Astrology claimed me in the mid-70s when I was a kid. As far back as I can remember our home was stocked with Horoscope magazines. You’d find issues — current or older — in every location of the house. Consulting the stars was an impulse that might overtake you at any moment! I clearly benefited from my mom’s oracular fascination.
From Horoscope, I found my way to my teacher, Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson. And then — pow — 45-years zipped past. And here I am compiling this post. It’s uncanny and humbling to have come full circle. Meaning, the new issue of Horoscope contains reviewer Chris Lorenz‘s comprehensive look at my new book Skywriter: Notes on Modern Astrology, sections of which I’m highlighting below. What a wonderful time-cycle this has been.
It’s a testament to Horoscope‘s keen-eyed editor Ronnie Grishman that — in the age of what I call ‘hypermedia’ — the print version of the magazine continues to roll off the presses and find its way into homes across the globe. And into the hearts of the next generation of astrologers. You can subscribe to Horoscope here, either in its print or electronic version.
Skywriter: Notes on Modern Astrology by Frederick Woodruff
The growth of the Internet and social media over the last few years has had a dramatic influence over the astrological community, which collectively has expanded exponentially in recent years. Nowadays, anyone interested in astrology may feel she has no one to talk to in the local community, but readily finds a treasure trove of astrology-based websites to read online and engaging conversations within social-media groups.
Frederick Woodruff finds the Internet a frequent foil in his collection of fifteen essays, Skywriter, Notes on Modern Astrology. Other essay subjects include discussions on Pluto, Mercury retrograde, and even a few non-astrological topics of interest to those living in the Age of the Internet.
Although his essays are wide-ranging, he does come from a specific psychological, philosophical viewpoint that shapes the content of his musings and criticisms. His most frequently quoted source of authority is G. I. Gurdjieff, the early twentieth-century mystic.
Gurdjieff’s primary mission was to awaken his students’ relationship to their bodies. The body has its own wisdom, which is an extension of the earth’s body and wisdom. For those who spend so much time on their cell phones or surfing the Net, Gurdjieff’s teachings are a bit off the beaten track. Yet, getting into a body-based perception is exactly what Woodruff advises in many of his essays.
In “Create Your Own Archetype and Call It You,” he writes: “You can have a direct perception, a sense-based recognition of astrology’s veracity by simply being in your body and registering what you experience as astrological truths (or fallacies). Not enough astrologers write and teach from direct, body-based knowing.”
Getting into this body-based knowing is the solution to a variety of problems faced by many well-meaning astrologers, especially those populating the Internet. Several essays contemplate the astrologer’s place on the web, including “Make Facebook your Slave — Some Tips,” “How to Stop Self-Helping Yourself into Oblivion,” and “How to Write about Astrology (Or Not).” Read more
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“You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean.
You are not a stranger here.” — Alan Watts
Astrology is a real experience. A lived sensation.
Astrology spans so many centuries, so many cultures and so many schools or categories of knowledge, that often the student of astrology is confused by —and distanced from — this simple fact. And yet: astrology is a lived experience.
Sidereal astrology or tropical astrology? Perhaps spiritual astrology — or evolutionary. Or maybe archetypal, Jungian astrology. But maybe the Hellenistic school is truer. And what about Vedic astrology?
What these schools or different approaches represent are collections of rules and laws based on a particular nomenclature unique to each school but always involving the same underlying principle. Namely the manner in which human beings have anthropomorphized the planets in the solar system to mirror or echo the human psyche.
Although I practice what would be considered psychological-spiritual astrology — I recommend to students that they invest the time to explore the different schools, find one that’s a fit and then — once immersed — let it all go — so as to develop his or her’s own unique astrological experience.
In much the same way that, say, after mastering French you wouldn’t go to Paris and continue to spend all of your time referencing grammar, syntax, and spelling. You would simply talk to people and do things. This is how astrology works best.
You learn the language and then set is aside. There is always time to study and learn more — but it’s best to acquire astrology’s basic codex and then just jump in.
Astrology is a lived experience. In the same way that your relationship with your husband or sister is a lived experience. The rules and laws of astrology — what does the 5th house represent, what’s the central drive of Gemini, what does the square connote between two planets? — those impressions are sketches. Hints. Segues towards your lived experience. They are not ‘etched in stone’ absolutes anymore than the color red should only be used in one specific way in every painting that you will ever paint. Read more
Charles Dickens pulled off a literary first when he gave a detailed account of the aftereffects of spontaneous human combustion in his epic novel Bleak House. The recounting went like this: While sitting and dozing in his cluttered room, Mr. Krook — a grizzled, alcohol-steeped rag merchant — abruptly burst into flames, leaving just a rancid smell and a gruesome pile of skeletal ash in his wake.
Dickens, a writer of keen detail and authenticity was always taken at his word by the public. And so one of the most horrifying images from the 19th Century claimed a spot in the collective imagination.
Even today, tales of spontaneous combustion continue to flare up (sorry) in the tabloids. And if those are not genuine, still, the impression of a human being inadvertently bursting into flames is a striking symbol — both mythic and alchemic.
I recalled Dickens and Mr. Krook while contemplating an illustration to mark Saturn’s entry into Capricorn on December 19. The image is fitting while Saturn closes in behind Pluto’s smoldering trail; a path that appeared like a flash fire after the tiny dynamo entered Capricorn in 2008.
The two planets will conjoin in January of 2020. Take this as an alert from the solar system’s public warning system.
Actually, why wait until 2020 when the world is poised to shift — radically — in just a few days? WINTER IS COMING. And we’re all invited to what is the equivalent of a wedding between Shiva and Father Time. Or One Wedding and a Funeral.
Through A Lens Darkly
The solstice horoscope for 2017 is dreary — sobering. Just as the Sun seems to halt (sol = Sun — sistere = to make stand), the solar stillness is permeated with Saturn’s zero-degree presence in Capricorn, having just entered the sign the evening before.
The life-giving radiance of the Sun merged with Saturn’s leaden pall imparts a somber hue to the start of the New Year. Saturn’s ‘moment in the Sun’ is a preparatory exercise for a shoring up of resolve as we move towards 2020.
Ponder this: As the planet astrologers associate with the reality principle blends with Pluto — the solar system’s black hole generator — what kind of altered consciousness might this tease out from the depths?
True. The promise is both unnerving and exciting — sort of like the surge of energy one experiences right before purging whatever has been hoarded throughout a lifetime. And that’s always a good thing, after the fact. Yes?
We haven’t experienced Saturn making a conjunction with one of the outer planets — Uranus, Neptune and Pluto — in close to thirty years. The last time was in 1988 when Saturn touched off Uranus in Sagittarius and the Soviet Union collapsed. An event that seemed to materialize out of nowhere (a very Uranian theme).
But where Uranus accelerates and shatters, Pluto slowly dematerializes until a flash point is struck — sending everything over an event horizon.
Something to consider: Will Saturn’s upcoming meeting with Pluto burnoff the hallucinogenic fugue that’s defined the global culture since 2008? The solstice chart hints at the start of this process.
On the somatic level, Earthlings experience Saturn like this: “Here! Stop. Look at this event in slow motion. Study this until you’ve aged a bit.” In other words, time suspended allows us to look deeply, to become absorbed within the field that is the Capricorn matrix — that is to say — our collective experience of reality — the goatfish being the most pragmatic sign in the Zodiac.
Because modern Western culture lives primarily from what Gurdjieff called the ‘head center’ — a limited, intellectualized perspective that distances us from the world of feeling — both emotional and physical — the pressure to face facts, to engage in a heartfelt way with the world can seem brutal.
Saturn, with persistence (and constant wake-up calls), ultimately, paves the way for the crown of wisdom. This is doubly so while transiting Capricorn, a sign the planet melds easily with. But the ‘arriving’ of the wisdom can feel one step removed. Delay: One of Saturn’s most grinding tests.
But who wants to see that deeply and clearly? Wouldn’t it be easier to keep reading online op-eds or watching televised talking heads that ‘explain everything’ to us?
When you put the demand to awaken against the fuzzy stupor we’ve lived through since 2008, the perspectival switch is startling. Suddenly the peripheral is emphatically in front of us — and in a high-def way: Depleted bank accounts or life savings that have evaporated, health insurance uncertainties, ‘entitlements’ from the government on the chopping block, trickle-down economics that defy gravity and float back into the wealthiest’s wallets.
Both Capricorn and Saturn tangle us into the corporeal realm of finances — the reality of frugality and austerity; two words that seem anti-American. A bore. Read more
It was an honor to have my new book Skywriter: Notes on Modern Astrology reveiwed by Mary Plumb, The Mountain Astrologer‘s resident book maven. Please consider ordering a subscription to TMA this Christmas season — for yourself or as a gift for someone special. Here is Mary’s review:
“I have been a fan of Frederick Woodruff since I found his Astroinquiry website. This eBook, subtitled The Best of Astroinquiry.com, Vol. 1, is a collection of some of his most popular essays from the past ten years.
Woodruff is a longtime astrologer — practicing “what would be considered psychological-spiritual astrology” — and although he identifies himself as a “skeptical mystic,” my best attempt at defining his style is that he writes as a post-intellectual, post-conceptual, back-to-the-precious-human-body, direct-personal-experience kind of guy.
Effectively communicating with clients, he says “doesn’t need a lot of highfalutin intellectualizing or contemplation or meditation. All you need do is sense yourself, your am-ness, your first-personal giveness and there you are.” His integration of the teachings that he has studied — e.g., Gurdjieff, Chogyam Trungpa, Carl Jung — informs his work and a subtext to self-inquiry or self-awareness (and humor) runs quite naturally throughout these essays.
The essays herein include “Create Your Own Archetype and Call it You,” “Pluto in Capricorn: Death is the New Black,” “Make Facebook Your Slave — Some Tips,” “Depression and Solar Consciousness,” and “Outer Planets and the Nostalgia for Samsara.”
Woodruff’s advice to aspiring astrological writers is spot-on and funny as can be: “Please consider how you employ the words ‘transformation,’ ‘changes,’ ‘challenging’ and ‘archetype’ in your prose. Changes and challenging transformations have been going down on the planet since the first cavewoman read Clan of the Cave Bear, so saying that a transit is going to bring ‘big changes’ or ‘challenge’ me is like telling me that I will finish half a bottle of wine with dinner tonight. This is not news.”
He includes select words of poets, teachers, and mystics. About one such entry, he writes: “Rumi composed a small eruption of a poem…” Frederick Woodruff does something similar with many moments in his writing, as he takes readers through passages and thoughts that provoke and inform.”
— Mary Plumb
The Hunger Games captured our imagination because everyone watching the film was thinking, somewhere in the cellar of his unconscious: “Jesus, that could be me.”
Such is the economic climate of the times. Especially for creative souls — which is to say all of us, because we all create something in order to survive.
Unlike Katniss, artists have been slowly inculcated — over the past twenty years — to fight for eyeballs, the Internet culture’s new currency: ‘Likes’, ‘followers’, clicks.
What would have passed as a simple ‘help wanted’ query ten years ago — listing a job description and how much you’d be paid — is now a promise that if you work for free perhaps a lot of people will see what you are doing and ‘like’ your Facebook page.
Up-and-coming actress Paris Berelc could only compete for a recent audtion after she confirmed to the producers that she had over 1-million followers on Instagram.
And no one’s exempt, not even acrobats. Force of nature Rovela answered a call for talent from Oprah and balked when she was told she’d be paid with ‘exposure.’ “Fuck that,” she declared (sorta), on her blog, to much fanfare and clicking on the Internet. Read more