Posted by: Donna Cunningham | April 25, 2011

Blending without Drowning: How Saturn Saved a Neptune Type

©2010 by guest blogger, Ellen Longo

I used to hate being in groups but now I’ve learned to blend my energy with others when I want to and actually love being around compatible people. Even events like ball games are fun now, because I can “become” the people around me and have a blast.

And some background:

As a child I was raised with very strict, in fact, military, discipline. In astrological terms you would say with a very strong Saturn influence. The atmosphere in my home produced three results, all related to Neptune: 

  •  I tended to withdraw into spiritual and romantic fantasies because it was the only place I had any power;
  •  I had no sense of personal boundaries as they were infringed upon daily by an overbearing authority figure;
  • I didn’t develop a sense of self-discipline because there was so much external discipline imposed upon me.

I entered young adulthood drifting from place to place and person to person with very little sense of or appetite for “real life.”  I was very open to the underlying currents of situations but had only a minimal sense of self-protection. I was uncomfortable in almost all social situations, from the smallest dinner party to the largest stadium event. I wanted nothing to do with rules or structure of any kind. My Neptune energy was very active but my Saturn energy was completely undeveloped.

So how did all this change?  After thinking about this for a few days, I have to say it has to do with boundaries. In astrological terms you would say I developed my inner Saturn. 

A Line in the Sand:

My awareness of my own Saturn began with a situation when the current authority figure in my life asked me to do something I just couldn’t do, to cross a line I just couldn’t cross. It was the first time I stood up and said NO to someone; to put what I felt and cared about in front of my fear of losing someone I loved.

This situation brought my first sense of my own authority; before that I was unaware that I had any. And it felt so good to protect myself and be willing to risk everything for it. I did lose everything from that decision, but that loss turned into self-reliance, education, my own business, building a house, and raising a child. Of course, the unfolding of this inner authority took many years, but little by little I learned about a rock solid place inside myself that was my safe haven, and I learned to honor it.

A Tiny Incident, A Major Shift:

In some people, once they find the self-protective instinct of Saturn it becomes an enclosure that they can’t find their way out of. Other more Neptunian types are so prone to giving their power to others that they can never stand up for themselves. Neither of these lasted long for me and for this I credit my spiritual teacher. It’s funny how a tiny incident can lead to a major life change. 

One day I was in a large room with my teacher and several hundred other people. A woman came up to the teacher and the teacher noticed that the woman was wearing a locket around her neck in the shape of a heart, and the locket was open. She said to the woman, “Your locket is open.”  And the woman looked down and said, “That’s because my heart is always open.”  And the teacher said, “Ah, but you have to learn to open it and to close it.”

This incident sparked a whole new understanding of boundaries for me. Until that time I thought a “spiritual” person had to have their heart constantly splayed out in order to be truly open. I learned that my boundaries are my own and they are malleable according to my discrimination and my will. My circle can expand to encompass the whole of the universe; or I can contract that circle to the smallest sphere so that only my family is invited inside. That’s the key:  I’ve learned that I am the gatekeeper. What I invite inside is welcome inside. What I don’t invite doesn’t come in.

Now for the fun part:

This has completely freed my life. Now I can go to the most raucous ballgame and whole-heartedly join the crowd and have a blast. Nothing is more fun than to lose myself in the glee of a shared victory. But when I leave the stadium and step into the streets of New York I draw my shield of self-protection close around me.

I can go to a park and meld into nature, but then I sit at my desk and focus on accounting or tax work. I expand or contract as the situation requires. I can close my heart and move right through a dangerous minefield of negativity and then open it again to relax into the vibrations of a loving friend.

So my story comes down to learning self-authority, boundaries, and discrimination, all Saturn qualities. Once I learned to internalize the authoritarian face of Saturn, it turned into self-protection. And once I learned self-protection, I learned I can blend as much or as little as I will – it’s my choice.

(See a related article on Skywriter here: Getting a Grip on Saturn-Neptune Aspects.)

About the Author: Ellen Longo is a practicing astrologer and businesswoman. As a CPA, business owner, and former executive level manager for a global non-profit organization, she specializes in applying astrology to career and business situations. She writes two blogs:  Astro4Business Intersections, which explores the astrological dimensions of leadership and business, and Ellen Longo’s Astrology Blog, which explores everything else! She is currently writing a series of blogs on the authentic leadership qualities of each sign. A student of an Indian Master since 1985, Ellen is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Archetypal Cosmology and Conscious Evolution with the Graduate Institute in Connecticut.

Other posts related to Neptune on Ellen’s Blog:


  1. Thank you very much for sharing this wonderful story and the learning, Ellen.
    Sending you love,

  2. very insightful. I can see how having a too strong authority figure in your life can make it hard to use your own.

    • Yes, Mimi, if someone plays that role too strongly in the early life, then you think that authority comes only from the outside, instead of the authentic authority which comes from within. Thanks for commenting.

      • I just attended a workshop on intuition and reading this, it occurs to me that too much external authority can also squash our inner knowing – that small voice that guides us. During the class, I happened to use the word “authentic” to describe that voice and when the teacher asked me what that felt like, my reply was that it always validates my inner truth without belittling me or making me feel less-than.

        Sometimes that original external authority figure becomes internalized. I think until we learn to differentiate, we often mistake the two.

        I really enjoyed reading this, Ellen. There’s lots of good advice here. Thanks.

  3. What a wonderful story! I’m in the process of learning how to develop a stronger sense of my own boundaries, so this is very helpful for me. I love the part about learning to open and close one’s heart instead of leaving it hanging open all the time. While my parents were not military-type authority figures, I did get a strong message that I was supposed to keep my heart open all the time – and over the years I found that was just too draining and bruising.

    • Hi, Margaret. Yes, that image of the locket which can open and close has stayed with me to this day. And I like how you say “too draining” – like our own energy just drains right out. We have to learn to dam it up and conserve it, don’t we?

      • You’re welcome, Ellen. I meant to thank you for the article, but forgot, so I’ll do so now!

  4. I can relate very much to this posting.

    Not too long ago, I commented on this blog that I have never really gotten a handle on a particular aspect pattern in my natal chart. I have Uranus and Pluto conjunct on the midheaven in the 10th, all in Virgo. The description of this signature rings true for me: I’m deeply ambivalent about this whole career/being-somebody/making-your-mark-on-the-world thing. It bothers me that people so often define themselves in terms of their careers. (“What do you do?” “Oh, I’m a lawyer.”) What I do is not what I am! I don’t want to “be” something! And so, at 46, I’ve never settled into a career — but not for lack of talent, ambition, or a desire to affect my surroundings. And ironically, I cannot help but affect my surroundings. I can go into a place where I worked years ago, and still see my influence — changes I’ve made, policies I’ve implemented, ideas I’ve shared — that are still in use today.

    But if I’m honest, and I’ve never really realized this until now, I would have to admit that there is a Neptunian quality to this life-pattern. I have Neptune in Scorpio in the 12th sextiling the Midheaven/Uranus/Pluto conjunction. Once I became an adult, away from the structure, (10th house), imposed on children, (Neptune rules the 4th), I didn’t KNOW how to get myself from here to there. My peers have gotten their education, settled into careers, bought houses, and become “somebodies.” I don’t quite know how they managed it, and I was always waiting around expecting it to happen to me, but it never did. I feel like everyone got the memo but I was absent that day, (practically the story of my life).

    So here I am, at 46, unemployed, attending college, (on a disability grant — another story — but Saturn is in the 3rd, so you can guess my disability), and getting a degree in Computer Science, (with close to a 4.0 average). I finally figured out that I need to impose my own structure — a major leap for me.

    Transiting Neptune is currently passing back-and-forth over my Saturn, at 29 Aquarius. The sextile I mentioned above goes from mid-Virgo to mid-Scorpio, making mid-Aries a sensitive degree for me, completing the Yod. Yup, that’s right: Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and the recent New Moon have all been activating this degree. Yeah…I love Astrology. Did I mention that Pluto is squaring my 7 Libra Sun? (“I can relate” is a fitting phrase for me).

    • Thanks, Charles, for commenting. I can really relate to having missed the memo on how to be “normal.” But it’s turned out to be a wonderfully exciting life anyway, right? Congratulations on your degree and your grade point average!

  5. Excellent! I’ve also seen the “too-open heart” situation described something like: a heart is not a fist, nor is it an open palm, (opening and closing fist) – this is a heart! I think I always felt that to be true, but was so criticized when I tried to protect myself when I was young that I used Neptune fog to try to keep others out or to tune out myself (Neptune on my IC). Had to learn to respect my need for boundaries so I could make healthy choices of when to open and when to close.

    • Thanks, Les, for that image: a heart is not a fist, it’s a heart! I’m sure I’ll remember that one. You also reminded me that some of us coming of age in the sixties and seventies were encouraged by our own counter-culture to be totally open and trusting – which didn’t exactly turn out for the best all of the time. I guess my point is it may not have been our childhood figures but even our peers who gave us the message that boundaries were somehow “uptight” when actually they were self-protective and healthy.

  6. Great post! I have natal Saturn in the 12th and relate so much to your description of childhood. My parents were incredibly overbearing and authoritative but strangely, not very disciplined, I never felt I could be sure of my boundaries with them, yet I was deathly afraid of crossing a boundary. As a result I also found safety in Neptune (daydreaming, tv, movies, music, etc) while also ignoring/repressing my Saturn. As I approach my Saturn Return all these themes are popping up. Just today I had to make a conscious choice to ACT on what is best for my mental health. I can’t simply let my mind slip away – I have to make and maintain boundaries in my psyche. Otherwise I feel the whole suffering of the world and I get terribly depressed and anxious (Neptune).

    It is tricky. I identify as an artist but I now understand why so many artists went mad. The Neptune fog can be very destructive, something I never considered when I was a little kid with my head in the clouds. When you’re a kid you think you’ll live forever, that you’re invincible, that your health will never fade. Then time passes and you get older and you realize what a good friend Saturn is. With Saturn in the 12th I think I am learning to use structure for my psychological and spiritual well-being.

    • Thanks for your comment, Dorchid. You expressed the protection of Saturn and its ability to balance Neptune so well. And I really resonate with what you said about needing boundaries for your psyche. Your comment reminded me of another post I wrote about Saturn and Uranus you may enjoy, here’s the link:

  7. Ellen,

    Nice. Also liked the Neptune Musings article, which I linked to on my FB Practical Astrology page. In that article, I liked your insight about Neptune in Pisces correlating with significant scientific theories. I hadn’t thought of that, but I like it!

    • Hi, Victoria. Yes, Neptune in Pisces seems to be a fertile bed of scientific exploration and breakthrough. So let’s stay tuned…

  8. Ellen, thanks for your thoughtful piece. It reminded me that Saturn, known as the great teacher, also reflects our fears and insecurity. Sometimes it takes maturity to ripen our interest in becoming the author of our authority, a realization you expressed so well.

    PS I enjoyed venturing around your blogs this morning.

    • Thanks, pdw. You’re so right about it taking maturity to become interested in our own authority. And I don’t think I put two and two together until I wrote this piece originally. Thanks for checking out the other blogs!

  9. Hi Ellen,

    I have Saturn semisquare Neptune, and I had the same experience as a child, but it was due to my having an alcoholic father, but I have learned to use Saturn and Neputune in more positive ways now. Thanks so much for your article – it reminds me I am not alone in my experiences.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jack. Even though my father wasn’t alcoholic I have benefited greatly from Al-anon. I think the childhood experiences are similar in many cases.

  10. Hi Ellen. Thanks for sharing! I can relate to your story even though there wasn’t much discipline in my home. But there was only one authority permitted, and it was impossible to rely on anyone. It made me escape into a fantasy world, but it also taught me to distrust. I still find it very hard to trust, and I tend to avoid getting to close to people. Mostly because I’m not sure where the boundaries are! The discipline I have is thanks to my work. It has thought me that I can accomplish things if I keep at it, if I trust my own instincts. The two planets that intrigue me most in my chart is Neptune and Saturn. (there’s a square). The first I distrust, the second I try to avoid. My writing allows me to express Neptune through Saturn. My work has also given me more self-confidence, so I’m not so awkward in social situations anymore. I think perhaps it’s because we grow “into” Saturn, so it’s doesn’t feel so restrictive with time. I love your image of being the gatekeeper!

    • Hi, Natalie. Your comment brings it all together for me, how we all grow into our Saturn, how Saturn is related to work and career, how work and career provide the self-confidence to express our deeply spiritual and artistic selves. Full circle. Thanks.

  11. The problems of boundaries was never a factor for me even though Neptune conjuncts my ascendant from the 12th and is also conjunct Chiron , amour and Jupiter and this quintile the Venus conjunct Saturn in the 10th. FREEDOM knows no boundaries! Moon in Aquarius in exact trine to Uranus conjunct Mars in the 9th.
    Once before boarding school I was in the cities and starting 1st grade. That first day did not impress me favorably, in fact I was disgusted by the way the teacher spoke to us in sing song dolly voice and how a boy tried to look up my dress. The room was dry and stuffy.
    Earlier that day in lines to school I heard other kids talking and one said the SH.t word ,which I never heard before because no one ever swore in my household. I thought it must be a BIG ( Adult) word and it carried a mysterious and momentous vibe. So when my mother asked me how I liked school I meant to tell her I was NOT going again. I thought if I said this new BIG word that she would see how grown up I was and she would listen to me ( mercury retrograde). I said the SH.t word and she flew at me grabbing the back of my neck and dragged me to the sink where she swabbed my mouth with soap and water. I was angry and thought; OK I will NOT tell you but just the same I am NOT going.
    After that I left every day at the appointed time and came home every day at the expected time but I never went. It turned out that because of my unusually small and deceptive size the teachers assumed I had been someones little sister who had tagged along and they never followed me up. I was finally caught a day before school ended by an adult who had almost hit me with his car. He became so frightened, he badgered me until he found out where I was suppose to be and I said school. My mother was called in and everyone was flabbergasted but there was nothing to be done, since school was ending and summer come. Ever after that my mother never again jumped the gun and always waited and learned my full thought and nor did she try to force me into something I was standing against. They say Leo cannot be forced, coerced or beaten into submission and that is true for me; probably because the developed Leo is of the HEART and the SUN, we rule ourselves.

    • My father was a harsh disciplinarian. While I’m glad he taught me the right things, it could have been done in a gentler manner. But explaining instead of just getting mad and punishing. Children, they don’t know, they don’t understand…teach them. Don’t hurt them.

      • Bravo, Neeti.

    • Thank you, Barehand. I’ve rarely heard a story of a small child with such confidence that you showed. And how you became a teacher for your mother. Very interesting early life and it seems your confidence has continued into your adult life too.

    • LOVED this story Barehand…

  12. At first I thought I was reading about my own life!

    I came from similar circumstances and am just now learning how to restrict and compress my boundaries. It is a lot harder than I thought…

    • You’re right, Pat, it is hard! At first it was terrifying to put my own needs first. But then it got easier and easier and now I can just choose, sometimes in favor of myself and sometimes in favor of others. I no longer get swallowed when I choose to serve someone else, as I used to. It’s like I’ve found the doorway in and back out again.

  13. Thanks for sharing your stories, Donna. I can SO relate to all of this.

    • It’s not me, Kristy, but our guest blogger, Ellen Longo, who’s done such an eloquent job on this piece. Donna

      • Ohhhhh… The voice for this article and yours were so similar…!!

  14. Thanks for this post Ellen!
    Neptune is sometimes so difficult to grasp, even for my pisces sun, ruling my 12th…I should know better! well maybe ‘grasp’ is not the word for neptune… in my natal chart neptune and saturn have no contact, except that they’re in opposite signs, but when transiting saturn opposed my neptune years ago, it was such a productive time. The ideas and creativity were expressed in more tangible ways, and I could get recognition for them. Something I usually would shy from.
    Now with neptune transiting my natal jupiter I sense something inspiring and uplifting on it’s way…

    • Hi, Sabrina. Great point about transiting Saturn to Neptune. I’ve seen that many times, people’s inspiration can be given concrete form probably due to the self-discipline transiting Saturn brings. Have fun with Neptune/Jupiter. I’d love to hear how that plays out.

  15. Thanks a lot for passing along an interesting story and your experiences about how Saturn saved Neptune. Awesomely narrated. Great share..!!

  16. I always enjoy your articles and books. I have Saturn in Pisces opposing Neptune in Virgo 14 degrees–in 7th house. The Saturn helped guide me when I lost my mother at age 10. Thank you for all your words of wisdom.

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