In the last of our series on the Planetary Cast of Characters, we fittingly finish with Saturn, who on our medieval stage plays the role of the wise old sage, the aged and experienced individual who carries with them the burden of their life lessons and the wisdom that has been earned. Through maturity, Saturn becomes a fount of knowledge, sought after by the other members of the kingdom.
If you recall the uneasy relationship between the Moon and Venus, the Queen and the Princess (or mistress) respectively, we have another uncomfortable relationship with Saturn and the Sun. The spiritual sage whom we find in a mature Saturn does not have time for the pomp and self-interest of the King, the Sun. Likewise, the Sun does not have time to sort out all of the allegories and parables that Saturn whispers, wanting instead instant gratification that boosts his power and rulership.
We can recognize Saturn in mythical or literary characters like Merlin in the Arthurian legends and Professor Dumbledore in the world of Harry Potter. The unfriendly side of Saturn, who can create grumpy, cold, rigid, and isolated people can be seen in characters like Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol or Silas Barnaby in another holiday classic Babes in Toyland, a.k.a. March of the Wooden Soldiers.
More than any other planet, Saturn makes us aware of time and age. At around age 27 or so, we experience what is referred to in Western Astrology as the Saturn Return, a time in which the position of Saturn in its current transit joins the position of where Saturn sits in our birth charts. Personally, I’m not fond of the expression Saturn Return, because it implies that the energy, quality, and motive of the current Saturn is ‘coming back’ to the natal Saturn, when in reality, our lives, in fact all of time, moves in a spiral and always forward. What is that expression, “You can never step in the same river twice”. Saturn returns to a point in the sky that ‘seems to be’ where it was positioned years ago, but it is not truly in the same space, nor will it be recreating the same events. So much of our life experience– our comprehension, our bodies, our relationships, has changed. In its new position on the upward spiral, Saturn brings new lessons, new tests, and new life-changing experiences.
There is a simplified way to consider the 27-year cycle of Saturn. At age 27 or so, during the first ‘transiting Saturn/natal Saturn’ conjunction, we lose a grandparent, or both. During the second cycle at age 54 or thereabout, we lose a parent, or both. And during the third cycle at around the age of 81, we may face our own mortality. That said, please understand that many other factors are at play in everyone’s chart. This is a wide generalization, and this simplistic view becomes particularly complicated with large families, so don’t put too much thought into it, but grab the essence of this message and how Saturn, more than any other planet, establishes both our perception of time and our perception of impermanence.
But let’s revisit those cycles for a moment. Age 27 is right around the time when we’ve left our parents’ home for a few years now, we might’ve graduated from college and are settling into the workforce. It’s common for challenging situations to arise that force us to grow up. We may have issues with addiction, the burden of owning a business for the first time, or maybe we’re taking on new responsibilities as a parent or caregiver. Some condition or event will occur that forces us to face the hard facts of life… and hopefully we do. Hopefully we are healthy, in a good state of mind, and ready to face the challenge. Not everyone is so fortunate. For example, Kurt Kobain was 27 years old when he died and both Jim Morrison and Amy Winehouse were 28.
In Vedic Astrology, there is a 7-1/2 year long Saturn transit called Sade Sati. This occurs when Saturn is transiting across three houses in relation to the position of our natal Moon. The cycle begins when for approximately 2-1/2 years Saturn transits the 12th House from our natal Moon, continues its transit the following 2-1/2 years in the same house as our natal Moon, and concludes by transiting 2-1/2 years through the 2nd House from the Moon. Its effects during this time-frame are similar to Western Astrology’s Saturn Return, only here we are specifically looking at Saturn’s impact on the Moon, which can cause hardship and perhaps the loss of a loved one, such as a parent or grandparent. It can cause us to feel deep depression with Saturn’s heaviness pressuring our mind, our heart and feelings, our gentleness and loving expression (represented by the Moon).
If people have learned to fear Saturn from hearing astrologers talk about all the suffering and pain Saturn can cause (which is true, but it’s a one-sided judgment of Saturn), then it is no wonder that many people also fear The Devil card in the Major Arcana of the Tarot, which is linked with Saturn through rulership of Capricorn, whom the card directly represents. Yes, the image is creepy and it should be because it is reminding us that if we are not careful about what we attach ourselves to, we could create our own hell. Think of the expression, “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.”
The greatness of Saturn is less likely to be discussed yet without our Saturnian trials and tribulations in our lives we would never grow. This is quite cliche but is nonetheless true. Saturn creates the contrast that forces us to reevaluate what we believe, what we feel, what we build and hope for. Saturn inflicts loss so we can value Love and appreciation of what we have. We reach the depths of despair and loneliness so we can appreciate kindness, family, and friendship. In less dramatic or traumatic settings, Saturn encourages us to work hard so we can retire or live up to our vows and commitments in marriage and partnerships.
People can say all the negative things they want about Saturn, but it is a very incomplete discussion. Without Saturn nothing would be built on a solid foundation. In our medieval kingdom and our present day nations and cultures, Saturn gives us structure, traditions, and history. Without Saturn (which rules our skeletal system), our skin and organs would not have anything to be connected to or supported by.
In the Major Arcana, Saturn is also linked to The Star, the card associated with Aquarius (ruled by Saturn). The Star represents our hopes and aspirations and our connection to our Higher Consciousness. This higher state of being is achieved after we have lost or let go of earthly attachments and karmic bonds (that we saw in The Devil card). Saturn itself is associated with The World card, which represents our achievement, fulfillment, and the completion of a goal, a cycle, or an incarnation, with the understanding that whatever else is to be experienced in the future, whatever new cycle is about to start, we are going into it all the wiser.
I hope you enjoyed the Planetary Cast of Characters series. Parts 1 through 7 are but introductions to the family of planets in our solar system that are used in Vedic Astrology (excluding the lunar nodes). I do hope you spend time thinking about each of these planets and their role in your own life and that what you’ve learned here can further illuminate meaning of their positions in your natal chart.
Image of Saturn courtesy Wikipedia
The Devil image from the Rider Waite deck
The World image from Tarot of the New Vision deck
The Star image from Hanson Roberts deck