Saturn in Scorpio: Do We Dare Talk About Death?

Tuesday June 17th 2014

Angels in America, one of the great works of art inspired by the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s

Many years ago, in a time before mobile phones, when  skateboards were cool, trousers were high-waisted and hair sharp, a shadow came across the land. Dozens of beautiful princes were cut down in the fullness of youth by a mysterious wasting plague.

The sexually transmitted disease AIDS was named in 1982; in 1984 the HIV virus was identified; in 1986 a British public information campaign called Don’t Die of Ignorance had a major impact on a generation… Sex was never the same again. It was the first government sponsored STD awareness campaign and widely copied around the globe.

During this period, Saturn was in Scorpio —  from November 1982 through November 1985. Saturn is, of course, the grim reaper, and Scorpio rules the genitals. The symbolism is stark. Pluto, lord of the kingdom of the dead, the land of shadows, swiftly followed Saturn into Scorpio  back in the 1980s. The two worked together, in particular reaping young men, although they were not the only ones to die of AIDS. Pluto stayed in Scorpio for another decade after the grim reaper had moved on.

AIDS is still a scourge in Africa and Asia. But in the West, thanks to advances in medicine, it is no longer a death sentence. The public awareness campaigns, which emphasised the fact that anyone could catch AIDS, apparently did change behaviour in the West too, making it easier to contain the epidemic.

This passage of Saturn through Scorpio (2012-2014/5) has seen no such public health scare, but the story of AIDS does help us to see how Saturn in Scorpio might work. For a start, Saturn in Scorpio delineated new rules about sex, a Scorpio concern.

salkbigIn fact, Saturn drew a line under AIDS. It was the beginning of the defeat of the disease. Once it was named and the virus correctly isolated, boundaries could be set. Saturn is about  endings and limitation. During the previous period of Saturn in Scorpio (1953-1956), the elimination of polio started through mass vaccination. This led to the near eradication of the disease globally — although we have been reminded recently that polio is still with us as it threatens the children of Baghdad and Damascus and Aleppo.

Scorpio is one of the signs of healing, but not in the sense of caring. Scorpio is about excision — remember its traditional planet is Mars, which rules the scalpel. Scorpio cuts out the cancer, digs out the neurosis, lances the boil, lasers the tumour, and stitches the wound. In 1953, with Saturn in Scorpio, the first open-heart surgery was performed.  Scorpio cuts to be kind; Saturn keeps the surgeon steady.

It looks this time around as if we may see an end to malaria – which would be wonderful (and partly thanks to Saturn in Scorpio Bill Gates). But here in Britain, at least, there is another boundary issue no one dares to speak of — when do we allow people to cross the border between life and death?

Every health professional I talk to says the same thing: we need rules about dying. We have rules — the ancient Hippocratic oath — that order us to revive someone so long as life is possible. But what about the quality of that life? And what if we prolong life for another month or another week, what is the cost? Does that balance against, say, vaccinating a child against polio?

Now that life is prolonged by pharmaceuticals beyond dignity, what’s the cut off? That’s Saturn in Scorpio.






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  1. […] The planet Saturn rules boundaries. Scorpio is the sign that rules death. Put the two together and ask that question.  […]

  2. Diane L says:

    A subject much on my mind these days. My Scorpio sister & I had to make changes regarding our father’s end of life health directives from full code to no code with comfort measures. Since he had the stroke following his heart surgery, his quality of life is much reduced. This discussion is not going away soon for all those aging Boomers either. Just because life can be prolonged by medical means doesn’t mean it should be IMO. 🙁

    • Christina says:

      My Dad’s take on old age is that it’s boring and horrible. He keeps on mentioning that he’s outlived his father and grandfather by more than 15 years — and not in a good way. From my point of view, it’s great that he’s lived long enough for us to move our relationship on at last, but terrible to see someone once so full of piss and vinegar, so fed up and frustrated.

      • mimi says:

        My mum died last year and she always said : “everybody wants to grow old, but nobody wants to……. be old”.

        She was so right, the more I grow old, the more I hate it. It has nothing to do with loosing ones beauty, but with not being able to do the things you could do when you were young.
        It is so tyring and I’m not that very old yet !

        In this time in history It is not nice being old and I hope that when I have reached the stage I’m going to die, that I will have grown towards death and will go peacefully.

        If I would have to suffer a lot of pain before my death I don’t know if I would choose to undergo euthanasia, but I’m glad the possibility is there for us in the Netherlands, however it is not very easy. It is a difficult procedure.


  3. Isy says:

    To be honest, I think it’s time to examine what we mean by quality of life. Many, like Mimi here, say that if they were in a lot of pain, they’d rather die. I have lived in a fair amount of pain for well over a decade, and anyone who tries to take my life is going to have a hell of a time, because what makes life worth living has nothing to do with comfort. If all meaning of someone’s life were to be negated by pain, I’d pity them such a shallow life, but then, few people have really been tested, so it’s all rather speculative.

    Saturn is not just about dying, but about living properly. In the myth, he didn’t just castrate his father, but his actions gave rise to the birth of Venus — the very embodiment of love, beauty, comfort, and wealth. He isn’t just the schoolteacher, he can also be the earned award of magna cum laude.

    It does make sense to examine what we consider to be our limits — and to remember, most importantly, to put those limits in context. Nothing, not pain, not life, not death, happens in isolation. When we speak of these things, at present, we tend to put forth single monolithic issues as being our cutoff point. I have a friend who has agreed to act as my durable power of attorney for healthcare decisions, when I’m unable to make those decisions myself, and have instructed her to consult closely with 3 other people who know me well, 2 of whom have my disease. I did this because there is no single thing that makes life unliveable; it’s too big a question for anyone to face alone, so I have her, and she has my other friends.

    I think that’s quite Saturnian — a whole society deciding whether I should live or die, in a coordinated way. I can live with that… so to speak. 🙂

    • Isy says:

      Sorry, I didn’t mean to say Mimi has a shallow life — obviously untrue, for on thing, from seeing her posts over the years 🙂 I was thinking of the many conversations I’ve overheard and participated in over the years, as nurse, as patient, and as a casual passerby.