On December 17th 2020, Saturn will be entering Aquarius in the tropical zodiac. Aquarius might possibly be the least understood sign of the zodiac so I wanted to shed some light on the nature of this sign through theory and analogy. Part of the confusion surrounding this sign has to do with disagreement about which planet it is ruled by. This is because modern astrology holds Uranus to rule Aquarius while the logic and pattern of the rulership system itself means that Saturn is the only planet that even could rule Aquarius. I come down pretty firmly on the side of Saturn being the true ruler of this sign. Several of the ways people describe Aquarius to be more “Uranian” can be better understood as Saturnian or perhaps even more properly, anti-Solar. I mean, I even made a whole snarky video about it.
However, even if you do take Saturn to be the ruler of Aquarius, there is sometimes some ambiguity about how to differentiate between Saturn’s two signs of Capricorn and Aquarius. Astrological theory tells us the main differences are the following:
|Trigon||Moon, Venus, Mars||Saturn, Mercury, Jupiter|
What this tells us is that while both environments would be in some basic sense Saturnian, they’re cold or harsh in different respects. Because Capricorn is nocturnal and earthy with nocturnal trigons, we could say it is a more physical/material sign. Because Aquarius is a diurnal airy sign with Mercury and Jupiter as trigons, we could say it is a more intellectual intangible sign. If Saturn in earthy Capricorn builds dense structures of metal and stone which puts pressure on the physical body, then airy Aquarius would represent wide open, harsh and unforgiving environments which put pressure on the mind and soul. Being far from central powers and civilization means figuring out how to survive with one’s own resources, doing things the hard way, discovering self-reliance.
If Saturn in Capricorn is hard lessons learned through confinement and restriction and the struggle to persevere through heavy burdens, then Saturn in Aquarius is hard lessons learned through exile and abandonment and the mental/spiritual struggle to persevere with no assistance or guiding light. If Saturn in Capricorn puts you in a box behind bars, Saturn in Aquarius leaves you stranded, left to your own devices. It’s the difficulty of bearing material burdens vs the difficulty of neglect and self-sufficiency. Imprisonment vs exile. A prison vs the middle of nowhere. The prisoner behind bars vs the outlaw in the wilderness.
Another reason Aquarius is tricky to describe is because its qualities of being a fixed air sign appear to be contradictory – how can something be both fluid and static? Gemini is easier to visualize as a Mercurial mutable air sign, as we can imagine the ways air moves around whimsically and chaotically, as well as when “twin” airs of different temperatures meet to create storms, whirlwinds and tornadoes. Similarly, Libra as a Venusian cardinal air sign evokes the way zephyrs and breezes can be pleasant, refreshing, cooling and odor-relieving. Aquarius as a Saturnian fixed air sign could be reflected by the cold stillness of dense winter air, or perhaps by fluids under pressure such as in pneumatics or refrigeration.
The inherent nature of Aquarius is “fuzzy” and contrarian, it relates to things which are primarily defined by what they’re not: a sign of non-local, non-material and non-standard states and environments. I’ve tried to depict this in the image below:
These axes describe consolidated (narrow) and distributed (wide) states of organization (grey), identity (orange), standards (blue) and matter (green). Aquarius is abstract rather than material, it’s contrarian rather than conforming to a standard, and nodally distributed as opposed to being hierarchical. It’s the only sign in this arrangement to be associated with all distributed states rather than consolidated states. It’s distributed, diffuse, decentralized. Like its element of air- you can’t see it directly, you can only see what it effects. You can’t point to it, because it’s sort of everywhere. You can’t hold it in your hand, it’s all around you.
Aquarius as Anti-Leo
Due to Mars and Saturn being raised up in Capricorn while the Moon and Jupiter are outcasts in the sign, we could say Capricorn is generally hostile to comforts and joy, a place of trial and punishment where only the strong and resilient thrive. Aquarius is quite different though, since the only planet that is out of place in Aquarius is the Sun. I believe Aquarius’s opposition to the Sun’s sign of Leo is the overlooked key to its interpretation as not just a Saturnian sign but more specifically as an anti-solar one.
The Sun in its own sign of Leo is regarded as having solar qualities of leadership and vision, exemplifying the creative will of the mind and soul, fit for figures of authority and status, those who are beheld in luminous royalty, whose names are in lights. After all, the planets literally revolve around the Sun, the center of our solar system. We might imagine Leo then, as a golden throne room fit for royalty, a place of centralized power.
If the Sun in Leo can be perceived as a king/queen or hero/ine, Saturn in Aquarius would most certainly be the villain or anti-hero. While the thrones of kings, heroes and stars are designed to be seen, the thrones of villains are always cast away, in underground lairs, icy enclaves and far-away fortresses. Just as the Sun shines brightly at the center of our solar system and Saturn is dim and flung out to the edge of visibility, Leonine regal palaces are centrally located while Aquarian villainous outposts are in the outskirts and perimeters, hard to find, in the middle of nowhere. Lucifer has his throne in hell. Batman has his Batcave underground. Darth Vader has his castle on Mustafar. The Grinch lives in a cave off a cliff outside of Whoville. Any generic Bond villain’s lair is always in some secret place. And so on.
Saturn in Aquarius as Villain and Anti-Hero
One analogy I find very fitting for Saturn in Aquarius sounds more controversial than it actually is: If the Sun is a God-like figure on its throne in Leo, then Saturn in Aquarius is a Satan-like figure à la Paradise Lost, a fallen angel exiled from heaven. John Milton’s Paradise Lost tells the story of the Fall of Man as described in the Old and New Testaments from the perspective of Lucifer. It’s remarkable insofar as the lengths he goes to make Lucifer a complex sympathetic figure, even a tragic protagonist or anti-hero. Lucifer’s critique of God is couched in the language of protest against a tyrannical, oppressive monarch. This can be read as Saturn’s critique of the Sun from Aquarius, or Saturn’s skepticism of the Sun’s unchecked power in Leo. Lucifer even says “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven“. After all, Saturn does reign in Aquarius, not Leo.
Another dramatic presentation of the way Saturn in Aquarius opposes the Sun in Leo comes from the introduction of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar where Judas (Saturn) lays out his criticisms of Jesus (the Sun) and fears about his fame in 70’s-tastic song format:
George Lucas made the theme of Saturnian darkness vs Solar light pretty stark and explicit throughout his offerings of Star Wars movies, although I think he unconsciously went further than he intended. Consider the original Star Wars trilogy where the audience is introduced to Luke Skywalker, who could not be a more solar character if he tried. Even the name Luke originally comes from the Latin name Lucius which means “the bright one” or “one born at dawn”. The full name Luke Skywalker then essentially means “the bright one that walks across the sky” which is a pretty roundabout but accurate way of describing the Sun. Luke is also associated with a warm desert planet lit by not one but two suns (perhaps a nod to Leia as the twin Sun?). The solar imagery associated with Luke is continued into the sequel trilogy at Luke’s death.
This solar figure Luke goes up against an imposing Saturnian figure clad in black whose mask evokes the grim stare of a skull, Darth Vader of course. Even the name Darth Vader sounds very close to “death” and “invader”, not to mention the homophonic connection to the Dutch word for “father”, appropriate since Vader ended up being Luke’s father. Instead of a hot sunny planet, Vader is associated with a cold Saturnian mechanical battle station that is mistaken for a Moon, the Death Star. This is interesting, given the Moon’s connection to Saturn (The Moon’s synodic cycle is ~29 days, Saturn’s orbital cycle is ~29 years). The Death Star has a distinctive trench around its middle, evoking Saturn’s ring. When Luke makes the Death Star explode, Saturn’s ring becomes that much more obvious.
Through the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Lucas provided an even more detailed portrait of Saturn through the story of Anakin Skywalker’s tragic descent into becoming Darth Vader. Anakin started off as an ostensibly solar figure like Luke but gradually fell to the dark side of the force through fear, anger, and hatred, which led to his suffering. Tragedy is most certainly a Saturnian drama. In a reflection of the complex interchanges between Solar and Saturnian archetypes, the Babylonian astral theological system sometimes refers to Saturn as the “Black Sun” or “Sun of the night”. Even Satan was first an angel, Lucifer. At various points in both trilogies Anakin/Vader played hero, anti-hero, villain and even anti-villain by the end of Return of the Jedi.
Say what you want about 2016’s Batman vs Superman movie, it’s one of the most literal depictions of the Leo-Aquarius axis out there. On the Sun in Leo side, we have Superman, a sunny hero held up as a monument who can fry you with his eyes. On the Saturn in Aquarius side, we have Batman who has his origins in the pain of his loss and his fear of bats and thrives in darkness. Superman literally powers up by basking in the Sun, while Batman responds to a beacon only visible at night. In the movie, Batman’s critique of Superman sounds a lot like Lucifer’s against God in Paradise Lost, in that he’s far too powerful to be trusted. Even just the trailer makes this ‘Superman as a solar god vs Batman as a saturnine anti-hero’ dynamic explicit.
Another dramatic presentation of the Leo/Aquarius axis for Disney fans out there is the juxtaposition of the protagonists of Tangled and Frozen, Rapunzel and Elsa respectively. Tangled is embedded with solar references: Rapunzel’s magical golden/glowing hair comes from a magical flower that grew from a “drop of sunlight”. All of the design and iconography for her kingdom is themed around the Sun, and the kingdom is even called “Corona”, the term for the ring of a solar eclipse. The people of Corona light lanterns in remembrance of Rapunzel’s disappearance, resulting in distinctive and spectacular luminous imagery in the movie. Essentially, Rapunzel goes from being an unknown imprisoned in a tower in the middle of nowhere to discovering who she really is, a royal leader who belongs in the center of power. In this sense we could say Rapunzel was the Sun which was exiled in Aquarius and eventually made her way back home to Leo.
Whereas Frozen is embedded with Saturnian references and themes: Elsa struggles with her icy powers, fearing their destructive potential to others after accidentally harming her sister. She fears this so greatly she is locked away from her sister her whole life and is closed off to everyone. She is forced to become queen after her parents died, a role she reluctantly accepts but gives up on the first night and runs away after her potentially violent powers are revealed. She finds joy and freedom in being by herself, exiling herself to her own icy castle on a mountain in the middle of nowhere. Even in Frozen II, she ultimately finds happiness by embracing her solitary nature and going where none can follow her. In this sense we could say Elsa was Saturn which was out of its element in the royal setting of Leo but eventually made her way back home to Aquarius.
Or if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you might see this dynamic at work in the relationship between the stoic Jon Snow (Saturn in Aquarius) and the fiery Daenerys Targaryen (Sun in Leo). Or Harry Potter vs. Voldemort. Or Neo vs Agent Smith. Or Austin Powers vs Dr. Evil. Or Thor vs Loki. Or Captain America vs Hydra. Or Rey Skywalker vs Ben Solo. You get the picture.
Aquarius, Science and Nerds
Aside from villains and anti-heroes, we can also lean into the more Mercurial dimension of Aquarius to find another Saturnian archetype which often finds itself in opposition to solar figures: the nerd. If the Sun in Leo is the high school football captain prom king of the solar system, Saturn in Aquarius would most certainly be the brilliant but awkward, overlooked and resentful nerd. The nerd doesn’t have the natural gifts bestowed upon the Sun in Leo, the nerd only has their own determination and grit to make something of themselves. Far from the glory of the stage and stadium, they’re working away in some remote place making their observations and calculations.
However, in our modern world we know that the outcast nerd has power. The nerds of yesteryear are today’s titans of industry. The 1991-1993 Saturn in Aquarius period was when the World Wide Web first came online and Linux became the world’s first open source operating system. The 1996-2003 Uranus in Aquarius timeframe was an explosive period for computers and the internet, roughly outlining the dot-com boom. The 2004-2012 Neptune in Aquarius period saw the emergence of the social media era, the digitalization of social networks. The 2023-2044 Pluto in Aquarius period is still to come. This is the only time I’d say that in a way, we are in an “Age of Aquarius”, where the nerds have usurped the thrones of power, with mixed results of course.
Science and technology in modern astrology is most often associated with Uranus, and this is understandable as it does appear that many Uranus transits coincide with technological breakthroughs. However, technology has existed long before electronics and long before Uranus was discovered. Mercury is probably a more appropriate planet to represent technology in the abstract because technological tools are inventions of the mind and hands, practical applications of logic and mechanics. Mercury is the primary planet associated with mental acuity, manual ability, logistics and innovation.
Uranus’s relationship to science and technology is less about the medium itself and more about the general notion of breakthroughs and breakdowns which are sometimes facilitated by technology but with consequences that extend across culture. Uranus transits coincide with truly novel unprecedented disruptions on the level of paradigm shifts within broad areas of society, not mere technological mishaps and shenanigans we tend to associate with mere Mercury retrogrades. However, transits through Aquarius do seem have a connection to science and technology. Part of this naturally comes from Aquarius being an intellectually-oriented air sign, so Mercury is the nocturnal trigon lord of Aquarius, but the other part has to do with its ruler, Saturn and its functions of rejection and exclusion.
Since Saturn rejects and excludes and in Aquarius is in direct opposition to the solar lights of gods and leaders in Leo, Saturn must rely on its own resources to get by in Aquarius and reconstruct its own knowledge instead of relying on received wisdom, faith or authority. This is why Aquarius is sometimes linked with atheism and empirical science, because it rejects solar egos, authorities and faiths, only tentatively affirming that which can be known in a narrow materialist sense. This is also why people with the Sun in Aquarius can alternately be quirky and eccentric or callous and corporate. In resisting the conventional solar principles of Leo, both ingenuity and coldness thrive in Aquarius.
Saturn is linked with the concept of agnoia in Hellenistic astrology which means “ignorance”. This doesn’t mean ignorance in the sense of stupidity as much as in the sense of ignorance about blind spots or in deliberately ignoring something. Part of the reason for this is likely because of the aspect relationships of Saturn’s signs to the signs of the lights. Saturn’s signs are not just opposite to the signs of the lights, but Cancer/Leo are also in aversion or 6th/8th house relationships to Aquarius/Capricorn.
The 6th/8th houses are “bad houses” or even “Saturnian houses” because they are unable to witness the Ascendant by whole sign aspect and accordingly have more negative topical associations. These houses have to do with things we deliberately avoid (illness/injuries in the 6th) or have no ability to see past (hidden matters/events following death in the 8th). After all, Aquarius is in the 8th place of the Thema Mundi, the house of death.
So Saturn’s agnoia is more closely related to blind spots or where we deliberately narrow our focus or engage in “narrow-minded” thinking. We typically think of narrow-mindedness as needlessly ignoring what’s around you but we also value this when we need to establish baseline facts irrespective of emotional considerations or personal biases or the larger picture. The scientific perspective limits what one can truly say can be known or what is knowable based on how it meets certain criteria in controlled settings, to find out what is relevant and to ignore that which is not. Saturn trades ignorance of some things in exchange for certainty about others. It is a continual process of doubt, criticism and elimination of variables which is undeniably Saturnian. This is how Aquarius is connected to the realm of science via Saturn, rather than Uranus. And what are scientific laboratories if not tightly controlled sterile austere environments where these principles of Saturn rule supreme? And what do you typically find in such Aquarian environments if not Saturnian figures, like nerds?
But all of this is just theory and analogy, what can we expect to see from Saturn in Aquarius in the real world? For that, you’ll just have to wait for my next article.