What is the meaning of Saturn Return? How does it affect us and why is it one of the most well-known astrological events in our lives?

Anyone over the age of 30 will tell you that there is a period before the big 3-0 that feels like a complete quarter-life crisis. You have no idea what you’re doing with your life, you can feel the years slipping away and everything you thought you knew about yourself and your life just feel false.

It’s such a fun time.

It’s probably no coincidence that I started reading Tarot and practising Witchcraft more intensely around the age of 28. I felt completely adrift in my own life, I had no confidence that I was in the right career or even living in the right location. It was like just when I’d put down the final piece of the puzzle that is my adult life, another version of me came along and through all the pieces into the air and then walked away.

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What does Saturn Return mean?

The planets in our solar system each have their own cycles – how long it takes them to do a full orbit of the sun. Even the sun and the moon work on cycles, the sun has a 12-month cycle which is why we have seasons and of course, the moon works on a 28-day cycle.

Saturn has a cycle of around 28-30 years, meaning that’s how long it takes to do a complete orbit of our sun. When we’re born, Saturn will be in a particular place in the sky, so when we talk about Saturn Return we’re talking about Saturn completing its orbit and returning to the same place as when you were born.

Think of it like Saturn was there to welcome you into the world and then it went on holiday for 28-30 years and now it’s back to make you question everything you thought you knew.

Saturn Returns usually happen between ages twenty-eight and thirty and fifty-eight and sixty. Those are the ages at which you lose your illusions and mistaken ways of thinking to take great steps forward. If this time is used well, you can take a quantum leap.
— Suh Yoon Lee

The properties of Saturn

Each of the planets rules over a certain kind of energy. This is one of the ways we can read astrological birth charts, assigning specific properties to the planets to give their placements some context.

Mercury rules over things like travel and communication, Jupiter rules over our generosity, expansion and fortune and Saturn rules over our limitations and responsibility.

This means that when we’re born Saturn will gift us a certain way in which we see what we’re capable of, and what is required of us in the world. But, when it returns it comes back with new ideas that challenge all of these things. It asks us whether all of these limitations we’ve put on ourselves are actually valid.

This is why we often feel like we need to completely unravel our own lives and start again when we reach our late 20s.

I feel as I were disintegrating and “growing up”, whatever that means, simultaneously.
— James Agee

How can Saturn Return affect you?

Your Saturn Return will be unique to you, but some core things to watch out for are:

  • Questioning your soul purpose

  • Feeling lost and confused about your future

  • Feeling the need to sell everything you own and run away from life

  • Feeling like you need to become someone else for a while

  • Questioning your career path or field of study

  • Questioning what goals you have for the long-term future

To name but a few. Essentially you feel like burning your life to the ground and starting again from nothing. I find the easiest way to describe a Saturn Return is to tell my own story. For reference, I’m about to turn 32 so my Saturn Return has been and gone, but I now see exactly what it was and why I had to go through it.

Exploring my own Saturn Return

I was around 27 and living in my own flat in the centre of Manchester. The perfect location for a 27-year-old to be, with plenty of pubs, clubs and things to do. I had a job that was a very short walk from where I lived, I worked with people I loved and I was paid a good wage.

I started thinking about saving for a mortgage and then one day that idea seemed like I was giving myself a prison sentence. Completely out of the blue might I add. I started thinking about my 30s, what I would want to achieve where I would want to be and I realised that I wouldn’t be happy if everything I had at that moment was it for the rest of my life.

I was sitting on my uncomfortable rental sofa drinking my second cup of coffee back to back when I decided I needed to do something with a purpose. I wanted to work with a charity that meant something to me so I could feel like I was benefiting the world. I started looking at mental health charities because it was a cause I was and still am very passionate about. I flicked through endless ‘race for life’ races, 5ks, 10ks, sponsored this and sponsored that but none of them felt big enough.

Then I came across a huge (and costly) challenge. Walk the Great Wall of China for charity. I’d never stepped foot out of Europe and I didn’t know anyone that would accompany me, but before I knew it I was booked on and my participant pack was on its way to me. That was the turning point for me. The point where my Saturn Return grabbed me and strapped me in for the ride.

From then on I didn’t feel like I had any control over where I was going or what I was doing. A week before my 28th birthday I had a panic about turning 30 and how many doors would close for me regarding things like working holidays and cheaper travel visas. So within an hour of thinking to myself ‘I wish I’d lived abroad at least once’ I was signed up for a working holiday in New Zealand.

In the space of just 3 months before and after my 28th birthday, Saturn Return had kicked down my door and said “Ok, biatch. It’s time you stop procrastinating and planning and started doing something“. I was powerless to resist. It was like I had no say over what was happening and where I was going, I was just doing what Saturn wanted me to do.

And this is the part where you find out who you are
— Unknown

What did Saturn Return want?

I’d love to say that all that exciting stuff made me into this amazingly cool new person, but it didn’t. What it did do was teach me a lot about myself, what I needed in my life to be happy, what I didn’t need and what my purpose was moving into my adult years.

I’d also love to say that those were the happiest years of my life, but again, that’s not how Saturn Return works.

Were both China and New Zealand an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity absolutely. Was I the best version of myself during those times? Absolutely not. I was a mess of a person, completely out of control. My mental health was dire whilst I was living in New Zealand and as much as I loved living in that amazing country, being so far away from family and friends took a much bigger toll on me than I had ever imagined it would.

I had always assumed that I was a completely independent person who loved their family but didn’t need them close all the time. I was wrong. That was one of the biggest lessons Saturn Return taught me.

The important thing to remember though is that if Saturn hadn’t pushed me into those situations I would never have learned those lessons. I needed to strip everything away so I could experience who I was in the rawest and most vulnerable state possible. To do that, I needed to be removed from the things that I desperately needed to be happy but couldn’t appreciate.

When I came out the other side I started my own business and went freelance so I could have maximum flexibility to live my life to the fullest. I now have a business that I love, I have variety in my work which keeps me motivated and excited to wake up every morning. I get to see my amazing friends who I’ve known since I was 4 years old, I get to spend time with my family regularly and I have plenty of time for all my creative hobbies. It all turned out pretty great if you ask me.

Will I always feel so content, of course not! But I’m 100% in a better place than I was before my Saturn Return.

This time it’s personal

You might think you’re a pro at inner work, that you are self-aware and know exactly who you are, what you stand for, and what or who you need, but I promise you if you haven’t gone through your Saturn Return, you’re in for a bumpy ride.

I thought I was self-aware before but Saturn comes in to humble you. Is it comfortable? Absolutely not. Is it necessary? Undoubtedly.

It’s nothing to be afraid of, even though it isn’t the best years of your life, the lessons learned and the trials you go through during this time bring you out into a place that feels like a breath of fresh air. You feel like you’ve been reborn and you feel older, wiser and more grounded.

When you’re going through your Saturn Return it’s like you’re being carried by a strong current downriver. It’s better to just relax, sit back and allow yourself to be carried away. Trying to fight or resist will just make things feel harder.

To help you get your head around Saturn Return and do some tasks to help you better understand what’s going on in your Saturn Return right now, I put together a free workbook. You can find the form at the beginning of this guide. In this, we also go into a bit of detail on how your birth chart can help you focus on this journey.

If you are currently facing this pivotal moment in your life and need a bit of support, however, then I highly recommend my Soul Tarot Coaching sessions where we can work 1:1 to help you find clarity and direction.