older ever get easier? As children, we feel impatient to be grown up.
But once we're adults, we long nostalgically for a second youth. Children
are told, "You'll understand better when you're older." But then when
we're older and supposedly wiser, we lack the youthful energy to act on
our wisdom. As Jonathan Swift wrote, "Everyone wishes to live long, but
no one wants to become old."
offers a useful perspective on aging by organizing the chronology of different
stages of life. In the second century AD, the great astrologer Claudius
Ptolemy outlined the seven major phases of human life, from infancy to
old age. These seven ages of man are associated with the seven classical
planets, which follow an ancient order based on the speed of the planets'
movement. First is the Moon, which moves the fastest, going once around
the zodiac in less than a month. Mercury is second, completing his cycle
in a few months’ time, followed by Venus, who cycles in less than a year.
Then comes the Sun (one year), Mars (a little more than two years), Jupiter
(twelve years) and finally Saturn, the slowest planet, whose cycle is
about 29 years.
to this planetary order are the seven ages of man. The first stage, from
infancy to four years, is early childhood, and it is associated with the
Moon, the fastest moving planet. According to Ptolemy, the Moon is an
appropriate ruler for this age because there is a flexibility in the body,
quick growth, changeability and the food of infancy is liquid, all things
that are linked to the Moon.
stage is true childhood, lasting from four to fourteen. It is associated
with Mercury, the second fastest planet. Ptolemy explains that this is
the period when the child begins to articulate and formulate intelligence,
when learning takes place and the mind-character can be molded through
The Teens and Early Adulthood
at age fourteen is the third age (youth) which lasts for eight years and
is associated with Venus, the third fastest planet. Ptolemy explains that
this is the age when there is an impulse toward love, sexual expression
and a burning passion for ideals and all the blindness that goes with
Sun: Young Adulthood
The Sun is
the lord of the fourth and middle period, young adulthood, which begins
around age 23 and lasts until age 40. Youth is now passed, and the focus
turns from playful trial-and-error to decorum and ambition. This is a
time when the person develops mastery and directs his own actions. It
is the time for obtaining glory, position and material substance.
this stage, Mars assumes command of mature adulthood for the next fifteen
years (40-55). According to Ptolemy, Mars introduces severity and troubles,
the feeling of being past one's prime. Mars urges people of this age to
accomplish something before their time is up. This stage corresponds to
what we now call the mid-life crisis.
Retirement and Wisdom
age 55, Jupiter takes over the elderly sixth age for a twelve-year period.
Jupiter brings retirement from manual labor, toil and dangerous activity,
and replaces this with wisdom, foresight and dignity.
around age 67, the final phase of old age is ruled by Saturn, indicating
the time when the body and soul are cooled down, and there are blocks
to natural impulses, desires, enjoyment and speed.
More Than "Just a Phase"
written almost 2000 years ago, are still valid today. Modern astrologers
interpret birth charts by associating youth with Mercury and Venus, and
old age with Saturn. Thus, people born with a prominent Mercury or Gemini
rising are said to have a youthful appearance, a bounce in their step
and a habit of moving quickly or spontaneously. A different type of youthful
expression is evident when Venus is prominent in a birth chart, or when
the Ascendant of the chart is Libra or Taurus, the signs linked to Venus.
People who have these features in their chart will often display the "bloom
of youth"—a soft beauty and innocent charm. People born with a strong
Saturn or Capricorn rising will often appear to be older or wiser than
their true age.
old man Saturn is the most serious voice of the birth chart. His control
can squelch the spontaneous ideas of Mercury; his reserve can obstruct
the expression of Venus. But there are positive outcomes to the aging
process. At his best, Saturn can tame the whimsy of youth; he can bring
maturity and endurance to a love relationship. It takes a strong element
of Saturn to make an effective parent, a faithful lover or a successful
We live in
a society that segregates the old and the young. Our culture glorifies
youthfulness and relegates mature citizens to separate homes for the elderly.
We rush headlong into newness, ignoring the wisdom of taking time to reflect.
During the next twelve months, Saturn will be moving back and forth between
Taurus and Gemini, the signs ruled by youthful Venus and Mercury. This
might be a good time to reflect on our attitudes about aging. Perhaps
the passing of time can be a two-way street. Saturn can be lightened up
with a touch of Venus or a dash of Mercury. The key to aging gracefully
may lie in fostering more "inter-generational" contact between
the planets that rule youth and old age.