The Art of Astrology
An interview with Frederick Woodruff
Pull up a chair.
Here’s my uncut, uncensored interview recently featured on Substack—with all the extras and deep dives into the art of astrology, writing, and the futility of predicting the future.
• What's your Substack about in one sentence?
I use astrology as next-level psychoanalysis…of the culture, the arts, the individual.
• Could you talk me through how you put a horoscope together?
My teacher Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson taught us to draw horoscopes from scratch. This could take up to an hour. I was 13 at the time and not a mathematical genius. Constructing a chart back then meant having a command of astronomical tables and ephemerides. When computers arrived to handle those calculations, I was down! And what a relief!
The ‘reading’ or delineation of the chart is unique to each astrologer. However, there are basic precepts that Western astrology has passed down over the centuries. Over the years, I abandoned that system as it was extremely limiting.
After I have a chart up on my monitor, eventually, a ‘click’ happens that blends the astronomical components into an astrological theme. Once that thread is present, the chart unspools in the dialectic. I require the client’s presence for the horoscope to begin to speak to both of us.
• How do you find your subject matters: what's your creative process? Can you give us an example?
I write dependent on immediate vibes. An example: I recently watched on Netflix Ryan Murphy’s excellent series, Dahmer. By the time the show was over, I sensed a direct correlation between Jeffery Dahmer’s obsessive desire to consume his victims and the closing phase of the United State’s Pluto return.
This last bit of astro info is too complex to explain in a blurb, save to say, astrologically, it’s no coincidence that Dahmer is reasserting himself into our collective imagination. He mirrors our country’s conspicuous consumption and sense of entitlement. The racial and homophobic bigotry underlining Dahmer’s trajectory, as depicted by Murphy, is what gave the series an extra Plutonian bite.
• You say social media has made astrology stupid. Can you tell us more?
The way astrology is represented within social media strips the art of its power and context. Astrology has always suffered fools. Contemporary astrology is instantly associated (by people who have never studied it) with cookie-cutter New Age nonsense.
But social media’s ubiquity has multiplied the imbecile factor exponentially. Yesterday on TikTok I watched a clip of a self-anointed ‘professional’ astrologer explaining that Vladimir Putin is a murderous sociopath because he’s a Libra. Content like that vulgarizes the art.
Astrology is an art, not a science, as some astrologers claim. The greatest revelations about the balance between the psyche and the cosmos come from art. Science can’t touch that.
• What's the difference between writing about culture through the lens of astrology and writing about culture in general?
I couldn’t do the latter. I guess it’s the Leo in me, but I’m not interested in doing writing that other people are already doing. Astrology allows me to frame my analysis uniquely. It’s like doing psychosocial weather reports for the entire culture.
• And what kind of astrologer is the writer kind?
A good writer that’s versed in psychology as well as the astrological lexicon.
• You mention that astrology is an art, not a science. What is your artwork like in this sense, and how does it compare to others?
I’ve painted abstract art for over 35 years now. It’s a way of crop rotation for me. When I get burned out on writing, I’ll draw or paint, although both disciplines share similarities, and I suppose this is how my art is different from others. Aftereffects of my work as an artist inform my astrological methods. But in reverse. I mean that unspooling an adult's horoscope is akin to painting a painting backward.
With natal astrology, you start to see, after the fact, how all of the lines and colors converged into a particular individual. You can trace how Mars (red) complements or clashes with Saturn (the black outlines and shading). And how the Sun (luminosity) brings radiance or casts shadows in the portrait.
• What's the one thing about Tarot everyone gets wrong?
The notion that anyone can work with the cards without comprehending the Tarot’s history within the 18th-century occult tradition. That tradition relates directly to the Kabbalah, and that system must be mastered before the cards actually ‘do’ anything meaningful. The notion that they are simply a ‘mirror’ for the person’s ego is childish and in direct opposition to what the Tarot might otherwise convey if applied correctly. That ‘conveying’ thing is the Tarot’s x-factor. The way Tarot has been commodified in pop culture is disheartening. But I understand the allure of an image-based form of divination. It appears easy—like picking up a comic book versus reading Hamlet.
• What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
That astrology can predict the future. About ten years ago, I booked consultations with eight of what you’d call the premier astrologers working professionally. Astrologers from all schools—traditional, Vedic, evolutionary, Jungian, etc. I did this to confirm my thesis that astrologers can not foretell specific events. Of the eight, the only astrologer that came close to accurately outlining upcoming trends in my life was the Jungian astrologer Michael McLay.
I’ll footnote this by saying that life or reality or whatever you want to call our consensus experience of the world is wiggly. Reality balks at being corralled or cornered by predictions and will usually toss up the opposite of what’s expected. Consider last month’s midterm elections as a good example. Heraclitus works well here: "The only constant is change.” But even when we think we’re secure by abiding with uncertainty, life will quickly turn the tables on us. Or not.
• And the most delightfully surprising?
Appreciating my assignment in life as an Earthling. We are literal extensions of this planet. We are born of a physical mother who is also a surrogate for Mother Earth. In that sense, we’re each caught up in the Earth’s relationship with the other bodies in our solar system. This insight is humbling and inspiring and is the essence of astrology.
• Who's another Substack writer you'd recommend?
My editor, John Calendo. His deep dive into classic Hollywood movies is always fun…and smart. He’s started serializing his novel Movieland on SS too.
It’s all about Hitchcock, Hollywood, and the Occult. Characters coming out of the screen. Real people getting swallowed up in the insanely tense world of Hitchcock. You can subscribe here. My Moon in Scorpio loves it.
Opening photograph of FW: by Jerry McFee, © 2021
I want to invite you to subscribe to my new free newsletter, The Dahmer Diaries. I’m writing a novel about Jeffrey Dahmer, and my posts will detail the craft of fiction, the blending of True Crime and the imagination, and how astrology pulls it all together.
Something for the whole family!