Saturn Retrograde – Step by Step

bust-of-a-bearded-old-manPeople often struggle to make sense of retrograde cycles. What do they really mean? What’s all this going inwards, things moving backwards, internalisation, slowing down etc. anyway? Honestly, can Saturn really make things drag anymore? I’m already feeling like I’m in slow motion, one step behind, carrying too much responsibility, obliged, overwhelmed…moan… moan…

Ok, so here’s the thing that really helped me to understand the meaning of retrograde cycles and it’s all thanks to Erin Sullivan in her amazing book Retrograde Planets: Traversing the Inner LandscapeErin describes everything in intricate detail but I’m going to attempt to simplify what it all means along with my own reflections upon the stages in the cycle.

The retrograde cycles are connected to our relationship to the Sun. This goes for all the retrograde cycles. As we know, Earth revolves around the Sun (although occasionally my Leo Ascendant will tell me that the world revolves around me) but I digress…

So – Earth is in a basically circular orbit around the Sun as are the rest of the planets in our solar system. Earth takes one year to revolve around the Sun. The other planets moving at different speeds and either closer or further away to the Sun from Earth, take a different amount of time to complete the circuit.

And just as if you were on a racetrack with your foot down on the accelerator in your Porsche, if you sped past Saturn trundling along in his 1968 Morris Minor, there would be a moment when it seems as though Saturn moves backwards as you overtake him. The video below shows this very well.

The example is Mars in this case but the principle is exactly the same. As you watch the video you will see the optical illusion of Mars moving backwards as Earth speeds past.

So as retrograde motion is directly related to our positions in our passage around the Sun, it stands to reason that the aspects between the Sun and the retrograde planet are very important.

The Sun acts like a highlighter pen, emphasizing the particular issues, areas of life and experience that are triggered during the retrograde cycle.  By following the journey of these aspects, the retrograde cycle as a whole begins to make more sense.

The Retrograde Cycle – Saturn

Saturn Stationary Retrograde
As Earth catches up with Saturn along its orbit, Saturn seems to slow down in the sky to a point where it is stationary.

As Saturn stops it is as if Time stops. If it is within 1 – 2 degrees of an aspect to a natal planet or angle, Saturn labours over the point. Erin Sullivan suggests that Saturn “encapsulates the planet, sealing it off, preventing any contamination by external influence”.  A station over a planet or point is like the point of conception. The whole retrograde cycle equates to nine months. Much like the dividing cells just after the conception of a baby bares little similarity to the bouncing new arrival nine months later, it is difficult to see at the beginning of the cycle how the end will manifest. But there is a connection that is understood in the end – a sense of completion and new beginnings. The weight is cast off, there are new responsibilities (normally found in the area of life represented by the house that Saturn is transiting) but we have been fortified to deal with them.

Even if the station isn’t aspecting any important points in the natal chart, you may still experience a sense of slowing down in the area of life represented by the house in which Saturn is transiting. There may be lethargy or depression, a feeling of being stuck, an ending or a inkling that you don’t have control. Alternatively you may have a sense of needing to ‘get serious’ about the area of life concerned.

Sun trine Saturn Retrograde
If you didn’t notice what was happening before, the Sun acts as a trigger at the trine. Erin says that “the sun collects the energy of the stationing planet and manifests it”. At the trine we get a sense of what we need to work on and what might be possible. Sun trine Saturn is a creative force but we must be patient.

Sun sesquiquadrate Saturn Retrograde
The waxing sesquiquadrate I liken to the build up of an argument. Tension is mounting, words are bitten back but something needs to be said. Whatever the issue is, it isn’t going to go away.

Look to where the Sun is now in your chart as it illuminates the area of life affected. For Saturn to do his job, the ego may need to give way or at least come to some kind of compromise but at this point we may struggle to hold onto our own point of view. We may experience resistance, associated with Saturn.

Sun quincunx Saturn Retrograde
The house position of the Sun will highlight what areas need to be attended to allow Saturn to do its work. Erin Sullivan says “the ego makes all attempt to rally and regain control, madly re-organising priorities, often going back on the self and accepting less than was originally on one’s mind”.

I see the quincunx as a kind of fated aspect. For example you make a decision to do something and then Fate/the Universe/God puts something else in your line of sight that captures your attention. A struggle ensues between what you thought you wanted to do and the new information presented to you.  Adjustments need to be made. Along with a spark of purpose and ambition comes irritation as Saturn and the Sun seek to come to some kind of agreement. The house positions of the two will give you an indication of where fate may step in to give you a cosmic clue along the way.

Sun opposition Saturn Retrograde
Saturn is at its fastest retrograde motion now and whatever has been building since the station is brought to a head. The issues are out in the open. The Sun and Saturn can see each other on opposite sides of the fence. Rigid concepts must be broken down, we can no longer resist what Saturn is trying to teach us. The houses in which the opposition falls shows us where change must occur, where new structures are necessary for us to move forward again. Sometimes there is a sense of feeling trapped, of trying to move a mountain or alternatively we might feel frustrated because now we know what needs to be done and we just want to get on with it. But Saturn says there’s still work to be done. We don’t know it all just yet. He advises we proceed with caution; it will give us a better foundation to work from in the end.

It is likely that our fears and defences must now be restructured to give us room to grow. I liken this phase to a snake shedding its skin. The opposition is like the point where the old skin has gone but the new skin is still soft and sensitive. We don’t quite trust it to protect us just yet.

Sun waning quincunx Saturn Retrograde
Once again we hit a period of adjustment. Perhaps whatever occurred at the waxing quincunx nudges our attention again. We can no longer resist the tide. The waning quincunx offers us an opportunity to start making the necessary changes. No longer resisting, we start to try out our new skin whilst being aware that our old support/defence systems are no longer there which can feel uncomfortable initially. Yet a part of us knows that it is necessary and right and part of the process.

Sun waning sesquiquadrate Saturn Retrograde
If the waxing sesquiquadrate was the build up to the argument and the opposition was the argument itself, the waning sesquiquadrate is that awkward point you reach after the conflict when you are both on speaking terms again. The battle hasn’t been forgotten but a compromise and understanding has been reached. You’re a little older and wiser for the experience. New boundaries have been drawn and you are both working towards forgiving and forgetting. Both parties make an effort to include the other but sometimes it can feel forced or someone goes overboard to make a point.

Internally this is like looking back to see the changes that have occurred since the beginning of the cycle. We know there’s still more to be done but we start to get a feeling of where it’s all going. We still feel a little uncomfortable but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Sun trine Saturn Retrograde
Saturn is now at his slowest in the retrograde cycle as he moves towards the station in twelve days time. This can seem like the longest night (or tunnel to go with the analogy above). We want to move faster, want to feel the Sun on our backs again. Where is the Sun in your chart now? What are you hurrying to do? Erin Sullivan cautions against impatience at this stage.

Remember that at this point we are still only 18 weeks in to our symbolic pregnancy. On average it is around this time that women experience ‘quickening’ which is feeling the movements of the child in the womb. For a pregnant woman, the ‘quickening’ brings home that this is a real experience and there’s a real little person growing inside. The trine is much like that and we are impatient to see what the child of our Saturn transformation will look like.

Saturn Station Direct
From our viewpoint on Earth, Saturn begins to move forward again. Often at this point we are aware that our internal focus has shifted. We emerge from the metaphorical tunnel into a new environment where everything looks a little different to what it did before. Well aware now of the internal shift, we begin to make a conscious effort to rebuild and restructure whatever needs doing. The resistance, the struggle, the interminable waiting, the frustration and arguments (internal or external) start to dissipate as we gain our focus.

By now we understand what Saturn was trying to show us all along but we still won’t know what the final manifestation will be until a few months later.  As with all things Saturn, there is a delay before we see the results of our work.

The Culmination of the Cycle
The culmination of the cycle occurs when Saturn reaches the degree it where it originally turned retrograde.

It is at this point we ‘give birth’ so to speak. The long labour is over and we can finally look into the eyes of the new part of ourselves that has been born. Very often with Saturn, something physical is manifested. It could be a job, the completion of a long project, the beginning or end of a relationship. Once again look to the house in which Saturn is transiting for that is that area of life which is being developed and restructured.

As you can see from the aspects made in the retrograde cycle, there are specific developments at each stage. Saturn will break down what isn’t working and rebuild it, pulling the whole house down if he finds it necessary to re-lay the foundations. He points out where we don’t know enough, where our fears hold us back, where our defences are too high. He kindly shows us where we hold ourselves back and how we can become stronger. He always has our best interests at heart. He helps us identity what we truly want to commit to, to complete – what needs completion. If we show willingness to learn and we are prepared to work at it, the Saturn retrograde cycle can transform us in ways we didn’t imagine – but will delight in the end.

Saturn Retrograde – Aspect Dates 2022

04-Jun-22 Saturn stations retrograde
16-Jun-22 Sun trine Saturn
01-Jul-22 Sun sesquiquadrate Saturn
16-Jul-22 Sun quincunx Saturn
14-Aug-22 Sun opposite Saturn
12-Sep-22 Sun quincunx Saturn
27-Sep-22 Sun sesquiquadrate Saturn
12-Oct-22 Sun trine Saturn
23-Oct-22 Saturn stations direct
25-Jan-23 Culmination of cycle (Saturn reaches the degree where it stations retrograde)

Painting – ‘Bust Of A Bearded Old Man’ by Rembrandt

22 thoughts on “Saturn Retrograde – Step by Step”

  1. Hi Leah,
    I am a beginner so please bear with me;)
    Are all these aspects in respect of our natal (and/or progressed/solar return sun) or the sun during the period of the Saturn Rx? Eg., today Sun is in Aquarius.
    Do your remarks apply to other planets and orbiting bodies in our charts?

  2. Hi Sabina
    Questions are always welcome 🙂
    These are aspects the the Sun makes to Saturn during the period of Saturn Retrograde – so the Sun in the sky now. They are what we call ‘transit to transit’ aspects.

    All the superior planets except Mars follow a similar pattern i.e.

    The planet turns retrograde in the chart, then comes a trine from the Sun, then a sesquiquadrate, quincunx, opposition, quincunx, sesquiquadrate, trine and finally the planet is in direct motion again.

    So when you are looking at how a retrograde planet is going to affect you, it is helpful to look at where the Sun is in your chart on the days when it forms the above aspects with the retrograde planet.

    For example, in my own chart Saturn is transiting my 3rd house. Overall, I’m in a process of restructuring my thinking, gathering the facts, educating myself, learning to communicate effectively. My thoughts also must be realistic, down to earth and in the here and now. Whilst Saturn is in my 3rd house he’s going to break down any barriers which stop me learning and communicating effectively – including my own mental processes that block me from achieving or hold me back.

    When the first trine and then sesquiquadrate occurs, the Sun will be in my 7th house. So it could suggest that in order for Saturn to do his work in the 3rd house it is likely that issues around my personal relationships may be raised.

    At the quincunx the Sun will have moved into my 8th house. Adjustments will have to be made on a deep psychological level. Fate may assist me by putting in my way issues that touch upon psychological complexes that have to be addressed.

    At the opposition, the Sun will be in my 9th house. The 9th is connected to symbolic language, higher learning, meaning and understanding, long distance travel, writing etc. The 9th house is also very interested in the future. So the Sun will highlight what I believe, what I think to be true, what I desire for the future and it will oppose Saturn who is saying but what about right now? What is real and true right now? If I want to be known as a writer (Sun in the 9th house), then I am going to have to do the hours of research (Saturn in the 3rd). I will have to order my thoughts so that I can communicate. I simply have to do the work 🙂

    Essentially the aspects made between the Sun and retrograde Saturn tell a little story of their own. Becoming aware of something that needs changing, the resulting tensions and resistance, the final understanding of what needs to be changed, working hard to change it and what is manifested by making that change.

  3. Hi!
    This is a great article and responses! I am thrilled to see such knowledge of our elegant solar system and its workings . . . in use! Thank you for really absorbing the material in my book, I am honoured, and thank you for your referencing it, and using the aspects in good form, Leah!
    It is a great feeling to know these cycles – I was in a state of grace, when I wrote this book so long ago. My debt to astrology!
    Yes, Saturn Retrograde was the inauguration of the “Day of Wrath” in Egypt, followed by the entire middle eastern upheaval! Indeed, something “slouches toward Bethlehem to be born” (Yeats, Second Coming)!
    Yours here on earth!
    Erin Sullivan

  4. Hi Erin
    Thank you so much for your comment! I am thrilled you liked the post. You book has been such an inspiration 🙂

  5. Wow… i am amazed. The simplistic way in which you broke this down is stunning. I have learned so much from reading this post. I have always heard and knew on a surface level what saturn retrograde stands for, but never have i understood it on such a level and in such detailed connection to the other workings of my natal chart. Thank you so much. You are a wonderful instructor!!

  6. Leah Whitehorse

    Hi Jennifer – thanks for your comment. 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I thoroughly recommend you read Erin’s book if you haven’t already. This post was inspired by her work.

  7. So simply, yet so wonderfully explained. Have placed order for Erin’s book “Saturn in transit” after reading the article. Lucid, simple, yet great work. Thanks.

  8. Hi, Following up on my earlier mail to you, would you have any insight on how the progression is experienced after Saturn turns direct upto the point at which it returns back to the same spot from which it retrograded? ie the next 4 1/2 months after it turns direct? The experience from the start of the retrograde process to the point of turning direct again has been so beautifully explained by you. It has helped me tremendously in putting the recent events in my life into excellent perspective. Regards.

  9. Hi Sadanand – I touched on this under the heading ‘The Culmination of the Cycle’. As Saturn stations direct and moves towards the point where it first turned retrograde, this is the time of culmination. It’s likely that during this time we will work towards completing the restructuring begun at the beginning of the cycle. During this period we may work hard but begin to see the results of our efforts. Look to the house that Saturn is transiting and also to the house the Saturn rules in your chart to get an idea of where the results of Saturn’s efforts will be seen.

  10. Thank you very much for taking the time to reply. My current experience is that the chaos in my mind seems to be settling as Saturn keeps moving ahead. A physical manifestation of this resolution could emerge soon. Thanks again for taking the trouble.


  11. Hi Leah
    This is actually a Great article , I am thrilled by your knowledge, you know if I am going to read Erin Sullivan Book I wouldn’t approach to unfold the real meanings , I am sure , bowing to this high level explanation .

    Wish you all the best .

  12. Hi Leah I have read Erins book and found it very helpful but your post clarified the stages of the cycle…so timely at present. Could you pleasw share your understanding of Saturn transiting the fourt house for me and squaring Chiron? I have an incling it is related to defenses around wounding and connecting emotionally
    I have Mars Saturn Moon and chiron in Pisces in the seventh. Thank you for the insights you share. ?

  13. Hi Deborah, thanks for your message. Glad you found the post helpful. I have a post on Saturn transiting the 4th house here https://www.leahwhitehorse.com/2013/01/16/saturn-transiting-the-4th-house/. Squaring Chiron, yes your intuition is correct as it tends to connect to barriers to healing, a test of how far you have come in the healing process. Any process of Saturn is about maturing and ultimately mastering. What’s going on deep down (4th house) affects how you relate (7th house). How this may play out will depend on where Saturn is placed in your natal chart and also which houses Saturn rules as well as natal patterns.
    If you would like to explore this further, I offer readings here https://www.leahwhitehorse.com/readings

  14. Thanks Leah. I have Saturn in the sixth house and ruling the fifth natally. I will think about having a reading done as that may be helpful at the moment. Just need to convert the price into AUD. Thanks for what you shared. I am conscious that I do hold back from connecting with others then feel miffed they aren’t reaching out, but Saturn is encouraging me to look at the part I play in that dynamic due to my own fears and insecurities around relating emotionally. Also past hurts in relationships .. quite a lot with Chiron in the seventh house which doesn’t make relating easy.

  15. Just one other question. As Saturn retrogrades it is passing back into my third house and squaring Uranus in Leo in the first, I guess that means issues related with that freedom/independence theme is retriggered for a final look along with the meaning of Saturn passing through the third (understanding the part communication plays and sibling relationships too, I have a lot of issues with siblings coming up at the moment.

  16. Hi Deborah – Thanks for sharing your Saturn experiences and for your insight. It sounds like you are learning a lot even though it’s been really tough. Yes, when Saturn moves back into a different house, there are relevant lessons to learn there in order to continue with the lessons of the next house/transit and with 3rd house involvement, it would connect very much to sibling issues.

    Just a note that if you decide to have a reading, Paypal will automatically show you how much it will be in your currency before processing the payment 🙂

  17. Meghan Robertson

    Hello Leah, I’m Aquarius Rising at 6 degrees and Saturn will be at 6 degrees right before my birthday October 10. Do I need to be concerned about anything? Thank you for this article!

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