Saturn is the sixth planet by distance from the sun and the slowest of all the visible planets in its movement speed across the sky. Due to its enormous distance from the earth it has practically no physical effects on our lives, yet its slow, methodical advance across the sky gave it extreme significance in the eyes of the ancients.
In the eyes of most of the ancient cultures, the slow movement of Saturn symbolized the passage of the years and hence time itself. This is why Saturn was often associated in antiquity with various chronologic and generational deities, sometimes with quite unflattering symbolism. In ancient Greece, he was connected with Chronos, the titan of time that later merged with Kronos, the king of the titans that devoured his children. Similarly, in ancient Rome he was associated with the god Saturn that held a stone scythe, alluding to the stone tools of early man, with which he castrated his own father, later on turning into the archetype of the grim reaper. And in the Hindu mythology he became associated with Shani, the dispenser of karma who just like the Roman Saturn makes certain that even the gods eventually reap what they sow.
In western astrology, Saturn represents law and order, difficulties and limitations, work and routine, persistence and perseverance, laziness and procrastination, growing old and resistance to change. Similar symbolism can also be found in vedic astrology, where Saturn also represents karma and nature, solid objects and trees, oil and metals, systems and machines, bureaucracy and government, endurance and patience. Anatomically, it also represents bones, teeth, hair, nails and longevity.
So why law and order?
The slow motion of Saturn was simultaneously associated with both resistance and persistence, hence it represents anything solid that keeps its form over time and resists change from outside forces. In physics, solids are distinguished from other states of matter by having a fixed and orderly arrangement of atoms. Similarly, a heap of bricks can only be called a house if it is arranged in the proper order. Even organizations such as governments can only function when every person fulfills his role in planning, execution, assessment and support, otherwise the whole system stops working and turns into anarchy.
The association with order is also the reason for Saturn’s connection to both natural and human laws, which serve as blueprints that make order possible in the first place. Laws also set the boundaries of movement and operation, just like solids that have a set form, allowing the architect to build a firm foundation that can support a house and the lawmaker to set the rights and responsibilities of the subjects.
Aside from representing law and order, Saturn is also associated with their enforcement through its symbolic resistance to change. An example of this could bee seen in someone jumping off a cliff and becoming hurt or dead due to the ground’s resistance to the impact of his body. And in the case of human laws, one can simply replace the ground with other people who disagree with one’s behaviour. This is also the reason for the connection between Saturn and karma, which translates as actions and their results, and the inevitability of these results is the reason for it being feared in ancient cultures far above every other planet combined.
Laws, work and hardships? Sounds like pharaohs whip. But how can he also represent laziness at the same time?
The association of Saturn with limitations and hardships stems from his connection to solids. A wall that blocs a pass is not doing so on purpose, yet it still has to be overcome to continue the journey. Rules too limit our freedom of action, thus sometimes making it harder to achieve our goals. Even the laws of nature can serve to hinder our progress as they limit the weight we can carry or the distance of our jump, and prevent us from flying or bending iron rids like superman.
Surprisingly, laziness too is a form of limitation, as it too hinders our productivity and delays our progress. But the true connection between laziness and Saturn stems from it serving as opposition to change, preventing our body from acting and keeping it inert. And the root of laziness itself is the desire to delay hardship, thus quite ironically applying Saturn to Saturn himself.
The connection of Saturn to work and persistence seems to contradict his connection to laziness, but that is not the case. In fact, the desire to keep working as an attempt to avoid other issues in life is a form of laziness in an of itself. In reality, work is the only thing that can transform a heap of bricks into a house thus giving it order and form, and this ability to create order is the real reason for its connection to Saturn. This is also the reason Saturn is connected to perseverance as it itself is a form of order, the maintenance of which is what allows us to achieve results.
But how can it simultaneously represent nature and machines?
The most basic connection between nature and Saturn is the desire of every living thing to stay alive, thus resisting change. In addition, every living thing plays a part in ecosystem and the food chain, thus maintaining the natural order. Nature is also unforgiving, with every mistake and miscalculation having dire consequences, just like the karma that Saturn delivers. Saturn is also strongly associated with trees, who use solid trunks and strong roots to resist the elements and continue to stay in place for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years.
While nowadays machines are seen as somehow separate from nature, they are in fact just another part of it and operate under the exact same laws. In fact, every living organism is biologically nothing more than a very complex machine. The reason for machines being associated with Saturn is the fact that they require order to be able to function, and cannot escape the parameters they were set. They are also made of metals and fuelled by oil, natural resources which are also represented by Saturn.
And what’s the deal with hair, nails and bones? And what do they have to do with longevity?
Unlike the soft flexible and malleable tissue which comprises most of the human body, the nails, hair, teeth and bones are all stiff, slow growing structures that epitomize the symbolism of Saturn. They are also the densest and most solid tissues, with the least water content. The connection of Saturn to longevity is far more self evident, as Saturn represents time itself. Longevity is also a type of resistance to change, as every second we spend being alive is another second we resist becoming dead.