“Aquarius” is one of those concepts that must later be unlearned by students who are interested in what’s technically true about astrology. Aquarius traits are perhaps the most confusing to beginner learners, who have knowingly or unknowingly absorbed all sorts of assumptions from “Hair” the musical. There’s no clear consensus on whether we’ve already entered the Age of Aquarius or not, but truthfully, if there was ever an astrological age for free love and hippie shit, it would probably be the Age of Pisces that preceded it.
“Aquarius” is further complicated by its association with one of the modern planets, Uranus, and this actually doesn’t contradict its traditional rulership by Saturn (nor its dejection by the Sun) all that much. Aquarius can be eccentric — true! You can chalk that up to zany Uranus, or you can chalk that up to the fact that Saturn once represented the outer limits of the solar system, and therefore everything and everyone who was, well, out *there*. As the sign where the Sun experiences its detriment, Aquarius is also about not knowing what it means to have an innate sense of entitlement to shine, and therefore having to reach a little to invent yourself. Or maybe reach a lot.
Where Uranus perhaps falls short of describing Aquarius is in its core significations of freedom, impishness, and unpredictability. Aquarius is a fixed sign, which is to say, it’s pretty reliably itself, and it’s pretty reliable as a contrarian figure — Saturn loves to negate, after all. Also, have you ever met an Aquarius? Most of them are kind of morose or cynical at their core, and even if they’re deeply invested in the liberation of humanity, they’re prone to approaching liberation as a process that takes work and time — not exactly a “flip your desk and leave” situation. Aquarius may be an air sign, but it’s weighed down by gravity and a deep knowing of cause and effect.
Is Aquarius humanitarian? Is it even necessarily progressive? Saturn tends to be conservative, which isn’t to say it’s conservative politically. The other Saturn sign, Capricorn, is about building things that last and drawing on the amassed expertise of everything that’s worked for us thus far (you know, “tradition”). Aquarius comes at this with a more conceptual, mobile air element approach. Aquarius is about thoughtfully subverting the photorealism you learned in art school in order to take your work in a more avant-garde direction. Saturn is a box or a set of rules, and you can be upholding it (Capricorn) or changing it from the outside (Aquarius). In this sense, yeah, we can say Aquarius is here for the revolution.
Aquarius is a humane (read: logical) sign, but if it’s humanitarian, it’s probably because it’s interested in creating a more functional system. As a sign that’s very Saturn and very not the Sun, Aquarius is also somewhat cold in nature. The water bearer is essentially a community-oriented figure who probably spends their long trips to and from the river smirking at the rest of the sheeple back home in the village. That’s mostly a joke, but it’s important to take into account that Aquarius spends a good deal of its time in isolation, even if it’s in service to something larger than itself. That’s not to say Aquarius is antisocial or doesn’t love a party — indeed, you probably know one or two IRL enablers who are forever filling your cup with something other than water. But Aquarius is certainly aloof and detached, preferring to dream up schemes for the advancement of humanity from its own highly idiosyncratic corner. Aquarius energy is “never answers their texts” energy. It’s also “doesn’t embroil itself in other people’s drama” energy.
The detachment of the water bearer is also emotional in nature. It’s a common mistake to assume that Aquarius is a water sign, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The water bearer likes to supply the water without getting wet (read: emotional). This isn’t the same thing as saying they don’t have emotions. Everyone has those, silly. It’s just that planets in Aquarius are better at creating a bit of ironic or analytical distance from their experiences.
If its opposite sign, Leo, is the center of the universe, Aquarius is on the fringes. Leo is about self-expression; Aquarius is about building a society where everyone’s individual self-expression is tolerated and encouraged. The sign immediately before it, Capricorn, builds an established order. Aquarius can’t help but reach for something a little more sane than whatever we’ve been dealt.