SaturnBefore a new-fangled contraption called the telescope disrupted Western astrology with the discovery of new planets (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto), the planet Saturn ruled two signs of the Zodiac: Capricorn and Aquarius. For our ancestors, Saturn thus had two faces: stern, disciplined, and earth-bound on the one hand; benevolent, creative, and idealistic on the other.

Today, with Aquarius having been assigned to Uranus for so long, we have forgotten Saturn’s Aquarian nature, and may even find it paradoxical. How do we square Saturn, cosmic setter of limits, with freedom-loving Aquarius?

The answer is both interesting and subtle. Saturn is the Roman name for an ancient agriculture deity, descending from the Greek Kronos and the Sumerian Ninurta. A common element in the mythology of these deities is that of slaying a tyrant (Kronos’s violent father Ouranos, or Ninurta’s nemesis the demon Anzu, who stole the tablets of destiny). These stories go back to a time when the planting of grain was an activity requiring more security and safety than life often offered. A powerful and rather ruthless god was needed to fend off evil and carve out a country where people could live in peace and prosperity. Saturn’s sickle is both the weapon with which he castrated and banished his tyrant father, and the most ancient tool of the grain harvest.

For Greeks and Romans, Kronos/Saturn presided over the golden age of humanity. There was no theft or murder, and people left their doors unlocked. The Earth produced grain and fruit in abundance, and the people, liberated from fear and oppressive drudgery, could pursue the finer and higher things of life. This is Saturn’s Aquarian face, the crusader who challenges tyrany and so ushers in a more peaceful, harmonious world.

The ancients instinctively understood a truth that we sometimes forget: true freedom only thrives within the safety created by clear boundaries. Creativity is not the random destruction of all forms of structure. Rather, it is a blossoming of possibilities within a solidly crafted frame.