Saturn has an undeservedly malefic reputation. Death, disaster, failure, depression, delays, lack of self-worth. The reality is it induces a strong work ethic, instils a sense of discipline over time, is practical, realistic and provides a backbone when mush threatens to take over. Where Saturn is marked in a chart, it gets easier the older you get. The negative side reigns over the first third of life; it mellows through the middle third; and the final third becomes everything that wasn’t there at the start – warmer, more supportive, consolidated.
In Roman mythology, he was a god of generation, dissolution, plenty, wealth, agriculture, periodic renewal and liberation. Saturn’s mythological reign was depicted as a Golden Age of plenty and peace.
Saturn is essentially about structure in earthly terms. It plans, prepares, thinks long term to a feasible goal, then gets foundations laid, builds slowly and securely so its achievements stand the test of time. The end result of its endeavours is not necessarily aesthetic, since it isn’t concerned with cosmetic fripperies, but it is enduring.
Ruling Capricorn, it has the same steady ambition, which is willing to forego instant gratification for long term goals. Like the symbolic mountain goat, it starts in the foothills and works its way up to the peak, along a winding path if necessary.
Saturn restricts, so oversees limits and boundaries which may not feel like fun but are essential, psychologically as well as practically, in life. Neptune dissolves boundaries, Pluto invades across them to grab all the territory, Uranus blows them up, but Saturn stands firm for order, delineation, marked borders. In action, it is like a gardener who prunes plants back, lopping off overgrown branches, to stimulate fresh growth and produce a more manageable shape.
Often called a money-grubbing scrooge, Saturn is concerned with material security and can be less than generous and open-hearted. Again that’s down to its earthly nature and liking for boundaries. ‘Me and mine’ come first.
Not that Saturn is a delight at close quarters in intimate relationships. It can be cold, putting up a defensive wall against any encroachment, tending to put things above feelings, and is better at ‘doing’ than ‘being’.
The myth of Saturn eating his children depicted in a horrific Goya painting is apt, since it ties into his obsessions with time and mortality. Saturn was scared of being overthrown by his sons so he ate them at birth. Deep down he knows he is going to die and his children represent a future that he can never possess, since his is limited by his mortal span. He both loves and loathes the boundaries of his life, so he tries to over-ride them and stop time.
Having Saturnine parents means facing two things – their envy and their ability to induce misplaced guilt on their child. The Saturnine father pushes and pushes his children to be a success, being excessively critical of any failures, making them feel they never achieve enough to satisfy him, so damaging the child’s self-esteem though it can helpfully induce a driving need to be a success. But deep down the father’s fear is that they might outdo him, become more successful and outlive him. It’s difficult to cope with since if the child grown to adult became stratospherically successful, the father would shrivel, feel worthless himself and be consumed with envy. So it’s a no win situation, until the child/adult separates enough to understand it’s the father’s issue, not theirs.
The Saturnine mother on the other hand insinuates into the child a sense that they are responsible for her depression; and their role in life is to look after her and make her happy. She makes an under-nurturing mother but expects her offspring to give her the caring she never gave them.
The mythological Saturn showed his other face at the autumn festivals of the harvest, when the agricultural bounty of the year was brought in and drunken celebrations ensued after the hard work was done. Earthly delights are also his preserve and his reign was seen as one of peace and plenty. Despite the devouring father, he’s associated with the flow of the seasons, especially winter when everything dies back to be reborn in spring.
Capricorn as a sign is unfairly dubbed as the cold, materialistic workaholic, but in fact has a highly creative and (indulgent) side. The old Capricorn symbol was half goat half fish. He operates in two realms – in the watery realm of ideas and visions and then makes them real on dry land. He is the stander on the threshold between the unconscious and the conscious; just as Capricorn stands on the cusp of the year that has past and the year that is about to come, looking both ways. He both mourns and celebrates.
Pic Robert Lowe.