In a few days’ time Saturn will enter Scorpio, where he will remain for about 2.5 years. Unlike the outer planets, Saturn is a planet where it is us miserable mortals who are in charge. Uranus, Neptune and Pluto stand back and watch while we try to walk on our own. With Saturn, we make mistakes and sometimes we learn from them. Saturn’s wisdom is hard-earned over many years.
Saturn is the outermost visible planet, so in that sense he is the boss one. He is the authority, he gives proper shape and foundation, he rules. All those things which, as a youth, do not generally come easily; the Saturn Return, aged 29 or so, kind of forces the issue. Unless we are naturally a cautious Saturnian type: in which case, maybe the Saturn Return is the time to rebel against all that, to lighten up, to be less ‘responsible’.
Because there is abundance, joy and rule-breaking in Saturn as well. But only after we have learned his somewhat protestant lessons. The Protestant work ethic is Saturn at an extreme: yes, we need to learn to take care of ourselves in the world, to have the ongoing material base from which to live. But when Saturn stages a coup, work becomes who you are, it makes you feel, more than any other activity, that you are a valid person. Saturn scoops out the inner you and judges you purely on observable results. This is Sun square Saturn in the US chart.
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But to the extent that Saturn is not at an extreme, he is the ease you experience when you have mastered your craft, the unconscious competence that develops. He is the wealth of ability and mastery that have been built up, and the worldly rewards that come with that. And he is easy and generous and natural with others; confident as he is in his own foundations, he has nothing to prove.
Saturn begins by learning his craft from the experience of others, the ‘rules’ if you like. Once he has done that, and knows what he is doing, Saturn becomes the rule-breaker. In my opinion, anyway, for it is usually Uranus we associate with this. I guess I am breaking a rule!
But it is a natural process. You find out how to do something, and over time you find your own way of doing it, and experience teaches you that there are at times better ways than the accepted ones. There are things you know that your teacher doesn't. Finding your own way in like this is crucially Saturnian, because your foundation shifts from the external rules to your own inner knowing. That is when we become really confident, really solid, hard to shake. And of course, it’s not black and white, it’s gradual, and you always have to have an element of your own knowing if you’re going to be any good.
So this is the shift from Capricorn to Aquarius, from conservatism to rule-breaking. Both signs are ruled by Saturn, which says to me that this aspect of Saturn, of the tree outgrowing its pot, was traditionally understood.
Uranus has largely taken over the rulership of Aquarius in modern astrology. He was discovered around the time of both the French and American Revolutions, a time when established authority was seen as bad, as tyranny which needed to be overthrown in favour of rule by ‘the people’.
You can’t get away from Saturn that easily, however, and if you reject him he will come in by the back door, leading to the Reign of Terror and the Napoleonic Wars in France. And to the same old story in the US, rule by the rich and powerful, but under the guise of ‘democracy’.
So Uranus has come in in a one-sided way, in which the rule-breaking qualities of Aquarius are seen purely as a protest against the conservatism of Capricorn, rather than as a natural outgrowth. So in this respect I think it is worth remembering that Saturn also rules Aquarius, that rebellion needs to remain an option, but that there are other ways of breaking the rules.