There’s nothing like laying out a blanket on a roof or a field on a warm summer night, laying back, and looking up at the night sky. Beyond just being beautiful, the stars can tell us so much about ourselves and how we move through the world. They offer a map of our tendencies, responses, and greatest gifts. For more than eighteen years, Juliana McCarthy has been studying and practicing Western Astrology. Her book The Stars Within You is an accessible guide for those wishing to learn more about how their charts influence them. We spent a moment with Juliana to learn more about her creative process and her journey writing.
What is your writing process like? How did you begin this book, and did it end the way you expected? Where do you like to write? Do you have any rituals?
I set aside a few hours every morning before I did anything else to write the book. I find that I’m clearest in the mornings.
I was mostly in Boulder, Colorado, while I wrote the book, and I did the editing on the North Fork of Long Island. So I was in very quiet places with lots of silence and peace and no distractions. I work best that way. Once I get into whatever I’m writing about, it really feels like I’m channeling. There isn’t a lot of thinking that goes into the process once I’ve organized my plan. My heart is open, my crown is open, it flows a lot, and I really enjoy the process so much.
A musician friend once told me that when he writes songs, he’ll share them only if they make his heart feel something. That’s how I decide if I’ve finished a section… if it makes my heart feel something.
The book did end as I expected, with the last chapter, Weaving It All Together, or how to read a natal chart. I had to decide whose chart to read as the example. It had to be someone well-known but who I also resonated with. I chose Leonard Cohen, because he’s such a hero of mine, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that our charts are very similar! I hadn’t gotten into his chart this deeply before. So that part was unexpected 🙂
Was the most surprising thing you learned about yourself while writing? What people, music, books, and art influenced you?
I was surprised by how easily the book came together once I laid it out. I went to Sarah Lawrence College and studied writing, and I have written short stories, and I’ve started novels, but I have never finished a whole book until this one. That was an amazing feeling and a surprise, I guess, that I had it in me.
In terms of influence, my astrology teacher Kelly Lee Phipps was my biggest influence. He was working on an astrology book when he died that he never got to finish. His goal was to bring astrology back into the mainstream for the new paradigm that’s beginning in 2020. I was very present for his dying, and while I was writing my book I felt his spirit channeling through me and helping me. He was so funny and animated and brilliant when he was alive, and I was very happy to feel him present through the process of writing my book.
In terms of art, I love Alejandro Cardenas’ work, who’s my illustrator. We’ve been friends for so long, like twenty years, and we’re both Virgos with Aquarius Moons—cosmic nerds 🙂 I knew he was the perfect person for this project because his mother is an astrologer, and his grandmother was a tarot reader, and myth and archetype are passions of his that come very naturally to him. He’s from Peru and is quite mystical, and so is his art. He was the person who got me into my Buddhist studies a long time ago. His work in my book is so powerful. I loved his process of re-conceiving the zodiac images, and it was fun for me to have a hand in that.
Another big influence is my friend Gregory who’s a musician. His songs are very heart-opening and very Coloradan, and they have a way of helping me feel like myself while opening my creative channels. And Leonard Cohen, of course. His way of being so precise yet so poignant. Bill Callahan is the same way. I strive for that… being simple and straightforward, yet conveying emotional and spiritual depth.
Also, the poetry of Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche has maybe had the most influence on me of all. He has a way of taking your hand and leading you into profundity through the energetic transmission of his words. I’ve studied his lineage in depth, and practiced in it. It’s such a part of me now that its essence can’t help but come through my work.
Lastly, what was the last thing you read that you loved, and why?
Honestly, my favorite thing I read lately was the lyrics of Bill Callahan’s song from his new album. The song is called, “What Comes After Certainty?” I’ve heard that he’s not actually spiritual, just into nature. But these lyrics are so spiritual and really sum up the whole path:
When you take responsibility for your own divinity
True love is not magic
And what comes after certainty?
A world of mystery
For almost twenty years, Juliana McCarthy has been studying and practicing Western Astrology, finding it to be a powerful tool for self-exploration and examining how we relate to others. She loves working with people to help them understand their authentic selves—their complexities, gifts, karma, and life paths. In particular, she finds Astrology to be helpful for major transitions, unexpected life changes, and for better understanding relationships—romantic and otherwise.
Juliana also practices Energy Healing, using a blend of Reiki and shamanic methods. She helps facilitate powerful breakthroughs by clearing blockages around physical, spiritual, relationship, and emotional difficulties. A longtime student of Tibetan Buddhism, she’s an avid meditator and spiritual practitioner.
Juliana runs a popular Instagram feed, @etherealculture. She gives talks regularly at The Alchemist’s Kitchen, and leads various workshops and retreats. She also wrote a book called, The Stars Within You: A Modern Guide to Astrology, published by Roost Books and distributed by Penguin Random House. Learn more about it here.