astrologers, particularly newer astrologers, come up short.

Before we look at what each of the aspect patterns signifies and how to interpret them, we first have to set some guidelines as to what makes an aspect pattern and what doesn't.

Aspect Patterns Can Only Be Formed by Physical Bodies

Aspect Patterns Can Only Be Formed by Physical Bodies

The only points in the chart that can be used to make up an aspect pattern are physical bodies. Personally, I would limit that even further to only include the planets, and perhaps Chiron, excluding any and all of the other asteroids, but that's a personal choice. However, the Ascendant, the Midheaven, the Moon's Nodes, the Vertex, the East Point, the Part of Fortune, and any other mathematical point in the chart should not be considered when determining an aspect pattern.

Physical bodies both make and receive aspects from other physical bodies. When Mars trines Jupiter, there is a flow of energy from Mars to Jupiter and from Jupiter to Mars; both planets are effected and influenced by the aspect. Mathematical points in the chart which include the angles, the Moon's Nodes, and the Arabic Parts or Greek Lots can only receive aspects from physical bodies, they do not make aspects. Mars trine the Ascendant will influence the Ascendant, coloring how that individual appears to others, and how that individual interacts with the world. It will not, however, influence the expression of that individual's Mars. Fixed stars, for the purposes of aspect patterns, should be likewise regarded as sensitive points in the chart and nothing more. They can make aspects (usually by conjunction only), but they do not receive aspects.

For example, let's take the Moon in Taurus, Mars in Capricorn and Sun in Virgo. Each of these planets is trine the other two; the energy cycles endlessly between the three planets with no beginning and no end. However, if instead we take the Moon in Taurus, Mars in Capricorn and the Ascendant in Virgo, the energy either begins with the Moon, moves through Mars and expresses through the Ascendant, or else it begins with Mars, moves through the Moon and expresses through the Ascendant. Rather than being a GrandTrine, it's simply a Moon/Mars trine with a very natural outlet for expression.

Aspect Patterns Require Very Small Orbs

Aspect Patterns Require Very Small Orbs

Aspect patterns are so powerful because of the harmonic resonance that they carry. When any planet in the pattern is triggered, all of the other planets are also triggered, either directly or indirectly. To explain this concept in more detail, we first have to look at the two different components that make any aspect "work".

There are two different approaches to aspects, each of which is very important: the elemental approach and the harmonic approach. The elemental approach to aspects comes from the ancient Greek and Egyptian practice of using whole-sign aspects. This practice originated in the earliest days of astrology, when precise measurement of the planets was difficult, if not impossible. (Today, with our computer programs, we tend to quibble about a discrepancy of a few seconds of arc, but the Ancients were thrilled if they could fit within a 5-10 degree window.) Only the so-called Ptolemaic aspects were used (conjunction, opposition, trine, square, sextile), and aspects were formed from sign to sign. Any planet in Aries was square any planet in Cancer, regardless of the angle between them.

The elemental approach to aspects takes into account the nature of the signs, and the relationship between those signs in interpreting an aspect, a technique that is still essential today. Conjunctions occur between planets in the same sign, and represent a unity of approach, a merging of energy. Oppositions occur between planets in the same modality (Cardinal, Fixed or Mutable) and in the same polarity (Masculine or Feminine). Squares occur between planets in the same modality (Cardinal, Fixed or Mutable) but in different polarities. Trines occur between planets in the same element (Fire, Earth, Air or Water), and Sextiles occur between planets in the same polarity, but in different elements and modalities. Quincunxes and Semi sextiles (Inconjuncts), while not widely used at the time, occur between two signs that have nothing in common by polarity, modality or element.

Although the Greeks didn't seem to be too concerned with the "orb" of an aspect, they did differentiate between exact aspects and less exact ones. Any aspect that occurred between planets in the same degree was called partile and was considered to be exceptionally strong. Aspects that were not in the same degree were called platic.

In the 1600s, when measuring the positions of the planets became much more accurate, and largely due to the influence and theories of Johannes Kepler, the concept of harmonics came into play. Kepler thought that aspects worked because the planets vibrated at the same frequency, and therefore resonated with each other. The harmonics were based on the division of the 360 degree circle by whole numbers. Conjunctions are 1st harmonic aspects. Oppositions, 180° aspects, are 2nd harmonic aspects (360 divided by 2). Trines, 120° aspects are 3rd harmonics; Squares (90°) are 4th harmonics; and Sextiles (60°) are 6th harmonics. Kepler didn't stop with the Ptolemaic aspects, however. He is the "inventor" of the Quintile, (5th harmonic, 72° aspect) and it's compliment, the Biquintile (144° aspect, also 5th harmonic); as well as the 8th Harmonic aspects, including the 135° Sesquiquadrate.

When using harmonics, both in music and in astrology, the closer the two vibrations are to exact, the more pronounced and powerful the harmonic is; also, the higher the harmonic, the more subtle the effect and the more precise the vibrations must be. This is where the whole question of orbs came about. The closer two planets are to the exact angle of the aspect, the more powerful and pronounced the harmonic effect is. The question becomes, however, at what point does the harmonic influence fade to insignificance? There is no answer to this question; the only rule of thumb is that based on the laws of harmonics (from physics), the widest orbs should be allowed for Conjunctions, and then in decreasing order for Oppositions, Trines, Squares, Quintiles, Sextiles, Septiles (7th Harmonic), Octiles (the 8th Harmonic series, including the Semi-square and the Sesquiquadrate), Noviles (9th Harmonics), Deciles (10th Harmonic) and the smallest orbs of all would be allowed for the 12th Harmonic series, which includes the Semi-Sextile (Inconjunct), and the Quincunx.

Now, even if you don't consider the Quincunx to be a "major" aspect, most astrologers allow at the very least a 2 degree orb for Quincunxes, sometimes more; and they would certainly give it a wider orb and more leeway than they would a Septile, for example. This, I believe, is where and why the elemental approach must be combined with the harmonic approach to aspects. Quincunxes and Semi-Sextiles may be 12th Harmonic aspects, but they are also whole-sign aspects, and the nature of the energy of these aspects comes as much from the harmonics as it does from the relationship between the signs.

So what the heck does this all have to do with using small orbs for aspect patterns, I hear you cry? Quite simply, part of the power of an aspect pattern comes from the harmonics of it. With a true aspect pattern, when one planet is triggered, so are all of the others. Look at aspect patterns like a guitar. If you pluck one string on a guitar that has been properly tuned, all of the other strings will also vibrate because of the harmonics. However, if the guitar is not properly tuned, the other strings will not respond. The tighter the orbs in the aspect pattern, the better tuned the guitar is. Another reason for this is that many aspect patterns involve harmonic aspects (a Grand Cross has two Oppositions (2nd harmonic) and four Squares (4th Harmonic). If the orbs are too wide, some of the aspects will not be present, and some of the strings (to stick with the guitar example) won't vibrate.

This is particularly clear when the triggering planet is one of the outer bodies. A person with a T-Square or a Grand Cross with a 1° orb is going to experience Pluto triggering all of those planets at the same time. Extend that orb to 5°, and the effect is quite different: the pressure of Pluto will trigger the planets in sequence, but not simultaneously, and it may take up to a year for all of the planets to be hit.

Aspect Must Be in the Correct Signs

Aspect Patterns Must Be in the Correct Signs

One of the cans of worms opened by the harmonics approach to aspects is the creation of an "out of sign" aspect. The ancients would have considered a planet at 29° Cancer and one at 1° Scorpio to be Trine each other, even though they are only 91° apart and from a harmonic standpoint are most certainly Square each other. "Out of sign" aspects are very different than "in-sign" aspects. In the above example, even though the two planets would certainly have a very active and stimulating relationship on a harmonic level, because they are in the same element, they still have common ground, and share a connection that may tend to mitigate the "butting heads" feel of an "in-sign" square.

With aspect patterns, unless the orbs are very tight, as in the above example, they must be in the "correct" signs, because the other factor that contributes so strongly to the power of aspect patterns is the elemental influence. In fact, as we will see shortly, the elemental influence and interactions is often the key to understanding and interpreting an aspect pattern in the first place.


Interpreting the Aspect Patterns

Once you have determined if you actually have an aspect pattern to interpret, the first step to understanding it is to forget that it's an aspect pattern. Although it's true that with aspect patterns the whole is very much greater than the sum of the parts, in order to even begin to understand the whole, we first have to understand each of the parts individually. Interpreting and synthesizing an aspect pattern is as challenging and as complex as synthesizing an entire chart. The only consolation here is that real aspect patterns tend to be the key to understanding the rest of the chart, and usually spell out the major themes of the chart quite clearly.

Each aspect pattern has a different feel to it, and this is important to keep in mind as you look at each of the individual planets involved, and then again at each of the individual aspects. Don't force them, but try and find the common theme between them. Since no aspect pattern is ever perfect, a good place to start is with the tightest and most exact aspect and work from there. Just as an aspect pattern can set the theme and tone of a chart, the most exact aspect in that pattern can set the theme and the tone of the aspect pattern.

Now that all of the disclaimers are out of the way, we can actually take a look at the different aspect patterns and try and make some sense of them.



StelliumA Stellium is technically a group of three or more planets that are conjunct each other. Being a 1st Harmonic (Conjunction) aspect pattern, the orbs allowable for a Stellium can be quite generous. The textbook definition of a Stellium would be three planets at the same degree of a sign, as in the Sun, Mars and Jupiter each at 12° Virgo (or each within a 1-2° orb of this point). Stelliums can also consist of two planets that, while they are too far apart to be considered to be Conjunct each other, are each Conjunct a third planet which forms a sort of a link and connection between the three. (In other words, the Sun at 1° Virgo, Mars at 6° Virgo and Jupiter at 11° Virgo; the Sun and Jupiter are too far apart to be Conjunct, but since each of them is Conjunct Mars, the three planets are linked.) Because Stelliums are a whole-sign Aspect Pattern, even having three or more planets in the same sign could be considered a Stellium. (Three or more planets in the same HOUSE, however, is not a Stellium.)

Needless to say, the closer the Conjunctions are, the stronger and more powerful the effect of the Stellium will be. Also, in general, the personal planets are far more significant to consider than the outer planets. An entire generation was born with Pluto and Uranus conjunct in Virgo; everyone born between August 22 and September 20 in the years 1964 through 1968 will have at least Sun, Uranus and Pluto in Virgo. The outer planets represent universal forces, and while simply having personal planets in the same sign as outer planets may indicate a certain resonance with the generational influences, it generally doesn't indicate a significant impact on an individual's personality. What is significant, however, is when a personal planet is closely Conjunct an outer planet (either on its own or as part of a Stellium). This indicates a very strong link between that planet's function and the universal unconscious forces. Through that personal planet, the individual is tied into cycles and energies that are entirely beyond his or her control; the individual is both at the mercy of these forces, and also able to channel and express them in a very personal way, helping others to experience and understand the energies of universal change.

When considering Stelliums, the most important thing to keep in mind is that an individual with a Stellium ­ even only a Stellium by Sign ­ will have a very strong emphasis on and experience of the energy represented by that sign. Although we all have all 12 Signs in our charts, there are less than twelve major bodies, and therefore it is not possible to have a planet in every sign. This doesn't mean that we can't or don't experience the full range of energies represented by the 12 Signs; it does mean, however, that we will tend to be more familiar with and more focused on the energy of the Signs that contain planets. When three or more planets are in the same Sign, the energy and lessons of that Sign become extremely significant to an individual.

If the planets are actually conjunct each other, this intensity and focus grows to encompass more than a mere affinity for the experiences and energy of a particular sign. The closer the planets are to being Conjunct, the more tightly unified the planets become, and the harder it becomes to separate the different needs and drives of the planets. In very tight Stelliums, the planets almost seem to fuse together, and act as a unit, almost a "super-planet" that can often become the driving force in a person's chart.

As an example, let's look at a person with the Moon, Mercury and Mars in the same sign, but not conjunct each other. With this type of Stellium, the individual would have the same approach, the same motivation for how they felt and reacted (Moon), communicated (Mercury) and took action (Mars). If, on the other hand the Moon, Mercury and Mars were all Conjunct each other, the three planets would tend to act as a unit. This person might, for example, find that they always have to express their feelings and their desires and have great difficulty in holding back what they feel or think. Every thought, every feeling would tend to require some action on their part because every time their Moon or Mercury is used, so is their Mars. The manner, style and motivations of these expressions would, of course, depend on the Sign in question.

The key issue with Stelliums is one of balance. Individuals with a Stellium often find that they tend to devote a large percentage of their time and energy towards the types of activities that stimulate and allow them to express their Stellium, by both Sign and House. What is important, then, is for these individuals to make a conscious effort to find some balance and perspective in their lives, which they can do by choosing to explore the energy and activities represented by the opposite sign and house from their Stellium. This will tend to be easiest when there are planets transiting opposite the Stellium, although it can obviously be done at any time.

Grand Trine

Grand Trine

GrandTrineThe Grand Trine is a 3rd Harmonic aspect, and occurs when three planets are in the same element (Fire, Earth, Air or Water), each forming a Trine to the others. A Grand Trine forms an equilateral triangle, and in Sacred Geometry, the equilateral triangle is said to represent the level of pure being. In this manner, a Grand Trine is similar to a planet being in a sign that it rules: when a planet is in its rulership, it is operating on the level of pure being and on its own terms. While this may be good for the planet, it's not always easy for an individual to integrate this energy. A Grand Trine, then, is the pure expression of an element.

Trines in general, and even Grand Trines in particular have a reputation for being wonderful, positive, enjoyable aspects. This reputation is not entirely deserved, however. Each aspect has its own nature and function, and none are better or worse than others. The nature of the Trine is ease and harmony, and Trines represent a constant, open and effortless flow of energy between the two planets (or three planets in the case of a Grand Trine). Trines do certainly indicate talents, and they are certainly comfortable aspects because they are always there, always operating, and never require any conscious effort to maintain. The challenge with Trines comes when we try and control or stop the flow of energy, to change the patterns of behavior encouraged by the Trine. This is even more difficult with a Grand Trine, because the three planets are linked in a closed circuit of energy that is able to build up a tremendous amount of momentum.

Grand Trines can often feel like too much of a good thing. Because they are so easy and comfortable, and because they truly represent the easy way out, they can discourage us from exploring and developing the more challenging areas of our charts and of our lives. More than that, we have a tendency to take Grand Trines for granted; Trines are notoriously lazy, and Grand Trines often represent vast untapped potential. The talent is there, the creativity is there; what is missing is the drive to make use of it. Grand Trines often seem to illustrate the maxim "what we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly."

There are four different types of Grand Trine—one for each element.

FIRE. Grand Trines in Fire tend to be extremely active. The element of Fire expresses through action and activity. Individuals with a Grand Trine in Fire may always be on the go, and also must learn not to over-extend themselves. The element of Fire, like a flame, will burn as hot as it can until all of its fuel is gone. A Grand Trine in Fire can often contribute to an impulsive nature; it can also indicate a tendency towards absolute honesty, since the Fire Signs can only express themselves from their true nature and are incapable of deception. Grand Trines in Fire can be very intense, and emphasize the tendency of the Fire signs towards expansive and sometimes explosive expressions of joy or anger. Individuals with a Grand Trine in Fire must learn to conserve their energy, and to explore the full range of emotional expression rather than simply expressing the most intense and primal emotions.

EARTH. Grand Trines in Earth, on the other hand, tend to be the least active. The element of Earth is associated with the material plane, and individuals with a Grand Trine in Earth will tend to be very grounded and practical in their approach. Earth signs enjoy structure, and routine, and security, and a Grand Trine in Earth is the most likely of the Grand Trines to become addicted to certain behavior patterns. Earth signs are extremely sensual, and enjoy all of the physical pleasures and creature comforts that the material world has to offer. A Grand Trine in Earth seems to say that if it feels good, then do it, and this aspect pattern can generate a wide range of excuses and rationalizations to make changing bad habits (quitting smoking, for example, or sticking to a diet) that much more difficult. Although a Grand Trine in Earth can indicate creative and artistic talent, as well as the ability to realize and manifest ideas in a tangible way, the challenge to actually take action rather than indulge in comforting activities is always present.

AIR. The element of Air relates to the mental and the social realm. Individuals with a Grand Trine in Air tend to be extremely social and relationship-oriented. Air signs are all about making connections, about forming ideas, and about expanding our understanding of the world. All of the Air signs are double signs, and therefore all of the Air signs have an inherent understanding of duality and seek to find the balance between opposites, to discover the connection between them. With a Grand Trine in Air, an individual would tend to have a very active mind, and to be the most comfortable operating in a detached, objective, and theoretical manner. While Air signs enjoy a wide variety of social contacts and exchange of ideas, Air signs are not comfortable with emotions, particularly with the more intense and powerful ones. Air prefers to move quickly along the surface, rather than explore too deeply. Grand Trines in Air prefer talking about things and thinking about them to actually taking any action, and because of the swift-moving nature of the element of Air, these individuals may tend to have a rather short attention span. It may be less that they find it difficult to focus on one task for any length of time, and more that they don't see any need to do so (another rationalization courtesy of a Grand Trine).

WATER. The element of water relates to the emotional and spiritual realm. Individuals with a Grand Trine in Water tend to be extremely sensitive to emotions, both their own, and those of others. The Water signs each operate on the deepest, the most unconscious, and ultimately the most transformative levels. Individuals with a Grand Trine in Water are likely to trust their instincts and their intuition, and to make choices and take action in their lives based on how they feel. These individuals tend to be very in tune with the spiritual and psychic realms. The planets involved in the Grand Trine will largely determine how openly these individuals are able to express their feelings, but whether or not they feel comfortable wearing their hearts on their sleeves, individuals with Grand Trines in Water go through life feeling things intensely. This depth and intensity of emotions, however, can often result in oversensitivity, and excessive emotional drama. Individuals with Grand Trines in Water may be at their best when there is a crisis, when someone needs help and someone is there to care for them (and either role is perfectly acceptable to a Grand Trine in Water). These individuals may tend to try and create a crisis, however, in order to experience the healing, the transformation and the emotional energy.



KiteA Kite is a Grand Trine that has a fourth planet opposing one of the three planets in the Grand Trine. While the fourth planet forms an opposition to one of the planets, it also sextiles the other two planets. Kites will always be in the same polarity, either feminine (Earth and Water) or masculine (Fire and Air).

Kites can be considered to be Grand Trines with some perspective. The opposition is quite helpful in encouraging individuals to actually take advantage of the gifts and talents offered by the Grand Trine. Oppositions, however, are not action inducing aspects, so even with a Kite, there is no guarantee that the individual will fully exploit it. The Opposition gives the Kite a sense of direction and of focus. The Grand Trine has no beginning and no end, and can be thought to be constantly spinning its wheels (as it were). With a Kite, the planet in the Grand Trine that is being opposed becomes the focal point, the leader of the aspect pattern if you will. The Opposing planet forms a kind of an anchor, or a reference point allowing the lead planet to see a clear direction and purpose. The two sextiles from the remaining two planets to the opposing planet offer the opportunity to activate the channel created by the opposition.

In theory, a Kite is structured so that all of the creative energy and creative potential of the Grand Trine can be honed and focused, and find expression through the axis of the Opposition, with the primary point of release being through the planet, sign and house of the focal planet of the Grand Trine. In practice, a Kite is still a "soft" aspect pattern, and lacks any real internal motivation to take action. The main difference between a Kite and a Grand Trine is that an individual with a Kite may be aware that they could be doing more with their talents, while an individual with a Grand Trine generally lacks that perspective and awareness. The awareness provided by the Opposition, however, does not guarantee any action.

Kites, however, do tend to express more efficiently when stimulated by a hard aspect, because of the built-in sense of direction and perspective. But as is the case with most "soft" aspects, once the pressure is off, the tendency is to settle back into the most comfortable and least taxing routine.

Mystic Rectangle

Mystic Rectangle

MysticRectangleA Mystic Rectangle is formed when two pairs of oppositions are sextile each other. The result is an aspect pattern that includes two sextiles, two trines and two oppositions. A Mystic Rectangle will always be in the same polarity, either masculine (Air and Fire) or feminine (Earth and Water). This is another "soft" aspect pattern in that it does not generate friction, discomfort or a need to take action. What a Mystic Rectangle does offer, however, is an extremely strong sense of balance and structure, of harmony between the four planets involved. Finding this balance is not a given ­ it will still take conscious effort and awareness. However, working with the Trines and the Sextiles will help to make more sense of and find the point of integration for the two oppositions.

Working with a Mystic Rectangle takes some practice because in order for it to hold up, all four planets must be working together and supporting each other. It is common for individuals with Mystic Rectangles to struggle with the two Oppositions, see-sawing back and forth between the opposing planets. Once the point of balance has been found, however, it becomes increasingly easy to maintain, and a well integrated Mystic Rectangle can be the most unflappable of aspect patterns. Once an individual has integrated a Mystic Rectangle, it represents a core of strength for them, and a solid foundation that can be a great gift in handling whatever else life throws at them.


Grand Sextile

Grand Sextile

GrandSextileThe Grand Sextile is a 6th Harmonic aspect pattern and is formed when six planets are Sextile each other. Grand Sextiles must be in either Earth and Water or in Fire and Air (Feminine or Masculine polarities), and consist of six Sextiles, six Trines, and three Oppositions. Grand Sextiles also contain two Grand Trines, six Kites, and three Mystic Rectangles. Although Grand Sextiles are not unheard of, because they involve six planets, they are quite rare.

The Grand Sextile represents tremendous creative potential, but at the same time, because it is such a self-contained, balanced, and harmonious configuration, it contains absolutely no inherent motivation to take any action or to explore and fulfil the potential it represents. Even more than with the Grand Trine, the Grand Sextile requires an external stimulus to get it to take action. However, because there are so many more planets involved in a Grand Sextile, and because so many planets would be receiving simultaneous stimulus from a transit, progression or direction, the ultimate response may tend to be far more diffuse and ultimately less productive than it would be with a Grand Trine. The natural inclination of the Grand Sextile is to return to a point of balance and equilibrium between the six planets, and almost any action produced will be aimed at this result.

Using only whole-sign transits (progressions, directions, etc.), there are only two different types of transits to a Grand Sextile: passive and active. A "passive" transit would be one through a sign in the same polarity as the Grand Sextile (i.e., if the Grand Sextile is in Earth and Water, any transit through any of the Feminine Signs would be considered "passive"). Passive transits simply re-emphasize the Grand Sextile pattern by conjuncting one of the planets and forming trines, oppositions or sextiles to all of the other planets. "Active" transits, on the other hand, are transits through the opposite polarity as the Grand Sextile (i.e., if the Grand Sextile is in Earth and Water, any transit through any of the Masculine Signs ­ the Air and Fire signs ­ would be considered "active").

Active transits to Grand Sextiles will always form a transiting T-Square and a Transiting Yod. The release point to these two transiting aspect patterns is identical: the point opposite the transiting planet. Under other circumstances, this type of a transit would certainly encourage very direct and specific action to alleviate the pressure that it represents; with a Grand Sextile, however, there are so many "soft" aspects to each of the triggered points that much of the discomfort (which is what motivates us to get up off the couch and do something) is diffused.

Grand Cross

Grand Cross

GrandCrossA Grand Cross consists of four planets in the same modality (Cardinal, Fixed or Mutable), which form four squares and two pairs of oppositions. The Grand Cross is a 4th Harmonic aspect pattern. The number four relates to the cross of matter; it is the number of form, and of structure, and of the physical world. A Grand Cross includes one planet in each of the elements: Fire, Earth, Air and Water. Because the Grand Cross is composed of Squares and Oppositions, it is an aspect pattern that is concerned with both action (Squares) and perspective and balance (Oppositions).

A Grand Cross is classified by its modality, and each type of Grand Cross has its own very specific feel and interpretation. One thing that all three types of Grand Cross share, however, is that they are all fundamentally stressful configurations. Squares generate action because they are uncomfortable aspects; the tension builds, and once it reaches a certain point, we do something, we take action in order to release some of the pressure. Squares can be either constructive or destructive, but because they are a 4th harmonic aspect and related to the world of form and structure, squares usually require some sort of physical, external act of expression.

Squares, particularly very tight squares, are very difficult aspects to ignore. A Grand Cross does offer a solid foundation, a core structure and strength that can be a tremendous resource. However, finding the point of integration and balance to be able to take advantage of this gift can be quite challenging. The key, of course comes from working with the two oppositions. When the Opposing planets are balanced, then they are exerting the same amount of pressure on the planets that they Square, creating a solid foundation. When the Oppositions are out of balance, however, the structure can not hold, and the Squares take center stage again. Focusing on what the core issue of each modality is (Cardinal signs are concerned with identity, Fixed signs with self worth, Mutable signs with healing and completion) can also help to discover what all four of the signs in the Grand Cross have in common, and therefore to also discover the point of balance and strength.

CARDINAL. Cardinal signs are all concerned with the question of identity, whether it be the ability to impulsively express ourselves (Aries), our emotional identity (Cancer), our social and intellectual identity (Libra) or the tangible manifestation of our identity (Capricorn). The Cardinal Cross, then, is essentially an identity crisis. The four planets involved each are trying to define and express a facet of who we are, except each of them is operating on a different level and from a different perspective. Cardinal signs are about taking action; they are initiating and often very impulsive. The challenge with a Cardinal Grand Cross is that whenever it is triggered, all four planets want to take action simultaneously, and each in their own direction. This can lead to the individual either feeling pulled apart and overextended, or else to feeling a building sense of frustration because of an overwhelming need to take action and no clear direction or understanding of what type of action they need to take. The key with the Cardinal Grand Cross is to maintain an awareness that whatever the stress and pressure seems to be about, that at the core, the question is one of identity. When we stay focused on who we are, and understand that the need to take action relates to a need to further define, express and experience our sense of individuality and identity, we will have an easier time of choosing how to channel the energy.

FIXED. The Fixed signs are all concerned with the question of self-worth. Fixed signs follow the Cardinal signs, and their purpose is to sustain and maintain what the Cardinal signs created and initiated. Because of this, Fixed signs tend to resist all outside efforts to initiate change. When the Fixed Cross is triggered, the first inclination is for each of the four planets to dig in their heels as it were, take a stand, and resist every external influence. The energy of the Fixed Grand Cross tends to be initially focused on resistance, on maintaining things exactly as they are, rather than on taking action and initiating any kind of change. However, once the Fixed Cross starts taking action, it is very hard to stop or to convince to change its course. The Fixed Cross is like a steamroller: when it's stopped, it's hard to get it moving, but once it's moving, it's very hard to stop.

Because the Fixed signs are so fundamentally concerned with self-worth, individuals with a Fixed Grand Cross may tend to take all affairs related to the planets and houses in their Fixed Cross very personally, and on an unconscious level equate any external triggers with attacks on their sense of self. Actually giving in and taking action, or making any kind of a change can be experienced as a fundamentally demoralizing act, one that to a certain extent lessens their sense of self-esteem. Individuals with a Fixed Grand Cross must learn how to become more flexible and less resistant to change, particularly when the suggestion to change comes from others.

MUTABLE. Mutable signs are concerned with healing and completion. When placed under pressure, planets in Mutable signs tend to scatter, dissociate, and disburse. The biggest challenge for individuals with a Mutable Grand Cross tends to be maintaining their focus and their coherence, and learning how to maintain a sense of balance and coordination. Individuals with a Mutable Grand Cross must learn how to juggle, how to keep all of the balls in the air at all times with respect to the planets in the Grand Cross, and the houses where these planets reside. Mutable signs are extremely flexible and adaptable. What tends to happen, however, with a Mutable Grand Cross is that whenever it is triggered, the first response of each of the planets involved is to change, to adapt, and to avoid whatever obstacle has just been presented. While it may certainly be appropriate to respond by adjusting the energy and approach of one of the four planets, when all four planets simultaneously adjust, it's very much like the juggler dropping all of the balls at once.



T-SquareThe T-Square consists of three planets in the same modality, and includes two squares and one opposition. A T-Square is simply a Grand Cross with a missing planet. A T-Square functions quite differently than a Grand Cross, however. Instead of forming a potentially stable structure, a T-Square is far less stable; all of the pressure is placed on the planet that receives the two squares, the apex planet. T-Squares then have a built-in focus that the Grand Cross lacks, and they can often become extremely productive and a key motivating force for an individual.

The apex planet of a T-Square is the key. This is the planet that is both the driving force, and also the planet that is under the most pressure. Squares, remember, are action aspects; the apex planet, receiving two simultaneous squares, is under a great deal of pressure to act. In order for this planet to act in a focused and productive manner, however, it still needs an anchor. The "empty leg" of the T-Square is where this anchor is found. Some astrologers consider this point (the point opposite the apex planet) to be the 'release point' of the T-Square. I don't consider this to be an accurate description. A T-Square is about moving forward, taking action with the apex planet, not about diffusing or redirecting that action. What an awareness of the opposing point offers is an anchor of sorts, and a reference point to insure that the path and direction of the action taken is true. When a planet transits this point, creating a temporary Grand Cross, it often indicates an opportunity to unleash the power and energy of the T-Square in a very focused and directed manner because the transiting planet provides the awareness of balance for the Apex planet, and at the same time triggers the two squares.

When considering a T-Square, pay close attention to the element of the sign that the Apex planet occupies. This will help describe the kind of action that the T-Square will tend to generate (Fire = physical, tangible, identity-oriented; Earth = material, practical; Air = mental, social; Water = emotional, spiritual). The House positions of the planets, and of the Apex planet in particular are also extremely important. This will show where the stress will tend to come from (the house axis that contains the opposing planets) and where it will tend to manifest and need to be addressed (the house of the Apex planet).

A T-Square forms a right triangle, and in sacred geometry, right triangles operate on the level of what the Greeks called "nous" which is the realm of the spirit and of the higher self and higher guidance. Because it is also an isosceles triangle, T-Squares also operate on the mental/emotional level (what the Greeks called the "soul" level) and therefore can be quite challenging and stressful configurations. The key to working with a T-Square is to learn how to tap into the higher levels of guidance and to discover different and more supportive ways of releasing the stress and pressure of the squares through taking action with the apex planet.

CARDINAL. As with the Cardinal Cross, the Cardinal T-Square is concerned with the question of identity. The sign of the Apex Planet will indicate where the point of focus and integration will be (Aries = individual identity; Cancer = emotional identity; Libra = social identity; Capricorn = accomplishments and tangible, material expressions of identity). And also as with the Cardinal Cross, impulsiveness is a very prominent concern with a Cardinal T-Square. Planets in Cardinal signs need to take immediate action. They do not like to be told to wait, and they will do their own thing rather than wait to be lead by someone else. The Cardinal T-Square is by far the most active of the T-Squares, but it is not necessarily the most productive. The challenge with this pattern is to get the three planets to work together rather than each going off and doing their own thing (which inevitably conflicts with what the other two planets want to be doing). An awareness of the empty leg and house can provide some much needed balance and guidance for a Cardinal T-Square. Once all of the planets are pointed in the right direction, as it were, taking action and moving forward is automatic. The hardest part is learning to control the impulsiveness of the Cardinal planets long enough to get them to work together.

FIXED. The Apex planet in a Fixed T-Square, being under the greatest pressure, will also tend to be the planet and area of life in which the individual is the least flexible and has the most resistance to change. Opposing planets in Fixed signs tend to find a certain amount of stability if only because neither planet is willing to budge, but as they butt heads, they tend to discover some common ground and will usually come to some sort of a cease-fire agreement. With a Fixed T-Square, however, this cease-fire between the Opposing planets may seem only to exist because each planet has decided to confront the apex planet as a common enemy. Fixed signs, remember, are all concerned with self-worth, with maintaining and sustaining who we are. Ultimately, the Apex planet of a Fixed T-Square will need to take action, and to change ­ something that Fixed signs are perfectly happy to do so long as they feel that the action or the change was their idea and not something that is prompted by any outside influence. The lesson of the Fixed T-Square is one of flexibility, particularly with respect to the planet, sign and house that makes up the Apex of the T-Square.

MUTABLE. With a Mutable T-Square, as with a Mutable Grand Cross, the challenge is focus and coherence. All three planets are concerned with healing and completion, and all three planets will tend to adapt and avoid direct confrontation. The Apex planet in a Mutable T-Square is the one that will tend to scatter the most, because this is the planet that is under the most pressure. Oppositions are more passive aspects, and planets in Opposition in mutable signs, because of their natural tendency to adapt, are the most likely to find the point of balance and harmony and therefore be the most comfortable with the Opposition aspect. Working with the opposing point, and maintaining an awareness of the energy and lessons of the opposing sign is particularly important with a Mutable T-Square because this can provide a sense of focus and direction for the Apex planet.



YodThe Yod, also known as the "Finger of God" is a 12th Harmonic aspect pattern which consists of three plants, two of which Sextile each other, and the third which forms a Quincunx (150° aspect, which is 5/12 of a circle) to each of the two other planets. The planet forming the two Quincunx aspects, called the apex planet, must also be the fastest-moving of the three planets in order for the configuration to be a "true" Yod. In other words, Pluto (the slowest-moving planet) can never be the apex planet, while the Moon (the fastest-moving planet) can never be one of the base planets.

To understand a Yod, we first have to understand the Quincunx aspect. Quincunxes occur between signs that have nothing in common by polarity, modality, or element. Even though the two planets have nothing in common with each other, they do have an undeniable connection . Since they feel so different, the natural tendency is to try and find a point of balance between them, as would happen with two Opposing planets. However, since the two signs have no common ground between them, there is no point of balance with a Quincunx. This energy can become quite frustrating, and the most common urge with a Quincunx is the feeling that some sort of an adjustment must be made. In order to resolve the tension, one of the two planets is going to have to act in a manner that is contrary to the nature of its sign, and therefore both difficult and uncomfortable.

I should take a moment here and mention that all Quincunxes are not created equal. Some Quincunxes have an easier time finding a point of balance because the two signs are linked in other ways ­ either by common rulership (Aries and Scorpio are both ruled by Mars; Taurus and Libra are both ruled by Venus), by Antiscia (Solstice points; signs that are equally "powerful"; these are signs that mirror each other across the 0° Cancer/Capricorn axis), or by Contra-Antiscia (signs that are equally-rising, signs that mirror each other across the 0° Aries/Libra axis). And there are some Quincunxes that occur between signs that truly have nothing in common, and are considered to be "averse". For more information on this, visit the "Ask Kevin Archives" and look under "Yod".

Yods tend to represent a crisis in timing. What usually happens when a Yod is triggered is that we tend to react too quickly with the first sextile planet, and then we tend to wait too long to respond with the second sextile planet. The release point, the time when it is truly appropriate to take action, is the point opposite the Apex planet, which is also the midpoint of the sextile. When a Yod has been integrated and when we actually learn when and how to respond with it, the sextile planets tend to work together to stimulate a significant shift in how the apex planet functions.

A Yod forms an acute isosceles triangle, which from a sacred geometry standpoint means that this aspect pattern operates on what the Greeks called the "soul" level, but which refers to what we would consider the mental/emotional/astral plane. Quincunxes and Sextiles are not "action" aspects, and Yods tend to express more as mental discomfort than as anything physical. With Yods, we often feel that we are missing some crucial understanding, a single piece of information that will help us to transcend the frustration and the subtle but very irritating sense that things are not quite as they should be. When a Yod is integrated, and when we eventually learn how and when to take action when it is triggered, we can often catch a glimpse of that higher understanding as the energy of the sextile pushes the apex planet towards a higher, more cosmic perspective.



BoomerangThe Boomerang is one of the newer aspect patterns. I believe that it was named by Marion March. Essentially, the Boomerang is a Yod with a planet at the release point, Opposing the apex planet, and forming two Semi-sextiles with the base planets. Much as is the case with the Opposition that makes a Grand Trine a Kite, the Opposition in the Boomerang helps provide a much-needed sense of perspective and balance to the Aspect Pattern. The difference here, is that while the Opposition in the Kite doesn't necessarily change the overall feel of the aspect pattern, the Opposition in the Boomerang does.

The extra planet in the Boomerang helps to take a lot of the guess-work out of the Yod. The Quinxunxes still create the feeling that some adjustment is needed, and they still create the feeling that there should be a point of balance between the two planets when in fact there is none. The difference here, is that in addition to receiving two Quincunxes, in a Boomerang, the Apex planet also receives an Opposition which does have a true point of balance. As long as the individual is able to stay focused on and aware of the opposition, they are far less likely to suffer the problems of bad timing and missed opportunities that are so prevalent with the Yod.

The two semi-sextiles formed by the Opposition are also invaluable in helping to integrate the different energies of the Quinxunxes. The opposing planet creates a more concrete awareness of the balance point in the configuration.

On a higher level, the division of the triangle by the opposition splits the isosceles triangle of the Yod (which operates entirely on the mental/emotional plane) into four separate triangles. The result is that a Boomerang not only operates on the mental/emotional plane where a Yod exists, but also in the physical and material realm (enabling more concrete action) and on the level of what the Greeks called "Nous", which is where we encounter our Higher Self and higher guidance. The sacred geometry of the Boomerang offers assistance in integrating the conflicting elements, and can lend support in getting the most out of the lessons presented by the aspect pattern.

Grand Quintile

Grand Quintile

GrandQuintileThe Grand Quintile is formed when five planets are Quintile (72°) each other. This is a 5th Harmonic aspect pattern, and consists of five Quintiles, and five Biquintiles (144° aspects). This is perhaps the rarest of the aspect patterns simply because it requires five planets that can be 72° apart. The Sun, Mercury and Venus are basically limited to occupying only one position of five because Mercury can at most be 28° from the Sun, and Venus can at most be 46° from the Sun. Mercury and Venus can, theoretically be as far as 74° apart and could form a Quintile aspect, but this is an exceedingly rare occurrance. At least one Quintile between outer planets would almost certainly be required for a Grand Quintile, and the windows of opportunity for these cycles is both relatively brief, and very infrequent.

The Grand Quintile is an aspect pattern that is entirely dependent on the harmonics because the Quintile is not a whole-sign aspect. For this reason, the orb for a Grand Quintile would probably have to be less than 2° for each aspect.

Since this aspect pattern is so rare as to be practically nonexistant, interpreting it involves a lot of theory and guesswork. The 5th harmonic, which would be resonating with tremendous intensity here, relates to creativity, to freedom, and to change. In numerology, the number 4 represents the material world, the first manifestation of form and structure; the number 5 is the life energy, the creative spark that animates the form. Quintiles have been associated with both great creative power and with unthinkable destructive force. Charlie Chaplain and Adolph Hitler are two examples; they were born very close together, and each has strong 5th harmonic activity in their charts.

Although I personally do not consider the Quintile to be a particularly major aspect because it seems to me to operate on the mental and intellectual plane and therefore does not necessarily translate into any kind of action (like the 4th and 8th harmonic aspects do), I would have to guess that an individual with a Grand Quintile in their chart would feel compelled to be constantly in motion. The potential here would be perhaps to be able to be fully immersed in the ebb, flow, and constant change that is life. I would also guess that the need to create and to destroy, to discover and participate in the natural cycles of life would be extremely strong.

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  • London, UK

    Hi. I have Moon, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Pluto and the nodes between 2 degrees and 4 degrees in various signs. This means when I look at my chart I see lots of tight aspect patterns (nodes not in the patterns but as they are similar degrees, i thought id include in this post). Can you let me know how I should approach understanding them as it just seems overwhelming with a lot going on.

    Mercury tightly conjunct Pluto is part of the base of a Boomerang Yod, Neptune the other side, the Moon being the point of the Yod and Venus making it the Boomerang (Does Venus and the Moon part of this being in intercepted signs affecting it too? Another yod is Neptune and Jupiter being the base points and Saturn the Yod point. Is the Saturn and Moon being base points and Neptune being the point a 3rd Yod?

    From reading your article, nodes dont count as they arent physical, but when i turn on aspect lines for them, then a mystic rectangle appears, how do the energies flow in this instance?

    I guess there is lots more, Jupiter cj MC, Saturn cj South node, Moon cj Mars, Moon, Jupiter and Venus T-Square ugh, the list seems endless. Any help compartmentalising this would be awesome, thanks!


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  • Richy,

    This article on aspect patterns is quite old, and frankly, I should revisit it.

    You cannot interpret aspect patterns. Period. They do not have an independent existence, and they don't mean anything. For that matter, you can't interpret an aspect on its own, either. Aspects have to be interpreted within the context of the chart.

    The only time when aspect patterns have even a tiny bit of validity is when working with predictive astrology because if you have three or more planets in a very tight harmonic configuration, when one planet is activated by a transit, progression, or direction, ALL of the planets will be activated at the same time. But even then, you have to consider each planet and each aspect individually to get any sense of what it might mean.

    Regarding your alleged Yods, the fastest-moving planet must be the apex or it's not a Yod. Saturn can't be the apex if Jupiter is one of the base planets. Neptune can never be the apex of a Yod.

    This is one of many reasons that I developed the Natal Chart Interpretation Worksheet. You can't even begin to look at a chart and make sense of it, especially if you have all of those aspect lines forming distracting pictures. But when you read the chart, pull all of the information out, and assemble it in the worksheet, you can get a clear understanding of what matters in the chart and what doesn't, and you can begin to interpret it.

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