Astrology, Saturn & Rites of Passage

It is during uncertain times that people are compelled to experience their interior world and heed their inner voice. They become increasingly aware of an inner Self which has greater plans for them than their mind or intellect has accounted for.

In a sense they become more religious -- they begin to bind themselves back to the universe or the cosmos. They recognize a Grand Plan, a higher intelligence, search within themselves for meaning and begin to look for 'signs' on the horizon that might indicate in which direction to turn. Sometimes they simply crumble under the realization that the mind is inadequate to rationalize what is being experienced. People who undergo an episode of this kind often fail to realize that they are verging on a new phase of their lives, which needs to be recognized and ritually acknowledged as valid.

Society neither recognizes nor sanctions a personal change that does not have its origin in the immediate environment. It is difficult to undergo a perceptual shift while maintaining a stranglehold on the status quo. Conversely, if the status quo should be altered dramatically, it is equally stressful to adjust one's perspective in tandem with the shifting environment.

Astrologers frequently come into contact with people who are in mid-phase of a transition, experiencing confusion and fear. A careful analysis and a clear explanation of the situation as a process in a continuing journey is a balm to harassed people. It is not that they are soothed by words about planets and their influence, but more that they are able to validate their inner experience with a concrete measurement that is a dynamic symbol for the experience. Astrology is a vehicle offering insight into the many cycles of experience through which we all must pass in the course of the life journey. Astrology is also the opportunity to experience the personal relationship with archetypal figures and realms, which is not particularly psychological or spiritual but is none the less a third dimension of astrology. It is in that third dimension that the rite of passage becomes evident.

Some of our trials and passages are consonant with our age group, for instance the common crises between twenty-seven and twenty-nine, which occurs between the progressed Lunar return and Saturn return period, and between thirty-eight and forty-four, which is the Uranus opposition to itself and the Saturn square to itself.

We are so isolated from personal change that one of the most significant transitions in life, the mid-life transition, has become little more than a joke about red sports cars and younger lovers! Astrology not only takes into account but also validates personal transitions which acknowledge inner rites of passage, thereby enhancing participation in the world rather than reducing the individual to a social statistic.

The generic transits speak about individual planetary cycles, which have their own periods, and describe predictable times during which all people undergo a change within their psyche and thus an alteration of world-view. The psychological process that the planetary cycle symbolizes will be descriptive of the nature of the condition of the person who is experiencing the transit or progression.

Thus all planets have their individual relationship to the psyche and their own cycles of development, for example the Sun's yearly transit demarcating personal seasons; Mars' two-year cycles coinciding with changes in direction or energy level; Jupiter's twelve-year cycle corresponding to cycles of growth, expansion or indulgence and, of course, Saturn's twenty-nine-and-a-half-year cycle, which is what this book [Saturn in Transit] deals with almost exclusively.

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At this point it is important to realize that cycles within cycles are occurring constantly, and no one astrological measurement is sufficient in itself to explain or identify anything. This makes the work of an archetypal and process-oriented astrologer particularly interesting, but also a little more difficult to define in a cook-book fashion.

The heroic journey is a succession of stages preceded by experiences. Within each of those paradigmatic stages is the possibility for an infinite variety of personal experiences and results. Therefore, only the stages seem to be identifiable, and even then only in terms of movement or quality of time, rather than as events or predictable occurrences.

The value of being able to analyze a segment of life, or isolate what is actually part of an ongoing process, is fairly obvious: it gives a long-range perspective on a short-range experience. It is extremely seductive to be caught up in the drama of an event, even if that event is apparently world-shattering, like an unexpected death, a loss of position, a rejection or the emergence of some dark unconscious content into the consciousness.

Sometimes we have to initiate a change or a transition in our lives because we have apparently become 'stuck' or immobilized by inertia. There is a greater intelligence at work; it is the purposefulness of the Self which seeks constant expression and can only manifest its energy in bits and pieces through the mechanism of the ego. Never really satisfied, it continually pushes at us from within to change, change, change. For some individuals this is an exhausting process, for others it appears to be relatively unstressful. But for everyone it must happen.

The outer planets, the planets beyond the boundary of Saturn -- Uranus, Neptune and Pluto -- all initiate one into a new frame of reference, coinciding with major turning-points in life. These 'transpersonal' planets, as Dane Rudhyar termed them, have very long cycles and any aspect that they make to a natal planet will occur in that angle only once in a lifetime. (This is often a reassuring piece of mechanical information to a client. Many is the time that I have shared a good laugh with clients when I explain that Uranus is eighty-four years in its cycle or that Neptune will only be in a conjunction to their Mars every one hundred and sixty-eight years or that Pluto over their Sun will repeat itself in another two hundred and forty-five years!) These once-in-a-lifetime transits are, therefore, not just moods but Self-adjustments coinciding with deep structural renovation.


The placement of Saturn, its transit and its involvement in the evolution or process of life is a context within which other dynamics are in operation. In this way, Saturn offers a container for change -- a chronological, organized and structured opportunity to explore boundaries, dimensions and form.

Most individuals within Western society do not trust their inner voice, or astrologers would not have to re-educate their clientele about this matter and analysts would be out of a job. More often than not an astrological session is about validating the inner awareness of a person who is in crisis or transition and feels it, 'knows' it, but receives no feedback from the environment validating such a transition. An astrological client is intuitively aware of his or her participation in a greater scheme, but has no framework within which to identify this inner knowledge.

All ritual, whether it is religious, scientific, social or biological, is a re-enactment of some original process. During times of major shifts in cultural images, or archetypes, there is a need for religious experience in some form or another. Likewise, when an individual's inner frame of reference shifts, a new reference point is implied but not formed, establishing a period of chaos -- the transition gap -- within his or her soul. This threshold experience between one reality frame and another is finite and purposeful, but not often apparent at the time of the experience. It then becomes incumbent upon the astrologer to assist the client in the process of participating in a life experience, rather than explaining what is happening according to various planetary measurements and when it will be 'over'.

The nature of Saturn is hierarchical, caste-conscious, and as such will act as the part of our ego that moralizes about various actions or patterns of behavior that we might have exhibited at different times in our lives. The tendency for our 'inner Saturn' to want to assert itself over the 'external Saturn', and vice versa, is powerful. When we are experiencing a Saturn transit, we are looking at ourselves in very specific and critical way. We are measuring ourselves against some kind of norm. We are glancing back at a formulated position and re-evaluating it according to a newly emerging position. We are engaging in a rite of passage that will usher us into a new era in our lives that will be directly related to, and a result of, that which we are leaving behind.

The many and various stages that Saturn will initiate in the course of a life will break down and reformulate numerous epochs. That these pressure points seem tyrannical is the nature of the experience. A rite of passage instigated by Saturn will urgently try to right itself as quickly as possible, for Saturnian experiences dislike vagueness. There will be some familiarity to the new phase because it will be a continuation from the past, and it will also be made up of the same qualities but with different emphasis on what is important. Because of the hierarchical nature of Saturn there is often a tendency either consciously to disregard the past as irrelevant or to invalidate it completely. It is important to realize when one is in a Saturnian transition that, in spite of the fact that the past is no longer effective, it still remains valid.

In our personal history we are inclined to do the same as our collective historians tend to do, that is, criticize the values and mores of past cultures rather than see them as the foundations of the current world-view. Although Saturn did survive the transmutation from his Greek image of the castrating, devouring Kronos to the agrarian ruler of the Golden Age in Italic culture, the Romans tended to concentrate on his benign side and disregard his gobbling side. Ideally, it would be to one's advantage to acknowledge both these archetypes as they arise. The need to castrate our old oppressor in order to install a new order, then swallow our creative issue so as to preserve the status quo, is quite normal in the various stages of development. When we recognize that this is a process, and one, moreover, which repeats itself, we are freed to re-enact this scenario over and over again without reserve.

Saturn is the planet that establishes our rites of passage from one status quo to another and, as that functionary, should be regarded with respect and not with fear and dread. Furthermore, once we recognize that the revolution is originating from within, we are then more capable of conspiring and cooperating with the timing of the events precipitated by the transit.

 astrologyArticle Source:

Saturn in Transit
by Samuel Weiser Inc.

Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Red Wheel Weiser. ©2000.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book.

About the Author

astrologyErin Sullivan is Canadian born and has been a consultant astrologer and teacher since the late 1960s. She has lectured worldwide and led workshops and symposia on many aspects of human development using mythology, psychology and the rich language of astrology. She has been called 'the astrologer's astrologer'. Visit her website at


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