On Saturnalia

Can we extrapolate meaning about Saturn — especially considering his traditional rulership of Aquarius — from the festival of Saturnalia?


There’s quite a few things of interest here when one considers the significations of Aquarius, especially in light of his traditional rulership by Saturn.

An excerpt from the article:

“The ancient Roman historian Justinus credits Saturn with being a historical king of the pre-Roman inhabitants of Italy:

‘The first inhabitants of Italy were the Aborigines, whose king, Saturnus, is said to have been a man of such extraordinary justice, that no one was a slave in his reign, or had any private property, but all things were common to all, and undivided, as one estate for the use of every one; in memory of which way of life, it has been ordered that at the Saturnalia slaves should everywhere sit down with their masters at the entertainments, the rank of all being made equal.’

— Justinus”

In addition:

“Saturnalia is an ancient Roman festival and holiday in honour of the god Saturn, held on 17 December of the Julian calendar and later expanded with festivities through to 23 December. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, in the Roman Forum, and a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms: gambling was permitted, and masters provided table service for their slaves as it was seen as a time of liberty for both slaves and freedmen alike. A common custom was the election of a ‘King of the Saturnalia’, who would give orders to people, which were to be followed and preside over the merrymaking. The gifts exchanged were usually gag gifts or small figurines made of wax or pottery known as sigillaria. The poet Catullus called it ‘the best of days’.”

So much of this is antithetical to what the significations of Saturn are commonly known as, such as imprisonment, suffering, and confinement. Revelry, joy, freedom, and liberation? Saturn ruling a way of life of ultimate justice and absolute equality, a Utopia? Most modern astrologers would probably be thinking: how could Saturn possibly be related to these themes? And yet, some of the key words here — particularly freedom and liberation — are actually commonly associated with Aquarius. With Aquarius being traditionally Saturn-ruled, a picture begins to form that calls into question what exactly it is that Saturn represents.

Could Saturn represent the whole imprisonment-liberation spectrum? Can he represent the promise of liberation in Aquarius, after the work of Capricorn? Does he represent the initiatory path with its promise of rich reward (especially Aquarian knowledge)?

Perhaps Saturn is the mountain. Capricorn is the grueling path up the mountain, and Aquarius the view from the top. Both aspects of Saturn, just different stages of the journey.

Perhaps Saturn is both the imposing and unforgiving sight of the mountain from its bottom, along with the treacherous and long path up — but also the joy of perspective from the mountain’s top. Perhaps Aquarius as the water-bearer is the snowy peak of the mountain melting and turning into a life-giving river for those at the bottom. The snow falls in Capricorn during the dead of winter, accumulating richly at the top; then, as winter slowly begins to pass, it melts into nourishing water for the rest of the world in Aquarius as the cup pours.

And perhaps Saturn is both the most rigid and unequal class systems with their associated miseries, but also the most equal, fair, and even truly-Utopian societies once man masters this realm. Perhaps he represents both ends of the spectrum: of classism and inequality at their most confining states, society built on the backs of those bent-over toiling the Earth as slaves — but, also, when the bonds are broken and all men are considered truly equal, the most liberated and truly free society possible for man that he may be master of his own destiny. Perhaps Saturn is both lock and key, having rulership over both locked states and free states, both Capricorn the Devil and Aquarius the Liberated.

Perhaps Saturn truly is our greatest beneficiary, with the promise of the richest rewards possible, after the Great Work (not only in our personal sphere, but in the collective one) is completed. The alchemists believed this — that there was no Gold without Saturn’s lead. Saturn, once he was learned to be loved, becomes transformed into the Sun — from the face of the Beast, to the face of the Handsome Prince, after Beauty’s liberating kiss.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: