I crept into my Saturn return with my hands steeped in oils, tight bits of hair and cotton covering my floor. It was a slow entry to this transit, anticlimactic—what could have taken several hours spanned days and nights to build this new person, one I’d experienced before but could barely remember. Someone untouched by the malefic activations across her third and fourth houses, yet to lose community and homes like spare change in the laundry—glinting and glaring for attention, left behind indefinitely. Toiling gently over two Netflix series to completion, I emerged mostly victorious: green braids swaying down to my hips, tidied in neat parts, framing my face with the emerald glow of my dreams. They weren’t “finished”—these were yarn braids, meant to be clipped at the ends and burned for sealing, but I couldn’t be bothered. No lighter fluid, no care, no patience; I had already done so much. For me, Venusian outcomes are a Saturnian effort.
Sieged by a natal and transiting domicile Saturn on my Imum Coeli, I’ve found myself sleeping on my childhood twin again. From toddler years to pre-pubescence, my mother would perch on my bed as I squeezed into a shrinking white chair wedged between her legs, getting my scalp greased and hair braided for the week to come. She maneuvered my Sunday scaries and dense tight curls with all the nurturing grip they could stand, routinely leaving me ready as I’d ever be for another Monday of hell.
Before my hips could expand any farther outside my seat, I took to washing and handling my own hair on the weekends. It was a step I took as anxiously as the first time I boldly addressed my mother as “Ma,” on the floor of an Ashley Stewart, in lieu of Mommy. I was ready to grow up, to take agency over my body. There was no YouTube for me to study and I resented asking to be shown things; I carved out time and intuitively felt around, gawking in a mirror, trying to recreate the cornrows my mother would neatly construct for me.
Learning to braid my own hair was a massive endeavor in discipline that I routinely took shortcuts on. I tried practicing on my dolls, but their straight synthetic strands flopped around in my hands and only made me angry—everything I built would fall apart. I had to make myself the blueprint to get anywhere. Many nights I would stay up and only half succeed, walking to middle school the next day with half a head of braids and the other half brushed into a bushy ponytail. Looking back I can almost hear Saturn booming at me, “as long as you continue to half ass this, you will continue to look a mess.” My half and three-quarter done hairstyles told me to come correct, to take care with planning, to build with efficiency.
With braids, we build from the root and move out. It’s an Aquarian practice in that nature, to build in a direction away from what’s centered: in this case, our bodies. Growing up, we realize that black hair, along with the black body, is politicized before any of us even learns how to manage it. What is ours so quickly becomes divorced from owner and policed by the world, bullied into styles before we can even discern what excites us. Our hair becomes marginal to our own needs and aesthetics, regarded with contempt and pushed to conform to the mutating ideals of whoever is around. When I visit my father in Atlanta and he spots my curly fro standing tall, full, and free, he presses for a hair taming, sending me off to be braided up and down by a rotating circle of Gambian aunties. For him, braids are the cultural standard, a marker of neatness and sophistication. I oblige and spend a full week in pain, scalp stretched within an inch of its life, unable to sleep without throwing back ibuprofen, and certainly unable to lay on my side or back. In my cosmopolitan hometown of New York City, I’ve heard of black peers referring to braids as inherently ghetto, to my shock.
Confusing messaging aside, it remains a matter of pride to be able to wrangle the shortest of fros into the tightest of braids. It’s a black girl’s rite of passage to find her way around her own hair or her homegirls’—to press; to plait; to sculpt a halo of curls. The hot comb I grew to fear was an agent of Mars, a violent harbinger of burns to my ears, kitchen, and temples. The afro my father and grandmother turn their nose at is a Solar declaration of presence and blackness. The braids I build are not just about fashion, are not a solely Venusian endeavor, but a protective one. These roads to Venus are supportive; a shield; are inherently Saturnian.
It felt appropriate to ease into the exacting of my Saturn Return by indulging in this measured care, celebrating the birthright of building ritual and practice around the very thing I mean to protect, the very thing I’m encouraged to hate. Leaning into this deliberate work for Venusian ends never feels radical or compulsive, it feels like home.
Bio: djenneba drammeh is a writer and second generation astrologer based in the Hellenistic tradition and New York City. They run the blog Girl I’m Trying; co-host the forthcoming podcast Under the Beams; and direct the astro-literary anthology Mercury’s Brood, a collection of astrological essays, poems, and visual art, curated with a black queer feminist lens. djenneba is currently working on her first novel, a Gambian-American narrative steeped in jinns and second-gen cultural dissonance, while also leading the Mercury’s Brood project. Mercury’s Brood is currently fundraising and accepting pre-orders for the first print edition on Kickstarter now.