Cycles are at the heart of the human experience. In New England the seasons change dramatically and rapidly, yet seamlessly blend into one another. Similarly seasons define the developmental process of our lives; infancy, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, the middle years, the elder years, culminating in death of the physical body. Each epoch unfolds predictably, sequentially and inexorably unless interrupted prematurely. And each is characterized by certain stage specific maturational tasks and experiences.
The Sun, Moon and planets all have their cycles too. We are familiar with the Moon’s orbit around the Earth; 29 days or a month. The Earth’s orbit around the Sun; 365 days or a year. But all the other planets have their own periodicity as well. Saturn takes approximately 29 years to travel around the Sun and arrive back at the exact point it was when you were born. The average human life span can be divided by the Saturn cycle into three stages, birth to 29, 29 to 58 and 58 until 87 or death. All of the planets are linked with particular archetypal aspects of human experience. Saturn is thematically linked with time and maturation, credibility, experience and the wisdom of the elders, responsibility, duty, authority and alignment with universal laws.
Many patients appear in my practice when they are 28 or 29 years old, at the time of their first Saturn Return. It’s a time when many young people feel an urgent need to figure something out about their lives. In our culture there is acceptance that a 24 or 25 year old may still be searching, perhaps feeling a bit lost, still experimenting. But when they reach 28 or 29, it is no longer as appropriate to feel so uncertain and undecided about partnership, children, career or direction. There is a developmental pressure at that time to finally leave childhood behind and become a responsible adult and contributing member of society.
Similarly at the Second Saturn return the developmental pressure is felt again. This time it is linked with an awareness of mortality. Saturn slows you down and forces you to take a long hard look at reality. How much time do you have left? How do you want to spend it? There really is no time left for procrastinating, otherwise time will be up and those books will never be written or paintings painted. Ironically as time the remaining time diminishes, subjectively it passes with ever increasing speed.
The Second Saturn Return is a time of life review and soul searching. How did you get here? Is this really where you want to be? Often it represents a cross roads of sorts, and an opportunity to deal at last with unfinished business. Sometimes this means getting rid of people, jobs and situations that no longer fit who you are or want to be. There is a taking stock that can culminate in a kind of purging and reordering of your life. This death of the old way of doing things can be painful, but subsequently there is often a feeling of relief and gratitude that you are no longer stuck in circumstances that no longer served you.
Saturn is also known as the Lord of Karma or Lord of the Harvest. You will reap what you sowed. It is a time when hard work will be rewarded, but if there has been neglect or carelessness, the natural consequences will not be able to be avoided.
Saturn asks you to claim your authority, to step up to the plate. It is inappropriate to wait for someone else to do it.
In my own case, I am 57 years old and just on the cusp of my Second Saturn Return. I am thinking about letting my hair go grey. There is less of an investment in vanity and more in spiritual wisdom. I am accepting invitations to do public speaking, even though it makes me want to cry and throw up. It feels more important to share my thoughts and make my contribution, than to give into shyness at this late date.
I am writing about Astrology, even though there are few subjects in our culture more generally viewed with contempt. But Saturn is asking me to make a contribution and give voice to what I believe is true, and to write about what is important to me and on my mind. I have no idea how Astrology works, but empirically I observe that it does, and it provides an invaluable context for making sense of our experience, guidance for making choices that are most meaningful and a perspective on ourselves and others that promotes compassion and understanding.
One of the most common regrets that people voice at the end of their lives is that they did not sufficiently honor their own truth, that they lived in accordance with other’s expectations or internal “shoulds” instead of their heart.The Second Saturn return is often not an easy passage, but it is rich with opportunity to re-create our lives in order to have the most meaningful and vibrant remaining years, so that when we are on our death beds looking back, we can sigh and say, “Ah, that was a life well lived.”