The Saturn Return: Your Opportunity to get Back on Track

Featured image: Saturn, from Guido Bonatti Liber Astronomiae  US Public Domain

An astrologer probably never forgets the first book on transits they ever read.  Many of the ideas in this article are owed to James Braha and his book How to Predict Your Future: Secrets of Eastern and Western AstrologyHis words helped me understand my first Saturn Return many years ago and now once again are helping me face my second one.  ◊

The Saturn Return: A Significant Life Stage Transit

In modern astrology, Life Stage transits mark important milestones in the human lifetime.  Unlike regular transits, Life Stage transits occur to every individual at the same age.  It takes Saturn 29.4 years to make one full revolution around the birth chart back to the position he was when you were born  Therefore, the first Saturn Return takes place around the age of 29 and this happens regardless of what day, month or year you were born.  A second Saturn Return then takes place at about 58 years of age, and if you are lucky to live long enough, you could experience a third return around the age of 88.  Generally, the effects of the Saturn Return last about 2.5 years, or the amount of time it takes for Saturn to transit through the zodiac sign that your natal Saturn is placed in.

Each Life Stage revolves around a specific theme depending on which planet is involved.  Saturn’s theme revolves around maturity, wisdom, responsibility, work, effort, long-term planning and the proper management of time.  As an Evolutionary Astrologer, I view Life Stage transits as important opportunities for soul growth and development.  Life Stage transits are not always pleasant and can feel challenging, but they are actually geared to help us process important transitions in life.  The purpose of the Saturn Return is to help you out; the soul uses the Saturn Return to keep you on your true path in life.  Having meandered around the entire zodiac for the past 29 years, you will have had every opportunity to get lost or to wander off track.  The Saturn Return’s purpose is to get you back on track, back on the best possible path your soul needs for ultimate health and wholeness on every level: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

Saturn Returns coincide with other important Life Stages involving Jupiter, Uranus the progressed Moon and the lunar nodal axis.  These additional transits help to shape and color the experience of each individual Saturn Return.

The First Saturn Return: The End of Childhood

“I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can
begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.”
― Judith Minty

In modern astrology, the first Saturn Return signals the end of childhood.  By the age of 29, Saturn has offered us a taste of each house in our birth chart.  The first cycle of development draws to a close and we begin a new cycle, treading familiar ground once again but this time we do it a little more wisely due to previous experience.  It is not a coincidence that modern Western culture sees our 30th birthday as a big deal–a time to “grow up,” quit playing around and get more serious about where we are headed in life.  It is a time to settle down and commit to a career, relationship or family responsibilities.  Saturn is an archetype tucked away in the collective consciousness and this archetype awakens and activates during his Return, whether we are familiar with astrology or not. 

Father Time and Baby New Year from Frolic & Fun, 1897

Saturn represents such things as time, old age, effort, patience, discipline, responsibility, restrictions, obstacles and hard work.  He is classified as cold and dry, and is associated with the melancholic temperament.  As we approach the age of 30, we naturally being to feel Saturn’s influence closing in on us, affecting our thoughts, feelings and actions.  We sense that a cycle is ending and our thoughts turn toward the long-term future.  We begin to understand that time is actually limited and that success in life necessarily comes from working with time in a wise fashion. 

Saturn’s domain covers anything that requires slow and sustained development over a long period–things that require planning ahead and forsaking immediate gratification in favor of long-term gain.  This includes things like going to school for years to obtain an educational degree, working your way slowly up the career ladder, taking on the responsibility of becoming a parent, or slowly saving up money to buy your first home.  This long range view is both Saturn’s blessing and his curse.  Start a time-dependent activity too late in life, and your chance of success goes considerably down because you simply don’t have enough time to complete it.  So the first Saturn Return helps us align with time in a more productive fashion.  It makes us suddenly pay attention to time, more specifically, the lack of time and how to spend it more wisely.  One of Saturn’s names is of the Lord of Karma, since karma is heavily reliant on time. 

Saturn excels at helping you learn to build a solid foundation and then doing the daily work to build on that foundation, month after month, year after year, until the long range goal is achieved.  Saturn also helps you in the process by supplying you with what you need to get the job done in the long term:  a strong work ethic, patience, fortitude, self-discipline, practical wisdom and the ability to keep your eye on the long-term prize.

The Second Saturn Return:  Same as the First…only Better

Similar to the first Return, the second Saturn Return at age 58 also signals the start of a new maturation cycle accompanied by preoccupation with the long-term future.  During this Return, you might become profoundly aware of how much wisdom you have collected over the previous 29 years and begin to appreciate the experience you have gained.  You start to realize how your hard-won experience defines your current self-identity and actually lends you distinction.  You might also become aware of how differently you think compared to younger people simply because you have lived through and resolved many of the problems they are currently wrestling with.  However, since modern Western society worships youth, this might also be a difficult time because you feel like your wisdom and experience count for little in a world that is obsessed with adolescent beauty and values.  

Similar to the first Return, new goals begin to crystallize in your mind regarding the long term future.  And in this day and age where “60 is the new 40”, middle-age is not considered as restricting as it used to be.  Today, adults in mid-life are healthier, more active and more consciously rebellious against ageist stereotypes than previous generations were.  You might be more financially secure, self-aware and emotionally stable than you were during your first Saturn Return.   And you might have great ambitions now that go beyond simply shooting for retirement. 

For some, the biggest hurdle of the second Saturn Return might be tackling misconceptions about aging, in both yourself and those around you.  If you have been trained since birth to see your 50s as being “over the hill” then you will have some work to do in order to clear your mind and see your true potential now.  Most of us have been fed a lot of toxic age-ist garbage since birth and if you have bought into this line of thinking, then you might have a crisis now when you look in the mirror and don’t see a young face staring back at you.  You might have to spend some time doing psychological and spiritual work in order to de-program yourself to see age, experience and maturity in a more positive way.

For women, the second Saturn Return is potentially a time of greater freedom, especially for those who suddenly find themselves released from their roles as sex object, mother, chief cook and house-keeper.  And upon menopause, many women experience an inner release from the physical and emotional preoccupation with sex, thereby discovering an incredible freedom.  The compulsive search for love relationships, the constant effort to appear physically beautiful and the pressure to please others start to wane in importance, leaving much more space to be who and what you want to be.  A woman finally has the opportunity to ask herself: what would I truly like to do now?  Who do I truly want to be?  And the answer might be far more self-directed and self-fulfilling than it ever has been. 

Saturn’s Guiding Force:  Getting You Back on Path

As your first or second Return approaches, you may find yourself taking a long hard look at everything you are doing.  In Evolutionary Astrology, Saturn rules the conscious thought process, so as our Return closes in, we become conscious of everything we have been doing by rote, habit or routine.  You quit sleep-walking through life and begin to re-evaluate  your job, your education, your love relationship (or lack of one), your home, the friends you hang out with, your health habits–everything will come under closer scrutiny now in order to re-assess your future.  Saturn dares you to look into your heart and ask yourself if you still align with these particular things.  If the answer is no, you will begin to feel internal pressure to make changes, and this will not likely be easy because it involves changing the foundations of your life.

Saturn rules structure and if you find that your personal spirit, heart and will are not aligned with your job, your relationships or your daily activities, you will sense it is time to tear down some old structures and re-build.  This process can feel daunting, even threatening.  You might resist the process at first, and as a result, become increasingly more miserable until you feel driven to take action to make change and get back on path–a path that is more aligned to your true nature, a path that makes your soul sigh with relief–not because the path feels easy, but because it feels right.

Saturnus, Jonas Silber, 1572 – 1582. Print.

Saturn’s Role as Malefic

Saturn is deemed the greater malefic in traditional astrology.  But as Lee Lehman reminds us: “Malefic is not the same as malevolent:  the malefic planets are not evil, but they may be beyond our control.  Being beyond our control they produce completely unintended results, often more like earthquakes and tidal waves:  too ‘big’ to be comprehended and ‘solved’ on an individual basis.” (1)  In his role as the greater malefic, Saturn rules such things as illness, death, suffering, fear, isolation, and melancholy.  One of his many guises is the grim reaper; Saturn’s connection to time (and the ending of your time on Earth) is not something you can argue with or control.  There will be moments in life when Saturn emerges to play his role as time keeper, by forcing us to psychologically mature and push us onto the next stage of our life.

I find that the more ungrounded, impractical or out of touch one is with one’s true self and true path in life, the harder the Saturn Return can be.  This is because it is Saturn’s job to get you back on track and if you are wildly off track, Saturn will have to shove you pretty hard to wake you up and get you on a better path.  

Endings and new beginnings are part of the process but don’t expect a joyous sense of rebirth now.  Rather, you might feel like you need to end something in your life because you just can’t stand it any longer.  Things that you used to be able to put up with for years suddenly seem unbearable because you suddenly lost your ability to put-up and shut-up.  It is time to take action to start a new more appropriate path.  If you are resistant to taking action, life might then end the situation for you, and that usually doesn’t feel so great. 

Saturn. Woodcut by Gabriele Giolito de’ Ferrara, 1534

Positive Ways to Manage your Saturn Return (Whether it’s your First or Second)

Check Your Chart  The effects of your Saturn Return will be keenly felt in the area of life represented by the house where your natal Saturn resides.  Is your natal Saturn in the 2nd house?  Finances will be a central issue.  In the 4th house?  Housing or family difficulties might be the theme.  In the 7th?  Relationship issues will be the focus.  Your Saturn Return will also affect the houses that Saturn rules in your natal chart, so do check the houses where Capricorn and Aquarius reside because those areas of life will be activated too.  (I like to check both whole sign houses and quadrant houses when I do this, just to cover all the bases.)

Next, determine if your natal Saturn is in good shape or not.  Do you have a day chart?  Saturn’s effects might not be as harsh as they are in a night chart.  Does Saturn have essential dignity by domicile, exaltation, triplicity or term?  Is it direct or retrograde?  Is it placed in a tough house? (2nd, 6th, 8th or 12th?)  Does it have problematic aspects to it?  Or does it have mitigating factors helping it?  Knowing what your natal Saturn offers you is a vital step in predicting what your Return will look like.  (Don’t know how to analyze your natal Saturn?  Book a personal consultation and I can help you figure that out.)  

Pay Attention in Advance  Long before transiting Saturn conjoins your natal Saturn there will be evidence of issues brewing.  Typically, issues begin to appear as soon as Saturn hits zero degrees of the sign where your natal Saturn resides.  And if you have a natal Saturn that is in the first few degrees of a sign, you might be feeling the effects even before Saturn enters the sign.  This means that you might feel the effects of the Return a few years before the partile conjunction takes place.  So the earlier you are aware of your Saturn Return, the more action you can take to prepare yourself.  Be sure to regularly take time to check in with yourself.  Take stock of what is working in your life and what is not.  Regularly reflect on your deeper needs and desires.  Attempt to foresee any problems that might be developing in the astrological house where Saturn resides.  Ask yourself what needs to change in your life.

Watch for Signs of Nagging Dissatisfaction with your love relationship, your social life, your health, career standing, educational achievements, financial situation etc.  You might start to question the satisfaction and fulfillment they offer.  You might feel a strange emptiness or hunger, like you need something more.  Some of these things might begin to feel wrong or like they don’t fit you anymore–they have become too tight or restricting.  A new path might start to call out to you.  Your deepest needs will likely start to make themselves known now (in a strangely compulsive way) and what comes up might surprise you.  Too often in life, we settle down into a comfortable rut.  The Saturn Return is a test that prods you to look at your life in macroscopic detail and determine if you require something else in order to feel fulfilled, alive and excited about moving toward the next thirty years of your life.

Take Action.  Don’t try to ignore uncomfortable feelings of dissatisfaction or hope they go away.  Chances are they won’t.  In fact, they will likely just get stronger as your Saturn Return gains in momentum.  These feelings of dissatisfaction are full of valuable information, signaling that you might be off path and need to take a second look at where you are headed.  You might feel inner pressure pushing you to change your situation.  And your first response might be to ignore it because it might seem too difficult or because it might drastically alter your life, especially if it involves something major like ending a relationship, changing a career path or moving to a different city.

Don’t be Afraid to be Authentic  In Evolutionary Astrology, Saturn rules conscious mainstream thought.  This includes all the social values and behavioral norms that society deems to be positive or good.  Saturn is that voice in your head that is full of rules, “shoulds” and guilt.  Too often it says, “I shouldn’t do that!  What would people think?”  But the Saturn Return is not the time focus excessively on what others think of you.  Rather, you need to tap deep into your own soul because that is the voice straining to be heard and that is the force that is trying to get into the drivers seat now.  Therefore, the Saturn Return can be a time when you decide to take actions that might seem completely out of character but are actually highly authentic.

Saturn by Johannes Sadeler I (Flanders, Brussels, 1550-circa 1600).  Engraving.

Some Tough Choices Might Need to be Made  As your Saturn Return gains, you might be pushed to make a significant choice:  stay on the old safe path or leap onto a new, more fulfilling (but also more difficult) path?  A number of options might suddenly open up to you, when previously there was only one path.  The choices you are wrestling with now are seriously life-changing and can affect the next 29 years of your life.  Choose carefully now.  

Breathe!  Anxiety is Part of the Process  I think it was the psychologist James Hillman who once said either we are taking action to move forward in life (and feeling anxiety) or we stay put where it is safe (in which case we feel stagnant).  Anxiety versus stagnation.  That is what life often boils down to.  And there doesn’t seem to be a sweet spot in between!  The Saturn Return is pushing you to make changes just when you are feeling the most cautious.  A certain amount of anxiety is normal in the process.

Stuck?  Try the Stepping Stone Mentality  Sometimes taking action will feel too hard.  Saturn tends to make us more detail-oriented to the point where we feel overwhelmed.  For example, in order to get to your destination A, you might suddenly realize you first need to do B, C, D, and E first.  You then get overwhelmed and might shut down your plans altogether.  Don’t overcomplicate things.  Use the stepping stone mentality–just start with taking one small first step toward destination A.  After you accomplish that, the next step will be revealed to you in the process and then you can tackle that.  Bit by bit, you will traverse the stepping stones toward your goal. 

Watch for the Retrograde Period  Taking action to start something new while Saturn is retrograde might feel too difficult and is not advised.  You will experience too many obstacles and resistance from others  And you will likely be feeling sluggish and slow, which hinders forward momentum.  But Saturn’s retrograde period is great for making plans and setting things into place behind the scenes so that when Saturn goes direct you can launch your plans and move forward again.  

Is this your Second Return?  Don’t Forget to Review the Previous Return  What was happening 29 years ago during the previous Return?  Did you face a certain crisis?  What themes were involved?  Are there any similarities to what you are experiencing or feeling now?  Every Saturn Return will have similarities but there will also be major differences.  So if something super difficult happened during your first Return, don’t panic.  It doesn’t mean that the same horrible experience will automatically repeat.  Annual profections, Solar Returns and Firdaria drastically alter how each new Saturn Return manifests.  Also, you are a more mature person during the second Return.  By now you have learned a thing or two about yourself and about life.  That can help make the second Return smoother than the first one.  

Visit your Dentist (Doctor, Naturopathic Physician etc.). Early and Often.  Saturn rules the teeth, bones and skin so problems might erupt in these areas.  And if you routinely suffer from eczema or other skin conditions, they might flare now, as will arthritis or joint problems.  Whichever sign Saturn is placed in could point to health issues, too.  (eg.  Saturn in Virgo might suffer from digestive disturbances while Saturn in Libra could develop kidney or adrenal problems),  The stress of the Return could also temporarily aggravate any pre-existing mental health issues you might have.  Due to extra stress, Saturn Returns can be rough on your body and health.  Get the professional support you need now.

Something Terrible Happened!  Now What?   Saturn Returns are rarely fun.  They are usually experienced as a chore–full of difficulty and arduous work.  And in some cases, a Saturn Return involves a major crisis.  Let’s say you are pursuing a certain goal, but then Saturn drastically shuts that path down, leaving you knocked onto your butt, stunned and wondering what just happened.  Usually this happens when we are pursuing a false path–one that our soul does not endorse or is not ready for.  Often, this happens when we have been living in our heads too much and have become completely out of touch with our body, our emotions and what our soul truly needs to feel nourished, healthy and whole. 

We unwittingly create false selves when we focus too much on material desires for extended periods of time at the expense of emotional, psychological  and spiritual needs.  This can happen if you are someone who ambitiously tries to live up to what mainstream society defines as a “successful life”.  If you are trying to get through life by achieving goals that you “should” aspire to (yet go against your true nature), Saturn will know it and will pull the plug on you now. 

You might not even realize you have created a false persona over the years, mistaking it for your “real self”.  This is especially the case if you have survived early childhood trauma and are accustomed to repressing your true feelings and needs.  So if you hit a brick wall during your Return, try to trust Saturn.  He actually knows what you need better than you do and understands what you need to accomplish before you can continue on with the next cycle.  And if you have not completed the foundational steps yet, he will have to intervene to see that you do some catch-up work.  

Don’t forget that sometimes stuff just happens.  If you experience a devastating Saturn Return involving a major loss, be gentle with yourself.  Forces much larger than you are in play during a Saturn Return.  And contrary to what the Law of Attraction might imply, you can’t have control over everything that happens to you.  Illness happens.  Relationships end.  Jobs end.  Or friends move away.  If major stuff happens during your Saturn Return, know that while you might feel perfectly awful now, it will not always be this way.  Your job is to stick with it and keep putting one exhausted foot in front of the other.  Things will eventually work themselves out to a more normal situation and you will soon be on a new path in life, because that is actually what this whole thing is about.  

Saturn Wrestling with a Snake by Tommaso Minardi (artist) Italian, 1787 – 1871.

Expect Some Endings and Some New Beginnings  If your Saturn Return involves a major loss, then grieving must be part of the process.  No matter how small, endings always bring up complicated feelings that need to be honored and validated.  If you are receiving some hard knocks in life right now, remember to be kind to yourself and seek support to help you get through.  Understand that starting a new cycle always involves leaving something else behind because it was not meant to be part of your new path.  

Become Aware of Negative Thoughts or Feelings  Even when Saturn is in the best condition, and even when things are relatively stable during our Return, Saturn transits can still coincide with feeling more somber, glum, depressed or anxious than usual.  A pessimistic attitude might slowly creep in that cuts you off from moving forward.  Watch out for self-defeating thoughts like:  “I never get what I want anyway, so why bother?” Or fear-filled thoughts like:  “I can’t possibly do all that!”  During our Saturn Return, it is easy for our thoughts to skew toward the negative.  This can be particularly arduous if you already suffer from depression or anxiety.  So if that is the case, part of your pre-Saturn Return plan should involve setting up mental health supports long before the Return sets in.  You might plan to get some counselling, opt for a lighter work schedule (if you can), get more sleep or stock up on nutritional supplements that you have relied on in the past to help you cope with stress.

Understand that Change will take Time and Effort  The more off path you have been, the more work it will require to get back on path because you will have to make bigger changes in your life.  Plus you might have to tackle inner fears, stubbornness or reluctance to take on more work, too.  Maybe some extraneous things in your life need to go first, in order for you to free up time and energy in order to take on something new.

TRUST the process.  Even if you are having a Saturn Return from Hell, trust the process.  It is truly happening for a good reason.  That’s not a cliche, it’s a fact, coming from someone who has lived to meet two Saturn Returns.  The Universe is trying to point you to a better path.  That path might be far away right now, but every day you take a step, you will be closer to the right road.  If you truly fell off path during the last 29 years, it sometimes takes a long time to fully get back on, but the effort is certainly worth it.  Trust in the desires buried in your heart, trust how the Universe is trying to help you live out your best destiny, then create a plan and work hard to implement it, day by day, bit by bit.  Think of it as an investment at the Bank of Future Happiness and the term on your deposit will be 2.5 years.  The work you have to do right now might feel arduous  but it puts you in a situation where it will pay off for the next 29 years!  That’s a pretty good investment, I’d say.  

Want to know more about your Saturn Return and how it will affect your life?  You can book a consultation with Danielle by clicking here.


(1) Lehman, J. Lee. The Magic of Electional Astrology. Schiffer Publishing, 2015, 137.

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