Saturn Returns: Milestones In Your Soul’s Journey

Complaint Department: Line up here! What’s your beef? Oh, you’re having a Saturn transit? You hate Saturn? Many years ago, as a new student of Astrology and the mother of a teenage son I blithely told him one day when he was complaining that he was just having a Saturn transit, which would soon be over. “I hate Saturn!” he said, stomping out of the house.  I know, I know — I’ve mentioned my son before and bragged about him and now I’m saying he wasn’t a perfect teenager. Is there such a thing as a perfect teenager, who doesn’t yell at his mother when she insults him by making light of his suffering? But I was still in my amateur stage of being the mother of a teenager as well as being an amateur in Astrology. I had a lot to learn.

But learning about a thing is, by itself, rather meaningless unless we also understand it in the context of relationships, and I’m speaking also of the acausal relationship we have with the planets which help us to understand ourselves. For instance, in Astrology the planet Saturn represents the principles of limitation but it gets more complicated than that. As we limit ourselves, or else feel we are limited by circumstances, we must refocus our energy on what we wish to give form to. Hence, the finished products or structures in our lives, whether created from material or spiritual sources, have been given form by our own efforts, through hard work, which also focalizes the Saturn principle. In making our choices, we cut out the dead wood to make room for, and give form to, our intentions, and both processes are representative of Saturn.

Our first Saturn Return between the ages of 28 and 30 is one of the most important times in our lives, when transiting Saturn returns to the degree it held in our natal chart when we were born. It’s crucial because we often have a residue of unfinished business and will need to wrap up endings in order to prepare for new beginnings. Especially if we feel we are headed in the wrong direction. If we’ve been trying to reflect someone else’s idea of who we are, it’s time for introspection in order to discover our own needs and become our most authentic selves. But, while we take responsibility for our own lives we also recognize our responsibility to others, both individually and in the larger social order.

My son made friends with Saturn or at least reached a truce, learning and accepting responsibilities early. Quite a few years would go by during which he worked hard to get his education and forge a career as an officer in the Air Force. When he had his first Saturn Return during the years betwee 28 and 30, he married and started a family. Although these are positive, joyful transitions, I have no doubt that at some time he also dealt with the return of wounds from childhood and adolescence that most of us experience at this time, when past circumstances we faced are reawakened. It is as though we’re cleaning out the closet of old disappointments and anxieties in order to make way for a new life. We are on our search for the Holy Grail and are metaphorically reborn.

When we have successfully handled the frustration and pain of growth and change that comes during our first Saturn Return the rest of our lives will be better, and our second Saturn Return at age 58-60 easier. However, if we did not achieve the growth we needed at that time, if we have allowed ourselves to become further entrenched in an inauthentic life, the changes will be harder the second time around.

But it can be done. My first Saturn Return, which thankfully I had not thought about in a long time until now, was very painful, yet at the same time I did not understand what was going on or why I was so depressed. Had I known Astrology at the time, it would’ve helped me to deal with those feelings. However, by the time of my second Saturn Return, I had enough understanding about myself to realize I had to make drastic changes in my life. Although it was still hard, I can assure you the struggle was worthwhile. If you find you are living an inauthentic life even at age sixty, it’s still not too late to change.

Liz Greene, an internationally known Astrologer, says in Saturn: A New Look at the Old Devil that Saturn “is never easy to deal with because his function is that of promoting growth, and it is only frustration and pain which at present are sufficient goads to get a human being moving.”

Saturn has gotten a bad rep as you can see by the title of Liz Greene’s book, but it’s said half in jest because people dread their Saturn times. But Saturn is really a friend, not a foe. He represents our ability not only to deal with reality, but also to take personal responsibility for the structures we build in our lives during this sojourn on planet Earth. Of course, eventually some of those structures become rigid and outlive their usefulness. At which time the transits of other outer planets will reflect a different kind of change, which will also aid us in our continuous struggle to try to achieve the best that is in us.  But that is a different story, for another time.

Spiritual Reality Of Astrology

Spiritual reality underlies our physical world. We are individual manifestations of Spirit in physical form. Like leaves blowing in the wind, loose from their mooring, we appear to be separate, but we are all connected. We are all one. If you find it hard to feel brotherly love for some of Earth’s inhabitants, don’t feel bad. Just remind yourself to pray for their souls. We all come from the same source but some of us have lost our way.

It may seem strange when you first begin to study Astrology, but you’ll find out it represents a greater Truth. By analyzing aspects between planets in our solar system Astrologers can explain things that take place here on planet Earth. Dr. Carl Jung, the psychologist, studied Astrology and sometimes used it in his practice, creating the term synchronicity to describe the alignment of Universal Forces with the life experience of an individual. A birth is the beginning of something new, whether a person, a nation or some other entity. The United States was born on July 4, 1776 because that’s when we declared ourselves to be an independant nation.

By studying the movement of the outer planets as they transit through the astrological signs and form aspects with one another, we can understand the larger patterns of what is going on with the people on Earth. The zodiac consists of 360 degrees, thirty to each of the twelve signs, Aries through Pisces, and the divisions of that circle forms aspects that correspond to the meaning of the number. For instance a square aspect is 360 degrees divided by four to make 90; an opposition aspect is 360 divided by two to make 180; a trine 120, etc. The most important thing about these transits is that as they cycle through the heavens they represent long-term change and turning-points on Earth in matters corresponding to what that planet represents.

The word “cycle” is relevant. All cycles begin with a conjunction of two planets, i.e. at the same degree in the zodiac, and as the faster planet moves away from the slower planet a new planetary cycle begins. With the outer planets this means something new is happening on planet Earth. As the planets continue to cycle they create later aspects that show turning points or crises in the evolution of what began at the conjunction. Some cycles last for hundreds of years, the shortest cycle in the large social realm being the twenty-year cycle between Saturn and Jupiter.

Strangely enough, their conjunction in the year 1840 began a pattern that lasted 120 years, of every United States President elected in a zero year dying in office.* The first one was William Harrison, elected in 1840, who died of pneumonia; after that were Lincoln 1860; Garfield 1880; and McKinley 1900, all three assassinated. Elected in 1920 was Harding, who died of a heart attack and in 1940 Roosevelt, who died of a stroke. Then in 1960 Kennedy was elected and later assassinated, raising the total to four who were assassinated. Up until 1840 not a single US President elected in a zero year had died while in office. The fact that Jupiter and Saturn were beginning a new cycle in all of the zero years tells us synchronicity was at work. Simplistically, Jupiter represents the king or leader and Saturn the grim reaper.

On the other hand, instead of the 20 year cycle, often referred to as “Tecumseh’s Curse” we have another odd incidence of three presidents, Adams, Jefferson and Monroe, all dying on the fourth of July, two — Adams and Jefferson, dying on the same day in the same year. The presidency did not exist in 1780, but John Adams had occupied the office during the first zero year of 1800. Thomas Jefferson was his Vice President, succeeding Adams as President a year later, and Adams and Jefferson both died on the same day, the Fourth of July, 1826. James Monroe, who had been elected in 1820 also died on the Fourth of July, 1831, five years after Jefferson and Adams. 

Add an odd postscript: Adams had retired to his farm and penned elaborate letters to Jefferson. On July 4, 1826, he whispered his last words. “Thomas Jefferson survives.” But Jefferson had died at Monticello a few hours earlier.

Astrologers feared Reagan also would die in office and he nearly did from an attempted assassination on March 30, 1981 (Hinkley’s bullet missed Reagan’s heart by just one inch). Some believe that Reagan was spared assassination because the Jupiter and Saturn conjunction in 1980 was a special one in that it was also a Grand Mutation – when the conjunction switches to air signs. All the previous conjunctions involved earth signs. We might also add that Nancy was consulting an Astrologer daily about his movements while they were in the White House – whether that actually kept him safe, I don’t know.

As for George W. Bush, the Jupiter and Saturn conjunction in 2000 was unique in that both the earth and air signs were involved. So far, the closest Bush has come to death was on January 14, 2002, when he fainted after choking while eating a pretzel. Of course his term is nearly over and we pray that no harm will come to him.

For the past while, a series of aspects between the planets corresponding to what Astrologers call irrational degrees has been occurring, creating an opening between worlds, allowing alternate realities to disrupt our lives. Disruptive because they’re early precursors of accelerated changes that we know are coming although Astrologers cannot predict the outcome. On a personal level, when the forces of change seem to be trying to sweep us into deep waters, it is time to eliminate non-essentials from our lives, ridding ourselves of the poisons we’ve let creep into our bodies and minds, which have been steering us away from our inner truth and enlightenment. An activity that would help us to do this is chanting or singing, even if only in our minds, the simple words of a song written by Hal David and set to music by Burt Bacharach. “What the world needs now is love, sweet love, it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now is love, sweet love, not just for some but for everyone.” 

This is the message the Universe is trying to send us.  Because we have free will, it is up to us how we respond.  But we also know there are two sides to everything – will we respond by loving our fellow man and trying to do what’s best for the entire world, or will we grab all the glitter we can hold and run?  Either way is synchronistic, but we must make the better choice.

If we can hold onto the best that is in us, if we can banish hatefulness and intolerance from our lives, we can claim the positive side of the coming world changes.

*Only one other president has died while in office, so the total for those dying in office who were also elected in a zero year is seven out of eight. The exception, Zachary Taylor, was elected in 1849 and died on July 9, 1850 of gastroenteritis. He was stricken on July 4th, after attending various Independence Day ceremonies. That evening he began having abdominal cramps which steadily worsened. Like virtually all Presidents, there were many people who might have wished Taylor dead. Because of theories that Taylor might have been poisoned, most likely by strychnine, his body was exhumed on June 17, 1991. With permission of descendants, samples of it were analyzed. Some arsenic was found, but in quantities said to be too small to cause harm. This has not satisfied some commentators, who find flaws in the testing methods.

Appalachian Rhapsody–God’s Comic Intervention

Out of the void of darkness came the Big Boom and another mountaintop in Appalachia tumbled down the mountainside, buried a graveyard, filled up a stream and killed a fish. The fish asked why but nobody answered. A small boy heard and looked up at the old man sitting on a cloud, coughing and waving away the coal dust. “Gee whiz, God,” said the boy, “Whatcha letting them do that for?”

And God laughed. “T’ain’t funny,” said the boy.

“Oh, yes it is,” said God, slapping his knee, almost choking on his laughter, “you’ll see.”

The boy grew up and became a man. He went to Detroit to work in the car factory. He sent money home to his maw to help care for the other youngins, and one of them even became a mining engineer and told the mountaintop removers where to set the charges. More Big Booms, more mountaintops crashing down into the valleys. Huge machines now did the work requiring fewer and fewer workers. While the valleys filled up with all this debris more and more people left the wrecked mountains and moved to the cities.

There they married people whose ancestors had left the mountains over the past two hundred years, generations that had mingled and merged with others throughout these United States. Whose genes had  grown weaker and weaker the further they had strayed from their source. Weak brains had become rampant in the populace, and it was the ones with weak brains who had plundered Mother Earth and destroyed the mountains. Others of the weak brain had stood by and watched the plight of the mountaineers with disinterest, even prejudice.

But with the new infusion of the blood of the mountain people who were forced to move to the cities, a new race was born. They came to be called the Neomelungeons.

“So you see,” said God to the boy who had become a man and was now a very old man. “By letting the weak-minded destroy the mountains, I brought forth a new race. The blood of your ancestors was kept sacrosanct behind your mountain walls, where they retired after your Revolution. In their blood lives on the history of America, forgotten by many whose blood has been diluted this past two hundred years. The mountain blood is that of the mixed races of all people, come together for a divine purpose: to help mankind evolve to the next stage of your journey on your return to the One True Reality. Your place of origin at my side.”

The old man said: “Well, pon my soul and honor!”

Let’s Accentuate the Positive

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily. “So it is,” “And freezing.” “Is it?” “Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.” — A. A. Milne

I once had a friend who called me every evening to complain about her boyfriend who had left her, her boss who had fired her, her other “friends”, her co-workers, her neighbors, her ex-boyfriend’s dog and Dr. Phil’s threats to drag someone off the sidelines and into the fray of life.

At first I was compassionate, kind, and understanding — we all go through bad times and she had sided with me through one of mine. I tried to cheer her up, get her to see the positive side of things. Thank goodness this horrible boyfriend was out of her life. Yes, her ex-boss was obviously dragging the company down and it would serve him right if the company went bankrupt without her. No, I didn’t think it was right for the boyfriend to let the dog sleep between them. I thought of Winston then, who sleeps with me. On the other side, perhaps, I said, but not in the middle. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite.

Not only did she call me every night but if I was online she IM-ed me, even if she had just talked to me for two hours. I finally blocked her so she couldn’t see when I was online. A mutual friend, who also received frequent calls from her suggested I do what she did, screen my phone calls. Don’t answer, she said, let it go to voicemail so you can see who it is. But sometimes people hung up without leaving a message and I would stew about it, wondering whose call I had missed. When another friend told me she had called earlier I said why didn’t you leave a message? It wasn’t that important, she said. Next time, I said, leave a message – please?

And, what if it was one of my children or a sibling who had called, needing help, but thought I wasn’t home? Not leaving a message for fear of worrying me. So I told them I was screening my calls–say something so I’ll know it ‘s you.

In the meantime I tried to cheer my friend up. Every time she said something negative, I said something positive. I refused to support her poor me act. I pointed out how gifted she was in so many ways but for some reason she didn’t want to hear that. She became very derisive towards me. Now I was the enemy with my stupid talks about taking a stupid walk in nature and smelling the stupid flowers, when she could buy them at the store and put them in vases in her apartment and smell them all day without doing all that stupid walking. I think her favorite word was stupid. By implication I was also stupid–well, she didn’t exactly say it but her tone of voice did.

One day I finally realized how toxic this person was to me. And also that I had been letting her bully me. After one harrowing conversation I sent her an email. Evidently, I said, the only thing the two of us have in common is we’re the same age. I really could think of nothing else to say, but she got the message and ended our communication.

Thank goodness! By that time I was all talked out, and drained of every compassionate feeling I’d ever had in my life.

But I have this stubborn belief that everything happens for a reason and that I was supposed to learn something from this experience. But what? I was reminded of a book I read years ago about games people play. One game mentioned in the book seemed familiar. In this “game” a person comes to you with a problem and you respond by trying to help him/her solve it. But everything you suggest is shot down by the other person as unworkable (stupid?) until you finally give up. Therefore, in this game, you are the loser, since the person who walks away still has the problem you were unable to solve.

Well, my friend had a plethora of problems, all resulting from a bad attitude, and perhaps like the foregoing she had made me an opponent in her game, but one thing I have learned from this experience is to protect my own boundaries, not allowing them to be encroached upon. I hadn’t realized before that this was a weakness of mine.

I’m reminded of the words of Carl Jung. The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security and calm that is not easily disturbed. It is just these intense conflicts and their conflagration which are needed to produce valuable and lasting results.

Once I understood what the lesson was, I knew what to do, so I worked first on shoring up my walls before I lowered my drawbridge. Perhaps my former friend will cultivate a more positive attitude towards life, and perhaps one day we will even meet again. If so, I hope that she will respect my boundaries, but if not, I will be certain to keep them intact.

The Human Condition: Poop Has Always Been With Us

Woe am I, the haunted, beset by fates unkind; blessed with a royal demeanor and cursed with a common behind – the human complaint

Not long after my first husband and I were married we found we both liked to read in bed. One night he was reading a history about ancient Rome and I was reading the latest Perry Mason mystery, which he had ridiculed as low-brow. Upon discovering a new word, something he enjoyed immensely, he stopped to tell it to me; tepidarium, he said, was a Roman word for bathhouse. 

Immediately, I picked up a notebook and pen from the nightstand, suddenly inspired to write a poem. Although at that time attempts at poetry was not my normal thing, the verses came flying out of the stratosphere (or scatological sphere?) so fast I had to hurry to get them down before they left again:

“If all men joined together on this earth in dreams of royal origin in their births, then each must blush for shame at his delirium when nature prompts him to the tepidarium.

“I wonder too, if kings join in the mirth when they bare their royal backsides to the earth, or do they dignify and grace their lonely station as they join the common herd in defecation.”

Now I don’t know where the words came from but there they were, and as far as I can tell, were original. However, later when I looked up tepidarium in the dictionary to see the definition for myself, I realized the poem had a fatal flaw. According to Websters Unabridged a tepidarium was described thus: “in the ancient Roman baths, the warm room, situated between the steam room and the cooling room.”

I had equated a Roman bathhouse with a modern day bathroom, which has both a bathtub and a toilet. But in Rome, bathhouses and latrines, where the defecating was done, were separate. And latrine does not rhyme with delirium. If you can think of an appropriate word that does, please let me know as it will make the poem salvageable. Although I doubt that anyone will ever want to publish it.

Actually, Rome was more like my early Appalachian home, the bathhouse being situated in a washtub that hung behind the kitchen stove and the latrine at the end of a path leading away from the house. An interesting difference though, was that the Romans, instead of using pages from a Sears catalogue as we did, since they didn’t have them, used a communal sponge on a stick–rinsing it out after each use.  Duh!

But it surprises me still that my intellectual husband, upon hearing the recitation of my poem, just stared at me without a comment, his mouth gaping open. Were he behaving normally, I would’ve expected him to show off his superior knowledge about bathhouses and latrines. I think my poem flushed the word tepidarium right out of his mind though. Or else he quickly decided, to paraphrase Aeschylus, that even if one is wise, he may sometimes deem it profitable to appear to be foolish.

Politics: Throwing the Bleeps to the Lions

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”  Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

After reading several editorials online this morning I came across the one by Garry Wills in the New York Times: Two Presidents are Worse than One.  Of course Wills is referring to Bill Clinton when he states “He is not the kind to be a potted plant in the White House,” immediately I had a mental image of Bill peeking out from behind a potted plant, his eyes gleaming. The image even brought up another one from a story I read about a woman being arrested for peeing in someones’s potted plant. I hope she doesn’t visit the White House when she gets out of jail, at least not if Bill is there. Yuk! I wish that image had passed me by.

Wills also states that “at a time when we should be trying to return to the single-executive system the Constitution prescribes, it does not seem to be a good idea to put another co-president in the White House.” He’s referring, of course, to the mostly-acknowledged-by-many co-presidency of Dick Cheney.

To add to the fray, in another editorial in the Times, Questions for the Clintons, Bob Herbert asks “whether the Clintons are capable of being anything but divisive,” and “What kind of people are the Clintons? What role will Bill Clinton play in a new Clinton White House? Can they look beyond winning to a wounded nation’s need for healing and unifying?”

And, as Cathy Young states in her editorial Gender and the Politics of Hate in the Boston Globe, “Hillary Clinton has always been a polarizing figure, “Saint Hillary” to some, the Wicked Witch of the West Wing to others; an altruistic crusader for social justice or a power-hungry Mussolini in skirts. There is no question that gender was a large factor in both Hillary-hatred and in Hillary-worship.”

Young also adds: “But Clinton is hardly the only polarizing figure in contemporary American politics, or the only target of visceral, irrational hate out of all proportion to the politician’s actual faults. Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Al Gore and George W. Bush have all been in that boat.”

Aha! So it’s American politics as usual. Every four years we get into name-calling, reputation-bashing public brawls and throw the bleeps to the lions. What fun! The thing is, it tests the mettle of the contenders and the patience of the voters, both of which must be engaged in the toughest feats in the arena if we are to end up with the best possible choice. But–since married couples always fight, and if they don’t someone is giving in too much–why not have a duo in the White House, openly for a change.

Do the pundits actually believe our presidents never looked to their mates for help in running the country? A good wife always helps her husband by sharing his burdens, unless they’re fighting and then, by damn, she will become a potted plant – I’m sure many husbands recognize this allusion.  Let a man have a chance to be a helpmate, or a potted plant if he wishes. The time has come to recognize, acknowledge and promote the truth behind the presidency.  If we don’t, we will miss a sacred moment of opportunity that may never come again.

Eight Days on Sand Key

Normally, when it’s zero degrees in Iowa and snow covers the ground I want nothing more than to hibernate indoors while admiring the winter wonderland through my frosty windows. However, during the recent cold spell, I received an invitation to spend eight days as a guest on Sand Key, compelling me to brave the frigid temperature on the way to the airport where I flew off to bask in the Florida sunshine.

After arriving at the condo with its security gates and different keys for entrances, exits, pool area and changing rooms, I was almost afraid to venture out for fear of not getting back in. My brother and sister-in-law had been granted vacation use of the condo by an employer and were allowed to have visitors so my older brother’s widow was also with them. Although the condo, beautiful and furnished tastefully, was evaluated at almost two million dollars, I was not overawed. It was simply more elegant living quarters than I was accustomed to.

I slept well in the king size bed although I missed Winston’s warm little body against my back and hoped he was behaving for my daughter. This was the first time I’d been away from him overnight in two and a half years, also the first time I had seen my relatives since that time. We had talked often on the phone though and I looked forward to reminiscing about the past.

Although we made small talk, shared meals and loaded the dishwasher together, and on the second day my widowed sister-in-law and I took the trolley to Clearwater to shop for things to take home from Florida, three days went by before we spoke of Kentucky.

It’s strange, but I learned for the first time that my brother, who was twelve when I was eight, did not remember that he was the one who woke me to tell me that morning that Daddy had died during the early morning hours. Yet that moment stands out in my mind as clearly as if it was yesterday.

In another instance my widowed sister-in-law said to me “Who would ever have thought it would be you, little Amanda Nell, who would do the family book. Who would have thought it!”

I have always had trouble interpreting the things people say, but what I learned from my brother and what my sister-in-law said seemed connected somehow. All those years ago my brother had left the room not knowing my body had turned to stone. I remember lying rigid in the bed with no feeling at all and yet I don’t remember getting up. Sometime later I stood in the doorway to the front room in our Appalachian home staring at my father’s body lying in the casket while relatives and neighbors sat in chairs around the room staring at me. I once said to my mother “It was really hard on me when Daddy died.”

“It was hard on all of us,” she said.

As I caught the plane home I had my brother and his wife drop me off early at the airport because I was halfway through an interesting novel and also because I knew the day was finally warm enough for them to play golf. We’d had a few cold, for Florida, blustery days.

But as I sat in the Tampa Airport, I remembered those days so long ago when my brother had shared such terrible news, news he doesn’t remember telling me. I thought of my sister-in-law saying “Who would ever have thought it” that I would be the one to do the family book.  But, I thought to myself, I had to.  Because nobody else did. And it was important to leave a written record for those who wanted to know what our small world was like during that place and time. 

Back in Cedar Rapids my daughter picked me up at the airport and I hugged her close, rejoicing to be back in this cozy place I’ve created for myself. When I awoke this morning the temperature was  nine below, but inside I felt a warm glow the frigid weather will never touch.