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What is a Saturn return? An astrologer answers all your questions

This astrological transit is a cosmic rite of passage.
A detailed, global natural color view of Saturn and its rings. Cassini.
A detailed, global natural color view of Saturn and its rings. Cassini. Universal Images Group via Getty Images

On her new album "Eternal Sunshine", Ariana Grade briefly gives the mic over to astrologer Diana Garland for the track "Saturn Returns Interlude."

Garland, in a 42-second segment set to cosmic background music, likens the astrological transit to a wakeup call.

"When we’re all born, Saturn’s somewhere and the Saturn cycle takes around, about 29 years. That’s when we gotta wake up and smell the coffee because if we’ve just been sort of relying on our cleverness or relying, you know, just kind of floating along, Saturn comes along and hits you over the head, hits you over the head, hits you over the head and says, “Wake up! It’s time for you to get real about life and sort out who you really are," Garland says.

Grande is hardly the first pop star to bring up the astrological transit. SZA has a song called "Saturn." Kacey Musgraves teased her upcoming album with one line: "My Saturn has returned." And Adele, who has a Saturn tattoo and wore Saturn earrings during her "One Night Only" special, said her divorce and year of soul-searching coincided with — you guessed it — her Saturn return.

Adele told Vogue she "lost the plot" during her Saturn return. "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? All those things," she said.

Grande, 30, is experiencing her Saturn return, and Musgraves and Adele, 35, recently ended theirs. What is this astrological transit? As the author of "Saturn Return Survival Guide," you came to the right place for your answer.

What does Saturn signify in astrology?

Each planet or planetary body in astrology corresponds to a different realm. The moon, for example, governs a person's inner life. Venus is how we love (and spend money).

Saturn is considered the taskmaster of the zodiac. The planet represents responsibility in a person's chart. Your Saturn placement shows the lessons you need to learn in this lifetime, and the destiny you can fulfill if you rise to the occasion of the challenge presented.

So, what is a Saturn return?

A Saturn return marks when the planet Saturn returns to the sign, and degree, it was in when you were born. This cycle takes anywhere between 27 and 30 years, and lasts for about three years.

Saturn returns challenge people to grow beyond their lived experiences and evolve into their future selves.

It's worth noting that while Saturn return is the most significant transit, there are other significant transits involving the planet, like Saturn square. Think of these as Saturn checking in every few years to make sure you're on the right track.

Grande, Musgraves, Adele and other pop stars just emerged from their first Saturn return, considered a time when people get real about their lives. Some say turning 18 is the start of adulthood, but for astrologers, it's surviving your first Saturn return.

The first Saturn return can be difficult because it often involves letting go of things that no longer serve you. It's no coincidence that Adele's "30" and Grande's "Eternal Sunshine," both written during their Saturn returns, are breakup albums.

If the first Saturn return marks the entrance to adulthood, the second and third Saturn returns signify the start of new life phases.

The second Saturn return falls in a person's mid-50s, as they look back on what they've built and consider what they haven't gotten to yet. The third Saturn return in a person's 80s is all about reflection and contemplation. It's a time for making amends and appreciation.

When is my next Saturn return?

You can use a free calculator to find out when your Saturn return last was, or is coming next.

What happens during a Saturn return? We asked

Saturn return's impact varies, which I see in my work as an astrologer.

One of my clients said her Saturn return was a turning point in her life, encouraging her to travel the world. Another client with an Aquarius Saturn transitioned to a career in social justice, aligning with Aquarius' humanitarian ways.

During a recent consultation, I advised someone who was experiencing their second Saturn return. They were contemplating making a career move that would take them in a totally different direction, which makes sense: It's a chance to begin again.

Freelancer journalist Marilyn La Jeunesse, who is currently going through her first Saturn return, says she’s "learning to trust that it’s OK not to have everything planned out."

"I feel like my focus is shifting from making the most money and having the best job to learning to rest, relax and prioritize the things in my life that really matter. It’s definitely easier said than done, but for the first time I actually feel settled in not quite knowing what the next year of my life looks like," she says.

Bianca Nieves, consultant and founder of Flashes of Recognition Newsletter, is weeks away from experiencing her Saturn return describes it as being “a tug of war between accepting change and leaning away from comfort. I’ve learned to trust my gut and allow the discomfort to motivate me rather than discourage me.”

For another perspective, take a look at lyrics written by singers experiencing their Saturn returns.

In "Deeper Well," a song on Kacey Musgraves' new album, she sings that she’s “gettin’ rid of the habits that I feel / Are real good at wastin’ my time / No regrets, baby, I just think that maybe / It’s natural when things lose their shine/So other things can glow.”

She's rethinking the way she does things. Her adolescent habits don't hold the same charm. It's more than maturing: She's finding yourself and the values that align with her new state of being.

“The things I was taught only took me so far / Had to figure the rest out myself,” she sings.