These, then, are the ten planetary archetypes. Archetypes are deep and many-faceted, and their meanings constantly open up to one in new ways each time one studies them. It is also important to remember that, although I have described them here individually, in actual life they always interact with each other, Pluto with Venus, for example, or Uranus with Mars, and often three or more interacting simultaneously. It is these complex archetypal interactions--in the birth chart and in transits--that form the basis of astrological analysis.
Now I will define the aspects, which are the geometrical relationships between planets which indicate how the corresponding archetypes tend to interact with each other and express themselves in one's life.
An aspect is a specific angular relationship (such as 90 degrees or 180) between two planets. The existence of an aspect between planets indicates a mutual activation of the corresponding archetypes. That is, when two planets are positioned in a specific angular relationship (measured in degrees of celestial longitude along the ecliptic), the two corresponding planetary archetypes are brought into interaction and into concrete expression in human affairs. (For example, if Mercury and Pluto are in close aspect in one’s birth chart, then a decisive interaction between the Mercury and Pluto archetypes would tend to be visible in one’s life and character.)
There are five major aspects:
conjunction (approx. 0 degrees between planets)
opposition (approx. 180)
trine (approx. 120)
square (approx. 90)
sextile (approx. 60)
Of the major aspects, the conjunction and opposition are the most significant and potent, representing the two climaxes of any planetary cycle (for example, the new Moon and full Moon, which are formed by the Moon's conjunction and opposition with the Sun). The trine and square aspects are intermediate in strength, the sextile the least potent. Also, generally speaking, the more exact the aspect (for example, two planets that are 2 degrees away from exact conjunction, rather than 7 degrees), then the more pronounced will be the archetypal interaction.
The trine and sextile generally indicate a harmonious ("soft") interaction between two planetary archetypes, in which the two principles or forms of energy tend to flow together in an easy manner. The opposition and square correspond to a more dynamic or conflicting ("hard") interaction. Here the two principles tend to have a more dialectical relationship, working both with and against each other; the individual has to work hard to bring the two together in a positive way, to have them come to terms with each other. And the conjunction indicates a synthesis in which the interaction can be of either category. Thus an aspect between two planets brings the two corresponding archetypes into interaction, and also determines the nature of that interaction.
[For those who are interested in these matters, the character of each aspect is defined by Pythagorean principles. The major aspects are formed by dividing the 360 degree circle by the whole numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6, respectively, and the Pythagorean meaning of each number gives to the corresponding aspect its specific quality. Thus the unity or synthesis inherent in the number 1 and the conjunction; the polarity or duality inherent in the number 2 and the opposition; the equilibrium or stable balance of the number 3 and the trine. The characters of the square (4) and the sextile (6) derive from their components (2x2 and 3x2), with the square resembling the opposition, and the sextile resembling the trine.]
Also important in our analysis are alignments known as midpoints, which can be regarded as a more subtle kind of aspect. When one planet is positioned in aspect to the exact midpoint of two other planets, then the corresponding archetypes are considered to be brought into interaction. Such a configuration indicates a complex mutual activation of all three archetypes.
Although by necessity we discuss the various individual aspects and midpoint configurations in a chart in isolation, two or three planets at a time, in actuality they are all parts of an integrated whole that is greater than the sum of its discrete parts. This complexly interacting whole, one’s birth chart, ultimately defies full intellectual comprehension, but by selecting out and focusing on the individual aspects and their specific archetypal dynamics, we can shed considerable light on the whole birth chart and the life it symbolically reflects.
Let me emphasize here that though the soft aspects are indeed great gifts, it is often the hard aspects, in both birth charts and transits, that prove to be the most fruitful in a person's life, sometimes dramatically so. Although they are rightly associated with difficulties, crises, and challenges, it is the hard aspects that tend to make things happen in life. The pressure of their conflict tends to create greater energetic dynamism, and challenge one to move toward higher creative syntheses. They are more likely to produce concrete manifestations, strengthening of character, deepening of the soul. Also, as one works through the negative side of such an aspect, the psychic energy that is bound within that archetypal complex can be freed up to manifest in more creative, life-enhancing ways (e.g., the compulsive rigidity that can accompany hard Saturn-Pluto aspects can turn into sustained strength of purpose, and so forth). Individuals who achieve things of real consequence in life regularly have birth charts with hard aspects between the planets most relevant to their achievement, and those major achievements often occur during periods of life marked by demanding transits.