Get ready for two new players to vie for first chair in the celestial orchestra – for the next year our cosmic musical score is being played in the key of Saturn and Neptune!

These two gas giants will form a tense, 90-degree aspect in our skies from now (November 2015) through autumn of 2016. Their performance explores the juxtaposition of what’s real and what’s imaginary, of what’s practical and what’s inspired.

But in the cosmic show we don’t just sit and watch – we get to play along. But to pick up the melody, it helps to learn a little astrology.

Backstage on Opening Night

There are always long-term trends creating the mood for our day-to-day experiences. In astrology, we talk about this zeitgeist in terms of the planets beyond the asteroid belt – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and the other dwarf planets beyond. Since these planets are further from the Sun, they have longer orbits. When they align in a special angle between them, it tends to last for months or years. (Astrologers call such alignments an aspect, from a Latin word meaning “to see.”)

On the celestial mechanics, astrologers and astronomers agree. But astrologers take such alignments one step further by seeking meaningful correlations between celestial events and life here in the terrestrial realms. The psychologist Carl Jung called these kinds of acausal yet richly-symbolic connections “synchronicities.”

So how do astrologers find meaning in these cosmic events? First by understanding the symbolic essence invoked by each planet, then exploring how these archetypes may interact. Let’s check out our main players.

The Key of Saturn…

Saturn likes crisp, clean edges. He’s the planet of boundaries.

Like a personal trainer, Saturn’s forte is keeping you focused on your goal. He anchors you in the present moment, wherein lies your true power to make decisions.

As the planet of temperance, Saturn brings you the discipline to stick with it – the hard work and dedication it takes to make things manifest. He also graces you with the deep commitment to never give up despite setbacks. He encourages steady progress by helping you create a manageable timeline and taking action every day.

On the flip side, Saturn won’t let you shirk your responsibilities. If you’ve been avoiding something or slacking, Saturn won’t forget, and will drop your ignored items right back onto your plate.

With Saturn in jovial Sagittarius, the cosmic task-master calls you to align what-you-believe-in with reality-as-it-is. The zodiac sign Sagittarius is fiery and changeable, and ruled by optimistic Jupiter. Saturn in Sagittarius tones down Jupiter’s expansive, exuberant ways (a bit like Tigger debounced). Life may not be wild and freewheeling, but it’s an excellent time to make step-by-step progress toward your goals.

… and the Key of Neptune

Neptune, on the other hand, eludes definition. Neptune prefers those nebulous, indefinable places in life – like the places you go when you meditate, or dream, or just zone out. He’s the planet of “no boundaries.”

Neptune dissolves the cold, harsh edges of three-dimensional reality. He prefers ineffable experiences, those places where you can lose yourself in fantasy and imaginary worlds. Neptune’s siren call entices you to escape into music, television, books, virtual reality, or even alcohol and drugs.

As Neptune graces you with a “holiday in your head,” he’s an ally to your creativity, for recharging you batteries, and for helping you tune into a reality vaster than yourself. But he also makes us prone to addictions and escapism of all types, which can make it difficult to manage mundane life.

With Neptune in the changeable watery sign Pisces, his free-flowing, nebulous tendencies are even more exaggerated. In Jupiter-ruled Pisces, Neptunian dreams are larger than life, and everything seems possible. With nothing to hang on to, it’s easy to just float away.

What to Expect While Saturn & Neptune Play Together

As you can imagine, when the planet of boundaries (Saturn) plays a duet with the planet of no boundaries (Neptune), it’s time to get creative about how we manage our time and our dreams.

First, let’s look at when this odd couple will take to the stage. The tense 90-degree angle between Saturn and Neptune lasts from late 2015 well into 2016. Though this aspect will only be exact on Nov. 26, 2015, and June 17 and Sept. 10, 2016, we will feel the influence the entire time period in between.

Now astrology always plays with the boundaries of fate and free will. Fate holds sway since planetary configurations are “destined” to occur; we can predict them months and years in advance. Free will, because we earthlings have something to say about how we experience and express the cosmic energies invoked, if we choose to pay attention.

Saturn likes to make lists, check things off, and be productive. Saturn likes doing. Neptune, on the other hand, loses the list, if he even bothers to make one; he prefers feeling and creating and dreaming. Neptune likes being (or even non-being). When these two planets are in a tense aspect, we are all set up to explore how we make space for both doing and being.

The possible manifestations are myriad, and depend a great deal on our personal narrative. It’s the conditions of our life that provide the set and setting of our cosmic experiences.

Imagining just a few possibilities for how you might feel:

  • You’ve always had a dream for your life (Neptune). Now you are challenged to figure out how to accomplish that dream in practical reality (Saturn). It means rolling up your sleeves and taking action, and figuring out what actually produces results.
  • You are a workaholic (Saturn), and have never learned to take a vacation (Neptune). Or manage stress. But health concerns force you to learn how to relax. You’re trying yoga and massage, or mindfulness meditations throughout your day.
  • You’re addicted to [fill in the blank], and it’s causing you to avoid or fall behind on important areas of life (Neptune). You need to explore techniques and resources for creating healthier habits (Saturn) for yourself so you can reclaim your life.
  • It seems you’re always busy (Saturn), but don’t have anything concrete to show for it (Neptune). You need to review what you’re doing, and brainstorm creative ways to work smarter. Or change your goals.
  • You feel deeply for others (Neptune) and want to care for their needs. But you also feel trapped and weighed down (Saturn) because your own needs are going unmet. You have to learn how to put on your own oxygen mask before you attend to others.
  • Circumstances in life cause your long-held beliefs (Saturn) to dissolve away (Neptune), leaving you feeling lost and confused. You may turn to a spiritual practice for consolation.

There may be infinite variations, but the themes remain the same. The downside of Saturn and Neptune can be an awareness of limitations, frustration, brain fog and disillusionment. But the upside can be a new understanding and mastery of the physical realms, in harmony with a deeper cosmic plan.

It’s your life, so you get to have a say in your own story’s ending.

Who’s Got The Best Seats in the House (aka Who's This Affecting the Most?)

Because this aspect is part of the current astrological “weather,” its effects are universally felt. Over the next year, actions taken by countries and companies, couples and individuals are all taking place with the Saturn-Neptune music humming in the background. We’re all influenced by it in both overt and subtle ways.

Businesses that encourage self-improvement can expect to do well, including fitness programs, yoga schools, meditation centers and healthy-eating establishments. Life coaches, nutrition consultants, hypnotherapists and personal trainers will also likely be in demand. Any tools that encourage work-life balance will also be in vogue, as people seek to master their routines in order to chase their dreams. On the flip side, those solutions that aren’t genuine will face stricter scrutiny.

Though this transit affects all, some do stand closer to the center stage. Anyone with planets in the mutable signs – Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius or Pisces – is certainly near the splash zone. You can expect the issues mentioned above to become actors in your personal narrative.

Most involved are those born at other times when Saturn and Neptune are in a harsh aspect to one another. It brings up a core theme of your own life involving personal boundaries, escapist tendencies, or other Saturn-Neptune themes. This includes those born in the years 1944-1945, 1952-1953, 1962-1963, 1971-1972, 1979-1980, 1989, 1998-1999, 2006-2007.

Finally, the front row for this celestial duet is occupied by those born between 1971-1972. These babies were born while Saturn and Neptune opposed each other, also in mutable signs of Sagittarius and Gemini. They are now in their early 40s, but especially may be in the market for change, healthier lifestyle habits, or the pursuit of their dreams.

A Cosmic Coda

A musical coda brings the piece to an end. In cosmic cycles, there’s no ending, only coming to a deeper understanding of ourselves and of our universe. No matter how we manifest them, astrological alignments are just an opportunity for us to learn to work with a different combination of celestial energies. As we master them, we open up new ways to experience life in its infinite diversity.