Before we can understand the meaning of Saturn in Aquarius, we need to understand Saturn’s role in human existence. This is especially important because as the traditional ruler of Aquarius, Saturn is said to be in its domicile in Aquarius (as well as in Capricorn).
Understanding astrological Saturn
Before the discovery of the modern planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto (not to mention Chiron, the asteroids, and all of the other points that are now used to some extent by astrologers) there were seven planets and lights: the Sun, the Moon, and the five visible planets. Saturn marked the outermost boundary of the solar system, and was surrounded by rings of containment. These physical attributes reflect the astrological depiction of Saturn as governing limitations, physical boundaries such as gateposts and doorways, and the limitations we place on ourselves through self-doubt and fears. Saturn was traditionally viewed as the Lord of Death – unlike the modern planet Pluto, which is associated with death as the ending of one aspect of life and the beginning of something new, death under Saturn is finite and final.
Saturn (in the northern hemisphere where astrology developed) is associated with the two zodiac signs of winter: Aquarius and Capricorn: mid-December through mid-February. These are cold and dark times, where social isolation and the lack of sun can lead to depression and loneliness, other attributes of Saturn. And yet Saturn is also a treasure trove of material success – the hard work of Saturn leads us eventually to mastery of the material world and the potential for an abundance of riches. Under the influence of Saturn we are sometimes weighted down with responsibility and a relentless drive for career success, but the discipline and hard work required also builds strength of character that helps us withstand the storms of life, a characteristic not often recognized.
It is this quality of building inner strength that I value most about Saturn, but in order to obtain this gift we must follow his rules. When we have Saturn prominent in our charts or affecting us by transit, Saturn demands certain things of us. He wants us to spend time alone in introspection. He wants us to evaluate what we have done with our lives and what we have accomplished thus far. He demands that we seek nothing less than perfection and is ready with criticism when we fall short of our goals so that we will work to correct our errors. He restricts us from enjoyable pursuits unless we have achieved those goals, and creates blocks and disappointments until we do.
Saturn in Aquarius
Today we often think of Aquarius as ruled by Uranus, placing the focus of our understanding of Aquarius on the planet of radical behavior which helps to describe the tendency of Aquarius to be somewhat eccentric. And certainly there is truth to that. But Aquarius is also cold and rational – unswayed by emotional arguments or sentimental values, Aquarius acts as the scientist to ferret out the real and true from the hoped and wished for. Unlike the other Saturn-ruled sign Capricorn which is rooted in the material world (earth) and action-oriented (cardinal), Aquarius is rooted in the realm of ideas and communication (air) and can be stubborn and unyielding (fixed). Where Capricorn works in the world as it is, Aquarius has a vision for the world as it should be.
Aquarius is also concerned with innovation and technology of all kinds, as well as scientific discoveries. The rational mind and elevated perspective of Aquarius facilitates new ideas and new ways of looking at the world. In 1993 Microsoft developed the Windows operating system and in 1993-1994 the first web browsers were released.
Saturn has been in Capricorn since December 2017, most recently teaming up with Pluto in Capricorn to aid in the process of destroying outmoded structures and facilitating in their rebuilding. With Saturn shifting into Aquarius, the focus will shift to a more idealistic vision of what the world should be. Saturn was last in Aquarius between February 6, 1992 and May 21, 1993 (with some retrogrades back into Aquarius between 1993 and 1994). During this time the cold war officially ended on February 1, 1992 with the withdrawal by the US and Soviet Union of nuclear weapons aimed at each other. But we also saw the beginning of the Bosnian war and genocide when Bosnia withdrew from Yugoslavia setting off a powder keg of ethnic violence and Aquarian revolution. Also during this time Rodney King famously pleaded “Can’t we all get along?” which could be termed a rallying cry for Saturn in Aquarius. Honoring the Aquarian acceptance of all kinds of peoples, President Clinton lifted the ban on gays in the military in early 1993.
The idealism of Aquarius is not a warm and fuzzy idealism with peace and justice for all. The ideal of social justice to which Aquarius aspires has a tendency to disdain the individual (symbolized by its opposite Leo) in favor of the collective. And Saturn, of course, is the celestial teacher: pointing out all of the cracks in the veneer of our Aquarian ideals and forcing us to make difficult choices. The compression of Saturn can take the winds out of the Aquarian sales of liberty and justice for all, and we may see an increase in repressive regimes around the world. Alternatively, we could more optimistically see new structures (Saturn) which enable global equality and fairness.
On a metaphysical level, Aquarius is connected, through its modern association with Uranus, to modalities of healing that involve working with the auric field and other energetic dimensions. The passage of Saturn through Aquarius could bring about greater acceptance of these modalities as they enter the mainstream (Saturn).
Saturn and the virus
As I write this article virtually every nation in the world is struggling with the novel Coronavirus, leading to a lockdown (Saturn at 29 degrees Capricorn) and the potential shock to the global economy (Pluto in Capricorn). We’ve been prepared for something to happen with the Saturn/Pluto conjunction, but this virus is a fairly extreme event. The last time Saturn conjoined Pluto in Capricorn was in 1517-1519, coinciding with the Reformation which is usually what’s mentioned when this time period is mentioned. But I also discovered an article about a new disease which appeared at that time:
Another disease, however, much more important and till that time wholly unknown to medical men, appeared in Holland, which broke out in January 1517, and from its dangerous and quite inexplicable symptoms, spread fear and horror around.It was a malignant, and, according to the assurance of a very respectical medical eye-witness, an infectious inflammation of the throat, so rapid in its course that unless assistance were procured within the first eight hours, the patient was past all hope of recovery before the close of the day.Sudden pains in the throat, and violent oppression of the chest, especially in the regional’s of the heart, threatened suffocation and at length actually produced it.
This sounds very much like today’s Coronavirus.
Saturn will enter Aquarius on March 21, 2020, then retrograde back into Capricorn on July 1st and re-enter Aquarius on December 17th. Throughout most of November and December, Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto will be traveling in lockstep within a few degrees, a repeat of what we have just seen. This could mark the completion of this difficult time which would mean (a) it won’t end anytime soon, but also (b) it will end at some point. Saturn will leave Aquarius for good on March 7, 2023.
Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.