Table of Contents


Tarot Reflections


  February 15, 2003

Stars and Cards
Fighting the Law of Gravity:
An Essay on Saturn for Tarotists
Liz Hazel

Photo by Derek Sanderson

Elizabeth Hazel is an astrologer and tarotist who lives in Toledo, Ohio.  She has written extensively on techniques for combining stars and cards, and enjoys researching and writing about other occult topics, including mythology and history. 

Liz has 3 cats, loves to grow flowers and herbs, and plays keyboards for a band.  Her secret wish is to be a contestant on Jeopardy.  She can be contacted via email.


The aim of this series is to aid the tarotist in gaining useful information about astrology in order to assist clients. Current phenomenon will be featured in the series.

Until the 1780’s, Saturn was believed to be the outer-most planet in our solar system.  The ancients called this planet the Lord of Karma, and considered it a malefic (evil) influence in the sky.   Since the discovery of the 3 outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, Saturn’s reputation has improved.  The effects of the outer planets can be terrifying and impersonal.  At least with Saturn, a person retains the option to direct their conscious efforts toward overcoming obstacles. 

While Saturn will never be a cheery fellow like his son and planetary counterpart, Jupiter, some of the more terrible aspects of his influence have softened.  Key words for this planet include:  control, structure, stability, maturity, and endurance.  This planet rules bones, teeth and hair, and their diseases, and degeneration of that takes place in old age.  While the planet is still connected with difficulties, obstacles, and restrictions, it is also credited with the development of maturity, responsibility, accountability, self-discipline, and authority in mundane spheres.  Saturn is conservative, deliberate, and realistic - traits necessary for acquiring a fully formed character.

Saturn’s irregular orbit around the Sun requires about 28 or 29 years.  Thus, at 28-year increments, individuals experience a “Saturn Return.”  These lengthy cycles are Nature’s way of compelling the individual to cross the bridge between youth and adulthood or from adulthood to old age.  Some are more prepared for these transitions than others, but there are always notable events that occur during Saturn returns.  Because Saturn rules the form of the life path (also a 10th house function), fundamental structures of a lifetime generally follow the 28-year development-and-degradation pattern.  

Saturn’s cycle can be broken down into 7 year increments.  These increments, or quarters, signal Saturn aspects to the natal (birth) position.  If a person is at an age that is divisible by seven, chances are they are experiencing Saturn challenges.  The first complete Saturn cycle generally follows this developmental model:

Age 7: (waxing square) solidification of basic identity and nature; testing parental authority, learning right and wrong – basis of morality

Age 14: (opposition) fears of physical maturation/puberty, issues with self-control and defiance toward authority figures, gender-based issues, full awareness of external limits

Age 21: (waning square) fears of facing the real world, leaving the security of the parental nest and making initial personal decisions about life path

Age 28: (first Saturn return) sole responsibility for life-path decisions; personality solidifies; realization of limits of personal potential in the world, adolescent concepts of self degrade and fail.

By age 30, after the first Saturn return, one is expected to shoulder adult responsibilities in career, family and parenting areas.  Saturn’s first cycle boils down to accountability:  having the character to accept the responsibility for one’s actions, and no longer casting blame on the parents or family environment.  Typical events during this first return are dramatic career changes, marriage, becoming a parent, or ending an early marriage. 

Sometimes the onset of the Saturn return brings a phase of deep depression, which may be a form of grieving for the lost dreams and hopes of childhood.   Some experience a phase of de-conditioning, as they become aware that some of the traits, behaviors, or beliefs about their potential that they were taught are dysfunctional, self-defeating, or limiting.  The point is to accept the consequences of one’s actions.  If not, the second Saturn cycle can prove treacherous.

Age 35: (2nd waxing square) adjust choices made during the prior Saturn return.  Minor restructuring, tests of increasing authority and responsibility.

Age 42: (2nd opposition) moving beyond self-imposed restrictions, desire more authority and self-determination in life path.  May experience cumulative health problems, realization of aging and mortality.  Achieve full personal potential, and apply dedication and hard work to demonstrate mastery within healthy limits

Age 49: (2nd waning square): reducing obligations that are no longer valid.  Menopause for women; children leaving home; restructure toward more specialized career.  Stop trying to make everyone happy, master coping skills

Age 56: (2nd Saturn return) Summation of life path, assessment of personal history.  Continual process of streamlining duties and responsibilities; grand-parenting or caring for elders, detachment from children

Where the first Saturn return requires energetic participation in the outer world, the second cycle peaks at the opposition (age 42) and begins a slow but inevitable retreat from worldly concerns.  Some are retiring or planning their retirement as this cycle closes; conversely, late bloomers may be at the most exciting period of their lives.  The most difficult part of this second return is the component of self-assessment: the acknowledgement of failures or successes, the compelling reduction of future potentials, waning physical prowess, and the fear of growing old. 

Age 63: (3rd waxing square) retirement, downsizing of family responsibilities, property, worldly concerns; restructure financial concerns, replace work with hobbies

Age 70: (3rd opposition) increasing physical limitations, exiting mainstream of life, struggling to relate to events in the outer world and new technology

Age 77: (3rd waning square) physical problems, weakening constitution, challenges in completing life’s work, shrinking social contacts, isolation

Age 84: (3rd Saturn return) acceptance of self as an elder, resolving personal beliefs and philosophies, coming to terms with life experiences and view of death

The third Saturn cycle (final for most) is characterized by diminishing physical strength and losses through death.  Life is shrinking and ebbing.  Yet there can be benefits in this cycle through a modified form of accountability.  People who lose friends can make new ones.  Wisdom gained in the prior two Saturn cycles can be shared with younger people through grand parenting, mentoring or writing.  This phase is a battle with the forces of gravity, as the body and mind tend to shrink toward the earth.  People in this phase can actively work to maintain health through diet and physical activity.  More esoteric and intellectual achievements in this phase include efforts to remain aware of new technologies, political activism, social welfare and philanthropy.  The previous cycle’s efforts at manifesting personal potential can be transferred to energy for improving society’s potential.


For tarotists, the easiest way to utilize this information is simply to determine the age of the client.  If the number is divisible by seven, Saturn is in one of its quarters.  Because Saturn’s orbit is irregular, the older the client, the greater the variation of the occurrence of the quarters – give a 1 year leeway at the end of the second and all of the third Saturn cycles. 

Saturn cycles have a rule-of-thumb for expected lessons and tests.  Clients under ages 28-30 are being tested in basic adult responsibilities and maturity.  From age 30 to 56, the person is struggling with more complex responsibilities in family life and their career.  The hidden test is the flowering of personal potential, above and beyond day-to-day responsibilities.  Those who are age 58 to 84 (and over) are facing the tests of shrinking potential and lifestyle, the reality of self-assessment, the loss of loved ones, and the limitations of old age.

In a tarot spread, Saturn’s influence will be evident for clients that are at Saturn-sensitive ages.  Readers should expect to see cards that indicate frustrations, heavy responsibilities, illness, or critical life structure decisions.  The key to determining the client’s ability to handle and pass Saturn’s tests will show in neighboring cards.  If the testing cards are followed by cards that indicate the exercise of self-authority and a view beyond present difficulties to future possibilities, they should be able to pass their Saturn tests.  If the subsequent cards show continual fear, avoidance, procrastination, or lack of commitment to any one choice, the client is being ambushed by their fears and refusing to exercise their own options within their situation. 

Saturn corresponds to the Judgment card, and also to the Devil.  When these cards appear in a spread, they indicate a Saturnian issue that requires a mature self-assessment.  In the Devil card, one chooses to be bound or chained to a problem, or to release the issue with losses.  In the Judgment card, more fortitude is evident with the trumpet’s blast – the troops are being summoned and resources mobilized.  This card usually indicates commitment to a decision, so is a more positive aspect of Saturn in the tarot. 

Saturn is the planet that puts the “reality check” in the mail.  If a client’s spread shows that they are paralyzed and fraught with anxieties, the tarotist may gently guide the client into a discussion of their fears.  This is particularly helpful if the discussion helps the client distinguish their real fears from imaginary ones.  Real fears may require hard work to manage and overcome, and some losses may be sustained in this process.  Ideally, the client becomes able to discard their imaginary fears so they can fully focus on handling the real challenges in their environment.


Saturn’s effects are lasting, and this is most evident in the areas of core reality, personal management and coping skills.  Saturn is restrictive in nature, and the fee for moving to the next level is recognizing the test at hand.  Yet one may pass to the next level without success, because failure is in itself an important lesson.  Another test is learning to cope with failure with acceptance and careful inquiry into its causes.  Bitterness, pitiful regrets and cynicism have no place in this process.

This spread is designed to examine the slow process of adjusting, learning and coping with Saturn’s lessons.  Saturn is, in some kabalistic systems, attributed to the third Sephiroth, Binah.  Saturn creates the solidity of the 3 dimensions that constitute our reality.  The spread below contains 3 axes as a reminder that Saturn’s lessons occur in reality.

To begin the spread, select a Planetary Significator – a card that represents Saturn.  This may be Judgment, the card attributed to Saturn in the Golden Dawn system, or some other card that the client feels is appropriate.  Some prefer the Hermit as an image of the wise old man.  Place the card on the table, and meditate on the card to establish a line of communication to the planet.  After the deck has been shuffled, place seven cards in the layout shown above.

This spread should be interpreted by examining its 3 axes.  The first axis is the Axis of Depth, and these three cards (1-7-2) show the extent to which Saturn is operating.  It will reveal immediate and long-term prospects in the learning cycle.  The cards in this axis show the person’s terms with reality and their environment, as well as their ability to identify and manage their patterns.  It may also show reactions to being restricted by external circumstances, or the determination to be pro-active in spite of them.

Card 1: Inner Reality - This card represents the client’s current experience of Saturn, including physical strains, inner fears and doubts.

Card 2: Outer Reality - Shows external conditions, obstacles, sources of oppression; may be a literal expression of this via tarot symbolism.  This card is what the client perceives as an external boundary.

The second axis is the Axis of Width.  Cards 3 and 4 show the capacity to grasp patterns and reach for solutions.  Learning and growth are a life-long process.  This axis gives details about current lessons, including the teachers presenting these lessons, or those who may be of assistance in learning.  These two cards can show conflicts in one’s concept of reality versus the actuality of it.

Card 3: Student – The vulnerable self struggling to cope with immanent lessons.  Degree of openness or resistance to new viewpoints is shown here, as well as defense mechanisms and emotional shields that may hinder growth.

Card 4:  Teacher – This reveals the spiritual mentor: a source of compelling awareness, the form of the teacher in the external world that mirrors resistance, obstinate blindness, false beliefs and conditioning, righteousness or prejudice. 

The third axis is the Axis of Height.  The parent-child axis delineates the life-long focus on fundamental human relationship structures.  Initially it is parent-child, but with age extends to siblings, relatives, teachers, bosses, partners, and lovers.   Inter-personal continuity is given form through continuous channels of relating to the other, and structured with rules, protocols, conditions, courtesies, and status awareness.  This axis shows if these forms are experiencing benefits or limitations, and reveals the balance of control and submission.

Card 5:  Child – This card shows personal expression and consciousness of self.  The goal is self-discipline, and the struggle to attain or maintain it at every level of maturation.  As the student is a vulnerable learner, the child is a vulnerable relater. 

Card 6:  Parent – Represents authority figures, external sources of rules or restrictions in relationships.  This card reveals the quality of the elder, the conveyer of traditions, expectations, and the models of conformity.  The card will show if this is healthy and welcome, or onerous and oppressive.  The card may also convey messages from deceased relatives and ancestors, particularly grandparents.

A final seventh card is drawn and placed in the center, on top of the planetary significator card. 

Card 7:  Cube of Saturn – this card is the point of intersection of the three axes, and gives a summation of the potential development of the current Saturn cycle.  It may indicate areas to restructure, develop, or discard; and may also encourage mastery and long-term improvement.  This card represents Saturn’s message to the client, the future of the evolving reality.

The Cube of Saturn spread may be used for anyone experiencing a Saturn cycle, and is also useful for those with other kinds of difficult Saturn transits (Saturn’s conjunctions, squares or oppositions to natal planets, outer-planet conjunctions to natal or progressed Saturn, etc.)

Saturn tends to give its tests in areas of particular weakness or vulnerability.  Each person faces these tests, although some may encounter them at different cycles than others, so the testing program is personalized to accommodate the development of the individual.  The reader may need to do a little coaching and cheerleading to encourage a client toward both accountability and decisiveness, but often making them aware of the testing process is sufficient.  Humans are imperfect creatures, and Saturn challenges the undesirable qualities – fears, weaknesses, insecurities, and irresponsible neglect.  But if a person can figure out the question, they usually can pass the test.  This confers Saturn’s greatest benefit – authority over one’s life path, and the confidence that is the result of mature accountability.


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Tarot Reflections is a publication of the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2003
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