Saturn, Nigredo and the Purpose of Change


“Consciousness is only possible through change; change is only possible through movement.”

Aldous Huxley, The Art of Seeing

“The world is full of magic things patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

C.G. Jung

We’ve all been there.  That feeling of ‘same old, same old’ where the sense of ‘same’ is particularly oppressive.  Things aren’t changing, things never will.  It might be okay if ‘things’ were things we can pinpoint, name.  To name a thing is to own it.  But often, we can’t.  The feeling of repetition, lack of movement, and negative growth is beyond absurd and often the feeling has no specific cause.  And we don’t know why.  It has no purpose; it hovers dangerously near chaos.

When it gets bad, really bad, is when the lack of growth starts turning inward and we begin to blame ourselves.  We’re bored with ourselves and our lives, no matter how exciting our lives may seem to someone else.  We can’t find the new thing, the thing to take us to the other side.  Whatever we’re searching for is just beyond our reach, if we even have/had the energy to reach out.  There is a leaden weight over the heart and a dark shadow over the head.  The light and the lightness are gone, and our days become a round of torture; getting through is the limit of winning.

It can go on and on.  It can disappear overnight on its own.  It can be about long-term self-hatred (I’m a failure at life) or be situation-specific (I can’t find a job; I’m losing my home; my last love left me).  It doesn’t really matter, because the feeling of oppression is overwhelming.  I can no longer move/breathe.  We may think that love will awaken us, but often we can’t accept the love that is offered.  The best thing that someone can say to us is, “It won’t always be like this.”  But nothing really matters when we feel like the walking dead.

Yet the truth is that this ‘death in life’ is inherent to the human experience.  It has been around for centuries, and no doubt will always be.  It has been called The Dark Night of the Soul, but I’ve never liked that title because it implies it lasts just a night, and most who are afflicted are in it for the long term.  “Dark Night” implies a crisis with a resolution, and that often is optimistic, too.  I prefer the more fitting, ‘Dark Season’ of the soul.

I have, myself, though I am not a betting person, put my hopes and dreams into a tenacious apple tree leaf–as long as the leaf clings, I said to myself, so will I.  I had nothing left.  It seemed as though everything I loved had been taken away from me, and everything I was running from came back to haunt me.  It felt like drowning, but drowning in mud, in quicksand.  Black and airless and inescapable.

What brings on these states?  A lot of blame is put on Saturn, but it isn’t so simple.  Transiting or Progressed Saturn on any of our personal planets can be a real downer, demanding that we slow down, take a few steps back and both re-think and re-feel things.  Saturn/Sun can feel literally as if our life-light has been turned off.  Our energy is down, we get no pleasure, we have no sense of the joy inherent in life.  Saturn/Mercury stifles us and restricts our movement and our thinking.  Saturn/Venus makes us feel unloved and incapable of loving; we lose our appreciation for things we once loved, and we can’t find substitutes.  At the same time Saturn can create a great hunger in us.  (This is the Moon operating as the polarity/dark side of Saturn.)  It creates an emptiness, the lack of lunar belonging.  Saturn/Moon can be a particularly difficult time.  For some reason, the Paul Simon song ‘America’ comes to mind, with its wandering, missed connection and its sense of random existential crisis.  Two lovers hope to find a home and end up in an even more uncertain state of mind. “Kathy, I’m lost,” I said, though I knew she was sleeping.  “I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why…” (America, copyright Paul Simon).

As bleak and dampening as Saturn can be, on its own, by transit, it’s reign is usually short-termed.  I think people make too much of Saturn transits; I find them unusually clear and straightforward.  Instead of indulging in the ‘downing,’ we should try to ask ourselves (and our charts) what Saturn is asking of us. Where have we remained immature or stymied?  What in our lives needs to go?  What do we need to change in order to act in a mature fashion, and not at the whim of the ego or will?  Wherever Saturn is, we must take responsibility, for others and for ourselves.  Saturn wants us to master the house it resides in; aspects to Saturn will help us do this.  Saturn will guide us to being wise men and women, with our feet on the ground and our heads full of plans and visions for the future.  How else does Saturn build?  Saturn transits are an opportunity for us to take stock of ourselves and our journey forward.  They usually have a practical bent as well as an emotional one.  With Saturn/Venus, for example, we may be longing for love and stability, but perhaps we are also overspending on baubles and toys and not putting enough aside to secure the future we’re dreaming of.  Saturn wants us to achieve, to accomplish, and we ignore him at our peril.

Saturn by progression is a more profound and more mysterious experience. We have to remember that progressions are a process.  A progressed planet in movement will first hit the natal position and then move on to hit the progressed position of another planet.  This is why I mainly focus on progressed to progressed positions, because this is where the action is.  Progressed to natal usually just prepares us for what is to come.  This is especially true of the faster moving personal planets.  However, if you think of the slower moving planets by progression (of which Saturn is one) a planet will come along and hit the natal position, initiating the aspect, spend time aspecting it, and will then move forward to hit the progressed position not long afterward, which will initiate the big changes (There are exceptions with retrogradation, but that is too much for this space.) .  The entire cycle may be years in the making by the time the faster moving planet moves out of orb.

A progression of  Mars to Saturn, will end at about the 4-5 year point. Progressed Venus to Saturn slightly less than three years. Progressed Sun to Saturn will last three years in orb, Progressed Moon to Saturn three months to natal Saturn and then three months to progressed Saturn (There is either a break in between or not depending on how far progressed Saturn has moved from natal in your progressed chart (not far, I assure you, especially if you’re under 50).

In our Alchemy groups, we have been studying the three stages of The Great Work:  Nigredo, Albedo, and Rubedo.  The Nigredo, our first step in the process, is all about the blackness, all about the living death.  Alchemy is, essentially, the philosophy of change and how that relates to authenticity. We begin with the blackening.

Part Two Next Time

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