Those of you who understand “just a little” astrology sometimes view the coming of a Saturn Return, at age 29 or 59, with raised eyebrows and deep sighs. But then a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Saturn brings to mind the two ancient Greek maxims, inscribed at the Temple atDelphi: “Know Thyself" and “Nothing in Excess.” One might think that by understanding and trying to live by these wise sayings one could avoid the great troubles in life. Perhaps they help; but still we seem to suffer. Our understanding of these words change as we age, but life often plays some nasty tricks on us in the meantime. Perhaps this is why we have Saturn transits—it’s a chance to get it right this time.
Saturn is the archetypal symbol for a way of being, or a process that slows us down and makes us take a cold hard look at reality. It can feel like the voice of the inner critic and in ancient times it was seen as “the old malefic” when its passage in the chart was viewed with some suspicion. It has roots in the idea of melancholy, timely delay, and redefining our lives from the very foundation. Despite any fatigue or depression, we are pressured to act at these Saturnian times, and ideally the action we must take will follow the insight and maturity that has been developing over time. For astrologers, it is a topic we are endlessly exploring with our clients.
However Saturn also represents the arrival of the harvest and our reward for hard work and effort. It brings a good harvest if we’re willing to wait. Its passage in a chart---especially at the time of the Saturn Returns-- marks a time when we have an opportunity for deep change and life-changing rewards. Not so bad!
There are two Saturn Returns that happen to everybody—the first is between the ages of twenty-eight and thirty, and the second, between the ages of fifty-eight and sixty. It’s necessary to consult the ephemeris or your astrologer to find the exact date for you, but the feeling of the Saturn Return saturates this whole time period. Astrologically speaking, the first Return is when we truly come into our adulthood, and the second is when we come into the wisdom of the Elder.
It’s true that our culture sees the age of twenty-one as the time of becoming an adult—but not for astrologers. For us it’s twenty-eight. And you may get your Social Security at sixty-five, but it’s at the second Saturn Return at around fifty-eight that your true personal and social security comes up for review. Saturn Returns can be times of rough passages-- or harvest--and they’re usually a bit of both.
The good news is that although Saturn’s transits in our lives may mark times of plain hard work and great self-questioning, it’s also a time when opportunities present themselves and the rewards can be great. Procrastination doesn't look like a good option any more. Perhaps our old lover is finally gone—and there’s someone on the horizon that looks really good—but will we make the same mistakes and bring our grief and anger with us into this fresh chance? Or perhaps we’ve landed the new job, and now the work is profound--- and really hard. Or we’ve become pregnant, and we’re not feeling too great. The astrologer will say—hang in there, and do what needs to be done. Do your Saturn.
That’s the feeling of a Saturn transit, and especially the first Saturn Return, but look what’s coming! If you follow through with your vision, you’ve taken the first steps towards a true new beginning.
The first Saturn Return, in the late twenties, is often marked by these kinds of personal milestones. The navigational tools are twofold: you must take a chance now, and you must give it all you can. If you are willing, you will be rewarded.
Saturn often asks us “Whose movie am I in?” and then challenges us to be the director and author. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we could just read our lines in the screenplay and have the ghost of “Christmas Future” come to us to show us the way? Instead, we are called to become our own “author-ity”---to truly become the author of our life.
We are being asked now to re-write our personal life scripts with our own spiritual muscle. Not always so easy, especially when our life drama is full of people and situations that no longer reflect who we really are and what we are becoming. The human unconscious has ways of conjuring up people, events, and situations that challenge us to the bone. It’s almost as if the unconscious hires other people to play out parts of our life stories—this one is the boss, this one the victim, this one the unfaithful lover. At Saturnian junctures in your life you’ve probably “had it” with some of these people/roles and it’s time to write them out of your life script. We are now challenged to take back our projections and to look at the drama of our life as our responsibility. It’s too late to blame anyone anymore.
The Second Saturn Return, in the late fifties, is a time that calls for concrete actions in the real world, but it can be more subtle and sometimes more insidious. If we don’t do what needs to be done now, we may not be given a second chance. If we put off our yearly physical exam and don’t stop the spread of some nasty growth, it may be too late later. If we take a stiff upper lip and deny the fact that “the job is killing me, but I must wait till retirement age,” it may indeed kill you.
As the body ages, depression and fatigue inevitably arise, yet as the body becomes less an object of vanity it’s a chance for the Spirit to rise. This is the time when we may feel an uprising of irritability as a few old habits have the chance to rear their nasty heads again. This is the time to cut them off—to be done once and for all with them. You may ask yourself: why am I dealing with these same issues again? The answer is---because you’ve almost resolved them! And the last straw can be the hardest. The hallmark of the second Saturn Return is that if you deal maturely with the old pockets of unfinished business you gain the gift that will last till the end—the gift of wisdom. You become an Elder.
And how do you do that? Priorities need to be clearer, and metaphorical closets and basements cleaned. There is a need to look at what we feel disillusioned about and let the illusions go, lest these old ghosts feed on us and make us bitter. It’s a time to slow down and allow more sweetness and companionship into our lives, and to let the wild dogs of ambitious willfulness fight elsewhere.
And if we’re going to be ambitious, we could do it in a way in which we can bring the fruits of our life experiences to bear on the project—such as returning to something we already do well but doing it even better, and with an attitude of reverence. Isn’t this the beginning of wisdom? And as we acquire that, we will be called to ‘mentor’—to pass along the gifts of our learning.
So what are the tools needed to successfully navigate Saturnian waters? Here are a few ideas:
1—Be Discerning. You are at a time now when you understand things you didn’t understand even last year. Use your new wisdom to make wise choices based on clarity of intention. Dream into your future and discern the path through the woods. Here is where the quotes: “Know thyself” and “Nothing in Excess” become relevant. At these ages there is a necessity to pull back from the excesses of your younger years and to know what you can and cannot do.
2—Take Heart. Find ways to reach out to others and be humble enough to ask for advice. If your marriage is in trouble, ask yourself the question: Is the relationship the true source of dissatisfaction, or is it the repository of your own misery? How much are you projecting your insecurities onto your partner, and not taking responsibility or even listening ‘with heart’?
3—Go Deeper. Superficial all or nothing solutions are a quick fix and Saturn doesn’t like quick fixes. Stretch beyond your comfort zones to new places of thought and action. As was said so many years ago:
“Dig deep; the water—goodness—is down there. And as long as you keep digging it will keep bubbling up.” Marcus Antoninis
4—Take Action. Saturn rewards those that act and depresses those who procrastinate. In ancient texts, Saturn was sometimes seen as a devil who made a hand signal that said: “All that you see, is all there is.” That’s the devil’s lie. Prove him wrong.
So Saturn can be seen as the spirit of Father Time, passing through our lives at these transits and “Returns” in the way Scrooge experienced his encounter with the Spirits of the past, present, and future. The purpose of these visits wasn’t to give Scrooge a bad case of nerves, but to give him a second chance at life. He saw himself differently; he grieved, he tried denying and avoiding, but ultimately he acted, and propelled himself—just in time—for his new life.