An Interview with Darby Costello

Originally published in The Mountain Astrologer April – May 2004 edition (114)
by Garry Phillipson

This interview was conducted at Bath Spa on the 7th of October, 2003.

Darby Costello was born and raised in Massachusetts, USA. She took a degree in psychology before studying astrology with Isabel Hickey and later Frances Sakoian and Louis Acker in Boston. Longing to get her feet on the ground (or earth?) after the heyday of the ’60s, she went to Africa in 1971. In South Africa, she found what she had been seeking, working with tribal healers under the auspices of the Museum of Man and Science in Johannesburg. During that time, she developed her astrological practice, which was, in the early days, deeply informed by ongoing dialogue with tribal healers from various parts of Southern Africa. Darby has always had the capacity to include diametrically opposed viewpoints within her orbit. She returned to the Northern Hemisphere in the early 1980s, in search of a deeply rooted astrological community. She found it in London and has spent the last 20 years exploring the various and different ways astrologers experience and practice their art.

Darby is a working astrologer. She has a thriving astrological practice in London and has been a tutor with the Centre for Psychological Astrology since 1988. She is a frequent guest teacher at the Faculty of Astrological Studies, particularly at the week-long summer schools in Oxford. She also lectures, teaches, and counsels clients regularly in several European cities. After a “25-year writer’s block,” she became an author in 1996. Dialogue, imaginal language, and speaking from the heart characterise all of her books. Her first book, Astrology (for Dorling Kindersley’s pocketbook series in 1996) was written with Lindsay Radermacher. After that, Darby wrote The Astrological Moon, Water and Fire, and Earth and Air (all for the CPA press). She co-authored The Mars Quartet (also a CPA press edition) along with Lynn Bell, Liz Greene, and Melanie Reinhart.

In 2004, Darby started the programme leading to a master’s degree in “Cultural Astronomy and Astrology” at Bath Spa University College (BSUC).

Desire and the Stars

by Darby Costello

In the 1970s I was living in Southern Africa and practising astrology in Johannesburg. The people who called to consult me came with their desires and questions, which I attempted to answer through the medium of their astrological charts, as every astrologer has done since the beginning of time. However, again and again I felt another longing beneath the desires they were voicing when they came to consult me. I found myself listening, as if with an inner ear, while I tried to divine exactly what these deeper longings and desires might be. During those years my life in Johannesburg was balanced with equal time in the African bush. Especially when travelling through deserts and other uninhabited places, deep in starry nights, I wondered what was the unspoken desire contained within the question I was so often asked, “What do the stars say?”

During those years of my apprenticeship to astrology I was fortunate to be working with Adrian Boshier at the Museum of Man and Science in Johnanesburg on a project which involved sangomas; the tribal healer-diviners of southern Africa. We travelled all over African recording and transcribing the arts and practices of different tribal ways of healing and divining. During the course of this work I became close to one or two of the female sangomas who taught me a great deal about what it was to be a diviner. They saw me as a diviner too, one who “works with the spirits” as they did, but my spirits were different to theirs. Most of the women I got to know used a method of divination which was known as “throwing the bones”. The “bones” were all sorts of small objects – bones, stones, shells, beads, engraved pieces of wood or ivory – which were gathered over a period of time and kept in a special bag. When someone arrived for a divination they were taken out and “thrown” on a mat. The subsequent pattern told the sangoma not only why the seeker had come, what they wanted, but all sorts of details about the inner and outer life of the querent.

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Heaven Obscured

Confusion in the People
Navigating the Tides of Change

This Carter Memorial Lecture was first given to the English Astrological Association’s annual conference on the 29th August, 2003 in York, England

Astrologers everywhere are living in a heightened state of awareness this year because Uranus is changing signs. Even more interesting, it is entering into mutual reception with Neptune. We are all looking for clues in history, watching the news, and observing each other and ourselves for signs of the new conditions we might expect. For an astrologer the pleasure of this leads to the work of translating what we discover into every chart we do; bringing the patterns of the outer planets with their sweeping, collective stories right into the heart of personal lives. We are the navigators, reading the winds and tides for those who call on our skill and art.

On the 10th of March this year (2003), Uranus went into Pisces. Along with most other astrologers in the Western world, I had been tuning myself to this event for months before it occurred. This is the picture I have by my desk, to honour this transit. It is Hokusai’s The Great Wave. The book from which I took this picture says that the print was made from the original woodblock in 1836. Uranus was in Pisces. In fact, it was the last mutual reception with Neptune before our own. It’s a beautiful image, and the interesting thing about it is that you can look at it and see an exhilarating and joyous image or you can see a frightening one. You can start out seeing it one way and then turn it into the other. Whichever way you see it has more to do with how you see, than the image itself. But you can go farther with it too: how would feel if you were in one of those boats? Would it be frightening? Ecstatic? Will the people in the boats survive the ride through the wave? Probably, but there’s always a risk in wild water.