Welcome to NYLON’s planetary explainer series, in which astrologer David Odyssey helps you get to know your chart and its key players, one planet at a time.
No matter how well you can pretend that you’re a grownup, you’re not ready for Saturn’s unsparing audit. With the icy glare of Miranda Priestly and the bleak punctiliousness of Jamie Lee Curtis in Everything Everywhere All At Once, Saturn inspects and exposes all your weaknesses and hypocrisies. And whether you’re facing your first Saturn Return or your third, you’re in for a cosmic review of your life. But how does Saturn operate in your birth chart, and what helpful wisdom could it offer you through its hard lessons? If you’re ready to face Father Time, consult our guide below.
Until the 1781 discovery of Uranus, and the subsequent arrivals of Neptune and Pluto into the collective cosmic imagination, Saturn was the last planet in our solar system, the edge of our archetypal awareness. And so Saturn would represent limits, endings and lines: the definitions which give life form. Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto act as gates to generational and global consciousness; Saturn, then, prepares our more “personal” planets (think the moon, Venus and Mars) to become a part of something bigger.
Saturn rules Capricorn and Aquarius, two signs concerned with global coexistence and how personal power can be hoarded or shared to serve the larger populace. These signs reckon with governments, corporations, and large systems of power: Their ruler, then, can’t be soft. Saturn enforces rules, restrictions, and hard realities on your chart to make you grow up, sober up, and take responsibility for your life. If you’re to wield any form of power on a grand scale (for good or evil), you’re going to have to get in shape. Saturnian transits act as crises of maturation, which, incidentally, most of us tend to avoid. As Liz Greene writes in Saturn: A New Look at an Old Devil: “Human beings do not earn free will except through self-discovery, and they do not attempt self-discovery until things become so painful that they have no other choice. It is not the enjoyment of pain which Saturn fosters, but rather the exhilaration of psychological freedom.” Everyone wants to be the boss, the queen, the institution, but we’re not quite ready to handle power — at least not without some proper training.
Saturn is the Roman name for Kronos, the father of Zeus and the Olympian pantheon, who castrated his own father to become king, only to learn that his children would do the same to him. Saturn traditionally represents a patriarchal archetype in the natal chart, and reveals where we face off with figures of authority (either internalized or real) and contend with our own guilt or fear of embracing power. In his Complete Astrology, Alan Oken writes that Saturn’s natal position “reveals what obstacles one has to overcome in order to achieve success.” Saturn isn’t here to punish or curse you, but to make you stronger. Saturn, according to the Orphic Hymns, is that exalted self “to whom perfection and decrease belong;” to have one, you’ll need the other. Like its iron exoskeletal avatar the Terminator, Saturn presents you with two choices: run from your destiny, or start doing pull-ups so you can fight back.
SATURN RETURNS, SQUARES, AND OPPOSITIONS
Saturn spends approximately three and a half years in each sign, making a full course through the zodiac in just under thirty years. Every seven years or so, Saturn makes an angle (90 or 180 or 360 degrees) to its place of origin in your chart. Consider these to be check-in periods, where the transiting Saturn shows you how far you’ve come, and where you’re lacking in maturity. Be aware which kind of sign your natal Saturn is in: Cardinal (Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn); Fixed (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius); or Mutable (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces). If Saturn is in one sign of any of these triplicities, it will be angling the rest, and setting sh*t off for you the whole way through. If for instance, you were born with Saturn in Sagittarius, you’ll be particularly affected when Saturn enters Pisces, its fellow mutable sign, in 2023.
When Saturn makes a 90 degree angle to its original placement, you’re in for the questions and reinventions of a Saturn Square (ages seven, 21, 36, 50, 65, and 79). When Saturn hits 180 degrees, welcome to your rebellious Saturn opposition (ages 14, 43, and 72). And, classically, there’s the Saturn Return (ages late twenties, mid-fifties, early eighties). For more information on these transits, hit up our Saturn Return survival guide.
SATURN IN YOUR CHART
For insight into how your personal planets connect or confront your natal Saturn, check out our guides to the sun, moon, Venus, Mars and Jupiter. Saturn’s influence on those planets may constrict or challenge them, but ultimately serves to shape, heighten, and ensure longevity for their highest expression.
But for insight into where Saturn shows up in your life, and what form it takes, look to its house position. Though it’s critical to note the sign and element of the dark master, its location in your chart will spell out your prophesied faceoff with big bad daddy, where you’ll be forced to evolve for the better.
SATURN IN THE FIRST HOUSE
Think of the first house as the first hatching from the egg, where the intrinsic you arrives in the world. Saturn’s close proximity to your ascendant may speak to a childhood marked by early responsibility, or by “growing up too fast.” With Saturn here, you may have to learn how to break from the obligations, duties, and anxieties which have long governed your life (and kept you boxed in). Saturn in the first house speaks to a self overly defined by — or severely lacking — a sense of form. Your work is to find balance and not suffocate.
SATURN IN THE SECOND HOUSE
The second is the realm of personal ownership — the values, beliefs, assets, and material possessions which give you a sense of weight in the world. What comprises your self worth? And, to be gauche, what makes up your financial worth? In the second house, Saturn confronts your imbalances around money and confidence. Are you a greedy, money-hoarding pig or an underearning martyr who can’t afford to pay rent? Saturn will point out any delusions around what you have, what you’re owed, and what makes you, as an individual, worth investing in. By the end of this audit, you’ll have the confidence to know and own your worth.
SATURN IN THE THIRD HOUSE
The third could be thought of as the house of our local “culture,” i.e. the daily interactions, routines, rituals, contacts, and general noise all around us. This house speaks to how we were educated and socialized when we were young, and how we interact with the world now. Liz Greene writes that Saturn’s placement in the third reflects a “symbolic inability to breathe freely with the intellect.” Saturn always reveals blind spots, and in this case, it forces you to observe the limits of your worldview, mental processes, and perspectives. Consider who you surround yourself with and how they approach life, which ideas governed your upbringing, how they may limit your development, and…ahem…how certain limits in perspective may keep you ignorant of some of the bigger issues in the world. If you can bring structure to your daily life, you can open it to all manner of expansive possibilities.
SATURN IN THE FOURTH HOUSE
The archetype of the stern, judgmental father, in the house of home, family, and emotional rootedness. Can you guess where this is going? At the base of your chart, Saturn will more likely than not take the form of a literal parent (traditionally, but certainly not always, the father), revealing how your access to love and safety may have been constricted as a child. Greene indicates that this placement could reveal an “undue emphasis on material development and little on emotional expression,” or other places where core needs weren’t met. By working with Saturn through the shortcomings of your house of origin, you’ll have the fortitude and integrity to build a new home of intention.
SATURN IN THE FIFTH HOUSE
Welcome to the house of creative expression, which governs those projects and experiences which you make. This could include literal children, screenplays, paintings, dates, or even workouts. In the fifth house, Saturn deals with unhealthy ego attachments to your creative work — i.e. treating your children like a part of yourself, or wanting to perish when your one-woman show gets rejected. Conversely, you may also have to confront blocks to your generative powers, or even to pleasure itself. Work with Saturn here, and you’ll become the parent of your own destiny.
SATURN IN THE SIXTH HOUSE
The sixth is the last of the “personal” houses, before launching into the public domain of the chart. Think of this as the last look in the mirror before leaving the house, or the wings just to the side of the stage entrance. This sixth house traditionally deals with work and the body, but can be thought of as the house of boundaries. How much do you want to give of yourself, what do you want to receive, and, on a somatic level, what are your limits? Saturn here will get you in shape to fulfill your highest potential, but only teaching you hard lessons about how much is too much.
SATURN IN THE SEVENTH HOUSE
The house of public visibility deals with relationships, and how the important people in your life are meant to discover you, see you, and affirm you. In the seventh house, Saturn manifests as the phantom parent you keep dating and all the dark projections you regurgitate onto others, blocking your way to true companionship and collaboration. Greene writes that “Saturn in this house is frequently in his most elaborate disguise, because his action is so completely externalized. It always seems to be the other person’s fault.” By taking responsibility for your side of the street, and by demystifying any relationship delusions, Saturn will deliver you to love and relational integrity.
SATURN IN THE EIGHTH HOUSE
The eighth house is the chamber of metamorphosis and ego dissolution, where crises are introduced to melt away old shells of identity. Perhaps a parent dies and you take on their role in the family. The prospect of marriage changes your lifestyle and sense of belonging. A sexual awakening rewrites your self-conception. Saturn will likely act as the block to your destined transformation: the fear, conditioned moralism, or familial obligation which holds you back from embracing new life. In terms of faceoffs with the archetype of the patriarchy, of toppling the last generation so that you may take form, the eighth is as dramatic an arena as they come. Face your fears here, and you’ll be reborn invincible.
SATURN IN THE NINTH HOUSE
From the ninth house of expanding horizons, you’re introduced to the institutions which can educate you and propel you forward into the world: schools, guilds, temples, and other communities of value to your dreams. This is the realm of the mind, of travel and study, of launching out far beyond your upbringing. Here, Saturn acts as a gatekeeper, either real or imagined, who stands in your way of going forward. Who exactly is rejecting you? Whose approval do you need? What’s holding you back from world domination? Get real about what’s in your head, and who has the power, and you’ll be able to launch forward with no one in your way.
SATURN IN THE TENTH HOUSE
The summit of your chart brings you to your greatest career glories — or falls. Of course, the tenth house is opposite from the fourth house of home and family, and will speak to the ways we use our careers to fulfill, spite, or run from our parents’ expectations for us. Are you born to lead, but afraid to be the boss for fear of becoming your father? Or, perhaps you’re one of the richest men in history, riding a rocket into space to prove…something…about your virility? Saturn will force you to understand why you’re driven the way you are, and what you’re overcompensating for.
SATURN IN THE ELEVENTH HOUSE
Greene describes the eleventh as the domain of “group consciousness,” where we find the audience, community or tribe who resonate with our ethos and values. Until we find “our people,” who are meant to receive our creative contributions, Saturn will introduce social conflicts, ruptures in outdated networks, and trials of loneliness. Maybe you need to start RSVPing “NO” to your bourgeois college friends’ weddings, so that you can invest in the people who get you now. Maybe you need to confront your tired “outsider” identity and wake up to who is around you. Or, perhaps you’ve found your community, and now you’re ready to learn how to be of higher service to it. With Saturn here, you’re no longer the center of the universe, but a part of a larger collective.
SATURN IN THE TWELFTH HOUSE
The ultimate blind spot. There’s something f*cking with your life, but you can’t quite name it. You keep sabotaging yourself, but you can’t explain why. The twelfth is the domain of healing, processing and closure; the hospital, asylum, prison, or studio where we come to face our suffering. Saturn here will force you to take ownership of your behaviors and bring all your worst attributes to conscious light, no matter how agonizing. Go inward and face your addictions and shortcomings, and Saturn will deliver you to those buried gifts you never knew were awaiting you.
WORKING WITH SATURN
Saturn’s day is — you guessed it — Saturday, corresponding to the Jewish sabbath, or day of rest. This should be a day of consolidation, recovery and rejuvenation before the Sun’s day blasts us out into the world anew. Saturn was traditionally celebrated in December at the Saturnalia, an anything goes festival, at which, as Jake Stratton-Kent describes in Geosophia, “slaves celebrated noisily, running shouting through the streets without fear of punishment. They were at liberty to mock their masters, who served them dinner before eating themselves.” If it hasn’t been made abundantly obvious, Saturn deals with power dynamics and our relationship with authority.
Of course, Kronos is known as Father Time. But it’s not all crones, gatekeepers, and archvillains. Saturn’s reign, before the arrival of Zeus, is thought of in Greek mythology as the Golden Age, the time when all humanity’s needs were provided for. In his Complete Astrology, Oken even likens Saturn to “Santa Claus, the giver of gifts to the well-behaved child and the withholder of presents from the undeserving.”
Whether you’re meeting your duties with dread, diligence or a sense of excitement, Saturn rewards those who maintain accountability. Do your steps, manage your budget, clean the house, call your mother, and never get ahead of yourself. Any intentional work with the real and finite will pay off for you, in the form of longevity and peace of mind. With relationships, call on Saturn for help with boundaries, and in the realm of achievement, ask for his humility as you untangle your hangups around claiming space — whether it be too little or too much. What if you could use power for the good of humanity, rather than avoid it in fear of becoming a supervillain? There’s only one master who can teach you. And he’s not getting any younger.