Tools of the Craft: A Review of “The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need”

I mentioned to a friend that I was interested in learning more about astrology, and she immediately said “I have a book you should look at.” That book was “The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need” by Joanna Martine Woolfolk. I started paging through it, and knew instantly that I needed to have my own copy and use it as a reference. For a while, it became the “coffee table” book for my roommates, who were both also fascinated with it.

In this post, I’ll review this book as a working tool, and tell you a little about what you can find in its pages. I don’t think this is the only astrology book you’ll ever need, but if you have a casual interest in astrology it is a good point to jump off from.

Like I said, this book is a great reference point. The author gives lots of information and context about the different signs, what the planets mean in the chart, the different astrological houses, rising signs, the importance of sun signs vs. rising signs vs. moon signs and all the rest. She includes charts of the planetary motions, so you can really easily draw your own chart or someone else’s chart.

Look at this pretty ascendant chart!

Here are some key features from the 21st-Century Edition:

  • Astrological tables for 1900 – 2100, including all the planets (but no Chiron, though that is a discussion for more advanced astrologers)
  • Specially designed rising sign tables (I found this a helpful revision from the older edition)
  • Sections on “astrology and love” and “astrology and health”
  • This is a great reference! It’s laid out in such a way that you can get more information from a section, or you can just use it as a general reference when drawing a chart or to remind yourself of certain astrological aspects.
  • This book really helps you to physically draw your chart, understand the astrology wheel, and figure out how to visually represent the information you’re gathering.

Here are some key drawbacks to using the 21st-Century Edition:

  • This book is only written for the northern hemisphere! It does not take into account planetary movements as they impact the southern hemisphere. This is especially clear in the rising sign tables – they only show rising signs at 30 and 40 degrees north.
  • This book is definitely written from the 1960s/70s New Age tradition, which feels a bit outdated to me. I definitely try to depart from this tradition.
  • Am I the only nerd that really wants historical charts? Probably. I bet there’s a different book for that.

I live in the northern hemisphere, so that first bullet isn’t a concern for me. I think this is an incredibly useful general tool to have in your toolbox, and has been a fabulous introduction to astrology for me.

This book left me thirsty for more. It’s pretty “traditional” (and by that, I mean very 1960s/70s New Age astrology), and increasingly that doesn’t jive with me.

I find the way that a lot of astrologers talk about romance and the signs to be problematic, or to not work well for my queer or polyamorous friends. “The Taurus Man” or “The Gemini Woman” seems very outdated to me. Yes, as a woman-who-likes-women I can read about the “gemini woman,” but my understanding of gender is that this is a spectrum. There can be biologically female people who exhibit masculine tendencies. There are people who are neither male nor female, but somewhere else on the spectrum – whether they are intersex or genderqueer.

I really want to read a book about astrology that takes into account a more modern understanding of gender and sexuality. Even if that means writing the gendered language out all together, that would be an interesting exercise.

But that’s not the purpose of “The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need.” The purpose of this book is to give you a reference.

This book makes a fantastic reference. This book is a jumping off point, or a book to keep on your shelf as a reference. It’s huge, fairly comprehensive, and you’ll at the very least learn the basics.


State of the Moon: February New Moon

State of the Moon is a semi-regular, bimonthly check in with the universe.

I have always been much more likely to follow the New Moon cycle than the Full Moon Cycle. My Wiccan training has taught me that the New Moon is all about intention setting and intuitive work, whereas the Full Moon is about manifestation and action.

I am an incredibly driven person, and can get so caught up in the doing I forget to pause. I personally find intention-setting to be the critical balance to all that doing. If I don’t take time and figure out myself, my intentions, I can get lost. I can get so enthusiastic about the doing that I forget the big picture. Small failures become huge, I beat myself up, and it’s overall No Good.

If the new moon is a time to meditate on our intentions and our goals, then the full moon is a time to send the energy behind those goals out into the universe to manifest. And friends: This one’s a doozy.

Art: Mari Jackson 1979

So what does this new moon in Aquarius bring us?

Aquarius is the sign of innovation, of breaking down destructive systems and building them up in a new way. Aquarius is the sign of the visionary, of the future.

Aquarius is ruled by Uranus, which is the planet of change. On this new moon, there is a moon sextile Uranus – a powerful movement, made extra powerful because we are in Aquarius season and Uranus is tied to Aquarius. This means that the two influences of intuition and ambition are strong. There is a lot of energy in the air – this new moon is particularly innovative. The moon also squares Mars – bringing up volatile emotions and impulses, though this tension is balanced out by the moon conjunct sun, which brings more harmony to the situation. There is a push and a pull and a tug at the heartstrings.

This moon feels very external to me. It feels innovative, but in a public way. There’s a revolution stirring, friends. What does your revolution look like? What big changes do you want to manifest? How do the changes you seek benefit society as a whole?

This is a good time to evaluate the systems you are a part of, and how those systems impact society. This is a huge moment – there is so much at stake in the world, so many injustices to work against. This revolution of Aquarius is needed, and it’s needed now. We need to remember, on this new moon, that revolution is an emotional state. It’s ok to strive for something greater, but mourn the life you are upending, and take time to refocus.

I feel this with environmental justice issues. Outside of my witchcraft, I work on climate change and environmental policy. My work outside of this spirit life is so critical, and I feel an immense amount of pressure as the time to cut our carbon and greenhouse gas emissions comes to a close. My heart breaks for what’s happening in Flint, for nations who will soon be under water, for Syrian refugees displaced because of conflict over water and resources. These issues were created by a hegemony that wanted to increase their bottom line while making their system the most convenient.

As a white woman, I have benefited from this system. This is a system I am working to overthrow. And sometimes, I get tired. It would be easier for me not to fight, to ignore the injustices and live in my privileged bubble. I constantly need to check in with my intentions, and to be gentle with myself when I need to turn off my brain and watch junk tv. There’s a push and a pull and a tension. Revolution isn’t easy, revolution isn’t convenient. Recognize where you’re at emotionally, pause, and keep moving.

Take time to care for yourself. The new moon is a time to look into your shadow, to see the wounds you bear and take a night to heal.

Find power in this moon. Find focus in this moon. Let yourself feel your feelings, let yourself mourn your losses. But fight. Set your intention. Know that you can’t divorce the fight from your emotions. But guess what? They make you stronger. So feel them.

What draws your focus? What revolution are you fighting?  What futures do you dream? 

My Tarot Philosophy

I’ve been practicing tarot for ten years. How I’ve used the tarot has shifted and changed a lot in that time, as I’ve grown in my study as a witch. This blog is still fairly new, so I just wanted to tell you all a little bit about how I come to the practice.

There are a lot of ways to do tarot. I want to talk about how I use the cards, and the ethics involved in reading for others.

You can use tarot to learn about yourself, to prioritize your goals, as a creative tool, as an artistic prompt, to create spells and rituals for your spiritual practice, to learn about others, to set intentions, to write stories, any myriad of things!

I use the tarot in a lot of different ways. I have used it for spellwork, I have used it to learn about myself. I haven’t used it as a creative-writing tool, but I’m interested in trying that out.

I don’t see or use the tarot as a way to predict the future. It’s more about exploring the different options available to you. It’s more about learning and understanding yourself, less about predicting the future. It’s all about how you react to the energy of the cards, and to the energy of others. And that holds through whether I’m reading for myself or for others.

I do not see tarot as a way for myself or my querents to get in the heads of others. I find that unethical and at its core messes with an energy I’m not willing to mess with. So I read for myself, and for others present for the reading. Consent is important. I will not read for someone else without their consent.

When reading for myself, I use tarot to learn.

I see tarot as a beautiful way to get to know yourself. The art can speak to something deep inside of you that your consciousness may not be able to reach. I have also used tarot in my magical practice as well – trying to take tarot out into the world with me, to see it as a way to help my dreams manifest. The energy is powerful. I sometimes use tarot to explore my dream world, my shadow self. It helps to connect me to the deep corners of myself.

Tarot also brings art to my life in a gorgeous way. Learning about new decks, exploring deep into my own decks, connects me with many artistic traditions and brings its own richness to my life.

For the first 8 or so years that I practiced tarot, this was largely a solitary pursuit. I was afraid to read for others, unsure how to ground the energy I was receiving and unable to take up the cards publicly. I was afraid.

But this year, I’ve found community. I’ve connected with other tarot readers around the world, and have learned new ways of using the cards from them.

When reading for others, I use the tarot as a conduit to help them learn and heal. 

Usually, when someone comes to me for a reading, there’s a reason. There’s something large shifting in their lives, or they’re at a crossroads, or the way forward appears murky, or their energy feels seriously depleted. I am so grateful for the trust they place in me, and I am grateful to be on this path.

I think that connecting over the cards is a beautiful thing. It is an act of self-care, an act of trust, an engagement with the mysteries of life. When I read for others, I want the process to be give and take. I want it to be about the journey of life, and a way to get real with each other and with the world around us.

Anything that comes up in a reading, any decisions the querent might make after leaving the reading, are entirely up to them. I merely aim to be a mirror of sorts, reflecting aspects of their journey or their inner self that they may have overlooked.

This is a beautiful, old practice. It can mean what you want it to mean. It can take many forms, and I’m still experimenting and finding new ways to use the cards.

How do you use the tarot? What resonates with you?