Saturn – Woeful Malefic or Greatest Benefic ?


Saturn has through the years been criticized as a malefic and widely feared planet. “Saturn Return”, “Sade-Sati”, any and every Saturn transit was viewed as time-frames that bring hardships and struggles. To this day, I have clients who go wide-eyed if I mention any of these terms, and they promptly reach the conclusion that times are going to be tough. It’s totally understandable, and I agree Saturn does bring hardships. Lets look at the mythology of the planet and some prominent stories to understand this planet further.

Mythology is not just stories, there are always symbolic indications and I view every story as a metaphor to a deeper meaning. Putting these concepts in the form of stories helps hand it off to each generation in an easy way. So we will first go over the story and then analyze the deeper meaning. Always remember, astrology and planetary influences are very deeply rooted in human psyche and everything translates to a psychological interpretation. This is the reason why, understanding the concept, makes it a million times easier to bring about a positive change in your life.

Saturn Mythology

Per ancient Indian texts, the Sun God’s (Surya) wife Sandhya, couldn’t handle the blinding brightness of her husband’s rays. So she created her shadow image called Chaya who looked exactly like her and instructed her to act like Surya’s wife while she performed penance in the forest. Chaya did so, and bore a son by the Sun God –Saturn. Shani (Saturn) was born of dark complexion like his mother, and also inherited Chhaya’s serious and somber countenance.

Sandhya is deeply troubled when she learns the news of Shani’s birth as she had only instructed Chaya to act as Surya’s wife in her absence. Bearing a child crossed the boundaries of that instruction. She promptly returns home, destroys Chaya’s tangible body and reduces her to an illusion of Surya’s glare (Chaya in Hindi means “shadow”). Surya is not aware of the switch as they looked the same.

As time passed, Sandhya also bore children by Surya, most prominent of them being Yama (The Hindu deity of death). She ill-treated Chaya’s son, Shani as he reminded her of a mistake. She did everything she could to distance Shani from Surya. Shani grew without parental love or affection- depressed and directionless.

As the children came of age, the time came to endow them with their respective areas of responsibilities. Realizing this, Sandhya poisons Surya’s mind against the capabilities of Shani and requests him to divide his responsibilities between her children alone and not give Shani anything. Consumed by blind love for his wife, Surya agrees. So on the appointed day, Shani (the elder son) is ignored and all of Sandhya’s children are given important responsibilities. Notably, Yama is given the title of “Dharmaraj” and is given the responsibility of upholding truth in humanity. Although popularly known as “God of death” Yama merely appears at the appointed time of death so that he can transport the soul to the spiritual realm and present the updated karmic balance sheet of the life just gone by; and explain with compassion, righteousness and an unwavering approach – the good and bad deeds of the soul and the likely implications of same in this after-life.

After Surya spoke to all his children, Shani is left standing all alone. As a son and older brother, he feels humiliated and insulted. Unable to break the barriers of communication with his father; unable to invoke love from his mother; unable to express authority over his younger brother and sister, and unable to prove the capability that he believes he has – anger bubbles up inside him. Enraged, he kicks Sandhya in her womb and instantly regrets it. Shocked at witnessing this scene, Surya confronts Sandhya and Shani and demands the truth. Sandhya ultimately confesses how she had replaced herself with a  clone and all the events that unfolded thereafter. Surya is livid with rage and glows brighter and hotter than before. He accepts Shani as his legitimate older son, and makes amends by bestowing upon him the honor of a place in the solar system. Shani is installed as the planet that will govern “karma” and “dharma” in a horoscope. As a karmic guru, the harshest teacher, Shani ensures that you learn your lessons and pass your tests, so that you can rise higher up the karmic ladder.  Like his brother Yama, Shani does ensure dharma is upheld. However the difference is, Shani does so when you are alive. Yama does the same thing after a person’s death.

Psychological analysis

When we think of the psychological connotation of the story above, it is best to first understand what is Saturn Return. Saturn Return is the time when Saturn returns to its natal place in a person’s chart – during the 29th, 59th, and 88th year — or, in some cases, a few months before or after. Think of it as three 28-year periods. In any person’s life the 29th birthday normally denotes the development of a new consciousness and individuality. At this time will culminate the results and lessons from the first 28 years, which I like to refer as a combination of the soul’s past life karma, and the parents karma (for a child parents are the most influential people). Also note, most of the time a person’s first saturn return coincides with the parents second Saturn return, hence giving the parents the karmic results of the way they raised their child.  During the first Saturn return, existing structures which dont serve a purpose anymore will breakdown causing the native to panic and possibly go down to depression. On the flip side, it also teaches to become independent, thinks about having a family, bear children etc. At 56, the second Saturn return hits, new trends are usually set in motion in the psyche which could possibly arise from experiences from the children who are now grown up. All the lessons from the ages of 30 to 55, the way the person raised his/her children etc culminate during the second Saturn return and bring its karmic fruition.

The internet is crammed with tons of articles on how dreary Saturn Return can be, and how to overcome this tumultuous time. Let’s look at it from a different angle.

If you have already been through a Saturn Return, briefly think back to that time-frame. You will notice the events that happened were all in essence “weeding” off the areas in your life which didn’t serve a spiritual purpose anymore. Every soul is incarnated on this planet with the sole objective of growth and learning. During the first Saturn Return the soul decides to change gears and shift to a higher plane of awareness. Much like any change, growing pains are involved. And this is what you feel, pulling you (the physical entity) down to depression. But if you look inwards towards your soul for guidance I promise you will get reassurance that this is required for your soul growth. When you embrace this change, and look forward in anticipation of what the next 28 years will bring you, shedding your attachment to the past structures which were pulling you down, that’s when your soul becomes “enlightened”. Incidentally, the term “Enlightened”, literally means en-lighten the soul of the physical bindings. The soul has the divine knowledge of what your path on this planet should be. And the Vedic chart has the code to understand it. 

When your second Saturn Return period rolls around, your children are adults. Interesting point here, if a native has taken his learning from his first Saturn Return and positively grown from those experiences, he raises his children as an enlightened parent. He would have cut any existing soul flaws from past lives, and hence those flaws don’t permeate further into his children. In this situation, the second Saturn Return, Saturn rolls around (once again with the intention of tallying the karmic points and giving out the results), and the native experiences good results. However, in most cases, since we are not aware of what Saturn is trying to do, we get depressed during our first Saturn Return and turn to drinking, drugs, bad relationships etc to find solace. Turning inwards to analyze and fix our flaws is far from our minds. In this situation, we raise kids who embody those same flaws and most of the time they magnify our flaws within them. Now when the second Saturn Return rolls around, you are left to observe helplessly as your children suffer the karmic fruits of their first Saturn Return. Its a cyclic process and when you understand this you can easily see it all starts with just taking that moment to understand that nobody is to be blamed. The only lesson here is, if you take the pain of learning the lessons, you benefit and through you your children will benefit. Ultimately Saturn is trying to relieve you of lifetimes of pain and suffering. 

Now think back to the mythology. Saturn (Shani) himself endured insults, depression, prejudice, laziness and a sense of being directionless. After the turning point of the story (which can be metaphorically likened to the Saturn Return for an individual) he gets his rightful place where he is able to showcase his innate abilities of patience and hard-work. True to this story, the house Saturn is placed in will in early years be a hard area of life for the native but they near maturity and with perseverance they overcome the difficulties in that area.  So during your Saturn Return you will mostly face problems in areas pertaining to the house Saturn is placed in, and the houses it fully aspects. I will write another article about specific results of Saturn in various houses and how to take spiritual learnings to lessen the impact. I always tell my clients the solution is as simple as “changing your perception”. 

Having said that, your question now could be, what are your tools to cruise through difficult Saturn timeframes. I can tell you without one shred of doubt, the single most important advice would be to shed your Ego. When we undergo depression or anger when Saturn breaks down existing structures, the one thing that stops us from realizing the greater good is our ego. If we dont shed the ego, we never get to the point where we stop blaming outside elements and start looking inwards. Thats when Shani becomes your greatest benefic and you will see the ultimate harvest blessings that follow.

Sun-Saturn Aspects

Before we close, lets briefly linger on the very interesting Sun-Saturn angle of mythology. Astrologically, the placement of Saturn and Sun in the same house or in hard aspect is not considered good. The age old animosity will resurface and the native may feel the  “lack of fatherly affection” and “yearning to make father proud but not able to do so”, “lack of self esteem” etc. It may also mean fear of an autocratic father, or a cold and often critical evaluation of the father’s behavior and character, causing or caused by estrangement. When I say “father”, remember it can be the actual father or any authoritative fatherly figure in the person’s life. (Psychology is rarely literal, its a play of perceptions, and each person’s is different). This constant “yearning to please” will disappear or get resolved after the person’s Saturn Return (coming of age) period.(Incidentally, my own horoscope has this aspect, in the form of a degree to degree lock and hence highly prominent). In the story, Saturn made his mark on the world when he was given a position of responsibility and recognized in the eyes of his father. Much the same, natives with Sun-Saturn aspects also rise in life when they resolve the early childhood memories of lack of recognition. Sun-Saturn aspect is a topic in itself, and has huge psychological connotations. I feel compelled to write in detail about this to give it full justice. So stay tuned for that 🙂 

I close by aptly  quoting the Jungian and psychological astrologer Alice O. Howell :

“ We should enlist the cruel judge to help instead of hinder, and it finally gives Saturn permission to unmask himself as the Wise Old Man. He’s probably been hanging around moping in the psyche for years waiting to be invited! It comes as such a surprise to find out that one’s worst enemy can also become one’s best friend.”


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