Last month, Saturn entered Virgo with plenty of fanfare: a pair of eclipses on the Pisces/Virgo axis, then Venus stationing direct a few days before. Sign changes of Saturn are always significant. For millenia, Saturn was the farthest known planet from the Sun. It defined the bottom line of the world before science, electricity, the Enlightenment, and the American Revolution. Saturn represented the bottom line of reality: what we could see with our senses, and also the authority that could be imposed on us by doctrine, force, or structure.
Since Uranus was discovered in 1781, we have gone through a variety of phases where the bottom line was defined by a different planet, with the latest one ending in the summer of 2006 when it was determined that Pluto was allegedly not a planet. During the phase that Pluto was the official edge of reality, we lived through what I will call the “death works” era of history, taking us from the rise of the Nazis through the peak of the Bush administration.
Yet because Saturn ruled over the edge for so long, we have some deep cultural imprinting that we must live with, and when this planet changes signs every two to three years, we begin a distinct new phase of our lives, both personal and collective.
For the past five years, we have lived with Saturn in Cancer (confrontation with insecurity in the guise of “security”) and Saturn in Leo (the breaking of structures and the establishment of new patterns and ideas). Neither of these signs is easy for us when Saturn is there. Sorting truth from falsehood is too often driven by the emotions and not the mind or intuition. With Saturn in Leo, greed and ambition have once again been raised to the level of gods, and any serious discussion of global problems seems to be on the shelf. I don’t count the car trip home from An Inconvenient Truth as being serious discussion; it would at least need to continue at breakfast the next day to qualify.
Saturn in Virgo is associated with deep thought, intelligence, science, and reform. You could call it the authority of actual intelligence. The last time Saturn was in Virgo was during the Carter administration, which was about the last time we actually considered fuel-efficient cars or lowering the thermostat a little bit. Perhaps if Carter, a minister, had ordered the bombing of Iran, Reagan would not have been elected—but at that time in history, cooler heads prevailed. Let’s look more deeply at what this journey of Saturn in Virgo might mean at the moment. All the symbols of astrology conceal a deeper level that addresses much longer-term issues than we normally think of; longer term, as in the history of thought and the mission of the human race. It is precisely this kind of thinking that Saturn in Virgo cultivates, taking us back to the discussion of the relationship between spirit (or energy) and matter—the very relationship that is the basis of science, religion, and astrology.
Alice A. Bailey writes in Esoteric Astrology that Virgo is the “soul life, as sensed in [humanity, in its] gestation period.” Virgo is like the seed pod that conceals the soul before it’s aware that it is a soul. I recognize that “soul” is a controversial term, so we could call it the real person inside all the games, fears, and self-images that we are taught. Most of us experience this dualism: for example, the experience of “the real me” within ourselves, that always seems to be struggling for expression.
Saturn works to bring out the truth, so the journey across Virgo puts us on an inevitable path with something deeper within ourselves. Saturn tends to dictate the necessity of the day, on the most basic level. The necessity at this time would seem to be the question: Is there really more to the material world than we can see?
In Hebrew mythology, Virgo is Eve, the woman who takes a bite of the apple of knowledge, which was given to her by a serpent. In Egyptian mythology, she is Isis, the Black Madonna, who takes this quest for knowledge and understanding to the more esoteric levels (such as the astral level), where we begin to encounter polarity and the shadow side of knowledge in a direct way. Isis is also one of the direct descendents of the Earth Mother tradition.