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Understanding Your Saturn Return

Saturn ReturnIn this episode of the podcast I talk with astrologer Leisa Schaim about the Saturn return.

Leisa and I co-author a blog on Saturn returns together called Saturn Return Stories, and we’ve been meaning to do a show for a while where we talk about some of the interpretive principles we use.

During the course of the show we talk about the basics of the Saturn return, what it is about, and how it is interpreted based on how Saturn is situated in the birth chart.

Leisa has a particular interest in the concept of sect, and how the difference between day and night charts affects the experience of the Saturn return. She recently released a lecture on this topic titled Saturn Returns, Sect, and the Taboo Against Difficulty for sale on her website at LeisaSchaim.com.

A lot of our discussion in this episode is geared towards beginner or intermediate students of astrology who are new to the subject and wanting to learn more about what their Saturn return will be about, although there may be a few points of interest for more advanced astrologers who aren’t familiar with some aspects of the approach that Leisa and I use.

Points Discussed in the Episode

  • Defining our topic: what is the Saturn return?
  • When does the Saturn return begin and end?
  • Why is it important, or what is the quality of this time?
  • The wide spectrum of different experiences during the Saturn return.
  • To what extent does a person’s experience of the Saturn return depend on personal volition?
  • Even though it is often characterized as a time where you have to put a lot of work into something and if you do you will eventually triumph, that’s not always true.
    • In the constructive cases it sometimes feels like the thing that you don’t want to do but you know that you have to do, and if you don’t do it willingly you might be forced to anyway.
    • In the destructive cases it is something that you are forced to do that isn’t necessarily constructive.
  • Interpretive principles for the Saturn return:
    • Sect
    • Saturn through the houses
    • The houses Saturn rules
    • Hard aspects to other planets
    • Other houses Saturn is angular to
    • Mitigating factors


A transcript of this episode is available: Episode 24 transcript

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  • As you go through the houses are you referring to whole sign houses or would this still be accurate with dynamic house systems?

    • I mean, I would recommend using whole sign houses, but the most of the principles are essentially the same if you used other forms of house division.

  • Thanks Lisa and Chris. This was an especially excellent podcast, with good depth and many things to learn about Saturn. One thing I would ask about though —– you mentioned the 11th house being about Friends, Groups. Regarding traditional meanings, what about “hopes and dreams and best wishes for the life”. Also, where does the association with Friends come from in the 11th? I thought partnerships and friends, as well as lovers, belong in the 7th?

    Thanks, I love these podcasts.

    • Friends is a pretty standard traditional signification of the 11th, as far as I know. For example, in the 2nd century Valens said that the 11th house signifies “Friends, hopes, gifts, children, slaves, freedmen.”

  • When you are going through mitigating factors the benefics making aspects are mentioned. Are you meaning transiting benefics to the transiting Saturn or transiting Saturn to the natal benefics ?

    • We were primarily talking about aspects from benefics in the natal chart to natal Saturn as a mitigating factor. So, if you have natal Jupiter in a trine to natal Saturn then when Saturn is activated at various points in the life it will go a lot more smoothly than it would in a chart where there are no natal aspects between Jupiter and Saturn.

      • For example i have Jupiter in Sag at the Asc squares Saturn in Pisces in 3rd house at exact 11* both of them. Here Saturn is in rulership of Jupiter. He holds power over Saturn. How this can affect my soon Saturn return?

  • Hey there

    You mention Saturn in Sagittarius — then you talk about people being born in 1986 etc. You know that those who have Saturn in Sagittarius and are born in the late 1950s and 1960s are not dead yet, right? And they might be listening, and maybe feel a bit excluded when you don’t even mention it at this point, or that they are actually going through a very important second Saturn return? It’s a worry that you don’t bother to refer to this generation.

    • Hi Josie, thanks for listening. All of the interpretive principles we discussed can be applied to all of the Saturn returns. We did reference the ages when the first, second, and sometimes third Saturn returns occur, and I do consultations with both people going through their first and second Saturn returns. The first Saturn return often impacts people more simply because they have never lived through the feeling of one before, as well as it often laying down the structure of much of the rest of one’s life. But mostly we were focusing on techniques for understanding how a Saturn return will go, regardless of which one.

  • Leisa and Chris, nice discussion. Having cut my teeth on Grant Lewi’s Heaven Knows What (aspects) and Astrology for the Millions (transits), with the modern concept of the Saturn Return tracing back to the latter, aspects and transits, and the Saturn Return in particular, have been foci of my own research efforts. I like Leisa’s differentiation between psychological or internal effects and external events and rewards. I think astrological effects per se are ONLY psychological, more specifically motivational, and external events, if and when they occur, are the result of actions WE cause or elicit due to that mindset. Those astrologers who argue that what’s predictable about the Saturn Return is our agenda are, in my opinion, on the right track.

    I also like Chris’s differentiation between the exact transit and the larger transit period, although I don’t think the latter is coextensive with Saturn’s transit through the sign containing natal Saturn. If natal Saturn is almost at the beginning of a sign do we really suppose that the Return is applying for only a few weeks and then separating for almost two and a half years? I think normal applying and separating orbs pertain, and that using signs to bound the effects is forcing the data into a procrustean bed. But I agree we should differentiate between the broader transit, lasting around eighteen months (I think from about 28 1/2 to the thirtieth birthday is a good approximation), and a briefer, more intense period at the heart of the transit lasting two to four months. I think this is a general pattern. When I was studying the Uranus/Neptune cycle I saw a series of cultural efflorescences lasting about twenty years, with a briefer, five or six-year crisis period at the heart of the transition. (The most recent one appears to have run from about 1989 to 1995.)

    I’m skeptical of the notion of sect but can think of a sense in which it can be said to apply. I believe Saturn’s transit through the lower half of the chart is qualitatively different from its transit through the upper half. In Joachim Fest’s Hitler he has a between-chapters discussion contrasting the 1924-39 period of Hitler’s career with the periods that preceded and followed it. During this period he was vacillating and indecisive, held back by some kind of inner constraint, but was a brilliant, tactically adroit politician who gained ground throughout the period by outmaneuvering his rivals. Lewi’s description of the “obscure period” — “In it, success will not flash out spectacularly, but must be courted by patience and the firm building of foundations” — comes to mind. Referring to the period immediately preceding the attack on Poland Fest uses the revealing phrase, “Now he was returning to his earlier self.” That earlier self was the radical, uncompromising agitator of the early 1920s, when Saturn was above the horizon. As Saturn returned to the upper half of his chart he again became a “force of nature,” direct and uncompromising, no longer willing to bide his time, no longer willing to accept incremental gains, impressing his will through blunt force rather than indirection and subterfuge.

    Given the preceding it stands to reason that Saturn conjoining natal Sun above the horizon would be experienced differently than the same conjunction below the horizon. In THAT sense, since this is an important cycle, being born during daytime rather than nighttime is an important distinction. However, since it’s the Saturn Return being discussed here, not Saturn conjoining the Sun, perhaps a more relevant consideration in this instance is not whether natal Sun is above or below the horizon, but whether natal Saturn is. If Hitler’s natal Saturn had been in the lower half of his chart would he have returned to his “true self” when Saturn moved into the upper half of his chart, or when it moved into the lower half?

    The Saturn Return Stories blog is a brilliant idea and an excellent resource. I enjoyed reading the stories. (I have some of my own. My favorite is the painfully shy schoolteacher who put a full-page ad in the newspaper, a letter from an unborn child to its mother telling her about Dad. He explained that getting married and raising a family was the most important thing he would ever do, and that some people spend that much money on a Super Bowl ticket. His rabbi opined that he was either meshuga or a genius. Since his ad apparently garnered quite a few responses, I think it’s the latter.) I couldn’t help noticing that, whether through design or because it’s just what’s out there, the great majority of the stories submitted have a positive outcome, perhaps even one of the entries categorized as a horror story. Of the three hikers arrested by the Iranian authorities, the woman’s Saturn Return was already over and that of the two guys hadn’t yet begun (in my opinion). They were already in prison when theirs began, and the climax of the transit, with Saturn only a few degrees from exact, actually coincided with their release. (My own Saturn Return coincided with a move to Denver and a successful speaking engagement at a regional conference there in August 1975. I had moved from the Midwest to Portland, Oregon a quarter cycle earlier, and at the opening square I left Denver and moved to central Oregon, and shortly thereafter to Eugene, Oregon, where I spent eighteen years at the University of Oregon Bookstore.)

  • Hello Leisa and Chris,
    Thanks for a very informative podcast. I have a couple of questions.
    Do you only look at aspects from Saturn to other planets, or also to other signs/houses that contain no planets?
    Regarding the signs/houses that are angular to Saturn (the 2 squares and the opposition), do they come into play somewhat at the time of the Saturn Return, or only as Saturn transits through those places at the approximately 7- , 14-, and 21-year marks?
    Thank you!

  • Hi Leisa and Chris,
    I have a question regarding mitigating factors. You were saying that if Saturn is in hard aspect to Venus in a night chart and Jupiter in a day chart, that it’ll help make your Saturn return somewhat easier. I don’t have any natal aspects to either of my Jupiter or Venus as the orbs are way too wide, but during my Saturn return (which I’m in the middle of now, I have it in Sagittarius), Saturn will at some point make hard aspects to both (Jupiter is in Pisces, Venus is in Virgo), is that the same thing or not quite? Does there have to exist a natal hard aspect between Saturn and those two benefic planets? My chart is a day chart, with my Sun in the 11th and my Saturn make a loose natal trine to my Sun. So far I’ve found that my Saturn return has been quite good to me, but it also hasn’t yet hit the hard aspects for my Jupiter and Venus, which I calculated will come in 2017, and I’m a bit worried about what that will mean for my love life etc. What orb sizes are to be used for Saturn transit? 3 degrees?

  • I became sick on my 27th birthday and my health has been extremely difficult ever since. People have always said it was my Saturn return, but technically my Saturn return didn’t begin until nearly a year later (as that’s when Saturn entered my 8th house of Capricorn – my natal Saturn is at 20 degrees). Also I have a day chart with no hard aspects to Saturn, but those years were very difficult (and have continued to be since). Was that my Saturn return starting early, or likely to have been something else?

    In support of Chris’s argument re the angles being activated – that was very clearly the case for me (though began before the transit…).

    • Hi I.S.,
      Thanks for listening, and I’m sorry that your health has been difficult since then. It is true that sometimes precursors will show up a little bit earlier as the Saturn return approaches. It likely depends on the rest of your chart as far as whether that was Saturn triggering the health issues or something else – it’s possible, for instance, that transiting Saturn aspected something else in your chart related to health before your actual Saturn return technically started, or it’s also possible that some other timing was happening in your chart unrelated to Saturn when you were 27 that pointed to the topic of health. And yes, it is possible that Saturn transiting through an angular house could trigger a health issue just by being in a sign-based aspect to the 1st house, though for it to be lingering as a major issue, I would be surprised if an additional factor wasn’t also involved.

  • thanks for such an informative podcast Leisa and Chris!!

    re: mitigating factors, you mention having hard aspects between natal Saturn and the benefics. would this apply for aspects by degree or include aspects by sign/house?

    thanks again for all of your work making information available for the astrological community <3

    • Hi Nicole, glad you enjoyed the podcast! Any major aspects to Saturn from Venus or Jupiter will help, even if just by sign. If they are close in degree then it accentuates the mitigation even more, but both are helpful.