The Saturn Return in astrology is when Saturn comes back to the sign and house it was in when you were born. It occurs once every 28 to 29 years. So, you experience your first around the age of 28 or 29, depending on the degree of your Saturn. The second one occurs when you’re 58 or 59. A third Saturn Return is very rare but there are certain people who experience it. So, if you’re lucky enough to live to the age of 88 or 89, then you’re going to go through your third.
But, for the majority of people who live to the average life span, there are only two Saturn Returns in a lifetime. Talk about pressure! You get your Jupiter Return once every 12 years and the inner planets come back around much more frequently. A Venus Return is once a year and a Mars Return about once every year and a half to two years. So, why the long wait for Saturn to return? Well, it’s because of what Saturn represents. It’s a planet that you have to work hard at and put enough time into. It requires discipline, maturity, and structure. Therefore, Saturn wants to wait long enough to see what you’re capable of and the skills that you have or haven’t acquired all of those years.
Therefore, the Saturn Return consists of a series of tests and challenges that will require you to step up to the plate. How well you do so will determine how much of a success you can be. It’s a somewhat common misconception that people are being “punished” during their Saturn Return if they haven’t worked hard enough in their Saturn sign and house. But, I don’t see Saturn in terms of punishment. Saturn just represents consequences. There’s a difference. Saturn isn’t cruel, harsh, or mean. So, when the difficulties start piling up during your Saturn Return, it’s not because you’re being punished or tortured. It’s because you’re experiencing the natural consequences of your actions. Whatever you’ve done to get you to this point, good or bad, you’re going to experience it on a really powerful level. You’ve made your bed and, now, you’re lying in it.
Again, I don’t think that’s unsympathetic on Saturn’s part. It’s just a part of life. There are too many people who go through life, thinking that they can get away with anything. If you shoplift, there’s a good chance you’ll get arrested. If you drink and drive, there’s a good chance that you could hurt yourself or someone else. It’s all about responsibility. And if you’re being irresponsible with your Saturn, then you’re going to “get arrested” during your Saturn Return. But, that time in jail, metaphorically speaking, can hopefully sober you up or straighten you out. Then, once you’re free, you can hopefully become a more responsible, mature member of society.
This is why the Saturn Return feels like such a crisis to most. When you’re going through your first Saturn Return, it is truly life-changing. It’s pretty well-known that your 20’s are a messy, confusing time, in some way or another. You make endless mistakes, whether it’s in love, career, or your self-expression. You’re trying to figure out what to really make of your life. You’re attempting to find “the one”, to become a success in your career, or just be the kind of person you dreamed of being when you were a kid. Then, your Saturn Return happens. The first Saturn Return is a bittersweet time. It’s a goodbye to your 20’s, as you begin to wrap up this decade and enter a new one.
Astrology is so ingrained in our culture that some people don’t even realize it. Just like there’s all this superstition surrounding the Full Moon, the act of turning 30 is quite an existential one. It’s a marker for many people: “I want to ‘make it’ before I turn 30” or “I need to get married by the time I turn 30” or “I’m not having kids until I turn 30.” What is it about the age of 30 that’s so meaningful? Well, when you turn 30 is when you’ve completed your Saturn Return. Therefore, you’ve hopefully worked hard to get your act together, in some shape or form. The pressure to achieve something major before your 30th birthday is a real part of our society. It’s a way to feel like an adult.
And the pressure to accomplish is intensely felt during your Saturn Return. Through this time, your Saturn is amplified. Your Saturn sign, house placement, and aspects are felt stronger than ever and manifest in a way that you can no longer ignore or not take seriously, like you may have in the past. If you have Saturn in the 6th House, health issues and your daily schedule become more challenging than they have been before. If Saturn is in Capricorn, prepare to potentially worry a lot during this time, as well as get more preoccupied with work. Saturn trine the Moon will bring more focus on being emotionally self-sufficient and a dependable support system for other people.
The Saturn Return can definitely put a lot on your plate. Depending on what’s going on with your Saturn, situations that are major emergencies or tragedies can even happen. That only highlights the fears that come with this planet. Saturn represents, by its position, what we worry about the most. Before your first Saturn Return, you might try to suppress or ignore these worries, living a more carefree existence. But, this is why becoming a real grown-up can be so resisted by many. It comes equipped with serious issues that require our dedication to work through and beat.
Therefore, many people experience their first Saturn Return as very therapeutic or cathartic, especially if Saturn is in a Water sign or house. You get to conquer those deep fears that have ruled your life for so long but that were too overwhelming to deal with. It’s not saying that everything will be totally smooth sailing with your Saturn afterward. But, this is the level of accomplishment you can get to during your Saturn Return. It’s a transit that turns many people into a very different person, thanks to a hard-earned maturity that allows you to deal with life more effectively and successfully. Since Saturn can be such a source of self-doubt, mastering your Saturn sign, house, and aspects will lead to a newfound confidence that will allow you to properly enter adulthood.
But, that brings the question of who the actual adults are. People’s maturity and developmental levels can vary a lot and it doesn’t always depend on their age. There are many “old souls” who actually take the time to work on their Saturn placement before their first Saturn Return occurs. This is particularly true for those who have a strong Saturn influence in their chart or a Capricorn Rising, meaning that Saturn rules their chart and, therefore, rules their life. So, for these people, they have already dedicated themselves so much to their Saturn that when they encounter their first Saturn Return, they’re ready. It becomes a time that’s much less about pressure or difficulty and more about just reaping the rewards of the efforts that they’ve already made. It’s a truly lucrative time.
Yet, there are the people on the other end of the spectrum who just don’t seem to learn much, regarding their Saturn. After all, not everyone grows and develops during their first Saturn Return, unfortunately. There are some people who just resist the process, feeling victimized somehow by the hardships or setbacks they went through during this transit. So, they just go through life remaining stagnant well into their 30’s and 40’s. Being older does not always make you wiser. There are many people who just don’t get it together regarding their Saturn and that’s a sad thing to witness. It’s very common for someone with a 7th House Saturn to have major relationship issues in their 20’s. But, to see a middle-aged 7th House Saturn person still unable to really commit or have a strong relationship shows that they haven’t done the work necessary to grow or develop.
Again, we’re all flawed and I’m not saying that you have to be able to get your Saturn placement completely right after your first Return. But, at the same time, you should “know better” after this time, so you can catch yourself when you begin making your mistakes again. Being unable to do this makes the time between the first and the second Saturn Return particularly difficult, in some way. Those who aren’t able to mature via this planet never really get the success that they want. They might settle for a very mediocre or very unfulfilling job, unwilling to pursue their true goals. They could get involved in highly dysfunctional relationships or marriages, bounce from one to the next, or just fail to find the right person. And they may also just, in general, fail to live up to their true potential as a person, never finding the empowerment or the self-awareness they need.
I believe that the only failure is not trying. When you don’t make the effort with your Saturn, you fail at life. That’s even if you might seem like you have a great life. Being an adult is not as simple as being able to pay your bills and find a secure job. Saturn shows us adulthood is more of an existential thing than that. After all, many of our Saturn placements are not that earthy or practical. If you have Saturn in Pisces or Saturn in the 5th, your sense of achievement and maturity doesn’t come from making money. It comes from your spirituality (Pisces) or your creativity (5th House). And if you keep avoiding these lessons, it’s always going to feel like “something’s missing.”
There can be something quite tragic about someone who’s approaching their second Saturn Return and hasn’t learned their Saturn lessons. During the first, we’re still young. We still have a chance to live the life we want. A few people say that you can feel “washed up” somehow during your first Saturn Return, as if your options are now limited. I say that couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re barely even 30 when we go through the first one. That is definitely not old, despite what some people may think. People can totally turn their lives around at this age. But, during the second Saturn Return? That’s when that feeling of dried-up options can get overwhelming. You’re almost 60 during this transit. The harsh reality is that there’s only so much more life for you to live.
Of course, life doesn’t stop after the second Saturn Return. It’s just that, if you haven’t achieved your Saturn placement’s responsibilities by then, you’ll have to break your back to do so. This is the time of approaching senior citizenship. And it can bring on a crisis that you’re about to reach retirement age without being able to retire, metaphorically speaking. You’re going to have to continue to work hard, when you should be taking it easy. That’s much more difficult to do at this time. The older you get, the more set in your ways you become. Therefore, people who haven’t developed and mastered their Saturn by the second Saturn Return, honestly, have rather slim chances of doing so, unless they are just absolutely committed to their personal growth.
It’s why it’s so important to heed your Saturn lessons the first time around. It sets the stage for the rest of your life. Now, for those who were wise enough or strong enough to do the work on their Saturn placement, the second Saturn Return does bring a lovely feeling of retirement. You now don’t have to work so hard. You’ve solidified your status via your Saturn through all those decades. So, you get to take it easier. That’s not to say that the Return will be without trials. But, they will be handled with amazing grace by you. While the struggles of the first Saturn Return can be quite traumatizing, the struggles of the second, if the person has taken the steps to develop, will be handled with a more skillful perseverance. You’ve been there, done that. Yet, if you are still immature in your Saturn area during the second Return, it’ll be a painful, déjà vu feeling of “been there, done that.” Reality is knocking at your door. It’s up to you to finally answer.
As far as when the Saturn Return occurs exactly, there are varying opinions. Some think it’s when transiting Saturn is actually conjunct your natal Saturn. Some think it’s the entire three years that Saturn is in your Saturn sign. I will have to go with the opinion that the Saturn Return is when Saturn is either conjunct your Saturn and/or in your Saturn’s house. It’s going to be felt either way. The house placement of your Saturn is where it lives and expresses itself. So, long as transiting Saturn’s in that house, you’re going to be impacted. Also, look out for when transiting Saturn will be within 8 degrees of your natal Saturn. Although the time of the exact conjunction will be felt most powerfully, as long as there’s a conjunction of 8 degrees or less between transiting Saturn and your natal Saturn, in my opinion, you’re still in your Saturn Return.