The Wheel and the World: Jupiter and Saturn

One time over thirty years ago, when I was still very much a novice astrologer with loads of book learning but little practical experience, I was brought up short by someone who obviously had slightly more of the latter. I had made an off-hand remark about Jupiter and Saturn being the “social” planets, bridging the gap between the purely “personal” planets (Sun. Moon, Mercury, Venus and Mars) and the “trans-personal” planets (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto). This wise person said to me “Yes, but what does that mean?” I’ve been thinking about that question ever since. The study and practice of tarot, with its astrological correspondences developed by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, brought fresh insights into the picture.

The Wheel of Fortune, with its assumption of (usually) beneficial change, was assigned Jupiter, the Greater Benefic in traditional astrology, and the World, denoting (usually) successful completion of the matter at hand, was rather antithetically given to Saturn, the Greater Malefic (also known as the “Great Teacher” and the “Taskmaster”). In the simplest astrological terms, Jupiter is the last word in expansion, while Saturn is all about restriction: one says “just wing it” while the other “dots all the I’s and crosses all the T’s.” They would seem to be as incompatible as oil and water. But deeper contemplation suggests that unregulated growth with no defining boundaries or limits is both risky and wasteful; at the level of cellular biology, it’s called “cancer.” The concept of constructive progress arises when the buoyant but somewhat benign, aimless motive force of Jupiter harnesses itself to the intensely directed purpose of Saturn. The pivotal location of the Wheel of Fortune in the series of tarot trumps stimulates the Fool to embark on the second half of his journey with Jupiterian inspiration and confidence, while the World at the end of the road settles accounts and closes the books with Saturnian precision. The “simple” numbers One through Nine are the province of initial individuation; the “complex” numbers Ten through Twenty-one furnish a broader social context which “sands off” any remaining rough edges in preparation for becoming a “citizen of the universe.”

In the realm of human socialization, my current working model views Saturn as supplying the durable architecture of the self-made structure (or the one we allow others to impose upon us) by which we establish our place in the world (relating to the 10th House of the horoscope, natural placement of Capricorn, Saturn’s primary sign of rulership). Its partner and counterbalance, Jupiter, provides the indwelling atmosphere of optimism and self-assurance fueling the entrepreneurial spirit of adventure by which we summon the enthusiasm to step out into the world. I sometimes think of Saturn as the “launching pad” for communal outreach and Jupiter as the exploratory mission itself. In ideal terms, Jupiterian potential expands to fill the Saturnian space available to it, no more nor less, making for a perfect match between the urge for unbridled growth and the need to provide a channel by which to steer that impulse in the most useful direction. “Social mores” is another way to look at it – Saturn symbolizes the generally-accepted letter of the law, while Jupiter represents its spirit. Structure without spirit is simply vacant mass, while spirit without structure is easily frittered away in false starts and idle dreaming. Too much Saturn and not enough Jupiter creates a stifling rigidity, while the opposite evokes the words of Jimi Hendrix, who once sang “Castles made of sand slip into the sea, eventually.”

One thought on “The Wheel and the World: Jupiter and Saturn

  1. Pingback: The Pathfinder | Parsifal's Wheel Tarot & Astrology

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