Dear Reader,

The following post is an article that was published in The Mountain Astrologer in their Dec. 2012/Jan. 2013 issue. The Saturn-Neptune trine is strong in the sky now through July (peaking July 19), and this seems like an appropriate time to share the article with you. The Mountain Astrologer (TMA) is a fantastic resource for students of astrology as well as professionals, and if you’re not familiar with it, I recommend checking it out! I’ll have another article in TMA in the Oct./Nov. issue later this year, on the astrology of nuclear radiation, so stay tuned. As always, thanks for reading! – Emily Trinkaus

In Febrneptuneuary 2012, against the backdrop of intensifying global crisis, Neptune entered Pisces, signifying the potential to either dissolve the old order, purify, and heal, or sink deeper into denial, delusion, and despair. Neptune, God of the Ocean, is the modern ruler of Pisces the Fish, and for the next 14 years this powerful placement strengthens the water element, heightening emotional sensitivity and intuition and increasing access to the mysterious “otherworld.” Since Neptune’s last tour through Pisces was from 1847 to 1861, this is the first time that any of us on Earth have experienced this transit.

Neptune and Pisces rule the invisible realm of consciousness, energy, spirit, and dreams — all that exists beyond the perception of the five senses and the grasp of the rational mind. While Neptune is in Pisces (until 2026), the veil between material reality and the spirit world grows thin, and boundaries between self and other soften, revealing our oneness with each other and with the greater whole.

While “oneness” sounds like a lovely concept, Neptune in Pisces can be challenging to navigate, in the context of a culture that exalts individualism, materialism, and the rational mind. Most of us in the modern West received little training in working with the invisible and were taught to dismiss anything that can’t be perceived by the five senses, quantified, and analyzed. Addiction, depression, escapism, and denial — all enjoying widespread popularity at the end of the Age of Pisces — are symptoms of a Neptune-deficient culture, suffering from separation.

piscesThe symbol for Pisces is two fish swimming in opposite directions but bound together. The two fish represent the physical world and the invisible world, matter and energy, body and spirit — the divine paradox that we are of this world, and yet we are not of this world. The foundational belief system of the Piscean Age paradigm, dominant for the past 2,000 years or so, is that spirit and matter are separate. God is outside of us, Heaven is far from the Earth. Industrial civilization, with its systematic destruction of the planet, is an outgrowth of this belief system — if matter is not infused with spirit, then matter doesn’t really matter, and all of nature is expendable and readily sacrificed on the altar of “progress.”

Within the larger story of the Turning of the Ages, the Uranus-Pluto square, most active from 2012 to 2015, indicates a critical crossroads and a potentially dramatic turning point. The old planet-destroying paradigm has reached its endgame (Pluto in Capricorn), and humanity is awakening to its power to create a more liberating future (Uranus in Aries). Neptune the Great Dissolver accelerates and intensifies the dissolution of the Age of Pisces, ideally supporting our transition from the death of the old order to the birth of the new. Our task is to consciously cooperate with the energy by reclaiming our spiritual authority, intentionally engaging with the invisible realm, and re-animating magic and meaning in the physical world. And starting in October 2012, the Saturn-Neptune trine can help.

Support from Saturn in Scorpio

saturnSaturn — responsibility, authority, pragmatism, and focus — enters Scorpio on October 5, forming a supportive trine to Neptune. Saturn’s influence can make it easier for us to perceive and work effectively with the subtle, elusive, and amorphous energies of Neptune in Pisces. A trine is a 120-degree angle that promotes ease, cooperation, and harmony, but it tends to be passive unless we intentionally activate its power. We would be wise to take advantage of the Saturn-Neptune trine, since we can expect the square from Saturn in Sagittarius to Neptune in Pisces, 2015-2016, to present more of a challenge. The trine will be exact on October 10, and again on July 19, 2013.

Although Saturn and Neptune symbolize apparent opposites — control and surrender, materialism and spirituality, time and timelessness, pragmatism and idealism — Neptune’s tight conjunction with Saturn at the time of his discovery in 1846 (both at 25° Aquarius) is perhaps a sign that these forces want to be united for optimal functioning. Saturn without Neptune can get stuck in the prison of materialism — a world of fear, scarcity, and limitation. And Neptune without Saturn gets lost in “magical thinking,” inhabiting a wonderland of fantasy, naïvely trusting in positive outcomes without the discipline or will to actually create them.

scorpioSaturn’s two-and-a half-year transit through each sign brings into focus areas of life that require attention. Saturn, the “reality check” planet, makes painfully obvious what is and isn’t working and applies pressure so that we step up, take responsibility, and take action to come into integrity. Saturn in Scorpio sends us to the Underworld, teaching us the necessity of cleaning out our literal and metaphorical basements. If we have the courage to dig into and uncover what we’ve repressed, hidden, or otherwise banished to the subconscious, we’ll be rewarded with the Scorpio gifts of healing, transformation, regeneration, and rebirth.

Although a trine is generally considered a positive aspect, in reality it’s neutral. A trine facilitates cooperation between two forces, and whether that cooperation is expressed for better or worse, depends on our level of awareness. The shadow potential of Saturn in Scorpio is that, upon encountering the darkness — the places both within ourselves and in the collective that seem hopelessly damaged — we build up even stronger walls to defend against the pain. This is when Saturn operates from fear rather than wisdom. Then Neptune in Pisces “tries to help” by suggesting that a few drinks might take the edge off, thereby “supporting” Saturn’s defenses.

Armoring our hearts and going unconscious can be a tempting option when the problems of the world seem so overwhelming. Environmental destruction, wars, starvation, homelessness … It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of such catastrophes, and we can be afraid that, if we really feel the pain of these global tragedies, we’ll drown in a sea of suffering. But Andrew Harvey, founder of the Sacred Activism movement, argues the opposite, and offers a vision for the higher potential of the Saturn-Neptune trine:

[W]e are all afraid that actually waking up to what is really happening will either kill us or drive us mad. But the truth that the mystical systems tell us — one we deeply need to hear — is that if we can create a container of trust strong enough [Saturn], this necessary heartbreak will not only not destroy; it will open us to unprecedented graces of energy and transformation [Neptune].” [1]

Navigating the Waters of Life

BP gulf disasterSuccessful navigation of the Saturn–Neptune trine requires consciously working with the water element, the realm of feelings. Neptune and Pisces both rule the ocean, the literal Source of all life on Earth, the Great Mother’s watery womb. The condition of the planet’s oceans — flooded with oil, poisoned by myriad toxins, taken over by plastic and other trash, and now inundated with radiation — reflects our collective emotional state. Modern Western culture encourages emotional repression, so most of us learn when very young to shut down our feelings. The mass drugging of the population with pharmaceuticals that numb emotions — including, increasingly, children and even toddlers [2] — has largely gone unaddressed in the mainstream, so normalized as to barely warrant attention or debate.

With little understanding of or training in how to work with emotions, those who are acutely sensitive and experience life primarily through their feelings can get easily overwhelmed, triggering the urge to escape or shut down. It’s no wonder that those with a strong Neptune, Pisces, or 12th-house signature in their birth chart are prone to addiction and depression. While Neptune is in Pisces, and we all become more sensitive, we need to increase our emotional intelligence and learn to surf the tides of emotion.

It’s instructive that Neptune and Pisces rule feelings (the water element), addiction, and spirituality. Mythologist and storyteller Michael Meade says, “Emotions are the natural substances of the soul … and when we think we can’t handle the emotions, we lose the natural substances of the soul and begin looking for substances to replace the flow.” [3] Emotions, “the waters of life,” are meant to move (e-motion), and when they’re blocked, the inner life becomes stagnant, we feel disconnected from the greater flow of life, and can easily fall into depression and/or addiction.

One of Saturn’s gifts is responsibility, and Saturn in Scorpio asks us to develop our ability to respond to deep emotions. Saturn’s trine to Neptune lends a take-charge attitude to the emotional realm, so that an area that may feel chaotic and overwhelming can be approached in a more goal-oriented, strategic, and systematic way. “Taking charge” is different from “taking control” — i.e., denying or repressing feelings. Instead, we can use the Saturn-Neptune trine to help us create structures — in Harvey’s words, “containers of trust” — within which we feel safe to soften our defenses, open our hearts, and allow feelings to flow. Spiritual practice is one such avenue.

Spiritual Practice and Strengthening Inner Guidance

meditationA spiritual practice is a commitment (Saturn) to showing up and making yourself available to your inner world and to the greater Mystery (Neptune). In Michael Meade’s words, “Practice is what allows us to be found by eternity.” [4] Sensible Saturn reminds us that committing to a spiritual practice does not require fancy, expensive training or five-hour chunks of time out of your already overly busy schedule. Saturn says: Start small, start where you are, and slowly build from there. The water element values process over end result, and the purpose of a practice is not to “get somewhere” but to consistently show up and be present to what is — particularly the deep feelings that tend to arise when we hit the pause button on our busyness.

Because there’s a common misperception that being “spiritual” means transcending emotions, we tend to judge and repress intense feelings — especially those we might consider “unspiritual,” like anger — that surface during meditation, yoga, or another form of practice. Saturn in Scorpio, which insists that we confront our inner darkness, can be a helpful antidote to the widespread Western phenomenon of “spiritual bypass” — using spirituality to avoid painful feelings. We see examples of spiritual bypass in certain New Age approaches that endorse positive thinking and affirmations – a concentrated focus on the light – while neglecting to explore and heal core wounds contained within the dark of the subconscious.

Remembering Neptune’s rulership of feelings and the divine, it’s helpful to see our emotions as a kind of bridge between spirit and the body, messengers from our higher self. Instead of judging what comes up, we could use our practice as a safe space for feelings to arise, listen to what they’re trying to communicate, and allow them to move through us. Since one of the more shadowy expressions of Neptune in Pisces is an increasing deluge of misinformation, we need our internal guidance systems in high working order so we can distinguish between fact and fiction. This means being able to tune into, clearly hear, trust, and act on that “still, small voice” that always guides us in the right direction, even if it seems illogical or defies popular consensus. If we’re sitting on a backlog of repressed feelings, it’s much more difficult to be in present time and access our inner knowing.

Waking Up within the Dream

dreamLike feelings, dreams also serve as a bridge between the invisible and material worlds, and working with dreams is an effective way to strengthen our inner guidance. While Neptune is in Pisces, the dreamworld — ruled by both Neptune and Pisces — becomes an especially crucial resource. Dreams reveal information beyond the reach of our rational minds and help us to uncover the wisdom of our souls. When we experience synchronicity between a dream and waking life, the presumed boundaries between the physical world and the greater Mystery dissolve. In that sense, dreams help us “wake up” to the magical reality in which we live, because we are largely unconscious of this reality.

In modern Western societies,” writes dream researcher and scholar Robert Moss, “we think of dreams as sleep experiences. But for many cultures, dreaming is fundamentally about waking up … The implication is that, in much of ordinary life, we are in the condition of sleepwalkers, following programs and routines. In dreams, we wake up.” [5]

We can make use of Saturn’s trine to Neptune by taking a more dynamic role in working with our dreams, what Moss calls “active dreaming” — “a way of being fully of this world while maintaining constant contact with another world, the world-behind-the-world, where the deeper logic and purpose of our lives are to be found.” [6] Keeping a dream journal, entering into dream-based therapy, or joining (or starting) a dream circle in which participants share their dreams are some possibilities. When we write and talk about our dreams, we send a signal to the subconscious that we’re paying attention, and as a result, we remember our dreams more easily and receive stronger dream messages. By taking action in response to a dream message, we further strengthen our connection with our souls and with the Mystery.

Because dreams speak to us through the Neptunian, nonlinear language of images, it’s not always easy (and that’s an understatement) to discern exactly what our dreams are trying to tell us. If we attempt an interpretation using the rational, analytical mind, we’re likely to miss the more complex and mysterious layers of the message and rush into an analysis that serves the ego rather than the soul. As with honoring feelings and intuition, working with dreams requires the willingness to receive messages that might be uncomfortable to hear. Neptunian tools for dream work can help us to uncover the messages that want to be communicated — these tools include drawing or painting images from dreams (even if you don’t think you have any artistic skills), dancing the dream, and paying special attention to the feeling of the dream.

forestWe might also expand the process of dream interpretation by noticing symbols and synchronicities in waking life. The practice of waking up to the magic and meaning inherent in the physical world helps us to heal the split between matter and spirit and reconnects us with the web of life. Environmentalist and author Derrick Jensen, in his latest book, Dreams, asks, “How would you live differently — how different would every aspect of your life be — if even just sometimes you walked awake through a world ablaze with meaning? … What if we drop the narcissistic conceit that only humans have something to say, and we reopen ourselves to a world, indeed a universe, of meaning?” [7]

Art as a Path to the Divine

Art is another avenue for bridging material and spiritual realms, and while Neptune is in Pisces, the need for creative expression is especially strong. The practice of making art can provide a Saturnian container for expressing deep feelings and accessing divine magic. In a recent interview, artist (and surfer) Ran Ortner, who paints large-scale, extremely realistic portraits of the ocean, was asked what motivates his art:

“If I could convey the ocean’s paradoxes, its ferocity and tenderness, in the same image, I could possibly awaken the viewer to a place where language drops away … I intend to make it feel astonishing, to have an impact so immediate that it becomes what Kafka called an “ax for the frozen sea inside us.” [8]

Art transports us to other dimensions, takes us out of our habitual time-bound, mind-bound condition and into the realm of timelessness. Our defenses soften, our hearts open, and blocked feelings start to flow. Although the end result of creativity can seem like a Neptunian work of magic, the creative process itself typically entails a strong dose of Saturn. Ortner says:

ran ortner“You have to build up a practice, a system of approach, a set of resources — and from there you can confront the mystery. Everything I read [about the creative process] pointed to deep research and arduous work — and then, in a relaxed moment, the aha. The epiphany comes from the concentrated endeavor, not despite it.” [9]

The creative process can be a fruitful arena for exploring and practicing this dynamic interplay of Saturn and Neptune — effort and epiphany, structure and surrender. But many people who long to express themselves creatively feel inhibited when it comes to setting loose their inner artist. Issues like perfectionism, self-doubt, and fear of judgment, combined with a cultural context that devalues art for its own sake, can make it easy to sacrifice creative dreams. This sacrifice is not only a personal loss, but also a loss to the collective. We’re living in a time when we need everyone’s awakened imagination, each individual’s unique creative genius.

Saturn’s trine to Neptune offers support for harnessing the motivation and discipline to take steps toward healing creative wounds — for putting into place “a system of approach, a set of resources” for evoking your creative genius. Approaching creativity as a process, a practice, rather than being overly focused on the end product, not only helps to minimize tendencies toward perfectionism, but also makes us more available to expressions of some greater force that might want to come through us. In this way, creativity becomes a practice of collaborating and cooperating with the Divine. We don’t get fooled into thinking that we are the source of our creative brilliance. Ecstatic dance, process painting, and the “creative recovery” program outlined in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way [10] are potential allies.

Imagination, Compassion, and Magic

The last Saturn-Neptune trine in water was in 1965-1966 (Saturn in Pisces and Neptune in Scorpio), a time that holds a particular resonance now, since that was also during the Uranus-Pluto conjunction. J. K. Rowling, British author of the Harry Potter series, was born in 1965, with the Saturn-Neptune trine within one degree of exactitude (see Chart). Through her books, Rowling creates a whole magical world in which wizards and witches go about their business entirely beyond the perception of the non-magical Muggles. The spectacular popularity of Harry Potter speaks to people’s longing for magic in this Neptune-deprived culture. The books and movies validate what we suspected all along — that there’s much more going on beyond the ordinary than we’ve been told.

jk rowling

JK Rowling’s birth chart (no birth time, cast for noon). Her Saturn at 16 Pisces trines Neptune at 17 Scorpio.

In 2008, Rowling gave a commencement address at Harvard University with the appropriately Saturn-Neptune title, “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination.” [11] For Rowling, hitting “rock bottom” came in the form of a failed marriage and living on welfare while raising her infant daughter. With nothing left to lose, she devoted herself to writing: “I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.” She completed the first Harry Potter book in 1995, as she came to the end of her first Saturn return, which activated her natal Saturn-Neptune trine and applied the necessary pressure to manifest her dream.

As Rowling mentions in her commencement speech, in her 20s she worked for Amnesty International, another expression of her Saturn-Neptune trine — attempting to relieve or prevent the suffering of others. Now, as one of the wealthiest women in the world, Rowling is a major philanthropist. By arguing for the importance (Saturn) of imagination (Neptune), Rowling makes a link between imagination and another expression of Neptune, compassion: “Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

Your own chart — your natal Saturn and Neptune placements, as well as the houses where Saturn and Neptune are transiting — will offer clues about how you can best utilize the Saturn–Neptune trine. What kinds of structures, practices, and disciplines will support you in activating your imagination and creativity, feeling your connection with the greater whole, and deepening your compassion? We each have a unique role to play at this critical crossroads, and as Rowling says, “We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already.

Chart Data and Sources

Joanne K. Rowling, July 31, 1965; Chipping Sodbury, U.K. (51°N33^, 02°W24^); no birth time (noon used); AA: from birth certificate. (English birth certificates do not give the time of birth.)


1. Andrew Harvey, The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism, Hay House, 2009, p. 105.

2. See “Psychiatric Drugging of Infants and Toddlers in the U.S.,”

3. Michael Meade, “The Great Dance: Finding One’s Way in Troubled Times” (CD), Mosaic Audio, 2004.

4. Ibid.

5. Robert Moss, The Secret History of Dreaming, New World Library, 2009, p. xii.

6. Robert Moss, Active Dreaming: Journeying Beyond Self-Limitation to a Life of Wild Freedom, New World Library, 2011, p. 3.

7. Derrick Jensen, Dreams, Seven Stories Press, 2011, p. 273. It’s worth noting that this book was published on April 5, 2011, just one day after Neptune first ingressed into Pisces.

8. Ariane Conrad, “Water, Water Everywhere: Interview with Ran Ortner,” in The Sun magazine, June 2012, p. 7.

9. Ibid, p. 9.

10. Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1992.

11. All J. K. Rowling quotations are from this source: