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Saturn, the planet of form, structure and hard, cold reality, takes about 29 years to orbit the Sun, spending a bit more than two years in each sign. It entered Cancer in June 2003 and will remain there until July 2005. The sign through which Saturn is passing at any given moment is a place for both contraction and construction, delay and, with persistence, delivery. Saturn is the planet that says “no,” but means “yes.” It shows where the boundaries and limitations are, but with a potential for such clarity that the steps to overcoming them and constructing something new becomes evident.

Astrological tradition branded Saturn the “Greater Malefic,” the most difficult of planets. Like the march of time that marks the end of mortal life, and the force of gravity, it keeps us in place. Existence as we know it would be impossible without Saturn. It's the great separator that carves individual existence out of the universal whole, defining the boundaries of new life. Saturn is weighty, associated with lead, fear and falling. The Biblical idea of the Fall of Man reflects the “sin” of separation that occurs with each human incarnation. It reminds us that our very existence is a “fall” from the godhead, from the universal to the particular.

Outer Rules and Inner Realities

Saturn is the key, or ruling, planet of Capricorn, a worldly Earth sign that tends to focus on concrete accomplishment, professional recognition and social status. Capricorn's hallmark is ambition that allows us to overcome personal weakness to achieve success. Saturn's role is to define goals and help us remain steadfast in meeting them despite obstacles from without and within.

Cancer is the sign opposite Capricorn. Its realities tend to be personal, emotional and subjective. Rather than hardening itself against life's challenges in the pursuit of its goals, Cancer's focus is on enriching one's inner life, one's home and family. Since it's a Water sign, feelings count more than objective reality.

A planet in the sign opposite its home sign is considered to be challenged and weakened, and said to be in its detriment. The qualities of planet and sign do not blend easily, often resulting in an imbalance that requires conscious effort to overcome its conflicts. Saturn, traditionally a toughie, can be insensitive to Cancer's feelings. Emotions are blocked, denied or distorted. Cancer's flow can be dammed up with obstinacy and insensitivity to core issues and needs. It's a bit like having an army general running a nursery school. The desire to serve does not necessarily match the competencies required for the situation.

The challenge to Saturn (or any authority, structure or system) is in understanding the real meaning of responsibility. In the world of so-called adults, this is about gaining control, organizing and structuring. Saturn sets schedules, establishes rules and attempts to solve problems. Human emotions, however, don't function well when they're dammed up behind the barriers of rules and regulations. Responsibility is not, then, about control and regulation, but about the ability to respond. Saturn in Cancer requires a softening of Saturn's rigid rules in order to adjust to the naturally shifting needs of real human beings.

Rather than saying “no” to subjective feelings, Saturn's purpose now is to say “yes” to them in ways that recognize our impractical needs. Saying “yes,” though, is not about giving into every whim but, like a loving parent, shoring up the banks in which the river of feelings flow. Taking responsibility for our emotions is not a simple matter of containment, but an ongoing process of recognizing them and adjusting in whatever ways are most supportive and nurturing.

The Need for Security

Both Saturn and Cancer have strong needs for security. The combination of the two can amplify this issue, intensifying fear and uncertainty. While this is an experience felt around the world, the story is playing out dramatically in the United States, a Cancer nation born on the Fourth of July. September 11 touched the national psyche in a way that has made fear a more tangible component of daily life. The country's Cancer president, considered a protector by some, has played on this fear with ongoing rhetoric about external evil. There has been little or no discussion of the United States' role in the conditions that threaten it. Rather than face the challenging and complicated questions of why we are in this state, laying blame without taking responsibility is the path of least resistance.

Saturn in Cancer (sign of the suckling infant) can leave us fixated with an image of helplessness, a feeling of being overpowered by forces that can only be repelled, not understood. But personal, national and international security requires more than regressing to our most infantile state. Safety begins with accepting that life is never completely safe. None of us will get out of here alive. None who feel joy will avoid feeling pain. It's tempting to fall into despair, or to mask hopelessness by striking out at our enemies, yet this is a denial of process, the very essence of life itself.

The comfort and safety we all seek is not a state that can be achieved and maintained forever. While the international stage allows us to play out these dramas in more explicit terms of “us” and “them,” we each still ride the emotional tides of security and insecurity. Saturn in Cancer cannot banish fear, but neither does it require that we raise its primal response to a level where nothing else can be heard. For, in fact, there was fear before 9/11 and there has been joy since. The contractive force of self-protection is only one arrow in the quiver of the conscious warrior. We have hope, curiosity, invention, reflection and negotiation, as well.

Regardless of the conditions that assail us from the outside, Saturn in Cancer reminds us that the real war on terror is internal. Safety, such as it exists, comes from listening to our emotions with enough gentleness to hear them and enough maturity to know how best to respond.



Jeff Jawer is a founder of He has been a professional astrologer since 1973 and is well-known as a writer, counselor and lecturer in North and South America, Europe and Australia.

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Other StarIQ articles by Jeff Jawer:

  • House Cusps and Systems   2/8/2014
  • We Are The Transits   1/4/2014
  • The Astrology of Intimacy   7/20/2013
  • Planetary Threads   7/13/2013
  • The Deconstructed Horoscope   6/1/2013
  • The Astrology of Awakening   9/28/2012
  • Astrology Apps for the iPhone   4/28/2012
  • AstroNews April 7, 2009   4/7/2009
  • House Cusps and Systems   8/27/2004
  • The Astrology of Intimacy   6/4/2004
  • The State of Astrology   10/12/2003
  • Being and Becoming   9/29/2003
  • Jupiter Opposite Neptune   2/10/2003
  • Saturn-Pluto Revisited   9/20/2002
  • Astrology's Archaic Truths   6/27/2002
  • Astro-Ecology   6/13/2002
  • Creative Prediction   6/6/2002
  • Pisces to Aquarius   11/10/2001
  • Scorpio: Beyond Reason   10/24/2001
  • Caring Curious Carlos   2/25/2000
  • Doug Henning's Final Act   2/8/2000
  • WTO: Shaping the World's Economic Future   12/1/1999
  • The Art of (Non) Communication   10/20/1999

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