The Saturn Return
a challenging change of phase...
Saturn is the lord of karma, restriction, sorrows, structure, old age and reaping what we have sown. Saturn also rules the past and matters that have come to an end. In this article, Rob Tillett explains that a key period in life is the Saturn Return, when circumstances conspire to make us reconsider our past and devise new structures for the future.
Giant Saturn, the outermost planet in our solar system visible to the naked eye, spends some two and a half years in each sign, taking about twenty-nine years to complete his journey around the zodiac. Long experience shows that there are two (or sometimes three) especially significant periods of transition in a human lifespan; these are when Saturn returns by transit to the place in the zodiac he occupied when you were born. Astrologers call this dimensional shift the Saturn Return.
In mythology, grim Saturn castrated and overthrew his father, Uranus, but he also devoured his own children, for it was prophesied that one of them would destroy him. Indeed, he was eventually overthrown by his mighty son, Jupiter, heralding the beginning of civilisation. There is a deep meaning in this myth, but let us not be among the children that are devoured by Saturn when he comes looking for us!
As discussed elsewhere on this site, Saturn has just entered the sign of Virgo, the Virgin. This means people who were born in the periods when Saturn occupied Virgo (1919–1921; 1948–1951; 1977-1980) are now experiencing this difficult and often awkward phase. This is because when Saturn in the heavens returns to the same zodiacal degree as he was placed in your birth chart, you are said to be experiencing your Saturn Return – one of the most important times of your life. The effects of the Saturn Return are strongest and most noticeable when transiting Saturn enters the orb of some eight degrees either side of Saturn's natal position, but are clearly evident to one degree or another when Saturn enters the actual Saturn Sign itself and diminish relatively rapidly once Saturn leaves your Saturn Sign.
New Levels of Awareness
Each twenty-nine years naturally presents us with the challenge to rise to new levels of awareness, or face the consequences of having failed to gain the wisdom required so to do. This critical phase only happens once every 29 years, so at around age 28-30, 57-59 and (if you live long enough) 86-88, you have a Saturn Return. It signifies a definite time of transformation, an emotional transition from one life-phase to the next.
- The first Saturn return (around age 28-30) marks the transition from the Phase of Youth to the Phase of Maturity. In my own life, this marked my splitting with a loving partner due to a disastrous love affair with an unstable woman who had a child by a previous husband, then moving a thousand miles away from my birthplace, family and friends – and eventually abandoning my career in music and the world of the arts and literature, with which I had been completely involved since my early teens. To cut a long story short, it took several years to recover from this, by which time my life had become utterly reoriented and I was working in the marketing business, which eventually led me to New Zealand, then England and my becoming part of the Institute for Advanced Health Research with our very own Energy Doctor, Stephen Kane.
The second Saturn return (around age 57-59) sees the shift from the Phase of Maturity to the Phase of Wisdom. At this intensely karmic time I am once again experiencing a significant dislocation of my life, as I have split from the Firecat, my somewhat unstable partner of 25 years (who gave birth to my beautiful child), have moved house and seem to be taking on many unfamiliar responsibilities and new directions, some of which have become excessively exhausting and onerous. This experience may lead to a new career too! Or at least the exploration of new ways for life to express its energies through me.
As a matter of interest, Neil Giles, my old friend and colleague in Astrology on the Web, has led a strangely parallel life to mine. I won't go into much depth on this here, maybe in another article... Anyway, Neil has recently been undergoing his Saturn return too, and it has seen him move from New Zealand to Australia while undergoing many intense trials and difficulties that, like mine, seem to be inevitable and of a karmic nature (by which I mean beyond our personal control). The second Saturn return and other important associated phase shifts, such as the Chiron return, the Nodal return and the progressed Lunar return are outlined well by Brian Clark, in his excellent and detailed Brave New World, Forward into the Fifties.
The third Saturn return, if reached at 86-88, seems usually to mark the transition either to the next world or else back to a second childhood! My father-in-law is now undergoing his third and this has seen him developing a serious respiratory infection and the need for a major heart operation. My own father has just recovered from being hospitalised with a lung infection after a major heart operation and last week my mother has just been admitted with something similar. They too are entering the phase-shift of the third Saturn return.
So the Saturn return phase is to be taken lightly at our peril, but we need to bear in mind that eventually (within a reasonably short time in fact) the phase comes to an end and we will see that our lives have shifted to an entirely new level.
Life Speeds Up
As the Saturn return phase approaches, often our lives seem to speed up, as if hurrying to clear out old baggage from the past, to lighten the load for the next stage. Important things that either finalize old issues, or prepare the ground for new developments tend to occur with increasing frequency. For those who are unprepared, this is often a time of severe suffering, as we struggle to understand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that seem to be aimed squarely at our hearts. Indeed, relationships and major life-decisions are all too often the focal points for this clearing out of karmic baggage.
The karmic lessons we have come to experience and overcome in this lifetime are expressed by Saturn, the karmic initiator of the zodiac. These are often restriction or oppression in relationships; chronic debilitating conditions in health; old age, poverty and other difficult circumstances in material life. Saturn rules old people, restrictive situations, inflexible authority and chronic, hard-to-shift disorders.
Saturn, the ancient god of agriculture, of sowing and reaping, rules the responsibilities, restrictions and limitations we encounter, and the lessons we must learn in life. He does not deny or diminish imagination, inspiration, spirituality, or good fortune, but he does demand that these things be given structure and meaning. The Saturn Return is the time in life when our limitations and disappointments are placed most squarely into the conscious realm, but it is also the time when old things must be resolved, or released, and new modes of living, structures and relationships energised and understood.
The Saturn return is the culmination of a train of complex aspects that happen to everyone at this time of life, but if you are experiencing your Saturn return, it need not mean that you too will suffer immense dislocation, or emotional disturbance and suffering. The focus of the spirit during this period of purification must increasingly be on understanding our needs, as opposed to our wants. When we find room in our lives for fulfilling our true needs and for living with intent, our souls grow in love and understanding, as we move closer to the heart of our real reason for being here. This Way is the true Tao which cannot be told...
Read more about Saturn.