Even if you know nothing else about astrology, you may have heard about the Saturn Return. Its perilous reputation precedes it. It’s when Saturn returns to its natal position in our charts, same sign, same house, same degree. Many, however, do not realize that we get two, or even three, of these, if we live long enough.
Whether we know the astrology or not, we all experience the Saturn Return. It happens with or without our cognizance or permission. As long as we are alive, we continue to get older, and we continue to experience Saturn and the Saturn Return every twenty-eight years.
First Saturn Return: ages twenty-seven to thirty-one
Second Saturn Return: ages fifty-six to sixty
Third Saturn Return: ages eighty-four to ninety
Rite of Journey, Rite of Passage
The Saturn Return is a rite of journey. It is a time period wherein we say goodbye to life as we have known it. We leave one land and enter another. We have to learn the new customs, new language, new ways of the people who are living in that new land, post-Saturn Return.
There is the you before the Saturn Return (whichever one you are having) and the you after the Saturn Return. It’s that important. It’s that much of a change. It’s that final. Old you, goodbye. New you, hello!
With the Saturn Return, we transition from one stage of life to another and we are supposed to grow. We are supposed to mature. We are supposed to learn. That’s what Saturn requires of us, always. We can’t take the old ways with us.
Even though we’re all different, one thing is guaranteed about the Saturn Return: You will change. Your life on the outside, and on the inside, will change. All three of the Saturn Returns push us to wonder what we have done, what we are doing, what we will do, but this feels different at thirty, at sixty, at ninety because of what we have achieved and because of what we have lost.
Think of Saturn as a ladder. The higher you go, the greater your potential to fall, but the higher you go, the closer you get to the stars.
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Editor’s Note: The following descriptions of the three Saturn Returns are very abbreviated versions of what is presented in the book.
The First Saturn Return: The Kid
Your first Saturn Return is the journey from the end of childhood to the start of adulthood. If you are between the ages of twenty-seven and thirty reading this, then this section is especially for you.
Any astrologer will tell you it’s one of the most important transits you’ll ever face. The Saturn Return, the first one (the main one, some would argue) marks your passage from kid to grown-up. Welcome to the world.
This Saturn Return makes it painfully obvious that, in certain key ways, we cannot afford to remain children any longer. My choice of the word “afford” is not an accident here because when we deal with Saturn transits, we are usually dealing with work and career (Tenth House), discipline and responsibility, and by extension, money and support.
The purpose of this first Saturn Return is for Saturn to put you in your place, to root you, steady you, by seemingly doing the exact opposite: Saturn catapulting you to a brand new reality. The first Saturn Return says: You can’t be a kid anymore. Time to grow up. Time to leave home, literally or figuratively. You’re like the tightrope walker who must get from here to there without falling, without breaking, and if you do fall and break, that you get back up and set the bone.
Your first Saturn Return will clearly, sometimes painfully, point out to you what is not working in your life, what has to change and change big. Your life itself will create situations wherein the worn out parts get removed, get taken from you, or you find the grace and guts to walk away. Ideally, what happens is a little of both.
Before your first Saturn Return? Stuck. During the Saturn Return? It’s like a loose tooth starting to wobble. You begin to break free of the stuck patterns that no longer serve aware of them. After the Saturn Return? Ideally, you paid attention and are making the required fixes. The tightrope stretches and yet grows stronger.
The Second Saturn Return: Not Dead Yet
You wake up in the morning stressed about your mortgage, the car, how much the new roof on your house will cost, your children’s choices, your thinning and graying hair, your health. Who you used to be. How you used to look. Was it all worth it? Is this my life?
Or maybe you feel sad because you never had the house, the car, the kids, or maybe you had them and you lost them. Regret sets in and maybe even bitterness. The good news is that the second Saturn Return is good medicine for this existential station. Not dead yet.
The above scenarios could happen at any adult age, even the thinning or graying hair, but they tend to be hallmarks of the later years we call middle age or past middle age, which is the moment of the second Saturn Return, the late fifties. No one would call you elderly; although you’re too old to act like a foolish kid, you’re too young for the grave.
As with all the Saturn Returns, you must evaluate what is and what you want for your future. Stop. Think. Slow down. Yes, you do have a future, even if it doesn’t feel that way. For sure, this time period will be at least occasionally marked by feelings of: Why bother? Can I really do anything new or important with my life? Old dogs, new tricks?
It’s never too late for the lessons of Saturn, though, and I am certain this is the most important Saturn Return of all.
The first Saturn Return is all about leaving childhood behind, making mistakes, fixing them, and getting the first taste of real grown-up responsibility.
The third Saturn Return, which I’ll address in its own section, is primarily spiritual and creative. It’s also a transit of saying goodbye. Let’s not mince words here. When you’ve hit your eighties, you’re on your way out of this earthly form and moving into spirit form as the reality of old age and death is impossible to ignore like a neon billboard sign. Even if your health is good at eighty-five, you can’t help but look back on your life and reflect, whereas with the first Saturn Return, you look firmly ahead.
The middle passage, or second Saturn Return, is when you can stretch your legs and see the years behind but also the years and decades to come. Late fifties. Midlife. Midlife crisis. Health crisis. What-do-I-do-with-the-next-twenty-years crisis. Did-I-waste-my-life crisis.
For many of us, the philosophical or spiritual questions of the second Saturn Return may be the same as the first one. Where did the time go? What do I do with my life now? Do I still have time to achieve and build?
The stakes are higher. It’s all about the stakes. This is the time for you to make your most conscious choices. What do you want? What do you really want? You’re young enough to still have another dream or two or great love in the hopper but old enough to know some dreams are out of reach. Doors close. Other doors open. And open. And open!
By the time you reach your second Saturn Return, you have built a life, no matter its shape, no matter what you have. Whether you like it or not, it exists. You have built it. If you don’t like it, you can still go to the hardware store and buy new wood, new tools, new plans, new paint, and rebuild. Saturn is the builder, and your spiritual life is part of this too.
Also, by this age, you know who you are. Or at least know who you are not. At its best, the second Saturn Return brings balance to your life. It's like a chessboard with all the pieces laid out for you and you ponder your next move. What choice will you make?
The Third Saturn Return: Sage Stage
You’re not old, you’re seasoned. Perfected wisdom. You’re the Hermit card from the tarot deck. Maybe you’ve reached enlightenment. Even if you lived a wild life in your youth, by your third Saturn Return, you have likely learned from those wild days and become sane and sage—or at least grasped one or two of Saturn’s lessons and now keep your crazy at arm’s length.
If your health in your seventies and eighties didn’t give you a wake-up call, then your life partner or child or best friend’s health did, or maybe you got a kick in the teeth from some other astrological transit. Whatever the particulars, you are Saturn now.
You have arrived. Crone. Elder. Respect.
Everything you’ve seen and done could fill a book. Or twenty books. An entire library. Teacher, master, shaman, priestess. Saturn. You may not be all-knowing, but you’re damn close.
Even if you are still working, the experience and questions of the last Saturn Return are fundamentally contemplative and creative. After all this time, who are you? You’re the teacher, crone, wise one now. Are you able to share it?
No matter what you do with your time, your world is slower and quieter, even if you are healthy and full of light and life.
There are other questions unique to this third Saturn Return, and for the first time, they have a finality about them because let’s be honest: none of us lives forever.
What was your life about? What is your legacy? These questions are not to fill you with sorrow, and they don’t have to because now is the time to tell your story. Tell it to anyone who will listen. You are that much closer to death. Whether you find this a challenge or a gift is up to you. No doubt you have some theories about whether the soul lives forever or if there is even a soul at all. And reincarnation. Do you want to come back? You’re preparing for the ultimate journey. What will it be like? Pack those bags. Confirm your flight. Wear comfortable shoes.
Saturn Return Crossroads
As though you are at a crossroads, the Saturn Return will ask you to choose your direction, choose your path, choose a side, make decisions about your life, and some of them will be difficult. Whatever is not working, whatever is not functioning or running smoothly like a well-oiled machine, you will have to leave those things behind or change them up dramatically!
We stand there at the juncture and are faced with three or four possible directions, decisions. We may stand still, paralyzed, arms at our sides, or we will cross, we will break, we will go through it, we will decide. We will take a stand. The Saturn Return forces us to take a stand.
What remains after your Saturn Return is the path you are supposed to be on. Believe it even when you doubt it. Believe you are where you need to be.
©2018 by Aliza Einhorn. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Weiser Books, an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser LLC.
The Little Book of Saturn: Astrological Gifts, Challenges, and Returns
by Aliza Einhorn
The Little Book of Saturn, a smart, friendly introduction to the astrological Saturn, is a book for curious readers who know there is more to astrology than their sun signs. Saturn has traditionally been considered the planet of challenges, but the life lessons that this stern planet brings are necessary for personal growth. This book is suitable for beginners and experts alike.
About the Author
Aliza Einhorn, astrologer, tarot card reader, poet, playwright, holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She blogs at her website, "MoonPluto Astrology," and does readings (astrology and tarot together) professionally. She also teaches metaphysical classes online and runs chat rooms for the metaphysically minded. Visit her website: http://moonplutoastrology.com/