- e-book cover, courtesy of Three Rivers Press.
Making the Gods Work for You: The Astrological Language of the Psyche
by Caroline W. Casey
I like to review my belief system periodically, don't you? Pick up my cosmology of Goddess and the multiverse, dust it, and see what still feels right. So, I know that this book is 10 years old and the title is cheesy. But it's one of those reads that I recommend to friends and students and that I return to periodically. Some of what I believed 10 years ago still holds true and much has changed; yet the precepts of Caroline Casey's book still make sense and help me clarify difficult concepts in a playful way.
Confession: a friend (thank you, Beverly) introduced Caroline Casey's work to me and I became hooked on Casey's weekly radio show on the ever-brave and radical Pacifica National Radio long before I ever read this book. An elegantly fast-talking and politically savvy radio host, Casey convenes with a fascinating array of guests, all of whom, she says, "have a piece of the puzzle." From folk who work with oil-spill-eating mushrooms to mythologists and storytellers to political analysts, Casey's guests speak about hard truths and ingenious solutions to our present economic, political, and ecological conundrum. Casey's work and thinking are intimately connected with the planet and its cycles and she always frames each guest and topic within the current astrological context. She also has an excellent website, Coyote Network News.
So for this die-hard Casey fan, Making the Gods Work for You is a reference. Yet for you, dear MatriFocus reader, this book could be an introduction or a new way of looking at an age-old subject. No matter your starting point, I think this book can give you some information about yourself and others human, animal, and divine. It is rich with story, insight, and tools for community interaction.
In my magical community, I have occasional philosophical conversations with my allies (it's part of reviewing the belief system): is Goddess transcendent or immanent? Is She many, is She one? I have studied with Diana's Grove Mystery School, whose psychologically based teachers work with deity as archetype (and who are, incidentally, studying the astrological wheel of the year in 2008). Now I am training with Thorn Coyle in Feri Witchcraft, in which we connect directly with the divine. The question of archetypes and deity is often hotly contested among religious nerds of my ilk. Which concept is "right?"
Well, Casey says they both are. Forces (the gods) reside in our psyches, and they connect us with very real forces in the world. Thus, within this context, we experience no separation between spirit and matter or between us and the world. Casey says that the gods, as represented in astrology by the various planets, are forces within and without.
Making the Gods Work for You is not meant to be a comprehensive book or detailed introduction to astrology. Rather, I experience Making the Gods Work for You as a stimulating, magical conversation with an exceptionally articulate, well-informed, and funny friend. Let's sit down at the coffee shop over a creamy latte and a yummy scone (or better yet, chocolate!) and talk about what juicy things are happening in our lives. This book introduces concepts in a concise, conversational, but thorough way and also re-works concepts that have been in existence for hundreds of years.
Vision and action working in tandem are the essential weft and warp of Casey's imaginative web.
"This astrology weds spiritual magic and compassionate social activism to create Visionary Activist Astrology, because one without the other does not work. Vision and spirituality by themselves can be too ungrounded, detached, narcissistic, or oblivious. (p. 3)."
Sound like any person, group, or religion you know?
". . . Yet activism by itself is too dreary and overworked to be effective. (p. 3)"
Again, we know this problem.
We've all seen both sides of community work and spirituality and how they can conflict. We know well the criticism from non-spiritual feminists about spirituality taking our energy away from the work of feminism. And who doesn't know some burned-out (bitter, basement Bohemian, in Caroline's words) activist?
Definitely feminist and magical, this Washington, D.C. native and daughter of a Democratic Congressman has studied and experienced politics, social action, mythology, and magic worldwide. Caroline Casey reveals her vast knowledge of mythology, tells great stories, and in her work always shows the greatest respect to the Great Mother.
She covers the basics of astrology in what she calls "astrological grammar": the zodiac, planets, houses, transits, and retrogrades. How Casey defines astrological grammar is unique, and while informative and factual, is more of an approach and a philosophy than a study. She summarizes these complex concepts in concise, witty statements, inviting us to consider the stars and how we can work with them.
What I like about her approach, aside from its humor, is that Casey believes human beings can evolve. Hers is not a superstitious or fatalistic approach to astrology, nor is it self-centered. Instead, it emphasizes humans working in cooperation with magic forces for the good of the entire community.
Casey has written a chapter for each planet, introducing them to the reader as the animate, influential giants they are. An informative table of correspondences precedes a tantalizing, in-depth conversation about each planet, its attributes, and helpful and not-so-helpful ways to cultivate each planet's specific energy. Casey's Visionary Activist astrology is refreshingly free from the superstition, fear, and predictive assumptions often associated with more traditional astrology ("old fogy astrology," according to Casey). Casey says that expanding our imagination is the most important objective.
For example, Casey first showcases Saturn. People who know a little (or a lot) about Saturn often cast it in the role of the big, nasty, scary (booga, booga) force that will ruin your life. Goddess help us with the dreaded Saturn return. Casey gives Saturn its due respect and shows how we can work with it to reclaim our authority and dedication.
Another thing I like so much about this book's approach is Casey's promotion of ritual. Casey says (Visionary Activist Principle 3), "The invisible world would like to help, but spiritual etiquette requires that we ask," and (Principle 4), "The only way the gods know we're asking for help is ritual." (p. 14) Casey says that humans are "ritualistic beings," and that "The desire to participate in larger patterns lies at the heart of ritual." (p. 13) It's so natural to think of ritual as a way of participating in the "larger order," an aspect of Goddess spirituality that seems to bring up resistance for many. Casey talks about ritual in a matter-of-fact, comfortable way, and then gives many specific examples of fun rituals for working with the gods.
Dusting off your belief system? Consider the stars. Whether you're working
on yourself, interacting in groups, or simply wanting a refreshing take
on astrology, I recommend Caroline Casey's work.