Much reviled and largely unpopular, Saturn represents those onerous elements of life which, while inescapable, are undeniably perennial. Historically, he was associated with evil, malefic energy, the cause of great fear and revulsion. It’s not difficult to see why this is; his myths are steeped in blood, pain, suffering and horror. A patricide and murderer, his idealism was ever the reason for his action, and while he is one of the main archetypal figures that everyone loves to hate, Saturn is likely the most useful character in the astrological lineup. Our inherent sense of discipline, duty and dignity is given credence wherever we find Saturn housed in our astrological charts.
Saturn rules structure. Whatever it is that gives us structure and definition, from bones of the body, architecture, clocks and time, calendars, business and commodities, to construction and economics, Saturn delineates, restricts and embodies. From the very ground we walk on, to the funeral in which we are placed therein, and the grief that follows, Saturn is ever-present, assumed and largely taken for granted.
People, as a rule, seem to fear the concept of discipline. But for many people, those who have accomplished much, those who strive to succeed, people with great powers of focus and commitment, this is very familiar territory, comforting even, as they have ever been the ones to ensure that duties are fulfilled, upper lips remain stiff, debts paid and revenge always served cold. Humor is considered wasteful, unless dry as a bone and cutting just as deeply. Discipline is not pleasant, but without it, we will accomplish nothing. Don’t go looking to Jupiter to bail you out time and again, for even the Greater Benefic will eventually bow to Saturn’s authority , and while Venus can show you a good time, it is Saturn which can ensure that these experiences are neatly incorporated into a larger structure of containment and security, never to be squandered, though perhaps not overly enjoyed either.
Saturn cycles around the Sun anywhere from 27 – 29 years, typically moving through each sign in approximately 2.5 years, give or take a few months either way. You will therefore share your Saturn sign with a fairly large number of people, and your cohort will experience the ideas of discipline, restriction and and duty in very similar ways. This is particularly useful during childhood, as the structure of regular schooling ensures that you travel through the grades with your own age set (this is also very useful for educators, as methods of applying discipline and structure to the classroom can be carried throughout their terms, only requiring adjustment between years and classes). As we grow, we will find that our peers are often experiencing similar troubles, and we can use their experiences as check points for our own development. “Keeping up with the Jones'”, a definition of one’s position in society, is a Saturnian concept, for how the individual move through society defines the eventual structure of that society, and it is only Saturnian constraint which ensures the ultimate health and continuation of any social organization. Any growth requires challenge, for it is only through challenge that durability and fortitude are realized. Durability allows for continuance, which leads to a structural integrity that is most desirable for achievement. Saturn’s cycles offer the individual challenge, and therefore ensure eventual growth, though perhaps not without some accompanying pain.
Saturn’s cycles correspond to the most challenging life cycles of experience thus:
Age 7-8: Saturn squares natal Saturn, 90 º into the cycle. This is the onset of “the age of reason”. A child becomes cognizant of themselves vis a vis others around them. No longer entirely self-oriented, the responsibilities of being a member of society begin to take on importance in the consciousness. Many religious traditions see this as a time for First Communion, or other initiatory rites in which the child is acknowledged as being on the threshold of full adult consciousness. It is at this point that an individual begins to formulate truly independent thoughts. Events which occur around the child have more recognizable impact, and are less likely to slip into the fluidity of unconsciousness. A tender time of great vulnerability which requires Saturn’s strength and challenge to spur growth to the next level. The question “What do you think?” takes greater precedence than ever before, as the individual begins to formulate a separate position from which to approach the world.
Age 14-15: Saturn opposes natal Saturn, 180 º into the cycle. The teenage consciousness is blossoming with the possibilities of life. Sexuality, social norms and expectations become a central preoccupation. Students of this age set are frequently required to consider their futures in more serious terms, in anticipation of eventual life paths. Topics of higher education and career press on the youthful psyche, demanding greater focus and discipline than ever before. The things of childhood are put aside in favor of more mature pursuits. Relationships are a vehicle for self-discovery, and there is greater realization of how personal action has ramifications in the outside world. Lessons of right and wrong can be starkly archetypal and intense, as the individual is bursting with personal life essence, and learning how they are a part of all that is around them, or not. Saturn spurs the individual on their path to adulthood. The question “What are you going to do?” or even “Why did you do that?” becomes a point of tension, as the individual must define their actions in a way never before required.
Age 20-21: Saturn squares natal Saturn, 270 º into the cycle. Adulthood looms. Childhood is finished. The individual has his first taste of responsibility, taking an active role in society. Junior positions in employment, early years in higher education provide a checkpoint on the ego, and attempts made at mastery reveal flaws in thinking and process, which, if acknowledged consciously can provide great stepping stones to further achievement. Responsibility in personal relationships are tricky, as the individual struggles to understand how to define personal needs and their importance versus those of others. An often humbling time of divine stupidity, with frequent displays of brashness, arrogance, uncontrolled willfulness and exuberant energy, the individual feels the first glimmers of what power they have at their disposal, and their potentials for achievement. “The world is your oyster”, but the question is: “How are you going to get it?”
Age 28-30: The first Saturn Return, and Saturn has cycled 360 º to the original position found in the birth chart. The personality has had the opportunity for Saturn to move through all the houses of life, and initial experience and definition in each of these realms has been achieved. The personality, for the first time, feels a sense of achieved experience, and a certain power in having reached this point. How have the last 30 years molded the personality? What methods of self-actualization have worked, and where has lack of discipline and immaturity been most detrimental? Henceforth, the state of adulthood is undeniable, and we see that many people will choose to marry, commit to long-term career goals and pathways which once chosen, require full presence and accountability. If immaturity remains, it creates greater complications than were manageable during youth and young adulthood, as Saturn’s expectation is that the individual dispense with the ways of foolishness and solidify the life path with concrete action. Previous methods of avoidance and irresponsibility, while never before particularly damaging, now, if attempted crash back on the individual most unpleasantly. The question “Who are you?” takes on very pressing importance as solutions of the past simply no longer apply to increasingly complex circumstances, and mounting pressure requires a new, higher level of self-definition.
Age 35 – 37: Saturn squares his birth position again, 90 º into the second Saturn cycle, and while the stakes are much higher than those experienced in childhood, the impetus is the same. It is necessary to commit to society, and to define how you have chosen to move through the world. For many, this is a time of professionalism, when there is a solid history of achievement which the individual hopes to carry forward as a foundation for the future. It’s no longer a period of trying new things, but of building on what is already there. What is your backdrop, how do you identify yourself? “What do you do for a living?” “What does your husband do?” and frequently “Where do you children go to school?” are common questions of this time. For those who do not identify with traditional societal norms, such as many LGBTQ individuals, it is a time of fully embracing and living the life that is espoused as personal truth. Societal stresses and personal choices have pushed the individual to a place of self-definition which must be wholeheartedly embraced, as the lanes of possibility narrow for a time, and room for improvisation is small, barring total restructuring and the ensuing chaos that would entail. An often frustrating period of hard work and little recognition, though enough time has passed that the active role should be comfortable enough for ease of function, as a person finds themselves fully acknowledged by the surrounding society.
Age 43-46: Saturn opposes his birth position once more, 180 º into the second Saturn cycle. The days of youth are long gone, and old age, while still quite distant, beckons with the threat of time moving altogether too quickly. This is a time of mature self-definition, defined by a calm sense of self-knowledge. The individual is more comfortable in their own skin, knowing what they want, who they are, and what they cannot do. Saturn requires that any choices or behavior rooted in immaturity, impracticality, and lack of personal truth are reconsidered in favor of pathways more suited to a valid sense of identity. Irresponsibility is often painfully revealed as society refuses the individual any further leeway. The pressure of Saturn is still heavy, but often embraced with emerging seriousness, recognized as a benefit rather than a hindrance. The body is aging, and requires more careful consideration, as the indulgences of youth can no longer be so effortlessly absorbed, often resulting in the emergence of pressing acute or chronic illness where there had previously been only robust good health. Habits can be broken, or made, according to choice and alignment with true self. Decisions made at this time are not so easily undone, so consideration is key. The question here is “How does that work for me?” and there is a new capacity for critical acknowledgement, based in maturity that reinforces the individual’s decision making capacity. If there is still an insistence on immaturity and shirking of responsibilities, the backlash of this time period can be quick and brutal, often reducing people to a place of ruin from which they must entirely rebuild.
Age 50-52: Saturn squares the birth position once again, 270 º into the second Saturn cycle. This is a time when the individual realizes the full impact of Time. Death becomes a large part of the individual’s considerations, as friends and loved ones are dying. Frequently this time period creates health crises which push the individual to fundamental changes in how they manage their earthly vessel. There is often an increased involvement with and concern for the elderly. Women experience the menopause, and men find that their bodies do not react as they did in the full flush of early manhood. Humility, patience and fear begin to weigh more heavily, and anxieties are frequent, especially for those who have spent little time in cultivating a mature approach to life. If you have been neglecting your health, relationships or financial capability, this can be a difficult time of self-reckoning, as consideration of what is to come becomes an almost constant preoccupation. We see our children growing up, challenging our authority, and the responsibility for their launch into society weighs on us as we still maintain the role of guardians, even if they have reached adulthood. A potentially trying time, but if approached in a spirit of discipline, ripe with potential achievement and societal acknowledgement of the individual’s value and gravitas. The question is “How’s that working out for you?” as we sort through what is essential and what is not as we continue our journeys.
Age 58-60: Second Saturn Return. Having completed another 360 º passage through the chart, Saturn again returns to his natal position. This is full middle age, looking very intently at the threshold of becoming elderly. Full maturity, and the constraints and indignities of old age are clearly seen as more time is spent immersed in the ideas and energies of old age. There is no mistaking the fact that youth is completely gone. Despite efforts made at maintaining health and fitness, the body is simply older, less responsive, less elastic and requires more rest and care than ever before. People are frequently plagued by illnesses ranging from chronic and inconvenient, to serious and potentially life threatening, and the resulting change in consciousness that accompanies these threats is sobering and profound. Aged friends and parents are regarded in a new light, as there is a greater understanding of the processes of life, maturity and demise. Accomplishments that have been decades in the making can reach full actualization. Investment and retirement become clear goals, and decisions about how to approach the end years take front and center. Questions of “Who was I, and who did I want to be, so long ago?” often press heavily, as the individual reckons with their long journey to this point of consideration, frequently ruminating on how they have failed, what was irrational or overly idealistic, and the real possibilities that lie ahead for them as they approach the final stage of life’s journey.
Past this point, we can consider the continuing repetition of the Saturn cycle as a matter of ever-deepening octaves, as the lessons of each square, opposition and return already experienced recur until the lessons therein are firmly realized and embodied as the finalized personality. Lessons not previously accomplished repeat, delineating ever more powerfully the responsibilities, restrictions and, interestingly, new freedoms that can arise from Saturn’s sometimes harsh tutelage. For indeed, despite his fearful reputation as task master, there is very real significance to the idea of harvesting the fruits of our labor. Nothing can be gained from a life of never-ending enjoyment, living as the Puer Eternus, an eternal child. It is only for a short time in life, during youth, that we might possibly get away with negating the importance discipline and structure. It is only through commitment, honoring the wisdom of time and the value of focused, hard work that we can eventually reap the rewards of Saturn’s mission in our lives. He is always just, and while his lessons may oftentimes be painful, his position as ruler of karma indicates that we only ever reap what we sow. It behooves us to sow wisely, for there are only so many chances for correction and righting our paths before the unfortunate and all-too common realization occurs that perhaps we were wrong, and while we can live with the errors that we have made, eventually there does come a time when we must realize that there is nothing further can be done to make things better. A word to the wise is sufficient.
“Wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness“.Ecclesiastes, 2:13