As an old Italic deity of sowing
and harvest, Saturn became the Roman god of agriculture, gardening and
vineyard cultivation. He was also a benefactor of humankind, a
promoter of prosperity, and good manners and customs. He seems to have
been portrayed as an old man with a sickle and a pruning knife in his
hands. It is probably from that way to portray Saturn we have
our image of
personified Death, the old man with a sickle. And it is probably also
this Saturn who is a distant model for our Father Christmas, interested in children's
manners and good behaviour. During the Roman Empire's first
centuries Saturnalia were
celebrated, that is the midwinter festivals of Saturn, a period of unrestrained
merriment in the celebration of the winter solstice. Slaves were
temporarily given their freedom and were serviced by their
masters. All enmity and animosity was forgotten, and all punishments
The corresponding festivities in Greece were called Chronia.
The sign for the Roman god Saturn might have been , which in turn could be a stylization of the Greek sign for the planet Chronos personified, . Be that as it may, , and in print, are the most common forms of signs for the planet Saturn, although the variation was common in older days.
The planet Saturn was known already some 6,000 years ago and has, until the French Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century, represented the outermost boundary of the planetary system, and a measure when calculating long periods of time. The planet Saturn uses approximately 29 earth years to orbit the sun. Therefore a human lifespan can be said to be two, or at the very most three of this planet's orbits in the zodiac. Partly for this reason Saturn is associated with Death and the Reaper, the skeleton in black hood with a scythe who reaps men and women when their time is up.
Like Jupiter Saturn radiates about three times the energy it receives from the sun, and has ten big and at least seven smaller moons. Thus Saturn and its moons like Jupiter and its moons is a planetary system of its own within the sun system.
Astrologically Saturn has become a symbol for implacable powers, restrictions impossible to overcome, relentless natural forces and the hard, fixed structures of the world of matter.
In astrological graphical symbolism illustrates the idea that the crescent of receptivity, , the personality, submits to the restrictions of matter, . Saturn is known as the Greater Malefic ( is the Lesser Malefic), the bringer of sorrow, and the one who deprives. But Saturn only brings sorrow and deprivation in those areas of a person's life that are based on illusions or unrealistic expectations. Saturn represents the unrelenting aspect of reality that forces the individual to abandon all ideas that are not based on a realistic perception of the material conditions of life.
A child is protected by his or her parents from physical and psychological harm. But for self-fulfillment the child must at some time free himself from this protective shield, its parents. Astrologers suggest that the inner being, the self, in a similar way is protected by the personality, the psychological structure envelopping the self, spirit, inner being, or true individual. Through the imaginations, conceptions, and games of the personality, the inner being is protected until that protection is no longer needed and becomes a hindrance for self-fulfillment. Once this stage of development has been reached the outer shell must be broken. The position of Saturn in an individual's natal chart or horoscope reveals the way in which the protective shell will break, the price that has to be paid for the freedom necessary for further development, and the pain that has to be endured during the process of really becoming a grown-up, a kind of rebirth. If the implications of Saturn are ignored, the planet becomes precisely the symbol of deprivations, inhibitions, and hardship just mentioned.
What Robert Hand (see the bibliography) has to say in this respect is most enlightening: "Every time we do what is untrue to our nature, acting not from a real necessity but rather to fulfill what others may expect of us, we commit a crime against ourselves that is peculiarly Saturnine. We move a bit toward death, more of our potential becomes actual, and what is actual does not express what we are."
Saturn in the natal chart symbolizes the psychological factor concerned with duty, responsibilities, discipline, and work. In the same way as signifies psychological areas of potential expansion in the natal chart, represents the psychological principle of contraction and consolidation.
In the outer world Saturn is associated with such permanent structures as buildings, heavy machinery, and real estate. Saturn is also associated with banking and civil servants. Anatomically is associated with the skeleton and the teeth, those hard structures of the body that support it.
Saturn has long since been perceived as the ruling planet of and , Capricorn and Aquarius. Since the discovery of the three extra-Saturnian planets in respectively the end of the eighteenth, middle of the nineteenth, and beginning of the twentieth centuries, Saturn has had to leave half of its traditional rulership. Uranus, , has become the ruling planet of , Aquarius.
Saturn is considered well placed in and , and less favourably placed in and .
In alchemy became the most important sign for lead. Botanists have used it to represent plants of tree type, i.e. plants with life cycles of many years, which are not bushlike. (Bush-like plants with life cycles of several years are symbolized by .) With this meaning is synonymous with , , and .