The Planets: Jupiter and Saturn

by Dana Gerhardt

Saturn's chicken bone and Jupiter's magic tablecloth

Years ago I took a Level One astrology test sponsored by a local astrology group; this is the closest I've come to being officially certified as an astrologer. What I most remember about the test is not that I passed it, but that I got one question wrong (much to the horror of my perfectionist Virgo Ascendant). For the planetary equivalent of "teacher," I wrote "Jupiter." A bright red pen had crossed this out and written "Saturn" instead. I was dumbfounded. I remembered my grammar school teachers. They were Jupiter's angels. Inspiring, enthusiastic, they offered plenty of freedom to develop my gifts. Saturn types? No way.

I imagined a Saturn teacher: humorless and dull, or worse, some grim-faced, ruler-snapping autocrat, assigning dreary numbers to compute and tedious facts to memorize. Saturn does bring lessons. And teachers are authorities (a Saturn word). But "teacher" and "Saturn" just weren't emotional equivalents for me. Here was another elementary astrology rule I had apparently missed. Nor was it the only time I'd find these two planets fully capable of dancing in each other's shoes.

On the surface, no pair of planets appears more opposite. Jupiter is expansive, billowing with opportunities, increase, generosity, good luck, and good fortune. Saturn solidifies and contracts. It brings obstacles, sorrows and delays; also structure, responsibility, effort, and achievement. Traditional astrology calls one the "Greater Benefic" and the other the "Greater Malefic." But these grand old titles have shredded somewhat in the winds of contemporary culture. We no longer count on consistent bounty from Jupiter, nor grief from Saturn. Today the planets' luck or misfortune seems to rely more on what we make of them. And if we go too far in either direction, we'll find that one planet inevitably takes us to the other. Push our luck with confident Jupiter and its careless arrogance will drop us on Saturn's doorstep of loss and despair. When we drive down Saturn's long and lonely road, working and striving, taking nothing for granted, we'll eventually find Jupiter's good luck rising to meet us. Rather than being rulers of two distant and very different kingdoms, each is a necessary wheel on our little pushcart of success.

An optimistic Jupiter can loosen the grip of an inadequate or fearful Saturn, just as a responsible Saturn can realize the here-today-gone-tomorrow enthusiasms of a restless Jupiter. Jupiter dangles the carrot while Saturn wields the stick. Jupiter points us to the future and Saturn grounds us with the past. The philosopher in Jupiter ponders life's meanings, the monk contemplates god's truths, the explorer braves new territories, while the builder, executive and statesman in Saturn ensure that we have universities, churches and roads for our journeys. Jupiter is the eternal child, Saturn the wise elder. Together this fool and fuddy duddy bring the antagonistic and complementary pulls of expansion and contraction, faith and skepticism, luck and diligence, adventure and practicality-or as Caroline Casey calls them, "Haagen-Dazs" and "brown rice."

Jupiter and Saturn are the "social planets," orbiting between the personal planets (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars) and the transpersonal (Uranus, Neptune, Pluto). While the personal planets symbolize our inner world, Jupiter and Saturn represent society-the outer world. Their conjunction every twenty years signals a social shift, a new wave of cultural expectations and experiences; this crests at their opposition and dissolves into another new wave at their next conjunction. In the birth chart they suggest our societal fate, based what we hope is possible "out there" and what we fear is not. At the visible limits of our solar system, this good cop/bad cop duo patrol our personal unknown, all that mystery beyond us-which is everything really, until experiences are interpreted by this pair and crystallized into a point of view. That's the insidious part: what Jupiter and Saturn discover about our world eventually becomes our world. Conditioned to expect certain experiences, we'll either use Jupiter and Saturn as springboards to reach our highest potential or as giant barriers to hold us back. Indeed, as the reality structure inherited from our elders and the freedom to transcend the same, Saturn and Jupiter are the de facto architects of our world.

Given their importance, it's wise to wonder what stories these two planets hold in any chart. Unfortunately we can't always predict this with astrology alone.

I have Saturn in the 3rd house of communication, siblings and elementary education. This suggests early difficulty with one or all of these things-none of which occurred for me. My sister and I did fight, but we played together too. In first grade I loved writing and speaking so much, I declared I'd become a writer or a speaker. Grammar school was heaven. Why was I so happy at school? Perhaps it's because of Jupiter in my 10th house of public reputation and authorities. I viewed my teachers through Jupiter's filter; their encouragement made learning exciting and rewarding. I was more fearful of my mother's criticisms at home (Saturn squaring my Moon). Not wanting the same disapproval at school, I internalized Saturn, doing my homework diligently and observing all the rules. Saturn and Jupiter are connected by a sesquiquadrate in my chart. This is typically an aspect of friction, but for me they worked together well. My 10th house Jupiter soared, bringing plenty of recognition and academic accolades. My 3rd house Saturn grounded me, so that I worked hard for every honor.

Recently I met a woman eager to have me look at her son's chart. An astrologer had worried her by suggesting his 3rd house Saturn would give him problems with school. Based on my own experience (and a nicely placed Jupiter in his chart), I might have happily reassured her. Yet my son has the same planets I do: a 10th house Jupiter sesquiquadrate a 3rd house Saturn (also in tension with his Moon). At four and a half, with less than a year of preschool under his belt, he told me, "I don't need anymore school." He's now in middle school, and so relaxed about completing his assignments, there's usually a D among his A's and B's. Except for football and socializing, school is not his thing. This raises an unpleasant truth about astrology: What works in one chart may not work the same in another. And even in the same chart, what's true at one life stage may not be true in the next one.

I learned this quickly once I started doing readings. I thought it would be great (and safe) to start with Jupiter's "good news." But when I suggested how lucky or prosperous someone was in their Jupiter house, I often got a blank stare, or a head shaking in disagreement. "That's where I'm lucky? I don't think so..." Approaching Saturn's house, I'd venture this was where life was hard. "Not really," many would say. What's bad about this kind of reading (besides eroding the confidence of the astrologer) is that it invalidates the client's self-understanding. I once took a beginning astrology class where a student disputed his "luck" in the Jupiter house. Rather than explore other ways Jupiter could manifest, the teacher simply shamed the student for not realizing his good fortune there.

Astrologers have to work as hard at listening as they do at delineation-uncovering how the chart is working in the person, rather than forcing the person into their interpretation of the chart. After one of the first astrology readings I ever had, I cried all the way home. The astrologer hadn't asked me a single question. But after looking at my 10th house Jupiter ruling my Sagittarius Sun (potential indicators for foreign travel), he decided I should become a translator for the United Nations, or some kind of world servant, teaching the disadvantaged in countries around the globe. He was quite excited about what he was reading. He didn't know that a) I had a fear of flying and b) I had come with a passionate but anxiety-filled dream of a career as a writer. I timidly asked about the writing. Perhaps it didn't fit his picture of a 3rd house Saturn. He brushed the question aside and didn't notice the more he talked, the more dejected I became. I left his reading severely doubting myself and my life plans. It would be months before I'd let myself dream of being a writer again.

The irony is that had I met him twenty years earlier, his reading would have been right on target. When I was nine I did think of becoming a translator or joining the Peace Corps. When I was five I wanted to be an airline stewardess so I could travel around the world. When I was sixteen, I thought I would become a lawyer (also Jupiter-ruled). During my first year of college I majored in diplomacy and international politics (Jupiter again). Later I taught at a local college (more Jupiter). True to this planet's reputation, I never met an obstacle in Jupiter directions. But none of them stuck. If an astrologer had proclaimed that Jupiter in my 10th made me lucky in career, being blind to my own good fortunes, I would have strongly disagreed. In my twenties and thirties, my professional life was scattered and ultimately a let-down. It wasn't until my forties that I felt lucky there again.

Planets are dynamic; they hold our stories too. Perhaps we can understand them better if we use stories along with our predictive keyword formulas. In that spirit, I offer two tales from the Brothers Grimm [1] , one for Jupiter and one for Saturn. Imagine as you read, the curtain drawing back on your Saturn or Jupiter. Drop the players in front of the familiar scenery of your own experience. Perhaps you'll find something to refresh the journeys with these two planets in your chart.

In "The Seven Ravens," a man and woman have seven sons; they long for a daughter. After years of waiting, the woman finally gives birth to a girl, but the child is so puny and sickly, she's not expected to live beyond her christening. The father sends his sons to the well to draw the christening water, but in the boys' haste, the pitcher falls into the well. Afraid of their father's wrath and not knowing what to do, the boys are paralyzed. Back at home, the unchristened baby is dying and the man grows so angry at his sons, he curses, "They should be ravens!" At that, the seven sons turn into coal-black ravens and fly away.

Seven is a Saturn number [2] and ravens are a Saturn bird. Even without these symbol keys, we know this is his story from the themes of disappointment, waiting, and fear. In Saturn's house, or via planets it aspects, what we want does not come quickly or easily. We meet circumstances we can't control. The baby doesn't come-creative efforts don't bear fruit. The pitcher disappears-we make mistakes and suffer losses. We disappoint, and are disappointed by, our father-love and approval may be denied. This certainly sounds "malefic," but it's an education too. Through Saturn we meet our limits and touch reality's cold hard face. We are initiated into the realm of time and form, which is slower and less compliant than our dreams.

Grieved at losing their sons, the man and woman find consolation in their baby daughter, who miraculously grows stronger and more beautiful every day. Mom and dad never mention her brothers, because they want to protect the girl from discovering her birth caused them to disappear. Excuse me? Didn't the father have a hand in it-the one whose sons were so afraid of him, they couldn't go home after losing a silly water pitcher-you know, the guy who wished his sons into ravens?

Responsibility in a dysfunctional family is often the hot potato that gets tossed around, landing in the hands of the one least able to defend against it. When authority figures (the Saturn role models) act shameless and blameless, who carries their guilt? The children. This is what's meant by calling Saturn "karmic." There's a burden of history in its placement. There may indeed be some past life wrong that Saturn wants to redress. But don't discount the guilt, inadequacy and fear that get passed down through generations of a family, wearing on each one's psyche, as they work furiously to project it away. In other words, the false and limiting beliefs carried in your Saturn placement may not be your own!

Whatever is missing at the beginning of a fairy tale is significant: it represents the quality that can heal its characters. In Saturn's story, a daughter is missing-the feminine principle-emblem for fertility, receptivity, intuition, and emotional sensitivity. After a girl is finally born, the water pitcher-yet another feminine symbol-is broken. The father is neither vulnerable nor compassionate, and lacking the strength to contain his own feelings, he issues a curse that destroys his family. It may seem strange that patriarchal Saturn's journey requires developing the feminine, but the fairy tale reminds us that without compassion or humility, the years may just make us older, but not wise. It takes the receptivity and sensitivity of the water element to grow an elder. Rigidity (unwatered earth) makes us barren and old.

At some point we'll become aware in our Saturn house of some previously unconscious curse-an old belief, a toxic thought, a limiting defense mechanism installed when we felt powerless and out of control. Once we see the problem, what can we do about it? We must take the daughter's journey. After learning about her brothers from a neighbor, she sets out to undo the curse. She takes responsibility, an empowering Saturn word. Note how different this is from her brothers' inaction. Paralyzed by Saturn's guilt and fear, they stopped their journey short, as ravens, something less than their true potential. At various times we may play any of these Saturn characters: the shameless parents, old but not wise, the brothers, fearful and inexperienced, or the determined girl, unafraid of the difficult path ahead.

Our heroine travels to the ends of the earth, where she is frightened by the Sun, who is hot and eats little children (ego can devour our innocence). The Moon is cold and creepy too (emotional patterns resist our growth). Yet finally, she meets some friendly stars (along with a good astrologer?) who offer useful information. She is told she will find her brothers locked in Glass Mountain and is given a magic chicken bone that will unlock its gate. Carefully our heroine wraps the precious bone in a cloth, but when she reaches Glass Mountain, the bone has disappeared. Undaunted, the girl cuts off her finger and inserts it into the lock. The mountain opens and her brothers are released.

That our heroine cuts off her own finger is significant. It suggests that whatever we've learned in our Saturn house, we must make our own. Saturn's effectiveness increases when we add our own flavor to whatever we've received from tradition, parents or teachers--becoming the new authority in this house. Only then will our bright potential, like the seven brothers, be released. In this way Saturn is transformative. The inner child becomes a competent and compassionate inner adult.

And now for Jupiter's story. In "The Knapsack, the Hat, and the Horn," three brothers grow so poor they're nearly starving; they decide to try their luck in the world. Saturn would roll his eyes and moan, "It's about time, idiots!" Saturn instructs with judgment and criticism. But Jupiter's style is open and allowing, encouraging our learning through exploration and discovery. We often meet early luck in our Jupiter house (or through planets it aspects). But when this runs out, we may be slow to feel our pain, like a bankrupt heir, living high on friends and credit cards, believing good fortune is surely just around the corner. With Jupiter we feel young and unhurried-like our whole life is still ahead of us. But at some point we need to get into motion, to find the good luck that's waiting around the bend.

The brothers reach a forest and discover a mountain of silver. One brother exclaims, "This is the good luck I've been searching for!" and he carries the silver back home. The other two want more from life than a mountain of silver, so they keep traveling. They come to another forest and another mountain. This one is pure gold. The second brother is in a quandary: "Should I take enough gold to last me for the rest of my life, or keep seeking?" Eventually he decides to stuff his pockets with gold and go home.

There's more than one kind of luck in the world. Saturn's luck comes from persistence and hard work (as in those "overnight" sensations who've toiled for years). Jupiter's luck seems to drop from the sky. But we wouldn't be there to catch it if it weren't for Jupiter's appetite for wonderful things. Jupiter is the guru tantalizing us with stories of enlightenment, the entrepreneur envisioning a glorious return. Its big expectations and confident optimism create an aura of success that others can sense-which is why Jupiter is a talented salesman. Our Jupiter house indicates where we want to move towards greatness, where we're meant to keep expanding beyond current boundaries. When we're on a Jupiter quest, no matter what's in front of us, we're prone to dream of something better that is not.

"Ha!" says the third brother, "Silver and gold mean nothing to me. I expect even more fabulous things to come my way." He keeps going, through forest upon forest, until he is faint with hunger. He climbs to the top of a tree, and sees nothing but treetops for miles. "I just wish I could fill my belly," he says. And lo and behold, at the base of the tree, he discovers a tablecloth loaded with food. "For once," he says, "my wish has come true!" (Finding the mountains of silver and gold don't count?) He eats his fill, folds the tablecloth into his knapsack, and continues on his way. At evening he's again hungry. He takes out the tablecloth. "I wish you were filled with food again." To his surprise, food appears! Realizing he's got a magic tablecloth, he thinks, "This is the luck I've been searching for!" Then he quickly adds, "But I can't go home with just a tablecloth." So on he travels, seeking more treasure.

We do need to keep moving in our Jupiter house, but it's a tricky business. We've got such an appetite (and yes, quite literally we can get fat). The greatest challenge may be sticking with something and seeing it all the way through. Our good luck can fizzle when too many projects draw our enthusiasm. Or we may neglect to enjoy the fortune that does arrive. If you're feeling less than lucky in your Jupiter house (or with the planets it aspects), you may need to start a new quest. What's your vision of success here? If your first response is "I don't know," keep probing. There is a vision here (probably several). Focus on the one that gets your feet itching to move. And if this doesn't work, build on the good luck Jupiter has already brought. Make a list of all your Jupiter gratitudes. This is like laying down the magic tablecloth-for every blessing that's acknowledged invites another one to come.

Time is required for the journey in Saturn's house. The past may figure heavily in this area of life-as a nurturing tradition or a family curse that takes time, work and patience to undo. But this is how your inner child grows wise. Jupiter's house needs spaciousness--the freedom to be a seeker. And because your Jupiter journey may never be complete, this is where, as Bob Dylan sings, you get to "stay forever young." Jupiter and Saturn will teach you so much about yourself and your world, one by way of aspiration, the other by perspiration, together they can bring you great success. And if you ever take an astrology test that asks for the planetary equivalent of "teacher," I hope you'll want to name them both!


1. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Grimms' Tales for Young and Old, trans. Ralph Manheim, Doubleday, 1977.
2. The astronomical Saturn has seven rings, seven icy moons, and the astrological Saturn squares, opposes or conjunct its natal position every seven years, which means everyone experiences their first Saturn square around seven years old.

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