example charts

Square Aspects 101

Square Aspects 101
Natal Chart of Harriet Beecher Stowe

Welcome to Square Aspects 101. You'll find this the third post and our Aspects 101 Series. This seriescovers major and minor aspects, the angles formed between planets.

Let's get started with Square Aspects 101.

Square Aspects 101 - What are they?

First of all, a square represents two or more planets 90° apart. If you have the Sun at 2° Libra and Saturn at 2° Cancer or 2° Capricorn, the Sun is said to square Saturn. (Always say the faster moving planets first as in Sun square Saturn, not Saturn square the Sun.) And, of course, as with all aspects, it's not just 90° exact that makes the aspect. There is an 'orb' of influence.

What is the orb for Squares?

Orb of aspect for Conjunctions plus
Orbs for Conjunctions and other aspects, minor and major.

Understand, an orb represents the degrees allowed for the aspect to 'act'. In the case of the square, the orb may be tight - 8° either side. Or, it may be wider, 10° either side for the planets and up to 12 for the luminaries*.

In the example above above showing Harriet Beecher Stowe's chart , all the squares fall into orbs within 1-9°s. But if Pluto was 28° Pisces and Neptune at 2° Capricorn, we would still say that Neptune was square Pluto because it is within 4° orb. With aspects, always count in degrees and be ready to recognize an 'out of sign' aspect.

Take a look at my settings for the aspects in my Io Time Cycles Software program. You can see the orbs are adjustable, and I like them wide, especially if the luminaries are involved.

The Key to Understanding any Aspect

Richard Idemon taught that the aspects are like table legs. Pick one 'leg' up and all the other legs of the table will follow. No exceptions. For example, if you have feel a strong work ethic and are ambitious to accomplish an authentic goal, (Saturn) you may awaken your intense focus and drive to destroy anything not working and start all over again from scratch (Pluto). You can not do one without the others when they link by aspect, even if that means expressing one quality and pushing the other down into the unconscious. (not the best solution in the long run as what we resist persists!)

Finding the Squares in the Chart Screen Shot 2019-01-24 at 6.46.30 pm

As you practice looking at a variety of charts, your eye will learn to pick up aspects easily. Even the out-of-sign ones. If you create charts without the 'lines' drawn in the middle, you will learn to see the aspects faster, not relying on the crutch, which doesn't let you practice seeing into the chart quite the same way. Meanwhile, you can double check with the aspectarian, the graph that comes with the natal chart. It shows us how all the planets and points are connected by aspect via symbol. Here is the aspectarian for the example chart.

What does the Square Mean?

Now, let's explore the meaning of square. This aspect links two or more planets or points that fall between 90°s plus or minus 10°s either side. The popular keyword for the square is “challenge”. This comes from the linking of signs that are not of the same polarity or element.

The square aspect has a negative connotation with adjectives like “trouble making”, “unfortunate”, “evil” and “vile”.  In Horary astrology the square indicates difficulties, loss, set backs and prohibitive costs.  Modern texts smooth over the delineation somewhat with euphemistic adjectives like “obstacles, resistance and blocks”.  Any way you slice it, at first glance the square means hard work.

It would be surprising to find an astrologer that could catalogue the joys of a Moon square Saturn.  What could possibly be advantageous about a struggle to secure basic needs like love, nurturing and emotional safety?  There is a certain challenge in painting a happy face on the side of a square.  Not may will believe it.

However, without conflict and struggle, a story becomes boring.  Characters are not provoked or stretched and they never grow into their full potential.

Square Aspects = Contrast; Contrast = Awareness

Without squares, there is less contrast, no sitting on the edge of the seat, waiting in anticipation for the next action. Squares are the goads that push the hero into her quest and keep her evolving, mind. body and spirit.  They are part of what makes us feel accomplished and wise.

In this way, squares are challenges and contrasts in life that offer new opportunity and adventure. Without them, we may not know what we really want. What we are truly capable of.

Contrast is essential to decision, but once the decision is made, if you will turn your full attention to your decision and do your best to achieve a vibrational match with that decision, in a very short order, the Universe will go to work in helping you to achieve whatever it is that you are wanting. - Abraham-Hicks Quotes

Modality and Form of Motion

Squares symbolize conflict partially because of their distance from each other. In the 90 degree aspect, planets are usually in the same modality.  They all have a common means of motion, but what they are moving towards is usually different.

The cardinal signs all move with a sense of action and initiation.  What they want to initiate, however, is not the same thing at all.  Aries takes action that leads to self awareness, self will and triumph.  Cancer, 90 degrees from Aries, takes action that leads to emotional union, shared pain and merging.  Libra, 90 degrees from Cancer, takes action that leads to shared beauty, intellectual values and social pleasure.  Capricorn, 90 degrees away from Libra, takes action that leads to greater authority, responsibility and achievement.  And back to Aries, 90 degrees from Capricorn, who could care less about responsibility and the limits it entails.

Square aspects imply meaningful conflicts and contrasts requiring effort, experience and introspection to resolve.  Usually they are difficult to ignore.  They generally grab our attention in trickster-like ways, yet can be beneficial, creative and fertile.

Forget about Easy or Hard

Remember to drop value judgments around the aspects. Squares make life neither good nor bad, easy or hard. What they do is link planets together for potential growth, awareness and evolution.

Furthermore, the aspect's expression isn't set in stone. It changes as we evolve. A child with Mars square Pluto may see their parents or teachers as angry, controlling and scary at times. They might experience the Pluto drive for power and control as bullying at school or, conversely, a charismatic blessing. Eventually, they can become both the Mars (healthy aggression) and Pluto (empowerment) taking responsibility for their own expression to bring fulfillment to themselves and others.

Square Aspects 101 Example Charts

Finally, let's look at some positive examples of squares in the natal chart.

In the feature chart above you can see that Harriet Beecher Stowe, abolitionist and author of thirty novels including Uncle Tom's Cabin, had a near exact Sun conjunct Jupiter with both square Pluto. Her identity (Sun) hinged on Jupiter (freedom, expansion, joy) and Pluto (collective issues of power and control).  How she expressed this square, a potentially challenging aspect rich with contrast is summed up in this quote.

"I feel now that the time is come when even a woman or a child who can speak a word for freedom and humanity is bound to speak... I hope every woman who can write will not be silent."

StevenSpielberg_natalNext, let's look at Steven Spielberg, the most popular directors and producers in Hollywood's history. Note the square between the Moon and Saturn/Pluto, a powerful example of emotional challenges and contrast.

It can often suggest major contrast in the early environment, especially with the Moon intercepted in Scorpio.

From Wikepeadia -

Spielberg  said he suffered from acts of anti-Semitic prejudice and bullying: "In high school, I got smacked and kicked around. Two bloody noses. It was horrible."[25][26][27]

Also notice the square between Mars (action) and Neptune (visual arts and film). With his creative vision, he takes extreme and sometimes horrific emotional, physical and environmental conditions (Moon/Pluto/Mars) and brings them to the attention of the collective (Saturn) via the cinema (Neptune). Consider some of his most venerated accomplishments: The Color Purple (1985), Empire of the Sun (1987), Schindler's List (1993), Amistad (1997) and Saving Private Ryan (1998). What a powerful example of working with contrast.

Working with Contrast

Contrast starts to loose its power over us when we become aware of the energies, the vibrations involved.

Then, instead of feeling done wrong by or blaming, we can honor all the planets involved in creative, expansive ways. It's about engaging with and/AND, not either/or.

The bottom line is, if you think it’s either/or, it will be, so use your awareness to pave new thoughts with and/AND. Freedom AND commitment. Money AND soul. Dream Job AND independence. Security AND love. Accomplishment AND spiritual life. Power AND creativity.

Summary - Square Aspects 101

To conclude, a square between two or more planets means they are scripted to dialog with each other. They are connected so that if one is active and ‘doing something’ the connected planet wakes up too. They are partners, of sorts, always and forever. Finding the And/and to the squares in your chart can harmonize and strengthen your desires, smooth out any kinks in your vibe and launch new successes, over and over again.

Try it!

Also, if you missed our first call in the Doorways to Manifesting Series, you can listen to it here:

Doorways to Manifesting - leveraging the contrast in your chart.

Comments on the Fourm and example charts in the Chart Gallery.

* * *


* Luminary refers to the sun and/or moon.

* Basic Rules:
are energy – the actors. They show us WHAT is acting.
Signs are expression – the costumes the actors wear. They show HOW the actors move.
Houses are environments – the stage on which the actor struts her stuff. They show WHERE the action is.
Aspects are the scripts – the dialog between actors who are connected. They show WHY the actors are attracted to each other.

*What Activates Aspects in the Natal Chart

Three things will activate any aspects in the chart: time, place and people. Think of it like this:

Time - Transits to the conjunctions

Place - Relocation or Astre*Carto*Graphy

People - Synastry, as when another person's planet acts like a transit to yours.

The Major Aspects Symbols and Key Words







Find out more about Square Aspects 101 in Aspect Patterns - a pattern that ties together three or more planets into a geometrical shape. They are CONNECTED to each other. Scripted to interact.

Comments welcome, or join us on the GVA forum.

Karma Course Homework #4

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Solar and Planetary Returns

Sun-Moon Eclipse
Sun-Moon Eclipse


Hi Everyone,

I wanted to look at Solar Returns in particular right now. This is the birthday chart, the perfect horoscope to read on or near your birthday. You can also to a demi-return at the halfway mark. In this post, we have an example for both the annual solar return and the demi return.

Here at GVA, Kim offers Solar Return Reading - fun and informative to do right around your birthday every year. There's a current wait list, but check them out in the Astrology Shop Page.

If you want do the GVA Exploring Planetary Return Course, check it out here. In it is a rundown on Solar Returns as well as planetary returns.

Finally, I hope you enjoy the discussion below, and tutorial. Skip straight to the examples if you are current and ready to jump right in.

6 Minute Audio-Video tutorial on Planetary Returns


What are Solar Return Charts?

There are many astrological techniques that take the horoscope beyond its basic natal form. We can do progressions, transits, synastry, draconic, harmonics, composites, directions and more. And, we can do RETURN CHARTS!

A return is a chart drawn for the moment in time a natal planet returns to its exact birth position after completing a full orbit through the zodiac.

The MOON returns about every 28.5 days giving 13 LUNAR RETURNS a year. These charts portray inner and outer events from the perspective of feelings, emotions, security and survival.

Ever wonder why people say “Many happy returns” on your birthday? This is the return of the SUN to its exact birth position! Every 365 days, we have a Solar Return, occurring the day before, of, or after the birth date.

Solar and Planetary Returns

Solar returns portray inner and outer events based on individuation, the art of becoming who we are meant to be! It is like a preview of coming attractions for the new solar year.

MERCURY (mental and communicative) and VENUS (socially significant relationships and values) also return once a year within a month or so of the birthday.

MARS returns every 2 years. These charts generally reflect work, healthy aggression and basic energy.

Note on the Asteroids

The ASTEROIDS(between Venus and Jupiter) vary between 1 year to close to 12 years in their orbits. 433 Eros returns every 1.76 years, and describes experiences of erotic transformation. 16 Psyche returns every 5 years, and is about attuning to another through extrasensory abilities. 4450 Pan, returning every 3 years, is about raw creative energy, carnal drives and “panic” that leads to change. 4 Vesta, returning every 3.63 years, is about devotion, ritual, dedication to beliefs and sex as spiritual transformation.

JUPITER returns every 12 years, and has to do with our search for meaning and purpose, confidence and creative will.

SATURN returns every 28-29 and can reflect our sense of responsibility, maturity and power to build material foundations.

CHIRON and the other Centaurs return about every 51 years or more (for Kuiper Belt objects). Chiron returns are about healing, teaching and the preparation of the hero. How will we be heroic in this later stage of life?

URANUS returns every 84 and connects us with out sense of freedom, audacity and willingness to step outside of boundaries. Neptune and Pluto return every 164 years and 248 respectively. These outer planets do not return in the known span of a human life.

Sedna returns ever 11,000 years or so; clearly not applicable for this technique!Solar, Lunar, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn return charts are the most frequently used, though any return (or demi-return, or phase return) can be valuable. The major planet returns give the broad strokes, the asteroid returns add subtle and fine details.

Creating a Planetary Return without an astro program

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-10-22-44-pmHow do we read return charts?

As in all techniques, practice and experience brings a natural flow and familiarity. Here are some guidelines:

Return charts “last” from the moment of the return (or a bit before) until the following one. If you are doing a Venus return and the planet goes retrograde across the birth position a month later, a new return chart is created. When it goes direct across the birth point, another return is drawn.

Any return chart is read against the backdrop of the natal chart, not in isolation.

Sometimes location is tricky- it may be set for the birth place or the current residence. I use the birth place usually, but not always. I know it's not helpful to say 'it depends' but that's the case, ie. It mostly depends on how long one has been in the location, how long they plan to stay, how much it changes the birth place return etc. Many other astrologers prefer re-location chart. Experiment for yourself on this.

So, consider the orientation of the planet you are returning. A Venus return isn’t going to tell you a lot about meaning, purpose, knowledge and wisdom, but it can indicate social interactions, partnerships and changing values.

Lunar returns are great for feelings, but not so much about responsibilities in the pragmatic world.

Pay special attention to the returns of your chart ruler—the planet that rules the sign on your Ascendant. (I use traditional rulerships for this—Scorpio-Mars, Aquarius-Saturn, Pisces-Jupiter).

Suggested Approach to Reading the Return

Step One

1. Look at the overall pattern of the return chart. Is it a splash, indicating diverse interests and activities? Is it a bundle pattern, suggesting a focus of interest in the occupied houses? Check the hemispheric emphasis. How does this correlate to the natal patterns? If the person has a natal sew-saw pattern and has a return chart bowl pattern, how comfortable will they be with it?

Step Two

2. Check the orientation of the signs emphasized. What is the strongest modality? Element? Polarity? Is something 'missing'? How does that related back to the natal chart? Someone who has a natal emphasis in Cardinal Fire may have a lot to learn about practicality if the return chart emphasizes Fixed Earth. Take the declinations into consideration too! (And the Dwads)

Step Three

3. What sign is on the Return Ascendant? That will bring the corresponding natal sign/house to the foreground, giving it first house importance. What houses are occupied? Stelliums? Where does the Natal Ascendant degree fall in the Return chart?

Step Four

4. Most relevant, what are the signs on the cusps? They indicate needs and drives and offerings. Aries in the return chart is where we want to start something new. Taurus is where we ground things practically. Gemini is where we get curious and want to learn. Think of each house as an area of life and the sign on the cusp as a symbol of the orientation, needs and wants in relationship to that area of life.

Step Five

5. Check the aspects in the return chart. A lot of oppositions could indicate the need for objectivity and choices. Trines could coincide with ease or even lack of drive. Squares are struggles that get things moving. Look back at the natal chart to see how the solar return aspects compare. How will a natal Venus/Mars conjunction handle a solar return Venus/Mars opposition?

Step Six

6. Place the return planets in the natal chart and read as a transit chart, then put them back in the return chart to interpret as the outcome of those transits.

Step Seven

7. Check the Lunar nodes, the house placement of the return planet in both return and natal charts (Sun in solar returns, Moon in Lunar returns etc.), interceptions, the house placement of the ruler of the return chart, both natal and return, any planets rising in the return chart (natal or return) and aspects between the return and natal planets and points. You can also look at the vertex, some Arabic parts, midpoints, asteroids and fixed stars. Keep orbs tights!

Example Solar Return

First, let's look at Janette's Solar Return. What are the first few things that suggest a fabulous new solar year?

To start with, what house comes to the foreground?

In addition, look at the chart tone and chart pattern.

Don't forget the aspect patterns too.

Then check the rising planets.

Feel free to meet us in the comments to unravel the mystery or link to YOUR OWN solar return chart to continue the discussion.

Click to Enlarge

Example Demi Solar Return


Kim's Natal Chart


Solar Return Declination Table










Fun with Derivative Houses

mixed-media-collage-tree-and-houses-karla-gerard - Derivative Houses
Image by Karla Gerard

What are these houses?

The derivative houses have been around for a long time. They are used extensively in horary astrology, but that’s not all. By looking at your natal chart, they can shine a spotlight on other people in your life, showing how you naturally experiences them in different situations. It can really help with deliberate creation and getting into alignment with what you really want.

5 minute derivative houses tutorial
5 minute derivative house tutorial

Derivative houses are also a great tool for finding where joy, abundance, talents and showing where skills, stimulation, contrast and excitement can be found. So, by looking at the natal placements and signs through this lens, as well as considering transits, progressions and synastry placements, the derivative houses offer a wealth of information and insight, explain some quirky MO’s, and line us up, Astro-LOA style. To get a quick grasp, watch this 5 minute tutorial, then come back and we’ll have some fun with individual charts. (it’s all about turning the wheel!)

How to Use Derivative Houses

Now for some fun examples! Who wants to volunteer? Let me know in the comments and we’ll play with ‘turning the wheel’ so you can all practice. (I’ll be putting charts up here, but without the birth data for privacy!

Example #1 – Jacqueline – Her questions are around business, health and home.

Jacaqueline's Chart

Here is Jacque’s natal chart. Her first question is about business, so we look to the 10th house. With the South Node there, part of her really needs to ‘let go of outcomes’ which isn’t an easy vibe for Aries Rising! So we will use derivative houses to get some hints on what will support her best ever business vibe. To do so, we’ll turn the chart to put the 10th house, or MC, on the horizon, making it of first house importance.

janette_Derivative HousesWith the 10th on the first, we see right away that of the actions she listed: coaching one-on-one, group programs, writing/blogging, product creation, the first and most supportive is going to be, ‘get thee a business plan! The 2nd from the 10th (the $$ and support form business) is ruled by Capricorn with Saturn in the house! Set a goal. Set an intention. Aries rising likes to wing it, and Libra can shilly shally, but the Saturn in you wants to have a solid, grounded, well organized plan. Just doing that OPENS the doors to support, success and increased $$. (Note –  the plan itself doesn’t matter. You simply amp up your success by making one).

The Next thing would be to go with the one-on-one coaching. Can you see why I would choose this as major support? Look at her Libra (connect, talk, counsel, coach) Sun and Venus! When we turn the chart to put the 10th on the horizon, the Sun and Venus in Libra are in the 10th house of success! (the 10th from the 10th is the 7th). One on one will support her more than group work (where she has Mars/Neptune – 11th from the 10th – which is super creative, and mystical, but may lose focus in groups – or the group is about as easy to lead as a room full of cats). Making sense?

Jacqueline’s Derivative Houses
Jacqueline’s Chart with the 10th house on the horizon – we have turned the wheel until house 10 is rising.

Turning the wheel

Writing supports her when she is on the perfect-for-Jacque-path as we see the North Node in the 2nd (support) house from the 3rd (writing).

For health boost, the best suggestion is a personal trainer, running buddy, cohort or side kick. Not that when we put the 6th house on the horizon, Jupiter (for enthusiasm and gusto) is in the 8th.  (1st house is 8 from the 6th). That means sharing this journey with a buddy. Also, Saturn (stick to it discipline) is in the 6th (daily routine) from the 6th (health) so she’s going to want to, again, have a plan, and bring a friend.

As for the 4th house of the Home, roots, and ground, when that comes to the horizon, we see the Moon ruling her 2nd (support) from the 4th (home) and that means, self-love. Whatever makes her smile, feels nurturing and comforting, she wants to do more of that. This is a Cancer moon, and Cancer moon is nurtured by 1) loving and caring 2) feeling needed/useful 3) sharing emotions. I am seeing this is perfect alignment with self-care, home, health and successful one-on-one coaching practice (where she is needed, useful and sharing powerful emotions).

Thank you Jacqueline, for letting us use your chart.

Anyone else want to have a go? Let us know in the comments.

See how informative this is? Derivative houses rock!