Saturn in Sagittarius
As I write, Mercury is slowing to his retrograde1 station in conjunction2 with Saturn in the wee hours of tomorrow morning, and the full moon in Gemini is rising up over the ridge. Saturn will be leaving Sagittarius, where he has been for three years (with the exception of a quick retrograde back into Scorpio in the summer of 2015), in just a few weeks. This month is momentous in the scope of planetary time: these archetypes we see reflected in the stars are moving, and their movements have meaning.
As a child, I was fascinated with astronomy and Greek mythology; in adulthood I have found the ancient spiritual practice of astrology to be a beautiful synthesis of these two loves. I follow the movements of both the planets in the night sky and the gods and heroes they represent, and I have found that their movements are synchronicitous with our tiny human dramas, both personal and political, here on Earth.
And so, tonight, I think of Saturn, the lord of time, liberation, and the harvest. I feel strongly connected to Saturn. On that hot Atlanta summer night in 1976 when I came into the world, Saturn happened to be conjunct the sun in Leo, meaning that the sun and Saturn were on the exact same degree of the zodiac, and therefore amplified each other’s energies. And with the sun in Leo ruling self-expression and creativity, and Saturn ruling limits, boundaries, and structures- but also liberation- the stars wrote a script for me: I was to use my capacity for creativity to express the natural laws of limits and structure- but also liberation- for others, and that I was especially tasked to learn these for myself.
Like most people new to astrology, I learned about the role of Saturn in my life during my first Saturn return. Saturn return usually occurs between 28 and 31 years of age, and it is the time when Saturn first returns to the place in the sky that it was when you were born. Being the lord of karma, limits, boundaries, and structures, Saturn return revisits the houses and signs of birth and childhood and tests the soundness of the structures you have built of your life, and then mercilessly destroys everything that doesn’t align with the truth of things: all false edifices must crumble. Saturn insists with out compromise that we develop our inner authority- that we become the authors of our fate.
In 2005, when I turned 29 years old and Saturn returned to Leo in the 1st house of my solar chart,3 I was 8 months pregnant. When my child was born, I indeed experienced a merciless destruction of all that I had thought that I knew- and I was forced to rebuild my life- my self and my identity- stronger, more solid, more real.
As Saturn has passed through each subsequent house in the ensuing years, I have studied these shifts and noticed sweeping, sometimes cataclysmic changes in the area of life ruled by that house, accompanied by the signature flair of the zodiac sign where Saturn was has resided during each of these transits.
In 2007, Saturn entered my 2nd house, governing self-worth and finance, in Virgo, the sign of details, work, and service, leading me to take a diligent, Virgoan approach to taking responsibility for my money and my worth in the world by starting a business.
In 2009, Saturn entered my 3rd house of communication, landing me a book deal, in the sign of Libra, forcing me to re-evaluate my relationships in the form of a year-and-a-half-long separation from my husband.
In 2012, Saturn moved into Scorpio in my 4th house of home. There was positive change: my husband and I were happily reunited and we moved to a new home in West Asheville, re-setting the foundation for our family life. In other ways, it was a very dark time. Try as I might, I could not escape the Scorpionic themes of death and rebirth. On the day Saturn entered Scorpio, I crashed my car and broke my hand. A few months later, my dear childhood friend Matt died, and a grief came over me that was unreasonable, and untenable, and altered everything in its path. I grieved for Matt, and for all forms of lost hope, and this grief gave way to an earlier grief for my sister, Julie, who passed away 15 years ago. I had never completely mourned her death, and Saturn in Scorpio insisted that I did. I grieved for her death, but I also grieved for her life, marred by addiction, abuse, and pain. In the transit I quit smoking, (but I also quit writing) and ultimately embarked upon a time of introspection and healing, the eventual rewards for navigating Scorpio’s dark waters. At the end of this transit, I understood that I had to let go of my business in order to continue doing the work I wanted to do in the world, and so I set about the work of selling it.
This most recent transit of Saturn into Sagittarius late in 2014 was welcome. The signature of heat and light, fire and action, was a needed antidote to the watery depths of Scorpio. Under this transit I took action: sold my business and began, again, to rebuild. In the light of the 5th house of creativity, children, and family, with the Sagittarian energy of travel, higher learning, and faith lighting the path, I have tried my best to build a daily practice oriented towards writing and meditation, and to create more opportunities for travel, and, most importantly, joy. And, though the transit through sunny Sagittarius has mostly been positive, it, too has had its challenges, its impossible-seeming tasks.
Saturn in Sagittarius asks us to define what we believe in, and to tell the truth. It is this signature that has brought the truth to the fore in the form of the #metoo movement, and the crumbling of false edifices of all manner of patriarchal abuses. And I’ve had my own personal #metoo moments in the last few years, truth-telling about past trauma which has brought about necessary healing for me, but has also come at a terrible price: these moments of truth have led to the painful dissolution of relationships with people who cannot bear to face that truth. Saturn in Sagittarius insists that we tell the truth anyway, regardless of the consequences, even if our voice shakes, even if we have to leave behind life-long relationships in order to be true to ourselves. But the gift of letting go of false hope, of letting go of untenable relationships that ask us to hide who we are in order to be loved and accepted, is that we can finally embrace what is real: to love and be loved unconditionally, to express ourselves fully, to shine in each of our unique, glorious and precious selves.
So, at the end of this transit, what hard-won lessons can we take with us into the next cycle? For me, the fruit of Saturn in Sagittarius is the integration of my belief systems with my work: incorporating social justice, tarot and astrology more explicitly into my writing and my teaching life; being truthful about who I am, and bringing all of myself into integration with my creative expression. Working to stand in my truth and have my own back hasn’t been easy. But nothing worthy of working for ever is.
On a larger, cultural scale, this Saturn transit speaks of the crumbling of patriarchs.
Saturn is the Roman derivative of the Greek Cronus, the Titan who gave us the words “chronology,” “chronicle,” “anachronism,” and “synchronize.” Both Saturn and Cronus are “Time-Gods, who bring death and limitation and may fight to preserve their reign, even though they know it is time for them to be replaced with new life, just as the old year must die to give way to the new, a struggle depicted in many winter solstice customs.” (Waverly Fitzgerald)
Cronus was a Titan who castrated his father, Uranus, and took his throne. He became so afraid of losing his power that he ate his own children to keep them from rising up against him. Only Zeus, his last child, could topple him, having been raised in secret by his mother, Rhea. Zeus rescued his siblings from his father’s belly, and ascended to rule the gods on Mount Olympus.
I notice in this myth that it was ultimately Gaia, Uranus’ wife, who orchestrated the coup against him, and it was Rhea and Gaia, working together, who orchestrated the downfall of Cronus. It was the women who toppled the rule of these fathers, and Saturn, as the lord of karma, reminds us that all kings must eventually fall. As we watch kingdoms topple as a result of women speaking the truth, as we let go of false hope to embrace the real love that is before us, and as Saturn moves into his home in Capricorn, may we heed this myth and build sounder, wiser, more just and liberating structures to take their place.
I invite you to take this time, as Mercury moves backward and the moon highlights our ways of connecting and communicating, to look back at the lessons you have learned from Saturn’s often uncomfortable but ultimately liberating transits, and raise a glass (or maybe a Saturnalia cookie) to the gifts of these lessons: the invincibility of the light of truth as evidenced every year by the return of the sun at Solsticetide, and the possibility of greater authenticity, of justice, of a harvest of real and unconditional love.
Saturnalia Sesame Honey Cookies
This ancient Roman recipe was used to celebrate Saturnalia, the Roman feast honoring Saturn, the ruler of time, liberation, and the harvest. Saturnalia began on December 17th and lasted until the solstice, and is the origin of many of our Christmas rituals today. Some believe that these cookies, often baked in the shape of children (as fertility symbols) are also the origin of the modern practice of making gingerbread people. Saturnalia cookies are lightly sweet and biscuit-y, a perfect accompaniment to tea or spiced wine.
(recipe adapted from Liz Looker)
Makes about 40 small cookies. Takes an hour and a half (including one hour of chilling time in the fridge).
- 2 1/2 cups flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten-free flour, hence the flecks from the sorghum grain as seen in the picture)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature; extra melted butter for dipping
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds
In a bowl, sift or whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
In another bowl, combine butter, honey and eggs with an electric mixer until well combined. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Cover and chill the dough about 1 hour or until firm.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets. Form chilled dough into 1-inch balls and place dough on prepared baking sheets.
Flatten each ball (optional: emboss with a sun symbol in honor of Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun, which returns every year on the solstice. I used a sunburst pendant as a cookie stamp). Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown.
When ready, remove cookies from baking sheets. While warm, dip bottom of cookie in melted butter and then tamp in sesame seeds.
1Mercury retrograde is the time when the planet Mercury appears to be moving backwards in the sky. This happens about 3 times per year, for about 3 weeks each time. This happens because Mercury, as the smallest and swiftest planet in the solar system, revolves around the Sun three times in one Earth year. So three times a year, Mercury “laps” us and begins to move “behind” the Sun. When Mercury comes back around to “our side” of the Sun, it appears to change direction again and move forward. The energetic signature of a planet in retrograde is that the qualities of life that that planet rules (in this case, communication, technology, and travel, as Mercury is the winged messenger of the gods) are moving backwards, rather than forwards. So, Mercury retrograde heralds a time to look back (review, reassess, recollect, reflect) on communication, travel, and intellectual pursuits rather than starting new projects in that arena. When you don’t heed this natural signature, you are going against the stars, which is a disaster (dis=against + astro=star).
2Conjunction: Imagine that the universe is a wheel of 360 degrees radiating out from where you stand on planet Earth. These degrees are divided into 12 segments of 30 degrees each. Each segment is one of the zodiac signs, named for the constellation that is dominant in that segment. When two planets are at the same degree of the wheel, or very close, (from the perspective of the Earth) they are said to be conjunct. This means that their energies and qualities amplify one another.
3 Houses: In addition to the sky being divided into the 12 segments of the zodiac, the sky is also divided into 12 houses. The first house in a person’s natal chart (the map of the sky at the time of your birth) begins on the ascendant, the degree of the zodiac that is on the horizon at the moment of your birth. The zodiac sign that that degree falls in is said to be your rising sign, and is in your first house, the house of the self and your identity. This natal chart is distinguished from your solar chart, the house placement that you share with all others born under your same sun sign. Both charts can be used for divination purposes.