The ancient myths
In the pre-patriarchal era of ancient times, the major deity was Gaia, the primordial mother of Earth who emerged at the dawn of creation and was worshipped at ancient Delphi as early as 1400 bce during the Mycenean period. All of the other gods and archetypes of the Hellenic period descend from her through her marriage to Uranus (Ouranos), the god of the sky. The astrological archetype of Uranus carries into the present this sense of the visionary perspective that comes from the Universal sky.
Uranus by all accounts was a very bad father and threw most of his children into Tartarus (the regions of hell) and Saturn (Kronos in Greece) alone was willing to rise up against him, with the encouragement of Gaia. There is a sense here of the attempted overthrow of the patriarchy by Gaia who previously had ruled alone. In any case, Saturn castrated Uranus and the power of the gods was passed on to the next generation. Saturn wasn’t that great a father either and had a nasty habit of eating his children. He in turn was castrated by Jupiter who went on to rule the Olympian gods. Sandwiched between the generation of the cosmic chaos deities Uranus (sky) and Gaia (earth), Saturn rules over the cold hard facts of matter and the mastery of the material world.
As the god of the sky, or more accurately the sky itself, Uranus represents the light of creation and the wisdom of the heavens. The archetype of Uranus as the rebel and radical is fascinating in light of the mythological history. It is fairly apparent that Gaia was the primary deity in pre-patriarchal times (age of Taurus), and was usurped by the coming of the male gods. I wrote about this after returning from a trip to Greece where I visited Delphi, an ancient place where Gaia was usurped by the god Apollo, and other sites where the worship of the primordial goddess was evident. You can read more about that here. In any case, here comes the new legends in which Uranus becomes the sky, a long period of rebellion and the throwing off of the status quo ensues, and Gaia is herself minimized to a minor deity.
The astrology of Saturn and Uranus
The connection between the archetypes of Saturn and Uranus is an interesting one. Saturn is the outermost of the visible planets – the planets that define the personality of our human existence. Uranus is the first of the outer planets; transformational forces which inspire us to reach beyond the limitations of physical humanity. (Chiron’s orbit lies between the two, bridging the gap between the two, but that is a story for another time.) And they are connected by their shared the rulership of Aquarius – Saturn as the traditional ruler and Uranus as the modern ruler. And for our purposes in 2021, they are both currently in fixed signs which can be stubborn and unyielding.
In traditional and Vedic forms of astrology the outer planets are not considered, For these practitioners, Saturn is the most powerful of the planets – the Lord of Death and Karma, a “malefic” planet that would generally bring about bad things. Modern astrology tends to take a different view of Saturn – one that recognizes his ability to create form and structure, to organize humans into social bodies using customs, morality and rules of law, and to offer up the mundane virtues of discipline, hard work and a desire to achieve something in the physical world. In his guise as the Lord of Time he reminds us that life is fleeting and we’d better do something that will make our lives amount to something.
Uranus was not discovered until 1781 (coincidentally, Pluto at the time was in the sign of Aquarius which is ruled by Uranus). Uranus is the first of the “outer planets” and is associated with experiences that urge us to be free of the shackles of moral responsibility that Saturn enforces – to find our own personal and individual liberty in pursuit of an ideal life. The discovery of Uranus coincided with the spread of these concepts that resulted in revolutions in the New World and in France. These successful revolutions gave rise to a wave of revolutionary (Uranian) fever that spread to Russia, China, France, Peru, Serbia, Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay, Korea, Spain, Portugal, Greece and the Ottoman Empire over the next 30 years.
There is a dark side to the idealism of Uranus – in mythology, the god Uranus, Lord of the Sky, was horrified at the monstrous children that were the result of his union with Gaia, and banished them all to Tartarus (a form of the Underworld). He became a cruel and despotic tyrant, hated by all of his children. Saturn, one of the offspring of Uranus, conspired with Gaia to castrate Uranus and Saturn then inherited the government of the world.
The two planets are old enemies and fiercely competitive, especially in the challenging aspects (square and opposition). Where Uranus urges us to seek the perfection of ideals, Saturn reminds us that the world we live in is full of challenge and shattered dreams. Where Uranus wants to break free of restrictions that bind us, Saturn binds us to our responsibilities and social morality. Uranus prefers chaos and the unlimited scope of new ideas and visions – Saturn requires that we crystallize these visions into solid structures that are acceptable to the society in which we live.
The 2021 Saturn/Uranus square
This is the closing square of a Saturn/Uranus dance which began in 1988-1989 with the conjunction. The synodic cycle of Saturn and Uranus lasts for approximately 45 years, and each quarter phase of the cycle has led to great changes:
- Conjunction 1988-1989: Fall of the Berlin Wall, democratic elections in Poland, dictatorship deposed in Romania, pro-Democracy protests in China.
- Opening square 1999-2000: Russian president Yeltsin resigns and is replaced by Vladmir Putin, the DotCom bubble reaches a peak, same sex marriage was approved in Vermont.
- Opposition 2008-2009: In the US, the presidential election between John McCain of the status quo (Saturn) and Barack Obama of the changing US demographic (Uranus) resulted in Obama’s win; the shocking economic collapse that began when Pluto entered Capricorn in January 2008 comes to a head; Bernie Madoff is arrested for a ponzi scheme, Obamacare passes through Congress.
Now we are in the closing square of the cycle which began in 1988. We are in the middle of a pandemic, similar to the one which occurred in 1918 when Saturn was opposite Uranus. There is a turning of the Great Wheel, and we are in the transition from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. Saturn is in the sign of Aquarius, paving the way by reorganizing technological advances and knowledge systems so that they fit better into the new reality. Uranus is in the sign of Taurus, reinventing the economics (Taurus) of human society as well as calling our attention to the realities of climate change and the resulting potential disasters of population displacement and famine.
Saturn is a personal planet, operating on a psychological level, but Uranus is an outer planet that operates through the transformation of our imagined reality. During this alignment, we are being affected both as individuals AND as a collective of humans, living in societies and communities. There is a climate of rebellion (Uranus) against the status quo (Saturn), taking the form of a fervent passion for justice and equality. Civil unrest is a hallmark of Uranus, and the quelling of rebellion is the role of Saturn.
It’s apparent that the pace of change of human civilization is accelerating, and the Coronavirus has done its part to continue the process through which we must re-imagine our place in the world. The increased use of technology as more of us work from home, and are educated from home, and see our doctors and other specialists online as well as ordering our groceries, making dinner reservations, watching movies, and talking to friends online – all of this is speeding up the pace at which technology (the Uranus rulership of Aquarius) is taking over our lives.
In this era of unparalleled realignment as we make the leap into the Aquarian age, we are simultaneously giving birth and being birthed into a new and enlightened future. There could certainly be some chaos and disruption as the old order is deconconstructed, and uncertainty is a hallmark of the replacement and repatterning of old paradigms. But the Universe is always striving for balance, and that which serves us will remain as we move into this new future. To further explore these themes, visit my forecast for 2021 here.