Saturn is the planet furthest away from the sun and earth and still visible to the eye. It symbolizes the limit of the “real world” of our consensual ideas about what we do and can perceive through the five physical senses. It represents the boundary between the personal and the social (as in “to respect another’s boundaries”), and the socio-cultural world and realms of the transpersonal. It is ordinary reality relative to time and space. Saturn’s function is to protect, to create structure, to limit and to clarify by defining. In Freudian psychology, it is the superego. Jungians call it the “wise old man,” the Senex.
Saturn balances the other planetary energies to keep them from getting out of hand. It keeps the Moon (inner mother) from smothering and spoiling the “inner child,” and it keeps the Sun, the hero, from getting overly ego-inflated and from falling into narcissism.
Growing up and growing older, taking responsibility, attending to duty are characteristics of Saturn. It is the patient endurance and persistence that supports our intentions and gives “follow through” to our will and sense of purpose.
The myth of Chronos (archetypal “Time”) illustrates the negative, dark side of Saturn and Capricorn. Chronos dethroned, displaced and castrated his father Uranus, the sky god. Chronos devoured his own children to maintain his position by destroying the competition and ensuring the status quo of his own authority. Eventually, of course, he was dethroned and supplanted by his son Zeus (a.k.a. Jupiter).
The Roman holiday, “Saturnalia,” a Dionysian festival, fell on the winter solstice. It was a time of revelry and pleasure when all the rules were dumped for a week. It was such an important event in the year that the early Christian church fathers had to assign their savior’s birthday to the solstice. Hence, Christmas is December 25th, the old calendar solstice date. The gods never die; they just change their names!
How Saturn functions in an individual’s chart depends on the basic psychological orientation of the person. If he or she is “process-oriented,” and sees himself as constantly becoming better, then Saturn is a benefic. A person predominantly concerned with end results tends to feel Saturn as a malefic. If only the result counts, then one cannot make a mistake, must be perfect. Growth and change are threatening.
There is a tendency to deny having Saturn qualities according to its sign and house. For example, Saturn in Leo wants to be a star, to be loved and adored, and the person tries to deny the desire for attention; if intensely loved by another, she may flee in terror.
Denial is reflected in the part of the body associated with the Saturn sign or its opposite). For the above example, it can give tightening, rigidity and calcification in the back and spine as well as in the ankles and heels (Aquarius). A repressed Saturn comes out in dreams as wicked, devouring, frightening figures. We project it onto our relationships by turning our boss or spouse into an autocratic authority figure, and by relying on external authorities, i.e. “they say…” “the Bible says…” “everyone knows.” instead of using our own common sense. Teachers, priests, physicians, lawyers can take advantage of our projected Saturn.
For example, an M.D. used to being regarded as the final authority on your health can be stopped in his tracks when you spout a few four-syllable words of medical jargon and pointedly remind him that he is your servant – a hired hand, just like the gardener (of course, he may be so attached to his god-image that he’ll tell you to get your gardener to perform the surgery instead of him).
Saturn can be over-compensating (known as “reaction formation” in psychologese), in which case it functions like Jupiter. A person with Saturn in Leo can act like a Don Juan/Donna Juanita as easily as someone with Jupiter in Leo. The motivation, however, is entirely different! Saturn fears he is not lovable, and so must prove it to himself through his many amatory conquests. Jupiter feels he is so wonderful he must share himself with as many lovers as possible.
Saturn can be the fear of having or not having the qualities of its sign. Saturn in Aries may fear freedom, fear not being #I, fear he cannot survive alone. Saturn in Taurus fears his sensuality, fears money or has fears about not having money. Saturn in Gemini fears being ignorant and uninformed, or fears learning and education, etc.
Saturn in our charts may describe qualities of which we are intolerant when we see them in others. Saturn in Scorpio does not like overt sexuality nor other people who use or have power; Saturn in Pisces hates maudlin sentimentality; Saturn in Sagittarius does not care for people who act special or entitled (“what makes you think, you’re so great?”).
The best service an astrologer can provide is to assist the client in making friends with Saturn in his chart. Saturn is what gets us where we ultimately want to go. Its urge toward self-discipline keeps us fit and trim, our business and personal affairs in order, our bodies and dwelling places in good repair. It is our knowledge of the importance of making plans while having the flexibility to change those plans when necessary to stay in line with our goals.
*Picture by Christina Balit
About the author:
Eleanor Buckwalter has studied, practiced and taught astrology in Los Altos, CA for more than twenty-five years, including three years with the late Richard Idemon, a psychological astrologer. Her primary astrological focus of interest is parent-child relationships and family dynamics.