Every 29-ish years Saturn comes back to the same point in the zodiac that it was in when you were born. Astrologers call this our Saturn return and it’s typically a time of growing up, honouring our commitments and taking responsibility in our lives.
Symbolically, Saturn is the planet of scarcity, of structure, restrictions and hard learning. Saturn is the disciplinarian, the devil, the shadow. Saturnian characters appear in almost every story as villains, as domineering parents, as strict school masters, and often, as the people who teach us the most important lessons.
When I first heard about Saturn returns I was terrified. I was expecting a lot of awfulness and perhaps, if I survived it, I would come out more awesome afterwards. Later on, my friend Roy told me “Nah, Saturn returns are great – they are the time in your life when you get to let go of all the messages about who you’re supposed to be – from society and family – and decide who you really are.” That sounded much better than just going through hell for potential long-term benefits. I waited with anticipation.
My experience has felt a lot like being hand-washed by a powerful woman in the olden days – in a very rough fashion – like my psyche has been scrubbed and rung out over and over. But Saturn manifests in many different ways, a lot of it comes down to which sign and house Saturn is in.
For people born the year before me, with Saturn in Libra, when I ask about their 29th year, a lot of them say it wasn’t all that bad. But then Saturn is exalted in Libra! When I ask if they went through massive changes in relationships and relating, whether they have been doing a lot of work to balance their lives and other Saturn in Libra things they generally agree with urgency and zest: “Yes! That was when my major relationship broke up and I went traveling” etc.
A Saturn return in Scorpio is a whole different ball game. Scorpio is intense. I would be surprised to find a 1985 baby out there who hasn’t had a very intense year. Scorpio governs power, money, fears, transformation, sex and all those deep-dark scary parts of ourselves. Saturn in Scorpio will bring up everyone’s fears around intimacy and security, but if it happens to be in a major transit for you, it will be a lot more intense. All of those things you’ve been running from, well, here they are. Deal.
How a Saturn return manifests will also relate to where Saturn is in your chart. Mine is in the 5th house: the party house. A few years ago I started going to a local transformational festival (Kiwiburn, New Zealand’s regional Burning Man event) and realised that partying and having fun is quite a hard thing for me to do (natal Saturn in the 5th). I want to be serious, I want to do soul-work. Why is everyone getting drunk and talking shmack? I just don’t get it.
Facing the tensions and paradoxes is all part of doing the work. My Saturn return started in January 2013, right in the middle of the festival. It was the first time I had volunteered to manage part of the festival and it was hard work. I got completely burnt out. I loved it, but it took me all year to recover, to decompress.
A couple of months later Saturn retrograded back over my natal Saturn and everything in my life was brought into question especially things relating structure, freedom and security, and personal attachments as well. Saturn returns are often like this: Saturn will move back and forth over your natal placement so that you get three good wallops of Saturny goodness! To help work through this energy I journalled every day (for the first time ever), processing, processing, letting go…
Saturn went direct again, as it does, and crossed over my natal Saturn again precisely as I was attending another huge festival, this time in Australia. Burning Seed was also incredibly intense. Pressure built up and up. I had a fantastic time and several terrifying experiences.
At one point I tripped over a fallen tree which was hidden in long grass. It is quite scary being in a forest in a country that has spiders and snakes when you come from a place like New Zealand. I had this weird bump on my knee and it was bleeding, so I went to the medics and was told by a volunteer that I’d probably been bitten by something: cue panic attack. She assured me it was probably just a spider: JUST a SPIDER?
While I struggled to breath in a normal way it occurred to me then that this was very appropriate of Saturn in Scorpio. A few minutes later the actual medic turned up and looked at my wound, “Aw, did you fall over and bang your knee?” I nodded, feeling very silly and very relieved. Although this experience wouldn’t usually have been so terrifying, my Saturn return in Scorpio amplified my fears, causing me to look at and acknowledge them in a new way.
Doing the work of Saturn return in Scorpio involves facing and working through our issues around fear and power, and because it’s Saturn, the best way to do it is through embracing structure. For me this has been through yoga and journalling, and recently, through eating what my body really wants to eat (no processed crap, no grains). It’s also meant embracing the structure imposed on me by having a child in school. My day now has a very definitive routine.
While this might sound boring, I’ve never been a structured, disciplined person in my life, so I’m in awe. I have resisted structure because I’ve always resisted what I was told to do – reacting to the messages from society and family, rather than really figuring out what I wanted and working towards that. Since my Saturn return I feel I’m free of the pattern of desperately trying to be free.
Another thing that my Saturn return has brought is the resolution of my childhood trauma. This is something I’ve been working with my whole life and now, suddenly, I feel like I’m not wounded and broken anymore. I’ve gained some kind of inner strength. Freaky!
So there is light at the end of the tunnel if you do the work, and despite being a masterful procrastinator, I have been doing the work. And here’s a bit of an incentive: apparently if you don’t resolve your Saturn stuff in your first Saturn return it will come back with a vengeance in 29 years time! Good luck :)
Have you just been through your Saturn return?
When I was coming up to my Saturn return in Scorpio I scoured the net looking for accounts of other people’s experience, trying to get some idea of what to expect. Sharing our stories can really help others who come behind us. Share your Saturn return in Scorpio story below.
Saturn return readings
Get a road map and avoid the pitfalls. Navigate your Saturn Return is a half hour reading to let you know the key dates of your Saturn return, as well as any supportive or difficult transits occurring during the same period. Understand the themes that will likely crop up for you and embrace your maturing self with joy rather than fear. You can do this!