Aspects between planets – A comparative study of time and space

imagesCASRH5QVThis is part of an article published in 2011, reviewed in 2014

Coyright Clélia Romano, DMA

Aspects were seen quite differently by Hellenistic astrologers comparing to the Medieval Arabic point of view.

In Hellenistic astrology the aspects were usually considered from sign to sign, even if we have evidence of a distinction between exact aspects and aspects by sign, and even between applying and separating aspects. The orbs were not used and planets were considered in aspect to the other if they were apart in a  three degrees maximum.

The question of orbs for each planet is a Medieval astrology’s issue. There were controversial points of view on how distant in degrees one planet had to be from the other in order to be able to hurling its rays to it. We noticed that  planets with bigger visibility were supposed to have a bigger orb, as occurs in the case of the Sun and Moon. So orb was not only a question of visibility, but also took into consideration the size of the planet.

Both Hellenistic and Medieval astrology had in common the use of the so called Ptolemy´s aspects. As a matter of fact, this kind of aspects was not a Ptolemy´s invention, since they existed before him. These aspects are: the opposition, the trine, the sextile and the square. The reason why these aspects are considered instead of  any others was based upon the concept which was greatly emphasized by the Greeks, i.e. the relationship between planets have always to take into account if a sign is able to “see” the other. So the notion of giving testimony was underlying the idea of aspect. In other words the notion of aspect by whole sign was never abandoned.

Due to the invisibility, the so called “conjunction” was not considered an aspect, because two planets together are not able to look at each other in the same way that we are not able to look to ourselves, except through a mirror, and in this case we will be using a kind of opposition.

But if the conjunction is not an aspect, the opposite is true: any aspect is a conjunction. Let me explain: to planets in aspect are said in “con iuntio” a Latin word that can mean the carnal relationship. Therefore all aspects are conjunctions, some of them by body, others “by aspect”.

The idea of be together is very important and when the orb of a planet, which is an orb of light, reaches the orb of the other, something like a marriage occurs that can be harmonious or not.

Ptolemy gave a somewhat confusing explanation for the existence of these aspects in his Tetrabiblos, whose real name was Apothelesmatics (a word that means the reason of what is happening)

Ptolemy was a great scholar and he mastered many subjects. He had the opportunity to deal closely with the precious volumes in Alexandria library, which later burned down destroying a huge part not only of the ancient astrological writings but a huge amount of the  human knowledge´s history until that time.

Well, Ptolemy wrote, among other things, a book about music, specifically about harmony, and this book has not survived except fragmentarily. The interesting fact is that the missing part is precisely the part referring to the harmonics and just the point where they referred to astrology! Probably the hand of the Catholic Church had a big influence in this kind of disappearence. Perhaps the Church tried to avoid to see publicized the notion that the harmony of their sacred chants, like all the music, followed the same astrological principles:  the harmony underlying the visible and invisible world.

Now it is necessary to  explain a bit of musical theory, in order to demostrate the same harmony between aspects. I´ll be using the  phonetic scales because I´m used to deal with them.

The way they were created is interesting: the names of the musical notes came from who named them : it was the Italian Benedictine monk Guido d’ Arezzo . Even in the 11th century , he named the scale to inspire a hymn to St. John the Baptist , composed by another monk , Paolo Deacon , three centuries before. ( See the verses below. )
To understand the logic , just skip the first verse and then take the first syllable of each phrase to recognize the notes – ( Ut ) , Re , Mi , Fa , Sol , La , and S.
The note named “Si” he adapted by combining the first two first letters of Sancte and Iohannes . Five centuries later , bothered by the sound of the first syllable , the musician Giovanni Maria Bononcini increased a change . Excluded Ut and exchanged by “Do”, Dominus ( Lord ) . And with this heavenly blessing he sacramented the name of musical notes .

Queant Laxis Ut … fibris resonare … mira … gestorum famuli tuorum … solve polluti … labii reatum … Sancte Iohannes . ”

Since antiquity, the default was to use letter scales ( the Latinized system is the exception , incidentally began with the madness of the monk and spread primarily to the Latin countries ) In English-speaking countries , the notes are represented by letters : C , D , E, F , G , A and B (or H), as you know. This is one of the oldest names , which we also use in chords . But the ancient Greek alphabet, for instance, has also been used .

So to mount the Harmonic Field of a tonality ,the triads need to ride with intervals of 3rd between each note of the scale . The third equals two notes after the note you ‘re playing. If you play the note named “Do”, a jump from 3 will lead you to the note Mi , i.e. two notes after you were . Now that we got Mi , give another leap of 3 , and you arrive at the note Sol.
If you look you will see that we use the tonic , together with the third and fifth ascending note, with respect to the tonic . The only detail is that this construction of T > 3 > 5 , can only use notes composing the scale of tone where you are . But this is the basics.

It was import to explain because we can see that playing “Do” +”Mi” +Sol” we have the perfect chord for the ‘DO” scale.

It corresponds to the triplicities. The distance beteween a third and the other correspondes to the sextile.  If you introduces to the perfect chord  the 7th note departing from “Do” you get the opposition, a little disharmonious, bringing some king of tension,but it is still interesting.

But if you press together “Do+”Re”, then you will have a horrible sound, a big and nasty dissonance. That is because “Do+”Re” are very close, as Aries and Taurus, for example. They have nothing to do with the other in terms of elements or modes.

But pressing together “DO+ Mi+Sol” the first, the third and the 5th notes we have the perfect chord, the harmony that happens among the triplicities of water, earth, fire and air.

Hypothetically Ptolemy could have explained harmonies in relation to astrological aspects based in something like that, but we will never know for sure.

Let´s talk now about the orb adopted by traditional astrologers until the 17th century.

In modern astrology the idea of orb is quite different from the traditional point of view.

The orbs are presently related to aspects instead of planets: for example, the orb given by an square aspect and for the opposition are larger than the one of sextiles, considered less strong than the others two. It is true that the sextile aspect is the weaker, but orb has nothing to do with aspect but with planets and visibility.imagesCAYVM16P

If you had said to any astrologer before the 17th century that the orb of planets depend  on the aspect they will apply or receive  he would answer: “what are you talking about?” Orbs depend on the the planets and not the other way around!

That’s the main difference between the medieval idea about planetary orbs and the modern astrological construction.

The teachings introduced by Alan Leo after the nineteenth century, were responsible for different orbs to different aspects. Perhaps due to the fact that he began using the so-called minor aspects (semi-sextile, sesqui-square, quintile, etc.) basically knowing that such orbs works in an uncertain way, he may have suggested the use of narrow orbs when working with them.

Anyway this does not make sense, traditionally speaking.

The term orb refers to light and supposes a circle of light surrounding the body of a planet. The moment when a planet is touching or overlapping the orb of another one we can consider that we have an aspect. We can´t forget that within the circle of light is the body of the planet, and this is important when discussing the present issue.

Another word virtually synonymous of “light” is “ray” and it is told that a planet hurls its rays to another.

Why am I talking about orb? Well because time and space are related and a fact that is expected to happen depend on how many degrees a promissor is distant from a significator. According to Masha´allah, on his “On Reception”, translated from the Latin by Robert Hand at first and after by Benhamin Dykes, PHD the fact will happen in the exact time when degree by degree, one planet will touch the other.

In page 107 of his book CA , William Lilly says that each planet has its own arc or radius of combustion, i.e. the quantity of degrees it needs to be distant of the Sun to not be burned. The orb of light has to do with the apparent magnitude of the planet: the lower level is 8 degrees (Venus and Mars), the medium is 12 degrees (Moon) and the highest is 17 degrees (Sun).

So it is really possible that the idea  of orb came from a visibility criterion.

Therefore we can consider that since that planets beyond the orbit of Saturn are not visible, they have no orb.

On Hellenistic times, the fact that planets were in trine (trigon), tetragon (squares) or hexagon (sextiles) by sign, was already enough to show a relationship between them.

It is observed in our practice that although the relationship between those planets is less intense, the aspect by sign has still significance. This is why the Greek authors have given a negative perspective if for example the ruler of a house/sign does not aspect his own domicile. However, aspects by degree are more effective.

Let´s see it closely: what means to aspect? ” What means to aspect? “In Latin the  word used to mean an aspect was aspicere or “to look”. Before the Physics explain the vision phenomena, the Greek philosophers thought that vision was related to the light, generally brought  by the Sun. But in the act of seeing the eye itself  hurl its rays against the light of the object, which in turn send its light back and this process linking eye and object allows vision. 

An object with no light  is not able to see or be seen, since the fire rays departing from the eye in order  to recover  back the rays of the object  needs light. Seeing is an impossibility in this case

This theory has a philosophical importance, since it shows that only the affinity of light, like a communion ,can share visibility. So Gemini can´t see  any place or planet in Taurus, a fixed and earthy sign but in turn  it is able to see Aries, because they have  in common the hot element. In the same way Aries, fire/movable can´t see the light of Taurus, an earthy/ fixed sign, but can see Cancer since they share the cardinality. No matter how you will look at it: you cannot turn signs with no common  elementary properties into friend or enemies: they do not see each other. ” [1]  

This happens also in our society and in our life: a child immediately sees another child in a multitude, a man finds his pair, a teenager another like him… and if nobody see you it is because there is nobody like you in that place.

( to be continued)


[1] From “Astrologia Tradicional Na Prática” by Clélia Romano, Author´s Edition, São Paulo, Brazil, 2013