the Dream & the Abyss: a Saturn in Pisces Contemplation

Saturn will enter Pisces March 7, 2023 – and while that is a bit away, a lot is coming through my channel about it and I thought I’d open a conversation on it. This is less of a predictive “what to expect” article and more a meditation on the archetypal themes of this placement, for your contemplation. I’m cutting straight to a hard angle of the deepest challenges for the dreamer and what forges grit for the dreamer.

My reservation/fear in sharing this that I want to get out of the way is that some will think I am predicting that Saturn in Pisces will bring disappointment or hardship related to our dreams. (ouch! Not trying to be like that.) What I am saying is that energetically, being attached to our hopes comes with the shadow of disappointment or despair, and I believe Saturn in Pisces has codes around being refined with our dreaming, such that we grow through the initiations sparked by both the fulfillment of our dreams and the disappointment or loss of specific dreams, bring alternately.

If we want to keep it simplistically predictive, we can say that Saturn works to ‘audit’ the themes of the sign it is transiting through, so we may be bringing sobriety to our dream and fantasy life, and that’s a particular flavor – it is a process that can yield rich and embodied rewards, but it’s not easy. There is real work, discipline, alignment and sobriety that comes to cultivating a dream into reality. I come to writing this after I’ve been thinking lately about the hope and despair cycle. I come to this as a dreamer who desires an extraordinary life and has been initiated through wish fulfillment & disappointment/disillusionment many many times over, enough to have to philosophize about it (and get a grip, hehe)!

Alternately, with Saturn in Pisces we may be healing and dissolving places we have grown disenchanted and rigid and actually healing by allowing ourselves to entertain possibilities and a greater sense of flow. But take this article as a contemplation on the existential challenge a dreamer is up against.

This is an edge for me to share because I’m honestly more comfortable encouraging people to dream and stoking the fire of “believe”. I like to promote and feed enchantment – it is so important to me. Protecting the magic is truly one of my values. But personally having big dreams has not come without grappling with the themes I’ll be discussing. I will be looking at the dark/void places we go to when we lose trust or lose a sense of meaning as the flip side of dreaming – because this is the obstacle (Saturn) and alchemically, an ally (a teacher). My prayer in sharing it is that it helps offer a lantern in those spaces.

Welcome back! Or in case this is your first time here, I’m Sabrina Monarch and I’m a soul-centered astrologer. I love providing perspectives on the opportunities of transits and putting into words what the zeitgeist feels like at this moment in time, to support you on your path & open a dialogue between us and the cosmos. If you would like to receive my writing to your inbox and be notified of upcoming educational opportunities and opportunities to work together, sign up for my mailing list here.

Last night, I was creating an oracle spread around a question I have, and one of the cards I pulled was The Void, from the Wild Unknown Alchemy Oracle Deck.

In the description, there was a prompt to take it deeper by watching the movie Neverending Story, which I’d never seen before (apparently I’m late to a beloved classic!).

I watched it closely with the intention to really let it speak to me & while it helped me with my own question, it also gave me a more universal meditation to share here.

Let me back up to Saturn in Pisces, and what the nature of that placement is.

Saturn is a planet that relates to hard lessons, obstacles, the necessity for discipline, responsibility, sobriety, limitations, containers/structure, hard-earned wisdom, time, inevitability, and boundaries, among other things.

Pisces is a sensitive water sign, rather boundary-less visionary and relates to the hopes, dreams, and wishes dimension of life. Pisces is a mystic. Pisces relates to faith and our relationship with faith, with Spirit, with magic, with the transpersonal realm. Pisces relates to intoxication and altered states – if not so literally through a substance, through fantasy or heightened experiences.

Saturn in Pisces, as a transit, can confront us with themes around responsible dreaming – the way we truly apply ourselves to serve the current of inspiration that runs through us – as well as our particular challenges and harder lessons related to our dreams and ideals, or fantasies and illusions.

Similar signatures that have similar workings

Saturn in Pisces relates to the tension between reality and the dream, sobriety and fantasy, and the tests/initiations that forge the dreamer or forge one’s capacity and range for optimism in the face of obstacles and trials. Other planetary combinations or signatures could relate to similar tensions/themes, such as (a non-exhaustive list):

  • Neptune in Capricorn
  • Pisces Rising (Saturn ruled 11th and 12th whole sign houses)
  • Saturn-Neptune aspects
  • Saturn in the 11th (house of ideals/wishes)

The gentle, serene dreamer vs. the turbulence of the path

I think Pisces, in a kind of regulated or calm state, appears very serene and dreamy. A superficial perception of the dreamer is cloud like, feathery, wispy. But in reality, really being open to relate to our dreams comes with the underbelly of grappling with fear, despair, disillusionment, and lapses in faith.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been deep in contemplation about hope and despair. I differentiate hope from faith or trust, in that hope hinges on a desired outcome of what could be, and falls into a more abysmal shadow of despair when we’re disappointed or when things don’t go to our plan. Faith or trust relate to a deeper, well, trust – that everything is working out as it needs to, even if we can’t understand it now.

In my own experience of being a dreamer throughout my life, I’ve at times held very tightly onto certain hopes, feeling that if I give up I am failure or that I’m betraying the dream, and so I’ve rallied valiantly around the cause even through turbulent and choppy seas… only to experience the most profound humbling ego deaths that brought me closer to the real thing I am really fighting for, but not without going through some epic ‘low dream’ or ‘hell realm’ valley. The times I’ve been attached to the dream of things going a certain way – only to see it all slip through my fingers, if not catastrophically – has shown me the underbelly of hope and dreaming that I’m talking about. This is the downswing that is on the opposite side of feeling like our biggest dreams are coming true (or might be) – the downswing of feeling like all is lost.

In the space of that existential impact, it strikes me as a deeply challenging human experience! It hits somewhere ‘beyond’. There is a kind of awakening that comes from sitting with the difficulty/trouble of a dream’s apparent clash with reality, or with a particular moment in time. Here we run the risk of hardening to ourselves/to life, or we have the opportunity to be initiated in the valley (and not just the glorious high mountain peaks). This is the ‘hardness’ of dreaming I want to discuss. (Note, it is helpful to have support, elders, guides, on the path – these can be deep waters. Saturn relates to elders or traditions which have created pathways before us.)

Turbulence and resistance is not always a sign that we are on the wrong path – in fact, it can be the obstacles that are part of THE path. Dreams and the pursuit of our dreams can work us so deeply in part because of this. It calls upon the pursuit of wisdom (Saturn) to differentiate between the hardness of life that is inevitable or worth working with, versus the hardness of life that is a sign we are employing undue force or trying to promote something illusory or misguided.

With hope & despair already on my mind, and the living question of how to dream from a place of trust and alignment — The Neverending Story touched me so deeply as I recognized this theme loud here. If you haven’t already watched it or don’t like pieces of the plot being given away, maybe stop reading now, go watch the movie and come back 🙂

Atreyu is a warrior sent on a heroic quest to stop “the Nothing” from taking over the world he resides in called Fantasia. When I think of “the Nothing” or the void as an adversary, it is the sense of meaninglessness or despair that is the shadow of the dreamer – see, to believe, is to not succumb to doubt. In the places we are the most attached to our hopes or dreams, the abyss of the alternate (those dreams not coming true) is psychologically and spiritually devastating at times. You might consider how these forces have ever been polarized in our own experience, such as when you’ve called upon belief to pull yourself out of a dark place, or when choosing to believe has confronted you with fear and doubt.

In the case of taking on a goal that has felt extremely visionary, out there, not a sure-promise of success, we end up both rallying around our faith & confronting the inner-demons/shadows of all of our related fears, especially any time we experience a setback.

I have learned in the course of my own grappling with this dynamic that evading and avoiding ‘the Nothing’ is not necessarily the way to go. Often it’s through facing ‘the Nothing’ that I find myself regenerated. This is where I’ve learned not to demonize my lows, my depressions, my grief, my disappointment, but to learn how to move through the valley of them as long as I am meant to (and not any less, or any longer – Saturn says cut the excess).

The beginning of the quest features an Atreyu who is aware of the gravity of the journey theoretically (he has been warned that success is not guaranteed and that it will be treacherous), but has not been marked by it yet. I think of the horse as a symbol here also, of purity/innocence, which is connected to Pisces – there is a real innocence to this sign, which in part energizes the will to believe (as opposed to being too downtrodden by the disenchantments of the world) and also characterizes some of the grief involved in experience/reality seeming to mar that innocence.

One of the first challenges is Atreyu and his horse moving through “the swamp of sadness”, where if you give into the sadness, the swamp will take you. Atreyu makes it, but the horse does not – in this heartbreaking scene.

I read into this further inspired by Bryna Magnusson’s description of the horse as an animal totem in her book “Animal Totems and the I Ching”

“Myths from shamanism all over the world depict horses with a common theme: providing accelerated movement of mankind in the physical and spiritual realms. Horse medicine is a vehicle for creative, physical, and spiritual empowerment. Horses are not brutes trampling any obstacle in their way, horses can be skittish and sensitive to the anxieties of humans. Their power flows in a free and feminine manner. When horse medicine comes to you, an engine has turned on to fuel your current endeavor. You are being asked to create a deeper union between you and your energy, as a rider would bond with his or her horse. Each trusts the other’s intuition and contributes to a safe passage on the journey.”

Describing the ‘reverse totem’, she writes, “To find horse in a contrary situation implies an insurrection of power. Have you taken the reins away from yourself? Has someone else? Are you trying harder and harder to make something work that is not working? Horse power lends itself when it intuitively trusts the direction set forth. Consider what trust has been broken and in what way you can heal a rift in the relationship with your being.”

So as the horse succumbs to the sadness, we have a tragic setback for Atreyu, who witnesses this happening before his very eyes with no power to do anything about it, though he implores the horse to fight against the sadness.

Some things I want to offer about this juncture are:

  • The vulnerability of the person working toward ‘the good’ or the one who has an open heart is that they are pressed/tested to stay open and to reconcile with sad/tragic moments in life without shutting down. Villains in mythic films are hardened to life and do not bear the burden of having dreams – often they laugh at those who do and cling on. It is the hero who struggles with fighting for something of the ‘good’ and somehow having to figure out how to stay open to life even when this has been challenged. I see this as a major theme in say, Harry Potter. In archetypal battles of good and evil, the psychic tension of believing in the good despite the odds is tantamount.
  • At a more day-to-day level, I think this moment of being separated from one’s beloved horse in a moment of moving through ‘the swamp of sadness’ could be compared to how we split off from our deeper direction or motivation in life (and our “horsepower” to get there) when we have gone through a challenging experience and internalized it to a degree that diminishes our will. This may be an opening to contemplation around how we process grief and find integration and re-connection to ourselves when we take life hard to heart. Opening back up this material to resolve trauma can involve facing it again (say with EFT/emotional freedom technique, which can involve recalling painful memories in the past and reliving them while somatically releasing them).
  • At a level of soul-retrieval (if this is something you consider as part of your own personal development/healing path), we might consider where we developed thoughts/beliefs rooted from a traumatic experience that have had the effect of separating us from the horse. What healing tools and practices help us reconnect with a part of ourselves we ended up leaving behind?
  • There is a differentiation we end up having to make as well in terms of when we are staying in the swamp of the psyche as an emotional addiction versus when we are really actually processing something. Sometimes people try to stay above water and not be in the material, and other times people get stuck in the material and don’t will themselves to say, live again. This is a crisis-in-action, perhaps, of our relationship to what pulls us under versus our vision to persist. Personally, whenever I am motivated toward a bigger vista in life, there is often a part of me that wants to pull me under with the fears and anxieties that I can’t have it, it’s not for me, it didn’t work out before, etc.

To have hope or to be tested in one’s optimism is also to experience despair, meaninglessness, exhaustion, sadness that is too much to bare, etc.

The scenes of Atreyu really going THROUGH IT gave me a lot to think about on how high the stakes can feel in the polarization between our dreams and the abyss.

What I want to highlight here is some reflections on this polarization:

  • The abyss may feel too painful and there are ways the psyche defends itself from having to face it. So when we are optimistic as a defense mechanism, or relate to our dreams with force – trying to egoically push our agenda and not let anything stop us – we feel psychically threatened by the void or the darkness. I’ve noticed myself that at times, it is meaningful to have discipline about keeping up above water – and other times, I really need to go into the space of letting go to actually move forward. 
  • Disappointment, heartache, or dashed hopes & dreams (current or past) can have a refining quality to them in that we are tested to relate to THE DEEPER THING or the deeper truth beyond that which we have formed an attachment to. If the loss of a relationship or the loss of a job creates a void in which everything is meaningless, it reveals to us that we placed ultimate meaning on something that cannot fulfill that. The psychic tension and challenge of disappointment is around not throwing the baby out with the bathwater – a disappointment does not mean that all is lost – we are challenged to discover a deeper pulse in the space of having weathered some kind of disappointment/loss/setback.
  • In ceremony, there is often an edge place of not feeling like one can make it. I think that when life presents us this kind of edge, it is important to resource prayer and to learn/remember how to pray. Life’s challenges and impasses call for different prayers. Again on a personal note, when I’m at my edge (and feel like Atreyu in this picture) I remember to pray. Sometimes the breakthrough is the specific prayer that acts like a key.

Spirit as an Ally

The deeper task of Pisces or Saturn in Pisces we could say is learning how to be a vessel of Spirit – how we organize or structure our consciousness to support the flow of inspiration to move through us in a true way. There is a difference between dreams that are born from our ego and personality versus dreams that are a very act of nature emanating through the core of us. Dreams born of our personality are manifested with force, whereas dreams that come from our deeper nature are about surrender and co-creation. Something ‘beyond us’ takes part in musing us and so as we open to that or are available for that, we might find that our dreams teach us about who we are, more than we are meant to control and manufacture our dreams into something we can design with our limited perspective.

When we are disappointed, feel lost, or feel confused about our direction (especially in relationship to our dreams/aspirations), this is like a stage of initiation. It can feel that all is lost, there seems to be no way. We can’t imagine a resolution. This liminal space is a real dojo for the soul, and an existential impasse for the human.

Divine Intervention at the Outer Limits

Just when all seems lost (Atreyu is nearly about to drown), he is rescued by a dragon! This dragon also bears messages around hope & dreaming that essentially we create by wishing – when we believe that all hope is lost, we are “easy to control”.

But to engage the wish, we call upon the mystery and generate. There are the prayers for strength or clarity in hardship, and then there are the prayers that are wishes, prayers as creation.

I want to treat this rescue delicately, since the allure of being ‘saved’ is not always appropriate or responsible. But here’s how I want to look at it.

When we are at a very existential edge – facing a novel kind of crisis in consciousness, when we’ve done all we can up until now and we really are at a loss – this is a moment when the boundary expands. An evolution occurs where: we finally reach out to an elder/mentor/friend and get a perspective beyond us, we pray and experience the Universe speaking back to us, we go to bed in a state of despair and have a miraculous dream where a being visits us and tells us an important message that meaningfully re-orients us, a surprising opportunity appears.

Saturn is about boundaries, and Pisces is boundless – so the way that our consciousness creates structure around the frontierlands of the unknown can feel like a dark night of the soul and then the dawn – the experience of redemption (Pisces) that visits us after we have wrestled with despair or the outer limits of challenge. We are renewed in our faith, in our sense that we can believe in the future or opportunities again – even though it comes after truly feeling unsure if we were going to make it.

Seeing this pattern at play again and again, I have to remember and pray when I’m in the ‘dark night’ space, but I also have to be willing to be receptive to the mystery. I really may not be the sole visionary designer of what will be – it may be something beyond my current understanding and imagination that I am becoming aware of through the adventure.

(Card from the Supra Oracle deck)

Ora et Labora, Effort & Grace, and the Deus ex Machina

Ora et Labora is latin for “pray and labor” which I’m considering as a phrase for Saturn in Pisces. There is a relationship between effort and our concrete actions and the prayer or the intention that goes into it. We do not see immediate results of all of our actions. I once heard a musician on the radio (wish I remembered who) say that “every dog has their day, so I just work on my karma in the meantime”. I think she was speaking to a certain faith that she has that things will work out, but she’s not just waiting around for it to work out – she’s out there doing her thing.

I saw the rescue of Atreyu by the wish dragon as a kind of Deus ex Machina – defined as “an unexpected power or event saving a seemingly hopeless situation, especially as a contrived plot device in a play or novel.”

I think that deus ex machinas (not sure the proper plural, sorry) are quite real, not just as a contrived plot device. I think they are not necessarily reaching out to those in feigned helplessness, but I think there are these moments of grace or dissolving of difficulty that happen after we have been chipping away at a process for some time. We cannot always see the material results that are building in relationship to our efforts, but eventually they do appear and it can feel dramatic and revelatory, or beyond what we could have even imagined.

The Virgo-Pisces axis speaks to a balance between effort (Virgo) and grace/allowing (Pisces). When we are really on the outer edges of our dreams or the places we seem to be evolving existentially/spiritually, there is a balance between engaging the work of the path and letting go/releasing/allowing/becoming receptive.

Now that we’ve gone through all of this, some summary & practical things I want to offer:

  • Saturn in Pisces may teach us how we can relate to the more challenging dimension of having wishes, dreams, and faith, or where we confront limitations in our imagination or will to imagine. I do not think this is a very linear path.
  • We may be called to a greater level of responsibility in how we relate to our dreams (the challenging extremes of either abandoning them because we’ve hardened too much, or being caught up in fantasy/not sober) and how we are willing to be co-creative with life.
  • Saturn has a propensity to “hold on” and Pisces is about letting go – so there may be themes around how we get into a relationship with our effort and action such that it is coming from a place of flow/truth, as well as how we allow ourselves to be with grief or to let go what needs to be let go of, instead of clinging on. I find this is actually a deeply spiritual question – to really be with the true timing of efforting versus letting go, since there is a time for both as all things come into form and leave form.
  • Ceremony, spiritual development and spiritual teachers/teachings, personal development, philosophy, prayer, may be relevant channels for exploring this deeper question of who we wish to be in life and who we are allowing ourselves to be. Should we find ourselves at a boundary or an edge of our understanding, this may be the ground where evolution of our consciousness is occurring. Because it’s Pisces, the themes undergoing Saturnian evolution of understanding can feel relatively existential/oceanic.
  • We can also refine our relationship with boundaries in the Piscean realm, as not having any boundaries can relate to overwhelm or martyrdom. The dream or a muse combines and collaborates with restraint (Saturn) and conditions (Saturn) – and that’s what makes it real and sustainable. We may be in spaces of creating these structures or dissolving old structures.

Thank you for tuning into Saturn in Pisces with me! I will be teaching Evolutionary Astrology again this February in Dragon of the Moon: an Evolutionary Astrology Initiation. This will be an intimate community. Learn more and apply here.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!!

with love,

Sabrina Monarch

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