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In the Shadow of Saturn 

Sign changes of Saturn are fairly rare, coming about every 30 months. Many planets (Venus, Mars, the Sun) change signs every few weeks or so; the Moon changes signs every few days. When Saturn changes signs, it tends to define a mini-era of history. At the current rate of time, even these phases of two and a half years can seem to blur by.

On October 29, Saturn moved from Virgo to Libra, one in a sequence of events that adds up to the high-voltage astrology of 2010 and is a step on the way to what we’ve been calling 2012. Later this month, Saturn makes its first of three 90-degree or square aspects to Pluto, which describes the transition of the world that we are witnessing. It also describes an inner process of learning to take responsibility for ourselves and the direction of our lives. This month and for the next few seasons, distinct historical events will provide opportunities to make personal decisions.

Most astrologers you ask to define Saturn would give you a list of keywords that sounds a bit like this: structure, form, responsibility, parents, career, discipline, the government, limitations, time, and death. In the body, Saturn rules the bones and the teeth. All of that is prepsychology; the values still hold, but they’re based on an external worldview.

We’re now free to understand Saturn as being about one’s relationship to authority. As we mature and gradually take responsibility for our lives, authority increasingly becomes an inner experience. When we’re young, we usually need to be told what to do. As we get older and understand the customs and laws of our society, and accept the demands of living, we can be self-directed within those boundaries. In the process, we acquire the privileges of freedom, or we overdo Saturn and get hung up on guilt and fear.

As adults, we can still experience Saturn as an external factor (a cop pulling us over and writing a speeding ticket) or an internal factor (using cruise control and following the speed limit). Get enough tickets and you lose your license; the Saturn factor sets a limit. Avoid tickets and your insurance rates stay on the lower side of the scale; discipline offers a reward. There is flexibility if we choose the self-directed method. For example, if you’re driving on a highway and set your cruise control at about 7 to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit (still following a structure, and an understanding of informal rules), it’s reasonably safe and generally you won’t get pulled over. If you drive your own car with a sense of self-control, you won’t need to encounter the state trooper with a radar gun.

Being aware of boundaries puts us into a conscious relationship with them, and therefore we can stretch them a little if necessary. The flexibility in the relationship becomes more apparent. If you get pulled over, your relationship to authority counts for a lot. If you start the conversation by saying, “How fast was I going? I’m sorry I was speeding,” you’ll do better than if you say, “You’ve got a lot of nerve for pulling me over when I pay your salary with my taxes!” (Note, the reason he pays those taxes to pay that salary is because he needs a babysitter.)

Saturn works by both inner and outer methods, and in truth our lives are directed by a combination of external factors and internal factors. Indeed, as children, we experience external authority (parents, teachers, religious leaders) and that is what we internalize, unconsciously, until we become aware of the process and take over for ourselves. That, in turn, is influential in creating our sense of authority, which we usually transfer onto bosses, spouses the government and what we call “god.”

To give a friendly example, at first they have to “make us” do our homework, with the treat of an external factor (the promise of good grades, or the threat of getting left back) as incentives. Then as adults we figure out that if we stay on top of our work, we have more freedom, including the freedom to do the kind of work we want as adults. To give a more challenging example, imagine you have parents who are afraid of people and afraid of life, and they constantly put this fear into you in the form of fearful expectations and rules you have to follow, including the habit of judging everyone. This leads to isolation and misery, and being a miser is a way of life that might come naturally to someone who can’t work with the energy of Saturn in a constructive way.

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