Saturn is a planet that can strike a cord of fear when it’s seen to be coming up in a transit. Which is understandable considering its significations include loss, suffering and hardship. We can’t deny those are experiences that can be encountered in life, that’s the nature of life as we know it. So astrology has to reflect that in its symbolism. But I think to stop there is a very 2D way of looking at Saturn. Saturn transits can also point to times of attaining success in terms of status or wealth, great insights, and wisdom about life and how we are living it. It’s the planet of ‘profound thought’ as ancient astrologer Vettius Valens puts it, and wisdom through experience.
Valens, in his list of significations for Saturn gives us a clue how we can understand Saturn in a deeper more cosmically wholistic way, and therefore how we can approach or prepare for upcoming Saturn transits. He calls it the ‘Star of Nemesis’.
It is the star of NemesisValens, V. (2022) The Anthology . Translated by M.T. Riley, Colorado: Amor Fati Publications
The Goddess Nemesis
Nemesis was an ancient Greek goddess of retribution. The name is from the Greek ‘nemesis’ which means “just indignation”, “righteous anger” or the distribution or allotment of what one is due. Her role was to mete out what was deserved to humans in their affairs, maintaining order and equilibrium in the universe. She judged the deeds of mortals and weighed out happiness or misfortune accordingly. This duality is reflected in later Roman statues which depicted her as two forms.
As the planet of Nemesis, the similarities between the two are evident in Saturn’s long association with justice and responsibility. This isn’t the justice of Venus, which is more to do with fairness as perceived by societal and cultural norms. But a ‘Karmic’ justice which means the effect and consequences of our actions, good or bad. Life can be tough, and the world seemingly unfair or unjust. But whilst we can’t necessarily control what happens around us, or what other people do, we do have agency over our own actions, and that’s what Saturn addresses.
This side of Saturn can present itself when there’s some imbalance in life that needs to be confronted and resolved. This is also the planet of time. Saturn returns for example often call for facing the stark reality of our situation as it is, by looking back to what we’ve done, created, achieved over time, and what we truly want or need, and whether all or any of that will productively supportive our life going forward. Past actions versus future actions. It can also highlight our fears, which may be unfounded or holding us back, and having to confront those and find a way to manage or overcome them.
Saturn returns can feel like being at a critical juncture where you start to question life: what you are doing, how you are living it, or your own sense of identity. It is, in a sense, a time of ‘judgment’ that reflects the association with Nemesis. What aspects of your emotional, psychological or physical health have you been ignoring or neglecting? Have you felt called to a different vocation or career but avoided it? Do your relationships have a solid foundation or is there adjustment needed to create that for the future? Are your fears about stepping into what you really want or need blocking necessary progress? What are you in denial about, or how have you been limiting yourself?
These can be tough questions to face, especially if there is fear of losing existing stability or security by making changes. Saturn doesn’t promise the process will be easy. But doing so has the potential of guiding us to a foundation and reality that’s more aligned to our personal well-being, authentic self, and life path, bringing a greater sense of satisfaction or purpose in the long run. Saturn transits or returns can be about restoring an equilibrium in life, just as Nemesis’ role was making judgement in order to maintain equlibrium in the universe. As above, so below.
It’s not about overnight fixes though. Saturn calls for time, patience and effort. Interestingly, Saturn was originally associated with wealth, harvest and abundance, and I think metaphorically this is still part of Saturn’s potential reward – but only through willingness to face up to realities of the effects or consequences of actions, and do the necessary hard work to get to that place of balance and solid foundation for the future.
Did I say it might not be easy?
I think of Saturn as sometimes symbolising circumstances akin to having a stern teacher present: one who wants you do to well, learn, and find maturity and wisdom through their lessons. But who isn’t concerned with how nice it feels or if you are enjoying the ride. The classroom might be cold, the chairs hard and uncomfortable, and the study hours long. Saturn is about keeping it real with no frills, but the long term rewards are worth it. Saturn is deferred gratification, and doing the homework and prepping for class ahead of time.
Being aware of this association with Nemesis can be helpful to prepare for upcoming Saturn transits (or a Saturn return). Don’t wait till they hit. Take stock beforehand. It calls for contemplation and introspection. How do you feel in your life right now? Have your actions being undermining yourself in any way, physically, mentally or emotionally? Or is something or someone in your environment doing that, requiring you to let that go, or build better boundaries? Do you need to slow down? Are you on a path that you know doesn’t support your well-being or what’s important to you? What have you been ignoring that could be problematic in the future? Have you been going it alone when you need help? And then setting the wheels in motion to correct any imbalance.
So to summarise, Saturn is about being realistic, confronting what is, and what needs to be done in order to build supportive and firm foundations. It’s not unlike tilling the soil and preparing the ground for future growth and harvest. Being open and honest about the likely consequences and effects of actions, past, present, and future, goes a long way to making Saturn transit periods feel less bumpy.