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Aspect Patterns – a useful guide to the Gestalt of a chart

By Gregory J. de Montfort September 1999

When interpreting the aspects formed between two planets in a chart we must make sure to take into account not only the individual aspects in terms of their cyclic representation, but also the interrelationship with all other aspects in the chart.

Each aspect has the power to modify another by its mere presence.

It would be extremely rare for an aspect to form in a chart in and of itself. It is more usual to find it in relation to a ‘chain’ of aspects, or dynamic interrelation of energies, thus forming geometric patterns or configurations in association with the series of aspects derived from our division of the 360 degree circle by each integer from one through twelve.

These patterns were contemplated extensively by the ancient astrologers/astronomers, and indeed, many of the patterns were the basis of traditional architectural proportions. This is particularly evidenced in Greek design which is the embodiment of the principles of "dynamic symmetry" in proportional ratio, rediscovered some years ago by American scholar J. Hambidge. "Celestial Proportion" was after all a study of the Platonic and Pythagorean Schools which can in turn be seen as an artifact of Hermetic Philosophy.

[For more information see:1/. the article in the August issue of Astrological Monthly Review by Lindsay McAuley – "Art and Astrology Coexists in Perfect Harmony"; 2/. Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh’s book tracing the history of Hermetic Philosophy - "The Elixir and the Stone" – Penguin -1998]

Aspect configurations or patterns should not be confused with the hemispheric distribution of the planets in a chart as evinced in analysis of the Jones Patterns, but when present in a chart, will quite often offer a more ‘in-depth’ scenario of the background theme so depicted. The patterns offer us insight into the intimate mode of expression of the native in terms of their deepest psychological and Spiritual motivations.

To this end, we often see in charts, recurring geometric alignments forming these recognisable patterns which have, through long years of observation, been associated with certain behavioural traits or conditions. In traditional texts as handed down to us, these patterns seem to have been limited to the Grand Trine and Grand Cross and minor variations thereof. This may be so because the Grand Trine and Cross were seen respectively as the archetypes of all triangular and rectangular configurations.

In the listing of aspect patterns that follows, (which is not exhaustive) I have drawn upon many sources and applied the interpretations successfully to a number of natal charts, I hope that the information proves as useful to you as a source of inspiration for your interpretations.

One observable pattern is the ‘unaspected’ planet. Here, it is thought that the planets characteristics have not been successfully integrated into the "whole", and expression of these characteristics will be very ‘patchy’. The native will vacillate between virtual eruption - showing all the unaspected planets characteristics most strongly; and then, without warning, these characteristics being just as suddenly withdrawn from open display. Most often this will be evident in life areas depicted by house. Great care is needed in interpreting that aspects are not overlooked, and depending upon the context of the chart, orbs may need to be 'adjusted'.

The first pattern in relation to our ‘harmonic’ series of aspects is the conjunction, represented configuratively by the "Satellitium" (or Stellium in American).

In this pattern, the characteristics of the planets are expressed through mode of the Sign involved, making the native what may be said to be very Sagittarian for example. Sometimes, split between two signs, or dissociate, the characteristics will be expressed at different times in the different terms of the relevant Signs, but either way, the Satellitium indicates intense activity in the area of life represented by the house(s) involved.

Of the 2nd Harmonic or the opposition, (Hemispheric Dualism) we see a variation of the above, in that there will be two opposite Satellitiums representing a specific "pull in two directions" or independent psychological motivations to pursue the directions offered by house placement in the manner of the planets and signs. The opposition is also a major dynamic factor of other aspect configurations as we shall see. This polarisation, represents a dynamic tension or stress which activates a desire to act, whereby awareness of the path to reach one’s potential culminates. The aspects formed to planets at either end of the opposition indicate the possibilities for release of the activities indicated for successful merging into wholeness. Charts of successful business people often exhibit this formation.

Rectangles - particularly - and triangular configurations partaking of the dynamics of the opposition abound in our circle of cycles.

The "Grand Cross" with squares – delineated under the 4th harmonic;

The "Mystic Rectangle" with sextiles and trines - This configuration, partaking of the 2nd, 3rd and 6th harmonic aspects, tends to bring the opposing planets into harmony with one another through the energies of the planets in sextile and trine to them. This pattern can facilitate Spiritual development. Its proportions were used as a model for initiation chambers, temples, and altars used in many earlier civilisations. Generally though, the tendency is for the potential offered by the formation to lay dormant until activated by transit. The potential seems to ‘short circuit’ and flow between the trines and sextiles –bypassing the tension of the oppositions altogether. If however the oppositions are activated and integrated, the blend of challenging and flowing aspects can result in the dynamism that enables individuals with this configuration to fully develop the natural abilities indicated by the planets concerned. Sometimes though, the pattern will not be activated in the span of life, so due care should be exercised in interpreting.

The "T Square" of an opposition with planets at each end in square to a third –delineated in the 4th harmonic;

The "Kite" –an extension of the Grand Trine combining a fourth planet in sextile to each end of the triangles base and in opposition to its apex – delineated in the 3rd harmonic;

Each configuration appears to herald a unique modifying factor to the characteristics or mode of relations of the types of aspects/planets involved, and must be considered in context of the chart as a whole. Remember – "the sum of the parts is always greater than the parts themselves".

Of the 3rd Harmonic we see quite readily the ‘Grand Trine’ or 3 planets in a chain of trine aspects. A triangle within the circle. With the trine, ease and harmony is represented in terms of expression of the characteristics depicted by planet, sign and house. Here, the native should beware the emergence of complacency as the ease at which the trine operates can result in the attributes depicted being taken for granted or not acted upon at all. Conversely the attributes may be relied upon so heavily that the native is unable to bear any adversity in the areas of life depicted. Karmically, it is thought that the trine represents the good we have done in the past – hence our given ‘ease’ in this lifetime.

Variations on the Grand Trine are seen in the "Minor Trine" and the "Kite"

In the Minor Trine, two planets in trine aspect are each sextile to a third. And whilst not as ‘good’ traditionally as the grand trine, can be considered in the same vein, as it does offer the opportunity to develop the areas so depicted.

The Kite on the other hand is more dynamic in its manifestation as it introduces the combined Grand and Minor trine to the conflicts or polarisation of opposition. Here, the paths of natural release are signified by the houses of the planets at the end of the ‘cross-piece’. The opposition provides the energy or impetus needed for the great potential of the Grand Trine to be realised. The kite will manifest itself primarily through the planet in opposition to one vertex and in sextile to the two others and will have its greatest effect in the house of that planet.

In the 4th harmonic, the perfect or ‘Grand Cross’ is evident. This pattern is seen traditionally as being of two possible trends. In the first, it is seen as discordant, signifying tension, and stress; in the other, it is seen as being the dynamic principle prompting one to take action with grit and determination- offering great stability. Of particular note in this pattern is the presence of two oppositions from the diagonals formed with each corner.

A ‘partial’ Grand Cross formation is evident in the "T Square", formed when two planets in opposition are bisected by a third at right angles to this axis. Here the pattern signifies tension and stress. The ‘problems’ generated by the opposition can be resolved through the planet in square to the planets in opposition. As the T Square is reminiscent of the Grand Cross ‘missing a leg’ the destabilising factor is said to be signified by the house in the area of the ‘missing’ quarter opposite the apex.

Some see the square aspect in the light of Uranus - as heralder of change, and instability. If however looked upon in another light, Pluto might be more apt as it tends to make us desire the upheaval and regeneration of change. To discard the obsolete or outmoded structures and crystallised dogma which manifests as change, clearing the path to greater understanding and regeneration to clearer or higher thought. What do you think?

With the 5th harmonic we see the pentacle or five pointed star within the circle – Those with quintiles or partial 5th harmonic configurations in their charts are potentially the movers and shakers of the world. They are those whose realisation of the potentialities within takes hold in a most zealous fashion directing them towards specialised achievements, usually of an intellectual nature. It is often the mark of one who will leave their mark upon the world for good or ill.

With the 6th harmonic we see the Star (Seal) of Solomon – The Grand Sextile, or two perfect Grand Trines in opposition at each apex representing perfect balance. – Partial 6th harmonic configurations often reflect harmony or ease in the guise of beauty, poise and grace, and are often found in the charts of the musicians, thespians (movies included) and artists of society.

One often sees 4 planets in successive sextile- that is 3 sextiles, and two trines from each ‘end’ of the figure to the planets forming the ‘base’ and lastly, an opposition between each end closing it. This partial representation of the 6th harmonic configuration forms what has become known as a "Cradle". The "Cradle" represents spheres of life activity where the native may find ease in expression of their creative selves –albeit not without some difficulty as represented by the opposition. It is often found in charts of those with a particular message for society.

At the 7th harmonic we find our representative ‘perfect’ pattern in the "Seven Rayed Star". The number 7 has long held significance, and here it is no exception. The Seven Rayed Star is, like the Septile of which it partakes, Spiritual in quality, often other-worldly and definitely contradictory. The 7 series are often prominent in the charts of poets. It is as if these aspects enable one to peer outside the everyday universe into one of expanded possibilities and truths. There are dangers here also. The seven-series can indicate mental and emotional difficulties as well as creative inspiration. The more complete the pattern is, it appears to impart a lack of connection with the physical universe as most of us know it.

In the 8th harmonic we find the octagon or octagram or "Grand Octile" as our representative ‘perfect’ figure.(two interleaved Grand Crosses). This pattern tends to make the nature of the native rather serious. It often signifies hardship and difficulty in the life, although in struggling against the hardship, much may be accomplished.

In the 9th harmonic, the nonagon or a "Grand Novile" appears. On this pattern Rael and Rudhyar say, "At the level of the Nine, the individualized person discovers and envisions the meaning and purpose of what he or she is. . . . the novile (when at all operative in an individual's life) leads to personal rebirth -- or `Initiation' -- to a basic identification of the self with the purpose this self is seen to have within the harmony of the universal Whole. The novile thus represents the level at which complete fulfillment of individual being is possible - either as an end in itself (negative approach) or as the condition for positive emergence into an altogether new and higher realm of being." The appearance of a Grand Novile or partial formation in a chart thus indicates the natives unique life path or ‘mission’. It is in effect, similar, but more dynamic than the 5 series.

At the 10th, the perfect representation is the decagon or a "Grand Decile". Here we see a struggle for identity and absolute lust for power and control, indicative of the interpersonal difficulties which arise from the exercise of any kind of power or talent, whether for good or ill. The presence of this pattern or partial pattern in the chart appears to operate in the same autocratic manner of Pluto in Leo – except decidedly more pronounced.

The eleventh harmonic reveals the "Grand Undecagon", which according to Williamsen, "describes a `person's ability to integrate diversities and dualisms.' These interpretations are reconcilable: the tension of `double-bind' situations, which can be external - where you are trapped by feelings of obligation or duty, but cannot entirely please one or more people - or internal - the tug between scepticism and faith - is likely to lead to a type of stress which in its turn will lead to excess in one form or another".

The 12th harmonic evinces, The "Grand Dodecagon" and the semi-sextile and the quincunx aspects. Most notably in terms of recognisable patterns partaking of the 12 series, the "Yod" configuration of two planets in sextile, both quincunx a third at the apex. This pattern is also called the Finger of God, or finger of fate.

The Yod pattern tends to produce vacillation between two modus operandi with respect to the matters ruled by the focal planet and its house. The problematic factor is represented by the planet sign and house of the apex of the figure and may be mitigated by the choice of the two paths offered by the ‘base’.

By applying ‘harmonic theory’, we can see many ‘global’ patterns in the chart. Confusion currently seems to be arising in the manner of naming these figures - we should therefore be careful to use names of traditional geometrical figures after Euclides, or follow naming conventions set down by a central body to avoid this confusion.

This is not so much for ‘pigeon holing’ as it is for clarity and convenience. As always, by the very nature of the art of astrology – flexibility and consistency is the key.

The basic criteria for designating a series of aspects within the chart as a primary planetary pattern as put forth by Dane Rudhyar and Leyla Rael in their book on "Astrological Aspects – a process oriented approach" is as follows:-

"1/. That the combinations of two or more kinds of aspects display a clear cut kind of symmetry

2/. The configuration of aspects should be closed and complete, spanning 360 degrees, and

3/. It should be a regular polygon capable of being inscribed in a circle."

In practice, any complete harmonic configuration (except perhaps for the Grand Trine) will be rare. But even an incomplete pattern is still powerful, and the closer to completion it is, the more powerful it is. Each incomplete version of a harmonic configuration will have a dynamic of its own.

The following diagrams are from Michael Erlewine's 1975 work with aspect patterns, which give an indication of the considerable variety when one considers that only trines, sextiles, squares, semi-squares and oppositions have been used..............


References and recommended reading:-

"The Astrology of Personality" –by Dane Rudhyar -1935
"Astrological Aspects –A Process Oriented Approach" –by Dane Rudhyar – Aurora Press -1996

"Essays in Astrology" – by Robert Hand – available through Spica Publications

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