I don't know why we’re here, but I’m pretty sure that it’s not in order to enjoy ourselves.
I’ve been spending a lot of time with Saturn lately. He always seems to catch up with me around this time of year, as the sun’s rays weaken, plants wilt and winter’s chilly mantle creeps over the northern hemisphere. And since he's in my Fifth house, he represents writers' block, a sort of party-pooping curmudgeonly approach to life and an inability to see the good in anything very much. He's Lord of Winter, the Greater Malefic – other guises include the Grim Reaper, Cronos and Old Father Time. I also think I’m going through a bit of a Saturn contact. It’s not much fun, but I maintain it’s pain for a purpose, like childbirth (although my other half maintains that's not as bad as the bad back he had recently. He's got that on very good authority from his (male) osteopath, so I couldn't possibly comment). What that purpose is often takes a while to figure out (a clever way of getting someone else to bring in the logs and produce supper on a tray perhaps?), but every so often, like Persephone, I reckon you have to go down into the underworld and eat a few pomegranate seeds or whatever it is.
Saturn has never had much of a glowing press in the astrology world – a significator of boundaries, restrictions, discipline, fear, self-doubt, realism – and, obviously, death – and in the practice of traditional horary astrology he’s an indicator of impaired judgment if found in the Seventh House; he’s universally feared, shunned and regarded with suspicion.
Life. Is. Difficult. This is the First Noble Truth of the Buddhist canon (although it's arguable whether the Pali word Dukkha translates directly as difficult – it has been variously translated as pain, struggle and simply suffering, and I can't claim any expertise in the realm of middle Indo-Aryan languages, but in broad terms, the message is: it’s not much fun). As a child, two of my favorite stories were Androcles and the Lion and Beauty and the Beast (I always felt so sorry for the Lion and the Beast – mind you, I also felt sorry for Rumplestiltskin, poor foolish Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk as well as the boy with the shard of ice in his heart in The Snow Queen... In fact I think I may have spent much of my childhood feeling sorry for one thing or another – I just felt so darned responsible). The point is, both stories entail something that’s initially feared or reviled, and after spending some time with that something and learning to understand the source of what we were originally afraid of, embracing and accepting it as a necessary part of us, and becoming the wiser (if sometimes sadder) because of it.
Saturn is also about Time – there are no shortcuts or quick fixes. We need to genuinely confront Saturn, find out why he’s so glum or growly and find a way of accepting him as part of the richness of the universe. I really don’t think life was ever meant to be about pleasure-seeking, relaxing, enjoying – well, at least not all the time. The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers, as M Scott Peck suggests in his excellent Saturn-embracing tome, The Road Less Travelled.
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We’ve all got Saturn lurking somewhere in our birthchart, so perhaps it’s about time we learned to get used to him. Mind you, it’s easy for me to say that – mine’s a nicely dignified Saturn, even though he’s party-pooping in curmudgeonly fashion somewhere it my Fifth house of fun, childhood, gifts, pleasure and love affairs, at least he’s not doing it in a whiny, grizzling Saturn-in-Cancer or bossy, hotheaded Saturn-in-Aries type of way. He’s just a bit sensible and serious and, let’s face it, not exactly a bundle of light-hearted fun and frivolity. By rights, I shouldn’t really have a sense of humour, but if I occasionally manage to see the funny side of things, it’s usually a bit sardonic or ironic – gallows humour is Saturn’s kind of humour.
Saturn is about growing up, getting older, letting go of things past and facing our responsibilities. The Saturn cycle is roughly somewhere between 28 and 30 years and can be divided into quarters for each different stage of life. It’s about death, but it’s also about moving on. Saying goodbye to one stage of life always means you’re on the threshold of the next, and progress ultimately cannot be gained without letting go. Your first Saturn half-return comes round about the age of 14. It represents the loss of childhood, but it also represents the onset of adolescence; at 21 it’s about moving on to adulthood and facing up to a new set of responsibilities. The first full Saturn Return strikes around 28-30 and asks us to re-examine where we are and whether we’re traveling in the right direction. Ignore Saturn at your peril – he has a habit of hanging around underneath the surface of things and coming back to bite you at the next bit of the cycle if you don’t discard outgrown habits and confront the next phase your Saturn responsibilities. The permatanned youth culture of wrinkle-free skin, pert flesh and dewy radiance – well into our nineties – is just one example of Saturn-denial. Life is sometimes tough, we all get older, and hopefully a bit wiser – just get on with it.
Where your Saturn is by sign, house and aspects dictates how he behaves and how you need to approach learning to live with him. Dignified in Capricorn, he’s determined, ambitious, often disciplined and practical with a strong sense of duty and a well-developed work ethic. Difficult aspects can have a restraining effect on other planets and there’s often a lack of spontenaity and a stern sensibleness that makes you, well, hardly the life and soul of the party (think limited singing ability and odd, random arm movements by way of dancing), however trines and sextiles harness that steady dependability. Saturn is also traditionally dignified in Aquarius, but operates slightly differently (you've got the Uranus effect going on there, too). Think strong ethics with an often humanitarian flavour, however there’s a high degree of independence which can err into obstinacy if Saturn is badly aspected. Aquarius Saturn people can often feel worried about not being in control, which can then bring out their bossy side – the key is possibly to try to let yourself feel comfortable in situations where there's absolutely no need for you to be in control.
Exalted in Libra, this one of the least problematic places – a natural sense of justice tempered by human understanding and practical common sense. Badly aspected, though, this can make for rigidness or intolerance, or mistrustfulness. Try questioning your own conviction that your way is the only way, and understand that people with different views are not necessarily critisising you. Cancer is difficult for Saturn – there’s often an inclination towards worry, a huge need for emotional security or a tendency towards self-pity. Oh dear. Although I don’t have any personal experience of Saturn in Cancer, I would imagine the trick here would be to cut yourself a bit of slack and try not to be too hard on yourself. Yes, I know – easier said than done. Other positively aspecting planets can help a bit, and it depends which house we’re talking about. Ok – send over your details and I’ll have a look.
Aries, too, is a bit of a tricky one – you get something of a push-me pull-you effect with the restraining cautious energy of Saturn pitted against the positive energetic quality of Aries. Try to relax a bit and understand that assertiveness and defensiveness are two sides of the same coin. Taurus is generally good, if a bit plodding at times, however there may be a tendency to worry unduly about having sufficient money or resources. Developing an ability to trust – in yourself and others – is key. Gemini – hmmm. Doesn’t strike me as a match made in heaven, however positive aspects can put a brake on the multi-tasking motormouth effect of Gemini, and this does bode well to being able to apply yourself to study. Try not to be such a doom-monger – healthy scepticism is fine, but try not to let this spill over into suspicion. Saturn can have a bit of a dampening effect on the sunny warmth of Leo. At worst, a Leo Saturn can be bossy and autocratic, however if it’s a steady kind of perseverance and drive you’re after, this combination could make for the ideal 1950s kind of husband. Just make sure you’ve got his slippers in the oven and some nice meat and two veg ready for when he pitches up home from the office. Avoid drifting into the shallows of self-importance and dogmatism; a certain amount of pride is good, but you need to keep this in perspective.
What’s left – oh, Virgo. Great if you’re a routine-freak, like to keep an eye on the bank balance and there’s often lots of practicality there, too. There can be a bit of a perfectionist streak here, though, so try to keep things in perspective. Virgos are usually the worriers of the zodiac, and Saturn can exacerbate this. Try to relax a bit – it's good to have high standards, and to expect high standards in other people but sometimes you have to look at your priorities. Sometimes it’s just not possible to do everything totally perfectly. Scorpio’s always a bit of a dark horse with any planet. Think brooding intensity – I’m getting a sort of black-leather-jacketed Alain Delon-type with moody eyebrows and a gun in his pocket. Best not go there unless you're into a bit of murky subterfuge. And like your screen detectives mean, moody and determined... Obviously if you have a Scorpio Saturn, I’m afraid you’re stuck with it, so try to keep a lid on getting things out of proportion, seeing slights where none are intended and thinking everyone's out to get you. Really, they’re not. Well, at least not all of them. Sagittarius – expansion and contraction. A bit polarized, so think yo-yo dieting, yo-yo moods, a dab hand with a little sort of wheel thing on the end of a length of string – although, joking apart, this is actually quite a good placing for a philosophical outlook, depending on other aspects and whether Saturn or Jupiter has the upper hand. You make a great devil’s advocate, but don’t set too much store on being seen to be right all the time. Life’s just too short. Last, but by no means least is Pisces, where there can be plenty of empathy and humanity, however, this can spill over into pessimism and self-criticism giving you an unnecessarily hard time unless you can channel it into something creative. There can be a tendency to going over and over the past. Do your best to nip this in the bud whenever you notice it – at best there's a limited amount to be gained by raking over and over old coals.
Brown Dog will be offering Saturn clinics between 10.30am and 12 noon on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Just bark over your details.