Saturn is now in Sagittarius, taking us from the intensity of Scorpio to more international and philosophical territory. Saturn was last in Guru from late 1987 to 1990, at the end of the Cold War, which culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 9th 1989 (the other 9/11). Russia’s program of Glasnost – ‘openness’ – and Perestroika – ‘restructuring’ was the defining feature of the times: Sagittarius is a very open sign, and Saturn is the epitome of restructuring. Despite his rhetoric about non-aggression against Russia, Donald Trump seems far from another Gorbachev: he won the US election on a promise to build a wall.
Saturn is the outermost of the seven classical planets and its status as the Dweller on the Threshold(of the visible and invisible worlds) lies at the heart of its symbolism. Saturn rules skeletons and structure, form and the formal, and it creates solid objects and leaves behind tangible results. It is the Lord of the Door and our journey through its portal comes at particular seven-year crises/ rites of passage which fall naturally in its 29-year orbit. Modern Western astrology dramatizes the Outer Planets, which are major generational agents of change, but Saturn’s two-and-a-half years per sign is more immediate and influential, and in all represents the biggest life class we face at any given time.
In Greek mythology, Saturn was ambitious and preternaturally responsible, and he castrated his tyrannical father Uranus to usurp his position as King of the Gods. Yet Saturn also assumed everyone else was on the make, and his projection of his opportunistic shadow meant he lived in paranoiac fear that his own children would in turn emasculate him. So he ate them, pre-emptively. This created a backlash, resulting in coup cooked up between his wife Rhea and his son Jupiter, who eventually struck his father down and deposed him as Olympian King. Saturn’s worst fears were neatly realized, and he brought them on himself. This is a simple Karmic morality tale, though on a subtler level shows how our deepest fears manifest, despite – or precisely because of – our avoidance/coping strategies.
There are many Vedic myths concerning Shani, who was the son of Surya, the Sun God. As in Greek myth, most of them tell of enmity between father and son. One such says Surya’s first wife Saranya enlisted a shadow mistress Chharya (Shadow) as her replacement while she, Saranya, took a break, tired of being outshone by her husband’s effulgence. When Saranya returned from her sabbatical, she found stand-in Chharya had exceeded her brief by having a child with her husband - Shani - who was left resented and unloved, and had to work doubly hard to prove himself. In the Ramayana, Rama’s exile in the forests in search of Sita lasts an archetypal fourteen years - half a Shani cycle. Even Shiva himself was once forced to hide inside a donkey to keep away from Shani’s strict and impersonal karmic gaze.
Saturn/Chronos rules chronology and the Sun is our major cosmic time keeper, so Saturn-Sun transits especially make time itself feel very precious. There is a ratio of achievement to time available as it can't all be done in a day, and Saturn is the Lord of Karma, who also governs agriculture – we reap what we sow. Clearing a higher bar also means bigger rewards, and the element of fate brings challenges we wouldn’t have volunteered for, yet afterwards admit grudgingly the episode was necessary. A make-or-break experience is common, where success comes through sustained elbow grease or else we shelve the Big Plan for not being worth the trouble. Don’t judge yourself in any case, but remember Saturn is all about wisdom and balance – too much one way or the other isn’t healthy. Striking a middle way is key, which is why Saturn exalts in Libra, the sign of the Scales.
Many countries and institutions come into being on January 1st, which from a sidereal standpoint puts their Suns at around 9° Sagittarius. Saturn crosses this point three times in 2018, creating tension and challenges, and perhaps a similar climate for the world as the late 1980s. Rather ironically, the late 80s was a very Jupiterian time for the world, with Uranus and Neptune joining Saturn in Sag', and by now it is viewed as a watershed that was scarcely believable for those who lived through it (‘Black Monday’, October 19, 1987 – the day Uranus entered Sagittarius - saw the record largest one-day percentage decline in the Dow Jones). The promised peace dividend did not filter down to the people, surprise, but it is hoped the current ceasefire in Syria is an omen of similar miraculous things to come in 2017.
Saturn hovers around the first degree of Sagittarius for two weeks in February as it prepares to go retrograde, and returns for another fortnight in May. It stations at 3° Sagittarius for two months between March 9th and May 6th, which will be pretty onerous for birthdays December 18th – 19th. (Listen up, Brad Pitt, Alexis Sanchez, Jake Gyllenhaal, Steven Spielberg, Keith Richards, Christine Aguilera). This is a long two month spell for sure; testing, tiring, frustrating, and occasionally morale-sapping, with scrutiny from the boss, overbearing deadlines, rickety job security, and a sense of constructing your world from the ground upwards. There is an opportunity for promotion, to become an expert and to prove your worth, but take care of your knees and lower back!
Saturn retrogrades on April 6th 2017 and on June 22nd dips back into Scorpio. Then on August 25th it goes direct once more at 27° Scorpio, and by October 27th returns into Sagittarius. Saturn’s transit from Scorpio to Sagittarius is also a passage across nakshatras, from Jyeshta to Mula – the so-called Gandanta Knot which extends 3° either side of the water-to-fire crossover point. The change from Jyeshta to Mula is said to be particularly volatile, and between a radically new regime in Washington and general rising world consciousness, this year has already seen a great polarizing of opinion at home and abroad.
People with planets and points in Gemini will also have ‘the Saturns’ in 2017-19, and to some extent Aquarius and Virgo patriots too, who pick up Shani's special 3rd and 10th house aspect. Saturn opposing a natal planet can be every bit as tough as a conjunction, with the emphasis being more on relationship or ‘self versus action’. Rather than a new beginning, oppositions are the critical halfway stage, a symbolic Full Moon, where we either reap rewards of actions already begun, or realize we want something else and have to adjust. This may be stressful either way – successful or not - but again, knowing when to walk away is key.
So look for the exact degree of your Sagittarius (and Gemini, and to some extent Aquarius and Virgo) planets, which may receive three separate passes; two direct and one retrograde. There’s no set rule governing which of these three will be toughest, though one is likely to stand out, with the others either echoing or foreshadowing the issues. The good news is once Saturn moves even one degree away, the pressure lifts off as if a switch has been thrown. The clouds part and the Sun comes out again, and you can keep your game face on for a finite time. This is the beauty of astrology: time itself has qualities and characteristics, and we get inner peace from knowing tough periods don’t last.
Check out Saturn's transit in relation to your natal Moon too, of course, for a more emotional perspective. Anyone with Moon in Sagittarius will experience peak Sade Sati over the next two-plus-years, the emotionally maturing transit which extends over the Moon and its two adjacent signs. This period typically brings parenthood, a change of residence, testing times in relationship, extra responsibility for relatives (particularly the mother), or simply an inward change with a strong Saturnian flavour. Most people can evaluate their lives before and after the Sade Sati experience. Harvey Weinstein is a florid current example for whom Saturn crossing his Moon in 2018 will represent a radical re-evaluation of his attitude to women.
Saturn remedies are to chant a good mantra, especially on a Saturday and Tuesday (in addition to a regular daily meditation practice). Why Tuesday? In the epic The Ramayana, Shani was rescued from the demon Ravana by Hanuman, the embodiment of warrior Mars, whose day is Tuesday. Shani granted Hanuman’s devotees a boon, whereby to propitiate the Monkey God meant also to be freed from Shani’s deadly gaze, so there is a double blessing. Hanuman gives courage, energy and decisiveness, qualities we need to handle Saturn. The best approach is to face our Saturn fears and do what we have to do, but also know when to let go: strike a balance.
Yoga asanas - suryanamaskar especially - are good for Saturn, slow, deliberate and disciplined, which bring flexibility and strength. Regular Ayurvedic abhyanga massage is beneficial too, again particularly on Saturdays – warm, viscous oil is the opposite of the cold, rigid Vata Saturn influence. Saturn rules joint and bone pain – the skeleton – especially at times of great stress, while sesame oil in the scalp also helps keep grey hairs away. Wearing a gemstone – blue sapphire - is not for everyone and depends on your natal chart: consult your Vedic astrologer. While Saturn transits are notorious for pressure of work, the opposite tack – taking a holiday – is an effective antidote. Putting deadlines to one side and simply being somewhere sunny acts against dark, oppressive energy and offers a new perspective.
Some people like Saturn because it is straightforward and rewards effort. Fair enough. Find something intrinsically meaningful and become an expert: you’ll be working hard in any event, so at least do something you can relate to. But don't be fooled that Saturn is mundane and straightforward: it is also the ruler of fate, the Anglo-Saxon equivalent for which is wyrd. Saturn can be spookily weird and metaphysical. Lessons that feel preordained and outside our control crop up repeatedly to the extent to which we avoid them. This is Parabdha Karma, that portion of our destiny which is being reaped in the present life: it may be mitigated to an extent, but can ultimately only be exhausted by being experienced. There is plenty of scope for strange experience here, and as usual the existential part of a transit, one which asks soul-level questions is the most demanding of all.
Saturn Survival Guide
Know when (& where) Saturn is affecting you
Look for repeating life themes
Prepare for the long term
Face your fears
Strike a balance
Learn a good Saturn (also Ganesha & Hanuman) mantra
Do regular yoga and oil massage
Get some sunshine
Don’t judge yourself too harshly