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Spiritualizing Saturn

By Judi Thomases


We all know that Saturn takes about 28-29 years to encircle the Zodiac, meaning that every planet and angle in your horoscope will be contacted by it that often to ensure its own delightful brand of challenge! And if you live double or triple that age, you'll enjoy that much more of the "fun." While Saturn conjuncting anything is always a trial, one of the most difficult of its passages is its journey over (or square, or opposing, et al) the Moon, representing the emotions. We'll get to this later.

Tracking Saturn

In general, there are several ways to experience Saturn's passages, especially the hard ones. Of course, there's the natal (birth) pattern. Occurring during one's formative years, there is nothing to do about it but live through it…and some don't! But there are also transits, progressions (secondary and solar arc), returns (solar, lunar, and Saturn's own), eclipses and other lunations. Saturn's transits take about three-quarters of a year over a particular degree (although every so often a lucky soul can see it zoom by in mere weeks! 1). This longer passage will feel like an eternity, and in the event of its own return - depending on its natal aspects - can be one of the more difficult periods in life.

Lunar returns, by definition, last only the month; solar, the year. If Saturn shows up in these in especially difficult aspects, the given period will be problematical. Eclipses and lunations (new and full moons) will trigger natal or newly-formed patterns, and their influence can last anywhere from a few weeks to many months.

And finally (saving the "best" for last), Saturn's progressions will drag on for a year or two before exactitude and for the good part of the year that it wanes away. (The thing to realize about progressions is that Saturn itself, being a slow-moving outer planet, will not move far from its birth position by secondary progression, but can move quite a distance away from its birth position by solar arc progression (also called solar arc direction), a calculation based upon adding the solar arc to every other planet in the birth chart. This latter type of progression allows Saturn to reach natal planets to which it had no original connection, and also allows other planets to reach it, kind of like a transit.)

Since Saturn's transits to any degree are felt for ¾ of a year, and Saturn's solar arc progressions for 3-4 years (two approaching, one on, and one leaving), both types of passages can represent quite a challenging period in one's life. And just for good measure, yes, it's possible to have solar arc Saturn conjuncting a natal planet at the same time that transiting Saturn does so (or makes a hard aspect to it), and even have difficult combinations emphasized by Saturn in a solar return chart, and/or with a few lunations to these sensitive degrees thrown in for good measure! Whew!

Now, just imagine if all that "damage" was focused on the one planet in your chart where you're most vulnerable: the Moon! I'll get to this in a moment.

The Principle of Containment

As a Capricorn with my natal Saturn in aspect to my Sun, Mercury, Moon, Node, Jupiter, and Pluto, and having recently experienced a Saturn station on an angle, and both a prolonged solar arc progressed Saturn-Moon combination and a Saturn transit squaring my Moon, and soon to have a hard Saturn transit that will form a grand cardinal cross to Sun, Mercury and Midheaven), I've found myself contemplating Saturn's energy in order to figure out a positive way to handle it. (It was either that, or curl up and fetal-ize!) In this regard, I've come up with what I'll call The Principle of Containment. It uses both Saturn's limitations and Capricorn's patience and gallows humor, and its application will, I believe, carry you to wisdom and empowerment.

In short, what I'm proposing is a way to handle Saturn in order to mitigate but not deny suffering.

Emotional Pain

Sometimes emotional pain comes about through a loss, but it can also occur because of a lesson. While the key event often occurs under a hard Saturn passage, it sometimes happens earlier and is suffered only when Saturn forms its subsequent aspect, such as the shell-shock of a dynamic incident and the later unfolding of its ensuing emotion. When people are in pain, they either grieve and suffer or repress their ache, as though these are their only choices. Whereas grief is healthy and repression is not, excess grief can run amok and paralyze. Sadness, given full rein, can devolve into depression, illness, isolation, and many other lingering negative expressions of aching emotion.

In truth, it's neither the loss, restriction, or frustration of the lesson that causes suffering; it's the emotions that arise from such. If we, as humans, did not have the gift of feelings we would react to the event as do animals: in the moment, alert, processing the new development, taking the change in stride, and moving on 2. We wouldn't develop anxieties, diseases, and complexes, or need Prozac! There is a lot to learn from the animals, who bear up to their fate with aplomb, and simply integrate all that befalls them into their total experience of being-ness, whereas humans dramatize their plights and make mountains out of the simplest travail. You are above the animal kingdom but not separate from it. Look to the creatures of the physical plane as a kind of role model, and take what comes as part of your lessons, part of your destiny.

-- Received via The Brotherhood of Light Workers on 8/31/01

In the case of natal (karmic, very early) experience, we can do little about this because on a soul level we've chosen to begin life with certain challenges and don't have enough self-awareness as yet to do anything about our childhood predicaments. But as adults we have choice. And choice can lead us away from suffering and into something more manageable, more contented. Curiously, as this concept was jelling in my mind, an article appeared in a national magazine 3 discussing the burgeoning understanding that a tenet of modern psychotherapy - remembering and venting one's trauma - may produce more suffering than healing for the patient. Researchers, in other words, are realizing that the upshot of encouraging someone to wallow in his or her pain only prolongs darkness, resulting in the opposite of health. The article went on to proclaim the virtues of repressing the dark memories instead of dwelling in them.

This direction is similar to where I too was headed, except that rather than head backwards towards "repression", I'm veering off towards something else, something that can be considered a different way of handling one's pain. I've chosen to call it "containment." Let me explain:

Containment versus Repression

Pain is an emotion. (We're not discussing the physical kind of pain here, but this process can have application even for that.) Emotion is, almost by definition, the opposite of structure, of form, of boundaries. It's hard to uncover emotion's borders: when did it begin, what is its middle, and when will it end? Likewise, it's difficult if not impossible to assign a measurable quality to emotion: is it weak or strong? Does my pain hurt more than yours? At best, emotional pain is relative. It's relative from person to person, and from one event to another. It's relative over the passage of time. And it's even relative in the way people process an event through their heredity, culture, age and so forth. The stoic and the hysteric will react quite differently to the same incident, as will the youth and the sage, or the hero and the 98-lb.-weakling! But none of it can be considered "wrong". It's all just part of being human. The only generalization about emotional pain that is always true is that we hate being in it and devoutly want to get past it when we are!

Emotional pain is one of the most human of all conditions. Its sufferance leads directly to compassion, the ability to empathize with another whose pain is recognized and remembered. Those few people who are really incapable of feeling pain exhibit behavior that the rest of us usually label inhuman - cold, robotic, deadened, unfeeling, zombie-ish. In fact, other than a few really new souls (called "infant souls"), most of those who exhibit such behavior are actually so numbed by prolonged and acute pain that their only coping strategy is to retreat into an unfeeling state. It is beyond the scope of this article, or my training, to explore such type of psychological trauma further, but it's my intention to provide an alternative approach to those of us who are facing pain that is still within manageable proportions.

The two usual coping strategies, as mentioned, are repression and expression. By the latter, to express, is meant to let grief have full rein ad infinitum whereas by the former, to repress, is meant to bury, to forcibly stuff under. My dictionary defines repression thus: "To keep under restraint or control. To put down; quell, as a rebellion. To check, curb, rein, restrain, subdue, suppress." This takes energy and is hard work. The image I get is of something rascally that wants to keep popping out, or worse, something monstrous under wraps that wants to escape! Neither choice seems desirable to me.

On the other hand, there is this thing I've been talking about: containment. My dictionary defines containment this way: "The act or fact of containing; holding, enclosing, surrounding. To include or compromise. To keep within bounds, as oneself or one's feelings." It seems a much better strategy. Emotional pain can be held in conscious awareness, enclosed and surrounded by observation, neither allowed to run wild nor pushed down into the subconscious. It can be witnessed and thus managed. The principle of containment means that you can learn to sit with your pain without needing to run from it…so long as you learn how to negotiate it. What better way to use Saturn to your Moon than to create a protective structure within which your feelings can be held as you work with your other powers to endure, to thrive, and to remain creative?

How to Practice Containment

How does it work? How can you utilize it as a valuable technique in a period of sadness? I would not be able to teach this if I had not applied it to my own experience first. Yes, it takes effort. Yes, you will lapse, then have another go at it! But it's do-able, especially for us astrologers who have the priceless gift of foresight to see happier times ahead. We, more than any humans on earth, can define the boundaries of our time of pain, knowing when it will end or be surpassed by happier energies. Pain is felt viscerally. Let me try to describe it. Your heart aches. Your gut is tense, upset, unsettled. Your thoughts go straight to gloom, to every misery you ever felt of a similar nature, to every depressive expectation you ever cradled in your mind.

When an attempt is made to see ahead, you can envision only a future full of the same misery as you now feel. So, quite literally, the past, present and future all stink! And there's no surcease, no space for anything but the aching. It's hell to reside in your body or your mind. For God's sake, you're in pain!!! What would it take to remain in the present, to observe the pain? First, you'd need to strengthen your core and center your energies by pulling in all loose ends. Believe in yourself. Learn to tame neediness. Don't rush outwards in a vain search for escape (pills, alcohol, co-dependency, risky gambling - in fact, every addiction). Every person you lean on is one of your loose ends. (Having loose ends is the opposite of feeling whole.) Every substance you turn to is another loose end. All such actions dissipate your power. You'd have to watch yourself sending energies outward to these places in a self-defeating attempt to numb the misery, and then wake up to see this very process as weakening. You'd have to find the strength to pull back inwards every useless act of this sort, every wasteful action.

When you pull in all your loose strings, you find yourself growing stronger, more whole, less and less needy. Next, you'd need to protect your boundaries. Say no! If a person is the source (cause) of your pain, cut him/her loose. Even if he/she is beloved, or family, remove yourself from his/her influence (at least temporarily). Aloneness is not the source of pain when "togetherness" was the root of it in the first place. Go within; get to know yourself much better. Enjoy yourself for your blessed qualities, and deliberately erase (cancel out) any hurtful comments another has made about you…providing that you first gain any morsels of wisdom from such, if possible. Polish the beauty of your true nature; eradicate the obvious imperfections. But never buy into the ugliness of another's jealous words. Make it your project to love yourself, and to project that love outwards. Work hard at being (becoming) a terrific person to be around, and you'll soon find others gravitating towards your magnetic attraction. And finally, you'd need to look for help only by going upwards (spiritual searching) not outwards (other people, dependency). Immerse yourself in wisdom teachings.

Seek authentic masters, and reject the phonies. Learn the spiritual trick of moving into joy by altering your thought construct(s). Then the chemistry of the body will follow. In a recent article, 4 factors that constituted authentic happiness included an "everybody wins" strategy, tapping into good moments and successes in the past to deal with present problems, determining which strengths to use or avoid with particular people or situations, finding open doors when others close them, enhancing relationships by aligning one's own with one's partner's strengths, and leaving a legacy. In another recent article, 5 listing (i.e., counting) one's blessings resulted in marked improvements in mental health and even some aspects of physical health as well.

This way lays empowerment!

COPYRIGHT 2003-2015, Judi Thomases.

This article was originally published in the January 2004 issue of Dell Horoscope. Reprinted with permission.

Judi Thomases,, member of the AFA and the National Council for Geocosmic Research, is an astrologer and spiritual consultant based in Rockland County, New York. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Douglass College, founder of a women's spiritual network for meditation, teaching, and personal development, and director of an interdisciplinary self-development center, she is a regular contributor to Dell Horoscope magazine, and writes monthly columns of The Brotherhoods' teachings. She has studied, counseled in, and written about metaphysics, astrology, and intuitive sciences for three decades. In 1997, Judi began to "hear" the voice of her spirit guides, who told her to expect a flow of teachings that she could use to help and heal others. These guides, the Brotherhood of Light Workers, transmitted "Wisdom's Game" to her.

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