Aspects are the patterns of Cooperation or Resistance & Challenge. They make up the game of Six Degrees of Separation: who's working (or not) with whom (signs and planets). It is close, but it’s a plus-or-minus range from zero to 30 in astrology. Twelve ways x 30 = 360 degrees, or a perfect circle: the continuation of the chart as a Mandala of Life.
Here we find cooperation and adjustment to Life Challenges as well as frustration and resistance to growth patterns and lessons that will not go away. This is Resolution Management of Life Crises and Opportunities, and the aspects are symbolic indicators of the energy exchanges between different parts of the psyche. Cooperation and teamwork are the basic structure; adjustment and flexibility are the goal.
As noted elsewhere on this site, I have found the work and research of the Magi Society and their historical perspective of aspects to be one of the reasons why people have trouble understanding the variations within astrology. The Magi Society was originated in China in 1625 and their technique of using aspects as guide markers instead of house systems and cusps made their work that much more significant. In effect, they have been doing the calculations and chronicles of astrological research for almost 400 years—and the volume of knowledge they have to validate their work is quite substantial. It could be said that they were doing the work of the Gauquelin’s from Switzerland, but hundreds of years earlier.
In the years of evaluations on the lives of the subjects whose charts were cast by the Magi Society, they became more convinced than ever that aspects are truly what characterizes the individual; that these dynamics of tension and cooperation are the keys to the psyche’s growth. They see that the house systems can change depending on what type is used to delineate the chart, and so placements of planets can vary up or down within a cusp (doorway) if that planet is close enough by degrees to “move over.”
With the aspect system ONLY, the psycho-dynamics are revealed in a more open way as “either resolved or learning to be resolved” nature: the subject has either shown soul achievement and growth through a challenge, or they have not—and all the “avoidance and excuses” that we use as denial methods will not hold validity because the aspects define the life challenges and opportunities, for better or worse. There’s not much room for rebuttal with an aspect.
Frustrating aspect patterns can be both blessings and frustration: they can inspire someone to great endeavors or they can act as hindrances that an individual may not want to develop. Astrologers and those who use charts for psychological analysis have their own views on which ones are helpful and obstruction. (Some astrologers would disagree, but I have dropped the sextile from my work because I find it too mild. There are also secondary aspects that some astrologers favor--and I don't--but it's all useful depending on who is interpreting the chart.)
And in a comical view of the potential of astrology and education, I have found that aspects are simple geometry and that I quite enjoy finding the patterns--which is remarkable because I failed geometry twice in high school. So much for "when will we ever use this knowledge?" from the student's chair!
•Conjunction - A Union of two ideals; a tag-team partnership of energies who work as a "co-joined twin"
•Opposition - I stand off against (until I compromise); stalemate that needs balance
• Square - I reluctantly acknowledge (but build with...); the "square peg in a round hole"; the square wheel that takes friction to make smooth
•Sextile - I cooperate with; flexibility
•Trine - I willingly yield to; this is too easy! (may indicate laziness)
•Quincunx - I cannot achieve resolution; that itch is driving me crazy and can’t be answered!!
The conjunction can be tricky because two forces are at work--and there may be a "Stop! Go!" interaction between planets (for example, Saturn-Jupiter) at work, or other types of "How did I get teamed with YOU?!"
Squares represent a personal issue; this is something that the individual must resolve from within for character development.
Oppositions represent someone else: this is both an external factor (much like projection, where another person represents the energy and is a factor in the individual's life), or it indicates a tug-of-war that needs negotiation.
Trines are almost always welcomed, although some astrologers and counselors think they can be TOO much of a good thing and not supportive of effort that could be helpful in character development.
Sextiles work like trines, but they're much more casual.
Quincunxes are not always considered by astrologers because they're a "minor" aspect, but I've seen them irritate and annoy individuals with their dynamics of aggravation. (Strangely enough, the Magi aspects consider the quincunx--with the exception of a Saturn pattern to Chiron)--to be quite supportive as an attraction factor.
Depending on the format used to calibrate a chart, the aspects may be included or not. They are usually included in various formats as a separate table (see bottom left) that also includes Chiron, the 4 major asteroids (Ceres, Pallas, Juno, Vesta), and the Black Moon Lilith: