There are pivotal moments in life – like starting/leaving school or say moving out of ones parents and getting your first place. We are one of natures more complex creatures and despite a propensity for flat-lining through our calendar with order and logic we do operate in intricate cycles just like the rest of the organised chaos in the universe.
Probably because we learn to count with our digits we often simplify our cycles into decades. We group ourselves as ‘teenagers’, ‘twenty somethings’, ‘in their thirties’, ‘life begins at 40’ etc etc and so often we assess and compare ourselves on this measurement. We do a lot of stuff in tens, it’s very Roman and easier for the taxman. But nature isn’t made up of such easy patterns. A year isn’t made up of a nice round number. In fact a ‘year’ is slightly ambiguous when one considers that there are indeed two measurements for it – the Tropical Solar year and the Sidereal year. The former being the one we generally operate with is actually 20min24.5secs shorter than the other and so is potentially vastly out of sync with more natural Sidereal rhythms we may no longer be fully conscious of.
The ‘add one’ linear nature of the Gregorian tax calendar – bludgeoned into every heathen in 1582 – finally suppressed the perspective of looking up to the stars to know where in space and time we are and instead got us to focus on what we needed to be doing at any given moment for the function of the state, to facilitate prompt payment of our duties usually in denominations of 10. Before this, many cultures would still set their agricultural, social feasting and bio-rythmical decisions by looking at the position of the stars as opposed to consulting the thing hanging up in the kitchen which keeps life organised in boxes (or the organiser in your phone these days).
The passage through the Zodiac was an essential calendar for many cultures prior to catholic globalisation. The incredibly accurate mathematical observations passed on through allegory and by giving character to constellations may hold secrets to understanding some of these pivotal moments we experience in life. We have perhaps lost some profound grasp of these astral movements and flippantly brush aside Astrology as plain woo – just as a foreign language bigot might demand ‘they should just speak English‘? Woo-woo aside and whilst my jury is still out on all that stuff, I will propose for now that guidance by the stars is a far more tangible, simple, definitive and attuned system that could keeps us aware of our cycles and our place in the universe – literal and metaphysical!!
Instead of counting in decades with digits, were we to use our phalanges to keep track of our life-path as we orbit the sun, maybe we could be more in tune with our life cycles and be better prepared to understand them? Each hand has 14 finger bones – 3 per finger and 2 in the thumb – and so we could count up to 28 before starting another cycle, instead of just 10. Older calendars that were lunar based used a system of 28 day moonths. The moon has 14 lunations in a cycle. In the Sidereal year the lunar cycle is (just shy of) 28 days, as is the average menstrual cycle. The word lunatic coming from lunar and the influence the Moon is thought to have on mood and behaviour when it waxes full. But what of the influence of other celestial bodies?
Saturn, the large mysterious planet with its many moons and rings, one thousand million miles from Earth, takes 29.4 years to orbit the sun and astrologers allege that this planet can profoundly influence a persons life cycle. It is thought that as Saturn returns to the degree it occupied at the time of your birth, one crosses a major threshold and enters the next phase of life. Each cycle presents us with the challenge to rise to new levels of awareness, or face the consequences of having failed to gain the wisdom required so to do. It is of course difficult to find any scientific backing for such a theory but an explanation may be as simple as the period in which Saturn gets back to the point it was at at ones birth, is around the point in life in which we intensely evaluate our past and future. Body clocks make noises, careers and relationships are scrutinised with deep contemplation.
Saturn, in mythology, castrated his father Uranus and devoured his children only to be eventually overthrown by Jupiter. The deep meaning in this myth is to not hold on to the passing cycle and be among the children that are devoured by Saturn when he comes looking for us – but to grow into the new phase. As explored in an earlier blog, The Feast of Saturnalia that pre-dates Christmas was a Saturn worship festival to celebrate the chaos of the darkness before the rebirth of the new Sun. In 2002 the Cassin-Huygens mission recorded eerie radio signals being emitted from the planet. The complex radio spectrum with rising and falling tones, is very similar to Earth’s auroral radio emissions – listen here.
If you avoid joining the 27 club, the first visit from the scythe of Saturn comes between the ages of 27 and 30 as we pass from The Phase of Youth into The Phase of Maturity. We have fully grown into our current self, developed our tastes, character, aspirations and it is time to put them under the microscope. Common experiences of this time are a rapid acceleration of occurrences and circumstances that either finalise old issues or prepare the ground for a new phase.
Astrologer Rob Tillet writes “For those who are unprepared, this is often a time of severe suffering, as we struggle to understand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that seem to be aimed squarely at our hearts. Indeed, relationships and major life-decisions are all too often the focal points for this clearing out of ones karmic baggage. Saturn rules sorrow and regret and things connected with the past, for suffering is the doorway to wisdom”.
It seems that those who have already arrived at a reasonably stabilised point by this time have a less anxious time turning this corner. It’s a good time to assess where you’re at in life, in astrological terms Saturn can show the areas of life where we must take these tests. My own personal experience was of finding myself managing a venue and having a ‘what the hell am I doing?’ experience. I traded my domestic and financial security in for a camper van road trip down through Europe. In hindsight this was a fairly radical decision that happened to span 27-30 and was a slow burning transition, the enaction of the thought taking place sometime apart. I encountered a noticeable re-invention in my ‘character’ like a re-wiring and an expansion of horizons, followed by a rebuild which continues still. Perhaps this choice opened me up to greater experience than were I to have continued on my earlier path – but I will of course never know. Maybe it is just a different experience, a lesser one or maybe there is only one path of experience that is the necessary one? We are always undergoing change – change is the only constant.
“A well-placed Saturn is an influence that can bring supreme success. Patience and thoroughness will generally offset the more problematic influences of Saturn, at least in terms of the anxiety they create, because Saturn rarely troubles those who are straightforward, systematic, and above all, patient.”
Between the ages of 56 and 60 the second return is due which is the transition between Maturity and The Phase of Wisdom. If only we were more in tune with such a cycle – old age would seem like a treasure island as opposed to a landfill!
The third and normally last call is for those that make it to 84-90 years which is thought of as either the transition to the ‘afterlife’ or return to another childhood. Only a small minority get a 4th visit between 114-118yrs.
Tillet concludes in his view after having his second ‘return’ “The Saturn return is the culmination of a train of complex aspects that happen to everyone at this time of life, but if you are experiencing your Saturn return, it need not mean that you too will suffer immense dislocation, or emotional disturbance and suffering. The focus of the spirit during this period of purification must increasingly be on understanding our needs, as opposed to our wants. When we find room in our lives for fulfilling our true needs and for living with intent, our souls grow in love and understanding, as we move closer to the heart of our real reason for being here. This Way is the true Tao which cannot be told… ”
And don’t take it personally, it’s not just us mere mortals that go through these kind of cycles. The entire planet is experiencing a once in 26,000 years alignment of the December solstice sun with the galactic equator. It might explain the global acceleration and upheaval of old systems and the vivid struggle by so many to lay out a new future. It’s up to us whether we choose to see this as an apocalyptic and destructive loss or the perfect time to relinquish to the completion of a cycle and the dawn of a new one.
Thankfully I have another 16 phalanges till the Grim Reaper knocks on my door again! Time enough to learn to practice how to be straightforward and patient…
for now – pull my phalanx!