Chapter Six: Saturn Returns and the Fate of Nations


Saturn: Father Time, Lord Karma, The Grim Reaper. It takes about 29 years to circle the Sun and its passage marks off major events and turning points in your life. This is especially true of the Saturn return, the exact moment Saturn returns to the place it occupied when you were born.

In a person's horoscope, the Saturn return shows the major trends and turning points in their life. For a nation, however, the events of a solar return go by in the blink of an eye. Could a Saturn return function for a nation the way a solar return functions for a person? If that is the case, can we use a country's Saturn return to forecast its future trends?


A Saturn return can have a strong effect on a country for the next 29 years. The half-return (14 and a half years) can affect the last half of the cycle. Let's take a look at the evidence. First, we will examine past charts to see how they correlated with subsequent events. Then we will look at the most recent Saturn return of the USA and see what it says about the future.

Let's start by looking at the chart of the German Empire.

The German Empire is a good place to begin because we know the precise time it started. The Empire was declared on January 18, 1871, at 1:00 PM in Versailles, right after Germany beat France in the Franco-Prussian War. It didn't last too long and it had only one Saturn return.

What a horrible birth chart. Uranus (unexpected events) opposes the Sun and Mercury. This can give a sudden rise, followed by a sudden fall. The lunar node, a point of fate, is squared by Mars, the planet of war, and opposed by Saturn (difficulties). The square between Saturn and Mars can make for discipline or cruelty. Saturn also governs bad luck.

On top of that, Saturn is the final dispositor, meaning it effectively rules all the other planets. As if all that weren't enough, Mercury is the ruler of the rising sign, making it the chart ruler, and Mercury was retrograde. Never start a major project on a retrograde Mercury—unless you think your life is too easy and you want to give yourself some extra problems.

The last straw in this list of disasters is Eris, the planet of discord. It is sitting in the 11th house of friends, hopes, and wishes, and it is both squaring the Ascendant and opposing Mars. In its short life, the German Empire angered potential friends and caused plenty of discord when it started World War I. Here was a nation that had to avoid a major war but could not.

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The German Empire fell in 1918, ending World War I. Its only Saturn return was in 1900, but the return was a mutation. That means there were three returns in the space of a few months. Saturn returned to the birth position, went a little further, and then turned retrograde and passed over the return point again. After that, Saturn turned direct and hit the return point for a third and last time.

Which chart do we look at? All of them!

They all have an effect. And all of the charts are terrible. The third chart, though, was the worst.

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The first thing to notice is that the planet Mars (war) afflicts all the angles. Worse, it is positioned just over the Ascendant in the house of hidden enemies and self-undoing. If ever a nation did itself in, it was the German Empire.

There was a Uranus-Pluto opposition, too. Uranus rules sudden, unexpected events whereas Pluto is the planet of extremes, death, and rebirth. On the negative side, it also rules mass death. Stressful aspects between the two can cause large-scale upheavals. We certainly know that from the upheavals the conjunction of Uranus and Pluto caused in the 1960s. More recently, we are still experiencing the effects of those seven squares Uranus and Pluto made from 2011 to 2015.

In this chart, the Sun, which is the heart of any chart, opposes Pluto and is in a tight conjunction with Uranus. Making matters worse, the Sun rules the 12th house, the house of self-undoing. This means the ruler of self-undoing is making a conjunction with the planet of unexpected change (Uranus) and an opposition with the planet of extremes and mass death (Pluto).

Translation: The nation will make sudden, unexpected changes that will lead to its extreme undoing. Germany should never have gone to war.

Saturn Returns of the USA

The United States has too many Saturn return charts to cover in one chapter. We will be looking at the returns for the most crisis-prone times in U.S. history. Then, we will look at the future to see what's coming for the country in the next 29 years.

I use Charles Emerson's Gemini rising chart for the USA. Many astrologers use the Sibley chart which has Sagittarius rising. We will look at the Saturn returns from both just to be sure—after all, I am a Capricorn! The results are strikingly similar. Here are the Gemini rising and the Sibley charts.

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The first return chart is the 1834 Saturn return for the Gemini rising chart. This Saturn return lasted until 1864. During this time, the United States had two wars, the Mexican War and the civil war. The Mexican War was a victory and the USA increased its land area by about 30%. Ironically that war led to disputes about how many new states would be slave states. This lead to the civil war. The civil war was devastating, killing over 600,000 people. What does the chart tell us?

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Since this is a Saturn return chart, the first thing to look at should be the placement and aspects of Saturn. Here, Saturn is in the 12th house, the house of restrictions and self-undoing. Pluto, the planet of death, is opposing it. Mars, ruler of war, squares both Saturn (bad luck) and Pluto (extremes, total transformation, and mass death). Mars also sits on the Saturn/Pluto midpoint. According to Reinhold Ebertin, that combination brings "brutality, assault or violence, ruthlessness, the necessity to fight for one's existence or life, maltreatment". That certainly describes the civil war when the nation was nearly torn apart.

But that's not all. The Midheaven is opposite the USA natal Pluto with an orb of less than one degree. In other words, the U.S. natal Pluto (death and rebirth) is right at the bottom of the Saturn return chart. That intensifies the violent Pluto effect. What is the bottom of the chart? It's the foundation. The U.S. natal Pluto was ripping away the country's foundations.

In this Saturn return chart, Neptune, the planet of dreams and ideals, is conjunct the USA natal Pluto by less than two degrees. The civil war shed massive amounts of blood in a crusade for an ideal.

Not all events during that time were negative, however. Railroads were introduced and proliferated. Jupiter (luck and expansion) rules the 3rd house of transportation. It's placed in Gemini, the sign of short journeys, in the 8th house of high finance and other people's money.

The 8th house is also the house of death.

Taurus is on the 8th cusp, making Venus the ruler. Jupiter is the planet of expansion, and its location in the 8th house opposite Venus was probably responsible for increasing casualties of the civil war. Ironically, the same combination also kept foreign capital flowing into the country to finance the growing industry.

The Sibley chart tells much the same story. That deadly T-Cross is still there. Violent Mars is now in the 8th house of death. Pluto squares it from the 4th house, which is the foundation of the nation. However, the contacts from the Midheaven to the USA natal Pluto are gone.

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The Saturn Return charts for both the Sibly and Gemini rising national charts show the likelihood of a violent struggle.

The next charts are for August 23, 1923. The following 29 year period included the Roaring Twenties, the Great Crash of 1929, the Great Depression, and World War II. Leo is rising with Venus and Neptune right on the Ascendant, and the nation started out in a Neptunian fog. The Roaring Twenties were a party time fueled by illegal alcohol, and no one knew what was coming.

Uranus (sudden, unexpected events) is right at the beginning of the 8th house. This puts it right on the financial axis: The line connecting the cusps of the 2nd house of money and the 8th house of credit—other people's money. As is typical with Uranus, there was a sudden rise, followed by an even more sudden fall. The financial collapse started with the stock market crash in 1929. Notice that Neptune is sitting in the 12th house (self-undoing and self-destructive behavior) and that it is 6 degrees away from Mars (action). The 1929 crash happened six years after the date of this chart.

Rule: When dealing with the return chart of any outer planet, the best timing technique is solar arc direction: one degree equals one year.

To examine losses from gambling and speculation (the 5th house), we have to look at the previous house, which is in the so-called 12th house position.

The 12th house, which is right behind the first house, rules losses. Therefore to look at losses from any house, you have to look at the one just before it. For example, if you want to see losses from gambling (5th house) you would look to the 4th house.

In this case, the 4th house has Scorpio on the cusp. Scorpio is ruled by Pluto, the planet of extremes. Pluto is square to Saturn, Lord Karma. When Saturn comes around, you pay for past mistakes—the financial losses were huge. Similarly to the 1834 Saturn return, Pluto's stressful aspect to Saturn brought America into another devastating war: World War II.

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The Sibley chart for 1923 has Saturn closely conjunct the Ascendant from the 12th house side. While this can indicate the terrible times during the Great Depression and World War II, it doesn't show the euphoria of the Roaring Twenties. By contrast, Neptune just above the Ascendant in the Saturn return of the Gemini rising chart, shows the bootleg liquor haze that the country was in. Grim, serious Saturn sitting on the Ascendant of the Sibly Saturn return certainly doesn't match the Roaring Twenties' wild party attitude.

Score a point for the Gemini rising chart.

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What's Coming Next?

It doesn't matter if you use the Sibley or the Gemini rising chart. Both charts show a challenging time. And that time is already here.

The latest Saturn return happened on September 26, 2011. It's been hitting us for the past nine years and will be affecting the USA for a total of 29 years.

The Gemini rising chart has four planets in the 12th house of restrictions and self-undoing. Saturn, the planet of difficulties, is one of them. Since this is a Saturn return chart, Saturn takes on greater importance.

Saturn is conjunct the Ascendant and square the Midheaven. This alone means the following 29 years will be a challenge. But Saturn isn't alone.

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Libra is rising, so Venus is the Ascendant ruler. Venus is also in the restrictive 12th house and it is conjunct Saturn. It's an understatement to say that Saturn conjunct both the Ascendant and the Ascendant ruler means extra problems. Saturn is extremely active in this horoscope. Problems from the past that have not been dealt with are going to have to be confronted—and there are many to address. One effect of Saturn is to bring long-ignored problems to the surface. Those problems can no longer be avoided.

You don't mess with Saturn. The 12th house rules both hidden enemies and self-undoing. Threats from hidden enemies will increase. But a larger problem will be a tendency to stick to old policies that aren't working.

As if that were not enough, take a look at that T-Cross. The Sun and Mercury are in Libra in the 12th house. Uranus (impulsive actions and sudden changes) is opposite both of them and Pluto (extremes, total transformation) squares them all—a chaotic combination.

Mars, at the top of the chart, shows a very active and aggressive president. It could also show an erratic, impulsive president who wants to become a dictator. Does that description sound familiar?

In the Saturn return from the Sibley chart, Mars is in the 8th house. But it makes a sextile with the Sun in the 10th house. The Sun in the Sibley Saturn return is in the 10th house. This causes it to gain strength and is also an indicator of a strong chief executive who wants to run things his way. Uranus in the 4th house (the country's foundations) indicates loss of stability and sudden, unexpected events. That is already happening.

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Now How About Demi-Returns?

Remember that the 1834 Saturn return chart was terrible. It had that horrible T-Cross of Mars (war), Saturn (past problems coming to the surface), and Pluto (death and rebirth, total transformation). But a return chart by itself may not tell the whole story. For events that happen late in the cycle, you also have to look at the demi-return chart. That is the chart cast for when the planet in question makes an opposition to its birth position. The Saturn demi-return will affect the last 14 years of the cycle. Let's take a look at the 1851 Saturn demi-return.

Here is the return for the Gemini rising chart:

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How is this for a T-Cross? Mercury and Mars are together and opposite the Ascendant. Jupiter squares them on one side and there is a close conjunction of Uranus and Pluto on the other. Uranus and Pluto cause upheavals, Mars rules war, and Jupiter makes the whole thing larger. It gets worse.

That T-Cross lands right on top of the Mercury-Pluto opposition in the USA natal chart. Remember that the planets' sign positions (except for the Moon) are pretty much the same for the Sibly chart. The Sibly chart also has these same afflictions.

Cancer is rising. The Moon is the chart ruler and is at 13:26 Capricorn. Mars is at 23:01 Capricorn, just 10 degrees away. Using the standard measure of one degree equals one year, the Moon would make a conjunction with Mars, the planet of war, in 10 years. The civil war started 10 years later in 1861. This doesn't happen in the Sibly chart. Score another point for the Gemini rising chart.

There was also a Saturn demi-return in 1938, three and a half years before World War II.

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In that 1938 chart, Mars (War) is at 12:53 Cancer. That's the same degree as the natal Sun of the USA. In this 1938 chart, Uranus is at 16:28 Taurus. Mars is about three and a half degrees from making a square to Uranus. If one degree equals a year, then this affliction would activate in three years. That would be 1941, the year of the Pearl Harbor attack.

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And what does Uranus rule? Sudden and unexpected events. By almost any standard, the attack on Pearl Harbor was a sudden and unforeseen event. Uranus rules the 7th house in the 1938 chart (open enemies). So we had an unexpected and shocking attack (Uranus) by air (Uranus also rules airplanes). Another example is the 1998 Saturn demi-return, which happened four years before the 9-11 attack.

The Sun and Pluto make a partile square, meaning less than one degree, at 8 degrees of mutable signs. The Moon and Mercury make a partile conjunction at 12 degrees of Pisces. Using the standard measure of one degree equals one year, Pluto would have completed the squares to the Moon and Mercury in 4 years. That would be 2001, the year of the attack. The Sibly chart also has the square of Pluto to Mercury but not the square to the Moon.

What does the next Saturn demi-return show? These take place on April 12, 2027. In both the Sibly and Gemini rising charts, the Sun is making a conjunction with Eris (discord), so the upset conditions continue.

The 2020s are going to be the wildest decade since the 1960s.

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