Jessica Lanyadoo is an internationally respected astrologer, psychic medium, and medical intuitive with over 25 years of experience. She is the host of the popular weekly astrology and advice show, Ghost of a Podcast, the author of Astrology for Real Relationships, and the expert behind the app, Astrology for Days. I was honored to speak with her about her unique and pragmatic approach to astrology and her experience as a medical intuitive!
Referenced in this episode:
- Wellness vs. self-optimization by Sara Weinreb
- Astrology for Real Relationships by Jessica Lanyadoo
- Ghost of a Podcast
- Astrology for Days app for professionals
- Jessica’s website, Twitter, and Instagram
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The written version of this interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Kristen Ciccolini: How were you introduced to astrology? Was it something you grew up around?
Jessica Lanyadoo: I always was into astrology. I was a very little kid, like five or six years old, talking about astrology. It was the ’70s. For my 12th birthday, my mother bought me an astrology book all about my sun sign and I read that thing like it was a bible. When I went to an alternative college in Montreal, Quebec, where I’m from, I studied “Introduction to Astrology” from a Jungian perspective, and that was when I was like, “Well, this is what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.” Then I took the intermediate course the next semester and was like, “Okay, I’m moving to San Francisco,” because at the time, that was the only place you could even consider being an astrologer, so [I decided I was] going to really pursue this. And I did.
KC: What about it made you say, “This is going to be my life’s work?”
JL: It was just clear knowing inside of me. It’s not like I thought, “You can be an astrologer and pay rent.” That never occurred to me. I just found something that was such a clear yes for me, and I was young enough and clueless enough about how the world works that I just was like, “Well, I’m gonna move across the continent and do this thing.” I’ve always had pretty anti-capitalist values and so I was never driven by making money, and if I had been or if San Francisco wasn’t as expensive then as it is today, I couldn’t have done that. I didn’t really worry too much about what it was gonna look like or how I’d make it work, I just was interested and passionate and driven and I just pursued it.
KC: With such a clear intuitive knowing, up until that point had you had a strong relationship with your intuition or is this coinciding with that development?
JL: I wouldn’t have said at the time that it was an intuitive sense. I didn’t believe in intuition, I didn’t believe in psychics, I didn’t believe in any of that. It felt like a common-sense choice to me. I figured out I was gay and [moving to San Francisco] was just like, two birds one stone. That was really the extent of the processing. I didn’t really connect it to intuition. I didn’t realize I was psychic until around 30. I didn’t realize I was a medium until closer to my mid-30s. Same thing with animal communication, those are all things I do. People told me I was psychic but I thought, “Well, these people don’t know what a good astrologer is, they just think everything is psychic.” It turns out that I was both a good astrologer and psychic.
KC: How did you learn that you had that ability? Can you explain the difference between psychic, mediumship, and intuition?
JL: I was really lucky because when the psychic stuff kicked in, in a way where I couldn’t ignore it and I couldn’t deny it anymore, I had this private practice of people who were already open to all that kind of stuff that I could practice with.
Psychic is just like anything else, it’s a muscle that needs development and practice. Being intuitive and being psychic are not the same thing, and being a medium and being psychic are not the same thing. Lots of people are intuitive, you just have a feeling, we’re linked to people, we’re linked to circumstances and a lot of us have an intuition.
The way I describe psychic is more like, you have access to the internet through your mind. You’ve got some sort of access to this world wide web of data and it’s not only things that are connected to you personally, you’re connected to the world, you’re connected people or nature or animals or whatever you’re connected to and you have access to that information. Some psychics get it through pictures, some get it through feelings, some get it through thoughts.
Then there’s mediumship, and mediums can talk to dead people. Not all psychics are mediums and mediums are not necessarily inherently psychics.
KC: When did you realize that you could communicate with the dead?
JL: The first time I communicated with a dead person for clients was probably five or six years before I would have told anyone, “I’m a medium. I can talk to dead people.” I really just thought it was a coincidence. I thought maybe my clients wanted to believe that I could talk to dead people or that I was psychic so there was a period in my early 30s where I was just having these experiences communicating with the dead for my clients that were so evidential. I was able to communicate things and know things that there’s just no way I could have known.
By my mid-30s, it was happening a lot and it was at that point where I had to change my life because working as a psychic and as medium with so many people, it really comes at a cost. I had to change some of my recreational habits and I had to get a lot healthier in order to sustain the work.
KC: I would love to hear your take on how astrology has been popularized in the wellness space, because I love your approach, I think it’s very practical, also very community-focused. I appreciate that you talk a lot about activism. I find that a lot of people use astrology, among other tools and modalities, more for self-optimization rather than true wellness (my friend Sara Weinreb has written about this distinction between individual self-care and community wellness). What I’m asking is, what are your thoughts on astrology being thrust into the mainstream as an individualistic self-care tool?
JL: That’s just such a good question and there’s so many levels to it. There’s an astrologer named Christopher Renstrom who wrote a book called Trash Astrology about the popularization of horoscopes and how in the early 1900s, horoscopes were marketed towards women in magazines, and it became this part of capitalism. Historically, astrologers were scholars and were employed by kings and stuff like that. They were a big part of society. When it became focused on women, that changed, just like it always does. Thank you misogyny, sexism.
Fast forward to your question and there’s a series of answers that I think are equally a part of it. One is that there are a lot of young astrologers all of a sudden — and I am not shitting on young astrologers, I started my private practice when I was 19 years old — that said, I was not able to integrate social conditions in the way that I am at the level that I am with the quality of astrology that I have before I was able to. I wasn’t doing that in my 20s, I wasn’t doing that through most of my 30s.
It’s a skill, and I think a lot of astrology in the “wellness space,” what you’re really referring to is what gets published in magazines, online, and social media. There’s all this noise in the wellness space and it is at a time where we are not good at critically thinking about where we’re consuming data, who’s publishing the data, and what the constraints are.
We have to remember that someone’s selling us something, and that’s not about astrology, that’s about what has good enough SEO that it comes up in your feed or in a Google search.
Then here’s the other thing: some people feel that wellness is getting a mani-pedi and feeling good about yourself and some people feel that wellness is not being alone and finding someone to love them or date them and I don’t agree that those things are wellness. Those things are pleasure. We are seeking pleasure, we are seeking validation, we are seeking to be seen, and astrology can do all of those things, and that’s not what astrology is. It’s what people choose to do with the tool of astrology and so I think that’s the most popular because that’s what the bulk of people want.
KC: It is a tool that you can use for yourself, it’s a tool that you can use for your community. I do think communal care does start with individual care because it’s like that saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” and caring for ourselves allows us to better care for others. I love how you also apply it to mental health as well, because astrology could be a mode of self-exploration and self-acceptance. You’ve taught about mental health and astrology in the past, so I’m curious if there are specific things to look for in our charts that can help us with that personal understanding.
JL: There are so many things. Everything in one’s birth chart can be looked at from a mental-health or a body-health perspective and this is because the birth chart is a document that articulates who we are, where we come from, and our resources and hindrances for dealing with all of that.
The trouble with astrology when you’re not an astrologer and you’re not getting an individualized interpretation from an astrologer is that it becomes all these vague generalizations, and it’s dangerous. If I tell you how to look for mental health in the birth chart, you will pursue your confirmation bias. You will be like, “I know I’m depressed. I’ve got Saturn in the sixth house, yep, I’m depressed” even though that might not mean that in your chart and it might mean that in someone else’s. Because we are not just our parts, we are the synthesis of our parts
I am a counselor and I’m not a therapist. I’ve been lecturing in the astrology world for many years and most astrologers are not counselors, that’s not inherently what astrologers are. That’s an important thing to distinguish. [Astrology is a] tool that can be used in many different ways and if somebody’s listening to this and being like, “I want to know about my mental health from astrology,” make sure you find somebody who has some measure of experience training on that topic because not all astrologers are inherently that.
KC: You mentioned body health. You are a medical astrologer, and I love that you say that just because there’s something in your chart, that doesn’t mean anything specific. I’ve heard, for instance, all Virgos have stomach issues in memes you see on Instagram. I would love it if you could explain what medical astrology is and how you work with people in that way.
JL: Medical astrology is very simply looking at the birth chart to understand your physical predispositions. When we’re looking at the body, we’re looking at your genes. A lot of things that happen to our bodies are traced through our genes, they’re traced through our ancestors and understanding the material, spiritual, the behavioral components that go into why maybe you have a predisposition to diabetes but your sibling doesn’t. It also has to do with your nature and your lifestyle and your choices.
KC: It actually reminds me of epigenetics, like astrological genetics.
JL: That’s exactly what it is.
KC: If people don’t know what that means, that’s the study of how your behaviors and your environment essentially switch on or off certain genes, or if a medical condition runs in your family you may be able to control on some level whether you’ll end up dealing with it, too, with your lifestyle. In relation to astrology, if there are certain things in our chart, is it similar in that way, that we can influence the outcome on some level?
JL: Absolutely. This is why medical astrology is so helpful. I have, over the years, helped people get the tests they need to get the answers they need from doctors. What I do is say, “Okay, this is what it looks like, these are things that I would point you towards (whether it’s getting a physical therapist, getting a certain kind of doctor, certain kinds of tests), this is what you explain to your doctor is happening, these are the symptoms you want to track for your doctor.”
It’s so difficult to deal with the medical system. It is our job to tell the people who work for us what job we need them to do and how we need them to do it. Pointing a doctor in a specific direction by saying the right things has helped a lot of my clients get care.
Sometimes it’s just getting validation on diet. That’s a big thing I work with because everybody needs special care around their diet. So on the diet tip, because you’re a Virgo and you think that your sun and Virgo means that you have tummy issues — I don’t think it inherently does at all, because the moon in astrology is your digestion. So yes, Virgo is a sign that is associated with digestion in some ways in the intestines. When I want to understand your dietary needs, I’m looking to the moon, I’m not looking to the sun.
So this is a fun form of misinformation. I definitely think some astrologers who know better put out shit like that, but generally, it’s clickbait. Older astrologers are all concerned that this sillification of astrology through these memes is going to be the instrument of the backlash, so even though I am on social media, I don’t post astrology memes for this exact reason because it leads to misinformation and that misinformation is funny when you’re just scrolling, but then when it gets to your earworms and it’s like, “I’m a Virgo, my tummy is a problem, am I going to be stuck with tummy problems my whole life?” It actually has a negative impact on your agency.
KC: One thing that I’ve heard you talk about before is being able to suss out misdiagnoses, like someone’s trying to medicate for depression but they really have anxiety. I’m curious if this is a trend you notice in women particularly. I know with my clients, they get down on themselves, for instance, before they learned about their menstrual cycles and weren’t fully understanding why they were feeling a certain way. So with the way women are conditioned to ignore their symptoms, or the way they’re dismissed at the doctor and told it’s all in their heads, is this something that you see with clients and are regularly working with when you do medical astrology?
JL: Absolutely. I cannot tell you how many times over the course of my career I have had people who have all of the classic symptoms of perimenopause — so they still have their cycle but they have the night sweats and they’re having anxiety or depression — and they go to doctor after doctor after your doctor. Then I have a five-minute conversation with them and I’m like, “Oh, you’re textbook perimenopause,” and they’re like, “What? What is that? I’ve never heard of that.” Doctors don’t even think to say, “This could be related to your hormones,” even though it’s obviously related to hormones.
In terms of mental health and body health, the problem is we do not have comprehensive relationships with medical practitioners. We don’t get the kind of care we need. People get misdiagnosed all the time partially because we don’t always express and explain our symptoms in as effective a way.
The whole system’s jacked, and it’s especially jacked for women, and especially for women of color and for trans people and gender queer people, people of color across the board.
Personally, I walk into a doctor’s office and I’m like, “Let me tell you everything that I’m going to need from you here today.” I’m advocating for myself, and this is a lot of what navigating the medical industry is. It’s about advocacy, and when you’re sick and you’re struggling, it’s really hard to be your own advocate.
Over the course of my career, I have seen many people being medicated for depression when they have anxiety, or anxiety when they have depression as you named, and the way I navigate that as an astrologer (because I’m not a doctor) is they tell me what it is. “I’ve got this diagnosis for depression, I’m on
an antidepressant.” Then I say, “Is it working?” If yes, great then I leave it alone.
When they say it’s not really working, that’s when I start to unpack the chart. My goal is always to empower people to figure out new ways of talking about their symptoms to bring that to their doctors so that they can get a different perspective.
KC: This is so important, and this is also why I’m so big on body literacy and education and learning about yourself and understanding how you work so that you are able to be a better advocate.
I want to ask you something that everyone always asks me, and I know my answer, but I would love to hear what you think. A question I’m asked a lot is what to do if the menstrual cycle phase that you’re in doesn’t quite sync up with your to-do list? What would your take be on when the stars are not aligned — maybe you have to sign a contract during Mercury retrograde or you want to do a protection spell on a day that there’s an eclipse, something like that?
JL: Astrology is simply a tool and it’s information, so let’s say you’re trying to do a protection spell and it’s an eclipse. When things go sideways, just be like, “Yeah, I knew that was gonna happen and I chose it and so now I’m gonna deal with it.”
If you need to sign a contract during Mercury retrograde, study the contract! Ask someone to look at it. Make sure you’re seeing it clearly. Know that you’re likely to misunderstand or that the person who gave you the contract is likely to misrepresent.
I’ve signed countless contracts during Mercury retrogrades because I live in the god damn world. I can say, “Hey, can you get me that contract early? We’re about to hit the shadow phase,” or “Do you mind if I wait two weeks because of the retrograde?” but we have to live our damn lives.
Back to the eclipse and protection spell. [Think:] It’s snowing outside. I wanted to wear my cute little shoes with no socks, but it’s snowing outside, so maybe I won’t do that. Or I’ll do it anyways and I know I’ll be cold. I think people can overthink this stuff and just be like, “Oh my god, I will die in these shoes.” No, you’re just gonna have consequences for your actions and you saw them coming. It was already snowing when you wore the stupid shoes outside. Thinking of it that way can help us to actually use the astrology more effectively.
A cool thing about astrology is we can see fertility and menstrual cycles for those who menstruate in the birth chart. Generally speaking, I can look at a person’s birth chart who menstruates and be like, “You’re a bleeder, you bleed a lot and you cry.” You can see things like that, you can see an endometrial body.
To me, that’s really health helpful, and if somebody is interested in procreating, generally we can see how big or small that window is for procreative years. We can also see who has safer sex and who doesn’t.
KC: That’s fascinating. Are there certain markers in a chart that we can look for that represent reproduction and menstruation, or is it more of a like overall-context type of thing?
JL: Yes and no to both of your questions. I don’t try to be mysterious about medical astrology, but I’m so worried about putting out information to people who are not already expert astrologers, because if you have a very meme-oriented understanding of astrology, if you’re reading blog posts mainly to get your information about astrology, then I don’t want to give you that information because you you could very easily misuse it for yourself and others. Not you personally, obviously, I just mean I worry about the ethics of teaching [medical astrology] to people who aren’t already expert astrologers. That’s one part of my answer, if you’re not an astrologer do not fuck with medical astrology, that I cannot stress enough.
The other thing is I’m primarily looking at the eighth house and the fifth house, whether that’s planets that are in that part of your chart or the zodiac sign on the house cusp and its ruling planets. I’m also looking to Venus and Mars for issues related to bleeding, fertility, hormones, that kind of stuff.
I look to those things more than the moon to understand menstrual cycles. It’s not the moon in astrology that articulates our menses, we look to our hormones which regulate that. Then Mars is related to blood, aka governs blood, and Venus is more hormonal regulation stuff. So very broadly, I’m giving you major cliff notes. Be careful with this information.
KC: What would your advice be for people to incorporate some sort of astrological practice into their daily life in a way that is not meme-ified and reductive?
JL: Million-dollar question. One thing is understanding your moon is really helpful. You can look to Venus in your birth chart to understand your values. Venus is related to so many things, and people think Venus = dating. Sure, yes, but when you see the zodiac sign Venus is in and the house it sits in and whatever natal aspects you have, depending on how advanced you are with astrology, you can understand what it is that you value and how to align your life’s choices with your values. I find that highly spiritual and pragmatic and you know I’m into both those things.
Another thing is there is the moon for understanding your dietary needs. I don’t know how accessible finding this kind of information is, but for instance, if you have a moon in Aquarius, eating big meals is going to be really hard on your digestive system, so you want to eat all throughout the day, small meals. If you have a moon in Pisces, dairy is not your BFF, no no no no.
There’s different kinds of things we can learn through our moon placement. The zodiac sign, the house, and then of course natal aspects that articulate what our body wants how we digest, what we digest, so those are things that we can do that are really practical and also spiritual that help us to live better.
Now if we want to move away from medical astrology, doing ritual work with the new moon to call things in and with the full moon to release, very broadly speaking, is a really great practice. Understanding that each lumination is unique, based on the zodiac sign and aspects, it tells us what the energies are made of so that we can work with those energies.
It’s like, you don’t want to get behind a car and treat every car the same, because they all drive different. You don’t want to get into like a new moon that’s a Porsche and be like, “Oh I’m just going to toot around my Honda.” It’s a different thing. You’ve got to be aware of what you’re getting into so that you can adjust your energy and make use of the opportunity.
KC: That was a perfect place to wrap up. Thank you so much for being here. This was such a great conversation. Where can listeners learn more about you?
JL: Thank you for having me, it’s been so fun. I could talk about medical astrology all day long. I have a podcast, it’s called Ghost of a Podcast, and I also have a weekly horoscope on my website at lovelanyadoo.com. I have a book called Astrology for Real Relationships, it’s really inclusive and it has friends and lovers and long-term relationships. And I have an app for astrology students and astrologers called Astrology For Days. You can find it at astrologyfordays.com. And also Instagram and Twitter.