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Saturn return

AGE  29

Saturn  return

        You  can  run,  but  you  can't  hide        

It happens to everyone at age 29:  Saturn return. It's the astrological event which at long last separates the adolescents from the adults. It is the reason why people in their 30s are so very different from people in their 20s.

Some astrological configurations happen to everyone, and a few of them develop quite a reputation. Saturn return is one of those, although the bad rap Saturn return gets is only partially deserved.

If you are under 29, it's easy to get a quick idea about Saturn return. Just take a quick survey amongst your friends who are over the age of 30. If you don't yet have any friends over thirty, be patient--one day you will. Thirty is like death and taxes:   it happens to everybody, unless you're a James Dean or a Janis Joplin. (Both these high-profile American performers flamed out and died in their 20s.) For your survey, just ask your 30+ friends what it was like to be 29 years old.

Here's what you'll likely get for your results: A few (like a minority) will shrug. No big deal. But most (a majority) will roll their eyes to the ceiling and mutter something about it being a "difficult" year or tersely allow they're glad they don't have to go through that again. Then they'll quickly change the subject of the conversation.

No, you don't want to know what that was, so don't ask. Just be advised: it wasn't fun. Soap operas rarely are.

Sample natal chart

First let's look at what Saturn return is. Astrologers pinpoint the exact location of the planets for an individual's time of birth. We put it in a diagram we call the natal chart. The diagram at the left is an example of such a chart. That's all the natal chart is, a circular diagram of the Sun, the Moon, and the planets at the exact time a person was born.

Now after a person is born, those planets continue spinning counter clockwise around the circle. Some spin around quickly (the Moon whirls around once a month), but others move quite a bit more slowly.

Saturn is one of the slow pokes. It takes 29 years (for a small few 28 years) to move all the way around the natal chart once and return to the same place it was in the zodiac when the person was born. Hence the name, Saturn return. And everyone who hits 29 gets this. (Sorry James. Sorry Janis. You two will have to wait until your next incarnation for this experience.)

For example, the sample natal chart shown here (with a December 31, 1975 birth) places Saturn at 1° Leo, and this fictitious individual has Saturn return in July, 2005, when Saturn again moves through 1° Leo.

So what does this mean?


Even psychologists understand that people grow and change throughout their entire lives regardless of their age. What Saturn return marks is a specific period of growth and change. (It is one of several major periods of growth and change which astrologers note through any person's life.)

All planets represent energies which reside inside us, energies which can be used for better or worse depending on free choice. Used appropriately, Saturn represents the energies of wisdom, patience, maturity, responsibility, and bringing form into the material world from the metaphysical world. Misused, Saturn can represent, delays, frustrations, and repression.

In short, what happens at Saturn return is the bringing to fruition of the lessons of wisdom and maturity. Individuals who have learned their lessons of maturity through their 20s generally find Saturn return a summing up of their understanding of wisdom, patience, and maturity. They have a relatively smooth passage into the full adulthood which the 30s represent. Those people are the minority who shrugged during your survey.

Then there's the rest of us who have been playing away in our 20s, running away from growing up. European society and North American society in particular encourage an extended adolescence stretching well into the 20s.

This comes to a screeching halt at age 29. And often enough it's a tawdry soap opera. Age 29, Saturn return, is a turning point, a transition point in life. It is the point in life where lessons in maturity, wisdom and patience which have not yet been learned are learned, and learned the hard way if necessary.

If it seems as if the Universe is rubbing a person's nose in their immaturity and irresponsibility, well that's exactly what's going on. Events are thrown in an individual's face. Often the events are difficult and/or unpleasant. But the common thread running through these events (scandalous and difficult though they may be) is simple: grow up or live with the unpleasant consequences of not growing up.

It can be emotionally painful for someone who doesn't want to let go of juvenile patterns of behaviour. The advertising industry in particular, with its emphasis on youthful physical beauty, sadly promotes these very patterns of juvenile behaviour which Saturn return is determined to squeeze out of a person. Hence the majority of people in your survey who simply muttered about not wanting to go through that again.

It's not such a bad thing growing up


Growing up does have its merits. Individuals can reflect and review their lives, let go old obsolete ways of doing things, start new cycles and new projects. It's only a crises for those afraid to let go their immaturity; it's only a crises for those afraid to grow up.

The question which blasts away inside a person "Good grief, I'm almost thirty and what I have done with my life?" is a darn good question. And if the answer doesn't measure up, well by gosh make the changes necessary so that your life does have some meaning and direction.

It's not that a person is "old", but that suddenly the person is aware of his/her age and realizes that the time (a Saturn issue for sure) is ripe to make something of one's self. And there are fewer things sillier than someone 29 going on 30 behaving like a teeny-bopper (unless it's a forty-year-old doing so).

Issues of responsibility and accomplishment come to the fore. A surprising number of people look to make career and/or job changes at this time. Often relationships are revamped to encompass a new sense of maturity. In some cases, immature relationships are dumped rather summarily. The notorious romantic flings which sometimes occur at Saturn return always involve the lesson of maturity and growing up, however tawdry the script might have been.

Saturn rules structures, and people at age 29 take a long hard look at the structures in their life:  job, career, relationships, education, home life. These are structures in the material world which have defined them and told them who they are. Those structures are up for review and change. The old which is obsolete ends, but only so the new can begin. It is at Saturn return that individuals get the practical experience which enables them to understand the truth in an old saying: "Endings are beginnings".

In a wonderful webpage which disappeared from the internet many years ago, astrological writer Martha Pottenger described four options for an individual to handle Saturn return constructively:

"(1) Individuals who have chosen in their twenties a life structure which is really very suited to their character, may simply solidify their gains. They may receive an important promotion, take on additional responsibilities, gain increased power, but generally are just expanding on the path already selected. (This is a relatively small group among the total.)

"(2) Individuals who have not really settled into a life structure, who have been experimenting, or wandering, seeking and searching in their twenties, will feel the pressure of time. A group of them will make their first real commitment at this point. They will settle into a career (as opposed to "just a job"). They will get [a committed relationship].

"They will select a life structure which gives them a sense of stability, but fits what they've learned about themselves through the years of 'trying on' different things in their twenties. They will set their sights on accomplishments, and be ready to really dig in, building a foundation for the future.

"(3) Individuals who have also searched in their twenties, but not developed skills, self-confidence, or necessary expertise, may continue to flounder. They will also feel a sense of pressure, of time passing them by, of wanting to do something that will last--that will make a 'real' difference.

"Without adequate preparation or commitment, however, they tend to end up feeling blocked and frustrated. Nothing really works for them. Nothing comes together. Their efforts seem futile. To escape this trap, they must go back, build up their skills, competence and willingness to be practical about responsibilities. They have to take more time to catch up with their peers.

"(4) Individuals who have chosen in their twenties a life structure which is not very suited to their character, or who have simply changed a great deal, will make breaks. The old ways will feel confining, limiting, restrictive. Old patterns of behaviour seem formalized and lifeless. In such cases, the people involved may end relationships, quit or be fired from jobs, move, or otherwise alter the basic structure of their lives.

"Sometimes they break out before they know what they are going toward. They simply know that they cannot continue to work with the current design. After (or while) making their breaks, these people will actively seek a firm commitment. They will look for a life tasks which will provide them with a sense of achievement, mastery and competence. They will seek out responsibilities that will help them to feel they are making a real contribution and gaining expertise."


So is Saturn return a bad time? Absolutely not. The good news is that Saturn rules the things you already know about in concrete terms.

Because Saturn rules the things you know about and structures you can change with will and purpose, it is actually a simple matter to change the things which aren't working in your life and replace them with things which do work. It doesn't require a four-star soap opera (unless you are seriously inclined in that direction--Leos take note), but simply a sensitivity for your own maturing process.

One of the joys I have as an astrologer is meeting people six months after Saturn return is complete. Wow!  What a treat!  Here are individuals who have a sense of purpose and direction in their life, and the willingness to do the one-step-at-a-time work to get there. There is a level of determination and maturity which is a delight to watch.

For some this marks the beginning of a period of mature personal growth quite unlike previous life experience, and for others it can mark the first conscious awakenings of a larger and more profound spiritual journey in life. While other astrological indicators in the natal chart point clearly to the direction of the spiritual journey, Saturn return itself brings to an individual the wisdom and capacity to follow such an independent spiritual path in life.

And more good news: there's usually a period of relative stability during the early 30s where an individual can consolidate the changes and gains made during Saturn return, although for a small number of people the change process continues. While relative stability may not seem possible during the upheaval of age 29, trust me, everybody over 30 survived 29. And we are all quite content we will never see it again (at least in this life).

Saturn Saturn

But please.......

just don't ask us what happened at age 29.

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