Saturn is a slow-moving and very powerful planet, malefic in nature. Shani is the Sanskrit name for Saturn and he is also called Shanaishchara (slow moving) as Saturn takes 2.5 years, or 30 months, to pass through all signs of the Zodiac. It is the ruler of longevity of life, death and the aging of the body. It controls the practice of yoga and renunciation, or detachment from this material world. Therefore, it rules over ascetics, monks and spiritual renunciates. It also indicates foreigners and foreign lands in the chart. Saturn is also the ruler of the people dealing in the black market, as well as thieves and robbers.
Said to be the greatest teacher, Saturn is a hard task-master. The lessons learned should help a subject to gain spiritual perspective on life and the realization that full satisfaction can never be possible while transmigrating from one birth to another within this material world.
Coincidentally transport, machinery and prisons are also ruled by Saturn and, in a way, this whole material stratosphere of innumerable planets, planetary systems and forced birth and death is viewed as a large prison. The reason this allegory is used in the Vedas to describe the material planetary systems is that we are not truly “free” until liberated from its confines. This can only happen when man becomes self-realized and renounces the temporary pleasures (and pains) of this world.
Manual laborers are represented by Saturn, but its position in everyone’s horoscope will indicate the type of employment in which they engage. This may also be interpreted to indicate the trials and tribulations to undergo to attain success in the chosen field.
Saturn rules over carpenters and construction workers, laborers, mechanics, miners, masons, vendors, hunters and social servants. Saturn also rules over products such as gasoline, iron, wood and all black colored items. Deadly substances also come under Saturn’s direction.
Saturn is the lord of the signs Capricorn and Aquarius. He is exalted in Libra and debilitated in Aries. His friends are Mercury, Venus, Rahu and Ketu. Enemies are Sun, Moon and Mars. Jupiter is neutral. He is ruler of the birthstars Pushya, Anuradha and Uttarabhadrapada. Saturn is most powerful during the waning of the Moon and shows its greatest effect between the ages of 36 and 42 years. Physically Saturn rules the bones, nails, teeth, and hair. He also has to do with the nervous system, as he will give a body constitution dominated by “Vata” (air or wind) and nerve impulses are related with the element of air. It is also an indicator of psychological problems.
If Saturn is well-positioned, or aspected in the horoscope, it gives long life, the ability to be a leader and an organizer with integrity, sincerity and honesty. If well positioned, it can also give wisdom, fame and patience, along with a sense of justice, or knowing right from wrong. It can help spiritualists become unattached for advancement in their spiritual goals.
When Saturn is in a poor position, it brings disappointments, sorrow and miseries. It may cause delays and difficulties, disputes and disharmony. It may cause subjects to feel despondent or dejected, and cause destruction or death.
A weak position can cause enmity, theft, lawsuits and imprisonment. Accidents and premature aging are also possible effects of a poorly positioned Saturn, which can make its subordinates lonely, sadistic, greedy and fearful. Dishonesty, irresponsibility and addiction to drugs are also traits of those with a poorly positioned Saturn. These people may be agitated and unable to handle stress. They are not practical and have a warped perception of reality. Some may suffer problems from the government and have a hard time earning a living. They give up easily and have no endurance or drive, over a long period of time.
Physically, there may be weakness of nerves and the bones, lack of vitality, and a short life. Ear disease or deafness, gout, colic and asthma may also be caused by the malefic influence of Saturn. Resistance to infectious diseases may be extremely weak and in severe cases, cancer, epilepsy, paralysis and severe mental debility or insanity may manifest.
The Sun married Sanchigai, the daughter of Dhusashta and gave birth to three sons. When Sanchigai went to visit her parents without the knowledge of her husband, she left behind her shadow Chaya Devi. Saturn is one of the three children born to the Sun and Chaya Devi. When Saturn was born it was said that his gaze fell on his father the Sun, and caused vitiligo. His gaze then fell upon the Sun’s charioteer who fell and broke his thigh. Next his gaze fell on the seven horses that drive the Sun’s chariot and they all went blind. It was only when Saturn’s gaze left them that the Sun’s skin cleared, his charioteer’s femur healed, and his horses regained their eye sight.
When Lord Shiva’s son Ganesha was born, his mother Parvati wanted to show the boy to Saturn. Saturn advised her not to, however she insisted and Saturn gazed upon the child with one eye. Instantly Ganesha’s head was burnt to ashes. To prevent Parvati’s anger from destroying the universe, Lord Vishnu, cut the head off a bull elephant he had found, and joined it successfully to Ganesha’s body. This is why Lord Ganesha has the head of an elephant!
The story goes that one of the sons of the Sun named Yama (god of death), was angry with his step-mother Chaya Devi and in a fit of rage hit his step-brother Saturn on his legs. This crippled Saturn, who became lame. Thus Saturn confers a general slowness in all aspects of life. Disappointment, incompatibility, sorrows, imprisonment, stubbornness, servitude, and difficulties in life are associated with Saturn.
In order to be granted the status of planet, Saturn established a Linga (a form of Shiva) at Benares and performed penance for a very long period to time.