Saturn is the next planetary archetype to discuss, and because it is an especially complex archetype I will describe it in more detail. Saturn represents the principle of limit, structure, and necessity. It governs the material world, time, tradition, the past, aging, death, and the endings of things. The Saturn archetype is associated with the Greek mythic figure of Kronos, the stern father of the gods, the Roman Saturn. Called the Great Malefic in traditional astrology, it is associated with such archetypal figures as Fate, Father Time, Death, and the Grim Reaper. In Jungian and archetypal psychology, Saturn is often called the senex.
Saturn represents the hard structure of things, the reality principle, the bottom line. It is in many ways the opposite of Jupiter in nature: where Jupiter expands and grants success, Saturn contracts and inhibits; where Jupiter is liberal and magnanimous, Saturn is conservative and strict; where Jupiter uplifts, Saturn oppresses. Indeed, Saturn can well seem to be a one-sidedly negative planet in the astrological pantheon, though in fact the situation is much more complicated. Saturn opposes and limits, but in doing so, it strengthens, grounds, forges, gives our soul substance and gravitas, makes us real.
In an important sense, Saturn is the ruler of the birth chart itself, for Saturn is Time, Chronos, as well as that which fixes a moment in time, creates through birth a separate embodiment of reality, and then sustains and works out through time all the meaning and challenges of that archetypal moment.
Saturn is the archetype that rules the structure of our lives. It is the matrix of things, that which provides both limit and structure, thereby permitting the possibility of manifestation itself. In limiting and bringing closure, Saturn defines. Saturn is also the principle of judgment, governing the consequences of our actions, confronting us with our past. Esoterically, it is considered to be the planet of karma, the carrier of karma from past lifetimes, the consequences of which we now have to encounter in the present life. It might be seen as the cross we bear, for it concerns our trials and sufferings which may often seem inexplicable and undeserved. In theological terms Saturn bears resemblance to some (though not all) aspects of the Hebrew Yahweh: the strict patriarchal ruler and law-giver of creation, the God of justice and retribution who condemns humankind to a life of separation, labor, suffering, disease, pain in childbirth, and death. Saturn is lord of the realm of finitude, imperfection, and mortality. At a deep level, Saturn can be seen as the archetypal birth labor of existence: that which constricts and limits, rigidifies, alienates, cuts one off from the primal union, makes us die to the womb--but also that which incarnates us, gives us embodiment, form, firmness, substance, material reality. Saturn is therefore often symbolized as a skeleton, both as a symbol of death, the ultimate consuming power of time, but also as the skeletal structure and foundation of things, without which there would be no form, no stability, no supporting frame of strength and solidity which has slowly evolved through time and experience.
Saturn makes us stand alone and know solitude; it separates us from others--from the womb when we are born, from our childhood family as we grow older, and from everyone as we face our death. Yet it is also Saturn that makes us who we are, that disciplines and orders our existence until it has sculpted our essence. It is the superego inside us--our inner judge and conscience, that complex reflection of internalized social convention, religious tradition, and moral law. Saturn governs the consequences of error, guilt, pessimism, inferiority, depression, deprivation; yet it also gives us the capacity for rigor, order, concentration, endurance, seriousness, fidelity, responsibility, maturity. To continue the comparison with Jupiter, where Jupiter may be inflated, exaggerated, or overoptimistic, Saturn is judicious, grounded, and pragmatic. Saturn works slowly and gradually, painstakingly, often painfully, but effectively, with enduring results.
Saturn rules our work in the world, that which we do to make ends meet, the labor of life. It governs "reality" as we usually think of that term--that which makes concrete demands on us, which confronts us with material limitations, which brings us down to earth. It makes us know defeat, limiting our aspirations and negating our dreams. Saturn resists and oppresses us, and yet also defines us, brings us experience and wisdom, makes us take responsibility for ourselves so that we become our own master. As Nietzsche said, "He who cannot obey himself will be commanded." It is Saturn alone that can give us that special sense of inner authority which can only be purchased through time and experience.
The position of Saturn in one’s birth chart is thus a matter of great importance, and the major aspects it makes to other planets can tell us much about one’s principal concerns in life. Transits involving Saturn regularly mark periods of major developmental importance, often bringing times of personal trial, but also of deep maturation and the establishment of significant life structures involving one's career, important relationships, or major karmic responsibilities. Perhaps the main thing to remember--or to adopt as a working hypothesis--is that Saturn indicates that which we have chosen to work with and through in this life in order to achieve a higher level of spiritual awareness. The sufferings and frustrations it may bring can perhaps best be seen as serving a purpose which will in the long run be recognized as worth all the hard labor of life. Again, Saturn is that part of the archetypal birth process which oppresses and alienates, and yet slowly molds and structures, and, in the end, ushers us into a new level of existence. It is the guardian of the threshold.