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Astrological Musings

Woodcut from Adam McLean’s Alchemy site

With the final hit of the opposition between Saturn and Chiron approaching, I thought it would useful to delve more deeply into these two planets over the next few days, beginning with the work of Marsilio Ficino on Saturn.

Marsilio Ficino was a philosopher of the Renaissance, and quite probably the first transformational astrologer. Unlike the other astrologers of his time and those who came before him, he used astrology as a tool to transcend the difficulties
of the birthchart. Born with Saturn on his ascendant, he was afflicted with the melancholia that is associated with that planet (Saturn was termed the “greater malefic” and thought to be the devil). Medieval and Hellenstic astrologers tended to be fatalistic – they believed that the horoscope predicted the future and that man was bound by the stars. Ficino was one of the first to explore the concept that through natural magic and astrology, humans could transcend the fate of their chart by influencing the planets that affected them.

The excellent astrologer and essayist Angela Voss quotes Ficino: “These celestial bodies are not to be sought by us outside in some other place; for the heavens in their entirety are within us, in whom the light of life and the origin of heaven dwell… if you temper within yourself the heavenly signs and the heavenly gifts, you will flee far from all the menaces of the fates and without doubt will live a blessed life under divine auspices.”

Erin Sullivan says in her excellent book Saturn in Transit, “”[Ficino] virtually embodied Saturn and became in sympathy with it. . . . Ficino put the soul back into astrology, brought it to life, introducing planetary symbolism to represent all matter, incorporating the psyche, the physical and the metaphysical into an organic whole. His psychological world-view transformed the approach to planets; as gods, they all had gifts to bear, including Saturn.”

(For more on this concept of the planets as gods that bear gifts and burdens, see my article on transits and transformation.)

Sullivan quotes Ficino on Saturn:

“These celestial bodies are not to be sought by us outside in some
other place; for the heavens in their entirety are within us, in whom the light of life and the origin of heaven dwell… if you temper within yourself the heavenly signs and the heavenly gifts, you will flee far from all the menaces of the fates and without doubt will live a blessed life under divine auspices.” There is no Saturn more unfeeling than the one for men who only pretend to the contemplative life, not really doing it. For Saturn does not recognize them as his own . . . Be sure then that you do not neglect the power of Saturn. . . . The planets have been joined to him, and to his nature.

Saturn’s purpose is to challenge the aggrandisement of the ego – following the expansion of Jupiter, Saturn imposes restrictions and constricts our impulse to want to fly with the gods. Saturn brings us back to earth, where we must deal with the mundane, day-to-day worldly existence. It enforces solitude and forces us into contemplation in order to increase the depth of our wisdom and insight. In order to accomplish this, it often thwarts our own desires, frustrating us with its limitations, rules and boundaries and forcing us into a more introspective existence. That is particularly true now, as Saturn travels through the sign of Leo which rules the Ego and its creative expression. Saturn’s role is to force us to confront anything in the realm of ego that lacks truth. He shines a light in the darkness, instigating experiences that may not be comfortable but which are always pathways for growth and transformation.

(For more on Marsilio Ficino’s views on astrology and magic, I highly recommend Thomas More’s book THE PLANETS WITHIN, The Astrological Psychology of Marsilio Ficino. )

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