New Book Offers a ‘Map to Your Soul’ Using Astrology

Interview with Astrologer-Psychologist Jennifer Freed on Her Journey Toward Living Deeply

New Book Offers a
‘Map to Your Soul’

Interview with Astrologer-Psychologist Jennifer Freed on Her Journey Toward Living Deeply

By Hilary Dole Klein | October 13, 2022

Jennifer Freed (right) and Gwyneth Paltrow show off Goop Print’s new book that just reached number one on Amazon’s Best-Selling Astrology Book Chart. | Credit: Courtesy

When Jennifer Freed asked me how I wanted to celebrate my 70th birthday, I blurted out my fantasy of going to Florence to research my memoir. “I can make that happen!” she exclaimed. And she did. She sent out a fundraising letter that was so effective, even people who didn’t know me contributed.

“I can make that happen” might be the magic words behind Freed’s success. Everyone who has known her probably has a story to tell of getting direction or support toward a path of greater achievement or less sorrow.

Freed’s own story begins with her growing up in Los Angeles as the child of New York Jewish activists. She was concerned about social justice from a young age, volunteering and attending marches and protests. Her grandmother was a spy for J. Edgar Hoover during WWII and exposed the Nazi movement leader in New York City while posing as his girlfriend. Freed’s father, Bert Freed, was a character actor who appeared in hundreds of TV shows and movies. She credits her mother, Nancy, for teaching her to love the “beyond-human world.”

Love also brought Freed to Santa Barbara at age 18 when she followed her boyfriend to UCSB. There she studied psychology and had her first astrological reading, which changed her life. She went on to get her MFT at Antioch and her PhD at Pacifica and became a psychotherapist, mediator, and astrologer. She has written 11 books, her most recent being A Map to Your Soul: Using the Astrology of Fire, Earth, Air, and Water to Live Deeply and Fully. It is currently the number-one astrology book — not surprising, as she has become an internationally acclaimed astrologer.

She and her partner, therapist Rendy Freedman, have been together for more than 20 years. Together, they founded the nonprofit AHA! (, providing social and emotional training to thousands of teens and bringing their programs into Santa Barbara schools. AHA! was named an Independent Local Hero in 2009, and in 2014, it received an award from the Susan Crown Exchange foundation for being one of the top eight social and emotional learning programs in the country.

Recently, Freed was named the International Mental Health Consultant for Nebula Horoscope & Astrology, an international app with 17 million subscribers, which is working to decrease anxiety around the world.

The world may well benefit, but I think few people in Santa Barbara have profoundly affected so many people. The list of Freed-inspired ideas and Freed-generated events, and her remarkable ability to bring them to fruition, is a long one. Whether one has reached out to her for therapy, had an astrological reading, or enrolled in a workshop — transformation follows. AHA! has seen numerous instances of kids coming into the program from dysfunctional homes and hopeless lives and emerging as college students on track to success, even becoming therapists and healers themselves. 

With Freedman’s stalwart support to back her up, Freed taps into a treasure trove of ideas to bring fun and joy into the lives of just about everyone she meets. I’ve seen her convince hesitant friends to perform stand-up comedy, persuade artist Hank Pitcher to teach painting to amateurs, and bring her fellow doctoral candidates together for a Wild Mind Writing workshop. Sadly, I missed out on the line-dancing, flash mob, poetry slams, psychic training, aura reading, mindfulness training, chanting, and body intelligence courses, which are only a few of many playful, empowering adventures. 

Using the Biggest Little Farm as a model, she and AHA! created the Littlest Little Farm to teach teens about sustainable farming. Teens have also been persuaded to replace their screens with nature and games on digital cleanses. Of course, all this happens with lots of people working together, but it is Freed’s optimism and dynamic enthusiasm that turn fantastical ideas into reality.

“She roped me into cold-water swimming at Butterfly,” says author and educator Stacy Pulice. “She’s not even afraid of sharks.” Ever since Pulice was a student of Freed’s at Pacifica, she has seen how Freed brings groups of people together who she thinks will benefit from workshops with spiritual visionaries, such as astrologer Rick Tarnas, Qi Gong teacher and healer Paul Fraser, speaker and author Byron Katie, Jim Peal of Check Your Attitude, and others. “Whenever she finds someone who inspires her, she brings them in and shares them.” 

Credit: Courtesy

An amazing event in my life took place after Freed met Mick and Tess Pulver, who were bringing their Breakthrough Performance singing workshop to Santa Barbara. Recognizing its potential to release fear and inhibition, Freed filled the workshop with her friends. The program was so successful, it spread through the community. I was not immune to her spirited recruitment, even though I had long lived in the shadow of ridicule I’d received when attempting a solo in the All Saints-by-the-Sea children’s choir. When Freed roped me into the project, I actually thought I was taking a workshop to bring out my writing voice. The next thing I knew, I was singing “Respect,” backed by a rock ‘n’ roll band in front of a live audience. It was wild, terrifying, exhilarating, and affirming.

Since then, AHA! has evolved Breakthrough into an empowering program called Sing It Out! Every year, high school students, most of whom have never been on a stage, perform before a packed house at the Lobero Theater, singing some of rock’s greatest hits.

Acupuncturist Debbie Gunther, who memorably sang “Rock Me Baby” in Breakthrough, and who has taught teen workshops at AHA!, thinks Freed draws on a resource that is about happiness. “She sees possibility in others who can’t see it themselves. She literally saves people. For me — I’m always looking on the dark side — she has the capacity to dispel gloom. She has a well of optimism, enthusiasm, and excitement about life. In fact,” she adds, “I can’t believe she’s Jewish!”

In the last few years, Freed has become good friends with Academy Award–winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who now has a home in Montecito. Freed writes on social and emotional education and/or astrology for the Goop Newsletter, and participates in Goop Health conferences, both of which are part of Goop, the 250-million-dollar lifestyle emporium with 70 million followers that Paltrow built out of a newsletter of homespun advice and recipes she was sending to friends.

Goop Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, is publishing A Map to Your Soul: Using the Astrology of Fire, Earth, Air, and Water to Live Deeply and Fully. On a beautiful Santa Barbara morning, I sat down with Freed over coffee and a savory black-rice porridge to talk about her new book. 

You had your first astrology reading in Goleta as a college student. How was that a life-changing experience?  As soon as I had that reading, I felt like my entire life was revealed to me. I knew this was a calling, and I knew I was going to go deeply into this work, and I’ve never stopped. It was a tremendous experience of being seen and inspired, and it furthered an incredible appetite to learn more.

You are an Aquarian, and Aquarians are deeply interested in causes and humanity. How has integrating astrology with psychology informed you as a therapist?  I have long felt that astrology was missing a deeper link to psychology. Astrology helped me understand the different ways that people express their caring for the world, as well as their resistances to caring for the world. So, it helped me have insight and empathy for where people were starting out and where they could go. Psychology helped me develop the tools to help people problem-solve and work through generational trauma and personal difficulties. The two together were always compatible, because one is a map to your soul, which is the name of my book, and one is literally the study of the soul, and how to treat conditions of the soul that people find problematic.

A Map to Your Soul follows your bestselling Use Your Planets Wisely, which came out in 2020. Both books are about astrology. How are they different?  Use Your Planets Wisely is a classic textbook on how to read your chart to understand yourself and others. A Map to Your Soul takes an entirely different approach. It’s a primer on how to live your life fully. I wanted to have a book that anyone and everyone could access and read, whether they were interested in astrology or not. It’s a distillation of the wisdom I’ve been collecting from my own pain and joy, but also from listening to thousands of people over 40 years.

In each of your 12 chapters, you explore a different domain of life, which corresponds to one of the 12 houses of the astrological chart. In the way that a map can guide you to a destination or convey its geography — but you still must get there on your own — your book is filled with checklists, inventories, and assessments for the reader to do, alone or with others.  I think the most important thing about the book is you can do one chapter at a time or skip around chapters. It really has very useful activities for self- and social awareness in every single chapter. 

I also base the core elements of the soul on the four elements, which have been the foundation of healing practices in many cultures for centuries. Fire is dynamism, boldness, pioneering, protection. Earth is practicality, stability, dependability. Air is logic, objectivity, inspiration, visionary. And Water is feeling, compassion, tenderness, mercy, forgiveness. We all have all four, and each sign of the zodiac is aligned with its own element. The book helps us realize where we can develop more of each element in our everyday lives.

My deepest desire is that people will do this book in families, in groups, or in couples. I believe if everybody works to develop their gifts, and picks a cause to be part of, we can radically shift the course of this planet.

Goop and Gwyneth Paltrow seem to come in for an inordinate amount of mockery and criticism despite their success. What is your take on that?  What I find hilarious and unfair is that Gwyneth decided to develop a luxury brand, and she gets crap for it all the time, instead of, “Good for you, business woman; you go there.” There’s nobody constantly taking pot shots at a man who develops a luxury brand. 

Credit: Courtesy

I agree. No one taunts Roger Federer for his multi-million-dollar luxury-brand sponsorships. And where are the snide or shocked reactions to Tom Ford’s $15,000 “lacquered chrome acrylic anatomical bra” — leather-lined, of course. Stephen Colbert had nothing to say about that.  I happen to know Gwyneth’s chart: She’s a catalyst for both incredible attraction and promotion. But also, her very essence seems to provoke people into cynicism and criticism. She’s a Libra, with many planets in Libra. Even though she’s one of our most talented actors, she likes to shine the light on others. In creating Goop, she has been daring in generating innovative content, reaching thousands if not millions. She’s also supported hundreds of women, employing them, training them, and developing their gifts in health, beauty, social justice, and sports. She’s also written seven cookbooks. But she gets more contempt and ridicule than most public figures ever get. And yet she is very gracious about it. She doesn’t behave like an icon. I call her the glamorous goof. “That’s me,” she says, “goof, goof, goof.”

Of course, part of my own chart is, I love controversy. Bring it on. I don’t like hatred and I don’t like meanness — ever — but I don’t mind if people don’t like astrology, and I don’t mind if people don’t like Goop. You don’t need to do it, just leave it alone.

Your book describes the 11th domain as the Sacred Crew, people who are aligned with your growth and ultimate fulfillment. Do you have an example of this?  Since February of 2020, I’ve been coaching an international group of 10 women, the most committed group of women I’ve ever met. One is a Microsoft executive; one is a healer from Canada; one is a philanthropist; another one is an artist. Each one has taken a step in their lives to commit to creatively express themselves in a meaningful way, and all of them are making strides to make themselves and the world a better place. That’s what my intention always is — enough talk; do the walk. And it’s been the greatest honor of my life to work with them. They have become my sacred crew.

AHA! has been going on for 23 years, and you and Rendy Freedman have transitioned to advisors at this point.  Executive Director Roxana Petty and Director of Development Molly Green are running AHA! with more than 25 staff. They are a huge reason — they and AHA! and all it has done for social-emotional learning — that I was able to write this book. I also want to acknowledge Director of Training Melissa Lowenstein, who helped me craft the book.

One thing I know about this work is that I get the attention, but my partner, Rendy, is the reason I can do it. I want to highlight that there is no person on this planet who is achieving what they’re achieving without someone or some people creating the possibility to express themselves. And for me, this is Rendy, Rendy, Rendy. She’s quieter and less outspoken than me, but what she is, is the rock of my heart and soul, and the reason I can get up and take risks — which sometimes embarrasses her tremendously.

If you feel safe with your people, then you can take more risks. If you don’t feel safe with your people, the stakes are much higher. I know that when I fall on my face — and I do, because I am a risk-taker — I will walk around the house and say, “I’m such a loser. I’m such a loser.” And Rendy just laughs. And we play around with it: “I’m the biggest loser.” “Who’s the biggest loser?” “You’re the biggest loser.” And then it’s okay, because she loves me, and I’m good. This really matters, and it doesn’t have to be a couple, but it has to be people who can go, “I’ve got you. You’re good.”

I understand that you are constantly getting offers from people interested in collaborating with you.  I get hit up weekly: marijuana … ketamine … dog toys…. And I have to say no, because these are not in alignment with me.

However, I received an impassioned email from a woman in Ukraine, Valeria Salivanchuk, who is the Global Head of Public Relations at Nebula Horoscope & Astrology. She asked me to help a campaign the organization is launching to decrease anxiety for Mental Health Week, starting October 10. If anyone knows about anxiety today, it would be the people living in Ukraine. Valeria told me she could have left when the war started, but she said, “I am unsafe in my body in Kyiv, but my soul knows no other place to be,” which I thought was beautiful.

We have been working for months now to create a guide on how to use astrology to help reduce anxiety, which can be accessed through Nebula ( When I asked Valeria, “What can I do to help you besides this?” she said, “Please tell people never to forget Ukraine. We do not want to be another war zone that they think that this is normal. This is not normal.”

Valeria believes, like I do, that if you feel connected to something greater than yourself — something cosmic but practical — you’re more inspired to do good things in the world. It’s my deepest honor to do what I love the most, which is astrology plus psychology in an international format.

Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

What have you laughed about recently?  Not long ago, the woman doing my PR asked me, “Well, Jennifer, what is your book a bridge to?” And I came home to Rendy and said, “Rendy, what is this a bridge to?” And we laughed and laughed because, honestly, I’ve written 11 books; I’ve helped create AHA!; I’m turning 65. I have no idea what it’s a bridge to. I’m just going to decide what is the best contribution I can make. You and I and everyone else will be surprised to see what’s next, because I have no idea. 

I have known you for decades. I’ve had readings with you, taken your workshops, laughed, danced, sung, and swum with you. And I have always been curious about the source of one of your greatest strengths — besides your genius for astrology, charismatic empathy, and thrilling eloquence: Where do you get your remarkable energy?  No, no, I don’t have that much energy. I have great spurts of energy, but then I crash, so I have to be careful. Rendy gets upset with me when I want to go to bed at eight o’clock, and she wants to stay up until nine-thirty. So, I have limited energy. I just have a lot of it in the moment.

I also spend at least two hours a day in spiritual exercises. That’s what it takes to run me. There would be no me without a strict, repeating discipline, and I never miss a day. I couldn’t do this work without it, so I always get it done by nine in the morning — daily exercise can happen later in the day. And the other thing: I’ve been in therapy my whole life, and will continue to be coached, because I don’t accept my flaws as irreversible.

In other words, you follow the map of your book.  Yes.


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