Aspects are angles describing the location of planets relative to each other. Major aspect patterns are relationships formed between three or more planets, and each pattern represents a unique energetic archetype.
In The Meaning of Planetary Aspects in Astrology, we looked at the main aspects or two-planet relationships, from conjunction through the opposition, and what each aspect implies. In this post we’ll look at the following three-planet aspect patterns: the stellium, Grand Trine, Triangle of Potential, Yod, Thor’s Hammer, and T-square.
These are not the only three-planet aspect patterns but they are some of the most popular. In the future we’ll look at four- through six-planet aspects as well.
Aspects are described as soft or hard depending on the energetic challenge they represent, and aspect patterns are described as soft, hard, or some combination of the two. In this post we’ll describe each major aspect pattern on a spectrum of soft to hard.
3-Planet Major Aspect Patterns:
- Stellium: Focus (3 conjunctions)
- Grand Trine: Harmony (3 trines)
- Triangle of Potential: Growth (1 trine, 1 sextile, 1 opposition)
- Yod: Karmic Mission (1 sextile, 2 quincunxes)
- Thor’s Hammer: Rebellion (1 square, 2 sesiquadrates)
- T-Square: Challenge (2 squares, 1 opposition)
When there are three or more planets close together in one sign, usually measured by an orb of less than 5°, they are called a stellium.
A stellium focuses a person’s energies on the qualities of the involved planets and the sign and house they reside in. Stelliums of three planets are pretty common thanks to Mercury’s proximity to the Sun. Stelliums of four or more planets are relatively rare.
Grand Trine: Harmony
When three planets each form a trine to one another, they are called a Grand Trine. This aspect pattern is generally regarded as a soft or positive aspect, one that creates harmony and ease. However it can produce too much ease, in which case it may manifest as stagnation.
Because the three points of the Grand Trine are equidistant to one another, all of the points share the same element of being in either fire, air, water, or earth signs. Each type of Grand Trine has its own unique flavor based on its element, and a person with a Grand Trine in their chart can seem to literally personify that element.
Triangle of Potential: Growth
When three planets form a trine, a sextile, and an opposition, the pattern is called a Triangle of Potential. This is a more common aspect pattern and represents the growth that comes from overcoming challenges using one’s innate talents, and conversely the development of innate talents through overcoming obstacles.
The two planets in opposition can develop a balanced relationship through expressing the planet at the 90° point where the sextile and trine meet.
Yod: Karmic Mission
A yod is formed by two planets sextile to one another, each quincunx to a third point forming an isosceles triangle. It is named after the Hebrew letter “yod” which means “finger of Yahweh.”
The energy of a yod combines the ease of the sextile with two discordant quincunxes. It’s a difficult aspect, one that typically manifests as having to go through some kind of trial in order to fulfill a karmic mission. The apex point of the two quincunxes provides a hint as to what that mission may be.
Thor’s Hammer: Rebellion
This aspect is created by two planets square to each other, each one forming a sesiquadrate (135°) angle to a third point. It’s a challenging aspect pattern formed only by hard aspects.
The myth of Thor’s Hammer originates in a story of the trickster god Loki cutting off Thor’s wife hair in the night. When Thor finds out what Loki has done, he is furious, and Loki offers to bring him a gift from the dwarves as repayment.
Loki ends up bringing Thor a golden hammer that was originally intended for Thor’s father, Odin. With this hammer, Thor now has the power to challenge his father.
In astrology, Thor’s Hammer represents a power beyond one’s own control that can be used to create change or as a force of destruction.
If another planet makes a positive aspect to any of the points in Thor’s Hammer, this fourth planet can provide a supportive outlet for the innate tensions.
Thor’s Hammer can be found in the charts of social outliers, those who don’t or can’t conform to social norms, and are at the receiving end of a lot of pressure and criticism. It produces friction, often manifesting as rebellion, that leads to new ideas that unseat the established norms.
A t-square produces a challenge, conflict, and forced growth around the themes embodied by the planets and their respective signs and houses. It is formed by three planets, one at 90° to the other two, which are in opposition to one another.
A t-square is similar to another aspect called a Grand Cross, which we’ll cover in more detail in the next post on 4-planet aspect patterns. Essentially a Grand Cross is four equidistant points, forming four squares and two pairs of oppositions.
If you look at a t-square in a chart, you could theoretically complete the square to form a Grand Cross by drawing right angles from the two opposing points to a “phantom” fourth point. The sign and house of this phantom fourth point provide insight into what qualities would help to stabilize and resolve the t-square tension.
Astrological aspects and aspect patterns provide insight into the nature of relationships between planets making up the chart. The progression of these astrological aspect patterns reveal energetic opportunities, from focus to personal development to the resolution of tension.
Our next post will look at aspect patterns involving four to six planets. In the meantime make sure to check out our related posts like The Planets and Their Meanings and The Meaning of Houses in Astrology.