AK Reader: “The Saturn Return” (1976)

Way back in 1976, only two years after I had embarked upon my journey with astrology, I wrote this essay that was published as a sort of epilogue to a little book of feminist poetry called For Those Who Cannot Sleep, by Ruth Ikeler.  Re-reading this essay now, I realize that, in essence, it boils down to conclusions I had already reached, so that all my explorations into this ancient language since have been built upon this simple/wild foundation that, after one’s first Saturn Return at about 30, Saturn can function as either a wall or a channel, depending on our awareness of the spaces between the lines.

That early post reminds me of a piece I just read in wakingtimes, by Caitlin Johnstone:

Terrence McKenna Offers Another Reason to Have Hope for Humanity

To quote McKenna: 

You see what the process is here: it’s that each emergent property becomes a building block for a new set of phenomena.

Emergence from within what already exists. From the spaces between the lines. Saturn as the lines, the rules, the already existent forms. Uranus, Neptune and Pluto as the mysterious pulsing that breaks through into new forms.

Here’s that old piece from a fledgling astrologer who was studying, not with other people, but on her own, paying attention, especially, to how the workings of the universe kept interacting with the patterns in her own and others’ astrological charts. That young woman’s  process of thinking is one which this old crone still very much appreciates, 40 years later!

Note, BTW, that this essay was written BEFORE feminists decided to emulate men, get ambitious, “get a job.” One wonders what would have happened had women decided instead to celebrate our feminine nature.





Astrology is a language which views the nature of time in a cyclical manner. When any planet returns to its own natal place for the first time, it often comes as an awakening to the kind of energy that planet represents.

Each of the ten planets so far discovered in the skies (including Sun and Moon) has a different time cycle. Most of the planets make their first cycles within the first 12 years of a person’s life. Three of the planets — Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto — have extremely long cycles, so long that with only one of them, Uranus, with an 84 year cycle, is it possible to complete the return of even a single cycle. Thus the experience of these three planetary energies can never be consciously known, as they never repeat the same positions twice in a single life-time.

Between these three outer planets and all the others lies Saturn, having a cycle of approximately 30 years. Saturn thus provides the link between those planets that complete themselves during childhood and the three outer planets. The return of Saturn for the first time to its own natal place then, is crucial for the evolution of an individual’s life. For if the Saturn Return is not successful, there will not be the Saturnian discipline necessary to usefully channel the subtle, but powerful and therefore dangerous energies of the three outer planets.

Women are culturally oppressed, and have been for centuries. Because of this, we have been forced, again for centuries, to discover and find value in the more subtle areas of experience — areas which most men have yet to notice.

Notice: I say the subtle areas of experience. Those which are hard to pin down, hard to formulate, yet full of meaning. Subtle areas, the areas which have to do somehow, with the spaces created between the lines, the laws, the rules. The subtle areas, the silences, the nuances, what fills a woman’s day.

The differing situations of men and women, then, automatically present differing opportunities as to what they might do with the new discipline and control gained by a successful Saturn Return. A man, though he might learn to operate at a new level of control, still usually operates in terms of worldly ambition — in terms of the kinds of goals and rules that society has traditionally set up for him. In other words, he will still be a conservative, though operating at a more powerful level.

Now, it has been said that the “conservative” is one who never thinks that anything happens for the first time. If one is conservative then, one cannot allow oneself to experience anything new, and the opportunities offered by the subtle, higher, more spiritual energies of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto will never be taken. Each time one or more of these three energies enters our lives, it provides us with an entirely new world, and if we aren’t prepared to accept these energies, and to channel them, they will either disrupt our lives so completely that they cause mere chaos, or, they won’t be felt at all.

Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto represent the links between the solar system and the galaxy as a whole. In human terms, this means that these energies are the sources of new and larger perspectives on the human condition; new values, new ways of seeing wholes, new wholes to be seen. So, if we can somehow get in tune with these energies, they open up to us possibilities for psychic discovery and exploration that the usual world-view (bounded by Saturn) has yet to even dream of.

But we can’t receive these energies and their possibilities without some kind of channel. And it is Saturn which must provide that channel. Somehow, we must make our Saturn energy work for us in spiritual discovery, and to do that, our discipline must become somehow flexible enough not to be totally disrupted by such powerful energies. This is an enormous task. Some of us are attempting it already. Especially some women are, as they learn to turn their histories upside down; as they learn to tune in even more with the subtle areas of experience so familiar to them; as they learn to appreciate the unusual perception and unusual values their oppression has, ironically, given them.

But Uranus, Neptune and Pluto open the gates to perception of a world beyond our (conscious) knowledge. We must be prepared to not understand what is going on. We can experience the subtle energies of these three planets, but we can never know them. Each time one or more of these planets intersects a sensitive point in our own energy pattern, it opens up opportunities fraught with both possibility and danger. Each time the experience is new. There is nothing to go on — no landmarks, no lines, no laws, no rules — that we can understand from our viewpoint in this human life on this planet Earth. We can only appreciate these energies, we can only surrender to them. And this only if we are prepared. Prepared with a (Saturn) channel spacious enough and plastic enough to receive them.

Then, we can become as children again, and we will remain childlike our entire lives. But with this difference: the child learns automatically, and as she does she is assimilated into the society around her. But ours is a second, and a more naked innocence. There is no one to cover for us, no one to let us know what is of value, what is not. We have only our own experience, we do not have knowledge. No one does. The territory is uncharted, and we are the pioneers.

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