The Saturn Return


In a discussion about my divorce last year with a group of designers, someone made the comment that I was in my ‘Saturn return.’ I had never heard the term before, but it’s a reference to an astrological phenomenon that occurs every 29 years, coinciding with Saturn’s return to its place in the sky when you were born (Saturn has a 28.5 year revolution around the sun). Wikipedia does a pretty good job explaining it:

It is believed by astrologers that, as Saturn “returns” to the degree in its orbit occupied at the time of birth, a person crosses over a major threshold and enters the next stage of life. With the first Saturn return, a person leaves youth behind and enters adulthood. With the second return, maturity. And with the third and usually final return, a person enters wise old age. These periods are estimated to occur at roughly the ages of 27-30, 58-60, 86-88 and so on.

The first Saturn return is most significant because it represents the first test of character and the structures a person has built his life upon. According to traditions, should these structures be unsound, or if a person is living out of touch with his true values, the Saturn return will be a time of upheaval and limitations as Saturn forces him to jettison old concepts and worn out patterns of living. It is not uncommon for relationships and jobs to end during this time of life restructuring and revaluation.

But the Saturn return is not all about painful endings. During this time astrologers note that goals are consolidated and people tend to gain a better vision of where they are going in life. There are added responsibilities and a person may reap the rewards from his hard work. Many major life milestones seem to happen around the ages of 29 and 30. This is why astrologers believe that the 30th birthday is such a major rite of passage because it marks the true beginning of adulthood, self-evaluation, independence, ambition, and self-actualization.

Now normally I consider astrology to be entirely bullshit. I don’t even know what my sign is, nor do I care, but this is spot on to what I’ve experienced in my 29th year. I suppose it may simply be a normal stage of human development that happens to coincide with the orbit of a planet, but whatever the case, I think there’s something there.

And I know it’s not just me. I have many friends who are the same age who have gone through the exact same thing. I think most get through it without the degree of upheaval I’ve experienced (quit church, marriage, city, and job within 6 months of each other), but there’s a lot of self reflection and course corrections going on among those my age.

All through my 20’s I kept asking myself, “Am I an adult yet?”

Am I an adult now that I’m married? Now that I’ve graduated college? Now that I own a house, two cars, and three dogs? Now that I have a successful business? Now that I own a bigger house? Now that I own stocks and have an accountant? Am I an adult now that I’m divorced?

Even with all those milestones I felt more like a kid doing ‘adult things’ than a real adult in my 20’s. I never really felt like an adult until recently. So begins my second return…

Photo credit: Famous painting by Spanish artist Francisco de Goya, “Saturn Devouring His Son.” In Roman mythology, Saturn ruled the universe for a time, but it was predicted that his power would be usurped by his offspring, so after each birth he would eat the child. He was eventually poisoned by Jupiter (or disemboweled by Zeus, if you’re Greek), a son who escaped and freed his siblings. Somehow this seemed like an appropriate image…