In Greek and Roman mythology
The ancient god Saturn (Kronos in Greek) was a descendant of the sky god Uranus and the Earth goddess Gaia. Jealous of his father’s rulership over the entire heavens, Saturn fought and overthrew him, but destined himself to be overthrown by his own son.
To prevent this he consumed all the children that Gaia bore. The last child to be born was the god Zeus/Jupiter, and Gaia saved him by giving Saturn a rock disguised in swaddling clothes to eat instead. This saved Zeus and he was able to rescue his siblings and overthrow Saturn to become the reigning god.
Saturn is the god of time
Saturn relates to wealth earned over time, agriculture which has to do with patiently cultivating resources, and the wisdom and refinement that can only come with age. In the old the Roman forum the temple of Saturn housed the state treasury. The figure of Death with a hood and a scythe is a depiction of Saturn in his role as the grim reaper.
The planet Saturn
Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun, and until the late 18th century was considered in Western astronomy to be the outermost planet of the solar system. Saturn is famous for its rings, which are possibly remnants from an old moon.
In the ancient systems of astrology Saturn was considered the last planet of the solar system and so has all the connotations of finality, the last boundary before the great end. The next planet discovered after Saturn was Uranus in 1781, and now most astrology systems include Uranus, Neptune and Pluto as the outermost planets.
Aquarius, co-ruled by Uranus, does express the Saturn rulership with preoccupations with structures, although it is more interested in subverting and even demolishing those structures (Uranus).
Saturn is associated with the law, material reality, taxes, death, and karma. Saturn’s influence astrologically brings difficulties, challenges, feelings of constriction, burdens, weights. Saturn cycles are approximately every 30 years and so bring about the confrontations of growing older and entering different phases of life.
The symbol for Saturn
This symbol is the cross of matter above the crescent of the soul. This shows the necessity of material reality, time, and the death of all things to temper our mind and emotions to bring wisdom. Time strips away superficiality and reveals the “bare bones” beneath all illusions and fantasies.
If we can learn to embrace and accept Saturn as a wise teacher rather than try to run away from the realities of old age, sickness and death, we discover the secret beauty of this cosmic ray: refinement, perfection, and mastery.
Masters are not born, they are the result of years and years of hard work, submitting to discipline, of learning from hardship and letting their rough edges, the egos, selfish nature, be broken down in order to be perfected.