When I was younger, I thought of my late 20s as the time I would be fully settled down. I’d probably have children already, as well as a steady job and a sense of having my sh*t together. Now that I’m almost 30, I know that none of this is true. Most of us still need to figure out our purpose in life, and I know that the soul-searching never stops. However, I do see that the late 20s are a time when people start moving in new directions. All around me, people are experiencing big life changes in their career, relationships or family life. Some people start taking responsibility for their actions. Other people are finally able to make commitments to a partner or career. Still others feel they need to change their jobs and end relationships. Though everyone responds differently, the time around your late 20s generally is a significant and sobering time. This is because Saturn, the planet of limits, restrictions and age, returns to his natal placement around your late 20s.
What is a Saturn return?
If you know a little bit about astrology, you might have heard about the Saturn return before. Saturn is a slow moving planet that takes about 29 years to complete a cycle around the zodiac. This means he spends about 2-3 years in every sign. The first time the Saturn return happens is therefore around the ages of 27–31. There is also a second return around the ages of 56–60, and for some people even a third return. Although you will have other Saturn transits throughout the first 29 years of your life, they probably won’t be as influential as your Saturn return. In astrology, the Saturn return represents the start of a new cycle. It’s a coming of age, if you will. Your Saturn return symbolises the time you leave your youth behind and finally reach adulthood. No longer able to hide, Saturn tells you it’s time to grow up.
Your Saturn return starts at the moment Saturn enters the same sign it was in during your birth. This period will last for about 2-3 years, but will be most impactful when Saturn returns to the exact degree of your natal Saturn. The sign and house placement of this planet tells you where you need to work hard, commit, and show responsibility.
When you start to learn about astrology, you will probably read somewhere that your Saturn return is the most difficult time of your life. The Saturn return can be a time you will experience struggle, loss and even existential crises of sorts. The popular belief here is that unless you work very hard on your personal development and know what you want, you will simply have a terrible time. Similarly, the idea is that Saturn will be kind to you and reward you if you put in the hard work of self development.
But the truth is a bit more nuanced. Even if you work hard and show discipline, not all Saturn returns are created equally. Some people will have a harder Saturn return than others, simply because of how Saturn is placed in their chart. This means that how you experience your Saturn return is not entirely in your control. While this may sound daunting to some, I would like to think this is actually more empowering. It is helpful to know whether things are within your circle of influence, or whether it would be wise to stay cool and hang loose.
Here are some ways to assess the nature of your Saturn return:
The importance of sect
The concept of sect is a Hellenistic technique that divides the seven traditional planets (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter & Saturn) into a “Day Team” and a “Night Team”. The Sun is the leader of the Day Team, which also includes the planets Jupiter and Saturn. The Moon is the leader of the Night Team, which also includes Venus and Mars. Mercury is neutral and can play for both teams depending on its position in relation to the Sun.
While the technique of sect has many nuances, you can easily use it to determine which planets are “in sect” and which ones are “out of sect”. This helps you decide which planets are going to be more constructive and positive (Jupiter during the day, Venus at night), and which planets might cause some trouble (Mars during the day, Saturn at night).
If you were born during the day (when the sun was above the horizon), Mars is your most challenging planet. If you were born at night, Saturn is your most challenging planet. In general, Saturn returns tend to be more difficult for people with a night chart.
Essential dignity to assess the quality of a planet
Another way you can assess the quality and strength of a planet is by looking at the zodiac sign it is placed in. In some signs, planets feel more comfortable and at home. This is because that sign reinforces the nature of the planet. Here, a planet has dignity, which basically makes a planet king of his castle, or treated like a guest of honour. In other signs, the expression of a planet is challenged. This happens when a zodiac sign is completely opposite to how the planet would like to express itself. In these cases, the planet is debilitated, which is similar to being in a completely foreign country, or like being an outcast in society.
Symbolising sobriety and scarcity, Saturn rules the two signs that correspond to the time of winter in the Northern Hemisphere: Capricorn and Aquarius. In these signs, Saturn can be his pragmatic and calculated self and act in a serious and reserved way. Additionally, Saturn feels comfortable in the sign of Libra. This is because this sign marks the start of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, when the weather gets colder and the days get shorter.
Opposite to Capricorn, Aquarius, and Libra, are the signs of Cancer, Leo and Aries. Cancer and Leo mark the height of summer, and here the natural expression of Saturn is more weakened. Instead of focusing on structure and strategy, Saturn has to deal with the cold and moist emotional waters of Cancer and the hot and dry exuberance of Leo. In Aries too, Saturn feels foreign and clumsy, as the hot, dry and quick reactions of Aries are so opposite to the cool and calculated nature of Saturn.
In Cancer, Leo, and Aries, Saturn may therefore experience more challenges than in the other signs. This does not mean that you are doomed if you happen to be born with Saturn in one of these signs! It simply means that you may struggle a bit more than someone with Saturn in Aquarius, and that these issues can be beyond your own control.
Other important factors that determine the impact of your Saturn return
Beside sect and essential dignity, there are a few other factors that determine how your Saturn return will be:
- Aspects: Look at the configurations that Saturn makes with other planets in your chart. If there are squares, oppositions, or conjunctions to other planets, you might have a more difficult Saturn return. When Saturn returns to his natal placement, these aspects will be activated. When Saturn is making a sextiles or trines to other planets, there might be more positive manifestations.
- House placement: Generally speaking, planets in the angular houses (1, 4, 7 and 10) tend to have a more visible and distinguished expression in your life. This is because these houses represent the most important and obvious parts of our lives: our personality and health, our family and roots, our significant relationships with others, and our career or public life. If you have Saturn in one these houses he will certainly make himself known! On the other hand, the sixth, eighth and twelfth house represent our blind spots and the more challenging aspects of life. Here, Saturn can possibly cause more trouble.
- Chart ruler: Your chart ruler is the planet that rules over the sign on the ascendant. In traditional astrology, Saturn is the ruling planet for people with Capricorn and Aquarius rising. If Saturn is your ruling planet, your Satun return will be significant for your personal life. This is because the first house represents your personality, physical appearance and health.
- Time Lords: The notion behind the concept of “Time Lords” comes from a Hellenistic technique many astrologers use to predict future events. One important Time Lord technique is Annual Profections. The basic idea of this technique is that each year of your life (from one birthday to the next) corresponds to a house in your chart. Starting from the ascendant as year 0, you go counter-clockwise to the next house for every year of your life: the second house corresponds to the age of 1, third house to 2, fourth to 3, fifth to 4, and so on and so forth. The planet that rules the whole sign house of a specific year is activated as the Time Lord of that year. If Saturn is your annual Time Lord during your Saturn return, your Saturn return may be more relevant and significant for you.
The benefits of getting to know your own birth chart
For me, learning more about Saturn was a great help. Before I studied traditional astrology, I thought I had to be afraid of my Saturn return. I worried that it was going to be a very negative and difficult time in my life. But now that I’m more familiar with my chart, I know that it will probably be fine. Since my chart ruler and most challenging planet is Mars, I know that Saturn will never be able to do me dirty in the same way that Mars does. Additionally, in my chart Saturn is in the sign of its joy and he makes beautiful sextile to my natal Moon. Due to these mitigating factors, my Saturn return will probably more about emotional maturity.
My partner has just finished his Saturn return in Capricorn and he has had a very different experience. He was born at night and has many other placements in Capricorn, which were also activated by the transits of Jupiter and Pluto in 2020. As a result he had a quite challenging time over the past three years. This knowledge helped him in accepting that he was going to struggle a bit more during the years that Saturn was in Capricorn.
Aside from the things I mention here, of course your Saturn return is also affected by other transits and timing techniques. The people born between February 1988 and February 1991 have just finished their Saturn return and may have had a hard time due to the stack-up of planets in Capricorn throughout 2020.
To my Saturn in Aquarius gang: I’m wishing you a lot of wisdom and discipline during the next three years! And if you want to prepare for your Saturn return or reflect on your experience as you move through it, you can always book a consultation with me!