Written by Joe G. Santos
We can run away from many things in life, but being and doing is not one of them. A substantial part of life revolves around work and repetition, and to simply exist means that you are caught in the middle of this never-ending systematic dance. However, that is not to say that work and routine cannot be enjoyable. Whether we are grateful or spiteful of this labor is only a matter of perspective. This flow of life is much exemplified in the myth Sisyphus from Greek mythology. This man's entire life consisted of pushing a massive boulder up and down a hill every day, never stopping. Still, to make sense of this apparent laborious misery, Sisyphus must find ways to come to terms with his inevitable fate. Every day he learns new ways of pushing the boulder, making it more comfortable with every new track up and down the hill. In astrology, the planet Saturn speaks of these unavoidable tasks and the systems which we create to make them second nature to our daily lives. It is understandable how these energies may seem harsh to deal with from time to time, but the difficulty remains only as long as we are unprepared. Saturn's stern fatherly power can be sharp and direct, yet it seeks to train and strengthen us to deal with the harsher aspects of life head-on. Every rose has its thorns. With that in mind, what can we learn from this prickly yet beautiful planet?
Before Rome had coined Saturn's name in mythos, the planet and god was known as Cronus. There is much to be learned from this entity's original tale. However, the way these lessons were delivered is through a story of power, failure, and the gruesome reality of vengeance.
Cronus' story starts with his father, Uranus.
Before the Olympian Greek gods we are familiar with took rulership, the primordial divinities Uranus (the god of the skies and heavens) and Gaia (the goddess of the earth) ruled the world. Though Uranus was a terrible father to his offspring, they had many children. Amongst them, there were the Titans, the Cyclops, and the Hecatoncheires, but as they were born, the god of the Skies killed them one by one because he deemed them ugly. To save her children, Gaia asks for Cronus' help to dethrone his father. The Titan Cronus succeeds in his mother's mission and then becomes the new ruler of our world. However, upon his father's defeat, the vanquished primordial Uranus prophesizes that one of Cronus' children will do to him as he had done to his father. With that, Cronus was destined to fall from his throne. Despite this terrible augury, eons would go by before it's fulfillment. To prevent his kingship's demise, Cronus repeats his father's awful deeds and kills his children one by one as they are born. Moreover, the prophecy drove the Titan so mad that he brought his children the most gruesome death: he cannibalized them upon birth. One day, however, Cronus is outsmarted by his wife Rhea and his newborn son, Zeus, who then fulfills the prophecy by reviving all his cannibalized siblings to aid him on dethroning and banishing his father.
Through this macabre myth, Saturn speaks of the acceptance of the inevitable. The planet points us to the hidden laws and systems at work, made to ensure that everything in life runs perfectly. Whether we accept such methods or not is irrelevant, but the consequences of attempting to go against it are made very clear. Uranus deemed creation not beautiful enough, while Cronus failed to accept the fleeting nature of power, and for that, they were both brutally taken down. In this way, Saturn's relationship with time is made very apparent. The very name Cronus stems from the Greek word for time: Khronos.
Like Saturn, we are all the clock's hostages. Time is one of the very few things in life that we can embrace with certainty. In a way, it is the ultimate system that instigates creation and change. Though, as much as we need this force to experience the beauty of being, it is also the same thing that will one day bring our temporary carnal existence to an end. This fact can be a tough one to accept, but Saturn urges us to understand and work with this inevitability instead of pushing against it. The planet points us to our roles in maintaining life's progression as though we are all gears in the most elaborate clock ever made. When we accept that we come into life with a divine job, it shifts our perspective toward the pain of labor. Much like childbirth can be one of the most excruciating natural pains a human can experience, it is also the catalyst of a new life filled with endless opportunity. Saturn reminds us of the sovereignty within the things we have to do in the hopes that by knowing and understanding your existence's grandiosity, you get to a state of wanting to do them, like Sisyphus and the boulder.
We see the bliss that comes from acceptance illustrated in Cronus's ultimate fate, which often varies depending on who tells you this story. In one of the versions after his defeat, he is exiled to Tartarus. Though in the other, he goes to Elysium. Let's take a moment to explore each of these mythological sites to illuminate how the planet's polarities are interconnected with our sense of responsibility and discipline. Suppose Saturn's exile to Tartarus speaks of failing to embrace the laborious aspects of life, and that Elysium represents the tangible rewards of accepting your duty and exercising discipline.
In Greek mythology, Tartarus is the fiery abyss where the gods expelled the Titans and other superhuman beings. We can compare Tartarus to the Hell from Christian ideology at first glance, yet both places are somewhat different. This fictional site is to the gods what prison is to humans. As terrible as the area is, there is still a sense of status attached to it. The beings sent to Tartarus were flawed and too powerful to be contained in "regular" hell. The real punishment here is having all the power in the world and being unable to use it.
Additionally, in typical Greek mythology fashion, Tartarus is both a location and a deity. Related to Gaia and Uranus, Tartarus is one of the primordial gods that assisted with the creation of All. This entity's primordial status serves as an illustration of the essential nature of suffering and karma. The Buddhist's First Noble Truth comes to mind: To live is to suffer.
Saturn's exile demonstrates the pain that an unhinged attachment to the ego can bring. His removal is symbolic of the mindset triggered upon surrender to the flesh's lustful desires. In this scenario, Saturn fails to see a bigger purpose to the way his life has unfolded. His attachment to power clouded his vision as he could not use the opportunity to raise his children to become great leaders, consequently continuing to be the indirect perpetrator of progress even beyond his ruling years. That brings us to the Second Buddhist Noble Truth: Suffering arises from attachment to desires.
Now, Saturn is not just all doom and gloom. The planet also shows us what lies on the other end of accepting our responsibility as beings who exist in this Universe. In the alternate ending where Zeus sends the planet-god to guard Elysium, we see that acceptance and discipline are divinely rewarded. In the afterlife theories of the greeks, Elysium is one of the more heaven-like places of the underworld. It was believed to be where gods sent the Heroes and other noble beings. In this place, the inhabitants could even choose where and who they would reincarnate into their next carnal life. But an essential feature of this heaven that helps us understand what we can gain from selflessly working for the greater good of all is that in Elysium, all souls are free from labor. This paradoxical reward, when interpreted as a symbol, brings us great insight.
In the last section of this text, we compare the First and Second Buddhist Noble Truths to Saturn's exile into Tartarus. In the Elysium version of the story, we can take this comparison a step further by looking at the Third Noble Truth: Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases. Here we see that it is only when Saturn accepts that his kingship is not everlasting that his real purpose is revealed. He no longer wishes for anything that does not belong to him. This new role as the guardian of all heroes shows us the benevolent side of Saturn as the father who embraces all who accept their calling, whatever that may be. In a way, Saturn facilitates the destruction of the illusory self, which we create based on a sense of lack and wanting, and in turn, he points us in the right direction towards inner and outer harmony. Even though we may resist or disagree with that mission at first, when we surrender to the flow of creation, we find ourselves navigating life with a lot more ease.
Upon analyzing this myth, we get a more sophisticated understanding of Saturn's astrological and philosophical meaning. The harsh depiction of the inevitable hard-work that life requires of us sometimes is softened with the sense of importance that the planet also illuminates within us. Now, the real question is: How do I know if I am following my purpose?
Now, surely no one reading this wants to be sent to a personal Tartarus, but unfortunately, that is a question that nobody can answer easily. You cannot outsource your sense of purpose. You are the only person acquainted with your emotions well enough to discern what resonates with your skillset and life experiences. Even if we may not be reliable to ourselves from time to time, we are the ones in charge of keeping that inner trust healthy by achieving the goals you set for yourself. Saturn's astrological harshness is simply that energy that pushes us ever closer to the discipline needed to solidify the trust in our role and ourselves.
While speaking of a cosmic part, a disclaimer needs to be made. It is supplemental to our well-being to not be so hung up on a predetermined destiny. Saturn does not invite us to embrace our roles like a dictator; it merely gives us a blank slate and a set of rules to work with to create that role from the ground up. The soul's mission is to serve the higher good, but there is an infinite number of ways to achieve it. Still, no matter your choice of labor, diligence is needed in all aspects of life. As threatening and intimidating as it may seem to find "the reason why I am here," Saturn's slow movement around the sun also tells us that figuring all of that out takes time. Even the planet-god himself had to make a few mistakes until he finally found himself again as the guardian of Elysium. To put it simply, we all have a responsibility to make this world a healthy environment for all creatures to live a blessed life (that, of course, includes ourselves). Still, making that happen takes restless work and trust in both the process, the mission, ourselves, and each other.
About the author: Joe G. Santos
Writer, Thinker, and Visionary. Through writing, I aim to clarify the most pressing questions about human behavior and world issues, pointing to practical resolutions in an entertaining and accessible manner. You can find my work and contact me at https://www.joegwriting.com/.
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