This is the second post in which I am exploring the ramifications of viewing Saturn as feminine, and also considering symbolism related to Saturn as Old Crone.
In my previous post on Saturn as Feminine I quoted a passage from the Hellenistic astrologer Dorotheus, in which Saturn is classified as one of the feminine planets. This created some striking arrangements of Saturn with the other planets, having some of the distinctive symmetry and balance of much of traditional Western astrology.
In this post I want to consider further how the symbolism of Saturn is linked to feminine symbolism.
Here is the quote from Carmen Astrologicum by Dorotheus:
“…the feminine planets are Saturn, Venus and the Moon, the masculine ones are the Sun, Jupiter, and Mars.”
When I first saw this quote I wondered if Saturn might originally have been associated with an Old Crone goddess figure or figures, that then was turned masculine in a later cultural development.
What I want to do in this post is to consider the nature of Saturn and feminine symbolism, and see how they combine.
Man and woman – man associated with spirit, woman associated with the body or form. The body is that which gives structure, contains, delimits, links us to the earth.
Feminine can be considered symbolically as form, as container, as that which gives shape or embodies. Receptive. That is one of the foundation meanings of Saturn, that which gives form or shape. Saturn rules the skin and the bones, the parts of our bodies that give structure and shape.
The body is the part of us subject to time, limitation, and ultimately decay and death. If we just identify with our “spirit” – whatever that loaded word ultimately means – we can pretend we are beyond limitation and immortal. Tie our existence to a physical body and we are subject to time and death.
Time, death, limitation, structure, form – all of these are key concepts linked to Saturn.
In astrology, just as Saturn is form, solidity, structure, and the body, Saturn is also Time and all it entails – growth, aging, decay, and eventual death. Saturn gives us the form at birth, and Saturn frees us from the form when it has outlived its time and is ready to die.
The traditional image of Saturn as aged figure in a cape holding a scythe, is a classic image for death, and also for harvest – the scythe is the reaping blade.
I don’t think the Grim Reaper death imagery of Saturn was originally masculine. In older mythology there are many goddesses who are associated with the passage out of life into death.
For instance, the goddess Hecate can be viewed as midwife of both birth and death – she brings us into physical existence and she ushers us out.
Consider this description of the Greek Goddess Hecate (quoted from http://www.goddessgift.com/goddess-myths/greek_goddess_hecate.htm)
“Not only was Hecate called upon to ease the pains and progress of a woman’s labor, but especially to protect and restore the health and growth of a child.
Similarly, Hecate played a role that, in contemporary times, we would describe as “hospice nurse”, helping the elderly make a smooth and painless passage into the next life and staying with them, if need be, in the otherworld to help prepare them for their eventual return to the earth in their next life. “
Think of the town wise woman who shows up in households for the big transitions, birth and death – the experienced old woman who walks in the door wearing her black cape, and who probably spent a fair amount of time walking to houses at night when people needed her assistance then. She’s had experience in dealing with these events, she knows how to help, and she knows the proper rituals for each.
Also, don’t forget that deaths during childbirth were common, so the midwife would deal with both routinely, sometimes both at the same time. In our modern minds birth and death are held separate, but I suspect that was not always the case at all. None of this hiding stuff away in hospitals – birth and death were played out right there in the home.
The messenger of mercy and the Angel of Death – when that old woman showed up at the door, Death was present.
All of this complex of symbolism regarding form, limitation, time, harvest, death and so on, aligns with feminine rather than masculine symbolism.
There is another side of Saturn that you get to know as you get older – it has to do with a certain wisdom born of age and experience, and a compassion from that. I am going to describe that here as Understanding.
I was discussing this topic with a wise friend of mine. We were talking about Qabalah, and in that system, Wisdom is considered masculine, and Understanding is feminine. She came up with this wonderful observation that I would like to share here.
Maybe if the masculine is about wisdom, than Saturn and understanding belong to the feminine – so understanding is the receptivity of wisdom?
You know what I think she touched on there – if you were Catholic you would associate that kind of understanding with Mary – the kind of total, wise, open-hearted receptivity that understands everything, accepts everything, forgives everything, and loves everyone who turns to her for understanding.
There is also a whole streak in Catholic devotion about Our Lady of Sorrows, and Mary as being a mother who had to endure watching her son be subject to the worst kind of degradation, suffering and death, while keeping her heart open. That then means an understanding that is full of compassion.
That is so perfect, because Mary is another form of the great mother. I think that kind of compassionate understanding fits with Saturn as Crone.
That fits with my experience of people who age well, meaning they have learned the lessons of Saturn. You get a warmth, a mellowness, an acceptance, and a great deal of compassion. My word for people who age well like that – they have a certain sweetness of heart. They have accepted their own faults, limitations and vulnerabilities, and they sweetly accept the faults and vulnerabilities of others.
They have come to terms with everything that Saturn stands for – difficulty, limitation, darkness, time, aging, vulnerability, disease, loss, death – accepted it and turned it into sweetness of heart, into compassion.
Compassion and understanding in this sense comes from experiencing, and accepting, everything that Saturn has to offer. It is worth considering whether lack of compassion is related to refusing to accept or come to terms with Saturn kinds of experiences – that’s not me, it’s someone else, and it’s their fault.
This is a kind of understanding and compassion that is completely without condemnation or accusation. To understand all is to accept all.
That is Understanding, at its highest and most beautiful. That is also the finest expression of the kind of Understanding which is related to Saturn.
That is Saturn as Crone in the highest sense.
Hopefully I have given you some material to meditate on and explore.
I do not intend this material to replace the usual traditional understanding of Saturn as masculine – that has been too deeply embedded in astrological tradition to be lightly dismissed. However, I do think these associations of Saturn with feminine symbolism do provide a fruitful alternate perspective, and give much food for thought.