We all shudder when we hear the phrase, “Saturn return,” but planetary returns go so much deeper than just this one planet. In fact, if you’ve ever heard someone say, “happy returns” on your birthday, the hundreds-years-old phrase encompasses all planetary returns coming up in the next year. And that’s because a person goes through many returns each year, some minor and some major. But what is a return anyway, and why is it important?
What Are Returns?
A return signifies the moment a planet travels through the zodiac and “returns” to the exact same sign and degree it was the day a person was born. Overall, returns represent a new cycle in someone’s life—the start of a new phase and the opportunities for personal growth and change. Some returns are yearly (such as the sun, Mercury, and Venus), some are monthly (like the moon), and others only happen every few years. It makes total sense then, that the longer a planet takes to go through the zodiac, the more impactful its return will be on your life. It will also indicate how long those effects will last.
Because returns represent a new cycle in a person’s life, it has a great effect on that person’s birth chart. For every return, you essentially receive a new birth chart that gives you a forecast of what’s to come over the next cycle. Certain returns will have different effects on your life, depending on what planet is returning and where it lands in your chart. If you have a planet in mind, analyzing its return in your birth chart can help guide you through the challenges that may lie ahead.
How Is a Return Chart Different Than a Birth Chart?
Let’s first get this straight: A return chart is not the same as your birth chart. While your birth chart stays static, a return chart changes with each new return. But this doesn’t mean that your planetary positions have changed. For example, if you calculate a solar return chart (a birthday chart!) and notice that your moon sign has changed, it doesn’t mean that you’ve acquired a new moon sign. This just means that from the time of the return, until the next return, you’ll connect more with that sign. The same concept can be applied to changed planets or houses.
How to Read a Return Chart
When reading a return chart, there are a few important things to look at. The first, is your return chart’s rising sign. Why? This sign indicates how you’ll approach the world during your return. For example, if you have a natal Cancer rising and your solar return rising sign is in Aries, you might suddenly appear bolder in your life. You might want to take risks and try new things that you were always a little hesitant to do—breaking through that Cancer shell. Alternatively, having an Aries rising in a return chart could be a sign that the return period may be an overwhelming one—filled with new and sudden changes.
While your return rising sign can show you how you’ll present yourself and what kind of year you’ll have, it may also suggest what will shift in the upcoming year. For example, say you’re analyzing your Venus return chart. If your natal Venus is in Capricorn in the Second House, in a return chart your Venus will still be Capricorn, but it may move to a different house. If it moves to the seventh house of partnership for instance, it could mean that you might marry or enter an important partnership during this return. It’s also important to look at the aspects of your return chart to see upcoming challenges.
If you want to go even deeper, the actual day of your return can give you an extra boost of energy and confidence. With it, you can look at your life purpose and goals with a certain glow about you. The specific day of a return is a great time to take action and start new things. Or, at the very least, give you a reason to treat yourself that day. It’s like having a mini birthday!
How Often Do Returns Happen?
While most returns often feel very personal to an individual, some returns—like your Saturn return—can affect other people in your life as well. The much-feared Saturn return happens every 29.5 years and can shift family and romantic relationships during that time. It’s a period of karmic lesson and leaning into responsibility. Another example would be our first Jupiter return—which happens every 12-13 years. The first one an individual experiences is at the beginning of puberty, when we’re just coming out of our shell and engaging with others.
In any case, during those moments in life when you feel like your life is completely off the rails, you might be able to blame your returns.
Types of Planetary Returns
While we’re all aware of Saturn return, here are some other important returns to look out for.
- A solar return occurs once every 365 days, usually on a person’s birthday—but not always (especially if you were born on a cusp). The sun's return can recharge your life’s purpose and suggest the kind of events that lie ahead for the next year of your life.
- A lunar return is when the moon returns to the same exact position it was at your birth. Unlike the rest of the returns on this list, a lunar return happens 13 times a year. You can think of them as your monthly birthday. The lunar return shows your emotional state for that month and how you might respond to upcoming events.
- Similar to the solar return, Mercury returns once a year and usually around a person’s birthday—though not usually on the exact day. A Mercury return focuses on how we might express ourselves, our communication patterns, and opportunities to gain knowledge during the next cycle. This is where we are spending our mental energy for the year to come.
- Venus returns happen once a year and, unlike solar and Mercury, this return doesn’t usually fall around an individual’s birthday. A Venus return signifies new opportunities for relationships—both romantic and platonic. A Venus return can also represent how someone’s love life, aesthetic, and finances may be affected during the new cycle.
- A Mars return happens every 1.5 to 2 years—and is not usually near your birthday. Because Mars is the planet of action and spontaneity, this kind of return explains the type of events someone may experience in the next two years. It guides where our passions will be, our motivations, and our driving forces.
- Jupiter returns occur every 12 years. The first Jupiter return we experience happens during puberty and the second happens during a person’s mid-twenties. With Jupiter being the planet of abundance, everything it touches seems to grow bigger. So, this kind of return tends to bring major milestones that happen during this cycle—a new phase of growth and development in a person’s life.
- Occurring once every 29.5 years, Saturn’s return is a doozy for most—representing a new phase in the aging process. The first Saturn return occurs when a person starts to take “adulting” seriously. In this cycle, people become more mature, take on responsibilities, and learn tough lessons that make them stronger and wiser. The second Saturn return happens in a person’s late 50s, around the time of the mid-life crisis. Perfect timing, no?