The Importance of Yods in Astrology
A “yod” is an aspect pattern that some astrologers use. It involves two planets in a close sextile (60°), with a third planet ‘quincunx’ (150°) to both of the planets in sextile. Click here to view a full-sized diagram of a yod.
The truth about yods is that they aren’t terribly important, or at least not as much as they are made out to be by some people.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that the yod is one of the most over-hyped configurations in astrology, at least relative to its actual merit.
Yods are often given all sorts of lofty sounding titles, like “the finger of god”, or “the finger of fate”. I’m not really sure who first ascribed the configuration with these names, but I would like to point out that they are bogus, and here is why:
The ‘quincunx’ is not an aspect. What do I mean by ‘not an aspect’? I mean that it doesn’t conform to the same standard that the other major aspects do, and therefore it should not be attributed an equal level of importance.
The Visual Component of Aspects
In modern times we are accustomed to thinking of aspects simply as geometrical distances, but that is not the entire story. The term ‘aspect’ comes from the Latin term aspectus, which itself is from the Latin aspicere, which means “to look at”. In the earliest traditions of astrology the aspects were conceived of in visual terms, and they denoted the ability or inability of the planets to look at each other, and thus to be able to comment upon what the other was doing.
While it is true that part of this visual conceptualization was based on geometrical rays which emanated from the planets and conformed to regular polygons, there was also a notion that in order for the planets to be able to “witness” each other, they had to have some sort of affinity between them. Their surroundings had to be conducive to their attempt to look at one another.
Affinities Between Signs
This is where the signs come in, and this is the crucial piece that is missing from the modern dialogue about the aspects. The five major ‘Ptolemaic’ aspects, the conjunction, sextile, square, trine and opposition, are not just based on the geometrical shapes and distances that they correspond with, but they also connect together signs of the zodiac which share an affinity with one another through their gender, element, and modality. Here is how that breaks down:
- Signs that are sextile share an affinity through the same gender. So, Aries and Gemini are both masculine signs, and that is what they share in common.
- Signs that are square share the same modality. So, Taurus and Leo are both fixed signs, and that is what they share in common.
- Signs that are trine share the same element as well as the same gender. So, Cancer and Scorpio are both water signs and they are both feminine, so that is their affinity.
- Signs that are in opposition share the same gender, although they also share a special connection through the polarity of their domicile lords, since the rulers of those signs traditionally are diametrically opposite but complementary in their characteristics.
Minor Aspects Are Lacking in Zodiacal Affinity
It is this affinity between the signs that the planets are placed in, combined with with the geometrical distances, that make the 5 major ‘aspects’ special. This is what is missing from the minor aspects, and in particular the quincunx. The quincunx is supposed to connect planets that are five signs away, although you will notice that these signs shares none of the affinities mentioned above, neither by gender, element or modality. The signs share no affinity at all, and therefore they cannot rightly be called ‘aspects’ in the truest sense of the term.
This is pretty simple and straightforward, especially if you are coming from the largely zodiacal framework of Sun-sign astrology. So then why do so many modern astrologers assume that the quincunx is an aspect, and by extension that the yod is special since it is essentially a double quincunx?
Johannes Kepler and Modern Aspect Theory
The answer can be found in the guy who introduced the quincunx and the semi-sextile, as well as a host of other ‘minor’ aspects, the famous 17th century astronomer/astrologer Johannes Kepler. You see, Kepler was really into geometry, and he thought that this was one of the strong points about astrology. He wasn’t as impressed with the zodiac though, and he sought to marginalize it in his astrological work.
This is the main reason why Kepler was ok in breaking with the tradition by introducing aspects that were entirely geometrical in nature and not tied at all to the zodiacal framework. The modern conceptualization of aspects is still largely rooted in Kepler’s thinking on this matter, and this is why aspects are thought of almost entirely in geometrical terms, despite the fact that the zodiac still plays an integral role in the astrological construct.
The Yod as a Midpoint Pattern
So what does this mean for the yod? Well, if the quincunx isn’t technically an aspect, or at least it isn’t actually representing a connection between the two signs involved, then that means that the yod isn’t really an aspect pattern at all. It is actually something else: a midpoint pattern.
So, in the example to the left the Moon is at 13 Aries and the Sun is at 13 Gemini. The midpoint between them, then, is 13 Taurus.
The midpoint in-between is often a sensitive point in the chart that bears the combined significations of those two planets. For example, a number of astrologers use the midpoint between the Sun and the Moon as an important degree for studying relationships in a person’s life. This can be done either by studying transits to that point, or, more importantly, by studying natal planets that are configured to it by one of the hard aspects (i.e. conjunction, square or opposition). When a third planet is closely configured to the midpoint between two other planets, this creates a “midpoint pattern” or a “midpoint picture”. This is where the yod comes in.
You will notice that in the example here the two planets are in sextile, which is 2/3 of what it takes to make a yod. Most people say that a yod configuration has to be really tight – that the planets have to be within 1 or 2 degrees of orb for it to be a true yod. The reason for this, I would argue, is because a yod is nothing more than a midpoint picture that involves the planet at the apex in opposition to the midpoint of the two planets in sextile.
So the yod isn’t really an aspect pattern so much as it is a midpoint pattern. The way it can be delineated is by determining what the midpoint of the two planets in sextile is supposed to mean, and then what happens when a third planet is closely configured to that midpoint. There are a number of books which give delineations for midpoint combinations, the most famous being Reinhold Ebertin’s The Combination of Stellar Influences.
Don’t Believe the Hype!
Even as a midpoint pattern though, a yod is not necessarily going to be terribly important, at least not to the extent that it should be given some sort of special status in the chart, along with esoteric sounding names.
While it may mean something significant in your chart about the nature and course of your life, and it is certainly going to be sensitive to certain types of transits, there are a lot of other important things to pay attention to in the chart as well. So please, take any statements by astrologers who try to hype the importance of yods with a grain of salt.