Dividing the circle by six
The next division of the circle in the three series is the division by six. The number six is the product of the primal feminine and masculine numbers, two and three, and the six-pointed star and the sextile are both examples of harmony and balance in action, representing a synthesis of male and female. The upward-pointing triangle is the masculine triad and the downward-pointing triangle is the feminine triad.
The meaning of the number six is not unlike the meaning of the sixth sign and the natural 6th house of Virgo. It is both active and stable. It combines the ease and natural talent of the number three with the energy of the number two. It always reminds me of the industrious and productive activity of bees, whose honeycombs are constructed in the form of six-sided hexagons.
The Sextile 60°
The sextile, which is the 60° aspect created when the circle is divided into six, is not as passive as the trine. Sextiles, like bees, are industrious, practical, energetic and skilful. Planets in sextile aspect work rhythmically, fluidly and effectively together. This is an active, productive and talented aspect which functions with ease. There is an interesting feature with these two unfolding number sequences. As the two series unfolds from the opposition to the square to the semi-square and sesqui-quadrate, the aspects gradually become easier, less paralysed and tense, and more effective. As the three series unfolds, on the other hand, from the trine to the sextile, to the semi-sextile and quincunx, it becomes less passive or inert, and more dynamic and active and, eventually, stressful. Planets in trine share the same element, and planets in sextile share the same polarity, such as fire and air, which are both yang energy, or earth and water, which are both yin energy. So you can see that the sextile combines elements which are not identical but complementary.
On very rare occasions, a grand sextile forms in the heavens, with six planets evenly distributed around the chart at 60° angles from each other. This is a very beautiful pattern, of course, and there is something particularly pleasing, harmonious and well balanced about this aspect pattern. However, it is extremely rare and I have yet to see a chart with a true grand sextile.
Because this is such a desirable pattern, people will sometimes bring in asteroids and fixed stars and all sorts of other celestial bric-a-brac in order to force a grand sextile out of their charts, but I am not sure this works because, by its nature, this pattern is inherently joyful, gracious and immensely talented. I think it is a gift which is either given to us in its entirety in the form of six planets in sextile to each other, or not at all.
Audience: But do you think it would be valid to include Chiron, the Nodes and the angles?
Clare: Yes, that would be worth considering, but as I said, I have never seen one, even including these extra points, so it is outside my personal experience.
Our next aspect pattern is a development of the grand trine, and occurs when a planet makes sextiles to two of the planets in the grand trine. This means that it will also be opposite the third planet in the grand trine. That is a kite. The planet at the apex of the kite provides an active and talented outlet for the otherwise self-contained grand trine. The apex planet will, of course, be opposite the remaining planet in the grand trine, but this opposition is not isolated or unresolved because each end is fed back into the kite. In fact, the opposition provides the backbone of this entire pattern, just as it does with a real kite. Without the central post, the kite would clearly not be able to fly.
Audience: Can you give an example of the way a kite works?
Clare: Yes, although no matter what the general rules are, every aspect and every aspect pattern needs to be individually analysed and interpreted entirely in its own terms. This means that we need to examine and try to understand how each unique combination of planets, signs and houses comes together to create a particular story. I have some examples here, and maybe you will find a kite in your own charts. Am I overwhelming you? Is this all too much to take in at once?
Audience: No, it's getting interesting.
Clare: Here is a woman with a grand trine in air, with the Sun in Aquarius in the 10th house, Uranus in Gemini in the 2nd house, and Neptune-Chiron in Libra in the 6th house. The apex planet that forms the kite is Pluto in Leo in the 4th house. A grand trine in air is very intellectual, isn't it, and there is something particularly electric about this one, since we have the Sun in Aquarius, and Uranus, which is the ruler of the Sun, in Gemini.
This represents a high level of mental energy. And the high energy of those planets flows into Neptune in Libra, which longs for beauty, harmony and balance. The presence of Chiron with Neptune describes her sensitivity to beauty and her devotion to her work. With an Aquarian Sun in the 10th house, she will want to 'break the mould' in her profession, and gain recognition for being unusual or innovative in some way. Uranus in Gemini in the 2nd house indicates not only that this is a free thinker, but that she is a free agent, living by her wits and working for herself. Neptune and Chiron in the 6th house indicate that she will devote herself unconditionally to her work, but also that she is physically vulnerable in some way. All this sensitivity and electricity will find an outlet and be anchored through Pluto in Leo in the 4th house, which intensifies the entire pattern and gives her a rather obsessive Sun-Pluto opposition. Incidentally, Pluto is the only planet in a fire sign, so it carries all the intense, creative energy of fire in her chart. This also indicates the importance of her family.
This kite belongs to Jacqueline Du Pré, the cellist, who was an exceptionally talented musician and a very powerful performer. If you have ever heard her play Elgar, you will know what I am talking about. It is an astonishing experience, quite electrifying. With her Sun in Aquarius in the 10th house, it is not surprising that there is a biography about her called A Genius in the Family, and it is also interesting that Jacqueline's mother was her first teacher, no doubt recognising her unusual talent at a very young age. Jacqueline went on to have an extremely successful career, performing all over the world and receiving a host of awards and prizes.
Audience: I am thinking of the Chiron-Neptune conjunction in the 6th house, because of the illness she had.
Clare: Yes, she was only twenty-eight when she started to lose the feeling in her fingers, which was the onset of the multiple sclerosis, a progressively debilitating illness, which eventually led to her death at the age of forty-two. But we could also interpret this Neptune-Chiron conjunction in the 6th house in Libra as her close working relationship with her husband, the pianist Daniel Barenboim. No doubt this was a magical and creative partnership, but intensely painful for her as well.
Audience: The marriage broke down, didn't it? That must have been very painful for her.
Clare: Yes, although they stayed married until her death.
Audience: Have you seen Hilary and Jackie, which is the film about her life? According to the film, she had an affair with her sister's husband. All the pressures of her professional life led her to a near nervous breakdown, and the affair was her way of escaping from all the demands and trying to create a private life of her own. Unfortunately, the private life she wanted already belonged to her sister.
Clare: Pluto in the 4th house is not going to be simple, indicating hidden and taboo issues in the family, and no doubt an element of intense jealousy and rage as well. Hopefully, you can see from this particular example that every aspect pattern needs to be carefully interpreted in its own terms. Although we are likely to think of kites as fortunate patterns, and there is no doubt that they describe inherent talent and the opportunity to express that talent through the apex planet, you can see that, in this case, it was also extremely difficult and painful.
The minor grand trine
More common than the kite, the minor grand trine is composed of two planets in a trine aspect, which both make sextiles with a third planet. Here, the ease, enjoyment and talent of the trine is activated and expressed through the apex planet.
There is another aspect pattern which is comprised entirely of sextiles, trines and oppositions, and this is usually known as a 'mystic rectangle'. Personally, I think this is a rather confusing and unhelpful name for this aspect pattern, since the word 'mystic' always seems to throw us off track, and I can see no reason why this pattern is any more 'mystic' than anything else in the chart. So I am going to use some artistic licence and call it a grand rectangle. This is not a particularly common aspect pattern but, like the kite, it is potentially creative and talented. By themselves, the two trines are not particularly active, but they are put to work by the two sextiles, and two oppositions lend dynamism to this rather pleasing pattern. This is a particularly well-integrated shape in which the planets occupying the four corners are harmoniously linked and able to function extremely effectively together.
Audience: Is it still a grand rectangle if the angles make up one of the oppositions?
Clare: The question of whether or not the angles and Nodes should be included in aspect patterns is open to debate. There are certainly many astrologers who consider that it is only the planets that form aspect patterns. Personally, I think each chart has to be considered carefully in its own terms, and sometimes it seems as if the nodal axis and angles should be included, and sometimes not.