How to Understand Trines

Representation of the trine

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"Trine" normally means "threefold" or "triple." In astrology, it means "being the favorable astrological aspect of two celestial bodies 120 degrees apart." On the chart, "trine" generally relates to flow, with planets in a harmonious angle of support.

As a reminder, "aspect" is the position of planets or stars with respect to one another, which astrologers believe influence human affairs.

Gifts That Carry You Forward Like a River

Trine is a major aspect and represents luck on the path of life. The houses that host your trine are worth a close look; these are areas where you've got a natural groove on. It's so natural; you might not even be aware it exists. But it represents gifts that are innate and carry you forward like a river.

They are planets usually in the same element—fire, air, water, or earth. If you have three planets, one in each of the zodiac signs of an element, that's a grand trine.

In a chart, these are often the blue lines, symbolic for harmonious aspects. The red lines are the squares and oppositions, the so-called "hard aspects."

Thank Your Lucky Stars

To put it clearly, the trine is an aspect formed when planets are three signs apart, or about 120 degrees apart. Go ahead and thank your lucky stars for the trines in your birth chart. These are areas of natural grace, support, and things falling into place.

The trine in a birth chart is a point of ease or harmony. It's where natural flow exists, and it can be easily developed further. Perhaps, as some karmic astrologers say, it's a reward you've earned from a past life.

It is an asset, but it can be taken for granted and not fully utilized. The trine is often between planets of the same element (fire, earth, air, and water). But it can also be between planets in different signs. The orb is up to 8 degrees for a "wide orb," but more potent at 5 and under.

Transiting planets also form aspects, including the trine. You can embody "preparation awaiting opportunity," when you know a supportive trine is coming to draw out the potential of a natal planet. This is a practical way to look ahead and make the most of cosmic forces.

A Way of Being

Stephen Arroyo says of trine in his Chart Interpretation Handbook that it "represents an easy flow of energy into established channels of expression...One does not need to build a new structure or to make marked adjustments in one's life in order to utilize this energy creatively. The planets involved in the trine reveal dimensions of life and specific energies, which are naturally integrated and which flow together harmoniously."

Arroyo says that "such an aspect often shows a way of being, however, rather than a way of doing; one often takes for granted abilities and talents shown by the trine and, thus, sometimes does not feel challenged to make an effort required to use the energy constructively."

Activating The Blue Lines

Astrologer Joann Hampar writes in Astrology for Beginners: "It represents ease and accord between the planets involved and is associated with good fortune. The keywords for this aspect are harmony and luck."

In Understanding the Birth Chart, astrologer Kevin Burk cautions that most astrology books tout the trine as wonderful, but he says the trine is not always the best thing for an individual. Burk writes, "For one thing, trines are always working, which can result in ruts and behavior patterns that are extremely hard to change; and because trines are so easy, we generally don't take full advantage of them. 

"Trines represent talent that we don't necessarily have to work for, and talent that we don't have to work for often remains unexplored and unexpressed," says Burke.

This reminds me of a friend saying that it's easier to focus on the red lines than on the blue lines in the chart. What will activate the trine? 

According to Kevin Burke, "The best thing for a trine is to also have a nice, difficult square to one of the planets in the trine, to encourage us to actually get out and do something with the trine energy." 

It's worth thinking about these natural inheritances of flow in the chart. What kinds of activities challenge you while making use of your wonderful trine?