Aspects of Life: Minor Aspects

Maritha Pottenger

This issue we move on to so called “minor” aspects. These aspects were considered after work with the original Ptolemaic aspects. Many astrologers minimize or ignore “minor” aspects. This is not advisable. An exact minor aspect may be a much more significant key in the chart than a wider orb major aspect.

Many aspects divide the circle by a whole number: the opposition divides a 360 degree circle by two; the square by four; the trine by three; and the sextile by six. Some of the minor aspects also divide by whole numbers. The semi-square or octile (45 degrees) divides the circle by eight. The sesqui-square or tri-octile (135 degrees) divides by a fraction: three-eights of the circle as the name implies. There is also the quintile of 72 degrees or one-fifth of a circle; the biquintile of 144 degrees or two-fifths of a circle. The septile is one-seventh of a circle which comes out to about 51-1/2 degrees. The novile is one-ninth of a circle or 40 degrees; the decile is one tenth of a circle or 36 degrees. And so on.

It becomes readily apparent why many of these aspects are not used regularly: they are very difficult to “see” visually on the chart. The Ptolemaic aspects are simple: any two planets, angles, etc. near the same degrees are in SOME aspect to one another; it’s just a question of which one. But these aspects which are not convenient multiples of thirty become more awkward to spot in the horoscope.

As mentioned in the Sagittarius 1981 issue, Nelson has found significance in his work (predicting the state of the ionosphere) with ALL multiples of 7-1/2; 11-1/4 and 18 degrees. This could get very cluttered (and orbs would have to shrink correspondingly!)

I do not claim to look at all the minor aspects, but I do find several significant: the octile and tri-octile; the quincunx and the semi-sextile. I have no doubt that the others are significant (if within one degree of exact), but they are too much trouble generally to look for, and there is still much more controversy over meaning.


These two “minor” aspects could be considered like “little” squares. They indicate areas in which we are challenged to integrate differing parts of our own nature, inherent life ambivalences. I make little distinction between them. The tri-octile will cross the three major sections of the zodiac: personal; inter-personal and transpersonal. In that sense, there may be slightly more of a challenge with it, but the octile will often cross those major boundaries as well.

As an example, a planet at 3 degrees of Cancer is octile planets at 18 degrees of Taurus and Leo and tri-octile planets at 18 Scorpio and Aquarius. The Cancer-Taurus octile is one of the easier ones to integrate because it involves water and earth, both oriented towards material and emotional security. Both are from the personal third of the horoscope—concerned with meeting the needs of the individual. The Leo-Cancer octile crosses between personal needs and interpersonal needs. The fire-water combination presents a challenge in expression versus holding in, but Cancer and Leo both tend to be warm, loving, and oriented towards emotional relationships. Their desire for closeness can help blend this combination. The Cancer-Scorpio tri-octile juxtaposes personal needs with relationship needs, but both share the element of water, so sensitivity and empathy can help solve the challenge, if it is not repressed or held in. The Cancer-Aquarius tri-octile is perhaps the more difficult of these combinations, as those signs are naturally quincunx, part of the closeness versus freedom dilemma. Also, we have the personal, warm emotional needs to be balanced with a transpersonal detachment and involvement in the wider world. The emotions and the mind must be balanced. And so on.

Alert readers will have noticed a helpful pattern in spotting octiles and tri-octiles: once you have one, you also have all four. With one position, you merely look for the same degree in that quality (cardinal, fixed or mutable) for the other octiles and tri-octiles. My general procedure is to find the closest octile, and then I know the other octile and tri-octiles.

E.g., if something is near the beginning of a sign, I will add one sign and 15 degrees. (The octile is a 45 degree aspect or a sign and one half.) From 5 degrees of Gemini, we would go to 20 degrees of Cancer. Therefore, the other octile is 20 Aries; the tri-octiles are 20 Capricorn and 20 Libra. If the position I am starting from is late in the sign, e.g. 27 Aries, I will subtract a sign and a half. That brings us to 12 degrees of Pisces. So, the octiles are 12 Pisces and 12 Gemini. The tri-octiles are 12 Virgo and 12 Sagittarius.

I use a very small orb on octiles and tri-octiles—not more than three degrees. And, to emphasize again, anything really important will be repeated as a theme in the chart. The closest aspects are the most significant ones.


Another neglected aspect is the quincunx. This is 150 degrees, or both sides of the opposition.

It is roughly equivalent to 5 signs. For example, with a Mercury at 10 Virgo, the opposition is 10 Pisces. Jupiter at 10 Aquarius and Mars at 10 Aries would both be quincunx to Mercury. Again, watch for out-of-sign aspects. E.g., Uranus at 29 Gemini is quincunx Sun at 1 Sagittarius. Here too, I tend to use tighter orbs, perhaps three degrees.

Zip Dobyns calls the quincunx a “closet-cleaning” aspect. The focus is on analysis, discrimination, determining what to keep and what to throw away—a good Virgo-Scorpio blend. The retention versus release applies just as much to emotions as objects and relationships. A quincunx tends to be experienced as a challenge aspect for several reasons. One is that the signs (and houses) involved are usually of totally different elements and qualities, so not that easy to blend. Another is that the quincunx crosses the three thirds mentioned earlier: personal, interpersonal, and transpersonal. (Roughly, the first three to four signs and houses are personal; the next four are interpersonal and the last four are transpersonal or universal.) So very different life focuses need to be integrated as well.

There are two major extremes to be avoided with a quincunx. One side is refusing to deal with one end of the quincunx entirely. It may be projected—lived out through someone else. It may be repressed, and we get an appropriate illness. And so on. Another danger is premature splits—from jobs, relationships, situations. That’s the case of throwing things out of the closet that are still valuable. We need to be sure we toss what is garbage, but also sure we retain what is useful and healthful.

The quincunx, along with the opposition has been called a “separation” aspect, and it is true that one often finds quincunxes in separations from home (moves), work, relationships, and so on. This includes death, a separation from the physical body. But the essential question or issue with the quincunx is whether or not we have integrated these two very different sides of our being. If not, if we leave too soon, we will just face the same issues again later.

Often, quincunxes indicate great restlessness in that area of life—as if the person were constantly pulled back and forth between these two different directions. It is perhaps easiest to handle when mental planets (Mercury, Uranus, Jupiter) are involved, often just symbolizing an ever-active mind. If not integrated, however, there may be an erratic quality to the mental abilities, a lack of synthesis.

Strong tight quincunxes in a natal chart often indicate people who make periodic abrupt changes in their lives—either deliberately through their own actions, or unconsciously, setting it up through other people. The challenge is not to move prematurely, not to create disruptive situations. The person who just HAS to split periodically from relationships or jobs or home environments, has not yet integrated the disruptive tendencies of the quincunx. We need to learn to express comfortably both ends of the quincunx, in appropriate times and places.

The so-called “yod” or “finger of God” is a double quincunx: one planet is quincunx two others, the latter two being sextile. E.g., Venus at 19 Taurus would be in a yod configuration to Chiron at 19 Sagittarius and Neptune at 19 Libra. (That particular package would certainly suggest a need to get together the ideals and ultimate expectations, grandiose dreams about love with the reality of a human relationship.) Yods are even more restless and prone to sudden changes than a single quincunx. Because people often set up events in their lives (by the people they choose to love, live with, work with; their life circumstances), the yod has been talked about as if there were a fated quality. My philosophy is that we create our own fate. If we are not happy with what we are presently creating, we can change!


This aspect is also often ignored. It is “minor,” but significant if close (within one degree). Astrologers differ on meaning. Some will call it a harmony aspect; others a conflict aspect. It can operate both ways. As in any aspect, the most important element is the planets involved: are they naturally harmonious (sextile, trine one another) or naturally ambivalent, in conflict (square, quincunx, opposite one another in terms of the signs they rule)? Then we consider house and sign placement.

Semi-sextiles generally involve adjacent houses and signs. This can be experienced as a challenge because we are combining two parts of life which are totally different elements and qualities (as with a quincunx). That is often not easy. Unlike the quincunx, however, the semi-sextile does not automatically cross the thirds divisions. And, adjacent signs and houses represent consecutive parts of life: each one builds on the foundation of the one before.

So, I read the semi-sextile as a potential strength (mild) in terms of us being able to integrate the two planets, houses and signs involved, thinking especially in terms of carrying further with the later ones what was begun or established with the earlier houses and signs. When we move from fire to earth, for example, the challenge is to ground the enthusiasms, to find practical outlets for the confidence, drive, initiative. From earth to air, we look for ways to detach from our work and mundane matters, to analyze situations objectively, to be able to discuss as well as mold. From air to water, we move from intellectual insight to depth understanding. We perceive not just consciously but also unconsciously. We function intuitively as well as rationally. From water to fire again, we leave the old emotional attachments to move into another new beginning. We are sufficiently refreshed by our bath of empathy, and sensing life’s inter-connectedness to be able to move out again as an individual and take risks in new areas. And so on.


There are people who use quintiles, septiles, and so on, but not many, and not often on a regular basis. Using 360 degree wheels marked carefully in the European fashion and special dials can also assist in spotting such aspects.

The problem of meaning is quite a controversy. One approach has been to borrow from numerology. E.g., the septile has been called a spiritual aspect because the number seven is associated with spirituality. Zip Dobyns has suggested, at least for the whole number divisions, considering the basic astrological alphabet meaning. Thus, a quintile (one-fifth) could be similar to Letter Five: concerned with power, ego needs, pride, the limelight, and so on. Septiles would be concerned then with relationships, especially cooperative or competitive and possibly beauty, such as harmony or grace. Noviles would carry overtones of the search for ultimate answers and meaning along with potential excesses. And so on.

The best way to check anything is to try it out on charts. Interested readers need only observe their own charts and those in their files with such aspects (with very small orbs) to attempt to determine potential meanings. We would also be happy to hear from people who have impressions or suggestions.


I said last issue I was only going to cover longitudinal aspects, but aspects formed with declinations are used by many astrologers: the so-called parallel and contra-parallel.

Most of you probably know that our systems of orienting ourselves in space are coordinate systems. On the earth, we use latitude and longitude. Latitude is north or south of the equator. Longitude is east or west of Greenwich, England which was arbitrarily set as the zero point.

This is also true in space. We need coordinate systems to orient ourselves. We work with several great circles. One is the ecliptic: the earth’s path around the sun.

Another is the celestial equator: the earth’s equator extended (in our imagination) out into space. Zodiacal longitude is based on the ecliptic, and we have zodiacal latitude as well (used by a few astrologers for additional aspects). Most astrologers use only the longitude figures for the positions of the planets. However, we can also visualize the planets in terms of the equator. This is called right ascension and declination and both are used by astronomers. Declination refers to the distance north or south of the celestial equator. (For further details on basic astronomy, readers are referred to the article by Mark Pottenger in the Sagittarius 1977 issue of The Mutable Dilemma.)

Declination figures are relatively small, so a one-degree orb maximum is generally agreed upon. Planets at the same declination, in the same direction are considered parallel. E.g., if Mercury is 17N26 (declination) and Venus is 16N56 (declination), they would be parallel. Contra-parallel refers to planets which are within one degree, but opposite directions, that is—one NORTH declination with the other being SOUTH declination. E.g., Neptune 5N25 and Jupiter 4S45 would be contra-parallel.

The parallel tends to be read as a “small” conjunction. These two planets are being blended. How do they combine easily, comfortably? Where might there be conflicts, challenges? The contra-parallel tends to be interpreted as a small opposition: two extremes, needing to be synthesized; opposite ends on the see-saw, each supplementing the other.

Another use of declination aspects is to add extra emphasis to longitudinal aspects. E.g., if two planets are conjunct and ALSO parallel, the tendency is to weight the importance of the conjunction even more.


I wish to constantly emphasize that what is most important in ANY aspect is the PLANETS involved, then the house, then the sign. The meaning of the aspect (e.g., need to integrate; natural harmony, separative tendencies) is significant, but the planets will tell the tale more than anything else. In that sense, any aspect is like a conjunction in that we are asking: what are we trying to combine here? What is this relationship (between planets, angles, etc.) likely to be like? What blends easily? What is in conflict with another side?

Where do the ambivalences lie? What are the commonalities? Where and how are these planets supportive of one another? As always in astrology, we are looking for themes. What is being emphasized again and again by aspects as well as planet-house-sign combinations?

Copyright © 1982 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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