What is a Saturn return, and when does it happen?
In the simplest terms, a Saturn return is when the planet Saturn finds its way back to the same place it was when you were born. It takes between 27 and 30 years for Saturn to travel through the zodiac, so that means everyone goes through a Saturn return at the end of their 20s, 50s, and 80s. Thanks to Saturn’s slow speed and retrogrades, each Saturn return lasts approximately three years.
Your first Saturn return is the one you’ve probably heard about the most, as it often brings the biggest shock to your system. That’s because it’s the first time Saturn, one of the most challenging planets we work with, comes back to your natal placement. Saturn is known as the “greater malefic” in traditional astrology. It represents reality checks, restriction, mortality, and loss. On the constructive side, it brings much-needed structure and rewards patience and hard work.
Where is Saturn now?
Saturn is currently in Aquarius and has been since December 2020. If your Saturn is in Aquarius, that means you’re currently experiencing a Saturn return and will be until March 2023. (In our opinion, your Saturn return lasts from the moment Saturn enters your natal Saturn sign to the moment it exits.) If you don’t know your Saturn sign, don’t worry — you can check yours using the Chart tab of the CHANI app or on our website.
What to expect from your Saturn return
- Your Saturn return is a threshold. It’s a transition from one phase of life into the next: from youth to adulthood. Adulthood to late middle age. Middle age to eldership. It’s not uncommon to experience major milestones during a Saturn return. You graduate from college. You enter the workforce. You have children. Your children leave home for the first time. You retire. (And so on.)
- Your Saturn return is about responsibility. If this is your first Saturn return, you might have to account for things you never had to account for before, like paying bills, or navigating the housing market, or learning about 401(k)s. If this is your second or third Saturn return, you might experience echoes to experiences you had in your late twenties. Except this time around, you get to reflect on all that you’ve learned.
- Saturn returns are about understanding your growth edges. They have a way of bringing up realities about yourself or your situation that you have avoided in the past. They’re the moments you realize there’s no one else to do this work. While that can feel daunting at first, this is exactly how you move into the next stage of realizing your potential.
How to survive (and rock) your Saturn return
- Do your literal and proverbial homework. Whatever you’re working on right now, Saturn is in the details. Commit yourself to the humble, preparatory steps — not simply the grand statements.
- Take responsibility. We all get it wrong sometimes — that’s a feature of being human. The important part is taking responsibility. Be honest with yourself when you make mistakes. Learn all you can from them. View each misstep as your mentor.
- Be accountable to yourself and other people. Gone is the dog who used to eat your homework. Show up for yourself. Every day. Trust that every step is preparing you for something great.
- Commit to you. Commit to your dreams. Commit to your vision. Commit to your values. Commit to your integrity. Commit to your goals. Write a list of your non-negotiables and tape it to your bathroom mirror.
- Be endlessly compassionate with yourself. Like all rites of initiation, Saturn returns can be challenging. Practice instant forgiveness with yourself. Remember that in real life, things don’t always go according to plan. It’s all part of the learning.
What’s the difference between the 3 Saturn returns?
Your first Saturn return, which occurs between ages 27 and 30, is an initiation into adulthood. It is the time when you must define yourself for yourself. Not for your family. Not for society. Not for any fantasy anyone else has of you.
The second Saturn return occurs at the end of our 50s, encouraging you to move into more of a mentorship role. Here is when you turn toward those entering their first Saturn return and offer the wisdom you have gathered since then as a guidepost. It is a time of moving into eldership, something our society desperately needs to cultivate an appreciation for.
The third Saturn return, which occurs at the end of our 80s, is one that gathers the wisdom of our life and distills it into seeds to be left for future generations.
Exercises to help you work through your Saturn return
1. What sign does your natal Saturn reside in?
Once you’ve pinpointed it, read about this sign placement under the Chart tab of the CHANI app.
2. Are any other planets “talking” to your natal Saturn?
If one of the so-called benefic planets (Venus or Jupiter) is forming an aspect (relationship) with Saturn in your birth chart, your Saturn return might feel gentler, more constructive, or even less noticeable as a time period. If the other “malefic” planet (Mars) is forming an aspect with Saturn in your chart, your Saturn return may feel more challenging, or like it’s churning up more complicated problems to be parsed and worked through.
Not sure what an aspect is? We’ve got a whole article for you on the parts of a birth chart.
3. Were you born at night or in the day?
The ancients believed that Saturn brought more challenges for night babies. That means your Saturn return might feel crunchier — though ultimately transformative for the better — if you were born at night. To find out, reference your chart and read the descriptions for your Sun and Moon, where we discuss your light leader (aka which luminary was lighting the sky when you were born).
4. Are you over the age of 30? If so, you’ve already experienced your Saturn return.
Think back to those years between 27 and 30 and reflect on the following questions. How did those years change you? What felt challenging? What did you learn? What responsibilities did you gain or set down?
5. What houses do Capricorn and Aquarius correspond to in your birth chart?
Find out what houses the two Saturn-ruled signs correspond to in your birth chart. During your Saturn return, you might notice these areas of your life go through their own maturation process. For example, if you have Capricorn in the 7th House, your Saturn return could bring up themes around committed relationships.
Remember: Saturn doesn’t bring overnight results, or overnight understanding. This work is slow and steady. All Saturn asks is that you commit to the process of your own healing, your own growing, your own learning. There’s no finish line or gold star at the end of this journey. It’s one that lasts a lifetime.