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A Handy Guide to (Surviving) Your Saturn Return

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

If you’re in or nearing the end of your 20s, chances are you’re in the middle of an existential crisis or two. And if you’re blaming said post-quarter-life crisis on growing older, burning out at work, increasingly higher bills, a couple of monumental life milestones, or realizing, wait a minute, you didn’t make any “30 Under 30” lists — you’re wrong. The reason is Saturn — more specifically, Saturn Return.

A Saturn Return happens approximately every 29.5 years (i.e., the duration of Saturn’s orbit around the sun), which means it lands in the same place in the sky it did when you were born roughly around the time you turn 29. Generally, it “returns” for approximately 2.5 to three years. But the big ringed planet isn’t alone: Every single celestial body tracked in astrology has its own orbit that crosses through all 12 zodiac signs in the map of the sky. For instance, it takes the moon approximately 28 days to move through its orbit around Earth and across the zodiac, whereas it takes Venus 225 days, Mars almost two years, and outer planets (those on the far side of the asteroid belt like Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus) even longer. The amount of time it takes a planet to orbit and return to the place it occupied in your birth chart — a.k.a. an exact snapshot of the sky on the date, place, and time you were born — is referred to as a return.

But what does Saturn Return actually do to your life? How do you prepare for Saturn Return? And should you be panicking?! It’s fine, really. Keep reading for a comprehensive, not-scary, totally-makes-sense breakdown of Saturn Return and what it all means for you.

First, what’s the deal with Saturn?

Nothing about Saturn is casual. The proverbial zaddy of the zodiac and sixth planet from the sun is astrologically associated with time, regulations, and boundaries. On a good day, this ringed gas giant symbolizes hard work, long-term accolades, and incomparable resolve. On the other hand, Saturn’s bad days are harsh, critical, and unforgiving. The planet abides by a tough-love approach, demanding we learn lessons the “hard way.”

That said, Saturn teaches us that, when the going gets tough, we can actually keep going. And that perseverance, that tenacity, is actually incredibly empowering. It is!

When should you expect your Saturn Return?

If you’re approaching your late 20s, chances are you’re about to experience (or are already in the throes of) your Saturn Return. Saturn Return happens when Saturn in the sky aligns with Saturn in your birth chart — in other words, when they occupy the same zodiac sign. To calculate your birth chart (also sometimes referred to as a “natal chart”), you’ll need your date, time, and location of birth. I recommend using a birth-chart calculator, like the TimePassages app (my personal favorite) or also has a Saturn Return calculator, so you can see the exact day this important astrological event will be taking place in your life.

And what exactly happens during a Saturn Return?

Because Saturn is the planet of responsibilities, time, and wisdom, a Saturn Return is, basically, your astrological coming of age. It’s the push you need to enter true adulthood. Saturn demands that you take full and complete accountability for your choices, propelling major — albeit challenging — transformation.

Prior to Saturn Return, we are a construction of external influences: We are living the lives imposed on us by our parents, teachers, colleagues, bosses, and society at large. When Saturn returns to its home base in our birth charts, however, the gas giant inspires us to reevaluate every aspect of life to ensure that we’re fulfilling our greatest potential. Generally speaking, this powerful time is defined by profound growing pains that catalyze radical metamorphosis. Once our Saturn return is complete, we are totally and completely prepared to live our best life — however we uniquely define it.

Who just finished their Saturn Return?

Saturn journeyed through Aquarius (the sign associated with innovation, rebellion, and revolution) from 2020 through March 7, 2023. That means anyone who has Saturn in Aquarius in their birth chart experienced their Saturn Return during that three-year stretch. Those born between February 6, 1991 and May 20, 1993, along with June 29, 1993 and January 28, 1994, went through through their first Saturn Return, while those born in the early 1960s (specifically between January 3, 1962 and March 23, 1964, as well as September 16, 1964 and December 15, 1964) experienced their second Saturn Return, and elders born in the early 1930s went through their third.

Who’s going through their Saturn Return right now?

On March 7, 2023, Saturn entered Pisces — the last sign of the zodiac, associated with spirituality, mysticism, and boundlessness, where it will stay until February 13, 2026. But, wait, isn’t Saturn associated with responsibilities, pragmatism, and stoic boundaries? You bet! Saturn’s glide through Pisces is riddled with contradictions, but that’s exactly what makes this such a fascinating and dynamic transit. Folks born between May 1, 1993 and June 30, 1993, along with January 28, 1994 and April 7, 1996, will be going through their first Saturn Return, while those born in the mid-1960s (specifically between March 23, 1964 and September 16, 1964, as well as December 16, 1964 and March 3, 1967) are experiencing their second Saturn Return, and elders born in the mid-to-late 1930s (1935 to 1938) will be going through their third.

Who’s going through their Saturn Return next?

Once Saturn finishes moving through Pisces on February 13, 2026, it shifts into Aries — the first sign of the zodiac, associated with motivation, passion, and determination. And, with this change, a whole new group will begin experiencing their Saturn Return. People born between April 7, 1996 and June 9, 1998, along with October 25, 1998 and February 28, 1999, will be going through their first Saturn Return, while those born in the late 1960s (specifically between March 3, 1967 and April 29, 1969) are experiencing their second Saturn Return, while elders born in the late 1930s and first few months of 1940 will be experiencing the third installment of this transit.

So what should I expect from the first, second, and third Saturn Returns that can happen in a lifetime?

Your late 20s are a time when massive, life-changing transformation occurs. We’re breaking up, making up, swapping careers, changing cities, and — perhaps most importantly — blossoming into our true selves. During your first Saturn Return, you begin to break away from societal pressure, trading expectations for honest experiences.

Your second Saturn Return, however, which occurs in your late 50s, is more likely to manifest as the stereotypical “midlife crisis.” After establishing routines and structure, your second Saturn Return may force you to reconsider these realities as you question whether you’re actually living up to your highest potential.

Finally, your third Saturn Return — which occurs in your late 80s — is a time for powerful reflection. During this season, you’ll look back at your life and contemplate your successes, failures, blessings, and regrets. This can also be an extremely spiritual moment, as you consider the legacy you’d like to leave behind and your hopes for the other side. You know, casual stuff.

What does Saturn Return look like through the different signs?

Your particular Saturn Return experience will depend on the sign Saturn occupies in your birth chart. Use the below table to explore the themes you can expect for each zodiac sign.

  • Saturn in Aries: Lessons around competition and autonomy
  • Saturn in Taurus: Lessons around finances and stability
  • Saturn in Gemini: Lessons around communication and peers
  • Saturn in Cancer: Lessons around security and vulnerability
  • Saturn in Leo: Lessons around pride and ego
  • Saturn in Virgo: Lessons around perfection and control
  • Saturn in Libra: Lessons around partnership and compromise
  • Saturn in Scorpio: Lessons around intimacy and trust
  • Saturn in Sagittarius: Lessons around expansion and growth
  • Saturn in Capricorn: Lessons around success and legacy
  • Saturn in Aquarius: Lessons around innovation and community
  • Saturn in Pisces: Lessons around spirituality and boundaries

Am I going to be okay?

There’s no denying that Saturn Return is a big deal. When you’re going through it, Saturn Return can often manifest as breaking up with your long-term partner or quitting what was once your “dream job,” relocating to a city where you’re starting over from scratch — you get the idea. It’s pretty serious shit. But trust that it’s not all doom and gloom. Saturn Return is actually an extremely prosperous time where your hard work and resilience is rewarded fully and completely. On the other side of all those stressors and obstacles, you’ll finally experience a return on your investment — and that is always a worthwhile deal!

The most important piece of advice for navigating your Saturn Return: Embrace it. Trust the process. Do the scary thing and be brave about it. Any attempts to ignore Saturn’s powerful nudges toward personal growth will be futile. On the other side of your Saturn Return, virtually everything in your life will be different, so why not enjoy the ride? Saturn reminds us that through real effort, patience, and practice, we can reap the most extraordinarily gratifying rewards.

Our Expert:

  • Aliza Kelly is a writer and astrologer who has written four books about astrology and mysticism. She publishes the weekly Substack, The Curiosity Report, and is a recurring guest on The Drew Barrymore Show.

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A Handy Guide to (Surviving) Your Saturn Return