Wolf Interviews: Frederick Woodruff
If you’re interested in being interviewed in the future, please fill out this form.is an author, astrologer, and artist from Vashon Island in Washington.
Woodruff started his astrological studies as a teen and has worked as a counselor in the field for over 40 years. Artists, writers, and creatively motivated folks consult with him regularly to better comprehend the cycles that define their unique narratives. He is the house astrologer for the CORRIDOR, NYC fashion line.
Frederick is currently finishing up his third book, a romance novel on the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. His next book, serialized on his WOODRUFF Substack next month, is an astrological close read of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.
You write about culture through astrology and psychoanalysis, which is a fascinating framework. What got you interested in astrology?
As my adolescence ended, I recall thinking, whatever ‘life’ is about I’m not much interested in its consensus ’script.’ That led me to an interest in metaphysics, especially astrology. Despite my age at the time, I was determined to master the subject. Eventually I found one of the US’s greatest astrology authors and teachers, Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson, to take me under her wing. I was 13 at the time.
This is fascinating. How did that apprenticeship begin and how did it develop?
One junior high summer I spent the month of August writing to about 20 different astrologers, asking if anyone would take on a youngster as a student. Ivy, an Aries (the Zodiac’s impulsive dynamos), got back to me immediately and said it would be her pleasure to oversee my instruction. A week later a trove of books and ephemerides showed up in the post. She’d sent me all the material she felt I’d need to commence my studies. She then arranged for me to have ride into LA once a month to attend classes. She was an unforgettable character, someone who became a permanent etching in the palimpsest of my brain.
How do you feel this intersects with psychology?
Considered historically astrology is one of humankind’s first attempts at character typology. Sun sign descriptions were discovered in the Dead Sea scrolls. Later, especially with Carl Jung’s interest in the subject, psychology caught up to astrology. And at the same time created a specific nomenclature for astrologers to express their insights through. You can’t be a good astrologer without having command of the psychological lexicon.
My educational background is in psychology and neuroscience. One thing that I often notice is the misuse of the psychological lexicon, especially in popular discourse. How do you avoid these kinds of pitfalls, which some may use to discredit you?
Although some astrologers dream of having the art empirically ‘proven,’ that’s unlikely to happen, at least in a way that would impress the Richard Dawkins of the world. Camille Paglia once wrote this about astrology, and it’s the most concise summation I’ve ever read:
"People who dismiss astrology do so out of either ignorance or rationalism. Rationalists have their place, but their limited assumptions and methods must be kept out of the arts. Interpretation of poem, dream or person requires intuition and divination, not science."
Psychology, too, is an art. But you probably recall how psychology was introduced in your early courses in college. Those reams of statistical analysis are geared toward eggheads and behaviorists, not artists. This demonstrates how medical science is still flummoxed by psychology.
Yes, you’re correct. Pop psychology is often intermixed with New Age nonsense borrowed from self-help books. For me, the UK astrologers from the 80s and 90s who borrowed from Jung developed a formidable astro-psychological language. Jung's application of myth and archetypes fits well with astrology’s typologies.
I don't know if it's just me, but I feel like astrology has gone from a quiet belief of many to something deeply embedded in culture. How have you seen astrology's acceptance change over your life?
Astrology asserts itself cyclically into all cultures. It has waxed and waned over the centuries. But you’re correct, Edward, about its current omnipresence in pop culture. And we have the internet to thank for that, which is a blessing and curse. A curse because there are so many inept astrologers hanging shingles nowadays.
Since many are first exposed to astrology through social media, how would you recommend people navigate discerning quality and qualification? I imagine the average 13 year old learning about astrology through a sequence of tiktok videos isn't going to be able to tell inept from adept.
Well, I’m thinking back to my initial introduction to astrology when I was a teen, and in some ways, it was as goofy as a lot of the TikTok videos. Pop culture in the mid-70s was still off-gassing elements of the counterculture and its appropriation of paganism, which included astrology. This created a hybrid of silly, quick-hit supermarket-style character analysis. “What’s your sign?” was much more common party chatter back then, than say, “What do you do for a living?”
But simultaneously there was a wealth of scholarly books available and scores of journals and magazines that promoted them. Books require reading, which in an image-driven culture like ours is anathema. As a teen I had the wherewithal to hunt the good books down. It depends on the mindset of the young person that’s curious about astrology. Obviously, mastery requires a long-term commitment and isn’t as exciting as ingesting click-bait memes. Recently, I published a Substack on How To Become an Astrologer, and that article might be helpful to the youngins.
You’re writing a romance novel about Jeffrey Dahmer. What was the initial interest and fascination with Dahmer?
In the late 80s, I was the same age as many of the men Dahmer was murdering. And like those men, I also went home, indiscriminately, with guys for no-strings sex. And with AIDS exploding everywhere, the last thing queer men needed was a creature like Dahmer becoming a mascot within gay culture. It was a horrid one-two-punch when Dahmer’s arrest and the ongoing AIDS plague dominated the news for years.
With Ryan Murphy’s recent Netflix series on Dahmer being the second most streamed show in TV history my interest was piqued again. I started to do hardcore research, to comprehend Dahmer’s psychology. Initially I was going to write a non-fiction book, that would study him through an astrological lens (his horoscope lays out his character with startling clarity). But then I switched gears and decided a fictional romance novel would allow me to compose an alternative history-narrative. My thinking was if medical science couldn't explain Dahmer, perhaps art could. In writing my novel I Love You Jeffrey Dahmer I wanted to avenge the deaths of the 17 boys and men that Dahmer destroyed—at least within my imagination. In my book, I Love You Jeffrey Dahmer, all but one of them will go on to live out their happy lives.
"Perhaps art could," is a solid starting point for any creative project, I think! What do you think is the enduring fascination with Jeffrey Dahmer? All serial killers have a certain draw to them in popular culture, but I have always found him one of the most interesting, though I don't know if I could entirely explain why. Perhaps it's that he seems much more vulnerable than someone like Ted Bundy, etc.
Beauty tainted by horror is mesmerizing for most of us. Dahmer was a handsome, muscular, 6-foot-tall blonde. There is, for some, a beguilement about his comeliness that generates an aura of exemption around his criminal persona. This permission allows the fascinated to blindspot his crimes and focus solely on Dahmer as a sex symbol. In her book covering the Dahmer trials, Milwaukee journalist Anne Schwartz compared the excitement around Dahmer's courtroom appearances to a Hollywood movie premiere. Cops finagled for his autograph and many of the women in the courtroom appeared smitten. This is why I decided to explore Dahmer through the sex-romance angle in my novel.
And to your point regarding vulnerability, yes. Dahmer had a wounded, abandoned child aura about him. This is a universal experience for many people—having felt abandoned in their childhood. All of his legal team considered him an intelligent, misguided soul. The two female attorneys who helped represent him said they eventually became like mother/sister/friend figures to him.
But Dahmer was a Gemini. A shape-shifting trickster — the Zodiac’s smoothest operators. They can toggle effortlessly between their psyche's dark and light aspects while fooling the naive and tenderhearted (I’m looking at you Donald Trump).
Considering Dahmer’s unvarying grip on the culture's imagination, my friend, the novelist John Calendo, said in a recent article I published on the phenomena of Dahmer groupies: “The fan mania around Dahmer is a worship of beauty—solitary, remote, beyond our touch, a Nordic beauty that is dark in the sunlight…a mania accelerated by the ebony sheen of Dahmer's infamy.”
Thank you again Edward for the opportunity for us to chat. I’ll close this with a reminder for all of us from Steve Jobs that, over the years, I’ve turned into a recurring mantra: "We're born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It's been happening for a long time.”
Glossolalia - A Le Guinian fantasy novel about an anarchic community dealing with a disaster
Sing, Behemoth, Sing - Deadwood meets Neon Genesis Evangelion
Howl - Vampire Hunter D meets The Book of the New Sun in this lofi cyberpunk/solarpunk monster hunting adventure
Colony Collapse - Star Trek meets Firefly in the opening episode of this space opera
The Blood Dancers - The standalone sequel to Colony Collapse.
Iron Wolf - Sequel to Howl.
Sleeping Giants - Standalone sequel to Colony Collapse and The Blood Dancers
Some free books for your trouble: