Ominous Saturn is the most distant planet from Earth still visible to the naked eye. It is also the sixth planet from the Sun, and astronomers once believed it was the Solar System's outermost planet, a cold, solitary pariah in deep space - alone, but an awesome presence nonetheless. Saturn is the second-largest planet, after Jupiter.

The Greeks identified Saturn with Cronus, chief of the race of giant gods called Titans who ruled before the Olympians. Fearful of a prophecy that one of his children would dethrone him, the grisly Cronus ate each child right after it was born. But his wife Rhea saved infant Zeus by offering Cronus a stone in the baby's stead, and Zeus grew up to fulfill the augury. Cronus ended up as a bitter outcast, whom the Greeks portrayed as a stooped Father Time.

The Romans grafted Cronus onto an agriculture god they inherited from the Etruscans. The result was Saturn, a god of time and farming. His festival, the Saturnalia, was held every December to celebrate the winter solstice.

In the long run, Saturn never entirely shed its ancient negative associations. The word saturnine means gloomy and taciturn. Still, astrology finds the plant a complex and vital constricting force that stabilized Jupiter's expansive optimism. Saturn may indicate adversity, but often it is in the service of a more realistic perspective.

Saturn is considered to be an intermediary between the inner, personal planets and the outer, 'transpersonal' planets those that govern the wider environment beyond the self and an individual's interaction with it. As regulator, Saturn represents authority. Its position at birth is said to determine the relationship between child and father. It also represents internal authority, or conscience and self-control. Failure to heed the limitations they impose is said to mean possible conflict with established social order.

Saturn's influence can inspire or devastate. In positive circumstances, it confers persistence and endurance, prudence, thrift, and managerial skills. Saturn's strong presence in a birth chart may denote a person who is fond of routine and possibly is destined for a career in the military, government, business or religion. A negative Saturn influence, however, warns of repression, selfishness, cruelty, deviousness and greed.

Saturn's orbit of the Sun takes twenty-nine and a half years. Its first full circle through a person's horoscope, as one approaches the age of thirty, is thought by astrologers to signify a time of change, an opportunity for reassessment and transformation.

Saturn rules Aquarius and Capricorn. It is also said to govern the body's aging process and such predations of time as rheumatism, hardening of the arteries, degeneration of organs, loss of teeth and ailments of the gall bladder and spleen.

Saturn's glyph, like Jupiter's incorporates the cross and half circle. But in Saturn's case the cross is paramount, making matter ascendant over mind and bringing intangibles down to earth.