In astrology, aspects describe standardized ways of describing relationships between planetary energies. Many astrologers, especially in the UK, call them “contacts.” I have been studying David Hamblin’s Harmonic Charts, which invites the reader to enter a new dimension that dramatically extends aspects. To set the context for my reflections, I’ll offer a brief summary of my evolution in using aspects while casting charts.
My Journey with Astrological Aspects
For many years, I used the “major aspects” and found them to help me cast charts well. I used the Para Research books and other cookbooks for reference. I delved into numerology and learned to cast basic numerology charts, too, because aspects are really based on numerology, which standardizes the intrinsic meaning of each number. As a trine describes a vibration that inherently behaves a certain way when it joins two planets, the number 3 has a distinct vibration and meaning. It is the main ingredient in the trine’s significance because the trine divides the whole circle by three. During this period, I used aspects rather literally, and the cornerstone of my charts was synthesizing their meanings while considering other important chart factors. I was like a blacksmith, pounding the metal on the anvil.
Dane Rudhyar’s Less Familiar Aspects transformed my understanding. I think he is genius for approaching a subject from a wholistic perspective. Where I had been considering and treating aspects as discrete artifacts that I wove together during interpretation, I learned to think about the meanings of the progression of aspects, i.e., a septile follows an octile and precedes a sextile. And his assertion that no aspect should be deemed “minor” out of hand made total sense to me: it would be a grave mistake to reject a wave of a certain frequency just because it is less known and less convenient. As I began using quintiles in charts, for example, I quickly learned that I had to write my own interpretations because no consistent, high quality cookbook I’ve found has them. Of course, I discovered a boatload of them in my own chart, always a compelling motivation ;^).
Karen Hamaker-Zondag’s books also helped me refine my interpretations of aspects, which I now treat as less absolute and more variable according to other factors like house rulers. I’ve also shifted my technique to emphasizing the contact itself as much as the aspect; for example, Pluto will affect Sun in a characteristic way that is even more relevant than the degree of the aspect (trine vs. square). So I became less dependent on the inherent meaning of a square or a trine in describing the behavior of the two planets; I considered many other factors, too.
During this period, I began looking for and finding chart patterns and “composed aspects” like T-squares, yods, kites, etc. I found these invaluable in helping people because they can help people understand the tremendous impact of transits when they activate these chart patterns. I also started using septiles and found many of them in my own chart. Since there is so little that is written about them, I interpret all of them individually.
Enter Harmonic Charts
My remarks here are my interpretation of the book; I am not writing a review. I learned about David Hamblin’s work from Robert Hand’s recommended reading list in Horoscope Symbols. This book is groundbreaking because Hamblin approaches aspects’ vibrations (“harmonics”) as a progressive “hierarchy of meaning,” and he includes many practical examples. Refreshingly, he calls the character of a harmonic “Twoness,” “Threeness,” “Fiveness,” etc.
Much of the book is dedicated to constructing harmonic charts, which are considerably different from the natal (“radical,” i.e. root) charts they accompany. Each harmonic has its own chart. In the H5 chart, one not only sees quintiles and biquintiles, but also all their derivatives, deciles, vintiles, etc. The goal is to determine the degree of Fiveness in the person’s overall vibration and to interpret the aspects in the H5 chart. The book has individual chapters on H4, H5, H7, and H9 charts, which he has found most useful and relevant in practice.
Most exciting to me right now is Hamblin’s premise that Fiveness or Twoness has a profound meaning for a person. It can enable me to counsel a person at a more profound level. His interpretations of Twoness, Threeness, Fiveness, Sevenness, and Nineness are the most complete I’ve seen, not only in themselves but in their progression:
- Twoness is about a person confronting the world (events, people), so confrontation and conflict characterize his/her journey. Four, of course, is another level of Twoness, but it is more intense in general. Note the correspondence with oppositions and squares.
- Threeness characterizes a person who knows her place in the world and harmonizes with it. So far, these are basic meanings for oppositions, trines, and squares. Traditional (“major”) aspects are derived from combinations of Two and Three.
- Fiveness, however, breaks new ground. Where Twoness and Threeness are grounded in living in the external world as it is, Twoness struggling and Threeness harmonizing, Fiveness transforms the world to fit its internal vision. Quintiles are widely held as the “quintessential human aspect” as they characterize the drive to combine and arrange things in a new way. They are usually dealing with concrete, earthly ideas or things. Many famous scientists had strong quintile patterns. A key point is that they are focused on the external earthly world, imposing a new kind of order on it. More on quintiles.
- Sevenness breaks away from the earthly world focus of the preceding numbers. A person with a strong seven vibration is creating images that are a product of her imagination, the earthly world in which she lives, and the nonearthly world that she perceives or imagines. She is changing the world through imagining her own world. Like Five, Seven is focused on creating, but where Five harnesses humans’ logic and intuition in the service of order, Seven harnesses human imagination. Artists of various media are prominent in his examples. More on septiles.
- Nineness describes an even more ethereal vibration. Since Nine is Three cubed, I would suppose that it is “more Three than Three.” It is, but it’s more nuanced than that. Unlike Five and Seven, Nine does not try to transform the world; it accepts it as it is and finds grace and joy in that. I feel that Hamblin was deliberate in avoiding any kind of spiritual references or ideas, but in my experience, Nine is very spiritual. Like Five and Seven, Nine is compelled to share in general. To accept the world as it is and to find joy is it one must let go of the ego’s drive to have things the way s/he wants them. Personally, I have found a new kind of joy that’s based on feeling a connection to the divine that transcends this incarnation. If you’ve bounced around Practiced Ignorance, you know that I think about this very often. And, shaking head, I found five novile triangles in my natal chart.
I have not constructed a harmonics chart, but that is because I have a hack for deriving some of the same information that I developed for working with septiles. I have yet to do a studied search for sites that output harmonics charts for a fee; the links I’ve followed have all been broken [update, Astrodienst now has options for harmonics charts!, but you’ll probably need Hamblin’s book to start making sense of them]. In any case, I invite you to use my hack to start experimenting right now:
- Begin by outputting (your) natal chart from any software or website (I use Astrodienst). I assume that you have your natal chart already with the standard aspect lines drawn. Tweak the selection to have the output contain all planets and angles but no aspect lines. This gives you a blank chart with all your planets and houses.
- Take a screenshot of the chart, and crop it exactly square and centered. Import this chart into a blank Keynote, Powerpoint, or Google Slides slide. Then superimpose a star onto the chart, and remove its fill. Center the star on the chart, and adjust its size so that the arms point to the graduated lines on the chart’s circle. Astrodienst enables you to draw quintiles, so you’ve probably done that; if not, start with them and choose five arms for the star. Start with the sun by positioning an arm exactly on it. Note the planets and angles: do any of the star’s arms point to any others? Note any that do. Use the “inspector” to rotate the star so that one of its arms points to Moon, and repeat the process.
- Now to calculate the exactness of the aspects. It will help a lot to transform all your chart’s planetary and angular positions into “universal notation.” Starting from 0° Aries, create a table to transform all planetary and angle positions as numbers on the 360° circle; for example, Mars at 10° Aries is 10. Venus at 26° Taurus is 56 (30 for Aries+26 for Taurus). Sun at 15° Leo is 135 (30+30+30+30+15). This will enable you to quickly subtract one planet’s position from another’s, note their difference, and then compare that difference with quintiles and biquintiles.
I also use a table like this:
This hack can enable you a relatively quick way to gauge how many non-traditional aspects a chart contains. You don’t even have to calculate the differences to get a rough idea. Just increase your star’s arms to seven for septiles, etc.
- I perceive these harmonics as analogous to electron energy levels. As elections buzz around the nucleus (the Bohr atom model), they have characteristic energy levels, like orbits, that vary with their degree of excitation. Each higher-number harmonic moves away from the individual/ego incarnation and toward the universal/divine. As electrons often change energy levels, so a person experiences her various harmonics; of course, transits are often the triggers, especially when a person has harmonic chart patterns.
- In my experience, harmonics will be of limited use for most people who use astrology in common ways. Their relevance to you will depend on your practice and clientele. Using myself as example, I only offer them in the third level of interpretation (“spiritual path”). Most of my clients are living within an earthly context (Twoness and Threeness). These levels of interpretation enable me to help a varied clientele.
- For clients who want deeper introspection into their lives and experiences, harmonics can be breakthrough. Imagine, for example, a person who has a chart with prominent two and seven patterns. He might be prone to retreating into fantastical worlds, repelled by all the conflict in the earthly world; he may create art that features confrontational themes. Depending on where the person is in his life, he may find it breakthrough to learn that there is nothing “wrong” with him; that’s just the character of his vibration in this incarnation. And, by better understanding the character of his vibration, he can manage it differently.
- Some people will have prominent patterns in multiple harmonics as in my case, so that gives you more opportunity to interpret.
As Hamblin notes, as the number of the harmonic increases, the more its meaning moves away from the earthly world and toward the spiritual or divine world. So these harmonics will be most useful for clients on a spiritual quest.