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Title: About Saturn Date Published: by Clarke Fountain
Bio: Clarke Fountain

Clarke Fountain has been studying astrology with varying levels of intensity since the 1960s, is a U.S. Navy veteran, and gave his first professional reading in 1977 in San Francisco. After years of doing every kind of job under the sun, he earned an M.A. in Buddhist Studies from the Naropa Institute (as it was then called) in 1989 and at that time became involved with aspects of publishing. Astrology has been one of the few consistent threads in his otherwise extremely varied life, and he is delighted to have the opportunity to serve the astrological community as the Editor for "Astro Talk Online Astrological Magazine."



When a consulting astrologer starts to talk about Saturn with somewhat knowledgeable clients, those clients will often tense up, because they know the planet is often associated with difficulties and restrictions. Most of us don’t want to hear about that sort of thing. But there’s a lot more to Saturn in just about every way imaginable than mere bad news – and if the game (Sagittarius) didn’t have rules (Saturn) then it would be hard for anyone in society (Capricorn) to play it or fit in. This article is intended to help all of us understand a bit more about this so-called “planet of troubles.”

In Astronomy

Since a little after the time of Galileo’s (1610) discovery of rings surrounding Saturn, it has been called “the ringed planet.” This accords well with the astrological symbolism for the planet and its association with limitations, for it is the limitations of gravity and orbital mechanics which produce this marvelous planetary attribute.

Nearly the diameter of Jupiter but with less than a third of its mass, Saturn has a vast number of moons; the approximate current count gives it 22 major moons. One of its smallest moons, the irregularly shaped Hyperion, is the only object in the solar system known to be in chaotic rotation.

The rings, composed as they are of many different sized particles of slightly dirty ice, are thought to be the relatively recent remnant of a small earlier satellite that came too close to the planet. While Saturn must share the distinction of having rings with Jupiter, the rings of Saturn are far more spectacular – they are so large they can easily be seen (at appropriate points in Saturn’s year) using a small hand-held telescope. The rings seem to disappear when they are edge-on to the earth. The rings have also been shown to have a large number of “gaps,” so that they appear to form bands. Though the first discovery of gaps was made soon after Galileo’s time, it wasn’t until man-made spacecraft approached the planet that their structure was known in great detail. Spacecraft fly-bys have taught us that occasionally the rings even display spokes – a truly spectacular effect of the laws of gravity and electrostatic charge, it is believed. The structure of Saturn’s rings is now known to be incredibly complex, and over the years they have taught astronomers a great deal about the laws of orbital mechanics.

The planet itself is composed of much larger percentage of hydrogen (97 percent) than most astronomical theories allow, and though it is ninety five times more massive than the earth, its total density is so low that an object with the same relative density as Saturn would float easily on the water of any of Earth’s lakes or oceans.

The orbit of Saturn takes it around the sun in 29.4 years, but its rotation period (day) is only 10.7 hours, a tremendous speed of rotation which yields winds of over 500 meters per second (or 1,100 miles an hour) in its atmosphere, and gives it a decidedly squashed-flat look. In fact, it is the least spherical of the major planets.

Like Jupiter, Saturn radiates a great deal more energy into space than it receives from the sun. This is a combined effect of its gravity causing it to collapse in on itself, and the magnetism generated by the circulating liquid metallic hydrogen near its surprisingly small rocky core.

In Mythology

Scholars think that Saturn, like the Greek Kronos, was an early agricultural deity. Greek influence on early Rome brought the local equivalent deity (Saturn) into similar prominence. The great Roman festival of Saturn, known as the Saturnalia, was enormously popular long after worship of the deity himself had fallen into disuse. It took place around the time of our Christmas (December 17-24), and the usual strictures and limitations of Roman society were considerably eased during that time. Among other characteristics of the Saturnalia, there was a custom of exchanging presents, and slaves were permitted a great deal of freedom.

In the Greek myth, Kronos, born of the earth-mother Gaia and the sky-father Ouranos killed his father immediately upon emerging from the womb. He married his sister Rhea, who bore his children. Mindful of a prophecy that his own children would dethrone him, when each of them was born, Kronos swallowed them whole, with the sole exception of Zeus. Rhea tricked Kronos into thinking he had swallowed the child when in fact all he downed was a stone. Zeus almost immediately dethroned Kronos and liberated his brothers and sisters. Curiously, for such a taboo-breaker, the period of Kronos’ rulership is said to have been a golden age on the earth.

In Western Astrology

With an orbit of 29.4 years, Saturn is the slowest-moving visible planet, and so it was referred to by early astrologer/astronomers as “the chronocrator” or time-keeper (which is also a play on the alternative name of the god Saturn: Kronos or “Chronos”). It represents the principles of limitation, of entropy (and gravity) without which building and creativity would not be possible. An ancient name for Saturn is “the greater malefic,” meaning that harsh and unpleasant events are often signified by its condition in a chart. Yet the Saturn principle is also fundamental to accomplishment of anything at all, and, appropriately, it rules over the sign Capricorn. In addition, even the highest social ideals cannot be implemented without taking actual realities into account – otherwise they can give rise to totalitarian regimes – hence the appropriateness of the planet’s co-rulership (or ancient single rulership) of the sign Aquarius. Many eminent astrologers have attempted to rectify the usual dread of Saturn by writing about it: Grant Lewi’s books present a very upbeat interpretation of the planet, and Liz Greene’s book “Saturn: A New Look At An Old Devil” has become a necessary reference work on many astrologer’s bookshelves. My own copy is dog-eared and much worn, and I have given away more copies of it than I care to remember. More recently, Bil Tierney published a book on Saturn (The Twelve Faces of Saturn).

In Vedic Astrology

Of the three primal or fundamental qualities (Satva, Rajas, Tamas), Tamas, with its negative qualities of sloth, lethargy and dullness is associated with Saturn, but also has the positive meaning of stability. Saturn rules the signs Capricorn and Aquarius, and is considered, when in debility, to have an airy quality – though it otherwise produces effects more usually associated with the earth element. Some words associated with the planet in Vedic astrology are death, old age, poverty, disease, perversity, loss, limitation, destruction and fate – all of which make it rather difficult to discern Saturn’s bright side. It is also considered to be the “greater malefic,” but can assume a benefic role in a given individual’s chart (as it can for people with Capricorn ascendants). However, all the negative meanings for planets given in Vedic astrology can be reduced or turned aside with one or another remedy – the greatest of which being genuine renunciation, etc.

Other Symbolism

Saturn (partial list from its first appearance in the Liber 777 list of symbols):
Sphere of Binah (Understanding) (head of the Pillar of Severity): a.k.a., Sphere of Saturn; Sanctifying Intelligence; Tarot card is all Threes; associated with Egyptian goddesses Maat, Isis, Nephthys; Greek goddesses Demeter, Rhea, Hera; Roman goddesses Cybele, Juno, Hecate; animal symbol is woman; plants are Cypress, Opium Poppy; precious stones are Star sapphire, pearl; magical weapon is Yoni, Outer Robe of Concealment; perfumes are Myrrh, Civet; magical power is The Vision of Sorrow.

Saturn (from its subsequent appearance in the Liber 777 list of symbols):
Sephirothic Path 32: Yesod-Malkuth; Administrative Intelligence; Tarot card is The Universe; Hebrew letter Tau; Egyptian gods Mau, Horus; Greek deity Athena; animal is crocodile; vegetation is ash, cypress, nightshade; jewel is onyx; magical weapon is sickle; perfumes are asfoetida, sulfur; magical power is Works of Malediction and Death Capricorn.


Distance from Sun886.7 million miles, 9.539 AU or 1,429,400,00 km
Diameter74,898 miles, or 120,660 km
Mass (Earth = 1)95.18 or 5.69 x 1026 kg.
Mean Density (water = 1) (gm/cm3)0.69
Angle/inclination of Orbit (compared with Earth)2.488
Length of day10.656 hours
Length of tropical year10,747.94 days/29.424 years.
Rings’ diameter270,000 km
Rings’ thicknessSeveral hundred meters
Atmospheric composition (approx.)97% hydrogen, 3% helium



Moons of Saturn
(listed in order of their distance from the center of the planet)

NameRadiusMassDate of Discovery
Pan9.655 kmunknown1990
Mimas196 km3.80e+191789
Enceladus250 km8.40e+191789
Tethys530 km7.55e+201684
Dione560 km1.05e+211684
Rhea765 km2.49e+211672
Titan2,575 km1.35e+231655
Iapetus730 km188e+211671
Phoebe110 km4.0e+181898



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