Saturn returns are astrological phenomena that occur every 30 years or so—and can cause quite the stir every time they roll around. Here's what to know about Saturn returns, how to calculate them, and tips for navigating your next one.
What is a Saturn return?
You'll experience a Saturn return when the planet Saturn literally "returns" to the exact zodiac sign, degree, and house it was in when you were born.
As mbg's resident astrologists the AstroTwins explain, Saturn rules topics like maturity, hard work, accountability, and ultimately adulthood.
"Your Saturn return, which will happen two or three times in your life, is a period of getting really serious about who you are, what your legacy is, and what you're here to leave for the world," they explain.
Needless to say, Saturn returns also present us with challenges and weightier responsibilities. The first Saturn return, occurring around 29 years of age, can feel particularly heavy and difficult. With that being said, it's also an opportunity to grow into the next phase of adulthood and take on more responsibility.
How long it lasts & how to calculate it.
According to the twins, your Saturn return lasts two and a half years, though the effects of this period can often be felt before and after its official start and end (kind of like with the full moon each month).
The first Saturn return occurs when you're around 29, then again in your mid- to late 50s and, if you live long enough, again in your late 80s.
Curious when exactly your next Saturn return starts or ends? The twins have a calculator for that.
What to expect on your Saturn return:
- Challenges: Chances are, you'll feel challenged during at least part of your Saturn return. The twins note that they think of this transit as a personal trainer or auditor. "When you get an audit of your foundation and your core structure, you're going to see where you're not really that strong," they explain—which is going to challenge you to do better.
- Responsibility: With the planet Saturn governing things like structure and maturity, you'll likely feel the full weight of your responsibilities during this time. As the twins put it, "You're going to find the flaws and the weaknesses and you're gonna have to work on them."
- Tests: "Saturn gives you a test of your own authority," the twins explain. During your Saturn return, you may feel like the universe is testing you at every turn, and you have two choices: rise to the occasion, or keep playing it small.
- Existential crises: "Sometimes there's an existential crisis that happens during a Saturn return, which is why people see it as a source of suffering," the twins note. Due to the nature of this period, there's a tremendous amount of change, but also growth, that takes place. As such, it can feel like your life is being totally transformed as you step into a new chapter—which can feel exciting but also intimidating, making you question everything.
- Growth: If there's a point to all the trial and tribulation of a Saturn return, it's absolutely growth. "You're not going to be able to cut corners during this time," the twins say, and "if you've been skating by, that doesn't work anymore." While it can be difficult to address those areas of weakness, Saturn returns are ultimately an opportunity to become stronger and learn new skills.
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Are Saturn returns good or bad?
As with so many things, the answer to this question is a matter of perspective. Sure, you may come up against some hardship throughout a Saturn return, but what's life without a bit of struggle? Without it, we wouldn't learn the important lessons or received the hard-earned rewards.
As the twins put it, Saturn returns are a gift in the long run, "but they do kick your ass a little bit along the way."
How to navigate your Saturn return based on its sign.
Depending on where Saturn falls in your birth chart, your Saturn return will likely carry a certain theme. Double-check what sign Saturn was in when you were born (the next time Saturn returns to that sign, you'll be experiencing a Saturn return) and read up on what it means:
Saturn in a fire sign (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius)
If Saturn is in Aries, Leo, or Sag on your birth chart, your Saturn return will probably emphasize the importance of slowing down, not rushing through everything, and doing things by the book rather than always doing things your way, according to the twins.
People with Saturn in a fire sign are "very independent and action-oriented," according to the twins, "but they can cut corners or be selfish and rash." So, Saturn teaches you how to consider others in your decisions—and not be so independent that you're actually creating chaos in your life, they add.
Saturn in an Earth sign (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn)
If your Saturn is in Taurus, Virgo, or Cap, the twins explain that your Saturn return may push you to get out of your comfort zone and try something new.
"These people can be very sheltered, not take risks, or do things by the book," the twins say, adding that they're your quintessential "good boys and girls." But their Saturn return will allow them to learn to find their own inner authority, as well as step into leadership roles.
Saturn in an air sign (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius)
Those with their Saturn in Gemini, Libra, or Aquarius "can be a little fast and loose with their words, or kind of scattered in a million directions," the twins say, which is, of course, typical of airy energy. But a Saturn return can help them work on this.
Theirs may push them to "focus, and come up with more of a plan before they act—and think before they act," the twins say, adding, "It provides wisdom."
Saturn in a water sign (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces)
And lastly, if your Saturn is in Cancer, Scorpio, or Pisces, a Saturn return will be all about emotional maturity for you. It may feel particularly heavy and wrought with deep feelings, but that's the point.
People with their Saturn in a water sign will "learn how to get some emotional maturity and control, not just reacting or getting stuck in fear all the time," the twins say. "They learn how to get emotional discipline and rigor."
OK—it would be understandable if you were a little nervous about your next Saturn return. But try not to stress too much. While challenging, this time period offers tremendous growth, too, and the only way out is through! While Saturn returns last a bit longer than other infamous astrological events (like Mercury retrograde, for example), when you come out on the other side, you'll emerge with new insight and maturity.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, as well as a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.