Jennifer Freed has an MA, an MFT, and a PhD, but her greatest achievement may be advancing the ways in which we can use astrology to better ourselves and our communities. Her new book, Use Your Planets Wisely, is destined to change the way astrology can be explored and understood. Merging depth psychology with astrology, she tackles the complex, ever-changing planetary energies and turns them into a tool available to anyone.
She had her first astrological reading at the age of 18. In that one hour, she says, she felt more understood than she’d ever been in her life. “I was convinced that there was something to this art,” she said, “and I had to learn it.”
For a decade, she embarked on a serious study of books and worked with a tutor and a mentor. In the 1990s, she and a few friends brought some of the world’s greatest astrology teachers to Santa Barbara for seminars. “That’s when I met my mentor, Rick Tarnas, who’s written the definitive cultural astrology book, Cosmos and Psyche, and he became my teacher and friend,” she said. “That was in my early thirties, and now I’m 61, so it’s been a long trip.”
Along the way, she pursued advanced degrees and became a psychotherapist, professor, psychological astrologer, mediator, workshop leader, frequent national talk-show guest, and member of the Goop team. She is a prolific writer of poetry and essays, and Use Your Planets Wisely is her 11th book. Since meeting her more than 20 years ago, I’ve watched her teach; lead workshops and support groups; emcee large events; develop a nationally recognized nonprofit, AHA!, that reaches thousands of teens (ahasb.org); and raise millions. I’ve observed how she can help people to change their own lives, and I’ve witnessed the delighted joy this brings her. Spirited, positive, fun-loving, courageous, rigorously honest, and wildly charismatic, she is gifted with an awe-inspiring eloquence so fluid she might be channeling it.
I visited Freed recently in her warm, light-filled home on a rainy winter afternoon and asked what attracted her to astrology. “I was drawn to it early on as a child,” she said. “It spoke to me in a symbolic way that religion never did. I could never get behind the idea that some people are more important than others. I’m an Aquarius, so I really resonated with the simple idea that Aquarians love all of humanity.”
She believes that “the reason astrology has really taken off is that, as a symbol-meaning system, it isn’t racist, it isn’t sexist, and it isn’t gendered.” Indeed, as Freed writes in the new book: “As a comprehensive system for understanding individual human beings in the context of an intelligent universe, astrology has no competition.”
The impetus for the book came from one of her students, Melissa Lowenstein, who complained that astrology books were one-dimensional. “She records everything I teach,” said Freed, “and she’s a good writer herself, so when she offered to help, it all fell together very quickly.”
Freed says there are two distinctions that make her book unique: “One is I’ve recast the Greek-Roman mythologies, honoring them, but going into a more earth-based mythology for each of the planets. The Greek-Roman mythologies are gorgeous and beautiful, but they’re based in patriarchal, sexist language and ideas, and I was tired of always having to refer to the masculine and feminine and the divide of that. The earth-based mythologies in my book are inclusive of everything, and nothing has to be gendered.”
For example, Freed explained, “Instead of Aries being represented in a person’s chart by the warrior Mars, with his bold, pioneering, violent, selfish, indulgent energy loaded with stereotypes of the masculine, in my book, the mythology of Mars is The Bonfire. It’s about how energy, when it’s brought to its highest good, is a source of energy for the community.”
The other big distinction is that most astrology books reduce the planets to sound bites and stereotypes and pigeonhole the signs with reductive, fixed descriptions. Instead, Use Your Planets Wisely offers a range of expressions for each planet’s affects, from unskillful to skillful — or, as Freed calls them, from Primitive to Adaptive to Evolving, thus offering a more complete psychological and emotional blueprint for self-understanding. “My intention is to help the reader find themselves within that scale and decide how to upscale their capacities,” she said. “You won’t find this anywhere else.”
People who mistrust astrology may do so — rightly — because the daily mini-snapshot of one’s sun sign is missing nine-tenths of what is also going on in one’s chart, making it more like shot-in-the-dark fortune-telling. Freed’s book explains in clear, fluid writing the full range of complexity in an individual’s chart.
While there aren’t enough scientific studies to validate the scientific basis of astrology, she explained, “To me, it’s more like the romance art of poetry and love and sacred music and dancing. You experience it as true and real, and in my case, extraordinarily powerful and meaningful, but you don’t have to prove those things. It’s like, ‘Prove you love me.’ No, actually. Love is something purposefully intangible that we can all agree exists, but nobody can, at this moment anyway, put a boundary on it and materialize it.”
She advises people to have one reading and then decide for themselves. She herself gets an annual consultation. “It helps me get a clear sense of what I’m tracking and what I’m developing in myself and in the world,” she said. “None of us were really born with the ability to see ourselves objectively. I think we need each other.”
“While your birth chart is about you, it’s also about your place in the grand scheme of things. While psychological and astrological self-understanding and social-emotional mastery will definitely make you happier and get you more of what you want and need, they are also vital for you to be an effective part of building a world that’s better for everyone.”
Inevitably, I had to ask: What is going on astrologically right now that is reflected in global events?
Freed replied that “2020 has one of the most powerful combinations we’ve experienced in our lifetimes. Saturn, Jupiter, and Pluto, all in Capricorn, have a powerful influence now. What those energies ask of all of us is to become actors on the stage instead of spectators, because the karma and the consequences of what comes to roost this year will last for generations. It’s a very intense energy. It’s a serious energy, and for a playful, joyful person like me, it’s sometimes daunting. What it’s saying is: Everybody needs to mature really fast, make their voice count, and put their bodies behind their words in terms of what kind of world they want. Because it’s really going to be a big year of decision-making for the planet.”
Its clarity, ease of use, and message are destined to make the book a classic. “It will never be irrelevant,” she said. “You can go back to it over and over again to get prompts and inspirations about how to become more effective and evolving in your behavior. More importantly, you can use it with partners, family members, and friends and have deeper and deeper discussions, adding more meaning and value to each other’s lives.”
Freed finds a greater cause to her interpretation of astrology. “My purpose in life is to motivate people to live more in community, and to celebrate each other’s differences and help each other,” she said. “I’m a true believer that, if everyone is given all the tools and resources they need, their divine light can shine through. This book is the type of book to do that.”
Even without knowing the particular details of her chart, I can see that her star will continue to rise and shine its light on the world.
4•1•1 | JoinUse Your Planets Wisely author Jennifer Freed for a conversation about her new book with journalist Zoe Schiffer on Sunday, January 12, 5 p.m., at Shopkeepers, 137 Anacapa Street, Unit A, in the Funk Zone. See JenniferFreed.com for more info on the book.