Conversations With Saturn, Part I: Traversing the Great Gateways of the Saturn Returns

I am in a Saturn time, so I am hyper conscious of the dizzying passage of my life. I’m finding myself drawn to more reflection than usual on this earthly reality and the undeniable transformation of both my body and psyche over time.


So what is a Saturn time, for my non-astrologer friends? It’s when Saturn makes a significant contact with a placement in our own charts, such as our Sun, Moon, or perhaps one of the outer planets. It may also be when Saturn comes back around to see its own reflection in our charts, which happens about every 29 years. That is where I am – in the time of my second Saturn Return.

Saturn is the Lord of Time. As our inner clock ticks away, Saturn reminds us of this reality and places us accurately within it  – are we trying to hold onto youth, or have we aged beyond our years? If we heed Saturn’s call, we let go of our grip on the previous cycle. We may mourn its loss if we need to. We come to a deep recognition of who we are at this moment in time, authentically. We open ourselves with curiosity to the next cycle, staying true to ourselves as we do. We don’t have to suddenly start wearing polyester or go gray if that doesn’t resonate with where we are. But we can also let go of the miniskirts or other accoutrements of youth if we admit to ourselves that those no longer accurately suit us, either.

Saturn is interested in the truth of who we are at every age. If we’re engaged fully with our lives in growthful ways, we’re maturing. Saturn tracks how we apply ourselves to life and whether we’re doing the sometimes hard work to evolve into the fullness of our inner and outer capacities. Through the twists and turns of our lifelong journey, we grow our heart and soul and, if we’re paying deep attention, we gain the gold of wisdom. Our highest engagement with Saturn is when we experience each stage of our lives with acceptance and continued curiosity about what comes next. Each stage is an opportunity for refinement, reconstruction and renewal as we recognize how we are evolving along the way.

 Saturn rules this earthly reality and the practicalities of life. Do we have a place to live? A steady source of income? How are we managing the mundane necessities? What is the basic structure of our lives, and does it need renovation or rearrangement to keep us current with ourselves?

During a Saturn time, we are often given life experiences which test our strength. Sometimes the burdens can feel heavy. Yet the depth of our growth and the strengthening of our spirit during these times can be profound, when we step up to the plate of our lives in a new way.

Saturn is also the Lord of Karma. What we sow, we shall also reap. During a Saturn time, we may be faced with the stark truth about where we have engaged with life and where we have not – and the results of those decisions. Saturn holds up a mirror reflecting our choices so we can see how we might choose differently in the future.

Saturn encourages us to move forward in life, recognizing the positive aspects of maturity.  Maturing comes from remaining open to the deep lessons that life has to offer, and evolving through our experiences. Maturing offers us well-earned wisdom.


Saturn’s full cycle is about 29 years. Imagine the long arc of a lifetime, separated into approximately 30 year sections. At birth, we cross through the first threshold – we are born! The first great gateway is the birth canal. It doesn’t happen all at once. It takes time. It can be arduous. The transition to the bright lights of the world can be disorienting, blinding. Part of us may want to go back… but there is no going back! We are drawn inexorably forward, because that is our soul’s imperative…. to come into this world, to engage, to grow, to see what it’s all about. Ah, reality! Saturn has got us by our little baby toes.

 From birth to age 28 or so, we are in the evolutionary phase of YOUTH. We are in an intense learning period, from mastering how to walk and talk to traversing the hills and valleys of school, relationships of all kinds, and comparing ourselves to our peers and family members. We are finding out who we are – the parameters of our personality, what activities we enjoy, and exploring our gifts and proclivities. Then we begin the tenuous process of discovering how to function in the world beyond school. Towards the last part of the first Saturn cycle, we are creating a vision of our adult life. The shadow of the gateway into the next life phase is something we feel approaching by around age 27.

In our 27th year, we are invited inward by the Moon… to imagine our adult lives to come. The Moon urges us to enter our deep-held dreams and sense into what we simply cannot leave behind for the practical journey ahead of living an adult life. The technical term for this Moon window is the first Progressed Lunar Return. The Moon does not want us to leave our heart and soul behind as we envision our future life path. At the first Saturn Return around 29, Saturn takes into consideration the Moon’s desires and sees what can be born from the dream to reality. But this is important – if we suppress the dream, or discount it, we set the stage for a life of practicality without soul.

Saturn takes about 2 ½ years to pass through a sign, and no matter what the exact degree of your return, I believe we are in the shadow of that large gateway the entire time… absorbing the lessons, releasing the previous cycle, opening to the next stage.

From 29 to about age 58, we are in the evolutionary phase of ADULTHOOD. In the early part of the cycle, we may still be trying to figure out what we want to be when we grow up. Getting this sorted out is Saturn territory. Who we want to be, who we want to spend our life with, how we want to spend our days. We decide if we want to be married or have a family. We settle into patterns, some of which are disturbed around the age of 40 if those patterns don’t quite fit our expectations.

 Saturn is concerned with our financial security, practical matters, and how we are navigating our responsibilities. Saturn is interested in our growth, but not necessarily our dreams. Thus the importance of inviting the Moon into the conversation. The Progressed Moon will come back to us in our 54th year to stir our inner cauldron of visions for the next stage. At that point, we may begin to feel the passage of time in our bones (Saturn rules bones!) and we begin a new dream for the future.

At around the age of 58 ½, we cross through the next threshold and enter the gateway into ELDERHOOD. This is likely a word that would be resisted by most 58 year olds. Saturn wants us to face the stark reality that time is passing, we are aging, and yes, we will all die eventually. But not quite yet. Still, there are reminders of the disappearing sands of time daily. AARP mailings, talk of retirement, new aches and pains…. but more than this, there is an inner shift happening. We find that we are less interested in striving or setting big goals than we were in our ADULTHOOD phase. We still may feel alive and engaged with life, but our goals have softer edges. We are mellowing. We are taking stock of our lives. If we have lived in an engaged and conscious way up until this point, this marks an opportunity for considering the wisdom we have gained through our many life experiences and how we might offer it up somehow to others. This could be through mentoring a young coworker, creating our own work that has a healing, inspirational, or mentoring component to it, or finding meaningful volunteer work of some kind.

If we are still around at the next Saturn threshold – age 87 or so – we may experience a deepening recognition that we are in our last Saturn cycle. That is reality in this earth life. And yet, we are still here! We may have some physical or mental impairments, but can we still engage with life? If we have lived well, learned and grown through our many experiences, we can find great satisfaction in simply living with presence every day, and offering ourselves to others in ways that match our capabilities and proclivities – offering a smile to anyone we encounter, a word of encouragement or support, a bit of wisdom. Saturn would have us recognize that if we’re alive, we still have “work” to do in the world. And sometimes the smallest contributions are the most profound. 

Peggy - March 2018.jpg

My dear step-mum, Peggy, who is 97 this year.


 I will come back for reflections on other Saturn transits and continue this series over time. Like every planetary placement, Saturn is kaleidoscopic in nature and I’ve certainly not explored all of its dimensions here. Much more about all of our planetary companions to come!