Astrology Secrets Revealed by ERIC FRANCIS

Battle of the Orbs


July 29, 2005


Hi Eric,


When you look at aspects between planets/asteroids, what orbs of influence do you use? Are there differences between those used for a birth chart as opposed to a transit or progression? What about transits from outer planets -- they move so slowly!







Dear W.O.,


This is a good time for my orbs rant.


For those new to the discussion, the issue of "orbs" is about how close an aspect needs to be in order to have an effect. In prior editions, I've discussed aspects, so if you want to know about that subject I suggest you scan through the archives.


There are a lot of theories of orbs. Throughout astrological history, many have attempted to make up specific arbitrary rules. Here are some samples. I am not saying I agree with any of these. I am just pointing out conventional thinking.


1. The Sun and the Moon get wider orbs, up to 10 degrees. Planets need to have orbs of around five degrees.


2. The smaller the aspect, the smaller the orb needs to be. Some feel that a sextile (60 degrees) needs a smaller orb than a square (90 degrees).


3. Asteroids get closer orbs than planets.


4. You should use really wide orbs because they work fine.


These are four examples. The thing that each of the rules misses is context. In astrology, context is very nearly everything. And context comes from examples. There are times when, despite a habit of using close orbs, you'll notice that something is working as an aspect even though it seems really wide.


People in the habit of using really wide orbs may find themselves looking at close aspects because that's what the situation calls for. I could go through 100 examples and still not make the point, but remember that there are times when you need to use wide orbs and times when you need to use tight ones. Neither is right or wrong. Sometimes you can measure things with a ruler and sometimes you need a micrometer.


It's a little like the question, "When is the Full Moon?" Some say the Moon is full when it looks big and round. That works most of the time. But let's say you're planning a ritual. Then you need to know the exact time -- so you look it up.


When looking at a chart, notice which aspects are closer and which are further apart. You will learn a lot just from doing that. The closer aspects can certainly work as triggers, particularly when there are three planets involved. This is in part because a transit that affects one of them will affect all three at the same time.


This is to say: when a transiting planet makes an aspect to one side of a structure (say, a square in your natal chart) it's also aspecting the other side. To give an example, let's say you're born with the Sun in Leo and the Moon in Scorpio. Let's say as well that Neptune in Aquarius is making an opposition to your Sun. If the Sun and Moon are in a square (which they probably would be) it's also making a square to your Moon.


The closer the aspect between your Sun and Moon, the closer in time that Neptune will make an aspect to both. If the square of the Sun and Moon is exact, say, to two degrees, Neptune will aspect both at nearly the same time, and for a long time. If the Sun-Moon square is separated by 10 degrees (which the rules say you can do) then the timing between transiting Neptune opposing the natal Sun and transiting Neptune opposing the natal Moon may be different by five years.


But let's say you're talking about a transit from Mercury, which can move 10 degrees in a week. Then the Sun and Moon are going to get the transit at very nearly the same time, even if it's 10 degrees wide. Transits from any of the inner planets could move rather quickly, and the Moon could make aspects to both in a day.


So for these reasons, it's important to know your context. And I think it makes sense to study the closest aspects in any chart to see what they are doing.


Here are a few open-ended guidelines I would offer.


1. Angular planets tend to be amplified in all respects, reducing or eliminating the whole issue of orbs. Something in the 1st house is opposite something in the 7th, whether it's a close aspect or not. See if you can feel the aspect working in the person's chart, or your own chart.


2. If there is a stellium involved, one planet can refer energy to the next, and create a very wide orb, such that something like the Moon making a square to a whole row of planets can really be aspecting all of them.


3. Look for whether any particular aspect is applying or separating. In other words, has the aspect happened already, or is it about to happen? Watch the behavior of these two differentiations and see what you notice.


4. Is the aspect waxing or waning? In other words, is it approaching the conjunction, or approaching the opposition? These, too, will behave a little differently.


5. One note with progressed aspects. I have been taught, and confirmed, that you want to use aspects as exact as possible in all forms of progressions -- this is a whole different technique. There are three main phases, one degree applying, exact, and one degree separating. These will measure the timing.


6. Any time you are working with timing, use more exact aspects. If you are doing psychological work, wider aspects work fine. But where precision is called for, use precision.


7. All the time, use your intuition.