Posted by: Donna Cunningham | April 2, 2014

Saturn’s Cycles – The Seven-Year Itch and the Saturn Return

© by Donna Cunningham, MSW

TAGSA cvr 2014 smhe following is an excerpt from Donna’s Cunningham’s classic, An Astrological Guide to Self-Awareness, now in a newly updated 2014 ebook edition. Saturn’s complete cycle around the Sun takes 29.4 years. Hard aspects of transiting Saturn to its place in your birth chart (squares and oppositions) take place each seven years. Each 7-year period ends with a new phase of maturing and taking stock of our lives.

At those stages of life, we experience an  “itch” to make more of ourselves and our contribution to the world. The 7-year phases between Saturn aspects to natal Saturn are the normal stress periods of living and growing, which psychologists call normative crises (for example, adolescent turmoil at 14, or moving out on your own at 21). While 21 is popularly considered our coming of age, in reality it’s just an entry-level position into adulthood.

We become true adults at about the age of 28-29, when Saturn has made a complete orbit around the Sun from where it was when we were born. This crucial period is referred to as the Saturn return. At 56-8 years old, we experience the second Saturn Return. These Returns are considered significant milestones in the human cycle of maturing. The person who is 28-30 has now faced most of the challenges of becoming a seasoned adult. Periods like your Saturn Return or other Saturn transits are opportunities to change from misuses of Saturn to better uses. Saturn is a time marker, but shouldn’t be devastating unless we are only marking time. For those who are growing and developing steadily through persistent effort, aging holds little regret because they’re not getting older; they’re getting better.

In fact, in the very areas where they seemed to have been late bloomers, Saturnians often come into their own in some later phases of their Saturn cycles. Many young Saturnians are too mature for their age and not comfortable with their peers. Their comfort level improves with age, especially as they approach the age where Saturnian qualities like maturity and caution are expected due to responsibilities of a career or family. They are more at ease once they find a sense of security and self-worth through their accomplishments, so that the more difficult expressions such as insecurity and self-condemnation improve.saturn-lovely sm-clipart

Saturn transits make you face up to reality… a jolt if you’ve been fooling yourself about the problems you face. But the positive result is that once you’ve finished emoting about the unfairness of it all, you can get to work on establishing more substantial and solid foundations. Foundation building may not be as much fun as drifting and dreaming on a pink cloud, but the bank doesn’t take pink clouds as collateral.

Saturn represents the wisdom gained from experience… even if you’re thickheaded and your alma mater is the School of Hard Knocks. Many negative situations that arise under Saturn transits result from not using Saturn in a positive way in the first place. If you haven’t developed self-discipline, a Saturn transit might bring the loss of something you haven’t been disciplined about. Discipline imposed from the outside is meant to foster discipline from within.

If you’ve built your house on the sand, figuratively speaking, a Saturn transit might make you go back to build more solid foundations. Saturn is not punitive, but impartial. It’s the Celestial Computer kicking your input back for correction because “it does not compute.”

Transit Tracker:  This one-page reference summarizes the transits of Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto from 1990-2020. Print it out and use it to look back on past transits and to look forward for the next few years. Download it here: HO-transit trackingtable-1990-2020.

Note: This is an excerpt from Donna Cunningham’s classic text for beginning to intermediate students, An Astrological guide to Self-Awareness, the newly-revised edition in eBook form. For information on this and other books by Donna, or to order it, see:

How about you, Readers?  Are you using current Saturn transits to make more of your life? What areas of life are they affecting? What steps are you taking to put your life on a more solid footing? More about Saturn Transits on Skywriter:


  1. Donna, I’ve found that as I have aged, I actually enjoy Saturn transits! For example, I have been able to save more money during my 2nd Natal Saturn transit of the 2nd House than at any previous period of my life. Am I getting rich quick? No. But I am steadily accumulating a cash reserve. My Natal Saturn is in 12, so when I was younger, I didn’t know Saturn from Adam’s housecat. It is conjunct Mercury and now I find it to be a fabulous combination for doing research and writing, even if it is square Chiron. To me, the only true bitch kitty about getting older is my health challenges and their resulting energy drain. Outside of that, I am much more content after my Second Saturn Return.

  2. Thanks for joining in, MELO. Yes, I agree that we get more at home with Saturn as we mature. I guess you might say that there’s a learning curve for Saturn transits, and maybe we don’t resist as much when it comes to getting back in the harness again and doing what it is that has to be done. Donna

  3. Reblogged this on Wolf and Raven.

  4. I’m going thru my second Saturn return natally it squares Pluto and rules the sixth, health issues have come to the forefront. I’ve worked in health serving others for many years, now I’ve really got to serve myself and be open to others to receive help. It’s a big adjustment to be more reliant on others, trusting and feeling vulnerable instead of strong, independent and self reliant. (Pluto is in the first.)
    Discipline coming from the outside meant to foster discipline within struck a chord for me thanks

    • Thanks, Fay! I hope more Second Saturn Return folks will chime in as well. And as a fellow Pluto in the 1st who’s not getting any younger, either, boy do I relate about the struggle to let others help. Donna

  5. Ah, always so important to be reminded of Saturn. I am so glad that you pointed out the seven-year intervals of major Saturn aspects. When I was studying childhood development, I recall reading a book called “The Seven-Year Old: Life in a Minor Key”–how appropriate for the first Saturn square!
    And my 14-year-old daughter is wearing braces and starting to think about her future academic plans.

    Maybe the enormous fear some people have about the first Saturn return could be allayed if everyone had permission to fully experience those first three hard aspects from Saturn; respect the 7-year-old’s desire to be taken seriously, allow 14-year-olds to be somber “ugly ducklings” for a year or two
    if they need to be, help young people who are out of college at 21 or so to discover or create a way to contribute meaningfully to their communities. Too often, adults minimize the challenges faced by young people at these times, or idealize the whole era of youth as carefree and happy. Not that I want to heap unnecessary suffering on any child! But children intuit the darker and more serious aspects of life early on (that’s why those Grimm’s fairy tales are so timeless) and are too often left to grapple with these things on their own; maybe they used to get help and advice from older relatives who took the time to tell them those wise tales.

    Oh, I hope I live a good long time so I can help my grandkids through those junctures.

    • Mary, thank you so much for this acknowledgement of the early years of 7’s and the value of the old stories (fairy tales). I’m very much an old Saturnian approaching the tenth go rounds of 7, and there are grand-nieces and a grand nephew that I hope to help through those junctures. Yours is a timely, timeless, commentary I appreciate. Just yesterday I put a precious doll who has been comforting me for a good many years into a box to keep spreading the love. The doll is making her way to my family’s home where a brand new baby girl and her cousins await her with loving arms. Those children have never met me, but their parents have. I am the odd outrageous character they have stories about … as James Hillman wrote in his book The Soul’s Code, parents need to leave the way open for us ‘outrageous’ ones to gift those young imaginations something to play with!

      • Lovely acknowledgement, Moki. You are truly a jewel of an elder. Donna

  6. donna, Im so curious how to understand 2 signs in one house. is the cusp dominate? in the case of the 5th house if i have gemini on the cusp but cancer in the 5th house as well ( majority) what does that mean? does the house share the two traits of the sign?

    • Hi, Kay. The answer would depend on whether or not there were actual planets in the house or whether it’s empty. If it’s empty, then the sign on the house cusp would dominate. If there are planets, then those planets and the signs they are placed in would dominate. Let’s say, Gemini is on the cusp, but Venus in Cancer is there as well. Then the sign Cancer and the planet Venus dominate, Venus even more so than Cancer. Donna

      • gotcha! thank you Donna. .saturn sits on the 5th house cusp and south node in gemini . so just wondering where the cancer plays out. does the cancer energy effect the saturn in gemini?

  7. Again, Cancer would only be a major influence if there was a planet in that sign in that house. If Saturn and the Cancer planet were within about 8 degrees of one another (called a conjunction), then the energy would be blended. If there were two planets in the 5th in different signs, by the way, it would likely show two children with very different qualities. Donna

    • understood. what is the relationship of the south node and saturn? you have often said saturn does not deny it delays but when it is so close to 5th house cusp sitting on the south node how do they relate? would i look to aspects that saturn is making to other planets? just received my ncgr study guide and its hard!! especially with no tutor so of course I turn to the expert!

  8. Kay, I can’t interpret your natal chart in the comment section, and I no longer do consultations for individuals. (Retired in order to write.) A good way to get an interpretation of your birth chart and all the signs, houses, and planets would be a computerized interpretation, about $35 from You could start with a free chart computation, as it has about 3 pages of free interpretation. Donna

  9. Hello Donna. I know Saturn always has a good side and a bad side, and the whole chart needs to be taken into consideration, but I was wondering about something, generally speaking. Which would be a more difficult house for natal Saturn- Saturn Rx in the 2nd house or Saturn Rx in the 8th house? I have heard Saturn in the 8th house is quite hard to deal with. Thank you.

    • Hi, Shelley, they each have their own considerations and things to overcome. There is a series of articles here on Skywriter about the 2nd and 8th houses and finance, so go to the front page and use the search engine box for links to that series. (Type in “8th house.”) Donna

      • I’ll definitely look into it! I just wanted to say your column and blog are wonderful and I enjoy Eileen McCabe’s new column too. I appreciate all the time and energy you’ve put into your articles. Thanks Donna!

    • Hi Shelly, not sure anything is worse than saturn conjunct the 5 th house cusp but I can see how saturn in the 8th could be hard. The thing I have realized about saturn is he does not deny, it’s more of a delay. And if you are able to live through his hard tests and learn and build the way saturn demands that mastery of that house can be experienced later in life. Mastery with limitations ofcorse as saturn is like a hot stove you won’t be testing or touching to many times. Saturn also feels like it becomes a part of you rather than an external limiting force. In younger years it felt controlling and bigger than life and later I have adapted qualities of saturn that feel like my own if that makes any sense. Saturn has become a friend in a way almost like a strict parent you respect. Just sharing my thoughts hope that can be of some help😊

      • Well said, Kay!

      • Hi Kay, yes I agree a 5th house Saturn does sound like a hard one too. My mom and I are close, and she has the 2nd house Saturn retrograde and I have the 8th house Saturn retrograde. That’s not to say I’ve had a harder life than her, because we’ve both had our troubles, but I’ve never really been financially stable like she used to be. And I agree that Saturn usually leads to delays instead of denials. Well, for most people, at least. I just don’t like to speak for everyone. I haven’t mastered my Saturn yet, but I think I’ll get the hang of it one day. Well, I hope so. I respect those who embody the more positive traits of Saturn. Thank you for your insightful post, Kay!

      • Shelly, Saturn anywhere has its limitations and challenges, but befriend him! ask saturn to be an ally and work with you. Focus on the abundance you already have in your life and more will come. I have also used flower essences for saturn and done saturn offerings with crystals as well. All the planets are here to help us grow and become our best , pain and uncomforted included! Donna is a wonderful teacher, I have found so much info on her blog. Be kind to your self and saturn, when the current of life takes you down rivers you did not volunteer for, let it rip! go with it. you might land somewhere unexpected ;))

      • That’s good advice, Kay. I will try going with Saturn more in the future. I like changing and growing too. That’s one of the best parts of life 🙂 Have a nice night (or day, depending on where you are now).

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