This week, we interviewed Frederick Woodruff, who writes WOODRUFF, a publication about astrology, tarot, and culture.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
What’s your Substack about in one sentence?
I use astrology as next-level psychoanalysis of the culture, the arts, and the individual.
When did you learn to read horoscopes?
My teacher Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson taught us to draw horoscopes from scratch. This could take up to an hour. Constructing a chart back then meant having a command of astronomical tables and ephemerides. I was 13 at the time and not a mathematical genius. When computers arrived to handle those calculations, I was down. What a relief!
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.
What’s the intersection of tarot, astrology, and your writing?
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. I like to think that I’m not boring and forge something fresh and intelligent—ways of considering astrology that make the reader happy to discover them.
How do you choose what to write about?
I write dependent on immediate vibes. For example, I recently watched Ryan Murphy’s excellent series Dahmer on Netflix. By the time the show was over, I sensed a direct correlation between Jeffrey 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 that 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 is what gave the series an extra Plutonian bite.
Read more: Jeffrey Dahmer: American Schemer
You say social media has made astrology stupid. How?
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 this factor exponentially. Recently 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.
Same with Tarot. You can’t 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. It appears easy—but it’s like picking up a comic book versus reading Hamlet.
Who’s another Substack writer you’d recommend?
My former editor John Calendo writes MOVIELAND. His deep dive into classic Hollywood movies is always fun and smart. He started serializing his novel on Substack too. It’s all about Hitchcock, Hollywood, and the occult, with characters coming out of the screen. Real people getting swallowed up in the insanely tense world of Hitchcock. My moon in Scorpio loves it.
Subscribe to Frederick’s publication, WOODRUFF, on Substack, and find him on Twitter.
What to Read: Frederick Woodruff is reading your signs