In honor of my second Saturn Return on Feb. 2, it seemed like a good idea to share some thoughts about these important astrological milestones. If you’re currently 29, 58, or 89 years old, this is for you – and if you’re not, you either were or will be, so it’s probably relevant to you as well!
A return chart is cast for the moment any planet returns to the exact point of longitude it occupied at a given time . Cast a chart for the moment the planet reaches that point, and you have a return chart. Most commonly, we cast charts for a planet’s return to its place in your birth chart. But you can use any event – say, your wedding day – and cast returns for the planets in that chart, too.
How do you know when the planet is returning? It’s based on planetary cycles, and how long it takes a particular planet to make a full lap around the zodiac. The Sun, for example, takes about one year. The Moon takes 28.5 days. Mercury takes 88 days, but because of its retrograde periods you’ll only have a return once each year. Venus takes 225 days, Mars 2.5 years, Jupiter 12, Saturn 29, Uranus 84, Neptune 165, and Pluto 248 years.
None of us will have a Neptune or Pluto return to our birth charts while we’re living. But many of us will live long enough for a Uranus return, and nearly all of us will have a Saturn return or two (or even three!).
What do we learn from a return chart?
A planetary return is a time of reckoning with our relationship to that planet and what it represents. Think of it as a kind of cosmic report card and reset point.
Saturn’s returns at the ages of 29, 58, and 89 are like final exams for the first, second, and third chapters of our lives. They call us to evaluate how well we’re succeeding and to assess our maturity, responsibility, and authority.
Saturn and his cycle
Before they knew about invisible meanies Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, astrologers feared Saturn above all the other planets. As the outermost of the known planets, Saturn marked the boundaries outside which we dared not wander. Within those boundaries, Saturn stood over us with a whip. And beyond the boundaries lay the cold finality of death.
Modern-day astrologers generally take a somewhat more benevolent view of Saturn. His transits are no walk in the park, but there is the sense that they can be used to your advantage. Think of Saturn transits as describing the process of building helpful, protective containers for your life – a wall around the tender shoots of your burgeoning garden.
- Saturn takes 29 years to complete a full cycle around the Sun
- Important critical milestones occur:
- When Saturn makes square and opposition aspects to its natal position (every 7.25 years), with critical points at the conjunction.
- When Saturn crosses the angles of the chart: the Midheaven, Ascendant, IC, and Descendant
First Saturn ReturnAt the first Saturn return, about the age of 29, you realize for the first time that it is already too late for some things. “Olympic gymnast” or “child prodigy”are roads that are firmly closed to you, if you haven’t already reached those destinations. The first Saturn return is a wake-up call that comes just as you’re entering your prime – when it’s still early enough in the game to change course, even if you do have to adjust some of your expectations. For the first time, you realize that there are mountains that might be a little bit too tall, too demanding, or too far away for you to conquer.
There is pressure, at the first Saturn return, to put some points on the scoreboard. The pressure is strong to meet the external milestones we associate with maturity and success. Looking down the barrel of one’s 30th birthday, it can feel like we’re overdue … to marry, buy a house, make our first million, have a child. We realize in a very personal way that the clock is ticking, and though objectively we probably have much more life ahead of us than is behind us, it feels like mortality is gaining on us.
Typically, we put the pedal to the metal at the first Saturn return, accelerating toward goals that are most often externalized and quantifiable.
I came to astrological maturity just before my first Saturn return, as Saturn in Capricorn came into rendezvous with transiting Uranus and Neptune. I’d studied astrology a little since I was about twelve years old, and ever since I discovered Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs I had had the dream of being an astrologer – though I didn’t have any idea what that actually meant.
But at the age of 28, I found a teacher and set out on my path. I believed I had found my calling. And by the time Saturn returned, I was giving readings, teaching classes, and planning my escape from the corporate world. Three days before my 30th birthday, I left my job. I had become an astrologer.
I was still a long way from real success. I felt scared, financially insecure, a little bit lonely, and quite a bit in over my head. But in hindsight, I feel I really nailed that first Saturn return – because I stared my fears straight in the eye (my Saturn is in my second house; leaving a well-paying, secure government job for the uncertainty of self-employment was a true test of my grit) and claimed the place in the world that I felt was right for me.
Second Saturn Return
At the second Saturn return at age 58, you’re a different person than you were at 29. That may seem really obvious. But it’s worth pointing it out in this context. Because many astrologers talk about a Saturn return at this age as though it’s the same thing as your first Saturn return.And it really is not.
At 29 you’re often coming to grips with mortality for the first time. When you’re 58, you’re a lot more likely to have been touched by it personally. Maybe you’ve lost parents, perhaps even friends. Saturn’s return is still a reminder that you won’t live forever – but at this age, you can almost see the grim humor in it all.
Career matters are probably quite different, too. Closing in on 30, you may feel a bit behind where you’d have liked to be – but there is still time for a reboot. People do undergo complete career shifts at 58, but it’s a lot less common. Some are able to retire at this age, and leisure, artistic, and volunteer opportunities take center stage.
At the second Saturn return, the transition begins into what is traditionally considered “retirement.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that you will no longer work; it doesn’t take long to turn up examples of exalted figures who produced their finest work later in life.
But the second Saturn return, at about age 58, marks the time to begin to ease into the role of elder and teacher, sharing your wisdom and knowledge. It is also the age where the end of life begins to look a bit more like something that will actually happen to us one day, whether it’s because parents, peers, or a partner experience health problems or pass away. At the second Saturn return, the mountains you decide to climb might be a bit smaller than the ones at your first Saturn return – but the stakes have never seemed higher.
To the outside world, you may not seem to be doing much – or, you may actually seem to be taking a step backward in your life. But if you’re enjoying your life right now – if you’re spending it with people you like, doing what you enjoy – you are succeeding! At the second Saturn return, we’re less concerned with the way the world looks at us (Saturn) and much more attuned to our internal compass. What’s in store for the next chapter of our story?
According to a survey from the University of Lancaster completed in 2014, we find our greatest contentment at the age of 58. This from an analysis of 2000 which found 58 was the age at which the highest proportion of people were happy with the balance of work and leisure, as well as feeling good about their lifestyle.
My colleague Eileen Grimes wrote something very insightful about this age. She said, “It is interesting that in the previous (Saturn) return, I was looking for myself, professionally. And now at the second return, I’ve found myself professionally. Having stated that simply – there is a greater sense of whom I am, and who I’m not, and what I do well, and don’t do well.”
Third Saturn ReturnI‘m delighted to have numbered among my friends a few people who surpassed their third Saturn return. And while I won’t pretend to understand what it’s like to have reached such a milestone, I’ve noticed certain common characteristics among them. They’ve been independent of spirit, curious, and as active as they are able. They’re informed by their past experiences, but not preoccupied with them. They’re socially engaged, but value their alone time. They love their children and grandchildren, but have other interests. They don’t insist that the world conform to their expectations. And though they speak frankly of having lost loved ones and close friends, they don’t talk much about their own deaths; they’re busy living now.
Increasingly, living into one’s 90s is not considered terribly unusual. At the third Saturn return, you may yet have another decade or more left on earth. Once more, the cosmic pact is renewed, and we’re called to reckon with achievement and mortality; what more is left to do – or, perhaps more to the point, what more is left to be?
A successful Saturn Return
The key to a successful Saturn Return begins with knowing what success looks like to you. Saturn will settle for nothing less…in the long run. But the Saturn return, while it marks the close of one chapter of your life, is only the beginning of another. Now is the time to decide which goals are no longer right for you and which are the ones that have meaning – and then to set out on that path and begin the slow march in that direction, one determined step at a time.
Are you having a Saturn Return? Let’s talk about it – book a personal reading with me!
© 2020 by April Elliott Kent