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Planetary Aspects: From Conflict to Cooperation-How to Handle Your T-Square

Planetary Aspects: From Conflict to Cooperation-How to Handle Your T-Square

by Tracy Marks

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A classic back in print, Planetary Aspects is one that every astrologer would choose on their shortlist for their own library and a great tool for all levels of astrological practice.

This comprehensive work focuses on the most challenging dynamics of the birth chart. Originally published in 1987, it is recognized as a classic of modern astrology, and was


A classic back in print, Planetary Aspects is one that every astrologer would choose on their shortlist for their own library and a great tool for all levels of astrological practice.

This comprehensive work focuses on the most challenging dynamics of the birth chart. Originally published in 1987, it is recognized as a classic of modern astrology, and was the most highly rated book in the Astrology Book Club's nationwide survey. The author presents powerful techniques for understanding and resolving the conflicts of planetary aspects, emphasizing the potential for growth and achievement involved in stressful aspects.

The central theme of this book is the T-square configuration--a chart pattern that occurs periodically for everyone by transit, progression, or chart comparison. The T-square is a combination of planets, signs, and houses that suggests a pronounced strength or emphasis, as well as imbalance and deficiency. Planetary Aspects: An Astrological Guide to Managing Your T-Square is a discussion of the conflicts and harmonies of this important aspect, and a guide to understanding the crucial periods and challenges it presents.

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Planetary Aspects

An Astrological Guide to Managing Your T-Square

By Tracy Marks


Copyright © 2013 Tracy Marks
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-89254-595-7



Few characteristics of an astrological chart are as significant as the configurations made by planets in aspect to each other. Of the five major aspect configurations found most frequently in birth charts (the stellium, t-square, grand cross, grand trine and yod), the t-square is the most common, and occurs in as many as 40 percent of all natal horoscopes. The t-square indicates not only the primary conflicts a person experiences, hut also the talents and personal characteristics which he or she is motivated to develop, and which can lead to considerable achievement and satisfaction if expressed constructively.

What is a t-square? Do you have one in your natal chart? What does it mean? How can you best express it? If you don't have a t-square, what can you learn about the configuration that will enable you to make beneficial use of planetary energies, and to respond favorably to transits or progressions forming a t-square to a square or opposition in your chart? How can you deepen your understanding of the people in your life who possess t-square configurations? How can you help them to channel their energies effectively?


Technically, a t-square involves three or more planets. At least two of these planets are in opposition to each other, which means that they occur approximately 180 degrees apart, with an 8 degree orb allowable that establishes the range of the opposition at 172-180 degrees. One or both of these opposing planets may be conjunct (within 8 degrees of another planet.) Each, however, must also form a square to a planet, which occurs approximately 90 degrees between them.

This planet, which squares the opposition, is known as the focal planet, and also has an allowable orb of 8 degrees, which means that it is positioned within the range of 82-98 degrees from each of the opposing planets. The focal planet, like either or both of the opposing planets, may also be part of a conjunction.

In most cases, the opposing planets and the focal planet which form a t-square are in the same mode by sign—cardinal (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn), fixed (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius), or mutable (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces). The sign and the house opposing the focal planet are usually empty. If a planet opposes the focal planet, the configuration formed is not a t-square but a grand cross.



In this example, Pluto and the Moon are the opposing planets and Venus is the focal planet. Pluto and the Moon form an opposition with a four-degree orb. The square between Venus and Pluto has a one-degree orb, and the Venus/Moon square a three-degree orb. All three planets involved in this t-square o-cur in fixed signs. Venus, the focal planet, is positioned in Taurus in the eighth house, and no planets are in opposition to Venus, or are -positioned in either Scorpio or the second house. The degree opposite Venus, 23 Scorpio, is considered to be the empty space or empty degree of the t-square. This is an example of a strong t-square configuration.

Variations and Strength

A t-square is particularly strong if it consists of more than three planets, if all of its planets are within a tight orb (less than three degrees), if it contains one or more exact aspects (less than one degree), if it is angular, or if the focal planet is at the midpoint of the two opposing planets. It is weak if one planet is in a sign of a different mode than the other two planets (i.e., Mars at 27 Pisces, Jupiter at 0 Cancer, Sun at 2 Capricorn), if orbs are over six degrees, or if a planet occurs in the sign opposite the focal planet and nearly squares or opposes one of the planets in the t-square. A planet occurring in the sign opposite the focal planet should be at least 15 degrees away from opposition; otherwise the configuration formed might qualify as a grand cross, or as a combination t-square/grand cross.

The diagrams on pages 10-12 illustrate a number of possible t-square configurations. Most of these variations have already been described above. Note that if one planet in the configuration makes a square or opposition with an eight to ten degree orb to another planet, and all of the other aspects in the configuration have orbs of less than eight degrees, a weak t-square is formed. If an opposition squares the ascendant/descendant axis, the midheaven/nadir axis or the nodal axis, the configuration formed may express itself alternately as a weak t-square and as a weak grand cross.

General Meaning

A t-square is an imbalanced but dynamic configuration. The two squares, which both involve the focal planet, create frustration and tension which interfere with the natural, constructive expression of the planet according to the sign and house in which it is positioned. This planet seems to be pulled in two directions by the opposition. Because the opposing planets and their signs and houses are unintegrated and out of balance, they are in conflict, and their conflict increases the pressure experienced at the focal planet. The attempts of the focal planet to cope with this pressure, to regain its balance and to express itself freely usually results in a powerful release of energy (often expressed in a compulsive, wasteful or extreme manner) and a call to action.

The t-square demands action. Because it provides its own source of motivation, it indicates the potential for considerable achievement. The nature of this achievement is usually related to the nature of the focal planet, its sign and house, and the aspects that it forms within the natal chart.

A person with a t-square frequently wastes considerable energy overemphasizing the focal planet without giving due consideration to other sides of his or her personality. The sign and house opposite the focal planet, in the area frequently referred to as the empty space, indicate the gaps or deficiencies in his personal development—qualities and areas of life which, if developed, can enable him to express his focal planet in a moderate, balanced and constructive manner.

Sometimes, a person with a t-square escapes from the problems generated by the focal planet by overemphasizing the sign and house of the empty space. He or she leans too much in one direction until problems here become overwhelming, then shifts gears completely and leans too heavily in the opposite direction without much understanding of true meaning indicated by that sign and house. This tendency to swing compulsively from one extreme to another usually does not operate to his advantage, because the development of the empty space and the constructive expression of the focal planet are linked, and must be approached simultaneously.


When interpreting the t-square, all of the following should be considered:

1) The mode or quadruplicity of the t-square. Is it cardinal, fixed or mutable? Are all of its planets in the same mode? The mode of the configuration describes how its energy is experienced and expressed. Cardinal t-squares are the most dynamic, active and crisis-oriented; fixed t-squares are the most powerful, determined and self-willed; mutable t-squares are the most restless, scattered and changeable.

2) The focal planet, its direct or retrograde motion, its placement by sign and house, and the house or houses it rules in the natal chart. (These houses will also experience the tension and motivation generated by the t-square.) The focal planet may be the most dominant planet in the chart, and the source of a large percentage of an individual's energy. It must be used, and used wisely. A secret of using the t-square effectively is to learn to express the focal planet in a positive manner rather than be driven by its tension to compulsive activity, excess and overcompensation.

3) The opposing planets, their direct or retrograde motion, their placement by sign and house, and the houses, which they rule in the natal chart. Each of these planets contributes to the expression of the focal planet, interfering with its functioning or spurring it to express itself in a more beneficial manner.

4) The nature of the opposition and the squares, which form the t-square. How compatible are the planets involved in each aspect? How do they function together? How close, and therefore how strong is the aspect? The closest of these aspects indicates the greatest stress experienced by the t-square, as well as the means for alleviating that stress.

5) The empty space of the t-square—the degree, sign and house opposite the focal planet. If there are two focal planets in conjunction, the empty degree will be their far midpoint. The empty space needs to be consciously developed in a positive manner, so that the t-square individual does not need to overcompensate for his or her inadequacies by blindly throwing more undirected energy into the focal planet, and does not retreat from the tensions of the focal planet by reverting to the most negative manifestations of the empty space. The Sabian Symbol for the degree of the empty space is often a key to the quality, which most needs to be developed.

6) The ruler of the sign of the empty space, and its position by sign and house in the natal chart. (E.g., if the sign of the empty space is Cancer, the ruler is the Moon.) This planet is frequently a key to how that sign may most easily be expressed. Since that sign is already expressed indirectly in the house of its ruler, its influence can be applied to other areas of the chart, particularly to the empty house. If the ruler is one of the planets of the t-square, then it particularly needs to be expressed constructively.

7) The trines and sextiles that occur in the natal chart between planets in the t-square and planets outside the t-square. These trines and sextiles can provide constructive channels of expression for the energy released by the t-square, or can serve as a means of escaping from the conflict. This is particularly true if a grand trine configuration connects with the t-square, in which case the connecting planet is not only a means of escape but also a means of utilizing the energy of the grand trine. Trines or sextiles to the focal planet are most important. The closest trine or sextile is likely to be an alchemical agent, providing a means for transmuting the unfocused energy of the t-square into creative, productive action.

8) Favorable minor aspects (such as the quintile, semi-sextile and novile) formed to planets in the t-square and particularly to the focal planet. These minor aspects are significant channels only if nearly exact (less than one degree in orb) or if few trines or sextiles occur to t-square planets.

9) Any direct midpoint patterns formed to the planets in the t-square, particularly to the focal planet, (e.g., If the focal planet Mars is 16 Leo, Mercury is 8 Gemini and Saturn is 24 Libra, then Mars is the Mercury/Saturn midpoint, since it is positioned sixty-eight degrees after Mercury and sixty-eight degrees before Saturn.) If the focal planet is at the midpoint of two planets not involved in the t-square, learning to express these planets harmoniously together will help the focal planet to function more effectively.

10) A planet occurring at the midpoint of the squares involved in the t-square. (E.g., if focal Jupiter at 24 Libra squares Saturn at 22 Cancer, a planet equidistant from Jupiter and Saturn, at 8 Virgo or at 8 Pisces, would be positioned at the Jupiter/Saturn midpoint.) This planet can be an aid to harmoniously integrating the planets in square.

Of all of the above considerations, probably the most important are the mode or quadruplicity, the squares and oppositions which form the t-square, the nature of the focal planet and empty space, and the favorable aspects, particularly trines and sextiles, formed to the t-square. These deserve special attention, and should be considered at length.


People with cardinal t-squares are the most active of all t-square types, and the most inclined to plunge into crises situations related to their personal activities, home and family life, love relationships or professional commitments. Inclined to go after what they want (unless Aries occupies their empty space), they involve themselves totally in the problems of their existence, thriving upon excitement and challenge. Often Aries-like, unless the focal planet is in Libra, they need to cultivate the positive Libran qualities—balance, moderation, awareness of other people, perspective, and the ability to evaluate and compromise.

People with fixed t-squares display considerable strength of will, concentrated power and determination, particularly in regard to satisfying their own desires. They build up their energy slowly and then release it in a powerful manner, like a truck climbing a steep hill and then speeding down the other side. Goal-oriented and persevering, they stubbornly and forcefully adhere to their principles, refusing to compromise and resisting any attempts by other people to control their expression of energy. They can benefit by discovering constructive outlets for the energy generated by their frustrated desires, and by reformulating their value system in order to become more sensitive to other people's desires and needs.

People with mutable t-squares are usually over-adaptable, changeable, restless, versatile and very much concerned with and influenced by ideas and personal relationships. Their nervous mental energy and their suggestibility incline them to scatter their energies widely, dabbling in a multitude of diverse interests or flitting from one personal interaction to another. Because they adapt themselves so easily to their changing circumstances, they often seem vacillating and weak-willed. Like a team of water skiers in formation, these people need to cultivate balance in relationship to others, often by discovering a purpose or mission that centers them and keeps them from being pulled in too many directions.

Squares and Oppositions

Every t-square consists of at least two squares. These squares, like all squares, indicate internal tension resulting from two parts of oneself that clash, and which creates a frustration that can only be resolved by action. This frustration is therefore a source of motivation, a drive to achieve or to express oneself in a concrete, productive manner. However, the activities that one undertakes brings satisfaction only if they express the energies of both of the planets, signs and houses involved in the square.

When interpreting either a square or an opposition, the nature of the planets and their compatibility, the nature of the signs, and the exactness of the aspect all must be taken into consideration. An applying aspect is usually stronger than a separating aspect (particularly if it involves only outer planets) because it is likely, at some point in one's life, to become exact by progression.

Oppositions are generally more complex than squares. Since both planets in a t-square opposition exert their pressure upon the focal planet, the meaning of the opposition should be considered at length.

An opposition, like the t-square as a whole, denotes an imbalance. Two parts of oneself, indicated by the planets, signs and houses involved in the opposition, are not simply clashing; they are pulling oneself in two entirely different directions. The net result can be one or more of several different possibilities:

1) A person may feel torn apart and paralyzed because so much of his or her energy is involved in an internal tug-of-war. Because he equally accepts both parts of himself and does not know how to integrate them, he may be unable to make a decision and act.

2) He may fluctuate between expressing one part of himself and expressing the other part. One part may gain control for a minute, an hour, a day or even a year before the balance shifts and the other part takes over.

3) He may, because he is unable to accept one part of himself, project that part onto another person, viewing it as a quality of that other person rather than owning it as a dimension of his own being. This inability to experience both sides of himself may result in feelings of alienation from other people. Because he is at odds with the people upon whom he has projected his unwanted qualities, he may experience frequent breaks or separations in his personal relationships.

4) He may actually choose to interact with people who express one side of his opposition (perhaps because it is a side of one of their oppositions). With them, he can overtly enact the battle that is actually taking place within his own psyche.

5) He may deny one side of himself completely, forcing it to operate in an unconscious or compulsive manner. This expression of the opposition is most likely to occur if one side of the opposition is stronger—because it is a planet in its own sign or house or located precisely on an angle, or because it is a conjunction or series of conjunctions. Denial does not rid of the unwanted characteristic, but rather strengthens it. As Carl Jung so aptly wrote, "You always become the thing you fight the most."


Excerpted from Planetary Aspects by Tracy Marks. Copyright © 2013 Tracy Marks. Excerpted by permission of NICOLAS-HAYS, INC..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Tracy Marks is one of the most popular and original writers in modern astrology, combining her training in psychotherapy with many years of experience in astrology. Her transformational astrology books include Astrology of Self-Discovery, Art of Chart Interpretation, and Your Secret Self: Illuminating the Mysteries of the Twelfth House. Her work has been translated into nine languages and has sold over 125,000 copies. www.windweaver.com

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