Confessions of an Astrohoe
Text and image: Harriet Smith
An individual’s Saturn Return in astrology is a rite of passage. This tumultuous event occurring roughly every 28 or 29 years is believed to inspire a turning point. Personal reflection approaching thirty is natural, and astrology suggests a structure for this moment. Could we really be shaped by the movement of stars and planets surrounding us? Or did our ancestors create a structure to guide us and make us feel less alone?
Let me begin with a confession: I love astrology. I may doubt it is an ultimate truth or as a way to predict the future, but I love the way it prompts deep personal reflection, while reminding us that we are all connected cyclical beings in relation with the world, and even the universe around us. I am drawn to the romantic notion of a ‘guide’ created by our ancestors, based on a snapshot of the sky at our moment of birth. The ‘answers’ it can provide are especially appealing now, during the uncertainty of an unprecedented global pandemic. In short, social media users would absolutely refer to me as an ‘astrohoe’.
While I hope to convince you of the potential magic of Saturn Return, I won’t assume that you know anything about astrology. So, what are the basics? Astronomy and astrology date back close to 4000 years, to the discovery of fragments of Babylonian stone tablets in Mesopotamia (present-day Syria and Iraq). These depicted a recognition that planets move in cyclical ways, returning in a predictable period to the same position in the sky. The knowledge of the stars, planets, and their cyclical movements were then given meanings relevant to the beliefs and philosophies specific to the time and place. This provided a tool for divination, and astrology emerged. Like all knowledge systems of this time, ideas spread along Eurasian trade routes, with astrological systems developing in China, India (Vedic), Egypt, and later, Greece (Hellenistic). Astrology continues to adapt to the beliefs of its practitioners and the needs of their patrons today. Personally, I am familiar with the whole house system derived from the Western Hellenistic astrological tradition.
Like most ‘astrohoes’, I was drawn in with the natal chart (pictured below). This is a map of the sky at the minute you were born, showing where the sun, moon, and planets are at the moment you exited the womb in relation to your geographical location. The natal chart is layered; it allows us to contain multitudes, to feel seen in relation to different aspects of our human experience. While a natal chart will probably never prove a scientifically validated tool for prediction of our future life paths, it can offer a method of reflection that is nuanced and encourages self-awareness by listening to others and considering our own perceptions about ourselves. This for me, is astrology 101, and why I think it holds a particular form of surprisingly accessible magic.
The magic of Saturn Return
Back to the main event, the juicy details of Saturn Return, the promise of greater and deeper knowing, pain, and possibilities. Time feels like it slows down, yet you’re acutely aware of ageing. This year I turn thirty. ‘Saturn Return’ refers to the astrological event where Saturn returns to the same zodiac sign (the same place in the sky) as at your time of birth. This occurs roughly every 28 – 29 years, as the planet spends around two years in each sign. Saturn entered the zodiac sign of Aquarius on the 21st of March 2020, and it will remain here until the 7th of March 2023. This last occurred around 1991 -1994, meaning myself and other early ‘90s babies are now experiencing their first Saturn Return.
The return of Saturn relates to cycles of achievement and maturity. As Saturn enters Aquarius there is great productive and destructive potential in the structure of our lives. Aquarius is associated with rebellion while Saturn symbolises structure and responsibility. Occurring as we near thirty, Saturn Return coincides with a common age for reflection, especially in a society acutely aware and dismissive of ageing. Astrology suggests a way we can more collectively share these experiences of reflection. Saturn Return in particular, encourages painfully self-aware contemplation over several years to ensure your reality is as closely aligned to your dreams as possible. This is a special kind of magic.
Not everyone’s Saturn Return feels the same
Even in collective experiences there is nuance. Despite many of my friends turning thirty, Saturn was in a different area in each of our natal charts. As a Libra-rising, Saturn Return resonates in my fifth house and I recognise a shift in my creative projects. My own growth as an artist, as well as my beliefs around my own capabilities, have experienced a new blossoming recently. I feel more opportunities are possible than ever before and a deep sense of knowing that art will always be a significant part of my life. My Saturn Return isn’t over yet and taking time to recognise our own unique creative talents is always worthwhile, even if sometimes initially uncomfortable.
One of my closest friends, a Capricorn rising, has experienced shifts in their second house, relating to assets, resources, and livelihood. The past two years they have faced redundancy during a pandemic, returning to an old job, and the discomfort that comes from knowing they desire a greater career shift in the long term. There is a unique and previously unfelt kind of pressure accompanying turning thirty, with as much to do with societal expectations of progress and success, as the alignment of the planets. By offering a response to ageing that values emotions and intuition, astrology has allowed me to be sensitive and brave. Some say it has revolutionary potential.
Astro-sceptics and many ways of knowing
Now you may still not believe in magic, or astrology, and that’s ok. But we want to live in a world which allows for many ways of knowing, and I think making space for ‘astrohoes’ is important too. Rejection of alternative beliefs has historically had catastrophic and violent consequences. The idea of moral-free objective science has led to degradation of the planet we live on, where extraction can always be justified by a dollar amount. My partner is convinced that astrology is largely a placebo effect; we find meaning because we search for it. However, does that lessen the significance that being truly present and reflective can bring?
A rite of passage is an event or experience signifying a major change or milestone and Saturn Return certainly qualifies. While I will never know if we are influenced by planetary transits, I think the rite of passage of reflecting on one’s life as we turn thirty is widely experienced. You may not use astrological symbolism to structure a reflection, but it is likely we reflect on where we thought we would be in our lives, and hopefully feel grateful for where we currently are. In its most useful form, astrology acts as remnants of wisdom, a structure from our human ancestors that reminds us we are not alone. Anything is possible, but not always at any time.