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We all arrive at the first Saturn return at the ages of 29-30.
Whether we know we’re having one or not, the broad determinants are the same. My metaphor for this return is the recollection I have of a school science class, where I was fascinated to observe the growth of a copper sulphate crystal, which, over a period of weeks, emerged from clear blue water into a highly-defined, beautiful, crystalline shape.
At the first Saturn return, the crystalline shape that must emerge is that of realism. In a developmentally healthy person, the purity of that crystal of realism isn’t overly tainted by bitterness, cynicism, and disillusion, all of which corrode the soul and limit the potential for further growth. As the crystal of realism emerges, it may well carry with it some pain, grief, and depression. This is healthy and normal enough as part of the process of getting through the 27-to-30-year period. We know from observation of the lives of others, and our own, that this period is critical.
To an astrologer’s perception, its critical nature is emphasized by the knowledge that ages 27-30 brings with it four major symbolic patterns that are all about differentiation, individuation, and the facing and purging of illusions that hold us back from realization of our full potential.
These patterns are: the second transit of the North Node to the natal South Node’s position at age 27; the progressed Moon’s return around age 27; transiting Pluto to natal Neptune between 27-29; and, of course, the Saturn return between ages 29-30, which seems to focus the other three patterns.
Letting go: illusions and defences
Letting go of the illusions and defences that buffer us from the poundings of life, but which also limit our becoming what we may most fully be, can be desperately painful. During this period, I was forced to give up my long cherished illusion of being a writer. It gave me a secret sense of superiority over the rest of the world and met my profound need to be special and different.
When put to the test between ages 27-30, it crumbled. I realized that I had writing talent, for which I received some public recognition, but I also discovered that I lacked the single-minded drive that keeps one at it full-time. With out shedding my illusion and moving on, I would never have been able to develop my other gifts and talents, which began to take shape from my Saturn return onward.
The development of an internal locus of evaluation — a sound sense of one’s own worth that isn’t overly dependent on the approval of parents, colleagues, partners, or peers — is another psychological change that should be happening to a reasonably substantial degree by the Saturn return.
Saturn: taking responsibility
This marks the point in life where we are no longer seen as children or even very young adults by the larger world. We are expected to take responsibility for our own actions, and to be effective in the world as workers, partners, parents, and friends, with no excuses or allowances having to be made for our youth and immaturity.
Ideally, we should also have developed a sense of what the boundary is between our parents and ourselves — between their demands of us and ours of them — and how to respond to them in a mature fashion without falling prey to old, child-like patterns of behaviour. If our parents haven’t been mature enough to let go of us, we should be well on our way towards having the maturity to draw our own boundaries.
Rites of Passage: fire, air, earth and water
Although there is a common core to the rites of passage we all face, birth charts show that there are as many different Saturn returns as there are individuals. With Saturn in a fire sign, one’s core challenge is to find faith in life. This, in turn, fuels the struggle to establish an unshakable sense of self-worth and of the special nature of one’s contributions to the world. The Saturn-in-water person’s major task is to come to terms with the inevitability that we are all separate and alone, no matter how much we may love other people or be loved by them.
For Saturn in air, developing mental discipline, establishing intellectual credibility, and contributing worthwhile ideas to collective life are key formative tasks. The Saturn-in-earth person must form a sound relationship with the world of everyday reality, and pay the physical and material dimensions of life their due, in order to feel at peace within.
Each will have a different journey through the first formative Saturn cycle. The sign and house positions of Saturn, as well as whether it is angular or not, the Lunar Nodes, Chiron, and other planetary connections, provide the fine-tuning that shows the relationship between the archetypal forces present in all of life and the many differing ways they may manifest individually.
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800 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
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