As we approach the last of three direct squares between Saturn and Neptune this month, let’s take a look at the chart of Elia Kazan, whose natal Saturn-Neptune square infuses his brilliant and influential work. Born with Saturn in Aries square Neptune in Cancer, Kazan directed On the Waterfront, Streetcar Named Desire and Gentleman’s Agreement, and wrote four best-selling novels, among many other achievements. Kazan’s Saturn-Neptune square is dramatically enhanced in his chart as part of a Grand Cross formed between Saturn, Venus, Neptune and Uranus. He once described his mission as “to make poetry out of the common things in life.”
On the Waterfront was released on July 28, 1954, with transiting Neptune opposing his natal Saturn, triggering his Saturn-Neptune square (and Grand Cross – see chart). The film is permeated with Saturn-Neptune themes of disillusionment, sacrifice and redemption, so it makes for a great study of the archetypes. Let’s take a closer look.
With On the Waterfront, Kazan introduced a new kind of stark realism to filmmaking that is especially reflective of his natal Saturn-Neptune square. He revealed a slice of life that hadn’t been seen before – a kind of literal seeing-through (Saturn-Neptune) into a world that had been kept hidden. And it wasn’t just the subject matter that was new. It was also the way of looking. The film’s cinematography was stripped down to bare bones. The locations were not Hollywood sets – they were the real East Coast locations where the events would have transpired. Although this approach is common in films today, it wasn’t then, and Kazan broke new ground (Saturn in Aries), opening doors for future filmmakers to follow suit.
June 12, 2016 was a terribly important day for Omar Mateen, the man who shot and killed 49 people in the Orlando nightclub Pulse. Transits to his birth chart that day reveal extreme pressure to make evolutionary leaps in his personal development. Sadly, he failed miserably to live up to his potential.
Astrology can help us process tragic events like this when they happen. Not because deciphering the meaning of astrological transits will “prove the inevitable” but because transits can show us where the stress points are – the developmental aims present in every moment – and reveal a range of choices and options that are available even under difficult circumstances.
So this isn’t an “I told you so” post using astrology to describe the inevitability of what happened, because I don’t believe this horrific event was inevitable. Instead, I want to look at Mateen’s birth chart as a way to contextualize his mistakes in that tragic moment when he picked up his gun and started shooting, and to think about how he could made different choices.
While I am going to look at the unrealized evolutionary potentials in Mateen’s chart in this article, I can’t do so without remembering the 49 people whose lives were cut short, and the hundreds of others whose lives were forever changed by this tragedy. So I’m holding them in my heart as I write this.
In December 1987, I packed up my car and moved to Boston, mainly because it was the home base for one of my favorite new rock bands, Throwing Muses. That chapter of my life was dark and tumultuous, and the band’s chaotic music resonated with the disjointed angst permeating my own psyche. Flash forward 23 years, and I find myself standing in Powell’s Books in Portland, when I see the lead singer’s name on a new book entitled Rat Girl, a memoir comprised of diary entries written by Kristin Hersh between 1985 and 1986, just before Throwing Muses released their first record. As I began reading the book, I was instantly captivated by nostalgia (but not longing!) for that formative time in both of our lives.
Hersh is a gifted writer, and Rat Girl offers a poetic insider-account of a young woman coming to terms with a self-described “soul sickness.” This was a kind of body–mind–spirit mania that overwhelmed her in the midst of a creative wellspring that included the genesis of one of the most unique and influential independent rock bands of its time and the birth of her first child — all before she had even turned 19.
In more clinical terms, Hersh was facing challenging mental–emotional issues that are hard to pin down with one term because they were given multiple labels by her health care providers over the years: manic depression, bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even schizophrenia.  Her symptoms included manic energy, total exhaustion, suicidal ideation, and near-hallucinatory visions.
The 2016 Academy Awards nominees announcement on January 14 met some controversy over the stunningly all-white ballot. And there was at least one surprise entry - the nomination for Mad Max: Fury Road as best picture. The announcement and its cultural impact coincides with the Saturn-Neptune square currently in range throughout most of 2016. We can see the Saturn-Neptune signature of disillusionment among the countless black actors and film industry workers who were once again snubbed by the Academy’s predominantly white male voters. Headlines such as “The Oscars' Racist Refusal to Honor Modern Black Heroes” and “Oscar Nominations 2016 Diversity: No Black Actors” reveal the disconnect between a public that is ready to embrace and honor diversity and the white establishment blocking progress.
The overt racism here is especially painful in the context of growing public awareness of systemic racism in our culture after a series of especially brutal and well-publicized race-related deaths of men at the hands of law enforcement officers. With Saturn square Neptune for much of 2015 and 2016, this is an astrological season in which disillusionment can serve to strengthen our resolve to make changes for the better. The trick is to not be so bogged down in disappointment that we sulk in unproductive despair and give up to immobilizing inertia.
Seeing the Mad Max sequel in the list of best picture nominees was a shocker, especially because I wasn’t aware that many Hollywood bloggers had already been rallying for its nomination in the weeks before. The public sentiment seems to be that this is a film whose artistic merit warrants a nomination, even though it is a classic action-packed summer blockbuster – a genre that historically almost never gains best picture nods. So I watched the film, and though I don’t agree that it should be in the running for best picture, I understand how this particular Mad Max installment is timed perfectly for this moment.
Mad Max: Fury Road was released May 15, 2015, under two very strong transits: an exact Mars opposite Saturn in addition to Moon conjunct Uranus square Pluto. The combined energy of these transits are visible in the film’s main storyline – a high-octane battle thrill ride of a battle between the reigning warlord and a tiny band of freedom-seeking liberators.
As we approach the end of 2015, we’ll start to feel the influence of the Saturn square Neptune transit, which will remain in effect for about a year. This is the “closing square,” which means it is the last hard aspect marking the denouement of the longer Saturn-Neptune cycle that began with the conjunction in 1989, marked dramatically by the fall of the Berlin wall. This longer cycle renews at the beginning of 2026 (probably with a bang, as both Saturn and Neptune move into Aries). So let’s think about some of the ways these two energies might influence each other, and how that could be a good thing in the year ahead.
As I wrote in Steven Forrest’s newsletter this month, Saturn-Neptune times are good for sobering up. A more responsible approach to our inner landscape can clear up foggy, unclear behavior. Discerning Saturn energy can help reveal delusions we’ve bought into, cutting through our mental haze to reveal what’s real. This applies both personally and collectively. If you have planets in the middle degrees of Virgo, Gemini, Pisces or Sagittarius, you’ll notice this transit more than others. And if not, you can witness it in the news…
During Saturn-Neptune times, skeptics and critics get to have their say, as spin doctors don’t seem to be able to work their magic quite as well as usual. Boy, could we use some more of that! Masters of satirical social criticism like John Stewart (who has a wide Saturn-Neptune square natally) take center stage during Saturn-Neptune times. Stewart could speak volumes just by raising an eyebrow at the right moment of a deceptive pundit’s performance. With the internet in full swing, we are exposed to more truth – and more lies – than ever. It takes work to discern what is real from what has been constructed artificially to suit someone’s agenda. Skillful critics and skeptics who we trust to be honest, can help us sort through the mess and uncover what’s real.
Skepticism and criticism often get a bad rap. When used properly – to discern the truth – they can be a great asset. One of America’s most revered skeptics and critics of organized religion was Mark Twain, who had natal Saturn in Scorpio square Neptune in Aquarius. He wrote, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” (1) When my best friend gave me a copy of Twain’s Letters from the Earth when I was 14, it shook my foundations with a perspective on Christianity I hadn’t yet been exposed to, freeing me from a lot of limiting (and ungrounded) beliefs.