Turning thirty is a big deal. Many experience the last years of their twenties as a transitional phase between youth and maturity. Thirty marks the real entry to adulthood—an age where most people have completed their university degrees, found their vocation, and are comfortably settled in a relationship—or not.
Renowned astrologer Rob Tillett, who spent the seventies as a touring rock & roller in his native Australia and now publishes the popular site Astrology On The Web, says that we spend the end of our twenties “clearing the decks of karmic debris for a clean course for the next cycle.”
“Every twenty-nine years naturally presents us with the challenge to rise to new levels of awareness, or face the consequences of having failed to gain the wisdom required to do so,” Tillett says. It’s a phenomenon known in astrology as Saturn Return.
It takes the planet Saturn twenty-nine and a half years to return to the same position it occupied at the time we were born, a significant event as it marks the end of one cycle and the beginning of another.
Astrologers argue that Saturn Return is one of life’s most important thresholds as it intensifies one’s feelings of sadness, isolation, and purpose. In the words of Rob Hand, author of Planets In Transit, it’s “a time of endings and new beginnings,” a fitting characteristic for Saturnus, the Roman harvest god, the model for the grim reaper.
The Romans celebrated the god at Saturnalia. This festival commenced December 17 during winter solstice, the darkest night of the year. Saturnalia turned society’s laws and customs upside down. Slaves became masters (or at least ate at the same table as their masters), gambling was permitted for all, and, in the words of a Roman commentator from 50 A.D., “loose reigns were given to public dissipation.”
But Saturnalia meant more than a drunken carnival. It was a celebration of Rome’s golden age, an era of peace and harmony that was supposed to have taken place under Saturn’s rule. The Greek poet Hesiod wrote that it was the purest of all ages, a time of balmy weather, leisure, and no fear of death.
Thomas Paine, the American Revolution’s ideological inspirator, wrote, “The supposed reign of Saturn was prior to that which is called the heathen mythology, and was so far a species of theism that it admitted the belief of only one God.” So according to Paine, Saturn is the ur-God, the lone ruler of the vast, ancient universe. Saturn was Ninib to Babylonians and Cronus to the Greek—one of the seven Titans who ruled the world until Zeus kicked them off their galactic thrones.
Saturn is known as the “greater malefic,” or “the killing planet,” and it manifests itself in various ways. “Saturn demands resolution and restructuring,” Tillett says. “Resolution of unfinished business and restructuring of our lives to move forward into the future.”
The changes instigated by Saturn are really fantastic opportunities for those who are ready and capable of making major changes in their lives—harvesting what’s been sown.
“Saturn rules the responsibilities, restrictions and limitations we are apt to encounter, and the lessons we must learn in life. He does not deny or diminish imagination, inspiration, spirituality, or good fortune, but he does demand that these things be given structure and meaning,” Tillett explains.
The 27s died before their Saturn returned, and Tillett postulates that other astrological factors are involved. “The 27th year is an incredibly hefty one,” he notes. “Astrologically, it’s the building up to Saturn Return, but other key factors are at work too.”
Moving at less than one degree per month, it takes the Moon 27 to 28 years to make it 360 degrees around the zodiac. At that point, the Moon revisits its natal position: “The first progressed Lunar Return at age 27 marks the beginning of the difficult transition from the Phase of Youth to the Phase of Maturity,” Tillett says. “The pace of our lives seems to accelerate, as we hurry to clear the decks of karmic debris, in preparation for the next grand stage of the great journey of life. This transitional phase lasts until the Saturn Return, which usually occurs within a year or two.” (Tillett adds that this process is repeated at age 56 when we experience another transition; from the Phase of Maturity to the Phase of Wisdom.)
Another strong effect occurs when the moon’s pathway crosses the sun’s course. These sensitive points are known as the moon’s nodes (also called the dragon’s head and tail). “A collision between the north and south nodes occur during the 27th year, which often generates intense insecurities that lead to major transformations of the life-path,” Tillett adds.
A fourth cause of difficulties is completing the 27-year cycle around the Pythagorean Triangle, a numerical and astrological concept that we’ll explore later on.
For The 27s, Tillett theorizes, “Their energy is so heavily pushed into a particular channel [i.e. music] and when that channel dries up, they don’t know how to move through the pathway.”
With Tillett’s perspective in mind, it’s easy to see that their creativity waned, replaced with distractions (bad relationships, drugs, dwelling on missed opportunities, or fumbling for a “real” or “new” purpose) and a sense of out-of-focusness towards the end of their lives. At least that’s the case for most of them.
Robert Johnson stuck his tongue in the honey pot and got stung; Jesse Belvin was caught up in things he couldn’t control—be it hiring a party driver or becoming a victim to American apartheidists; Brian Jones was a medicated mess for the latter part of his life; and as we shall see, Jimi Hendrix fumbled for a purpose; Janis Joplin chose to walk alone; Jim Morrison turned to destructive disgust. Ad nauseum.
Could it be that The 27s were too caught up in their youth and therefore unwilling, unable, or simply not ready to move across that threshold and face the responsibilities and expectations (theirs and/or others’) that come with adulthood?
Excerpt from The 27s: The Greatest Myth of Rock & Roll