Saturn will be in tropical Capricorn from December 19th, 2017 until 2020. The slow planet will be in and out of the Goat’s sign throughout that year, with the final egress scheduled for December 16th, 2020. Saturn takes 29.5 years to round the zodiac, and so the 2017-2020 period can be paralleled to the previous times Saturn was in Capricorn, such as 1989-92, 1959-1962, and 1929-33.
The ingress of Saturn into a new sign is always important, but there is no ingress into any of the 12 signs as inherently meaningful as the entrance into Capricorn. This is because Capricorn is ruled by Saturn, meaning that the sign receives the planet as its rightful lord and master. Any planet in a sign which it rules, such as Mars in Aries or Jupiter in Sagittarius, has its core significations strengthened. A planet in a sign which it rules is like a king (or queen) in their own castle. They receive protection, and have the maximum amount of resources at their disposal.
Even after Saturn leaves Capricorn for Aquarius in late 2020, the planet will still be in a sign that it rules. Saturn has the distinction of being the only planet whose ruled signs, or domiciles, are adjacent. This means that Saturn’s entrance into Capricorn begins not a 2.5 year period of peak Saturn, but a consolidated 5 year stretch of Saturnian power.
These 5 year periods are, historically, instances where the rules are rewritten. The last time Saturn was in this part of its cycle was 1988-1994. The time before that was 1959-1965, the time before that 1929-1934. The world before these 5 year spans looked significantly different than the world which followed.
If we look at American history, when Saturn ingressed into Capricorn in 1929, it was the fevered peak of the roaring 20s, and then when it exited Aquarius in 1934, it was the dead center of the Great Depression. Saturn entered Capricorn in 1959, at the peak of post-war stability, but by the time it exited Aquarius, in 1964, the Vietnam War raged, the United States had become bitterly divided, and a tremendous counter-cultural wave had begun. Similarly, when Saturn entered Capricorn at the end of 1988, it was stock market greed and the Cold War, but by the time that Saturn left Aquarius, the world political order had been reforged, and another massive countercultural wave was cresting.
Thus Saturn’s entrance into Capricorn in December of 2017 begins a period which is, quite literally, a gamechanger. The changes which take place during the next 5 years are naturally divided into two steps — the Capricorn portion coincides with the destruction of the old rules, the Aquarius portion with the design of the new.
Saturn and Capricorn
Before going further into the various themes which Saturn’s time in Capricorn entails, it behooves us to consider the nature of both Capricorn and Saturn.
Saturn is the slowest and furthest planet visible to the naked eye. It takes approximately 29.5 years to do one circuit of the zodiac. Just as Saturn is the limit of the visible solar system, Saturn is concerned with boundaries and borders. A wall both encloses and excludes, separating one space from another and limiting interaction between the two. There is thus a strong architectural element to Saturn which extends to all constructed systems, including human hierarchies and institutions. Saturn’s position in a natal chart yields information about how well a person does with structure, as well as how they react to, and wield, authority.
Being so slow, Saturn is also more concerned with time than the other planets. Saturn highlights the way it changes things, and separates the enduring from the fleeting. For living beings, time always leads to death, another fundamental Saturn theme. Relationships with the past and the dead are thus well within the Saturnian sphere. Saturn’s slow progression also illustrates the laws of cause and effect — how actions, over time, create reality.
Saturn is the Greater Malefic in astrology, as it brings deprivation, fear, excessive cold, brittle-ness, depression, confinement and exclusion. Yet Saturn also teaches the virtues of patience, discipline, endurance and duty, and shows us how to maintain glacial calm in even the worst conditions.
Capricorn, represented by the Goat, or Sea-Goat, is an Earth sign, meaning that it is primarily concerned with the concrete layers of reality. Earth signs prefer facts to speculations, a bird in hand over two in the bush.
Capricorn is of the Cardinal mode, linking it to initiation and creation — the beginning phase of story-arcs. It is thus the sign where the Earth is reshaped in accord with intention. Mud becomes brick, and bricks become houses. The wet clay, patterned with intention, becomes sculpture. Capricorn’s essential dynamic is thus the imposition of pattern onto substance in conformity with will.
This projection of design onto the materia of the real is in perfect accord with Saturn’s architectural intentions. It is thus no surprise that Capricorn is considered to be ruled by the leaden planet. For here, Saturn expresses himself in an unmitigated, text-book manner, especially as concerns the planet’s heavier and more manifest significations. In Capricorn, Saturn wears no disguise, but presents himself in an archetypal fashion. He is Father Time, the Grim Reaper, the Grand Architect, and the Old Teacher.
And Pluto, Too!
One of the more important factors to consider when differentiating this installment of Saturn in Capricorn from previous instances, is Pluto. Pluto will be in Capricorn the entire time that Saturn is. The two have one exact conjunction, scheduled for January 12th, 2020. Even though they are only precisely aligned on that one day, their copresence will shape the entirety of Saturn’s time in the Goat pasture.
Pluto will serve to further complicate and intensify already potent Saturnian themes. Their copresence emphasizes what has gotten lost in the underworld and needs to be rescued. Contrarily, it also points to badly aging patterns which desperately need to be read their last rites. Saturn and Pluto’s time together also specifically targets the United States, as this is Pluto’s return to the same place it was when the US was founded. Though fascinating, this particular point is beyond the scope of an already sizable article, and best dealt with in a space all its own. Look for that down the line.
Historical Context: The Triplicity Cycle
In addition to sharing Capricorn with Pluto, Saturn’s passage through the sign this time around is modified by the larger cycles which enclose it, particularly the cycle of Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions.
The Jupiter-Saturn cycle is one of astrology’s longest used and most reliable yardsticks for measuring history. The two planets conjoin every 20 years, providing a tool for examining history in two decade increments. But these 20 year cycles themselves make a larger pattern. For approximately 200 years at a time, the Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions occur in signs of the same element. This gives us 200 years of fire, earth, air, and then water. The Jupiter-Saturn cycle thus offers us not only the ability to study history in 20 year arcs, but also to look at the larger spans of history enclosed by the 200 year periods.
The two planets have been making conjunctions in Earth signs since the early 19th century, enclosing and timing the waves of industrial revolution and overseeing the transformation of our relationship to the material world that’s taken place over the last two centuries. The next Jupiter-Saturn conjunction, which occurs during the last days of 2020, will be in Aquarius, an Air sign. This conjunction will begin another 200 year cycle of conjunctions in Air signs, thus bringing an end to over two centuries of meeting under the auspices of Earth.
It is worth noting that there are two methods of calculating when the Jupiter-Saturn cycle shifts from one element to another, the apparent and the mean conjunctions. By the mean cycle, which is a mathematical idealization, we entered the Air cycle in the year 2000. It is the apparent conjunction, actually visible in the sky, which shifts us unequivocally into the Air cycle in 2020. Since 2000, we have been in an unusual period where the mean and apparent cycles clash, a fact which nicely illustrates the dissonant nature of our current times.
I have plans to write an extended treatment of the details of this cycle, but for now it is enough to note that Saturn’s time in Capricorn coincides not only with the last days of the decade, but also the last 3 years of a two-century cycle. It thus plays a complicated requiem for a pair of centuries which brought us both miraculous physical technologies and the most devastating, traumatic wars ever fought. There is thus an unmistakeable fin de sicle quality to Saturn’s passage through Capricorn this time. It is, in a very real sense, the end of an era.
Journey To The Center of the Past
As discussed, Saturn in Capricorn has a strong historical bias, one which is intensified by the copresence with Pluto in the Goat’s sign and the final years of the Earth Cycle.
The pull toward the past reaches back to the beginning of the 19th century, and everything which has happened since. There is a two-fold purpose to this siren-call from the tomb. The first is to recover all the valuables humanity cast aside in the frantic 19th and 20th century race to conquer the material world. The wisdom of grandfathers and grandmothers has been rejected by each ensuing generation for centuries now, and we are currently without the wisdom our forebears entered the 19th century with. This call from the past is not entirely new, and some of the more resilient heirloom seeds have already begun to germinate. Fresh shoots of old enchantments have begun to show through the cracks in the empire’s crude materialist pave-over. Nonetheless, there is still more work to do, more to remember, before we can move on.
Yet we are pulled backward not only to recover what was lost, but also to heal. Collective traumas are still embedded in the body of history, like so much shrapnel. The pain still emanating from them is currently the source of much madness and denial. To figure out how to heal from these traumas, the collective must return to them. The removal of the shrapnel, the extraction of the stone of madness, is necessary but perilous. Wreathed in scar-tissue, these pains have become a part of the landscape of things and extracting them is no easy task. Even once removed, it is difficult to know what to do with these prior embeds, as those who forget history tend to repeat it.
Saturn in Capricorn teaches the wisdom of fortification. Yet Saturn is a hard teacher, and often instructs via necessity. The Wintry lack of abundance which the slow planet often brings about squeezes resources within and without. The fitting response to a difficult environment is fortification — strengthening and reinforcing your position.
Imagine your world as a castle. In hard times, its walls must be able to repel intruders and keep safe those who dwell within. Not only that, but that same castle must have enough food to weather a siege. During times of duress, it is only common sense to hold on to what you have and protect it. Wisdom dictates you make the little piece of the world which is yours better organized, better defended and more fruitful. You dig deeper mines to find the gems hidden at its foundations. You examine your farming techniques, that your fields might be as productive as possible. You minimize your dependence on outside resources, and reduce your exposure to risk.
Yet the matter of fortification is not quite so simple. In prolonged defense of everything, we become fossilized. If we build our castle on a faultline, then our reserves, no matter how vast, will do us no good when the earthquake strikes. There is thus an important question hidden here: What territory are we prepared to concede, and what will we strengthen and defend?
The answer to this question may entail a hard look at your current position. Are you working in a dying industry, fingers crossed that the next round of job-cuts won’t include you? Have you leveraged yourself to the hilt, or bet the farm on the chance that everything will keep getting bigger and better? These are high-risk positions, not suited to the wintry years Saturn in Capricorn lords over. However, as I write this, there is still time to develop contingency plans and minimize unnecessary risks. There is time to locate the perfect portion of your reality upon which to build your Winter Palace. It may be a physical place, a spiritual place, a relationship or a skillset. Regardless of its nature, it will be your seat of strength, and deserves to be fortified.
Unfortunately, Saturn’s fortification-blessing has a dark side. Just as every structure can protect, it can also imprison. Every palace is a jail for those who are held there against their will. Historically, Saturn in Capricorn seems just as excited to build prisons as he is to aid in the construction of safe and productive lives. Astrologer Patrick Watson has recently done excellent work chronicling the history of these dire edifices.
Indeed, Saturn in Capricorn, being the empowered greater malefic, seems to take great pleasure in hunting those who have long evaded punishment. Here the solidity and weight of Saturn in Capricorn comes down hard, like an avalanche or a cave in, trapping and confining the fugitive.
The leaden planet’s time in Capricorn will undoubtedly be punctuated with stories of those whose evasions have finally come to an end. Indeed, the apprehension of the some of the most famous criminals in history occurred during Saturn’s previous visits to Capricorn, including the imprisonment of Al Capone, the notorious bootleg crime boss, and infamous cartel-king Pablo Escobar’s confinement in the La Catedral prison.
On a mythic level, I cannot help but be reminded of the backstory of the Monkey King from the Chinese literary classic Journey to the West. I will attempt to summarize it:
One upon a time, there was born a monkey smarter and stronger than all of the other monkeys. This Monkey quickly became the king of the monkey people. Once he’d attained this position, he set about thinking of ways to improve life for the monkey people. First and most obvious of the afflictions his people suffered was Death itself. The Monkey King, being anything but subtle, thought this would be a good place to start, so he snuck down into the Land of the Dead. After a little reconnaissance, he found the Record Keeper, whose documents give the life-span of every creature. Finding an opportunity, Monkey grabbed the papers which contained the life-span of all his beloved monkeys, and erased them, rendering his people effectively immortal.
Now, before long the Monkey King attracted attention from the gods, goddesses and celestial functionaries in Heaven. In order deal with him, it was first proposed that he be taken up to the paradisiacal realms and given a bullshit job to keep him out of trouble. The gods decided to make him the Minister of the Divine Orchards, in which the Peaches of Immortality grew. It sounded like an important job to Monkey, but in truth, the Orchards needed almost no tending, and the peach trees only yielded their fruit every thousand years or so. Eventually, the fruit ripened, and the hosts of heaven gathered for their millennial feast. To their dismay, they found Monkey passed out in the Orchard, his mouth and hands sticky with peach juice, surrounded by cores of ravished fruit.
Denied the divine nectar of the Peaches of Immortality, the celestial hosts were furious with Monkey. They locked him in Lao Tzu’s mighty 8-Trigram Furnace to incinerate him. After weeks in the starfire crucible, they opened it, only to find that not only was monkey not reduced to ash, the furnace had merely made him stronger. The Peaches of Immortality he’d consumed had rendered him immune to the flame.
Freshly-forged, Monkey went on a rampage of mischief. The gods tried repeatedly to stop him, even bringing the entire might of the Army of Heaven against him. Monkey, of course, defeated them handily, creating chaos on both heaven and earth in the process.
Exasperated, the gods collectively turned toward the Buddha to solve this problem. The Buddha smiled gently, and nodded, a solution already in mind.
Monkey was lounging in a field, reflecting on his own excellence, when suddenly he noticed mountains in the distance which hadn’t been there a moment ago. He turned and counted them… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5! Five new and rather imposing mountains in the distance, all around. He looked up and saw the clouds had taken the shape of immense, kind face. The Buddha smiled down at Monkey and said, “Monkey, you know how much trouble you are causing for everyone. Please stop.” To which Monkey responded with a particularly loud fart. The Buddha smiled and continued, “Monkey, you can persist in your mischief if you can escape the reach of my hand.” Monkey laughed, leaped into the air, and started turning Cloud Somersaults, which allowed him to travel thousands of miles at a time. After traveling to the other end of the earth, Monkey dropped down with a smirk. Monkey looked around and saw that the same five strange mountains were in the distance, surrounding him. His grin dissolved. The Buddha’s face reappeared above him, and the mountains began to close in on him from all directions. To his chagrin, he realized that they weren’t mountains. They were the Buddha’s finger-tips. Buddha, having become identical with the Everything-And-Nothing, could not be escaped. The Buddha closed his hand into a fist, trapping Monkey. He then placed a mountain on top of Monkey, and put a spell of the greatest power on it, sealing Monkey securely beneath the mountain.
Monkey King would stay confined for 500 years, until Kwan Yin, the Buddha of Compassion, offered him a chance at redemption in order to accompany and protect a young monk on a perilous Journey to the West.
The Monkey King’s story illustrates a few points relevant to Saturn’s time in Capricorn. The first is that even the most powerful eventually discover the limits of their potency. To know your limits and respect them is a crucial Saturnian virtue. Furthermore, in Monkey’s case, confinement was a necessary precursor to redemption. Sometimes we must restrain ourselves, or be restrained, until we return to a proper state of mind.
Sadly, it will not be wisdom alone which confines people during Saturn’s time in Capricorn. Yet let us pray for justice to find the loathsome, and for those who become a threat to themselves and others to be compassionately restrained until their sanity returns.
The Eye of Time
In addition to fueling works of fortification, Saturn in Capricorn also offers the capacity to understand Time and your movement through it. Saturn’s eye sees trajectories, inevitabilities, choices and crossroads. It is the eye of time, hourglass-pupiled and wise.
When we gaze through it, we become both patient and ready. We seize the day when it is ripe, and let it pass us by when its fruit is still bitter. Seeing time, we understand timing. We become wise. We save our hope for what can be changed, and reserve our fear for moments of real danger.
Time does not teach us action or inaction, but their relationship to one another, and how to alternate wisely between the two. This chronological binary is the percussion section of Time’s orchestra. Sound and silence alternate, but so too do movement and stillness. Time is thus the mother not only of drummers, but of dancers.
Yet what we see through the eye of time is not always easy to bear. If we gaze into the past, as the historian does, we discover tragedy after tragedy. Massacres leave behind mountains of bone, burnt books become deserts of ash. Though there are shining golden ages to inspire us, they are the exception, not the rule.
The future also intimidates. Legends are full of unhappy prophets. Likewise, the gods and goddesses of fate are rarely, if ever, depicted as jolly or inspiring. To see suffering coming ahead of time is a burden, yet that burden is the price of foresight.
To extend your vision into both the future and the past, to obtain the goat’s wide horizontal gaze, you must be able to accept what you see. This is a challenge, for there are always events hiding in both the future and the past which will exceed your current emotional capacity. The blessings of Hindsight and Foresight, the Titans Epithemius and Prometheus, are not without price. Indeed, in Greek myth, the brother-titans both suffered greatly for their gifts.
Though there is a price to extending your vision, the benefits are manifold. Not only do the secrets of rhthym and timing unfold, but so too does the great law of cause-and-effect. Indeed, there is no learning, no wisdom-with-age, without understanding this law. Whether the passage of time will improve a person’s character and skill depends greatly on whether they can look back and see the results of their past actions. Attention paid will result in a refinement of virtue and method. Action without later reflection will result in no improvement over time.
Though it is at times a burden, learning to see through the Goat’s hourglass eyes allows us to make progress, to learn from our mistakes, to be prepared for difficult times and to cherish good ones.
Saturn’s time in Capricorn has often coincided with tectonic shifts to the landscape of human reality. While such transitions are necessary and sometimes favorable, they are nonetheless jarring. They make old maps unusable, and deny the comfort of the familiar.
When the world a person expects no longer fits the reality they encounter, they are left without a guidance system for action. When a situation calls for action, but there is no framework for it, anxiety results. Anxiety, when sufficiently magnified, becomes panic.
Panic is most common in the face of disasters, which change the nature of the environment rapidly, leaving no time to develop optimal adaptations. Fittingly, the root of the word “disaster” is a combination of “dis” and “astra,” the roots of “bad” and “star.”
In addition to natural disasters, there are also human disasters. The most prominent of these is when a man-built system suddenly ceases to work in the manner in which it was intended. The best remembered of these are financial disasters, which facilitate financial panics. Saturn in Capricorn has looked over a number of these, including both the panic which began the Great Depression, as well as the Panic of 1873, the previous low-water mark for the American economy.
Panic has a particularly interesting etymology. It is a term with direct reference to the Greek god Pan. This may seem odd or out-of-character, as Pan is usually depicted as a charming sylvan rogue, forever chasing dryads and river nymphs, yet it is very much the case.
From the Wikipedia entry —
The word [panic] derives from antiquity and is a tribute to the ancient god, Pan. One of the many gods in the mythology of ancient Greece: Pan was the god of shepherds and of woods and pastures. The Greeks believed that he often wandered peacefully through the woods, playing a pipe, but when accidentally awakened from his noontime nap he could give a great shout that would cause flocks to stampede. From this aspect of Pan’s nature Greek authors derived the word panikon, “sudden fear,” the ultimate source of the English word: ‘panic’
Thus, the historical pattern of mass panic occurring during Saturn in Capricorn reinforces the symbolic linkage of the Goat and Goat-Headed God, Pan, both known for their jarring yell. In addition to the fact that panics result from disasters and accidents, it is also worth considering the fact that panic has been used as a hunting method by humans since prehistoric times. Using loud noises, hunters would spook a herd, causing them to stampede off of a cliff.
There are at least two lessons to be taken from this. One, panic is a hunting technique used on groups. Unfortunately, it is not beyond the morality of some possessing great power to use hunting techniques on people. You create a panic and you offer only one exit. The herd, whether bovine or human, will race for it, trampling each other in order to reach “safety,” real or percieved. Some panics are engineered to drive public opinion or money into the only visible exit. Thus, as you watch the world over the next few years, consider the intentions of the shepherds.
Fortunately, panic can be avoided with preparation. Panic only occurs when there is a rupture in your world, where you are taken off-map and out-of-scenario. Working through scenarios ahead of time, and developing plans A, B and C will prevent panic from taking over when A doesn’t work out. This sounds a lot like “prepping,” and it is. Unfortunately, “preppers” generally over-prepare for one particularly apocalyptic scenario, which does not actually function as an effective adaptation to the many, many non-apocalyptic difficulties which are much more likely to occur. Walk yourself, mentally, though the very real scenarios, rather than only through the worst-case. If I lost my job, what would my move be? If I got really sick, what would my move be? If my investments tanked, what would my move be? Working through these situations, as well as the fear they inspire, ahead of time, will allow you to function much more optimally if they do occur.
One excellent examplar of this type of awareness was Napoleon Boneparte, who was born with both Pluto and the Moon in Capricorn. Napoleon made a regular practice of quietly visualizing everything which could go wrong in the chaos of a military engagement. In his own words —
“If I always appear prepared, it is because before entering an undertaking, I have meditated long and have foreseen what might occur. It is not genius which reveals to me suddenly and secretly what I should do in circumstances unexpected by others; it is thought and preparation.”
The Ant and the Grasshopper
A survey of the above-described themes makes it difficult not to consider the parable of
“The Ant and the Grasshopper,” at least for those of us raised on Aesop. For those unfamiliar with the story, it goes something like this —
In a field one summer’s day, a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great effort some corn he was taking to the nest.
“Why not come and chat with me,” said the Grasshopper, “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?”
“I am helping to lay up food for the winter,” said the Ant, “and recommend you to do the same.”
“Why bother about winter?” said the Grasshopper, “we’ve got plenty of food all around us!” But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil.
When winter came the Grasshopper found itself dying of hunger, while seeing the ants distributing, every day, corn and grain from the stores they had collected in summer.
It was then the Grasshopper knew… it is best to prepare for the days of necessity.
It goes without saying that Saturn in Capricorn is thoroughly pro-ant, and that grasshoppers will find themselves hungrier than expected during its long winter. Yet this is a children’s tale, and necessarily lacking somewhat in subtlety. Some ants will find that they’ve dug their nest and larder on faultlines, and find that industry alone is not a sufficient virtue. Other ants, though proud of their toil and its fruits, will relent and take care of their irascible grasshopper friends. Finally, some grasshoppers will smell the snow coming and undergo a metamorphosis, trading their leaping limbs for sturdy backs. Regardless of the many ways the story might play out, look to Ant as teacher and guide during the coming years.
Looking at Saturn’s time in Capricorn, we inevitably find ourselves gazing at some rather grim landscapes. The chill of Winter and the cries of crows cannot be wholly ignored. Yet if we can accept that vision, and sit with it, it becomes clear that there is much we can learn during such a time which is impossible to glean during sunnier moments.
Saturn’s time in Capricorn offers us a chance to fortify what we would see endure. Become both the architect and the brick-layer, and build cathedrals to honor and protect what we hold most dear. The cold eye which Saturn points at rickety buildings and unstable systems is also a gift, as it allows us to see what must inevitably collapse and extricate ourselves from it.
Saturn in Capricorn also brings the opportunity to become patient and enduring, to learn how to see things in a wider context. It offers us the opportunity to look through the eyes of time. Bad days, even bad years, disappear when set against the backdrop of an entire lifetime. That larger awareness of time puts things in their proper place, keeping high and low points from distorting our perceptions and expectations. The same awareness of time not only grants us greater preserverence and patience on a personal level, it also allows us to watch history unfold without feeling the fight-or-flight adrenal response which social media and the 24-hour news cycle are designed to evoke and exploit, tempting panic. It also grants us the opportunity to recover and digest our own history on a familial, cultural and global level. Those who learn from history have the chance to change the future, and those who commune with their ancestors have the chance to make sure that what is valuable is passed on, and that worn-out patterns are laid to final rest.