Saturn Return occurs approximately every 29.5 years – that is, the length of time it takes for the planet Saturn to orbit the sun. In life, the ‘return’ part is when the planet lands in the sky in the same place it sat when you were born – that is, when you’re around 29 years old. Then again around the age of 58, and then again around the age of 87. It ‘returns’ or approximately 2.5 to 3 years. But what is the impact on your life? From jewellery to podcasts, everyone’s obsessed with their Saturn Return – Adele even credits it for her latest album. But what is it, and why does it resonate with us in 2023?
How To Survive Your Saturn Return
When The Planets Align…
It all started late last year during a coffee with jeweller Roxanne Rajcoomar-Hadden, who was showing me a bespoke necklace she’d made for a client to symbolise her Saturn Return. Hold up, I said. What’s a Saturn Return?
Roxanne explained: it’s when Saturn returns from its 28-year orbit of the sun to the position it was in at the time of your birth. Astrologers believe its return acts as a catalyst for dramatic change and unforeseen upheaval; a sort of grand karmic life reset. You’ll experience three throughout your life: in your late twenties, late fifties, and (if you’re lucky) late eighties. ‘I wanted to make a piece that showed how different it can be for everybody and symbolised that you’re not quite there yet – it’s like a transitory period,’ explained Roxanne.
At this point I should say that I’m not a big believer in astrology; on the rare occasion I read my horoscope, it’s with one eyebrow raised. But I’m fascinated by how popular this ancient belief system has become in recent years; searches for ‘birth chart’ and ‘astrology’ both hit five-year peaks in 2020, according to Google Trends.
And when Roxanne explained the idea behind Saturn Return, something resonated. I’m 29, prime Saturn Return territory, and although I haven’t experienced any dramatic upheavals yet (global pandemic aside – and I don’t think I can blame that on my personal horoscope) there’s something about this end-of-a-decade age that feels like a cosmic shift might be rumbling.
And it’s not just me: countless friends, acquaintances and celebrities have experienced life-changing events in their late twenties, too. Adele even mentioned it in her interview with Vogue last autumn.
‘Then I hit my Saturn return,’ she said. ‘It’s where I lost the plot. When that comes, it can rock your life. It shakes you up a bit: Who am I? What do I want to do? What makes me truly happy?’ She credited her new album, 30, as her ‘ride or die throughout the most turbulent period of my life.’ The singer now has a tattoo of the planet on her forearm.
Another person whose Saturn Return was life-changing was Caggie Dunlop, the Made In Chelsea star whose experience led to her creating a podcast of the same name. Her accompanying book, Saturn Returns: Your Cosmic Coming of Age, is out now.
‘It felt like everything was being turned upside down,’ she says of her late 20s, which were spent in LA, where she felt lost and lonely. ‘I’ve always been quite introspective, and I became aware that coping mechanisms, or things that had held me together before, were suddenly not working any more. And they were causing me quite a lot of pain.’
It was during her own Saturn Return that she became more interested in astrology. ‘I really started to lean into it because I felt like I was at such a transitional period myself and trying to make sense of things that didn’t make sense.’
Now her podcast Saturn Returns is dedicated to delving into other people’s stories. Her most memorable interview was with lifestyle influencer Niomi Smart, who on the first recording was engaged, planning her wedding, and said she hadn’t experienced her Saturn Return yet. A week later, she left Caggie a voice note. She and her fiancé had broken up, and her life was spiralling out of control. ‘My Saturn Return has begun,’ she declared.
However, astrologers insist that even though Saturn’s arrival can send things spinning out of control, by the time it’s over you’ll have gained more self-knowledge and confidence as a result. It’s a threshold you must cross before you enter the next stage of adulthood.
Saturn Return seems to be a phenomenon that affects a lot of people – but is there a more tangible reason for this, grounded in our biology rather than the skies above us?
In a paper published in Nature Medicine in 2019, a trial based on over 4,000 blood tests revealed that our bodies age in three distinct shifts, with 34 years, 60 years and 78 years the key thresholds.
‘By deep mining the ageing plasma proteome, we identified undulating changes during the human lifespan,’ wrote the researchers. ‘These changes were the result of clusters of proteins moving in distinct patterns, culminating in the emergence of three waves of ageing.’
Of course, there’s another biological shift that happens for women around the time of their second Saturn Return: the menopause, which can have a dramatic effect on women, with mood swings, hot flushes and even personality changes.
However, maybe the answer for why Saturn Return – and astrology more widely – is resonating with so many people can be found in the fertile ground somewhere between hard science and horoscopes.
Life, especially in your late 20s or during or after menopause, can be a hard, confusing and lonely place. For those of us in the first age group, the traditional milestones of adulthood – home ownership, marriage, children, job stability – feel increasingly unattainable. Meanwhile, women during and after the menopause often feel invisible and ignored.
All of that, combined with a post-religious social landscape (about a quarter of US adults now say they think of themselves as spiritual but not religious) means that astrology is reaching a new generation of advocates who, even though they don’t believe in a god per se, are searching for a belief system that gives their lives more meaning.
‘At times of uncertainty, we want to focus on things that are fixed and stable,’ explains psychotherapist Lucy Beresford. ‘The increased appeal of astrology suggests that many people long for the certainty or direction that religion can provide. It could be that they like to be part of a community of like-minded souls, or they like the idea of focusing on a body of knowledge that has existed for millions of years. Having the routine of astrology can create purpose and meaning in one’s life.’
So if believing that the unpleasant upheavals in your life are caused by your Saturn Return brings you a sense of comfort and hope when you’re going through a tangibly difficult time… why on earth not?
How To Survive Your Saturn Return
Astrologer Noura Bourni on how to get the best out of this challenging time
Ages 27–30: It’s time to completely recalibrate and celebrate your free will and divinity. Be a fool in love with your SELF – recognise your right to be here, to live according to your own will and to become the authority, the sovereignty that leads your life.
Ages 55–60: Prepare yourself to answer the question: what is my legacy on earth? How can I further fulfil this legacy and what needs to shift in order for my life to align with it?
Ages 85–90: Start to wonder: how can I further inspire those around me? Who can I teach through my experience? Who is willing to listen and learn? Look around – your wisdom is worth its weight in gold.