February 16, 2017 Leave a comment
Geomantically interpreting the House Chart usually necessitates a bit of knowledge about astrology. Even though geomancy can be interpreted completely without relying on any sort of astrological symbolism or techniques, one of the biggest innovations that geomancy developed was to incorporate these very same symbols and methods into geomantic technique. When looked at the right way, the integration is often flawless and seamless, and a good number of techniques and ideas that apply in astrological divination apply either identically or in parallel ways to geomantic divination. This isn’t usually the case for the Shield Chart, of course, but for the House Chart? The more astrology proper you know, the better off you are in geomancy; geomancy has often been called “astrology’s little sister”, and for good reason.
Still, though, not all astrological tricks can be borrowed directly into geomancy, and of those that can, some may need tweaking or a complete rehaul of the technique to get the ideas behind the trick to properly apply to geomancy. Among such techniques that astrology can lend to geomancy, what we consider to be a major, integral technique in one art can be considered a minor detail in the other. And, of course, there are always those techniques that are barely understood at all in either system but we laud them as among the best and greatest things ever until we take a step back to actually try to understand the damned thing at all.
Bearing all that in mind, here’s a few thoughts and explanations of astrological aspect, why we use them the way we do astrologically, and how they can be applied to geomantic interpretation of the House Chart. I suggest that you grab a drink and settle in for this.
What is an aspect? The word comes from Latin ad+spicere, meaning “to look at” or “to regard”, but in its form aspectus it can also refer to appearances, countenances, or coming into sight of something else. Although I suppose it’s possible that you could see any planet from any position of any other planet, considering the planets as mathematical volumeless points in the sky, only a handful of specific spatial arrangements are considered to be proper aspects based on their geometry within the circle of the Zodiac. More properly, I suppose it’s better to say that aspects are based upon the geometry presented within the Thema Mundi, the astrological-mythological chart of the beginning of creation that is fundamental to exploring and understanding many of the basic symbols of astrology:
(No, this is not actually a real chart; note the positions of Mercury and Venus in relation to the Sun. We know. It’s not intended to actually represent any point in time besides Creation itself, and was an important teaching tool used in Hellenistic astrology. Of particular importance, note how the chart starts with the ascendant in Cancer, not Aries; the natural world we live in is of a nurturing, cool nature exemplified most by watery Cancer, and not the harsh, aggressive nature of fiery Aries.)
The Thema Mundi is what establishes the planetary rulerships of the signs themselves. Judging from a location in the Northern Hemisphere, the Sun and Moon (the two luminaries whose motion only ever proceeds forward) are given to the two signs of the brightest and hottest time of the year, the Moon to feminine/receptive/cool Cancer and the Sun to masculine/active/warm Leo. After this, we assign Mercury to Virgo, Venus to Libra, Mars to Scorpio, Jupiter to Sagittarius, and Saturn to Capricorn. Because the planets can only ever be in one place at any one time, the other signs are left empty, but we can envision the non-luminaries to be in a “mirror world” in the signs opposite the axis formed between Cancer/Leo and Capricorn/Aquarius; thus, Saturn gets “mirrored” into Aquarius from Capricorn, Jupiter into Pisces from Sagittarius, Mars into Aries from Scorpio, Venus into Taurus from Libra, and Mercury into Gemini from Virgo. The Sun and Moon, being two distinct luminaries already in their own signs, do not get mirrored.
Now, consider the positions of the planets in relationship to the luminaries:
- Mercury is 30° from the Sun on the right, or from the Moon on the left. Mercury is a neutral force, blending like with like and opposite with opposite, always changing and always in flux. The angular relationship between Mercury and its nearest luminary is that of the semi-sextile, a mutable and weak relationship that doesn’t mean or do much either which way.
- Venus is 60° from the Sun on the right, or from the Moon on the left. Venus is a pleasant planet, inducing joy and pleasure and which opens up the door to opportunity and happiness, though it can be fickle. The angular relationship between Venus and its nearest luminary is that of the sextile, a relationship that tends to harmony but requires energy and action in order to keep the relationship fortunate and well.
- Mars is 90° from the Sun on the right, or from the Moon on the left. Mars is the planet of separation, strife, heat, anger, and war. The angular relationship between Mars and its nearest luminary is that of the square, indicating a relationship of tension, strife, resistance, and problems that, although they can be surpassed and built upon, are not easy to overcome.
- Jupiter is 120° from the Sun on the right, or from the Moon on the left. Jupiter is the planet of blessing, benefice, and heavenly wonder. The angular relationship between Jupiter and its nearest luminary is that of the trine, indicating a relationship of harmony, luck, ease, and prosperity.
- Saturn is 180° from the Moon or the Sun on the opposite side. Saturn, the darkest and coldest planet placed in the darkest and coldest sign, is found in the opposite sign as the luminaries in the brightest and warmest signs of the year; Saturn is the planet of cursing, curses, and being cursed, of death compared to the life of the luminaries. Not only that, but the angular relationship formed between Saturn and its directly-opposing luminary crossed boundaries into a true mirror-world opposition, which is the relationship of extremes, rivalry, enmity, and difficulty.
- Saturn is 150° from the Sun on the right, or from the Moon on the left. More on this later.
Note that the relationships we care about in the list above are in particular angular arrangements such that the angle is a proper divisor of the circle of 360°: it takes twelve semi-sextiles to make a complete loop (12 × 30° = 360°), six sextiles (6 × 60° = 360°), four squares (4 × 90° = 360°), three trines (3 × 120° = 360°), and two oppositions (2 × 180° = 360°). Additionally, since the zodiac (and the House Chart we use in astrology) is already divided up into twelve sections, an angular arrangement that does the same thing doesn’t show us anything new or more important that the simple progression of signs from one to the next, or of houses from one to the next, doesn’t also already tell us. This leaves us with four major angular relationships, or aspects: sextile, square, trine, and opposition, each of which is exemplified best by its “thematic” presence in the Thema Mundi: Venus is the aspect-producing planet of the sextile, Mars of the square, Jupiter of the trine, and Saturn of the opposition.
However, we don’t have to limit ourselves to talking just about degree-based angular relationships when it comes to aspects. In fact, it’s arguably more traditional to talk about them in terms of whole signs (and, thus, houses), and the idea is the same as before. Mercury is one sign away from its luminary for the semi-sextile aspect, Venus two for sextile, Mars three for square, Jupiter four (for trine), and Saturn six for opposition. This is the distinction between partile and platick aspects, where partile aspects are measured by the “parts” of signs (i.e. the exact degrees) and platick aspects by the “broad areas” of whole signs at a time; while we moderns generally consider partile aspects to be what really counts (ideally exact by angle, though we allow the wiggle-room of orbs for the planets), it would have been just as valid in Hellenistic and traditional astrology to consider platick aspects based on sign relationships between the location of any two particular planets. In the above talk about the Thema Mundi, it’s actually more proper and traditional to note the angular relationships of the planets to the luminaries based on how many signs/houses they are away rather than how many degrees of celestial longitude they are away. If we count by signs, then we have the nifty association between aspects and sign relationships:
- Signs in sextile share the same temperature of element (i.e. hot Fire and Air, cold Water and Earth) and different modality. They understand what each other needs and uplift/sustain each other in their complementary ways.
- Signs in square are of the opposite element but same modality. They understand how each other works and work in the same way, but they have the opposite views and goals and needs.
- Signs in trine share the same element. They understand what each other needs and join with each other in common purpose.
- Signs in opposition share the same temperature of element as well as the same modality. They conflict because they operate in the same way, and share the same passion but for different goals and needs, leading to rivalry and conflict. So different, yet so similar at the same time!
But this leads to something interesting: if there are only aspects based on whole-sign counting, what about two planets that are found in signs that have no such relationship? We already counted differences of one sign (semi-sextile), two sign (sextile), three (square), four (trine), and six (opposition), and if it’s more than six, we can simply flip the calculation to get a corresponding opposite-direction same-type aspect. This leaves the relationships unclear when we have differences of zero signs and five signs away:
- If there are zero signs between two planets, then they’re in the same sign, or more ideally, at a 0° difference. In other words, this is conjunction of two planets, where instead of there being a relationship, there is a true unity and melding of force, power, and presence. Relationships can only happen when there is a distance or difference, but in conjunction, there is neither; thus, a conjunction is not a type of aspect, technically speaking, because there’s no “other planet” for each to look at, since they become one and the same force.
- If there are five signs between two planets, then they’re…weird. They have nothing to relate to each other: they’re of different elements yet not opposing elements (e.g. Fire and Earth), and are not of the same modality. If conjunction is a complete identity of essence, then this relationship is complete dissonance, and is called inconjunct; the angular relationship of 150° is called the quincunx, but the idea is the same. This is the complete lack of relationship, which in traditional astrology was considered worse than any relationship at all (no matter how bad).
In addition to the complete dissonance bit of the inconjunct, there was a notion of certain places being “unseen” from any particular place in the House Chart. From the ascendant, consider that houses VI (illness) and VIII (death) are inconjunct with house I (life). While being close to the aspect (“seen”) of opposition, they are just out of range of vision, just off to the side of focus. It’s like when you’re staring at a particular distant point: you have that point in complete view, but things just off to the side? You can’t look at them the same way, things slide out unnoticed, or change without being seen. This “just off to the side” quality of the inconjunct lends them to “being unseen”. Similarly, we can say the same thing for houses XII and II: while there is technically an aspect for these (semi-sextile, 30° or one sign away), house XII (enemies) is inimical to house I (life) in the same way houses VI and VIII are, and worse, house XII is “right behind” house I, and thus is also unseen. House II (property) isn’t usually considered negative, but it is similarly “unseen” because it is too close, too under-the-nose, to be properly regarded as an aspected house. This leaves the relationships of one sign away and five sign away as anti-aspects, or more properly, averted. Aversion indicates an anti-relationship: a lack of communication or awareness, a disability to understand and be understood, and a lack of control in either direction. This is why, for the sake of astrology, the 30° relationship is at best trivial and meaningless, and at worst is as bad as the 150° quincunx.
Okay! So much for an introduction on aspects. Where does that leave us? Well, we have particular angular relationships that, for the sake of both traditional astrology and geomancy, we can determine based on how far two particular things are in the House Chart based on how many signs/houses come between them:
- Sextile: two houses away, the relationship of Venus. Luck, opportunity, happiness, fickle fortune.
- Square: three houses away, the relationship of Mars. Strife, fighting, conflict, construction.
- Trine: four houses away, the relationship of Jupiter. Blessing, ease, harmony, prosperity.
- Opposition: six houses away, the relationship of Saturn. Rivalry, enmity, enemies, tension.
And, in addition, we have three non-aspects:
- Conjunction: same house in the same location, the identification of the two luminaries as one light. Two forces that become one.
- Semi-sextile: one house away, the anti-relationship/aversion of Mercury. Being too close to properly see or control.
- Inconjunct: five houses away, the anti-relationship/aversion of Saturn. Being just out of sight to properly see or understand.
In geomancy, we can use aspects to better understand the relationship between two particular figures in the House Chart, or the effects a given figure has on another figure based on the angular house-based relationship between them. The naïve and simplistic way of doing this is to take any particular figure as your significator, and interpret the figures two, three, four, and six houses away as being in aspect to the significator.
Just to make things a little more exciting, let’s add in two more distinctions to our expanding set of aspects, shall we? In geomantic interpretation, not only is it the number of houses away that matters for an aspect, but also the direction of the aspect, or dexter and sinister aspects, which are ultimately based on the natural motion of the planets as seen from the Earth:
- Dexter aspects (literally “right”, as in “right-handed”) are counted clockwise around the House Chart from the aspecting figure to the aspected figure. For instance, the trine formed by House V onto house I is a dexter trine, because the aspect is made going clockwise around the chart from house V to house I. Dexter aspects go against the natural flow of the signs of the Zodiac, or said another way, against the usual counterclockwise numbering of the houses. These are considered to be more direct, effective, obvious, blatant, or vigorous.
- Sinister aspects (literally “left) are counted counterclockwise around the House Chart from the aspecting figure to the aspected figure. For instance, the trine formed by House IX onto house I is a sinister trine, because the aspect is made going counterclockwise around the chart from house IX to house I. Sinister aspects go with the natural flow of the signs of the Zodiac, or said another way, with the usual counterclockwise numbering of the houses. These are considered to be more subtle, hidden, weak, slow, or indirect than dexter aspects.
Thus, consider the following geomantic House Chart:
If we were to consider house IV (Tristitia) as our significator, then we find the following figures in aspect with it:
- Dexter sextile: house VI, Cauda Draconis
- Dexter square: house VII, Amissio
- Dexter trine: house VIII, Fortuna Minor
- Opposition: house X, Cauda Draconis
- Sinister trine: house XII, Coniunctio
- Sinister square: house I, Via
- Sinister sextile: house II, Acquisitio
Note that opposition, because it is six houses away, is always on the opposite point of the House Chart. Therefore, it is only ever an opposition, and cannot be dexter or sinister. Also note that we don’t count semi-sextiles or quincunxes here; although we can technically mark these as aspects, given their “unseen” nature, it’s better to say that there is no relationship between house IV and houses V, IX, XI, and III. For similar reasons, because only one figure can only ever appear in any given house, there is no notion of conjunction in the geomantic House Chart (outside of perfection, of course, but that’s a different topic that I’ll bring up in a bit).
As a facile way of using aspects in geomantic interpretation (though it is useful when learning how to interpret aspects!), we could find every figure that makes an aspect to a particular significator and interpret them to get a whole lot of details about all possible things that are acting upon, influencing, or impelling the significator to act a particular way. However, I find this to be a whole lot more than I care to deal with, and often provides more confused data than usable information, so I typically limit the use of aspects in my own geomantic practice to only two significators at a time, and even then, only when either one or both of the significators pass. Consider that two houses may already be in a “fixed” aspect relationship by virtue of where they are. Marriage, for instance, is always going to be represented in house VII, so in a query about marriage, it’s trivial and useless to say that the significators of querent and quesited are in an opposition aspect (houses I and VII), because opposition is inherent to the house of marriage, and therefore is more a subject for philosophical introspection on the subject in general rather than helpful divination and guidance in a particular matter involving the subject. We can’t use the “real houses” of the significators for determining aspect alone, so we must use something else.
In the case where one of the significators passes elsewhere in the chart, it may form an aspect to the other significator based on the house the significator passes to in relation to the “real house” of the other significator. Consider in the above House Chart a case where we’re investigating the topic of marriage, so we have house I (Via) representing the querent and house VII (Amissio) representing the marriage or spouse-to-be. Via in house I and Amissio in house VII, in their own “real houses”, don’t make an aspect, but Amissio passes from house VII to house IX. House IX is in aspect with house I, so we can say that Amissio (significator of the quesited in house VII) makes a sinister trine to Via (significator of the querent in house I) by means of house IX. Thus, we can say that the spouse-to-be and the querent are in a good relationship together, characterized by quiet peace and modest harmony, possibly involving matters involving academia, spirituality, or foreign travel, especially on the part of the spouse-to-be and how they incorporate the querent into their own life. The aspect here reveals what their relationship is like; how each of them are individually is determined more by the figures themselves.
So, in this more limited, exacting, and useful way of interpreting aspect in the geomantic House Chart, we can determine the relationship between two significators if one of them passes to a house that aspects the other in its own “real house”. If one of them passes but into an averted house (a house that is one or five away from the “real house”), then there is no relationship, which can be interpreted either not at all (modern) or in the more dire unseen, uncontrolled, incommunicable way (traditional). What happens if both figures pass elsewhere in the chart? Say we have an example where, for another chart about marriage, Coniunctio in house I passes to house IX and Amissio in house VII passes to house III. There are two aspects here: the significator of the querent makes a dexter sextile onto the significator of the quesited (house IX onto house VII), and likewise, the quesited makes a dexter sextile onto the querent (house III onto house I). In this case, both significators pass, and there’s a third aspect being made here: the opposition between houses III and IX! This aspect doesn’t involve either real house of the significators, but is still another relationship between the significators that needs to be accounted for. This is where yet another dichotomy can come into play for us:
- Direct aspect: an aspect made by one significator that passes elsewhere in the chart onto the real house of the other significator. Indicates the direct, known, or intended effects one significator has upon the other. Direct aspects (with the exception of opposition) will be either dexter or sinister, using the real house being aspected to as a point of orientation.
- Indirect aspect: an aspect made by both significators from the houses each passes to onto the other, not involving the real houses of either significator. Side effects that result from the actions and interactions of the significators, or emergent properties of their relationship that are unknown or unintended by either party. Indirect aspects cannot be considered dexter or sinister since there is no direction inherent to them, since both figures pass equally.
Thus, in this relationship where Coniunctio and Amissio both have direct dexter sextiles upon each other with the indirect opposition between them, the querent and quesited generally get along pretty well as each opens up new doors for the other and provides glee and luck for each other, but there’s this nagging tension that seems to result as they get closer, this weird difficulty that leaves only a soft echo in the dark corners of their minds; their friends don’t seem to get along the longer they hang out, and there’s this weird unspoken division that both of them subconsciously work around. That’s what an indirect aspect is: an emergent property or a side-effect of the actions and interactions of both parties acting upon each other. It’s not always the case that an indirect aspect can be formed when both significators pass, but when one can, even if it’s a subtle or minor thing, it’s usually important enough to note because of how easy it is to overlook in the real world.
What about if one significator passes to multiple other houses, each of which aspects the real house of the other significator? In this case, despite the confusion, it’s actually pretty straightforward: there are multiple aspects, so first interpret each one separately then see how they’re all connected and fit into a bigger picture. In such a case, can the same significator make indirect aspects with itself? No, it cannot; when considering two or more significators, an aspect must be made between two different significators so as to indicate a relationship. A relationship indicates two distinct parties to relate to each other; just as a significator passing to another house cannot aspect its own real house, a significator passing to multiple houses cannot form an indirect aspect amongst its passing houses. Rather, it’s better to analyze what that same significator is doing in so many houses, and how they’re all connected and fitting into the same overall or overarching action or set of actions, and how they all impact or influence the other significator both separately and in unison.
That’s what I do to use aspect in interpreting geomantic house charts; the technique is fairly straightforward, though there is a bit of nuance between dexter and sinister as well as direct and indirect. So, why do I use aspect? Aspect indicates a relationship between two significators that results in their actions one upon the other (not necessarily “upon each other!”) which can affect a particular situation as a whole, or offer more details into the specific nature of the two parties acting on their own or interacting with each other. The keyword here is “relationship”; aspects indicate the existence and nature of relationships, if any, between the significators and, if one exists, how it plays out between the two significators.
What I do not use aspect for is as a type of perfection. Perfection, as I’ve written about before, is a method of geomantic interpretation that uses the motion of the figures in the House Chart to determine whether a particular situation will happen (if the chart perfects) or won’t happen (if the chart denies perfection). Both perfection and aspect utilize the passing of the significators with and around each other, but to my mind, I find that they are distinct techniques that answer fundamentally different questions of the geomantic chart. This is something I disagree with JMG on; in his “Art and Practice of Geomancy”, he says that aspect functions as a weaker kind of perfection alongside the usual occupation, conjunction, mutation, and translation. If the chart denies perfection, such that none of the four major kinds of perfection are present in the chart, then JMG says that beneficial aspects that are made between the significators can be used to affirm the chart, and negative aspects (along with no aspects, along with the outright denial from proper perfection) can be used to reinforce a denial in the chart, or to weaken another perfection.
In my experience, however, I haven’t seen this to be borne out, and so I don’t consider aspect-as-perfection as useful. I’m familiar with the fact that perfection in horary astrology (which is where the whole idea of where perfection came from) uses aspects in order to accomplish its types of perfection: aspect made between the two significators, translation by a third faster-moving body making aspects to both, or collection by both significators making an aspect to a third slower-moving body. However, we’ve departed from this by “tweaking” the understanding of perfection for the purposes of fitting it into a geomantic system; in this case, we really only consider conjunction (in the sense of one “body” identifying with the other, as in perfection by occupation, or going to meet another, as in perfection by conjunction or mutation). We’ve broken the identification of perfection and aspect by limiting ourselves to a non-aspect type of passing. Plus, although horary astrology has a number of ways where perfection can be denied based on the motion of other planets to interfere with the aspects being made or other astrological mishaps, there’s no such idea in geomantic perfection; the only way a geomantic chart can deny perfection is the absence of the four types of perfection.
While an argument can be made that “because perfection comes from astrology, and astrological perfection uses aspects, we should use aspects in geomantic perfection”, I would counter that since we’ve effectively come up with a new set of geomancy-specific rules that we only call “perfection” because although it accomplishes much the same aim in astrology, the methods are completely different and follow a different logic. Perfection inspects how the figures pass irrespective of angular relationships between the significators, and is almost always sufficient to accurately answer the query. If the chart perfects, the thing inquired will happen, and if the chart denies perfection, the thing inquired will not happen; that’s the end of the statement. Perfection, as I’ve said before, only answers whether something will or won’t happen and, if it will happen, how it will be accomplished. Aspect, on the other hand, answers to the existence and nature of relationships between different parties/events/situations. Perfection answers the “what will happen” and “how”, while aspect answers “where” and “what kind”; aspect is well-suited to talk about the goodness or badness of something, but not to determining whether something will happen or not.
It can often be helpful to interpret perfection and aspect alongside each other to get a better grasp of the nature of a situation:
- Perfection, no aspect: The situation will happen, but beyond the involvement of the parties in the situation, there is no other action being taken by either significator, or there are no side-effects or other intentions, or there are no other worlds/circles of work being pulled into the situation
- Perfection, aspect by the quesited onto the querent: Will happen, and the quesited is producing an effect or engaging in a relationship with the querent
- Perfection, aspect by the querent onto the quesited: Will happen, and the querent is producing an effect or engaging in a relationship with the quesited
- Perfection, aspects by both significators onto each other: Will happen, and both significators are engaging in a relationship with each other, possibly with side-effects or emergent properties that they are unaware of
- Perfection, good aspects: Will happen, and will turn out favorably for the significator(s) having good aspects made to it
- Perfection, bad aspects: Will happen, and will turn out unfavorably for the significator(s) having bad aspects made to it
- Perfection, both good and bad aspects: Will happen, but the result will be a mixed bag depending on the different effects and acts made upon the significator(s)
- No perfection, … : All the above goes for all the “no perfection” situations, except the thing inquired about will not happen
In other words, this is just a fancier, aspect-specific version of the following chart I’ve used before when discussing perfection vs. favorability:
|Good figures||Bad figures|
|Chart perfects||Will happen,
situation will turn out well
situation will turn out badly
|Chart denies||Will not happen,
situation will turn out well
|Will not happen,
situation will turn out badly
Perfection and aspect are both useful techniques in geomancy, but I see them as answering different kinds of questions within a given chart. If what you want to know is how good or bad something is, where a certain party is acting from onto a given situation or person, or what kinds of influences are upon a given situation or person, then aspect is a fantastic way to deduce the nature of relationships between different parties, if any should exist at all. If what you want to know is whether something will happen or not, perfection is excellent. Both can be combined to yield a well-rounded, detailed, and thorough answer, but I caution against confusing “niceness of a situation” with “accomplishment of intention”. Just as I warn against confusing perfection with favorability, I warn against misusing or confusing aspect into saying something it may not be equipped to say. While I understand why aspect can be used as a type of perfection, I find that it doesn’t often say anything that perfection already hasn’t said when it comes to the “will/won’t” question, and that it has much better and more detailed applications answering the questions about relationships between the significators, both on its own and alongside the technique of perfection.