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Notes From An Opening Saturn Sextile

Notes From An Opening Saturn Sextile

In late 2017, Saturn entered Capricorn, bringing some degree of official closure to my Saturn Return. Having Saturn at the very last degrees of Sagittarius meant that it was still technically within orb after the ingress, but I felt confident enough at the time to write a retrospective. At the core of what I believed to be my Saturn issues was that I don’t really talk to my brother. In my estimation, my “Saturn in the 3rd” problems (which have involved communication breakdowns with roommates, who are also 3rd house people) stemmed from the estrangement in this primary relationship.

As it so happens, the year leading up to the exact hit of my Saturn Return did feature a several-month streak of not speaking to a roommate whose behavior I’d finally had enough of. I eventually moved. I also had a sense, at the time, that I hadn’t yet vanquished the beast. In my retrospective, I wrote:

As the year progressed, I became both aware of and dreading of the fact that “doing my Saturn” would probably involve having an authentic, can-of-worms-opening conversation with my brother, which would probably mean talking about any potential, buried resentments that may have been festering for years.

[As I got closer to the exact hit of my Saturn Return,] I was feeling somewhat frustrated that I constantly find myself in these positions where I have to nag and remind people about stuff, and something someone said in response rang a lot of bells for me. She said I had to figure out where I’ve been inauthentic with people and have the conversations I’ve been avoiding. Basically, me “avoiding contact” with people creates an energetic feedback loop where people avoid contact with me. 

Ultimately, the “boss round” of my Saturn Return didn’t involve surviving a near-death experience, losing a job, weathering a divorce, or suffering through an overly grim ordeal. It mostly involved me, sitting in bed with my phone in my hand for 30 minutes, ginning up the courage and the will to text my brother and ask if he wanted to talk.

We did talk. It was fine — mostly better than I expected, and ultimately, I would say it was a positive step forward. I also felt frustrated and even a little gaslighted by the conversation in some other ways.

The reason I’m writing an addendum now is because my Saturn Return wasn’t entirely what I thought it was at the time. It wasn’t some sort of video game victory where I “passed the test” or “finished the game” just because I did something that felt hard at the time. I would go on to have more communication breakdowns with roommates over the next two years. I still don’t really talk to my brother all that often. I did, of course, learn and grow from those experiences. But for what it’s worth, I no longer believe that I was somehow no longer prone to having those kinds of experiences just because I’d met the challenge of the moment.

If anything, I was growing in my own self-awareness and also laying other critical foundations I hadn’t even yet connected to my Saturn. I’ve heard at least a few astrologers liken the opening Saturn sextile — or when transiting Saturn enters the sign that’s two ahead of your Saturn — as the moment when you develop enough hindsight to see what your Return was really about; what it was truly for. A conjunction, like that of transiting Saturn to your natal Saturn, is just another version of a new moon that leaves you stumbling in the dark. The opening sextile is a growing sliver of light that allows you to discern your surroundings.

What I didn’t fully appreciate at the time was that the Saturn in Sagittarius years assigned me a heavy-duty writing project that ultimately put me on the path to becoming an astrologer. Saturn opposes my 9th house Gemini Mercury, which is easily distracted and also extremely helpful for describing things in astrological language. In 2016, I spent several months writing copy for every possible iteration of “transiting planet X aspects natal planet Y” for a personal transit report application I was building at the time. I wrote enough words to fill a novel. It was absolutely as tedious as it sounds, especially for someone who isn’t all that prone to long-form writing.

But what was even more special about those years is that they brought me back to witchcraft equipped with something I never had before, which was the structure and skills that would actually make me effective.

In Hellenistic astrology, the 3rd and 9th houses are also referred to as the houses of Goddess and God, respectively. In Greco-Roman culture, this was a nod to the fact that people worshipped their gods and rulers on both a national and a local scale. The 9th house, where the Sun has its joy, is associated with large-scale religions that have institutional status in society. The 3rd house, where the Moon joys, is where we worship at our own makeshift altars. It is, in the words of Hermes Trismegistus, the house of “praxis” — of regular, repetitive motion as sure as the revolutions of the Moon, of the spiritual ideals of the 9th house made manifest through practice.

As someone with a strong 9th house emphasis, the search for divinity is loud in my chart, and I don’t think I fully came to appreciate that until extremely recently. 

During my Saturn opposition, when Saturn was transiting my 9th, I was bat mitzvahed and then subsequently “broke with the temple” by deciding soon after that I didn’t really wish to keep attending services. It’s almost like the symbolic rite of passage into Jewish adulthood was meaningful to me, even if it didn’t really serve the aim of converting me into a capital-R Religious person. Hilariously, my haftorah portion was the parable of the golden calf, a story about how Moses admonished the Israelites for worshipping false idols. In ancient texts, those with Saturn in the 3rd or 9th were potentially deemed heretics. I guess it’s a little overly on the nose that I eventually embraced a more animist or polytheistic approach later in life.

Later, when Neptune formed a trine to my 9th house Mercury and I was beginning my subsequent Saturn square around age 20, I had my first meaningful spiritual awakening. I had already become interested in astrology at that point, but for the first time, I was receiving direct transmissions coded in the language of synchronicity. I began to experiment with a freeform magical association game of making spells up out of thin air. I had zero background in “occultism” or tradition or technique — I was basically just making it up as I went along. I had witchy tendencies and inclinations in my childhood — truthfully, I think almost all children do — but this was when they really began to gain traction. 

One Saturn square later, during my Saturn Return years, I decided to “go to school,” in a sense, to understand how it’s “actually done.” I had been experimenting without even fully understanding the traditions I was supposedly riffing on. Now, I was laying a sturdier foundation made up of simple practices that had historically worked for other people. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was developing a basis for my magic and a framework for my larger relationship to the divine. I was learning skills and techniques that made my magic work more effectively, that brought me into an even more direct exchange with the forces that had been speaking to me in symbols for all those years. Most importantly, I was committing to the regular art of showing up. Ironically, it felt like I had started “going to church” on my own terms and schedule, which was something I felt pretty allergic to during my Saturn opposition. My Saturn Return made me into a devout observer on a level that the temple never could.

Right now, in my opening Saturn sextile and doubly, with Saturn also in a trine to my Ascendant, there’s something about this next phase of gradual becoming that feels like a shockingly subtle glow-up. I may never satisfy the ceaseless demands of the cosmic taskmaster in such a way that I “graduate” from having certain kinds of problems, because this would suggest that life operates like a morality play with an ascending order of karate belts for the wearer. But at this point, I at least feel steady enough in my experience that I can confidently assume the mantle of creative director.