Marsilio Ficino was terrified of Saturn. I guess we are all terrified of Saturn, sitting as we do staring at our charts and our upcoming Saturn transits whispering obscenities under our breath. He’s unpleasant, we know this. He takes things away from us, we know this. But Ficino was perhaps even more terrified of Saturn than anyone else and went so far as to develop a whole system to protect himself from his effects.
Every time I read about Ficino, mostly in books by the greats Ioan Culianu and Frances Yates, my crush gets deeper and deeper. He was timid, fearful, fragile. And yet always striving toward harmony, toward that moment when he could stand under the heavens without fear, without armor, and take what the world had to offer. Instead, you get the sense that he spent most of his time hiding under his couch, afraid that Saturn was going to burst through the door at any minute and start setting his furniture on fire. He reminds me a bit of myself.
Ficino was one of those delicious Renaissance polymaths: philosopher, priest, doctor, magician, rock star, etc. He was also an astrologer, but he used it more for healing than for prediction. And for Ficino, what qualified as healing was anything that got you the hell away from Saturn.
He was Saturn afflicted, that’s for sure, with Mars, Moon, and North Node in Capricorn and Saturn sitting heavily on his Aquarius ascendant and beaming its rays hatefully toward just about every other planet in his chart. Ficino just wanted things to be beautiful and delicate, and here was Saturn insisting everything be tough and rigid.
What he wanted was the three graces, Sun, Jupiter, and Venus. Those were the nice planets, the planets of the intellect, of bounty, of pleasure. So Ficino went about trying to bring more of those energies into his life, so much of those energies, in fact, that Saturn’s energies simply wouldn’t find the space to come in and bother him, there wouldn’t be any room.
Ficino’s philosophy and magical system was built entirely around the idea of love. (Which is another reason why I love him so much.) The planets are constantly bathing us and the whole world in their love, but there are certain things — plants, animals, colors, gems, scents — that each planet loves more than others.
For example, Venus loves roses, and the Sun loves gold. So if you surround yourself with roses and gold, Venus and the Sun would be beaming their love down extra hard in your direction. If you remove everything that Saturn loves from your home and your life, then his love (which is mostly experienced like the father who shows his love to his son by beating him with a belt to harden him up) would be redirected away from you.
Ficino took this so far as to completely redecorate his house, painting a fresco in the colors of Sun, Jupiter, and Venus above his bed. He wrote, explaining, “Someone may construct… on the domed ceiling of the innermost cubicle of his house, where he mostly lives and sleeps, such a figure with the colours in it. And when he comes out of his house he will perceive, not so much the spectacle of individual things, but the figure of the universe and its colours.” Having constant reminders of this love would direct one’s attention only toward that love, not to the individual things that might bring disappointment or worry.
As I was reading this, with Saturn squaring Venus almost exactly and not, you know, having such a great wonderful time with that, my first thought was, Why did no one ever tell me I could do this? Whether or not it’s silly, I immediately went to the gardening store and bought up all of the plants (including six rosebushes, I am serious about trying to get Saturn out of my space) that are sacred to the three graces and planted them in my backyard.
Indoors I began burning Venus incense made by Phytognosis, who are super good and thoughtful in the making of their planetary incenses. I am only kind of sort of seriously considering painting a reproduction of Botticelli’s Primavera above my bed.
Of course Saturn isn’t only an affliction, and he’ll find you no matter what color couch you hide under, but it’s a nice thought. And even if Saturn insists that I spend the rest of this transit weeping in public, at least I have some beautiful rosebushes to tend to now.
Jessa Crispin is the author of My Three Dads and The Dead Ladies Project, both published by The University of Chicago Press.