As if to taunt Jupiter’s freshly enthusiastic direct motion at the end of January 2013, shortly thereafter Saturn began its retrograde cycle on February 18th in the sign of Scorpio, where it stationed retrograde at 11°. Note that degree, because if you have any planets in 11° or within a degree or two on either side, this will be an important Saturn retrograde cycle for you. Saturn, the planet that signifies the structures and persistence we need in order to bring any endeavor solidly into fruition, is asking us to slow down, maybe change direction, and even to consider revising our plan. This Saturn retrograde cycle lasts until July 7, 2013 when it goes direct again. But many astrologers agree that the cycle isn’t really complete until Saturn finally clears the 11° point at which it stationed retrograde, which isn’t until October. So settle in for a cycle that will require some patience.
When Saturn stations retrograde on a sensitive point in our chart, we’re being asked to review our past plans in search of improvements that will help shore up our foundation. The topic at hand depends on the house Saturn is transiting in your chart, which planets it’s making contact with, and what your natal Saturn’s long-term goals and intentions are. In some cases, the Saturn retrograde process of evaluation makes us aware that our plan (or our job, our home, our relationship) doesn’t have the strength to weather the storm, and that it’s now time to let it come to an end. But we may not figure that out right away. That’s what the cycle is for – to help us get clarity about what’s causing this newly uncomfortable feeling of stuckness that will ultimately edge us into the process.
At the beginning of the cycle, since we may not be aware yet just exactly what is going to end (or begin) or when, we may find that we reach an impass of sorts, a blockage, an obstacle, or a take on a new responsibility. This experience will eventually provide the impetus for change and forward movement once the cycle is complete. In order to get the most out of the cycle, we need to get in sync with the process, which will require Saturnian patience and endurance.
Saturn’s station at 11° Scorpio doesn’t have to signal an ending, though it could. It may also point to a commitment to a new project, position, or acceptance of a new role. This might be the case for you if Saturn stations retrograde at the degree of your Ascendant or Midheaven. But if this is you, don’t expect your new commitment to feel effortless over the next few months. In fact, you may very well experience delays and setbacks. You might be in the right position, so don’t let the challenges spook you. But you’ll need to use the current retrograde period to get more clarity about your long-term plans. It’s time to take a look at what brought you to this moment, and to shed some aspects of your previous way of being that you’ve outgrown. A Saturn time always marks an opportunity to take a step forward in the maturation process. We could call it aging. But we all get older without putting any effort into it! We have to accept the challenge of a Saturn time in order to claim its reward, and success is not a given. Maturation takes hard work, and concentrated effort on our part.
Saturn is always asking us to face our limitations objectively, and to accept the responsibilities we choose to accept wisely. This is no easy feat.
If this Saturn retrograde cycle is highlighted for you, it could signal a time of frustration, endings, loss or a period of depression. If you find yourself having one of these experiences, see if you can settle into the feeling rather than resist it. Consider that what you’re resisting, what is falling away, what is ending, is happening at just the right time. Saturn marks time, alerting us when something (or someone’s) time has come. We can accept endings with grace, and a kind of deep calm – the sign of maturation and wise elderhood. Or we can resist and sink into despair and depression. When you’re getting Saturn right, you may still feel resolve or grief at the events transpiring, but these feelings will be accompanied by a deep acceptance that is born out of sober choice and grown-up wisdom. And leads to a uniquely Saturnian feeling of steadiness and calm.
It just turns out that I have a few friends who have a sensitive point at 11°. Let’s take a look at two of their stories briefly, and see if they’ll shed some light on the beginning of this Saturn retrograde cycle.
Mountains of Work on the New Job
Let’s start with “James,” who has the Ascendant in Scorpio at 11°. In between the short time when Jupiter went direct at the end of January, and Saturn stationed retrograde on February 18, James was offered a position with a new firm and the very Saturnian job title Executive Director. With Saturn stationing on his ascendant, it was time for James to “appear” more grown-up, and to claim the look of more authority in the world. But in order to claim this experience he had to make a difficult choice.
In his current occupation, James had obligations and responsibilities that he’d have to let go of before he could accept the new position. He’d have to disappoint people and cut ties, ending a cycle of work that he’d been heavily engaged in and committed to. But with this new opportunity Saturn seemed to point to the fact that he’d actually outgrown his old life. So while the ending of the old position felt uncomfortable, as endings often do, the new position seemed to be the right choice.
By saying yes to the new job, James’ life changed almost instantly. With supportive Jupiter newly in direction motion, once he said yes, someone stepped up “out of the blue” to fill the vacuum in his old position in a way that unfolded easily and effortlessly. It seemed from all outward appearances that everything was happening to the greatest benefit for everyone concerned. All it took was him saying, “Yes, I accept.”
The day before Saturn stationed retrograde, James invested in a new wardrobe that was more suitable to his new role. And on the day Saturn stationed retrograde, James started his first day on the new job, donning more sophisticated attire, and accepting the challenge of a new level of adult responsibility in his work and role in the world.
Only one week into the job, James is already feeling the pressure – the enormity of his responsibilities, the seeming impossibility of his plans. And he has naturally started to doubt and question his ability and capacity to handle the task. James has reached the first initiation of Saturn that Steven Forrest describes in his talk Saturn: Staying in Touch with the Old Bird – the fear that we don’t have what it takes. Saturn seems poised against us as an enemy. But as Steven points out, often when we meet the challenge and succeed, suddenly Saturn welcomes us in, as if the challenge was just to test our resolve and determination. Saturn wants us to prove that we really want what we’re going after.
I expect that before this retrograde cycle is over, James will have wrestled with 2 of the other initiations possible during a Saturn transit: coming up with a strategy, and sustaining effort. It’s also likely that he’ll meet the demons that block the gates of those initiations: the demon of crippling caution, and the demon of tiredness. James will have to resolve to roll up his sleeves and use the next few months to strategize and come up with a plan, while being patient with himself and the situation. He’ll feel tired if he’s meeting the demands of the transit, but he also has to be careful not to expect too much too soon from himself. He’ll also have to watch out for immobilizing caution, making sure that the fear of making a mistake doesn’t lead him to refusing to take action.
If all goes well, James will develop something more than just faith that he has what it takes to succeed. By the end of the Saturn retrograde cycle, he won’t need faith at all. He’ll know he has what it takes, because he’ll have proved it to the one person that matters most – himself.
Now let’s take a look at the chart of “Jessie.” Jessie has natal Mercury at 10° Scorpio in the 6th house. As Saturn stationed retrograde (within one degree of Jessie’s Mercury) Jessie became aware of a festering problem at work that she’d now like to take some action on. Recently she and a co-worker were both given bonuses. Jessie’s was much smaller than his, and hers was given only after she’d voiced some concerns and complaints to her boss. Her co-worker’s bonus was given as part of an annual review. So while his bonus was given for praise, hers was given to placate, or let’s say, since we’re talking about Mercury, to “shut her up.”
As it turns out, Jessie has never actually been given an annual review. And believe it or not, this just now struck her as odd. She’s only ever been given raises and bonuses after some kind of negative action on her part – either after complaining or threatening to leave. In one case, Jessie’s boss gave her a bonus just to prevent her from moonlighting because he didn’t want her to “disperse her energy” (the Scorpio dynamic of control and power at play). In contrast, her co-workers, all men, have regularly received bonuses based on performance reviews. After the inequity of the most recent bonus paid to a male co-worker, who has also been at the job less time than Jessie, she realized that now is the time to address the situation.
This drama is unfolding against the backdrop of another storyline in Jessie’s life, in which she has a long-held desire to relocate to a new city, ultimately to leave the stable position she’s had for several years. Just after Mercury goes direct in March, Jessie will be visiting a city she’s been to once before (she bought the return ticket just as Mercury went retrograde) to see if it might pan out as a place to live. It seems that for Jessie, this longer Saturn retrograde cycles marks one in which she’ll get to revisit this old concern of the festering inequity at work, and attempt to come to some resolve about it. Right now it looks as if she’ll do this either by negotiating with her boss, or by relocating and finding new work.
As the cycle progresses, more aspects of the situation will come to light, and the dynamic will surely shift in ways that aren’t easy to predict. But no matter what happens, some Scorpionic truth-telling is in order. She’ll have to make some difficult and confrontational statements (Scorpio) to her boss about the inequities in her day-to-day job (6th house), possibly stirring the pot more than she’d like to.
It’s interesting to note here that ancient astrologers associated the 6th house with slavery. Although she’s clearly not a slave in the old sense of the word, and can make empowering choices moving forward, Jessie’s has some important 6th house lessons to learn about how to get more acknowledgement for what it is that she contributes. In this process it is the feeling of underappreciation that creates the stimulus to do something about it.
While the outcome for Jessie is uncertain at this point, Saturn has marked the beginning of an important process for her that won’t be simple or quick to resolve. If she meets the Saturn challenge, she’ll find herself at the end of the cycle with something that feels not only like greater maturity, but also like claiming more of her personal power in her day-to-day life.
Is Saturn at a sensitive point in your chart? Why not start keeping a journal and track the progress of the issue that arises. In October, take a look at the journey you’ve been on, and note the changes you’ve made. It’s likely you’ll find that at the end of the road, you’ll have made some turns and gained some wisdom that you didn’t see coming.