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Saturn retrograde: the art of pruning

Saturn retrograde Image author unknown

On 23 May 2021 Saturn turns retrograde and will remain in apparent backward motion until 11 October. During this time it will form a second exact square with transiting Uranus (more on that important transit here).

Retrograde Saturn is a time for pruning away anything that no longer serves you. The art of pruning is very Saturnian, exemplified in Japanese bonsai where the plant is severely pruned and curtailed to create something beautiful. Thus is Retrograde Saturn; it may not be pleasant but it is for our own good!

Due to lack of understanding and negative hype, the word ‘retrograde’ has a tendency to freak people out. In reality retrograde periods are second chances, opportunities to go back over old ground and complete missions we may not have got right the first time.

Saturn has a similarly bad reputation. In traditional astrology Saturn is considered to be malefic, bringing struggle and hardship. The term ‘Saturn retrograde’ is therefore loaded with connotations of difficulty, heaviness and loss. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

With Saturn retrograde we have an opportunity to look at issues of personal authority, responsibility, commitment and inhibition head on and make any necessary adjustments to our lives or our state of mind. For this reason I see Saturn retrograde as a blessing – it’s a great time to dig deep and to clear out any old emotional crap that is holding us back in our lives.

During Saturn retrograde there is much you can do to work positively with this energy. Writing a journal can help, especially if you can turn off your left-brain, perfectionist, editor archetype and just allow the words to flow freely. In fact most artistic pursuits can be very helpful in bringing stagnant emotional energy to the surface: try drawing, sculpting, dancing, singing or any other form of expression that appeals to you.

How will Saturn retrograde affect you

Those with Saturn placed prominently in the natal chart will feel retrograde Saturn most strongly. This may be through having several planets placed in Capricorn, particularly the Sun, Moon or Ascendant, or because Saturn is exalted (in Libra) or well aspected. Those with Saturn retrograde in the natal chart may encounter a period of discouragement, lethargy or loneliness that will need to be overcome.

Anyone with planets or points between 6 and 13 degrees of the fixed signs (Scorpio, Leo, Aquarius and Taurus) will also probably feel Saturn retrograde quite strongly. Also check your birth chart to see which house Saturn is transiting. This will give you a better idea of how this transit will impact you.

If you don’t have one yet, you can get a free birth chart at To understand how to read your birth chart, and follow the transits in your own life, download my free ebook The Language of Astrology.

Share your experience of Saturn retrograde…

When I was younger the strong Jupiter in me found bonsai, the Japanese art of pruning and training a tree, difficult to understand or accept. I wanted nature, and myself by implication, to be completely free. But as the years passed I began to see the strength and beauty that comes from enduring challenging times, and the value of pruning away excess.

Lisa Byrne of the Art of Simple sums this up beautifully, writing: “When we can become skilled at selectively knowing what to prune out of our lives, what remains becomes stronger, brighter, clearer. Our time and attention can be focused to produce beautiful, rich fruits.”

The retrograde Saturn cycle is a long one. During this time we may find that we encounter obstacles to achieving our goals, however while outward success may allude us there will be an opportunity to work with Saturn on the inner level. With Saturn retrograde we will be particularly called to recognise and take responsibility for the areas of our life where we may lack commitment or stamina.

While retrograde Saturn is not an easy transit it does offer an opportunity to delineate where our responsibilities begin and end.

Going within is not always easy, especially when we encounter painful emotions such as guilt and shame. But during retrograde Saturn we can discover reservoirs of strength and will power within us that will help us face up to these calcified habit patterns that no longer serve us. 

If you have retrograde Saturn in your natal chart how have you learned to work with this energy? How does it affect you in your day to day life?

How have you been faring during the Saturn retrograde transit? What issues has it brought up that need to be resolved? Please share your thoughts so we can learn together.

6 Comments on Saturn retrograde: the art of pruning

  1. Thanks for making things so easy to understand, all the astro jargon is slowly starting to sink in :)

  2. Thank you for this perspective. :) I am finally learning to view Saturn as a helpful (if not always nice) influence.

  3. I have Saturn on my Ascendant, I would not be the strong person that I am without it!

  4. I have a natal Saturn retrograde in the 10th house, 10 degrees Capricorn! this has felt a struggle my whole life around moving ahead in my career. It has felt like I’ve had authority figures blocking my efforts and opportunities rapidly falling away and disappointments which have lead me to take control of my own career, moving into alternative directions. In reflection, this has been a positive thing, allowing me to be very progressive with my work which is connected to conscious evolution and sits outside the matrix.
    At times it feels very isolating and slow moving, it has built resistance and trust in my inner self. During this retrograde time it kind of feels like a breath of fresh air as I’m currently writing books and I’m feel highly motivated to complete a few projects during this time – maybe a double retrograde is a positive time for people like me 😂

  5. Saturn is like a stern parent or teacher
    looking over your shoulder constantly.
    Ive had to accept that being it,s my
    Ascendant.If I go with it and keep
    downsizing,simplifying ,minimising
    and balancing practical and necessary,
    with playful feminine energy,I can learn
    to love the linear and embellish it.
    It can forge lead into gold in time
    and style.Only the best is left.No wastage
    It can be acceptingly satisfying.This is not
    easy for Gemini!

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