Grand Trine and Necessary Defense Mechanism

In Synthesis and Counseling for Astrology, Noel Tyl goes into depth regarding the Grand Trine aspect structure. He defines the Grand Trine as a protective moat of “self sufficiency, self-containment…the separation from relationship because of the self-containment.” (P285 in Synthesis and Counseling, 1st ed.) Here are some of his thoughts from the book:

  • If the Grand Trine exists without involving the Sun or the Moon, the defense mechanism might operate separately from the core need energy of Sun-Moon blend – there usually will be a schism between these two separate themes.
  • Water Grand Trine suggests a closed-circuit of emotional self sufficiency (“I’ve been hurt too many times – I don’t want to be hurt any more.”)
  • Air Grand Trine is a closed circuit of social or intellectual self sufficiency (“I can get along just fine by myself, thank you.” – “a defensively useful superiority complex.”)
  • Earth Grand Trine – a closed circuit of practical self sufficiency (i.e. “I don’t need your help.”)
  • Fire Grand Trine – a closed circuit of motivational self sufficiency: “You can’t tell me anything I don’t know” or “I know exactly where I’m going and I don’t need your energy to get there” – a do-your-own-thing type.

In many cases it is a leftover defense mechanism from tough childhood, where one needed to protect him/herself from hostile or unstable environment. Hanging on to such defense mechanism may hurt the development of intimacy in later life.

With all that said, here I will make additional suggestion: perhaps this defense mechanism is necessary even in adulthood, if one is “destined” to face tough opposition from others in the course of his/her journey for fulfillment.

The defense mechanism and utter self-containment of the Grand Trine insulates one’s psyche from harsh criticisms and hostile oppositions from the world – perhaps not perfectly, but enough to keep one going forward.

Consider these examples:

1) Apple founder and “technological evangelist” Steve Jobs has two Grand Trines (Fire GT of Pluto-Mars-IC; Water GT of Jupiter-Uranus, Saturn, DSC). As the man on the cutting edge of electronics/computer revolution, I bet he had to be willing to face oppositions, doubts and even redicules of others in order to bring his vision to pass – wouldn’t he need a thick skin, to NOT need people’s approval?

2)Muhammad Ali – as noted in the Leo rising post below, the defense mechanism of Ali’s Earth GT most likely insulates him from the psychological pressure and attacks from his opponents. Wouldn’t a fighter need that defense mechanism in order to keep fighting?

3)Dalai Lama XIV – two Grand Trines (Water – Sun, Jupiter, Saturn; Earth – Moon, Uranus, DSC). In a different way, he also had to fight most of his life in struggle for his country’s freedom. Weaker souls might have collapsed under pressure – but there is a psychological defense mechanism that protects the sensitive core.

4)Martin Luther King Jr. (GT involving Jupiter, Neptune, Saturn) – Again, he had to face extremely difficult opposition in the course of civil rights movement – and he needed that defensive moat of psychological protection.

So even in adulthood, Grand Trine’s defensive mechanism may be a necessary psychological resource, if you’re doing something controversial and have to go through tough oppositions and criticisms. The key may be to know who your opponent is, and to be able to let others in that are safe, so you don’t remain totally isolated.

About Hiroki Niizato

Hiroki Niizato is a professional consulting astrologer in Florida, serving clients in US and abroad. He has been practicing astrology professionally since 2001. Hiroki is a highest honor graduate of the demanding Master’s Degree Certification Course in Astrology by Noel Tyl.

You can contact Hiroki via email at: or schedule a consultation.


  1. My Asc is Libra, moon/nodes in Gemini, and my Psyche is Aquarius. Is this a grand trine?

    • Hi Avi, it may depend on an astrologer, but I only use planets for counting grand trine (not the angles or nodes). So in this case, I wouldn’t consider it a grand trine.

      • Would you consider Chiron?

        • Hi Anna, I wouldn’t consider Chiron or any of the asteroids for the grand trine measurement. Chiron is less than 1/10 of the size of the dwarf planet Pluto – it’s not at the same weight class compared to the major 10 bodies (Sun-Pluto).

  2. This is extremely interesting. I’ve put my self-sufficiency and difficulties being understood or forging a deep lasting intimate connection partly down to venus conjunct saturn in Scorp. But I have a Grand Water trine (Mars in Pisces, Venus/Sat Scorp, Jupiter conj Uranus in Cancer) which I’ve never thought about and actually this all makes sense. At 57 I’m coming to the conclusion that at some deep level my self sufficiency alienates people – in terms of getting one step closer to intimacy – I frighten them slightly as they cant really relate to it . As the extremity of my self-sufficiency was there right from the very beginning – combined with hypersensitivity – and I relinquished my armour many years ago – I’ve recently felt astrologically puzzled about it . Its really not all childhood stuff either… I’d say it has certainly been useful in acting, art performances and situations where I’ve dared do or say things that others wouldnt or couldnt. (Though plucking up the initial courage to actually take an action has been a total nightmare. ) I’ve had an odd mix of very social times swing swonging into total isolation/solitude for months on end, and though I get lonesome (often even in company) seem to have always had a much greater need of solitude and reflection than most people I know. Although I’d recently put this down to having the part of fortune in the 12th, this astrological take on it explains something too !

    • I have a grand air trine between the 1st house of Libra (pluto, Uranus), the 5th house of Aquarius (Mars, Jupitar) and 9th house of Gemini with Saturn. I am not successful and lack any ambition. I did have a tough childhood and tend to stay alone a lot. How do I change?

      • Hi David, that sounds like a lot of potential intellectual and social energy if you can tap into it. To actually change out of isolating pattern would most likely require outside assistance (coaching, therapy, or any other source of positive guidance). Sometimes it’s not necessary to try to solve your problem by yourself.


    I am interested to know about my chart, particularly the grand trine in fire and the 2 kites.

    how can I make them work for me?

    Can anyone advise me on this?

  4. Hiroki Niizato says

    Well said…Thank you for your corroboration.

  5. Very interesting, first time i've heard that idea too, but it does make sense theoretically and in practice in my case. Well done Hiroki!
    I have a water grand trine [venus in pisces, mars in gemini/cancer, and uranus in scorpio]. It also forms a kite [venus sextile jupiter, jupiter sextile mars, jupiter in aries opposite uranus in scorpio.]
    I've had a lot of opposition from childhood to the present but also some extraordinary luck. People often remark to me about my ability to push on in the face of some extreme opposition and pressure. I stumbled across this as i'm on a bit of a search to try and learn about the role of uranus in my chart, at the apex of my kite. Many thanks for the insight

    • incredible. i have the *exact* same configuration – venus/mars/uranus water grand trine with jupiter in aries – how would this happen? maybe we were born on the same day? by the way mars conjunct mc in my chart. i am indeed very curious to see your chart and find out how much parallel we could draw in our dealings with the world :)

      • Hi Jane. We also have the same kite – Jupiter in Aries, Grand trine of Uranus in Scorpio, Venus in Pisces, Mars in Gemini
        I have Uranus sextile Ac 0.55degree
        I have a feeling this kite is central to how i’m experiencing things, so
        I’d be interested in comparing charts if you’re up for it…

    • Hi Anonymous. I’m really interested! We have the same kite in the same planets;
      I too have a water grand trine [venus in pisces, mars in gemini/cancer, and uranus in scorpio]. It also forms a kite [venus sextile jupiter, jupiter sextile mars, jupiter in aries opposite uranus in scorpio.]
      I have also had a lot of opposition from childhood onwards along with a lot of luck. I’m often seen as the wild card. In my life so far i’ve been gifted an overseas education & a million dollars by two basically random people. 2013 was such a nasty year for me that people [including my shrink!] are surprised i survived it & am still mentally in good health…I lost $4mill of assets, got trashed in the national media unfairly, had police raids, got arrested, lost a lover…. It was brutal but i’ve survived & feel wiser for the experience. I too believe our particular kite is responsible for the wild ride..

  6. This is wonderful, Hiroki. Thank you once again.

    I have that dreaded (and painful) Moon/Venus/Pluto t-square and a natal Sun/Saturn square. But I also have a grand fire trine involving my Sun/Mars and Midheaven and, yes, I do think it cuts both ways. I think ever since I was a little kid, that attitude of “I know what to do, so don’t tell me” really got me a lot of flak and produced a lot of people trying to put out my fire and make me doubt myself (and it worked for 29 years). But, on the other hand, I DO know what to do in some very weird/hairy/dangerous circumstances and am very self-sufficient and I do brush myself off eventually and get going again with a lot of energy. When I was younger bc I’m a woman, I tried to hide my pushiness in getting something done (which, thanks to your past I associate with that Grand fire trine). Now I know that it’s an essential part of my personality and work with it. Acceptance, ironically, can bring more grace. Thanks once again!

  7. Hiroki Niizato says

    Defense mechanism could be a positive asset, as in the case of the individuals mentioned above – but in many people’s lives it could be a residual reflex from their childhood, which may get in the way of intimacy – so it depends.

    Noel Tyl says in “Synthesis and Counseling” that the planet that opposes one end of the grand trine (i.e. your kite formation) could provide a ‘way out’ for the contained energy of grand trine. Neat idea, uh?


  8. This is interesting. You are deviating from much of what the common consensus is re: grand trines. This is the first that I’ve heard someone interpret Grand Trines as a defensive mechanism. Most ppl call it a positive potential that comes naturally but may remain untapped if the person doesn’t realize their own capacity for natural talent. The defensive mechanism idea feels important to me. I have always felt like something is somehow “missing” from the interpretation of this formation. In light of your view, what do you think about a Kite?

    • Doug Evans says

      Perhaps the defense mechanism element Noel describes would more likely be seen in a Grand Square than a Grand Trine.

      • I think you mean the grand cross – which is a major tension configuration. In general, 4th harmonic aspects (squares and oppositions) are said to bring about changes more easily, whereas trines and sextiles tend to keep things the way they are. The interpretation regarding grand trine and defensiveness was most likely derived from this attribute of the trine aspect.

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