Saturn is the last planet in the solar system that can be seen with the naked eye. Its system of rings makes it stand out as a spectacular sight when seen with a telescope. Saturn has the lowest density of any planet in the solar system and is made up of primarily of hydrogen and helium molecules. Its rings are formed of either matter that was torn apart by Saturn's gravity or material that failed to accrete into a moon when moons were forming. The rings are inclined by 27° to the planet's orbit. According to Jay M. Pasachoff's Contemporary Astronomy, there are 9 moons that have long been known and several others have been detected in modern times. Saturn's cycle around the Sun is 29.47 years and mirrors the 29-month lunar cycle. Saturn spends 41/2 months a year in its retrograde phase. It annually travels an average of 22° forward and 7° retrograde in zodiacal longitude. Due to its distance from the Sun and Moon the ancients attributed Saturn with the primary qualities of cooling and drying.

In Greek mythology, Saturn was Kronos (Cronos), one of the Titans who were among the first children of Heaven (Ouranos) and Earth (Gaea). Ouranos hated some of the first offspring who were horrible monsters and he hid them in secret places within the earth. Gaia was angered at the treatment of her children and appealed to the Cyclopes and Titans for help. Kronos lay in wait for his father and castrated him with a sickle. From that time on for untold ages, Kronos became lord of the universe, according to Edith Hamilton's Mythology. After being overthrown by his son Zeus, Kronos is said to have gone to Italy and ruled over the Great Golden Age. The Romans called him Saturnus, known as the god of agriculture and harvest who founded civilization and the social order. The great feast of Saturnalia is held annually in winter. It was thought that the Golden Age returns during the days the feast lasted. In Christian times, this holiday became Christmas and represents the birth of the Divine Child born at the Winter Solstice. At the turning of the year, old Father Time, who carries a sickle, is replaced by the New Year's Eve baby.

An illustration of Saturn in his chariot with his zodiacal signs Capricorn and Aquarius as wheels. From a mid-seventeenth-century edition of Johannes Indagines's Introduciones Apotelesmatica. Reproduced by permission of Fortean Picture Library.

The passive side of Saturn is solitary, austere, depressive, downcast, miserable, demanding, inactive, sedentary, and immobile. The active side of Saturn is disciplined, determined, driving, sustained, persistent, hard working, and undaunted. In the Hellenistic system, according to Edith Hamilton's Mythology, the star of Kronos was assigned the special essence of ignorance and necessity. Saturn traditionally rules the masculine sign Aquarius that opposes the Sun, and the feminine sign Capricorn that opposes the Moon. It is exalted in Libra, in its fall in Aries, and in its debility in Cancer. When Saturn has essential dignity it operates more from the active qualities and can produce positive results. With little dignity its significations manifest in more malefic form. It rules the Air triplicity in a diurnal chart.

Saturn is a diurnal planet by sect. This means that Saturn in a daytime chart is more at his best. Joseph Crane explains Saturn's sect differences in A Practical Guide to Traditional Astrology:

A diurnal Saturn is organized and disciplined, but also responds to novelty and change. He provides the virtues that one needs to flourish in the world—self-discipline, self-reliance, consistency, responsibility, and frugality . a nocturnal Saturn can become more melancholy, more prone to punishing oneself or others. Here gravity can become density and a greater sense of life's futility. Indeed, diurnality balances some of these saturnine extremes!

Saturn is the most important of the planets in relation to terrestrial boundaries. Saturn is associated with agriculture, and the process and handwork of harvest. Things that take time to develop and endure over time are representative of Saturn's nature. Therefore Saturn is linked to time, age, progress, productivity, maturity and wisdom. In the rank of social structure, Saturn is the administrator, taskmaster, tax collector, guardian, and teacher. It procures reputation and notable rank, according to Vettius Valens, Book I, Chapter I. Its orientation can be toward perfection that requires diligent and disciplined effort, or efforts that can be blocked and limited by restriction, doubt, and lack of skill. It brings what is deserved or earned. Honors, respect, and authority can be granted after efforts have been made. At its most malefic it judges, punishes, rejects, and brings accusation, tears, captivity, exposure of deceit, and orphanhood.

Classical diseases and health problems associated with Saturn are those proceeding from cold, obstructions, and decay, such as melancholy, agues, all nervous diseases, epilepsy, black jaundice, toothache, cold defluxions, catarrh, atrophy, fistula, leprosy, palsy, apoplexy, and dropsy, according to James Wilson's Complete Dictionary of Astrology. Saturn's ailments are chronic and many are associated with aging, such as arthritis, sclerosis, skin diseases, skeletal deformities, hardening of arteries, cancer, congestion, constipation, consumption, deafness, birth defects, falls and bone fractures, gout, growths, halitosis, paralysis, polio, retardation, rheumatism, rickets, starvation, stones in the body, tremors, tooth aches and extractions, weakness, and weight gain, according to Rex E. Bills's The Rulership Book, A Directory of Astrological Correspondences.

In modern astrology's psychological view, Saturn's influence in personality lends a restricted bias toward the perception of how life should operate based on parental, social, and cultural standards. It relates to the kind of intelligence that is factual, correlating information into organized, systematically logical knowledge. It is traditional rather than original. Saturn gives strong leanings toward conformity and social acceptance, while resisting change and rejection.

Liz Greene, Jungian psychologist and author of Saturn: A New Look at an Old Devil, gives the modern view of Saturn:

Saturn symbolizes a psychic process as well as a quality or kind of experience. He is not merely a representative of pain, restriction, and discipline; he is also a symbol of the psychic process, natural to all human beings, by which an individual may utilize the experiences of pain, restriction, and discipline as a means for greater consciousness and fulfilment.. The psychic process which Saturn symbolises seems to have something to do with the realisation of this inner experience of psychic completeness within the individual.

Saturn in the natal chart by sign illustrates the lessons necessary for the individual to define himself and his focus in order to integrate into society. Saturn has a 2i/2-year passage through each sign. The element of the sign highlights the area of greatest restriction that needs to be restructured through the individual's process of development.

Hellenistic astrology gave greater emphasis to planets ruling houses than planets in houses. Modern astrology has given more emphasis to planets in houses. The houses in the chart ruled by Saturn are the places where it has greatest influence on the native's life experiences. Saturn rules the natural tenth and eleventh houses and has its joy in the twelfth house. Using traditional rulership of signs, Saturn rules both Capricorn and Aquarius. Modern astrologers have adopted Uranus as the ruler of Aquarius.

In Jyotish (Vedic astrology), Saturn is known as Shani, or Sanaiscara, which means, "moving slowly." Saturn is the farthest visible planet from the Sun. One story tells of how Saturn was born of the Sun. The Sun's wife grew tired of the glare and heat from her husband and decided to visit her family. She left her shadow in her place. The Sun could not tell the difference between his wife and her shadow and had sex with the shadow. Out of this union Saturn was born. When the ruse was discovered the Sun banished Saturn and refused to acknowledge him as his son. This is why Saturn is not a friend to the Sun.

The other important story about Saturn involves Ganesha, the elephant-headed god. After many centuries of practicing meditation and other forms of spiritual practice, Parvoti decided to have a child with her husband Shiva. Shiva stayed up in the mountains meditating while Parvoti went down the mountain and gave birth. The child was exceptional and like any proud mother, Parvoti called all the gods to come and see her beautiful son. All the gods came and cooed and murmured in amazement, except for Saturn who stood away staring at his feet. Parvoti took offense and demanded that Saturn look at the child. Saturn tried to explain that nothing good could come from his glance, but Parvoti insisted. Saturn raised his head and just barely looked at the child, and the child's head was burnt up into ash. Everyone was aghast and very upset, most especially Parvoti. To soothe her Brahma went to find a new head for the child. The first creature he found was a huge bull elephant. He took the elephant's head and fixed it on the body of the child. That is how Ganesha got his head. (There is another version where it is Shiva who cuts off the child's head because he did not know Parvoti had gone off to have a child.)

In the celestial cabinet, Saturn is the servant. He represents the outcasts of society, beggars, and people who do not follow religious practices. His elemental quality is air, and his gender is neutral. He is the indicator for disease, death, and all sorts of bad things. Ironically, a well-placed Saturn indicates good longevity.


Bills, Rex E. The Rulership Book, A Directory of Astrological Correspondences. Richmond, VA:

Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply Co., 1971. Crane, Joseph. A Practical Guide to Traditional Astrology. Orleans, MA: Archive for the

Retrieval of Historical Astrological Texts, 1997. Greene, Liz. Saturn: A New Look at an Old Devil. New York: Samuel Weiser, 1976.

Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. Boston: Little, Brown, 1942. Masco, Maire. Jyotish Saturn ideas from correspondence by email.

Pasachoff, Jay M. Contemporary Astronomy. 3d ed. Philadelphia: Saunders College Publishing, 1985.

Schmidt, Robert, translator. Vettius Valens, Book I, Chapter I. Cumberland, MD: Phaser Foundation, 2002.

Wilson, James. A Complete Dictionary of Astrology. Islington Green, London, England: William Hueges, 1819.

—Norma Jean Ream

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