The taskmaster planet is moving backward through Aquarius, showing you how structures and boundaries can actually make it easier to be your true self. Here's what every sign can expect from this year's Saturn retrograde.

By Maressa Brown
June 04, 2021
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Maybe you've been fear-mongered about your Saturn return (which happens around the age of 29-30 and is associated with stepping into adulthood) or you heard how, in 2020, conjunctions between Saturn and transformative Pluto fueled a year like no other filled with social distancing, sickness, and grief. Either way, the planet of boundaries, restrictions, limitations, and separation has a serious reputation for being associated with gloom, doom, and strife.

Yet, the truth is much more nuanced. While Saturn is responsible for delivering challenges and throwing up roadblocks, it's also the planet of maturity and limitations that help you grow and thrive. Think of it as the planetary equivalent of an occasionally stern-but-wise dad of the zodiac, or the vibe of Britney's iconic "Work, B**ch." And it's important to keep both sides of the ringed planet in mind as it moves into its annual retrograde - this year, from May 23, 2021 to October 10, 2021. Here's what you need to know about Saturn's backward turn this year.

Saturn Retrograde
Credit: Alex Sandoval

What Does It Mean When Saturn Is In Retrograde?

The planet of boundaries, structure, karma, and hard work is a transpersonal, or outer, planet, which moves pretty slowly. It spends about two to three years in a sign, and it goes retrograde - in other words, appears to move backward from our vantage point on earth - for about four and a half months every year. (That's right, it's not actually moving backward. Ditto with when Mercury is retrograde.)

While moving direct (in other words, whenever it's not retrograde), you'll feel Saturn's effect in a more external way. It could make you feel as though you're climbing an uphill battle on the job as a result of dealing with an authoritative boss, set off a health challenge that takes some time to address, or have you banging your head against a wall when every date you go on is a dud. But these challenges are lessons that foster maturity and growth and offer clarity around which goals you're willing to work toward.

When Saturn goes retrograde, its effect turns inward, encouraging you to reflect and review the foundations, structures, traditions, rules, and restrictions in your life and ask yourself if they're serving their purpose or if they need to shift. It also serves as an opportunity to give yourself an annual progress report, considering if you're on track with your big-picture goals, and if not, what do you need to do to get there? You might think about responsibilities you've taken on while Saturn was direct and how you might be able to streamline your efforts in order to be more efficient.

What to Know About 2021's Saturn Retrograde

From March 21, 2020 to July 1, 2020, Saturn dipped into Aquarius, the fixed air sign symbolized by the Water Bearer and known for its rational, humanitarian but contrarian, and platonic relationship-loving vibe. Then, for several months, it moved back into industrious Capricorn before returning to Aquarius on December 17, 2020, and it'll move through the fixed air sign until March 7, 2023. But from May 23, 2021 to October 10, 2021, the taskmaster planet retrogrades from 13 degrees to 6 degrees Aquarius.

And the trip backward through those seven degrees will offer you an annual opportunity to use the power of Saturn in Aquarius to do important inner work that could set you up for more success and freedom. As you look back on the ways you've put your nose to the grindstone over the past 12 months, you could connect the dots between a lack of structure and lagging excitement or electricity you're craving, inspired by future-minded Aquarius. Maybe you realize that without a budget, you don't really have a sense of what you have to put toward discretionary spending on vacations, happy hours, fitness classes, and likely a whole bunch of other fun, social, group activities you've been looking forward to. Or lacking a step-by-step game plan for achieving a long-term professional goal, you feel like you're unclear on how you're going to get from point A to point B. Or without being certain of the type of partner or relationship you want, you feel stuck in your love life. You get the idea.

On the other hand, if you have been putting concrete, structured plans in motion, this retrograde can be the time in which you get to enjoy all the fruit of your labor. And while in Aquarius, Saturn will especially reward rational thought, friendships, teamwork, using technology to hit your goals, and striving for the greater good over self. This could mean that perhaps you set boundaries within a problematic relationship - with a partner, loved one, friend, or, given that Aquarius is the ruler of the eleventh house of groups, maybe it's even with a club or organization - and you'll finally see it moving in a healthier, more productive direction. Maybe you've been more diligent about using a fitness tracker to document your steps or water intake, and you're starting to feel it paying off. Or you've made room in your schedule to step up your activism efforts and realize you're making an impact. (Related: Peloton Instructor Kendall Toole Is Living Proof a Vision Board Can Help You Manifest Your Dreams)

And because Saturn is in Aquarius (ruled by revolutionary Uranus), you'll be extra tuned into thinking about how certain types of structures, boundaries, and hard work can actually amplify your ability to strike out on your own. For instance, saving more money out of your paycheck could help you build a nest egg that allows you to travel more next year. Or saying "no" to casual hookups could fast-track you to a more serious relationship.

Signs That Will Be Most Affected by Saturn Retrograde

Although every sign could feel the taskmaster planet's backward turn, those born while the sun was in Aquarius - annually from approximately 20 to February 18 - or with your personal planets (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, or Mars) in Aquarius (something you can learn from your natal chart), you'll feel this retrograde more than most.

If you want to get even more specific, check to see if you have a personal planet that falls within five degrees of where Saturn stations retrograde and direct (13 and 6 degrees Aquarius). If so, you'll be extra compelled to reassess the work you've been doing to make your big-picture dreams a reality. (Related: What Your Moon Sign Can Tell You About Your Personality)

And if your rising/ascendant is a fixed sign - Taurus (fixed earth), Leo (fixed fire), Scorpio (fixed water) - you'll be zeroing in on Saturnian themes in your career (Taurus), partnerships (Leo), and home life (Scorpio). It's also worth checking your natal chart to see if any of your personal planets (again, that's your moon sign, Mercury, Venus, and Mars) fall in a fixed sign, as in that case, you'll feel this Saturn retrograde more than others.

The Bottom Line About Saturn Retrograde

It's common to get freaked out by the word retrograde, but the challenges the taskmaster planet Saturn brings into your life are generally for our own good. They present opportunities to cultivate personal growth, to grow up, to be wiser, to stand even more confidently in our sense of self, and to achieve our wildest dreams. With Saturn moving through Aquarius, a progressive, people-loving air sign, slowing down and going back to the drawing board this summer and early fall could strengthen your social life, efforts to better your community, and self-assuredness around letting your unique personality shine. All of that goes to show that being labeled a "taskmaster" planet might sound boring, but it creates the space to properly honor all your hard work and maturity, which nothing to overlook.