Catching Stars: Jessica Shepherd

Chasing stars

Today my guest is Jessica Shepherd. Jessica runs Moonkissd Astrology, and is the author of 3 books: A Love Alchemist’s Notebook, Venus Signs and Karmic Dates and Momentary Mates. You might have also seen her work on astrology.com, and mooncircles.com.

Anyways, without further ado…

Thanks for being my guest today…Have you always been interested in astrology?

Always is a long time! I don’t have any past life recollections of being an astrologer in former incarnations. I’ve been interested in astrology every since I became conscious of it, my very first reading at age 18, when the astrologer told me more about myself than I knew. Which, reflecting back, wouldn’t take much at that age! Once I discovered astrology it was impossible to go without for very long. Like discovering the meaning of the universe, then putting that book back on the shelf (impossible), it kept exerting an irresistible pull, offering me a way to understand myself, others, the world.

Did you study formally or are you self-taught? Or, perhaps, a combination of the two?

My first “astrology university” was my local new age bookstore. I’d sit for hours, copying from books into my notebook and drinking all their tea, no doubt aggravating the booksellers. That was 1991, so books by Liz Greene, Howard Sassportas and Alan Oken were my first textbooks. Later, I signed up for a class with Stephanie Austin who introduced me to Paul Bogle, a counselling astrologer in Walnut Creek, CA. When I met Paul I had entered my Saturn Return (Gemini, Ninth House) and I decided to be a counselling astrologer. For 7 years, Paul, myself and a Vedic astrologer met every Saturday morning to learn counselling techniques, experiment with astro-drama, various predictive and psychodynamic techniques and generally hone our astro-chops on each other and any willing victims who volunteered for sessions. This seeded my astrology practice, today. My style of being with people, holding creative space for magic, possibility, transformation all began in this little laboratory.

Around 2007, I entered a period where I was bored by every astrology book I read. I thought I’d read and seen it all. Then I attended one of Steven Forrest’s Evolutionary Astrology Apprenticeship programs in Calistoga and was blown away. Frankly, he had me at “past life (nodal) story”. I was hooked, attended his programs for many years and received my certification from him.

Having mentors has been seminal in my development as an astrologer, and person. Some of us fill in our holes with wise family members or friends; others of us need to go out and seek the people who possess the knowledge we need to self-actualise. It’s a very sixth house activity, receiving mentoring and then passing the torch, lighting the candle for the next person as apprentice. It’s become my favourite way of working with clients, 1:1. I also delight in working with people who actively work on their “stuff” – my fave peeps!

I so agree- those who want to actively work on their stuff are my faves too. Do you have a particular philosophy or interest in a specific area of astrology?

Evolutionary astrology is the astrology of freedom, choice and imagination. It’s a very good byline for what I practice. It’s open-ended enough to include room for magic, self-inquiry and play.

I do realise that, like an actor, I’ve pigeonholed myself into the “relationship astrologer” roles- though I’m not complaining! While writing A Love Alchemist’s Notebook, it became clear that I had something to offer in this arena. Love is not fluff; the pursuit of right relationship is integral service to a healthy, functional society. If you think about it, our relationships form the foundation of what’s possible for us in life. Healthy relationships will lift you up and help you to reach your dreams. Toxic relationships will hijack them, and like an invasion of the body snatchers, snatch our life’s energy.

Of course, relationship astrology is not something that takes place just in our heads, parsing out Mars and Venus squares. Astrology is an elegant language that allows us to have conversations we’d not otherwise have, or know how to articulate. When we’re talking about how my Venus squares my Saturn, for instance, we might open the door to a discussion about self-love, self-esteem, self-honoring, developing better communication tools or boundaries.

Ideally, we also open the door to any self-sabotaging assumptions and getting at the root of those. Lately, I’m growing far more interested in exploring psychological patterns in the birth chart, how our early relationships shape our future ones– the unconscious expectations, beliefs and conditioning we carry into adulthood. So I’m bringing more of that into readings than I had in the past.

What was the inspiration behind Karmic Dates? Did you write it for a specific audience? I told you how much I loved it…right?

Yes, you did: Thank You! There were a couple of inspirations: Someone came into my life claiming to be a soul mate. It was shocking to say the least, as I was happily married. But I noticed I liked the attention- the excitement and intrigue of it invigorated me at a time when I was feeling down. That’s when I started exploring this concept more deeply, one I had begun in A Love Alchemist’s Notebook, of karmic mates. Astrologically at the time, my fifth house ruler (Uranus) was transiting my seventh house ruler (Mars).

A second inspiration was a dream that my husband had, which is the subject of the book’s preface. In a nutshell, he dreamt of a medicine woman who helped people understand their connections to others, especially troubling ones, by examining the woven strands of light in various textures, weight and color tying them together. She would then help them cut the ties so they could be free to move on. Immediately, we both knew his dream was about this book.

Then, of course, there were the clients- who suddenly started appearing with significant fifth house placements, and stories! There was so much synchronicity around this book it varily vibrates.

What about Venus Signs?

Venus Signs was inspired by the lack of self-love and worth I would hear, while writing an astrological advice column. I heard so much in their voices: desperation, angst, looking outside oneself for love, beauty and fulfilment, and I thought, what they/we don’t realise is we all have this archetype of perfect fulfilment, confidence, sensual and erotic pleasure just waiting for us to recognise! It’s as if we’re all living the classic tale of waiting around for our prince or princess to arrive, yet anyone familiar with the mythical Venus/Aphrodite knows the Goddess of Love went after who and what she wanted. She didn’t sit on the couch and complain that there are no men or women out there, or they’re only jerks – she followed her bliss. That confidence to claim our bliss begins with owning our Venus power.

You’ve written 3 books now… do you think that the writing gets easier or more difficult as you go along?

The creativity, inspiration, being in the right frame of mind and capturing the muses’ favor… that does not get easier for me. I wish it would. I have learned a few tricks though. I’m always experimenting with ways of nurturing the inner artist. Sometimes, when the plan for my next book just isn’t happening, that looks like planning a garden instead. I often dip back into old material. Maybe it’s because my Sun is in Cancer, but I often go back in order to move forward. For instance, Venus Signs was originally a set of reports written in 2010; Karmic Dates, a small section in a much longer manuscript; and A Love Alchemist’s Notebook was pieced together from journals. None of these would have become books had I not re-worked old material.

What does get easier though is my ability to plan and organise. For instance, always start with an outline. I learned that the hard way.

What astrologers have influenced you most over the years?

Oye, so many! In addition to those I’ve already named: Erin Sullivan, Karen Hamaker Zondag, Dana Gerhardt, Jim Eshelman and more recently, John Green, Frank Clifford and others. I am also inspired by colleagues –You, April E. Kent, Jeremy Neal, Leah Whitehorse, Jonathan Pearl, Kelly Surtees… I appreciate all of you!

Awwww shucks…What can clients expect from a reading with you?

It’s good to be realistic about what an astrology reading can and can’t do. Depending on a client’s consciousness, and the connection we share, awe and inspiration often happens. Clients do often walk away feeling freer, clearer and validated. But we’re not miracle workers. If there’s inner work to be done, we can point it out for you and describe it, but we can’t do it for you. That’s an inside job.

Uranus is transiting my seventh house Chiron right now and I’m noticing more that I don’t just offer astrology. It may begin there, but I’m a certified health coach, I’ve studied mystic traditions, emotional freedom techniques (EFT), spell-casting and ritual work. I have a bevy of creative strategies as an artist, and as a person who is married with three stepdaughters I have highly developed relationship tools. I am always working on myself, and I think clients experience the boon of that directly when working with me.

What to expect? I can paraphrase what a client recently said to me: You will walk away feeling like you had a meaningful conversation about things that matter with someone who genuinely cares.

What do you most like to do when you’re not doing astro related things? I especially want to know about the chooks (that’s Aussie speak for chickens)…

I love this question. Believe it or not, most of my life is not astro-related (though apparently I can’t talk without referencing astrology, haha)! One beautiful thing Pluto’s transit through Capricorn has given me is a deeper connection to the earth, nature and animals. I have a little terrier named Magnus and I love hiking, cuddling with him, and taking care of the pets, including Obi the cat and Betty the chicken. There’s only one chook now- the raccoons and bobcats got the other 6. Betty wins the “I’m a survivor” award hands down.

I also do yoga, meditate, sketch, watercolor, and even make jewellery from time to time. Poetry writing flits in and out, as do various interests, like: past lives, geneaology. In my cash poor days of youth I would restrict myself only to self-help and astrology books, so reading novels has become a recent indulgence. I confess, romance novels offer respite from the demanding Plutonian inner work I’ve been doing over the years. Though I will give Neptune, currently sesquiquadrate my Venus, some credit for that 😉

What’s next for Jessica Shepherd? Another book…or something else entirely?

Sure, more books. I’m a writer, and I can’t imagine not writing. Beyond that, I’m just not sure. Uranus and Pluto are in the process of transiting my Mid-heaven and my Mid-heaven ruler, so at the moment I’m keeping my plans loose and not making any promises 😉

Any tips for budding astrologers?

Get a mentor. Hands down, that’s my number one tip. Every person who comes to see an astrologer has a certain level of anxiety and fear. People typically give astrologers a lot of power, even if it’s unconscious. Learning to compassionately counsel, recognising when you are projecting your stuff onto your client, understanding your strengths, your weaknesses, any areas of confusion…your clients will pick up on your confusion. A mentor can help with this.

Above all, learning to be responsible with language, how you frame things, is the big work for all of us, especially newcomers. I’d say that’s far more important than the astrological technique you use. Think of astrology as you would a foreign language. We need to practice astro-speaking with other people in a variety of situations, to get a mouth-feel, before we can speak with authority to clients.

That’s some great advice. Thanks so much for visiting us, Jessica…