A Sense of Saturn: through the signs…

Astrology simply cannot be about lists. A list of qualities is an attempt to extrapolate something that is innate and this is fundamentally why there is no better adjective to describe the quality of Saturn than Saturnine. We can use approximations that flesh out this fundamental and core energy such as thoughtful, austere, serious and so forth, but the true understanding of any placement lies in a realm somewhat above the language that is used to describe it; it is (as someone once said about the objective of poetry) attempting to describe the indescribable.

It is for precisely this reason that I wish to underline the key insight that best illustrates the quality of a sign placement, we have to look to people to truly apprehend the meaning of astrology; words fail us, and not necessarily because we have a poor facility for language. Language fails us, in fact, because the thing we are trying to describe is somehow too profound to be grasped intellectually. We need to simply feel it.

Thus, today, I am going to post the first part of an understanding about Saturn. There will be no list of qualities, simply an example of Saturn in each of the signs using the three most urgent expressions of any planetary energy or focus: rising, peregrine or conjunct the Sun. Of course there is a subtle difference between the three which bears examination.

  • A rising planet modifies the appearance and initial manner of relating; it is the quality of first impression that is made by the native.
  • A peregrine planet is an overwhelming force in the native’s life, often it will run away with the entire chart. The impetus can be quite compulsive and overwhelming and often creates an overpowering sense of purpose in the life expression.
  • A solar conjunction creates a self-ideal, the native strives to express this quality, not in an unconscious manner like the rising planet, actually in a rather self-conscious manner. It is how they wish to be perceived.

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Thus John Voight appears as Saturn in Aries, Kylie is on a mission to embody it and Sir David Frost consciously aims to express it. Saturn is in fall in Aries, but somehow it works rather well (and this would be, in my opinion because Mars is exalted in Capricorn which rules Saturn, thus there is a route to exaltation even in a sign of detriment.) The opposition to Sun in Libra bears some examination too (I wrote about this before) since the mutual reception by exaltation contains some measure of promise (Hugh Jackman, Emily Procter).

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Saturn in Taurus is not so easy to find good examples for: Nancy Kerrigan, the Olympic figure skater was famously clubbed in the knee by rival Tonya Harding and almost lost her place in the 1994 Winter Olympic trials as a result. Saturn of course rules the knees in the physical body. No coincidence. The opposition to Sun in Scorpio is shared by Tom Conti and Roy Rogers.

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Once again, consider the qualities of each of these individuals in terms of appearance and first impression (in the case of Mick Jagger), in the life purpose with Jim Morrison (and Jimmy Page who also evinced Saturn peregrinated in Gemini) and in a more conscious attempt at self-realisation with Malcolm McDowell. Jimi Hendrix had the Solar opposition.

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Thus with Saturn in Cancer: David Beckham has the appearance and manner of it, George Bush has made a mission out of it (protection of the homeland) and Danny Glover – who plays the serious and responsible (Saturn) family man (Cancer) role opposite offbeat and unpredictable Mel Gibson in the Lethal Weapon movie franchise so well, consciously aims for it.

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Thus, James Woods, who is somehow so very serious and yet showy all at once has an almost perfectly Saturn in Leo appearance and manner. Barry Gibb has peregrinated Saturn in Leo and also peregrinated Sun in Virgo, and his picture is an almost perfect exposition of Virgo and Leo taken to the extreme. Arnold Schwarzenegger on the other hand is determined to express that combination of Sun and Saturn (doubly so by rulership and conjunction), so little wonder that he wants to assume a position of regal authority.

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Finally we have Virgo: which evinces a similarly neat ambience, a rather thorough and detail focused persona or manner.

Whilst looking to all of these examples gives considerable insight into the sign quality of each, they all share a common saturnine thread, for the most part every one of these individuals, with Saturn stressed, prominent or powerful in some sense, evinces a measure of seriousness or gravitas in their demeanour and for this reason they will all struggle to appear especially youthful. The one real exception to this is found in the case of peregrinated Saturn in Aries which in old age (Saturn) gives a propensity to youth (Aries). This quality (peregrinated too) is shared by Twiggy, the British model, who in her 60s has become something of an icon for older women due entirely to her remarkably youthful appearance and demeanour.

I will continue this article with the remaining 6 signs in a future instalment.

Alan Watts, pt 3: Moon, Chiron and a few notes

Alan WattsTime then for a few closing notes on the subject of Alan Watts’ fascinating nativity. We have covered some of the key issues that made him the enigmatic but brilliant genius that he so clearly was; his peregrine but dignified Uranus, Cazimi Mercury, qunideciles from Saturn conjunct Pluto and Neptune on the 8th and his Saturnine/Uranian soul, realised through an appreciation of his Capricorn stellium in the first. Of course, no chart is defined entirely by just one or two configurations, and really we have up till now concerned ourselves with confirming those aspects of his nature that we are privy to, so what of the rest of the man?

Astrologically I find the Moon opposition to Chiron intriguing. This suggests a painful and never-healed rift in the relationship with the mother; with his Moon in pure but perfection-seeking Virgo in the 8th there is a hint that she may have held high standards that the young Alan found hard to attain. His interest in philosophy and later eastern mysticism came about largely through the influence of his mother, Emily, as she was the daughter of a missionary herself and Watts recalled in his biography how his mother taught at a local school for daughters of missionaries to China. It was because of his mother that Alan had early exposure to Asian culture, via art and other gifts brought by parents returning from China. A Sinophile all his life, Alan attributed the start of his interest in the writings of Chinese poets and sages to his mother’s gift of a Chinese translation of the New Testament.

Immediately, we get a sense of Emily as having a deeply spiritual, albeit orthodox facet to her nature, and it is interesting to note how Watts spent a great deal of his philosophic effort upon deconstructing many of the inconsistencies of traditional theistic logic. With Chiron in Pisces, we get a sense that the damage in his maternal relationship was at heart a spiritual one, an inability to find a middle ground between the exacting rules of critical Virgo and the polarity of Piscean faith; an existential incompatibility between a mother who may have been obsessive and critical, and a need to find a sense of trust in a benevolent Universe. Indeed, much of Watts’ greatest insight speaks to powerfully Neptunian themes of dissolution, of impermanence, of illusion and compassion.

So what might have caused this rift? Moon in Virgo hints at a mother who wanted things to be just so, neat, orderly and if not exactly conventional, certainly humble and God forbid! None too flashy! Then we see the quincunx to otherwise unaspected Uranus in its domicile of Aquarius, suddenly (and thus fittingly for Uranus) we see the source of the pain. Watts was different, naturally he was odd, quirky, noticeable by dint of being not-normal; his interests were weird and profoundly unorthodox and he speaks of a childhood spent devising complex funeral rites for birds, and composing treatises on theology which he would discuss with his parents long into the night. There is no question that his mother loved him; he speaks of her fondly, but of course that quincunx speaks to dissatisfaction, and it appears that even after declaring himself a Buddhist at age 14 Watts was still inclined to try and reconcile his chosen belief with that of his mother’s choosing.

The maternal principle is internalised, and with Moon in the 8th, there is a theme of letting go; this opposed to Chiron further posits the idea that letting go of his mother drove him to seek some spiritual solution to his painful loss. Chiron in Pisces on the very cusp of the 3rd forces one to continually readjust their faith in hope of addressing the cold-shoulder of an uncaring cosmos.

A few other points worthy of mention:

  1. Neptune conjunct royal Regulus would dignify his spirituality.
  2. Venus in Sagittarius in the 12th gives a profound love of prophetic and far-reaching  ideals, of far off places, of the exotic and mystical; it also gives a deep love of solitude, and it is well known that Watts would spend several hours a day meditating alone, a confirmed Buddhist; which in his day was certainly an exotic belief system.
  3. Venus furthermore rules the 10th, so this love of exotic belief systems would somehow define the career!
  4. Saturn in Gemini creates a challenge to articulate, and here, conjunct Betelgeuse denotes “success which is not blocked” according to Brady. Unquestionably so.
  5. Saturn furthermore mutually receives Mercury; thus lending great stability to his thinking and much faculty for adaptability in meeting his obligations.
  6. Pars fortuna is partile the Imum Coeli, suggesting that his most private self was his bounty.

This is the final article concerning Alan Watts. I strongly recommend that you listen to some of his marvellous teachings, and here is a podcast which will allow you to do just that.