Saturn Return Readings

No matter how grown up we think we may think we are in our twenties, life doesn’t usually challenge us seriously until our Saturn return.  We skip merrily through our twenties as if life were some kind of a picnic, as if we were charmed and invulnerable; and then suddenly, at age 29-30, a gauntlet is thrown down at us and we are forced to pick it up.  Seemingly insuperable difficulties and obstacles pop up, everything we’ve been relying upon and taking for granted gives way, and we are faced for the first time with intimations of our mortality.  It is a time of isolation and anguish.

Whether this sensation is pleasant (challenging) or unpleasant (oppressing), and which specific areas of life are affected, depend upon the condition of Saturn by sign, aspect, and house in the natal chart.  But there is usually a sense  that time is running out on us; we are getting older and still haven’t even begun to get a firm grasp on life; and how we’ve been handling ourselves up until now just isn’t going to cut the mustard. We are called upon to work hard, to truly dedicate ourselves, rather than to get by passing over our experience lightly and half-heartedly.

Life is serious business:  decisions count, decisions can be irreversible. Life is like a vortex that can suck you down, down, down and trap you helplessly unless you take a stand.  And the Saturn return is one of those times when we must take a stand and show life that we mean business. Something difficult, daunting, and oftentimes disagreeable has to be faced up to and dealt with.  Of course, people have the option of ducking out of this responsibility and running merrily off to play; but if they do this, then they will spend their thirties – and perhaps the rest of their lives – adrift.

If the Saturn return is difficult, it is nonetheless also an opportunity.  It calls for a tour de force – we have to go beyond ourselves, beyond what we thought we were capable of – and therefore it teaches us how to accept more responsibility for our lives and destinies. In forcing us to come to terms with our own limitations, Saturn teaches us the true meaning of freedom.

Finally, in the year or so after the Saturn return passes, a sign is given to us.  We are shown that, yes, we are on the right track in life; yes, our suffering does have a purpose; yes, we can control the direction our life will take by using our own volition.  We may have lost the nervous, eager expectations of our youth, but in their place we have discovered forbearance, discipline, and wisdom.

What each of the people in the following six examples had to do during their Saturn returns was to deepen – or seriously reexamine – their commitments. That’s what the Saturn return is all about: deepening one’s commitment to life instead of running off merrily to play.

Miyamoto Musashi – samurai swordsman
 “From youth my heart has been inclined toward the Way of strategy.  My first duel was when I was thirteen. I struck down a strategist of the Shinto school, one Arima Kibei.  When I was twenty-one I went up to the capital and met all manner of strategists, never once failing to win in many contests.

 “After that I went from province to province dueling with strategists of various schools, and not once failed to win even though I had as many as sixty encounters.  This was between the ages of thirteen and twenty-eight or twenty-nine.

 “When I reached thirty I looked back on my past.  The previous victories were not due to my having mastered strategy. Perhaps it was natural ability, or the order of heaven, or that other school’s strategy was inferior.  After that I studied morning and evening searching for the principle, and came to realize the Way of strategy when I was fifty."

Beverly Sills – opera singer
 “The 1958 spring season of the City Opera would be devoted to contemporary American operas, sponsored by the Ford Foundation.  The showpiece opera was to be The Ballad of Baby Doe  by Douglas Moore.

 “I loved the role (of Baby Doe).  I read everything that had ever been written about her. I copied her hairdos from whatever photographs I could find. I absorbed her so completely in those five weeks of studying the opera that I knew her inside and out.  I was  Baby Doe.

 “At every performance Walter Cassel, as Horace, made me cry.  When Horace was dying he would look up at me and sing, ‘You were always the real thing, Baby’ and I would sing, in reply, ‘Hush, close your eyes.  Rest.’  Then I would take him in my arms and howl like a baby.  It was difficult to do the final aria after that scene. Walter and I lived those roles when we were on stage; there was never a moment during the performances when I didn’t believe he was Horace Tabor. And even offstage he never called me Beverly or anything else, just ‘Baby.’

 “The morning after the opening night I grabbed the New York Herald Tribune away from Peter (her husband) before he had a chance to look at it.  But there was no review on the regular review page. ‘Look at that,’  I said to Peter, ‘they didn’t even cover it, can you imagine?’  ‘Well,’ Peter said,  ‘do you mind if I read the rest of the paper?’  He turned to the front page and there – on the front page! – was the review.

 “The Ballad of Baby Doe is one of the great contemporary American works. I will always be grateful to Douglas Moore for having written it and for the opportunity it gave me to play opposite someone like Walter Cassel. Baby became an integral part of my operatic experience; it was difficult to shake her off even after I left the opera house. If I have ever achieved definitive performances during my career this far, Baby Doe is one of them. The other three would be Menon, Cleopatra in Julius Caesar, and Queen Elizabeth in Robert Devereux. They have been the only times in my entire career when I have walked out of the theater feeling that I have done everything I wanted to do with a role and that nobody else could have done it better.”

Charles Darwin – biologist
 “During these two years (ages 28-30) I was led to think much about religion.  Whilst on board the Beagle I was quite orthodox, and I remember being heartily laughed at by several of the officers (though themselves orthodox) for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality.  I suppose it was the novelty of the argument that amused them. But I had gradually come, by this time, to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow as a sign, etc. etc., and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian.

 “But I was very unwilling to give up my beliefs; I feel sure of this for I can well remember often and often inventing day-dreams of old letters between distinguished Romans and manuscripts being discovered at Pompeii or elsewhere which confirmed in the most striking manner all that was written in the Gospels.  But I found it more and more difficult, with free scope given to my imagination, to invent evidence which would suffice to convince me.  Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete.  The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct.  I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my father, brother, and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished.

 “And that is a damnable doctrine.”

Albert Schweitzer – theologian
 “One morning in the autumn of 1904 I found on my writing table in the college one of the green-covered magazines in which the Paris Missionary Society reported every month on its activities.  That evening, in the very act of putting it aside that I might go on with my work, I mechanically opened this magazine. As I did so, my eye caught the title of an article: ‘The needs of the Congo Mission.’

“The writer expressed his hope that his appeal would bring some of those ‘on whom the master’s eyes already rested’ to a decision to offer themselves for this urgent work.  Having finished the article, I quietly began my work. My search (for a way of serving others) was over.

“My thirtieth birthday a few months later I spent like the man in the parable who ‘desiring to build a tower, first counts the cost whether he have wherewith to complete it.’  The result was that I resolved to realize my plan of direct human service in Equatorial Africa.

“My relatives and my friends all joined in expostulating with me on the folly of my enterprise.  In the many verbal duels which I had to fight, as a weary opponent, with people who passed for Christians, it moved me strangely to see them so far from perceiving that the effort to serve the love preached by Jesus may sweep a man into a new course of life.  They thought there must be something behind it all, and guessed at disappointment at the slow growth of my reputation.  Unfortunate love experiences were also alleged as the reason for my decision.  I felt as a real kindness the action of persons who made no attempt to dig their fists into my heart, but regarded me as a precocious young man, not quite right in the head, and treated me correspondingly with affectionate mockery.

“What seemed to my friends the most irrational thing in my plan was that I wanted to go to Africa, not as a missionary, but as a doctor, and thus when already thirty years of age burdened myself as a beginning with a long period of laborious study.  And that this study would mean for me a tremendous effort, I had no manner of doubt. I did, in truth, look forward to the next few years with dread.  But the reasons which determined me to follow the way of service I had chosen, as a doctor, weighed so heavily that other considerations were as dust in the balance.”

Bertrand Russell – mathematician
 “About the time that these lectures finished, when we were living with the Whiteheads at the Mill House in Grantchester, a more serious blow fell than those that had preceded it.  I went out bicycling one afternoon, and suddenly, as I was riding along a country road, I realized that I no longer loved Alys.  I had had no idea until this moment that my love for her was even lessening.  The problem presented by this discovery was very grave. We had lived ever since our marriage in the closest possible intimacy.  I had no wish to be unkind, but I believed in those days (what experience has taught me to think possibly open to doubt) that in intimate relations one should speak the truth.  I did not see in any case how I could for any length of time successfully pretend to love her when I did not.  I had no longer any instinctive impulse toward sex relations with her, and this alone would have been an insuperable barrier to concealment of my feelings.

 “Although my self-righteousness at that time seems to me in retrospect repulsive, there were substantial grounds for my criticisms.  She tried to be more impeccably virtuous than is possible for human beings, and was thus led into insincerity. She was malicious, and liked to make people think ill of each other, but she was not aware of this, and was instinctively subtle in her methods.

 “During my bicycle ride a host of such things occurred to me, and I became aware that she was not the saint I had always supposed her to be. But in the revulsion I went too far, and forgot the great virtues that she did in fact possess.

 “The most unhappy moments of my life were spent at Grantchester.  My bedroom looked out upon the mill, and the noise of the millstream mingled inextricably with my despair. I lay awake through long nights, hearing first the nightingale, and then the chorus of birds at dawn, looking out upon the sunrise and trying to find consolation in external beauty.  I suffered in a very intense form the loneliness which I had perceived a year before to be the essential lot of man.”


Dylan Thomas – poet

Poem in October

It was my thirtieth year to heaven
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbor wood
And the mussel pooled and the heron
Priested shore
The morning beckon
With water praying and call of seagull and rook
And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall
Myself to set foot
That second
In the still sleeping town and set forth.

My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
Above the farms and the white horses
And I rose
In rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
Over the border
And the gates
Of the town closed as the town awoke.

A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
Blackbirds and the sun of October
On the hill’s shoulder,
Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly
Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
To the rain wringing
Wind blow cold
In the wood faraway under me.

Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
And over the sea wet church the size of a snail
With its horns through the mist and the castle
Brown as owls
But all the gardens
Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales
Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.
There could I marvel
My birthday
Away but the weather turned around.

It turned away from the blithe country
And down the other air and the blue altered sky
Streamed again a wonder of summer
With apples
Pears and red currants
And I saw in the turning so clearly a child’s
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
Through the parables
Of sun light
And the legends of the green chapels

And the twice told fields of infancy
That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
These were the woods the river and sea
Where a boy
In the listening
Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
And the mystery
Sang alive
Still in the water and singingbirds.

And there could I marvel my birthday
Away but the weather turned around.  And the true
Joy of the long dead child sang burning
In the sun.
It was my thirtieth
Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
O may my heart’s truth
Still be sung
On this high hill in a year’s turning.

Bob Makransky’s Astrology Corner © 2001

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