Question: What does it mean when an aspect is applying, exact, or separating?
First of all, I want to thank you for the questions! One of the greatest benefits I have found about answering or attempting to explain astrology to others is that it forces me to think about it in an entirely different way, which I enjoy. So I appreciate your inquiries! Keep them coming!
But back to the question…there are a few ways for me to answer this; there is my version of a technical response, and then my more informal, intuitive feelings behind the answer to the question. I’m not going to get super technical because I am not a super technical person, but, an applying aspect means that the faster moving planet is moving towards the slower moving planet it is making an aspect to. A separating aspect is when the faster moving planet is moving away from the slower planet it is making an aspect to. When the aspect is exact, there is no orb to consider; the aspect the two planets make is, well, exact.
When I think about what this means, I think of it in terms of a life cycle. There is a sort of birth, followed by a period of maturation, culminating in a death or ending. It can also remind me, to a lesser degree, of sex. Two people see each other, maybe one approaches the other. There is a certain pull they both feel, there is an attraction; the build up is intense, and they know how it will end. Finally they join, two become one, and everything peaks. Then there is the slow winding down, as their bodies adjust with homeostasis; the act of sex is over, and they leave each other’s presence physically/mentally/emotionally.
The same can be said for aspects; two planets come near enough to one another that there is a subtle yet undeniable effect as the energy of both planets begins to comingle. This effect grows stronger and stronger until it reaches a climax; both planets are so close that they seemingly converge and become one when the exactness of the aspect is reached. As the faster moving planet moves away from the slower moving planet, the influence of the mixed energy diminishes, bit by bit, until both planets have progressed far enough to where they no longer touch each other, and can no longer attempt to express their energy in the direction of the other planet.
This kind of description probably works best with the conjunction but still, I think it is a fairly decent way to show the transformative and sometimes transient way energy operates in aspect. Not all life spans are the same, and sex can happen quickly or unhurriedly.
There are groups of astrologers who say that once the aspect is exact, and it begins to separate, it does not feel the same way as when the aspect was applying. I’m still on the fence about this, personally; I think the effects of some planets last longer than others because all heavenly bodies move at different speeds and have their own unique signatures, so when they separate, it may feel like either a sharp drop off or a gentle slowing down.
When I post Part 2, I will try to explain more about the feelings attributed to an applying/exact/separating aspect.