The other side of my Saturn return

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Every 29-ish years Saturn gets back to the same part of the zodiac as it was when you were born. Symbolically, Saturn is the planet of scarcity, of structure, restrictions, hard learning. Saturn is the disciplinarian, the devil, the shadow.  Saturnian characters appear in almost every story as villains, as domineering parents, as strict school masters, and often, as the people who teach us the most important lessons. When I first heard about Saturn returns I was terrified. I was expecting a lot of awfulness and perhaps, if I survived it I would come out more awesome afterwards.  Later on, my friend Roy told me “Nah, Saturn returns are great – they are the time in your life when you get to let go of all the messages about who you’re supposed to be -from society and family – and decide who you really are.” That sounded much better than just going through hell for potential long-term benefits. I waited with anticipation.

My experience has felt a lot like being hand-washed by a powerful woman in the olden days – in a very rough fashion – like my psyche has been scrubbed and rung out over and over. But Saturn manifests in many different ways, a lot of it comes down to which sign and house Saturn is in. For people born the year before me, with Saturn in Libra, when I ask about their 29th year, a lot of them say it wasn’t all that bad, (Saturn is exalted in Libra) but when I ask if they went through massive changes in relationships and relating, whether they have been doing a lot of work to balance their lives and other Saturn-Libra things they generally agree with urgency and zest: “Yes! That was when my major relationship broke up and I went travelling” etc.

Saturn in Scorpio is a whole different ball game. Scorpio is intense. I would be surprised to find a 1984 baby out there who hasn’t had a very intense year. Scorpio governs power, money, fears, transformation, sex and all those deep-dark scary parts of ourselves. Saturn in Scorpio will bring up everyone’s fears around intimacy and security, but if it happens to be in a major transit for you, it will be a lot more intense.  All of those things you’ve been running from, well, here they are. Deal.

How a Saturn return manifests will also relate to where Saturn is in your chart. Mine is in the 5th house: the party house. A few years ago I started going to a local transformational festival (Kiwiburn, New Zealand’s regional Burning Man event) and realised that partying and having fun is quite a hard thing for me to do (natal Saturn in the 5th). I want to be serious, I want to do soul-work. Why is everyone getting drunk and talking shmack? Facing the tensions and paradoxes is all part of doing the work. My Saturn return started in January last year, right in the middle of the festival. It was the first time I had worked (volunteered) to manage part of the festival and it was hard work. I got completely burn out. I loved it, but it took me all year to recover, to decompress. A couple of months later Saturn retrograded back over 10 degrees of Scorpio and my natal Saturn and everything in my life was brought into question especially things relating structure, freedom and security, and personal attachments as well. I have been journaling every day (for the first time ever), processing, processing, letting go…

Saturn went direct again, as it does, and crossed over 10 degrees precisely as I was attending another burn, this time in Australia. Burning Seed was also incredibly intense. Pressure built up and up. I had a fantastic time and several terrifying experiences. At one point I tripped over a fallen tree which was hidden in long grass. It is quite scary being in a forest in a country that has spiders and snakes when you come from a place like New Zealand. I had this weird bump on my knee and it was bleeding, so I went to the medics and was told by a volunteer that I had probably been bitten by something: cue panic attack. She assured me it was probably just a spider: JUST a SPIDER? It occurred to me then that this was very appropriate of Saturn in Scorpio, while I struggled to breath in a normal way. A few minutes later the actual medic turned up and looked at my wound, “Aw, did you fall over and bang your knee?” I nodded, feeling very silly and very relieved. The fifth house is also about creativity. I’m also doing a PhD and writing novels. Everything finally make sense.

Doing the work of Saturn in Scorpio involves facing and working through all those issues around fear and power, and because it’s Saturn, the best way to do it is through embracing structure. For me it has been through yoga and journaling, and just recently, through eating what my body really wants to eat (no processed crap, no grains). It has also meant embracing the structure imposed on me by having a child in school. My day has a very definitive routine. While this all might sound boring, I have never been a structured, disciplined person in my life, so I’m in awe. I have resisted structure because I’ve always resisted what I was told to do – reacting to the messages from society and family, rather than really figuring out what I wanted and working towards that. I feel like I’m free of the pattern of desperately trying to be free. I also feel like I’ve resolved my childhood trauma – the thing I’ve been trying to do my whole life – and like I’m not wounded and broken anymore. Freaky.

So there is light at the end of the tunnel if you do the work, and despite being a masterful procrastinator, I have been doing the work. Apparently if you don’t resolve your Saturn stuff in your first return it will come back with a vengeance in 29 years time. Good luck.

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The Bone Collector: the archetype of ressurection

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In Women who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés begins with the story of La Loba, the collector of bones. The old woman, the crone, who carries a cure for everything. She stops and digs in the desert for a fragment of wolf skeleton and then, as night falls, she lays out every piece of the puzzle. As she chants and raises her hands flesh and sinew bond to the frame and fur materialises. The wolf breathes into her resurrection. She leaps up and runs towards a horizon. Halfway there she transforms into a laughing naked woman who disappears into the wild.

La Loba, much like Baba Yaga, is terrifying and magnificent as an archetype.  She is powerful and unpredictable and she doesn’t take kindly to bullshit.  If you are lucky you may see her at sunset when you are tired and thirsty and she may take a liking to you and show you something for the soul. In this story bone symbolises the parts of self that cannot decay, that cannot be destroyed, that remain. Bones symbolises the soul. Inspired by  Estés, I would like to tell another story. The story of a different bone collector.

Once there was and once there was not… a woman, a girl, a child, a maiden. In the darkest of nights she was shattered to her core. The pieces of her flew far and wide finding homes in other people, broken people, every piece, a small fragment of bone. A ghost now, a hollow shell, she summons her remaining energy to cast a spell – the kind all women know in their deepest desperation.  She creates the illusion of bones and flesh, of perfect, shining wholeness. Only out of the corner of your eye can you see the cracks show through. The spell makes her forgetful and blind. She stumbles around in the dark, looking for something to quench her thirst – the deep thirst of emptiness. She finds a boy, a man, a lover, and drinks of him. She feeds him more than she has in return and weaves, unconsciously, a spell around him – the fairy tale of a life, a happy future.  She gives too much and drinks all there is until the illusion vanishes, to her surprise, and all is grey and meaningless. Both she and he are devastated but there is nothing she can do to help. She must move on but as she turns to leave she catches a spark out of the corner of her eye: one thing left that is worth taking. She plucks the silver stone from his chest, her own fragment of bone, and leaves the crumbling ruins of the illusion. Slowly she wanders and the cycle repeats over and over. Every encounter seems much the same, every person reveals a little more of herself…

I’m not sure how this story ends. Maybe the girl becomes La Loba, maybe she eventually finds, through gathering the pieces of herself, some kind of wholeness that allows the spell of illusion to be broken.

Astrologically bones are ruled by Saturn and illusions and delusions by Neptune. There is something particularly Saturn in Scorpio about the re-claiming of fragments of bones through intimate encounters – in discovering the self through the mirroring of other people. This kind of projection also relates heavily to Neptune in the 7th house. Those of us with this natal combination are wonderful projection-artists when it comes to relating and relationships.  Neptune also embodies the wholeness of surrender and the final, 12th house, stage of the journey. Neptune’s native sign of Pisces is also heavily connected with Resurrection (Jesus fish). So in this story Neptune is both the obstacle and the goal.