Saturn’s complete cycle around the Sun takes 29.4 years. The hard aspects of Saturn (squares and oppositions) take place each seven years, so each 7-year period ends with a new phase of maturing and taking stock of our lives. We become true adults at about the age of 28-29, when Saturn has made a complete orbit around the Sun from where it was when we were born-a period we call the Saturn return. At 56-8 years old, we experience the second Saturn Return. These Returns are considered significant milestones in the human maturation cycle.
The seven-year phases between Saturn aspects to natal Saturn are the normal stress periods of living and growing, which psychologists call normative crises (for example, adolescent turmoil at 14, or moving out on your own at 21). We all go through these crises, but if your natal Saturn has difficult aspects, (hard aspects to the Sun, Moon, Ascendant, Pluto, or Neptune, for instance), these periods can be more difficult. Periods like your Saturn Return or other Saturn transits are opportunities to change from misuses of Saturn and to better uses. While 21 is popularly considered our coming of age, in reality it’s just an entry-level position into adulthood. The person who is 28-30 has now faced most of the challenges of becoming a seasoned adult.
Saturn has to do with maturing and aging, and the positive Saturnian is mature. Saturn is a time marker, but shouldn’t be devastating unless we are only marking time. For those who are growing and developing steadily through persistent effort, aging holds little regret because they’re not getting older; they’re getting better. In fact, in the very areas where they seemed to have been late bloomers, Saturnians often come into their own in some later phases of their Saturn cycles.
Many young Saturnians are too old for their age and not comfortable with their peers. Their comfort level improves with age, especially as they approach the age where Saturnian qualities like maturity and caution are expected due to responsibilities of a career or family. Also, they are more at ease once they find a sense of security and self-worth through their accomplishments, so that the more difficult expressions such as insecurity and self-condemnation improve.
Saturn transits force you to face up to reality… a jolt if you’ve been fooling yourself about the problems you face. But the positive result is that once you’ve finished emoting about the unfairness of it all, you can get to work on establishing more substantial and solid foundations. Foundation building may not be as much fun as drifting and dreaming on a pink cloud, but the bank doesn’t take pink clouds as collateral. Saturn is the wisdom gained from experience… even if you’re thickheaded and your alma mater is the School of Hard Knocks.
Many negative situations that arise under Saturn transits result from not using Saturn in a positive way in the first place. If you haven’t developed self-discipline, a Saturn transit might bring the loss of something you haven’t been disciplined about. Discipline imposed from the outside is meant to foster discipline from within. If you’ve built your house on the sand, figuratively speaking, a Saturn transit might level the house and make you go back to rebuild more solid foundations. Saturn is not punitive, but an impartial rectification of error-the Celestial Computer kicking your input back for correction because “it does not compute.”
Used constructively, a Saturn transit can help develop stability, strength of character, self-discipline, and a new ability to organize and structure life. If you’ve exercised some of these traits already in the area affected by the transit, then it will be a period of further growth in that area and a reaping of the reward for what you’ve already sowed.
Note: This is an excerpt from Donna Cunningham’s classic text for beginning to intermediate students, An Astrological guide to Self-Awareness, a revised edition in eBook form.