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What’s the Saturn Return?

TransformationAsk most people what they know about astrology and they’ll tell you their sign and maybe a quick fact. Whether or not most Aries are go-getters, Scorpios sexy, and Geminis chatty, the zodiac signs people are familiar with make up the heart of sun sign astrology. This means that on the birthday, the sun was located in one of twelve zodiac signs. But what most people don’t know is that there’s a veritable symphony of planets that make any natal chart — the snapshot of the sky at the exact moment of birth — as unique as a thumbprint.

In your own chart, the planets occupy a particular space. They may be clustered in one part of the sky or spread out, forming a geometric web across the heavens. However no two natal charts are the same and your chart is a road map to your inner and outer world. Think of it like this — what if your soul came with an instruction manual? Well, that is your birth chart!

Here at Saturn Sisters, our work centers on Saturn sign astrology and depending on where he was at the time of your birth, you can garner so much information about specific issues you face over the course of your life. What you’re afraid of, in particular, or the road blocks that will likely show up as you grow older. Saturn is the point on your map that indicates the area where you’ve promised to work hard and learn your lessons — or else. He is the Cosmic Taskmaster after all.

The Saturn Cycle: Archetypes of Maturity, Mortality, and the Seasons of Life

Saturn takes 29 years to make one orbit around the sun. His slow dance across the zodiac is owed to the fact that Saturn is one of the farther planets out in our solar system and, until Uranus’s discovery in the late 18th century, it was the last known planet. The ancients, well aware of Saturn’s path in the sky, came to associate him with endings, limitations, and Father Time. Considering that most humans back then were lucky to live past thirty, it’s understandable that he would come to embody the archetype of the Grim Reaper with his scythe. And when Saturn returns to the spot he was at upon your birth, you’d be hard pressed to not feel a tingle of mortality and the anxiety of being an adult. With his symbolic hourglass, he’s literally reminding us that our time here on earth is running out.

The Saturn cycle is one of maturation and the very structure of our life. That’s why traditionally Saturn is connected with such pleasantries as dentistry, bones, hair loss, authority figures, and growing old. The original Greek myth is a little more sobering, you know, the one where Saturn, also known as Kronos, eats his children to prevent Zeus from usurping his power? Nice, right? (The painting of Saturn that hangs in the Musee Du Prado in Madrid, by Francisco Goya, gruesomely depicts this myth, which is not a party any of us would want to attend, frankly.) This is all a reminder to be humble in the face of both success and adversity. If the Saturn Return teaches us anything, it’s that we should never give away the authority in our lives. (For more on the mythology of Saturn, explore Mythology.)

The First Saturn Return

If you’re in your mid-to-late twenties or even in your early thirties, you are close to the heart of your first Saturn Return, and are probably feeling the crack of Saturn’s whip more than ever. If everything feels like chaos, if your relationships are breaking down and you’re questioning your career, your friendships, your sanity, and your very life, it is likely that it’s just the ripples of your Saturn Return descending. It’s vital that women especially look deeply at their father issues during this time because Saturn symbolizes the father (personally and universally), and can set us up with very particular responses to the men in our lives, as we attempt to fix whatever was broken in our relationship with our dads or dad like figures.

As you hit the Saturn Return, you’re about to leap off the cliff of childhood and you feel estranged from external support systems. Now you can’t be taken care of; You have to learn to fend for yourself and figure out what truly constitutes the ground below. What internal resources do you draw upon for a safe landing if you are to make this leap, kicked out of the nest once and for all? Once you finish your Return, you’ll probably have a much better idea.

Saturn, Women, and Contemporary Culture

Our culture condones the phony notion that we’re mini-adults when we graduate from college. Off we go into the world, to create our own reality TV series. When we’re still in our twenties, it sort of feels like that. As if we’re trying on costumes in order to figure out which lifestyle fits best. Some of us change careers and boyfriends as often as we get fresh manicures. Some of us get stuck early, in marriages, jobs, bad situations of all sorts. Others seem to be having a grand old time. But no matter how much fun some claim to be having, women of this age tend to freak out, en masse. (Men do, as well, but the cultural impositions they face are different.) Even though marriage and children are delayed as each generation progresses, many of us are still stuck in the moldy consciousness of our parents and grandparents. If we haven’t met our mate by the time we turn thirty, we may never, we secretly fear. Weddings are often dreaded events. Are you the last of the cousins to be married off? Does everyone want to find you a nice husband, even though you have other things on your mind? Even if you’re proud to call yourself a feminist, the little voice of ancestral marriage-minded maidens might echo in your ear.

Extended Adolescence

One thing that seems to be true of the twenties is that it’s usually a time of inordinate confusion. The rare person knows their life’s denouement in their third decade on earth. Sure, there are prodigies, actors that make it big as teens, athletes that find their calling while the rest of us flounder like fish on land. Do not be jealous, because these folks represent .9999999999 percent of us. If you’re in your twenties and feel completely lost, you are in the majority.

The twenties are known by some to be that relatively easy era beyond the strife of adolescence, a time of openness, discovery, and experimentation. You are no longer a wildly hormonal zit-driven hater of your parents. You’ve likely graduated from at least one institution, according to statistics, probably at least one institution of higher learning. But anyone that’s a hair beyond twenty-five knows that any light reading of the late twenties is as fake as a Louis Vuitton in Chinatown. Like most myths about aging, this one is a doozey. The twenties can be hard. Really, really hard.

But why, god, why is it so hard? The universal complaints of the Saturn Return show us that it is not a simply a falsely imposed cultural construction. Western culture (American in particular) is the only one that force feeds this value system on its people. Our culture allows us to vacillate wildly through our twenties, party like frat boys, and then by the eve of our thirtieth birthday expects us to have an engagement ring and a 401 K in hand. We learn early that if you haven’t gotten your act together by that fateful date, it’s probably all downhill. Thirty continues to be a threatening mile-marker on life’s highway. When we hit this age, inner and outer chaos descends. (In our navel-gazing culture, it is probably a slightly heavier burden to bear.)

Aging Gracefully

You may be thinking, “I’m not actually AGING yet.” But, dear one, you are. Everyday, your cells are dying. We’re not mentioning this to depress you, but simply to illustrate the things you understand unconsciously — the true reasons you probably screw up your relationships and drink to excess. As we get closer to thirty, we recognize our mortality looming. The first time a fish or a friend or a grandparent died when we were kids, we understood it intellectually — things have endings. They die. They leave. But until our own bodies get it (and some get it earlier than others) we can’t take life seriously. Turning thirty is serious. It’s the moment that it crystallizes in you that you are not going to live forever. You are not a child anymore. Welcome to the real world.

But it’s not nearly as bleak as it it sounds. The beauty of endings is that they almost always signify new beginnings. And the thirties offer a chance to start over, to get things right that you’ve been screwing up and spinning out about through your teens and into your twenties. Now you finally have the chance to get it together — that’s why Saturn offers you all your shortcomings, faults, and wounds on a silver platter. Not to make you feel bad about them, but to give you the opportunity to reach your highest potential. Growing up is hard to do, and many of us choose not to do it. We grow stagnant and die, rather than letting go and beginning again. Instead, you have the grand opportunity to get right with Saturn and get a grip on turning thirty.

We wrote our book, and built this website, to help you survive your Saturn Return. We have crossed the threshold, and lived to tell about it. And you can, too.

For more on the Saturn Return, read our article on