Astrology is a vast subject, but the doorway in is pretty straightforward. Once you cross the threshold, it can be like walking through the wardrobe from our world into Narnia, which makes astrology a rather amazing spiritual tool if you are willing to plumb its depths, either on your own or with the guidance of a professional astrologer. Come explore this subject with me. I want to show you how beautifully complex the subject is and how useful it can be in many different ways in your life journey.
Saturn’s Return (27 to 29) represents the opportunity and push to transition out of the structure of the life “imposed” upon you by family, peers, education, and society and into your authentic self. Jung called the process individuation, where you become aware that you have been told “how to be” in order to survive and succeed, but with maturity, you begin to sift through that knowledge and those prescriptions to determine what is really yours and what needs to be discarded.
What is the Saturn Return?
The Saturn return occurs when transiting or “moving” Saturn returns to the exact same degree in the same sign as it was when you were born. This takes place between 27 and 29 years old and usually includes three return moments: one direct, first pass; one retrograde, second pass; and a final direct, third pass. It is possible, though fairly rare, for the Saturn Return to be a single direct pass, meaning the retrograde phase that follows does not get back to your birth degree. And it is also possible to have five hits on the degree due to the first direct pass being very close to the retrograde change, making it possible for the second retrograde phase to also come back and get to the same degree as your natal Saturn.
What Does the Saturn Return Mean?
It is a whole life pressure test. Imagine you have a container, like a large fish tank, which is designed to hold a certain amount of water. You have never really filled it all the way up, so it has worked well enough. But at 27 you get the urge to see if the container can really hold what it claims it can hold, so you fill it all the way up and wait to see if it “holds water”. In most cases, it will crack; it’s actually supposed to. Where it cracks and how many cracks will depend on numerous factors because the tank you are using is one that was “given” to you instead of the one you selected for yourself.
Think of it this way, when we grow up, we are “given” all kinds of rules and expectations that we only, later in life (usually starting in adolescence), begin to analyze and question. Our parents give us their belief system, politics, attitudes about relationship, and rules to “live by”. We get input from our culture, our education system (private, public, or home), and our peers. We try to form our own opinions but we are mostly an aggregate of emerging individualism and a lot of external input.
It’s very possible that between the ages of 16 and 26, we accomplish and take on many adult “results”. We complete some level of education or training; we get a job, maybe even start a career; we might get married or commit to a long-term relationship, and we may even have children and start a family. No matter what we have or have not accomplished when the Saturn Return begins to happen, we will QUESTION EVERYTHING. And more often than not, after evaluation, we will discover that many choices do not fit us.
Unfortunately, some of our choices and the realization that they were more about what someone else wanted than what we wanted can be quite difficult to disengage from or even impossible, like, say, children! Astrologically speaking the first 27 to 29 years are “karmic” and the period after the Saturn Return begins our time of dharma. In simple terms, karma is a lesson and dharma is the work to be done to learn and grow from the lesson.
What Does Saturn Represent?
Saturn is the point in our charts that defines; it wants to structure and perfect. It seeks order. Which sign and house Saturn occupies tells you how you prefer order and want control, energetically speaking, and where that energy will most express itself in your life. My Saturn is in Aries in my 6th House of Service. My “way of structure manifests through my independent and heroic quest for and attraction to maverick and individualistic service to others” (147, Astrology Unlocked). Saturn and Aries make “strange bedfellows” since Saturn is about control and order and Aries is about initiation and maverick action (i.e., “doing it his or her own way”).
Each point expresses itself in a positive light or shadow darkness depending on the choices and drive of the individual. In my case, the drive, positively, has been the work to develop self-discipline while also finding a way through life that gives me as much freedom as I can attain. In something of a counter-intuitive way, the more I “control myself” the more overall freedom I discover I can have. I choose to be quite frugal, which has kept me out of debt most of my life, and currently. Living a debt-free existence is very liberating.
Additionally, with this point in my 6th House of Service, I prefer and do best working alone and independently. My first career was working for a major university, which actually allowed me a significant amount of autonomy, but not nearly as much as I currently enjoy as a self-employed, working from home spiritual adviser. I am, literally, my business, and I have no regular schedule. While I do see and work with clients at odd hours and seven days a week, I can control my workload, take days off when I want, start late or end early, all very much under my individual control.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Saturn Return!
The Saturn Return can be challenging because, often, you have “built something” by the time you are 27 to 29 and you hope you have built something that aligns with your core self. And it’s possible that may turn out to be true, but that is more the rare situation than the norm. During this time, when the pressure is on, we realize that the job/career we have is really not the one we want, neither is the relationship, or the place we are living.
Think of the Saturn Return as a one to two years “long look” at your life. And, in that “looking” process, you will discover the first stirrings (or rediscover lost or suppressed knowledge) of your authentic self and your life purpose. If you happen to be reading this article and you are not yet at your Saturn Return, the best action you can take is to “keep your options” open. Saturn will try to give you the impression that you need to have “answers” about your career, your relationship, and your life purpose, but those really deep answers do not become available until the next series of transits at 36 to 44.
If you are going through your Saturn Return now, try not to be “hard on yourself” for getting into a situation that has morphed into something that no longer feels right. The lesson of the Saturn Return is to DISCOVER this and then actually use Saturn to RESTRUCTURE your life in a direction that will be better aligned with your authentic self. If you are fortunate, and find, during this transit, that you are well aligned and clear about your authentic self, then this can be a glorious time to advance and do amazing things in and with your life.
If your Saturn Return is in your rearview mirror, and depending on how far (mine is 33 years behind me), what were your important lessons? How did you maximize the benefits, correct the mistakes, or are you still “paying a price” for not courageously changing? For me, the primary pressure-tested part of my life that really collapsed was my marriage (married at 24). It took several years after the “realization” that it was not what I wanted to actually restructure my life and get out of it (at 33).
Finally, if you would really like to get to know Saturn well and read in more depth not only about the Saturn Return, but the other key Saturn transits and aspects (your first Saturn square around 7, the opposition around 14, and the second square around 21), then you should get a copy of Saturn in Transit by Erin Sullivan. She is not only a highly accomplished astrologer but an excellent writer. Her book is easily accessible to both the professional astrologer and someone with a strong interest in astrology. Best of luck navigating your Saturn Return!