A lot is made of the Saturn Return and for good reason. It’s a transit that marks a major turning point in your life and is going to happen to most of us two times: around the age of 28-29 and 58-59. The way I like to look at Saturn is that it represents your purpose in life. So, when you have your Saturn Return (which is when transiting Saturn comes back to the same sign and house as Saturn in your birth chart), you are going to be challenged to see if you’re truly living up to your real purpose in life. “Structure” is another Saturn word. But, I don’t think of it as the 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday structure that many people define adulthood by. Saturn’s structure doesn’t have to even be all that “practical”, especially if you have Saturn in a Water sign or house. It’s more so about a set of regulations and standards you set for yourself that will cause you to live out your purpose.
But, what about the Saturn square Saturn transit? When I say this, I’m not talking about the transit that happens when you’re 7 years old and 35 years old; both about 21 years before your Saturn Return. I mean the Saturn square Saturn transit that occurs when you’re around 21 years old and 51 years old. These transits are heavy, in a manner that can rival your actual Saturn Return. In fact, they occur only several years before your Saturn Return. That’s why I like to think of them as the “pre-Saturn Return”. Things are going to occur in your life that will seriously test you and make you question if you’re living the life you’re supposed to be living and what you can do about that.
It’s why the square from transiting Saturn to your natal Saturn when you’re 7 and 35 aren’t as powerful. When you’re just a kid, this square is going to shake up some of your childhood innocence. You may get your first inklings that life is not entirely smooth and carefree. And when you’re in your thirties, the square reminds you more so of the importance of staying on track and making sure that you’re moving toward maturity and not regressing. Given my age, I haven’t experienced the former but I have obviously gone through the latter. When I was 7, I don’t remember it being too terrible or difficult.
However, when I was 21 and transiting Saturn was square my natal Saturn, that was an unforgettably challenging time. I think, if most people look back on that age, they will be able to recall some experiences that truly shook them up or changed them. As I said, this transit is a preparation for one’s first Saturn Return. Because of this, and because transiting Saturn is now getting closer to your natal Saturn, the issues of Saturn in your birth chart are going to dominate your life during this transit. And the house that transiting Saturn is in is going to be the catalyst for all of this. This pre-Saturn Return happens in order for you to begin straightening you out. The Saturn square Saturn transit when you’re 21-22 is your first wake-up call to why you’re here and what you’re supposed to achieve. Given the age that this transit occurs, it makes perfect sense because we are now beginning the entry into adulthood during this time.
Now, I have Saturn in Capricorn and in the 12th House in my birth chart. My 12th House Saturn is dignified, since it’s in the ruling sign, Capricorn. Because of this, I feel like I have a doubled Saturn in the 12th House. And it amazes me to look back on this transit (which occurred in the latter part of 2010 for me) because, during this time, everything I was going through was very 12th House. I think this is the first time in my life that I really came face-to-face with all of my 12th House Saturn fears and anxieties. It really shook me up, through many realizations and experiences, and I have actually never been the same since this time.
Most Saturn in the 12th House people spend our lives struggling with depression and anxiety yet being blind to where it’s all coming from. For some reason, throughout this transit, I started feeling sadder and sadder. I had been so good at making myself blind to that inner sadness but it just started paralyzing me and making it hard to fully enjoy things. Realization number one: I had been feeling this sad my whole life but never stopped to really figure it out. My college offered free counseling sessions and for the first time ever, I started seeing a therapist because I just needed to work all of this out. I was lucky to have a great experience with a very sensitive, perceptive man who helped me start getting at the root of those emotional problems; why I could just feel so melancholy for no seeming reason and why I felt so anxious and so guilty on a regular basis.
Leading me to realization number two: I had a lot of baggage from the past to work out and much of which was kept from me or projected onto me. Saturn in the 12th House people have to overcome this feeling of being “dumped on”, in some way or another: by repressive and unhealthy family dynamics, as well as certain secrets or neuroses in the family, by being bullied, by having people emotionally drain or take advantage of us. All of that stuff from the past was brought to light then. Needless to say, I felt some major illusions shattering, including about certain people I knew, which has to happen when you have a 12th House Saturn. I felt like I finally “woke up” during this Saturn square Saturn transit and it was brutal. But, it was something that had to happen.
Also, I’ve always been artistic and that’s always been my sole ambition in life. That’s very Saturn in the 12th House. But, this transit made my artistic ventures in college very difficult, to the point where I felt blocked, thwarted, unrecognized. It made me start doubting my talent, for a brief time, before I threw myself into being more self-disciplined about it. I studied acting more seriously and took up screenwriting again in a more diligent way yet totally in private. I also realized that a couple ego-shattering moments had happened, like my peers getting recognition and me not, in order for me to release my ego attachment to being an artist. At this point, I experienced a major change in motivation because it stopped being about me getting applause and started being a lot more about me surrendering to something greater than myself and learning how to do so.
Because of this desire to be a more serious artist and also a yearning to be more in touch with my unconscious, which came from those therapy sessions, I started getting more into poetry, as well. I have always written it, in some form. But, I used this poetry as a therapeutic tool and I would write whatever was bouncing around in my unconscious, no matter how scary or strange or mysterious it was. I felt like I was unlocking something new in myself. That’s what Saturn in the 12th House people are supposed to do: unlock that vast Universe within themselves. But, at the same time, it did totally change me and it was very overwhelming, at times, to have to go through this process of letting those demons out. Yet, I realized that only by releasing the demons could I release the angels within, as well. Consequently, I became more spiritually inclined and my study of astrology also became more intense and started serving as a serious tool for my growth. I also began doing yoga, became a vegetarian, and enjoyed my alone time more. All very 12th House, as well.
Even though I don’t take the 12th House association with hospitals too seriously, 12th House people do often end up getting involved with hospitals, in some fashion. Hopefully, it’s not as a victim or invalid! But, during this time, an emergency situation happened that was probably one of the scariest things that ever happened to me. I had to rush myself to the hospital on campus and stay there all day. Yet, the diagnosis was that it was a health crisis that I had caused myself through dehydration. Again, my Saturn in the 12th House responsibility of not blinding myself to day-to-day problems or trying to escape them because, if I do, I’ll just end up in a giant mess.
I also don’t like the “hidden enemies” element of the 12th House because that screams persecution complex to me. I do just think this is where you can be taken advantage of, if you’re not careful. And, sure enough, during this time, someone – mind you, someone who I didn’t even know – did totally deceive me. He made me think I was hired for a job, even made me show up for a so-called day of shadowing him and the employees, when it turns out that I wasn’t hired at all (and I really needed that job). I found out through someone else. No explanation from him ever. I couldn’t even get a hold of him on the phone. It’s still a confusing mystery to this day. My lesson? Not to watch out for hidden enemies but just to not let anyone make me feel like a victim (which I did, for a moment, and which I think is the source of the whole “hidden enemies” paranoia).
All of that happened within a few months! So, as I said, a life-changing and dramatic time. The exact square was in October 2010 and that’s when a lot of this stuff really came to a head. My run-in with the deceitful employer was during the exact square. I went through it again in the summer of 2011, before I turned 22, due to Saturn retrograding. It was more so about the 12th House feeling of drifting and being overwhelmed than anything else. It was much less challenging than the first go around. But, that introduced a lot of chaos into my life that made me confront my Saturn in the 12th House again.
But, going through all of that makes me feel like I know what to expect for my Saturn Return, to some extent. In fact, being the Saturn-ruled person I am (it’s my chart ruler), it actually wasn’t that bad. I kind of enjoyed that time in my life, which are the true words of a Saturn child. I handled all of those painful moments well: with dignity, effectiveness, perseverance. I just found a way to keep pushing forward and never let any of it stop me. Looking back, I’m so grateful that all of that happened because it did change me in a huge way. This pre-Saturn Return also has prepared me for my pending Saturn Return (which begins in December of next year!). I’m generally confident that I will be able to handle my Saturn Return well. In some way or another, I have been dealing with the repercussions of what happened during Saturn square Saturn ever since.
I think everyone feels this way, on some level or another, during their pre-Saturn Return at 21. Maybe that’s why people are finally allowed to drink in America when they turn this age! It’s stressful. This time can scar you, in a way, but the scars that are left will serve as lessons that you will hopefully learn by the time of your first Saturn Return. If not, the consequences may even be heavier than before. I feel like it’s a toss-up as to which time period will be more “difficult”. I think it all depends on the person’s development. If they take the lessons of their Saturn square Saturn transit and use them to grow and evolve, the Saturn Return will be much smoother. If not, it could be even more challenging. Yet, I think nothing is quite like the jarring nature of the Saturn square Saturn transit beforehand. It’s the first time you hit the brick wall of your Saturn’s limitations.
The transit will essentially work the same way when you are 51-52 years old. I just think the context will be different. When you’re 21-22, the Saturn square Saturn transit is your wake-up call. When you’re 51-52, it serves as a sort of “sunset”, if you will. This is the time where people are descending from their peak period of their 40’s. You are now settling into your 50’s and the dawning of old age is coming. So, the harshness of this transit can just be to let you know that you have much less time left than you used to. I think there is a deep sadness or discontent to someone who still hasn’t really achieved their Saturn’s purpose as they near their second Saturn Return. And if this is the case for you, then the transiting square will remind you of that. It could make you feel washed-up or like old news or maybe like you were never even that important to begin with.
You might also begin to feel that “left behind” feeling that characterizes the older years for many. Most people have children who leave their nest or lead their own adult lives by this time. They may also experience their parents dying or their spouse not being at the physical peak they once were at and having certain health issues. Decade-long marriages can also be reevaluated during this time. Regardless of the context, there comes a painful sense that things just are not what they used to be and you are now moving from the stage of being a well-off or successful adult to suddenly having to say goodbye to the status quo of certain situations in your life.
Essentially, I think this is what the second Saturn Return is about. It’s about whether or not you can “retire”. I don’t mean literally, either, although this question will also pop up in people’s minds around this time. But, once you are in your second Saturn Return, you’re pushing 60. When you’re pushing 30, your first Saturn Return urges you to be all that you can be and achieve all that you can. But, at this period in your life, it is simply evaluating whether or not you achieved that. If you have, the results can be marvelous. You have accumulated your “pension plan” and know you can fully enjoy it. However, if you haven’t lived out your true purpose, the realization of this can be especially painful because you’re going to feel more limited than ever.
So, the second pre-Saturn Return gives you the chance to look back on your life and figure out everything that you have or haven’t built. The following years, before your second Saturn Return, are going to give you the opportunity to still work toward those things, if you haven’t. You still have time. You’re not dead yet! But, at this point, you are most definitely not getting any younger. Therefore, a failure to live out your life’s purpose and figure out your true structure is going to be especially self-sabotaging. Yet, if you have spent your life doing this, you will use the experiences of the transiting square to know that it’s truly time to slow down and to simply reap the rewards of all of your efforts throughout life, instead of trying so hard. You might lose certain “status symbols” in the process. But, the serenity that comes with it will be worthwhile.