Five Tips for Interpreting the Saturn Return
Perhaps you’ve recently learned about the phenomenon known as the “Saturn return,” but don’t know what it will mean specifically for you.
By following the tips below, you will develop a more detailed understanding of your own Saturn return, and the types of themes that you might expect to see emerge during the course of that period in your life.
1. Determine When Your Saturn Return Will Occur
First, you need to know where Saturn was when you were born, since by definition the “Saturn return” is the period of time when Saturn returns to the same location in the sky that it was in at the moment of your birth. For the purpose of this article you need to know both the sign of the zodiac and the exact degree that Saturn was in when you were born.
Once you have figured out the location of Saturn when you were born, the next step is to determine when your Saturn return will take place. For the details on how to do this, please see my other article titled How to Calculate Your Saturn Return.
This brings us to the first interpretive principle of this article:
The Saturn return begins as soon as Saturn moves back into the same sign that it was in when you were born, and it ends when Saturn leaves that sign.
Now, technically the exact Saturn return occurs when Saturn returns to the same degree of the zodiac that it was in at your birth; however, this does not mark the start or end point of the entire Saturn return period. Rather, it is the entrance of transiting Saturn into a person’s natal Saturn sign that marks the beginning of the Saturn return, and it is the departure of transiting Saturn from that same sign which marks the end of the return.
While it is accurate to say that the period immediately surrounding Saturn’s return to the exact degree it held in your birth chart is a particularly pivotal and sometimes climactic time during the course of the overall Saturn return, it is important to understand that the return itself actually begins once Saturn returns back to its natal sign.
This is nice because it gives you some pretty clear guideposts to work with. All you have to do in order to figure out when your Saturn return begins is to find out when transiting Saturn will first return to your natal Saturn sign, and all you have to do in order to find out when it is over is to see when Saturn will leave that same sign.
Since Saturn can sometimes move back and forth across sign boundaries for several months due to retrogrades, the main thing that you need to take into account is the first time that Saturn goes back into the natal sign and then the last time that it leaves that sign for the next couple of decades. This gives you your start and end dates.
So, for example, if you were born with Saturn in Libra then your Saturn return began around October 29, 2009, when Saturn made its first ingress back into Libra since the early 1980s. Saturn-in-Libra folks will end their Saturn returns around October 5, 2012, which is when Saturn will move out of Libra and into Scorpio, not to return to Libra again for another couple of decades.
On the other hand, if you were born with Saturn in Scorpio, then your Saturn return will begin on October 5, 2012, when Saturn ingresses into Scorpio for the first time since the mid-1980s, and then eventually your Saturn return will end when Saturn leaves Scorpio for the last time on September 18, 2015.
While some of these dates might be expanded a bit if you were born with Saturn very early or late in a sign, the important period to focus on is when Saturn will return to the same sign as when you were born. Once you have this figured out, then you know when your Saturn return will take place, and can proceed with trying to identify what will happen in your life during that time frame.
2. Determine Saturn’s Sect Status
Now that you know when your Saturn return will occur, the next step is to figure out what will happen during that period of your life.
The first step in this process is to determine whether Saturn tends to function in an easier or more difficult manner in your chart. While ancient astrologers generally referred to Saturn as a “malefic” planet, since it often tends to coincide with events in our lives that we experience as not very enjoyable, there is actually a wide spectrum of ways in which the events that Saturn indicates can work out. One of the principal ways to determine whether you will tend to experience Saturn as being more positive or negative in your chart is through the astrological concept known as “sect.”
Broadly speaking, the concept of sect is used in order to make a distinction between people who were born during the day and people who were born at night. The premise is that some of the planets function differently depending on whether a person has a day chart or a night chart. This becomes especially important when it comes to Saturn’s position in the natal chart.
This brings us to our second principle in interpreting Saturn returns:
People who were born during the day tend to experience their Saturn returns as being a more constructive time during their lives, while people who were born at night tend to experience their Saturn returns as being more difficult.
This is a pretty straightforward rule once you figure out if you were born during the day or at night. In order to determine this, you just have to see whether the Sun is above or below the ascendant/descendant axis in the chart, which basically represents the horizon.
If the Sun is above the ascendant/descendant axis, in the top half of the chart, then the person was born during the day. On the other hand, if the Sun is below the ascendant/descendant axis in the chart, then the person was born at night.
There are definitely other factors that can offset the sect status of Saturn, which primarily have to do with its position by sign, house and aspect with the other planets, but for the most part all you need to know is that some of the more positive significations associated with Saturn tend to be more prominent for people with day charts, while some of the more negative significations associated with Saturn tend to be more prominent for people who have night charts. For better or worse, these significations will become much more prominent in the life of the native during the Saturn return.
3. The House that Saturn is in
Once you have determined when the Saturn return will take place and whether it will tend to be experienced as more constructive or challenging, the next step is to figure out which topics will be the focus of your Saturn return. For this we look to the house where Saturn is located in your natal chart.
For the purpose of determining what house is activated during the Saturn return, I would recommend using whole sign houses. With whole sign houses you just have to determine what sign the ascendant is in, and then that sign becomes the first house. The next sign in zodiacal order becomes the second house. The sign after that becomes the third house, and so on.
When you are using whole sign houses within the context of the Saturn return, what this means is that not only is Saturn returning back to its natal sign, but it is also returning back to its natal house for the entire duration of your Saturn return. Naturally this means that the topics or areas of life associated with that specific house are going to become highlighted during the Saturn return.
This brings us to our third interpretive principle for understanding Saturn returns:
The topics associated with the house that Saturn is in natally will become more prominent in the person’s life during the Saturn return.
So, for example, if your natal Saturn is in the 7th house of relationships, then there is a pretty good chance that a large part of your Saturn return will have to do with relationships. If your Saturn return is in the 10th house of career then there is a pretty good chance that the focal point of your Saturn return will be your career.
Here is a list of some of the main significations of the houses in order to give you some idea of what topics might come up for you if your natal Saturn is located in a certain house:
- 1st house: health, the body, physical vitality, physical appearance, personality
- 2nd house: finances, possessions, money, resources
- 3rd house: siblings, education, travel, extended family
- 4th house: the home, the living situation in general, the parents, the family in general
- 5th house: children, sex, procreation, creative pursuits
- 6th house: illness, work, service, subordinates
- 7th house: relationships, marriage, partners, other people in general
- 8th house: the possessions of others, other people’s money, debt, inheritance, death, mortality in general
- 9th house: education, foreign travel, people from other countries, religion and philosophy, beliefs
- 10th house: career, reputation, what one does, life direction, superiors
- 11th house: friends, allies, groups, social movements
- 12th house: solitude, places of confinement or retreat, illness, loss, enemies
While this list of significations for each of the houses certainly isn’t exhaustive, it gives you some idea of the main topics associated with each of the houses. At least one of the main themes associated with the house where your natal Saturn is located in your birth chart will become prominent during your Saturn return.
4. The Houses That Saturn Rules
In addition to the house where Saturn is located in the natal chart, you also should pay attention to the houses that Saturn rules in the chart, as the topics associated with these houses also often come into prominence during the course of the Saturn return.
For our purposes here we will be using the traditional rulership scheme, in which Saturn rules both Capricorn and Aquarius. I would also still recommend that you use whole sign houses, which were explained earlier.
In order to apply this rule in your own chart, what you should do is identify which houses are aligned with or overlap the signs Capricorn and Aquarius in the chart. So, for example, if the sign Capricorn is aligned with the 5th house in the chart, we would say that Saturn is the ruler of the 5th house. Or if Aquarius was aligned with the 2nd house in a particular chart, we would say that Saturn is the ruler of the 2nd house.
This brings us to interpretive principle number four:
When Saturn returns back to its natal position it will not only activate some of the topics related to the house that it is located in natally, but also topics associated with the houses that it rules in the natal chart as well.
So, if Saturn rules the 5th house in a given chart we might expect the topic of children to become prominent during the Saturn return. If Saturn rules the 2nd house we would expect the topic of finances to become prominent. Please refer to the table provided earlier in the article for a list of some main significations of the houses.
What you may have noticed at this point is that during the Saturn return there can be as many as three houses being activated. There is the house that Saturn is in natally, and then there are the two houses that Saturn rules. Now, in some charts there will be some overlap so that there are only two houses being activated, for example when Saturn is in one of the signs that it rules. Either way, though, there will be two to three houses activated in a chart during the course of the Saturn return. To a certain extent this explains why the Saturn return is often experienced as a particularly crucial time or period of culmination in several different areas of a person’s life.
5. Hard Aspects With Other Planets
The final tip for interpreting the Saturn return is to pay attention to aspects that Saturn makes to other planets in the natal chart, as these configurations will become activated during the Saturn return, and they can help to characterize how it will be experienced.
In particular you should focus on the hard aspects that Saturn makes to other planets in the natal chart, as these will be the most important configurations during the Saturn return. By a “hard aspect” I mean the conjunction, square or opposition.
This brings us to interpretive principle number five:
Whatever configurations Saturn makes to other planets in the natal chart, especially hard aspects, those configurations will be activated during the course of the Saturn return.
The hard aspects are generally agreed to be the most potent types of configurations between planets, for better or worse. When planets are configured to Saturn by a hard aspect in your natal chart they are saying something, and they are saying it very strongly. What exactly they are saying depends on the nature of the planets aspecting Saturn.
Now, to a certain extent any configuration between Saturn and another planet will be somewhat difficult, but there are some types of configurations that will be easier than others. So, for example, if Saturn is in the same sign as Jupiter in the natal chart then the Saturn return will often be experienced as more positive than if Saturn is opposed by Mars in the natal chart. In both cases it is simply the natal configuration that Saturn makes to other planets in the chart which is being activated, although in some instances this is experienced as more positive, while in others it is more challenging.
For the purpose of studying the Saturn return I would recommend using sign-based aspects, so that, for example, any planet in Leo is square to any planet in Scorpio. Similarly, if two planets are in the same sign they are considered to be in conjunction, regardless of how far apart they might be in terms of degrees.
Part of the purpose of primarily focusing on the hard aspects to Saturn is that the planets in these signs are also located at the crucial turning points in the broader Saturn cycle. What I mean by that is this: Saturn takes almost 30 years to make one complete revolution around the zodiac. This cycle can be divided into four major phases, which have as their focal points 1) the waxing square, 2) the opposition, 3) the waning square, and then finally 4) the Saturn return itself. The waxing square is a quarter of the way through the cycle, the opposition is halfway through, the waning square is three quarters of the way through the cycle, and the return itself represents the completion of the cycle.
Oftentimes themes that begin to develop at the very beginning of the cycle will reach critical turning points as Saturn makes its way through each of these phases. This is part of the reason why it is particularly important to pay attention to planets that are configured to Saturn by hard aspect natally, since they will be in the signs that are aligned with these pivotal turning points. By identifying the aspects involved you can determine not just what themes will be present during the Saturn return itself, but also what themes will play out over the course of the next 30 years, as Saturn makes its way through its cycle.
Each person’s natal chart is unique. Although we all have our Saturn returns sometime around the ages of 27-30, it is the unique position that Saturn holds in our birth charts that allows for the variety of experiences that each of us encounters during this time in our lives.
By applying the tips in this article you should begin to recognize the distinctive qualities of Saturn’s placement in your own chart, and in doing so you will start to understand what to expect when it becomes awakened during your Saturn return.
Update: Saturn Return Consultations
For those of you who would like some help calculating your Saturn return and interpreting what it means, we are now offering 75 minute Saturn return astrology consultations over the phone.