Saturn in Sagittarius: The Skeptic, the Architect and the Luddite

Saturn in Sagittarius: Skeptics and Reformers, Persecution and Extremists

Another feature of Saturn’s transits through Sagittarius is the scrutiny or corruption of articles of faith, religious or otherwise. It tends to be especially prevalent for nativities and events surrounding notable controversies in the realms of religion and science. Saturn seems to scrutinize these topics through skeptics, critics and reformers of faithful ideas, relics and institutions. At the same time, Saturn seems to corrupt articles of faith, leading some to justify persecution, extremism and terrorism in the name of faith. What follows is not a comprehensive list by any means, just some of the most popularly known examples.

Protestant Reformation

October 31st 1517: Martin Luther nails his 95 Theses to the door of the All Saints' Church in Wittenburg, GermanyMartin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on a church door launching the Protestant Reformation, on October 31st 1517.((“Ninety-five Theses”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 10 Jan. 2015
<>.)) Saturn was at 27 Sagittarius. Luther’s scholarly rebuke of the Catholic Church’s practice of indulgences was a clear Saturnian judgment of a Sagittarian institution. Pope Leo X underestimated the power and resonance of Luther’s critique and did not provide meaningful reform which led to one of the most significant schisms in the history of Christianity. Pope Leo X experienced transiting Saturn conjunct his natal Sun at the time Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses.

A Saturn Return later, the Catholic Church finally  formally responded to the alleged heresies of Protestantism with the Council of Trent, which began on December 13th 1545 when Saturn was at 17 Sagittarius.((“Council of Trent”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 10 Jan. 2015
<>.)) Strangely, Luther’s death occurred shortly afterward on February 15th 1546, when Saturn was at 23 Sagittarius.((“Martin Luther | Biography – German Religious Leader.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2015. <>.)) The last time Saturn was at that degree was September 1517, when Luther was surely working on his 95 Theses.

Gunpowder Plot

On November 5th 1605, Catholic conspirator Guy Fawkes was arrested for trying to blow up Parliament and kill the King, so as The Gunpowder Plot Conspiratorsto install a Catholic head of state. Saturn was at 23 Sagittarius. The head of the Gunpowder Plot was not Guy Fawkes however, it was Robert Catesby. We do not have a birthdate for Catesby, but we do know he was born in 1573. During that year, Saturn transited 20 Scorpio-5 Sagittarius. Catesby likely came up with the Gunpowder Plot as early as May 1603, and Saturn was in Sagittarius at that time.((“Robert Catesby”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 10 Jan. 2015
<>.)) He was killed in the days after Fawkes’s capture. Advancing one’s religious ideals in such an extreme way is well represented by Saturn in Sagittarius, as a Saturnization of Sagittarian ideals.

Galileo Affair

Galileo Galilei was formally imprisoned on June 22nd 1633 by the Catholic Church for his refusal to stop advocating for the truth of heliocentrism.((“Galileo | Biography – Italian Philosopher, Astronomer and Mathematician.”Encyclopedia Britannica Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2015. <>.)) Saturn was at 5 Sagittarius. Galileo’s inconvenient truths represented a Saturnian thorn in the side of a Sagittarian institution, and history has not looked fondly at the Church’s treatment of Galileo. On the day he was imprisoned, transiting Saturn was at 5 Sagittarius, exactly square his natal Sun at 5 Pisces, opposite his natal Neptune at 5 Gemini, and approaching a conjunction to his natal Uranus at 7 Sagittarius. This configuration signifies someone capable of extraordinary insights and imagination being confronted with a significant limitation from religious authorities.

Salem Witch Trials

Salem Witchcraft TrialsBetween February 1692 and May 1693((Hoffer, Peter Charles. The Salem Witchcraft Trials: A Legal History. Lawrence, Kan.: U of Kansas, 1997. 1. Print.)), several Puritan towns in Massachusetts charged over 200 people of practicing witchcraft, and 20 were executed. Saturn transited from 9-23 degrees of Sagittarius in this time. Puritan minister Cotton Mather had a huge hand in the trials by lending his influential opinion to the courts that “spectral evidence” should be allowed in court. Cotton Mather was born with Saturn at 15 Sagittarius, and so he experienced his Saturn return during the trials. Public outrage at the Salem Witch Trials provided a great challenge to the legitimacy of religious authority and notions of justice, both significant themes of Saturn in Sagittarius.

Charles Darwin

Charles DarwinCharles Darwin was born when Saturn was at 3 Sagittarius. In September 1838, Darwin read Malthus’ Essay on the Principle of Population.((“Evolution by Natural Selection: The London Years, 1836-42.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2015. <>.)) It provided a key insight that allowed him to make sense of the varieties of life he’d spent years observing, and thus began to develop his theory of evolution through natural selection. Darwin experienced transiting Uranus conjunct his Mercury in Pisces in this time, reflective of the flash of sudden insight he received. He was just 3 months away from his Saturn Return in Sagittarius, another signal that his idea would be especially important to his overall life’s work.

He was also very aware about how controversial his theory was to the creationist establishment of his time. He was even afraid of telling the woman he planned to marry! On December 19th 1832, he witnessed a brutal interrogation of his former teacher by biologists at the Geological Society of London for promoting the “heresies” of Lamarck, an early proponent of non-religious explanations of life’s origins.((Desmond, Adrian J., and James R. Moore. Introduction. Darwin. New York: Warner, 1991. 274. Print.)) Saturn was at 4 Sagittarius, right after Darwin’s Saturn Return in Sagittarius.

Having seen the virulent reaction to theories of evolution and with a lot to lose, Darwin would decline to publish his thoughts until 20 years later with On the Origin of the Species, (when Uranus in Gemini was square his Mercury in Pisces). Fear associated with the frontier of knowledge, progress and exploration is a common theme of Saturn in Sagittarius. This was present both for the creationists afraid of evolution’s implications for literal interpretations of religious texts and for Darwin who feared their reprisal.

For anyone curious, the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial was a Uranus Return in Pisces since Darwin first developed the theory of evolution. It wasn’t until January 17th 1927 once Saturn moved into Sagittarius that the state of Tennessee overturned the Scopes decision. (( Saturn was at 4 Sagittarius, just after a posthumous Saturn Return for Charles Darwin.

Skeptics and Debunkers

James Randi is widely considered to be the founder of the modern skeptical movement. He was born when Saturn was at 12 Sagittarius. He is best known for investigating and dramatically debunking paranormal claims and pseudoscience, including astrology. (The irony of his inclusion in this article, or indeed this entire section, is not lost on me). Several other prominent critics of pseudoscience and religion were also born during Saturn in Sagittarius periods – Ray Hyman((Lazo, John A. American Psychological Association 1968 Directory. 1st ed. Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association, 1969. 441. Print.)), Neil deGrasse Tyson((Current Biography Yearbook. Comp. H.W. Wilson Company. Vol. 61. Ann Arbor: H. W. Wilson, 2000. 567. Print.)), Bill Maher and Stephen Fry.

In 1957, Martin Gardner’s book Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science became very popular, and is now considered a sort of founding document for the modern skeptical movement.((Higginbotham, Adam. “The Unbelievable Skepticism of the Amazing Randi.”The New York Times. N.p., 08 Nov. 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2015. <>.)) The 1956-1958 Saturn in Sagittarius period was important for all kinds of skeptical and scientific thinking in general, especially as a side effect of the Sputnik crisis. The success of Sputnik forced Americans to acknowledge the necessity of advancement in science for ending and surviving the Cold War. The US got serious about science and education, with the launching of their own satellites, the establishment of NASA and the National Defense Education Act. This newfound seriousness towards education and science was well reflected by Saturn in Sagittarius.

The 1986-1988 Saturn in Sagittarius period featured the Challenger and Chernobyl disasters that required the dedication of scientific thinking, similar to the Sputnik crisis from the previous Saturn in Sagittarius period. Additionally, this is when some prominent skeptics got their start. Richard Dawkins first waded into theological controversies when he published The Blind Watchmaker in 1986.((Ghiselin, Michael T. “WE ARE ALL CONTRAPTIONS.” The New York Times. N.p., 13 Dec. 1986. Web. 27 Jan. 2015. <>.)) Neil deGrasse Tyson got his first job as an astronomy professor over the course of his Saturn Return in Sagittarius in 1987.((DeGrasse Tyson, Neil. “Curriculum Vitae.” Hayden Planetarium. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2015. <>.)) Bill Nye quit his job as an engineer to pursue entertainment on October 3rd 1986 when Saturn conjoined his Sun in Sagittarius to go on to become “the Science Guy”.((Kessler, Sarah. “How Bill Nye Became The Science Guy. And A Ballet Shoe Inventor. And a Political Voice.” Fast Company. N.p., 01 Oct. 2012. Web. 24 Jan. 2015. <>.))

8 thoughts on “Saturn in Sagittarius: The Skeptic, the Architect and the Luddite”

  1. This is a great article Patrick, so well researched and eloquently detailed….thank you for writing such a thorough another foreshadowing perhaps, I just read an article by Stacy Schiff in the Sept 7 New Yorker: The Witches of Salem: Terror in New England, 1692

    Best to you and your family.


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