The Aquarius Archetype: Know the System to Fight the System

Aquarius energy is about looking at existing systems and institutions and seeing what can be improved, and then potentially working within those systems to change them.

The Aquarius Archetype: Know the System to Fight the System
Photo by NASA / Unsplash

This is a transcript of The Shadow Femme Show podcast. Click here listen to this episode.


You're listening to the Shadow Femme show, a show in which we ask and answer questions about humans, our feelings, in the ways in which we make meaning. I'm your host, Sarah, and I'm an astrologer, Human Design reader, and psychic medium.

So, so far in this podcast, I've been doing an episode every month talking about a different zodiac archetype for each zodiac season. And so now I'm going to be talking about the archetype of Aquarius as we enter Aquarius season now at the end of January.

Unexpected Compatibility

I'm excited to talk about this sign because, well, my partner is an Aquarius, actually, and I like Aquariuses a lot. I think it's funny because I'm a Scorpio, and if you read any sort of basic compatibility guides on astrology signs, Scorpio and Aquarius are supposed to be a pair of signs that just doesn't get along, or that clashes with each other.

I'd say that a lot of the time, that isn't the case for me. And actually, I've heard of a lot of couples who seem to be mismatched by their sun signs, according to popular astrology, that actually they get along really well.

Stereotyped and Misunderstood

And so I find that interesting, especially with Scorpio and Aquarius, because I think we're also two signs that get stereotyped the most—or some of the most—out of the whole zodiac. Or I would say, stereotyped and misunderstood—or, like, people can project project a lot onto us.

So as a fellow misunderstood sign, I'm excited to talk about a sign like Aquarius, because I think it's a very complex one. One thing I'll say, too, before I get into the rest of the episode is, it's probably no coincidence that both Scorpio and Aquarius are that way. I think they have a couple things in common that make them sort of different from some of the other signs in the zodiac.


One thing that comes to mind is, for one thing, they're both literally what's called malefic-ruled signs.

And by that I mean: every sign is ruled by a particular planet, and in traditional astrology, two planets are considered to be what's called “benefics” and two are considered “malefics.”

Benefic planets, which are Jupiter and Venus, are thought to bring things like expansion, ease, blessings, abundance, whereas the malefic planets, Saturn and Mars, are more constrictive. They can bring challenges or difficulties, they can be harsh, and they can cut away rather than add or expand.

And so I would say that it can be easy with those planets to just categorize them as good or bad. I would say, it's more complicated than that.

Benefic planets aren't necessarily all good. Just like, things being easy isn't necessarily always good.

And malefic planets also aren't just blanketly bad, just as difficult doesn't have to equal bad or challenging doesn't have to equal bad. But generally, I would say that people tend to fear or misunderstand malefic planets.

Anyway, all that is to say: Aquarius is ruled by Saturn and Scorpio is ruled by Mars. And so I think it's interesting that they can both kind of be considered antisocial signs—and also, like I've mentioned, kind of misunderstood signs or signs that people project a lot of things on to.

And not only that—because they're not the only malefic ruled planets in the zodiac—there are two others: Aries, which is ruled by Mars, and Capricorn, which is ruled by Saturn. But Aquarius and Scorpio are unique in that they actually were given different rulerships in modern astrology than in traditional astrology, when new planets were discovered. So when Uranus was discovered, it was assigned rulership of Aquarius. And when Pluto was discovered, people said, okay, actually Pluto is the modern ruler of Scorpio. And so in a way you can think of them each as having two ruling planets and they each have two ruling planets that can be kind of difficult.

So anyway, I'll stop talking about Scorpio because really this episode is all about Aquarius. But I think that's actually a nice segue into things because as we talk about how complicated Aquarius is as a sign, it can be helpful to talk about its dual rulership.

Aquarius's Traditional and Modern Rulers: Saturn and Uranus

So, Aquarius—if you are looking at both traditional and modern astrology perspectives—it is associated with both Saturn and Uranus.

And I think that in popular astrology, it has become way more associated with Uranus than Saturn, which, you know, makes sense because popular astrology is usually modern astrology and modern astrology focuses on Uranus as the ruler of Aquarius. But I think it's helpful to remember that Aquarius also definitely has Saturn qualities to it.

Just to backtrack a bit: I've talked about Saturn before, you know, both briefly in this episode, and before in other episodes, but Saturn and Uranus are very, very different planets.

Saturn and Authority

Just to give you a quick recap of what their what their characteristics are like: Saturn is the planet of rules, responsibility, legacy, construction, restriction, limitation, discipline, hard work. It's very grounded, practical, it can bring challenges in our lives that are meant to mature us and orient us towards our own personal power.

I'm thinking specifically of an astrologer named Carolyn W. Casey and her perspective on Saturn, and how, the way she puts it, what Saturn does for us is it teaches us to not locate our authority outside of ourselves. It teaches us not to give away our power or agency to other people. And the challenges it brings confront us with the fact that in order to have freedom and control and agency in our lives, we have to take back our personal power from the places to which we've abdicated it, meaning institutions, other authority figures, parents, bosses, teachers, whatever. If we're always deferring to figures of authority like that, to be responsible for things like our our power, our legacy, our decisions and our lives, then we're kind of, like, giving away our Saturn.

The Saturn Return in someone's life is something that happens about every 28ish years—28 to 30ish years, and that's when Saturn in the sky returns to the same place and to the same degree in the same sign as it was when you were born. So it, you know, returns back to that point after many years. That usually happens two or three times in our lifetime. But the first one, age 28 to 30, is usually the most—it can be the most jarring—it's usually the most formative. And that's a time in our life when we're maturing from the era of our twenties into, quote unquote, real adulthood. And it can be like an important testing ground or important set of challenges that confronts us with things in our life that we just can't take with us if we want to, you know, take back our personal authority, or, I guess, reassert and be confident in our personal authority and really forge a path in our lives that feels aligned for us.

And so that's a little bit of a recap of Saturn, and just coming back around to how that relates to Aquarius…If you are familiar with pop astrology astrology, memes, information out there on the internet, on social media, then you've probably gotten an impression of Aquarius as just free spirits, like people who go to Burning Man, who go to raves, and who are kind of nerdy and weird and eccentric, and who are like a genius mad scientist. And maybe like a loner type, a lot of tattoos and piercings, who's into polyamory and like…I'm just like reeling off a bunch of stereotypes here.

But basically, it's like a “freewheeling spirit,” is what usually gets associated with Aquarius. And I think that's interesting because that's really leaning hard into Aquarius’s modern associations with the planet Uranus, and not so much with a traditional association of it with Saturn. Because, as you can see, all of the descriptors I just kind of reeled off just now don't really fit with a typical Saturnian type personality, which is pretty interesting.

What helped put Aquarius into perspective for me, was actually a talk that my Aquarius partner had me watch that was given by the astrologer Tony Howard. And he's an astrologer who does tons and tons of his own research, he just nerds out on studying lots and lots and lots of charts and accumulating data on them and assembling them into theories about astrology. And I thought that his point of view on Aquarius was super interesting because he has a belief or a theory that has come out of all his research on Aquarius, where he thinks that there's more evidence that Aquarius is actually more properly said to be ruled by Saturn than Uranus.

And that's not to say that there aren't plenty of Aquariuses who have Uranian qualities. And I'll get into what that means in a minute, like what it actually means to have Uranian qualities. But he thinks that, and he's seen from his research, that those people who act very Uranian have the planet Uranus in very prominent places in their birth chart anyway, and that can account for those qualities. So I thought that was super interesting because he actually gave a lot of examples of famous Aquariuses who act a lot more Saturn and are more…Well, okay, I'll explain that in a second. But before I do, I just want to get into what it means to have Uranian qualities, like I just mentioned.

Uranus and Rebellion

So Uranus is a very different planet from Saturn. It is one of the outer planets. It's it's a planet that's used in modern astrology because it wasn't actually visible to the naked eye back in the day when, you know, ancient or traditional astrology was developed.

Uranus is a planet that's associated with all things rebellious, rule-breaking, eccentric, futuristic, inventive. It's also associated with quick, sudden changes and quick downloads, it has the energy of lightning, like lightning striking, and because of that, it can also be correlated with things like the the internet and electricity. And it can also be associated with things like anarchy, liberation. It's rebellious.

The astrologer Jessica Lanyadoo actually has an interesting podcast episode comparing and contrasting Saturn and Uranus. I really enjoyed that one, because she pointed out that they are like…They definitely have their differences—they are two of the most different planets that you can find in the zodiac—but they also have certain interesting similarities, meaning that they are both planets that are kind of simultaneously individualistic and oriented towards the collective at the same time. And they're both pretty stubborn in their own ways too.

Aquarius as a Fixed Sign

So regardless of whether you associate Saturn or Uranus with Aquarius, I think it's interesting that people often talk about Aquarius as as being, like, super “go with the flow,” which they can be for sure, but at the same time, they're ruled by, depending on your perspective, you know, Saturn or Uranus planets that can be pretty stubborn in their own way. And also Aquariuses are fixed signs. There are three different types of what are called “modalities” that are associated with different signs—that's cardinal, fixed, and mutable. Wow, I feel like I'm really getting into a lot of astrology teaching right now. Yeah, that's interesting. Maybe that has to do with intellectual Aquarius vibes right now.

Just to quickly sum up what cardinal, fixed, and mutable means:

Cardinal signs are the ones that are good at initiating things, and maybe have a tough time with maintaining or completing things. But they're really good at getting stuff going. And really take the initiative.

And fixed signs are good at maintaining and enduring. And also they can be a bit stubborn or slow to change. But they're good at sticking things out.

And then mutable signs are very flexible, adaptable, they can be chatty or good at multitasking. And they can be a little bit hard to pin down, or maybe have a hard time committing to stuff. But their adaptability is definitely a virtue.

So yeah, all that is to say: Aquarius is a Fixed sign, which also lends it a bit of certainty and also stubbornness. And so I always think it's interesting when people talk about Aquarius, like, Oh, they're just like these sort of people who are off in their own heads and just purely going with the flow or going along with things and, of course, Aquariuses can actually be really opinionated and very fixed in their beliefs and opinions in certain cases.

But I've talked so far about Aquariuses as a group of people. And, again, I like to remind people in this podcast that everyone has every sign in their chart somewhere. So all these descriptors about Aquarius, they also apply to you, wherever you have Aquarius in your chart.

And okay, so I feel like I've talked for a bit about what Aquarius maybe is or isn't, with a focus on what it isn't, and now I want to segue into just digging into it as an archetype.

Can Aquariuses Be Conventional?

But before I do that, just real quickly, I didn't want to circle back to Tony Howard's research that I was mentioning earlier. And what I wanted to say about that was he was giving lots of examples of Aquariuses that are actually pretty much like people who maintain the status quo and are, by a lot of standards, kind of conventional, or mainstream, who don't like to ruffle feathers, and are even kind of people-pleasing.

He was talking about like celebrities, for instance, and I can't remember who he mentioned; they’re—I want to say a politician, who by all definitions is pretty conservative. [Note from editor Sarah: he was probably talking about Ronald Reagan.] And as far as celebrities in pop culture, he mentioned a few off the top of my head. I know Ellen is an Aquarius, and I want to say Paris Hilton, as well. So what I mean by that is Aquariuses aren't always people who are just on the fringes of society, or super rebellious rule breakers don't want to maintain the status quo. Like there are definitely conventional, quote unquote, conventional people who are Aquariuses, and Tony was saying that in all those cases that he amassed so much evidence that really shows that Aquarius is are more Saturnian than Uranian. And Aquariuses who are Uranian just have Uranus prominently placed in their chart.

Oh, and then one other thought before I get into more stuff, which will include channeling—I feel like I've just it's just been me talking this whole time—but I do want to segue into pulling some cards and channeling some insight from my guides on Aquarius. But I did want to add that there's more I want to say real quick on just Saturn and Uranus because there's such an interesting pair, such a clashing, comparing-and-contrasting kind of pair.

Saturn and Uranus Care About the Individual and the Collective

Coming back to what I mentioned earlier about Jessica Lanyadoo’s insight on Saturn and Uranus: these are two planets that are both very individualistic and also very oriented towards the collective.

Saturn is often associated with things like capitalism, meaning climbing the corporate ladder and having faith in big institutions and big companies, having a very earth sign orientation towards practical things and towards money and the bottom line. And that's not all Saturn is, obviously, but that is one association that people have with it. And so capitalism is very individualistic and focused on the self and what you individually as a person can get out of something.

At the same time, Saturn is also a planet that likes to build for the future. It's a planet that cares about leaving a legacy. And it's also a planet that's really concerned with systems and, like I've mentioned, institutions. And so Saturn energy can be funneled into building institutions and systems, or gradually revising them.

I would say that Saturnian Aquarius energy like this is where Aquarius really comes into play. Aquarius energy is about looking at existing systems and institutions and seeing what can be improved, and then potentially working within those systems to change them. Aquarius isn't always necessarily coming at things from a Uranian expression. Uranus is more about, like, burn everything down and start over. Aquarius energy can see the future. And it can also be very realistic about the present. And what's here right now and is not working. And people with a lot of Aquarius energy are usually very systems-oriented, and like to make things work well and work efficiently for the collective.

And Uranus is also a planet that's associated with both the individual and the collective. And by that, I mean, it's a planet that can be a sort of lone wolf or rebel type planet. It's the planet of someone who's an outlaw or on the outskirts of society and doesn't fit in and doesn't conform to the rules and conventions of society. It's also very collective-oriented because it's rebellious. It's a planet of revolution, and of liberation and equality and the rights of the people. It can express itself both as lone wolf energy or in the starting of rebellion or forming a union. Or the collective—basically “the sum of the parts is greater than the whole” type of energy.

And again, not to say that Aquarius doesn't have that type of energy to it; it very much can. But Aquariuses don't always have to work outside the system or on the fringes of society; they also have that Saturnian knowledge of conventions, rules, how the system works, and especially what isn't working so that they can then go in and change it.

Okay, so finally, I'm going to go ahead and get into some channeled messages here. It has been a very rambling episode, but at the same time, I hope that it's been alright to follow along. I feel like I've been getting a little more into the nitty gritty of some astrology basics than I have on on other episodes, so I guess this one goes out to all the astrology students out there.

Okay, so I have a few different oracle decks that I'm pulling from and the first one I pulled from—this may be a little confusing, but it’s actually an astrology oracle deck, and it's a traditional astrology oracle deck. So it's a bunch of different cards with all of the planets, traditional planets, meaning the sun all the way down through Saturn, in all the different signs, and I just pulled one of them, and I say this might be confusing because it's like, I'm already talking about astrological archetypes. Now I'm just adding even more in, to help explain the ones I already brought up.

But okay, hopefully this makes sense.

Aquarius and the Appreciation of Difference

So the card I drew is Saturn in Sagittarius. And, let's see…So, okay, what I what I got right away from this was was that well, my partner has Saturn in Sagittarius, and they're like, yeah, like talk about her. Because as I've said, she's an Aquarius. Not only is she an Aquarius, she's an Aquarius Sun, Rising, and Mercury. But she also has a lot of strong Sagittarius energy to her and she has this whole stellium in Sagittarius, including Saturn in Sagittarius.

So let's see, what do they want me say about that?

What we want to say about that is that you love her very much. And she's very different from you. And also very similar, but on paper, and in her chart, she's very different. And you like those differences. You both like those differences.

So I think they're bringing that up because Aquarius is a sign that appreciates difference.

She doesn't want a cookie cutter relationship, and neither do you. And you two are people who have done your relationship very differently for most.

And so they're showing me, or reminding me of—this is going to be a tangent…So if you've ever watched the show The Good Place, there's this concept in the show called Jeremy Bearimy. And it's this idea that…So the characters in the show, they've died and gone to the afterlife. And one of the immortal beings in charge explains to them that time flows differently in the afterlife than it does on Earth. And whereas time flows like a line on Earth, and it flows in a linear way, in the afterlife, it flows in a very different way. And he draws out this complicated, cursive-like line on the board. And it looks like a cursive word that says, Jeremy Bearimy.

And at the start of our relationship, my girlfriend and I, I can't remember which one of us said this, but we felt that our relationship was following a Jeremy Bearimy timeline, meaning we were doing things all outside of the quote unquote normal order of how things are done in a relationship, like, basically the order of like meeting or becoming girlfriends, or having a first kiss, or, you know, moving in together or meeting each other's parents like everything was kind of jumbled up from the supposedly normal way of ordering all those things, like the normal linear way. Everything kind of happened much faster and slower and in a different order, than how most people experience.

And I feel like that's pretty fitting for an Aquarius. And not only that, but she and I had our first date on the Aquarius New Moon of 2020, like January 2020. And we've had our relationship grow and progress during a time when Uranus and Saturn have actually been clashing in the sky.

Saturn vs. Uranus: A Stressful Time

So I don't know if you followed along with overarching astrological trends for the past couple of years, but Saturn has been squaring Uranus repeatedly for the past like year and a half or so. And it's been basically happening all during the pandemic; it's caused a lot of tension and a lot of clashing between those two themes of restriction and limitation—like lock downs and being cut off from other people and from society—and then also, you know, collective experiences, collective grief—and the clashing of stability with sudden abrupt change, and of things like routine, and of things like the status quo, with the new.

On a more bodily level, Saturn clashing with Uranus can also just mean a shock to the physical system or just feeling frazzled, feeling stressed, feeling a lot of pressure, and feeling fried, because you know, Uranus has a lot of electric energy to it. So if you're someone who's been feeling any of those themes for the past year or two, you're not alone, and there's an astrological reason for it too.

Luckily, that kind of tension is going to be taking a backseat to other themes for a lot of this year. But that's been the kind of energy that we've been experiencing so far all during the pandemic. And if you, like me, are in a relationship or started a relationship just before the pandemic, you've been building that bond in kind of energy that is pretty difficult, collectively. And so it can be be helpful to maybe acknowledge that and also acknowledge that anyone who's in any sort of relationship, whether friendship, family relationship, or romantic relationship—all our relationships have been undergoing stress, obviously, for the past couple of years.

And our relationships have…some of them have fallen away, some of us have forged new ones, or we've just adapted existing ones, we've had to connect with people in ways that look different from before. I think it's interesting that that happened as well as some outer planets, in the end of 2020 and start of 2021. were moving through Aquarius—and Saturn also entered Aquarius in March of 2020 for the first time, and we suddenly had to be part of society slash connect with other people primarily through the internet. And Aquarius is definitely a sign that's associated with the internet, with technology with all things futuristic.

I hear myself saying that and I'm like, these are all Uranian qualities too. So hopefully I'm not, you know, contradicting myself too much, and this episode has been very rambling. But all that is to say yes, there definitely are some similarities between Aquarius and Uranus. And I'm not necessarily arguing that those are two mutually exclusive archetypes, but I just wanted to really lean hard on the Saturn qualities for a bit of Aquarius because I think those aren't talked about as much as the Uranus qualities.

Okay, I feel like I've said Saturn and Uranus like 100 times so far in this episode, but it's all good. Okay, I've really gotten off track here. I was trying to channel about this Saturn and Sagittarius card, but I think that's okay. I think it led me where I needed to go or wherever it was interesting to go. And I think it's alright that is a rambling installment of this series, because I feel like Aquarius is a sign that likes to follow its curiosity, down different intellectual paths, different mental paths. And that's kind of what I'm doing right now.

Aquarius vs. Leo, or: How Aquariuses Become Confident Badasses

So, okay, I'm going to draw another card here. Ooh, so the card I got was trust. Oh, interesting…

Okay, so I was tuning in to see what my guides had to say about that. And it sort of came to me as a bunch of different concepts. So I am trying to string this out into a linear way now, into a linear sentence. But what I got was:

Aquariuses can really learn self-trust and self-confidence in a way that is pretty solid and certain and also not egoistic.

So they were reminding me of Aquarius’s opposite sign in the zodiac, which is Leo. And Leo is a sign that is ruled by the Sun. And the Sun is the planet that's associated with our ego, with our sense of self, with our core identity, the way we express our solar, more masculine, outward energy in the world. And it's like how we shine and how we get attention, things like that. And Leo is a sign that can really attract attention and thrive in the spotlight or thrive in instances of performance or when they're expressing themselves and are the center of attention or have an audience they can be very charismatic and captivating and they can they can also be associated with like the idea of a Solo Star, like the star of the show.

And as warm and generous and gregarious as Leos can be, there is a bit of a singularity—I don't know if that's the right word—there is an individuality to this kind of archetype where it's like, you know, they are the star, they are the one who's shining and you're, paying attention to them. Like that is a situation in which Leo can really thrive.

Whereas Aquarius is the sign that is opposite the zodiac wheel from Leo. And because of that, the Sun in Aquarius is considered to be in detriment. And that's a traditional astrology term, which means that the Sun isn't as able to express itself as easily when in that sign. So typical solar qualities like shining and taking up space, acting on the world, and being the center of attention, and things like that aren't as easily expressed when the Sun is in Aquarius. And by traditional terms, that means it's quote unquote weaker, or not as capable, I guess.

But at the same time, I actually think that an Aquarius Sun obviously is not less valuable than a Leo Sun. They just express solar energy differently. And I also don't think it's necessarily a bad thing, to not default to more self-centric, or prideful or showy qualities of the sun.

For Aquariuses, their identity tends to be a bit more woven into a collective idea of humanity. They're generally more oriented towards the idea that they're one of many, and we are all unique. And all equal. Aquariuses often work well in groups, or like being part of a group, part of a collective, a team, a club of friend, group, a union, something like that, a cause. And I feel like their solar energy is maybe more—I don't know if diffuse is the right word, but it's like, it's not as naturally defined and definite and self-contained and it doesn't as easily take up a ton of space as maybe a placement like a Leo sun or an Aries sun, for instance, where the Sun is considered to be more at home in those signs. But again, it's not necessarily a bad thing, even though the Sun is considered to be in detriment in Aquarius.

So circling back to this card, what I'm getting from that is that…Aquariuses who have kind of moved through life, and learned lessons in life, and done a lot of self-reflection and introspection, can actually come out of it being more sure of themselves, more confident, and with no need to grandstand or prove themselves or shine really big or compete with others. Because they've sort of gone on this journey of doing the work to coalesce all their personal energy and draw it towards themselves and really observe other people, observe the collective, observe group dynamics, and, from all those experiences, figure out what is and isn't them, and really gather their energy into themselves.

And at the end of it, they end up being pretty certain, with that nice fixed sign energy, and just solid and sure of themselves and what they are and what they aren't, and the fact that they don't have to prove anything to anyone else.

IDGAF Energy

And I think that, just to sort of wrap things up, I think that's why people really love to associate Aquariuses with Uranus, because Uranus energy is like, I don't give a fuck energy, like people who don't care what other people think, and all that. But one thing that my partner Charo likes to say is that there's a difference between saying, “I don't care what other people think,” and thinking like you're actively rebelling against other people to try to be different from them. There's a difference between that and just simply knowing who you are, and being confident in that, because with the latter example, it's like, you don't have to prove anything. And it's like that saying: “The opposite of love isn't hate; it’s indifference.” It's like, actively rebelling against other people, trying so hard to be unique and different from them, actually, in a way, it kind of shows that you really care about what they think.

I feel like a mature Aquarius is someone like Charo, who really knows herself and who just doesn't feel that need to prove how unique she is because she already knows she's unique.


Okay, so speaking of Charo, she's about to walk in the door any minute and I told her I would wrap this up before she did so that she wouldn't have to accidentally interrupt my recording out here in the living room. So I'm going to quickly wrap things up now and I hope you enjoyed that episode. Happy Aquarius season, and I will see you next time.