[Today, we sit down for an interview with author, astrologer, and counselor, Danielle Blackwood. Here, she discusses her personal spiritual practices; her book, The Twelve Faces of the Goddess: Transform Your Life With Astrology, Magick, and the Sacred Feminine; and her upcoming projects.]
ev0ke: How do you define your personal spiritual tradition? Does it have a name, or is it more intuitive and eclectic?
Danielle Blackwood: I’ve been a practicing witch for over thirty years, and in that time my tradition has evolved and grown as I have as a person. In the beginning, for the first ten years or so, I identified as Wiccan. When I was in my early 30’s I lived between Canada and England for a number of years, and I was initiated into an Avalonian tradition, which still influences my work and practice to this day. In the last few years, I have been leaning deeper into the traditional cunning craft and folkloric practice of the British Isles.
Throughout the years I have also studied Jung, and I have found a deep spiritual connection inherent in story, mythology, and folklore. And, of course, I have always seen sacred astrology as part of my spiritual path, as it is an approach to understanding the underlying energetic principles of the Universe, as well as a path to self-knowledge. So, there have been many threads that have woven the warp and the weft of my spiritual path over the decades.
ev0ke: What Deities, Powers, or other spirits are honored in your tradition?
DB: In terms of deities, I personally honor An Cailleach, The Morrigan, Macha, Bridget, Danu, Cernunnos, Rhiannon, Blodeuwedd and Cerridwen, among others. Apart from the deities, I honor the Ancestors — both the Beloved and the Mighty Dead. As an animist, I also strive to recognize the spirits of place, on whatever land I happen to be on.
ev0ke: You write: “at its heart, sacred astrology is Spirit expressing itself through archetype and story.” The term “archetype” appears often in contemporary polytheism and Paganism. How do you define the term, and how does that fit into your study of mythology and folklore?
DB: Although the term archetype originated in ancient Greece, the psychologist Carl Jung developed the contemporary concept of archetypesin his work on the human psyche. The idea is that mythic patterns, images, or characters reside in the collective unconscious, and an understanding of how these patterns arise in our lives can bring personal insight and self-knowledge. Archetypal symbols can be found in dreams, art, mythology, religion, and story. In my experience, archetypes are more than a psychological concept, and I feel through my study of mythology and folklore that spirit does indeed express itself through the archetypal motifs in a real and visceral way.
ev0ke: Some of the first books you encountered on your journey into the esoteric were Earth Power: Techniques of Natural Magic by Scott Cunningham, The Spiral Dance by Starhawk, and Positive Magic by Marion Weinstein. Would you recommend these books, today, to people who are only just getting started? What other books had a profound impact on you?
DB: Yes, I think I’d still recommend these books to someone getting started, and although some of them are a wee bit dated, they are classics and have some good material. There are so many books in a variety of traditions available now to explore. I think that to really dive deep into the esoteric, taking an interdisciplinary approach is so important. Some other books that have had a profound impact on me have been: Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype (Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes) Gods In Everyman (Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen), Goddesses in Everywoman (Dr. J.S. Bolen), A Branch From the Lightning Tree: Ecstatic Myth and the Grace of Wildness (Dr. Martin Shaw), and, of course, the works of C.G. Jung and Joseph Campbell. I would also mention many titles by Professor Ronald Hutton (including The Witch). Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler. Anything by Tolkein. The Mabinogion. Popular Magic: Cunningfolk in English History by Owen Davies. The Cunningman’s Handbook: The Practice of English Folk Magic 1550–1900 by Jim Baker. Add to this list a collection of fairy tale, folklore, and mythology. I also love the work of Caitlin and John Mathews, Laura Tempest Zakroff, Gemma Gary, Jhenah Telyndru, Morgan Daimler, and Danu Forrest. Really the list goes on, and I am sure I’ve left out some that should be in here!
ev0ke: You recently released The Twelve Faces of the Goddess: Transform Your Life With Astrology, Magick, and the Sacred Feminine through Llewellyn. First, congratulations! Second, how did you go about putting the book together? How did you decide what to include? Were there things you had to reluctantly leave out?
DB: Thank you! Publishing my first book was a dream come true. I knew I wanted to publish through Llewellyn since I was seventeen. They are the oldest body/mind/spirit publisher in the world (since 1901)! And, they have been amazing to work with.
I wrote the book with my clients in mind, people who want to explore astrology, magic, and the sacred feminine in a practical way to understand themselves better and enhance their everyday lives. Traditional Astrology, like so many disciplines, has always been very male-centric, and because of my background in Gender Studies, I made it my mission long ago to explore the archetypal feminine face of each sign. I also find that the most intuitive way to understand astrology is in its alignment with the seasons and the wheel of the year, so, that is a foundational aspect of my book. Throughout the book, I have chosen a main “Guiding Goddess Archetype” that I feel embodies each sign, followed by a retelling of a story or myth connected to each goddess, and a corresponding pathworking and ritual. One of the main points in the book is that we all have every sign in our birth charts and can therefore draw on the qualities of each sign as we may need. I reluctantly left out an explanation of specific crossroads transits, but that is in the works for another project.
ev0ke: Each of the zodiac signs is associated with a different Guiding Goddess Archetype. These Goddesses come from pantheons all over the world. How did you come to associate particular Goddesses with particular signs?
DB: As a professional astrologer, I have a pretty intimate knowledge of the archetypes associated with each sign, and I have always been a passionate student of mythology and story. Beginning with first sign Aries (ruled by Mars in traditional astrology), I set out to find goddesses that embody the traits connected with Aries, e.g.: courage, bravery, enthusiasm, sovereignty, etc. And, while I found several goddesses from various cultures that correlated with the archetype we call Aries, I chose the Irish goddess Macha as the one I thought resonated the most with the qualities of that sign. For Scorpio (traditionally ruled by Mars and Pluto), I chose the Sumerian goddess, Inanna, whose main myth involves the Scorpio themes of descent, rebirth, power, transformation, and the underworld. In the correspondences at the end of each chapter are a list of other goddesses that also align with the archetype of a given sign for the reader to explore as they are drawn to.
ev0ke: What sort of research went into The Twelve Faces of the Goddess? Multiple trips to the library? Long hours online? Personal experience?
DB: All of the above! Plus, field work — thousands of hours of working with clients!
ev0ke: Where can readers find The Twelve Faces of the Goddess?
ev0ke: What advice can you offer to people who are interested in astrology, but who have no idea where to get started?
DB: The first go to books I recommend for those starting out in astrology are Steven Forrest’s The Inner Sky and The Changing Sky. From there, I think one will have enough solid grounding to find their next steps and move into specific areas of personal interest in astrology.
Of course, I have to also recommend my book! Although it’s not intended to be a primer, it is accessible for anyone who would like to explore astrology from a feminine, magical, alternative perspective.
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
DB: I’m pleased to share that I’m immersed in writing my next book!
I wrote all the Full Moons for Llewellyn’s Witches Datebook 2020, as well as an essay in the Magical Almanac 2020. In 2021, I am a contributor in Llewellyn’s Witches Calendar and the Magical Almanac.
[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. A complete list of her works can be found there.]