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What Happens During Your Saturn Return?

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Even people who don’t know a lot about astrology have sometimes heard of a Saturn return as a time when scary things happen in your life. However, Saturn’s side of the story is that you are just experiencing the logical consequences of your own actions.

You have a Saturn return when Saturn returns to the same place where it was in relation to the Earth when you were born. This happens every 29.4 years, and it is a time when the structures and commitments of your life are tested to see whether they can withstand the challenges of reality.

In astrology, the planet Saturn represents authority and structure. While you might feel like authority and structure are things that get imposed on you by the outside world, your Saturn returns – many people live long enough to have more than one – challenge you to take responsibility for the task of finding authority and structure within yourself.

The area of your life where you are most challenged to claim your authority and make sure your way of doing things is grounded in reality might vary based on the sign and house where Saturn is located in your birth chart.

For example, someone who has Saturn in Sagittarius might face challenges with their religious or political commitments at their Saturn return, while someone who has Saturn in Scorpio may be pushed to confront how their fears surrounding death or sexual issues have shaped their life.

If you don’t know what sign Saturn was in when you were born, use the tool below to look up your birth chart.

During its 29.4-year cycle, Saturn spends about two and a half years in each Zodiac sign. You may therefore find that many of your peers who are close in age to you have Saturn in the same sign that you do. As everyone experiences their first Saturn return in their late twenties, you will at least not go through this period of upheaval alone.  

In fact, if you are in your late twenties, you may be surprised at how everyone around you seems to be suddenly getting serious about their lives. They might hear their biological clocks ticking and feel like they are running out of time to get married and have kids.

Saturn is sometimes referred to as Father Time, and time is just one of the many physical constraints humans must acknowledge during life on Earth. At any of your Saturn returns, you may tend to become aware of the limitations of your physical body.

However, when you accept the boundaries of the physical world and learn to work with them instead of fighting against them, you can find success on Saturn’s terms.

What is a Saturn return?

The Sun travels through all 12 Zodiac signs over the course of a year, and this is where Sun signs come from. However, other celestial bodies travel through the same 12 Zodiac signs at different speeds.

It takes the planet Saturn 29.4 years to travel through all 12 Zodiac signs. You therefore have your first Saturn return shortly before your 30th birthday, when Saturn returns to the same place in the Zodiac where it was when you were born.

The Saturn cycle just repeats every 29.4 years, so you also have a second Saturn return in your late fifties and a third Saturn return in your late eighties. For many people, life tends to neatly divide into these three Saturn cycles.

The first Saturn return gets the most attention because it happens when many people are considering taking on the trappings of adult life: a house, a spouse, kids, or a serious career. Saturn is associated with structure, so figuring out the structure of your life can become an urgent priority at your Saturn return.

Saturn returns can begin or end marriages or other significant relationships. They can begin or end a commitment to a particular profession. While Saturn often wants you to commit, it also wants your commitments to be grounded in reality, and it will tend to blow up anything in your life that is not grounded in reality.

Is a Saturn Return good or bad?

Saturn returns have a reputation for being a time when your whole life descends into upheaval. While serious turmoil can happen at your Saturn return, Saturn is not intentionally out to get you.

At its best, the planet Saturn simply represents reality. While there are other planets that are more involved in dreaming of what things could be, Saturn is very practical and demands to know what actually works here on planet Earth.

Your Saturn Return is a time when Saturn, like a schoolteacher, will test whether your strategies for moving through life are grounded in reality. If you pass the test, your Saturn return could be a rewarding experience. However, if there are holes in your logic, you might feel pain at your Saturn return.

If you fail the test of your Saturn return, it usually does not mean your life is over. However, your life may lose certain structures, like a marriage or a job, if your commitment to them was built on a shaky foundation. Though such losses can certainly be upsetting, you will learn from these experiences and have the opportunity to build better commitments going forward incorporating that knowledge.

Can a Saturn Return be positive?

A Saturn return can be positive if you are willing to play by Saturn’s rules. It may be when you realize long-held goals if you have already been putting in the work for some time. You might also develop a new appreciation for serious responsibility.

Whatever you were doing at the halfway point of the Saturn cycle, your Saturn opposition, might be significant to the events of your Saturn return. Your first Saturn opposition takes place around age 14 or 15, roughly half of 29.4 years. Saturn oppositions, like Saturn returns, are times when you are pushed to define the structure of your life and find your place in the world.

For example, singer Lizzo gave herself the name Lizzo and formed her first rap group at age 14, around the time of her first Saturn opposition. Shortly after her first Saturn return, she had her breakout success with the album Cuz I Love You in 2019.

If you have similarly been putting in work toward your goal for a long time, perhaps since your Saturn opposition, your Saturn return can be when you see your hard work pay off.

Another great example is U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who marked her Saturn return by becoming the youngest woman to ever serve in the United States Congress when she took office at age 29 in January 2019, as reported by CNN. Ocasio-Cortez was an intern for Senator Ted Kennedy during her college years and then volunteered for the 2016 presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders before launching her own groundbreaking campaign.

However, being rewarded for your work at your Saturn return requires that you have been putting in the right work toward the right goal. Your effort must be grounded in reality.

Of course, sometimes it is hard to know in the moment whether or not the way you are working toward your goal is grounded in reality. You may think you are making an earnest effort, but you might have a really big blind spot about some part of it. Maybe you are pursuing another goal in another area of your life that conflicts with the first goal, or maybe you have assumed that someone crucial is on your side when you haven’t actually talked to them about it.

Your Saturn return will make you aware of whatever your blind spot is. This experience of becoming aware may look like failure when it happens, as it can manifest in things dramatically falling apart.

Even this difficult kind of Saturn return can be positive in the sense that you learn what isn’t working for you. As much as you might be upset to discover this, you are better off discovering it now rather than dragging things out longer.  

A Saturn return can also be a time when someone who has been drifting through life without any real plans suddenly gets serious. Whether a painful setback provokes this change, or it arises more gently, finding a sense of direction in life is often rewarding.

What are the benefits of a Saturn return?

Especially early in your life, Saturn can be associated with authority figures like parents and schoolteachers. These authority figures often try to tell you, based on what they have learned from their experiences, what will and will not work. Sometimes this advice is right for you, and sometimes it is not.

Surviving your Saturn return may give you a stronger sense of your own authority. You will get enough experience discovering what does and does not work for you that you can speak about it articulately. If you feel the need to pursue a life goal that is off the beaten path, you might get the confidence to go for it, as well as the grip on reality necessary to do it successfully.

However, some people’s first Saturn returns do run more or less in line with what authority figures might have recommended for them: they might marry, settle into a stable career, and buy a house. Maybe they even become parents too.

If your Saturn return experience is of this sort, you may justifiably feel relieved to have a major question or two resolved. Having the basic structure of your life decided can free up energy for you to move forward.

Whether achieving these outward signifiers of stability was your goal all along or something you suddenly decided you wanted when your Saturn return hit, getting them does not mean that you have failed at your Saturn return or that you have succeeded at your Saturn return. It simply means that now you are responsible for whatever happens next.

Regardless of whether you accomplish socially recognized milestones or have a more private triumph at your Saturn return, a key theme of Saturn returns is accepting responsibility for how your decisions have led you to where you are now. While this may be uncomfortable at first if you don’t like where you are now, it can become empowering as you discover that it gives you the ability to shape your future.

Also, as Saturn is associated with parental authority, your Saturn return can be a time when you become aware of how your parents failed to meet your needs when you were growing up. You may or may not come to peace with your parents themselves at this point, but, as you learn to identify what you needed and didn’t get, you might be able to find other ways to meet those needs.  

These factors of taking responsibility and becoming able to identify your own needs can in turn make interpersonal boundaries something you come to understand better at your Saturn return. While Saturn can sometimes be involved in situations where people are separated from each other in a bad way, a good side of Saturn that may become apparent to you at your Saturn return is the ability to know where you end and others begin.

This awareness of separateness could improve your relationships, as you develop more realistic expectations of other people and learn how to communicate directly instead of making assumptions. 

Even if your Saturn return leads to achievements or disappointments that are visible to the outside world, perhaps the most important lesson of your Saturn return is that you have to be able to live with yourself. After all, no one else can have your Saturn return for you!