I first discovered Dena’s work a few years ago when I was first researching Evolutionary Astrology. Since then, she has become one of my favorite astro writers, especially on the subject of living in harmony with the seasons and cosmic weather. If you’re a writer who is struggling with a tug of war between audience and self-expression, I can’t recommend her article on David Bowie and Leo highly enough.
Dena DeCastro, M.A., has been a professional astrologer since 1998. She received her training in Evolutionary Astrology through the Steven Forrest Apprenticeship Program in 2002-2004. Her traditional education includes two Master’s Degrees: one in English, and one in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus in Spiritual Traditions. Dena is also a trained Spiritual Director, having received her certification via the Urban Spirituality Center in 2009. Dena has contributed articles to The Mountain Astrologer, and she created an astrology podcast in 2007, “The Sirius Astrology Podcast,” which contains over 50 episodes. She currently offers astrology readings, Spiritual Direction, and individual mentorship in astrology. You can find out more about her readings and mentorship programs at www.denadecastro.com.
In this conversation we talk about Evolutionary Astrology, working with Saturn, writing through creative cycles, and Dena’s mentorship programs.
Kristy: Thanks for being willing to talk with me, Dena. So, how did you get into astrology?
Dena: My parents were both into metaphysical topics when I was a kid. That was fairly common for the '70s. My dad had a deep interest in the Tarot, and he did readings informally but regularly for their group of friends. My mom had a close friend who was a professional astrologer, and they would often sit at the dining room table chatting over charts. So, I was surrounded by these things at least as far back as about age five. A few years later, my parents split up and my mom became a Fundamentalist Christian. She stopped doing anything "occult" as she was told by the church that these things were "of the Devil." I somehow still was drawn the Tarot and Astrology, and I never was afraid of these subjects. The passion for it never left me.
As a teenager, I read anything about astrology I could get my hands on. At the time, my favorite book was Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs. Nowadays, her stuff seems old-school, but it was helpful to me as a beginner. I began practicing with friends' charts in college. When I was in my late twenties, my mom suggested that I could do it professionally (she had let go of her previous and temporary fear of astrology by then). I tentatively began charging for readings, but I didn't feel like a "real" astrologer until I had worked with a couple mentors.
Kristy: Is that when you got into Evolutionary Astrology?
Dena: I got into Evolutionary Astrology after seeing Steven Forrest speak at NORWAC in May of 2002. I signed up for his Apprenticeship Program immediately upon returning home from that conference, and attended the A.P. from 2002 – 2004. Evolutionary Astrology holds at its center the idea that we are growing and evolving beings, and that we continue to evolve from lifetime to lifetime. The concepts of “reincarnation” and “karma” were familiar to me, but I had never joined them with my practice of astrology. Bringing together these concepts was revolutionary to my thinking and practice as an astrologer.
Kristy: I went to my first AP in SoCal in November, so I'm like, "Ooh! Which program did you go to?"
Dena: I went to the San Diego (Alpine) program. When I started, it was still at Blue Sky Ranch; I stayed at the little ranch house there. Then the fires came in 2003 or so, and burned everything down. I did the hotel version of the program the last couple times I attended. I went to four of them between 2002-2004. Since then, I've listened to at least a dozen more full AP programs via MP3 or CD, as well as several shorter talks by Steven. I will always consider him my most important astrological teacher.
Kristy: I went to San Diego, too! What was the experience like bringing the idea that we're evolving beings into your practice?
Dena: It was eye-opening for me when I began to really apply the evolutionary method to my readings. At that time, I'd been doing readings professionally for about four years. But I always had felt something was missing. I'd been doing the "descriptive / predictive" method rather than the "prescriptive" method. Meaning, I'd been telling people about what they were like, according to their charts, then telling them what would likely happen in the year ahead. But I shied away from telling someone what they ought to do, nor did I give them much in the way of advice. When I began practicing the evolutionary method, that missing piece fell into place. It helped me immensely to have a clear intention going into a reading. I was not there to tell clients what they already knew about themselves, nor was I there to predict their future. Instead, I was there to help them figure out where to put their foot next on their unique evolutionary journey. It also became my goal to help them realize their part in the journey -- to avail them of a sense of their own free-will. It was a complete shift in philosophical perspective, and it changed the way I did readings from then on.
What I noticed is that my clients steadily increased in number when I began practicing as an Evolutionary Astrologer. I don't believe that this is because Evolutionary is the best method for everyone, nor the only method that works. I think it has more to do with the fact that I had found the perspective that resonated most for me, and therefore I was able to practice with more confidence and passion for the craft. This, I believe, is what magnifies your right people to you in any profession -- when you are excited about what you do, and you believe in its ability to help others.
Kristy: Speaking of what resonates for you, I'm fascinated by how the archetypes speak to everyone differently. Are there signs or planets that particularly speak to you?
Dena: I'd say that there are certainly signs and planets with which I have a closer relationship than others. It's just that I've had more experience with them, either because of my own chart or as they are expressed in my family or loved ones. I tend to attract a lot of Leo types into my life, so that is one sign that jumps out first. I love the boldness and sense of humor in Leo, and in practice I encourage Leo types in their need for play and creative expression. A planet with which I have a special connection is Saturn. I don't like that Saturn always gets a bad rap, and I go out of my way to point out the gifts of Saturn. Saturn happens to be conjunct the Moon (exact) in my chart.
But bottom line, we each contain all of the archetypes, and we each have all of the signs and planets within us. How we express them is up to us.
Kristy: I have a Leo ascendant and like the way you think!
What would you say to someone who's having a hard time seeing the bright side of Saturn? Maybe they're going through a Saturn transit and having a hard time working intentionally with the energy?
Dena: If someone is having a difficult time with a Saturn transit (as I certainly have), I affirm the positive uses of Saturn's energy. With any transit, the opportunity is to see that planet as a teacher for that period of our lives, and to learn to embody that planet in a way that moves us forward positively on our path. A Saturn transit is asking us to take charge, to be responsible, and/or to step into a role of authority. It's a time to own our experience. More harshly said, it can be a time where we are forced to "grow up" in a certain area (dependent upon the houses and planets being affected). But the opportunity is to step into a more empowered position at the center of our lives, rather than making excuses or letting things happen to us. This often requires some hard work. But work can be fulfilling, while avoiding work often leads to feelings of guilt and low self-worth. I would also add that Saturn transits can bring fair rewards for the work we've put in. We get paid for the time we put in. We get the recognition we deserve. But we must attend to the responsibilities on our plate.
Kristy: Most of the people who read my blog are writers. You're a writer, and you've written about working with natural rhythms. There's a productivity mindset in the writing community that says, "You're not a writer unless you write a certain amount every day." It's a standard I held myself to for a long time, but it wasn't until I decided it wasn't sustainable that I realized that mindset is really pervasive, at least in my corner of the writing world. Have you run into this? Do rhythms/seasons factor into your writing process?
Dena: Oh, I am so glad you asked about this!
I believe we humans operate within the influence of many cycles: diurnal cycles, lunar cycles, seasonal cycles, planetary cycles. For example, some people work best in the morning, while others are more productive late at night. Some favor summer for getting things done, while others find their energy is peaking in the fall. With writing, or with any creative work that requires a great amount of focus and energy, we need to work in harmony with our personal cycles as well as with the other cycles at play. I used to hold myself to the: “I need to write every day” motto, because that is what I was told you had to do to be a successful writer. However, I have learned that I have spurts of energy that come and go. I’ve also learned to write at the times that work for me (mornings) and the days of the week that work best (weekends don’t).
That said, I believe it is important to push yourself to have a regular practice of writing, but that it be something more reasonable like: I’ll make three journal entries this week, and write that blog entry. Or: I’m going to write 1,000 words a day, at least 4 days this week. The belief that one must write every day or forget about being a writer…well, that just sets us up for failure. But if you find your power times, you can become a more prolific writer by working with the flow of energy instead of trying to fit yourself into someone else’s idea of a good structure.
Dena: I’d first like to talk about my mentorship programs. I'm offering readings on a limited basis through the rest of the year as I focus on my mentorships. I currently have three programs: Individual Astrology, Group Astrology, and Living Magic. Individual Astrology is a one-on-one mentorship program wherein I work closely with the mentee for six months, coaching them as they hone their astrological skills. The Group mentorship is a small class which meets via discussion group and and includes six live webinars with me (online). The Living Magic mentorship is a one-on-one program, again for six months, wherein we work on developing intuition and reading skills, and practice with various oracles other than astrology. I'm very excited about these programs, and I'm already getting great feedback from the participants in the current round.
I am also doing readings on a limited basis through 2016. And of course people can find out more about working in harmony with cycles in my e-book (co-authored with Dr. Danielle Cornelius), Cycles of Wisdom.
Kristy: I'm noticing a theme around mentorships. You mentioned earlier that you had fantastic mentors who had a huge impact on you. Now you're passing along the gift. I think that's so cool. Are you focusing on a particular stage in the learning process with these programs?
Dena: Yes. I think having had many great mentors and teachers in my life has led to my own desire to begin passing on what I know. I’m currently focusing on intermediate level students: those who have the basics down, and are now ready to take their skills to the next level. It is common for those interested in astrology to practice in solitude for years, but then to find difficulty in taking the leap to giving readings professionally or in incorporating it into a professional counseling practice. I hope to help people in that category bridge the gap and gain the confidence needed to take that leap.
Kristy: Thanks, Dena!