Interview With Diego Basdeo
Over the coming weeks I will be interviewing the brilliant contributors that help make the Many Moons Workbook way better than it would be without them. These are all people who have inspired me in multiple ways. These are all people I really respect and look up to, and it is particularly thrilling that they all agreed to be a part of this project.
The first person interviewed in this series is the Bay Area based writer and astrologer Diego Basdeo. He is an incredibly talented and gifted writer and I am honored to have his insights to clue us into the astrological themes of each month. After reading his answers to my questions, I'm sure you'll agree!
Diego says: "Throughout my life fiction, memoir, and astrology have all provided a space for understanding, transformation, and healing. Astrology has a particular way of validating our experiences, illustrating our unique challenges, natural talents, and reminds us that we have a place and purpose in the universe. I look for the narrative of our lives, between the margins, under the sheets, and find the truth – over and over again, in the stars."
1.) You live in the Bay currently. How did you get there and what are your favorite parts about living there?
I'm grateful for the opportunity to live in Oakland. As a first generation immigrant, to live in a place that is the confluence of so many diasporas (however tenuous) feels right. I had a moment about a month ago when I realized that all but two people in my home were immigrants and were people of color. There are seven different languages spoken in my home at any given moment. Each of us has a recipe for a baking soda bread.
With that diversity is an openness for disparaged spiritual practices. I grew up in a Southern Baptist church. I was a teenage wiccan. Now I go to an evangelical Christian church. My pastor is a black lesbian bishop who preaches on incarceration rates of people of color, counter protesting at planned parenthood, and transgender inclusiveness in the church. Like, a few of the ministers in the church are transwoman of color. They have a food pantry with good shit in it that the congregation both operates and partakes from. I see people from church at Sangha, at the herbalist shop, and at the botanica. Do you see what I mean?
I came here looking for for family, my people. Very slowly, I’m finding it.
2.) How did you come to practice astrology? Was there a moment, a story with that?What lens do you view your practice through?
Some years ago I was visiting San Francisco in efforts to convince a friend to move to the west coast. We were staying at the 22nd street Coop and I had overheard that a friend of the house was visiting and trying to drum up astrology business in the bay. My friend was really into "alternative healing modalities" so we decided to book a reading for the both of us.
I think I arrived expecting a crystal ball, some strange incense, and a bunch of vague predictions. I expected to be hustled. I was wrong. Of course she told me things about myself that I have never told anyone. Things I barely knew myself. Of course at a point in the reading she said "I'm going to talk to you like an astrologer because it seems like you know what I'm talking about". What I didn't predict was that I actually did understand her. I didn't know how but the things she was talking about made perfect sense. Towards the end of our time she mentioned that I may want to look at studying astrology. I obeyed and I haven't stopped since.
At first I was critical. Like I said before, I was raised Southern Baptist, and I had my fair share of brainwashing. I was trying to figure out what she saw in my chart so I could disprove it. However every time I researched something new it the harder and harder it was to disprove. I began to see myself more clearly. I had small revelations about how I can move through the world. Still doubtful, I started to give my friends readings to see if it would apply to them and the astrology was always right. I decided to recruit some strangers to eliminate the possibility of drawing on what I knew of the person in the reading and before I knew it I had developed a regular practice.
I think there are as many ways to practice astrology as there are astrologers in the world. I think what keeps me from heavily identifying as an astrologer is the same reason people have difficulty identifying themselves as academics or artists. The astrology world is very white and very straight and very prescriptive. The lens I view astrology through is very much about people who live at the intersections of identity. I pay special attention to these things because astrology, much like psychology, can make declarations about what is and what isn't right without taking into consideration the culture and the position of the people making those rules. For example, there are several ways of looking at how “good” and “bad” planetary positions are feminized or masculinized. With a critical lens we can see two sides to positive and negative planetary influences. If we take away "good" and "bad" value statements we can see things as challenges and gifts and apply the client's cultural understanding on the celestial events.
3.) In your Instagram profile you call yourself "a lunar dude" which basically made me fall in digital love with you. Can you talk a little bit about that? Also, your personal profile name on IG is "Water Damage", which I am *guessing* refers to your Sun sign (Cancer, same as me). Can you talk about the shadows and light of the Moon through your astrological studies, as well as the shadows and light of your Sun sign?
Haha! Yeah, I’m a lunar dude with a bad ‘tude. I’m a total Cancer. It comes out in everything that I do, from my lunations on my website to the work I do with queer youth advocacy and mentorship. I love being a Cancer. One of my favorite parts about being a cardinal water sign is the deep affiliation with the moon and the moods. Emotion governs everything we do. It colors our perception of the world, what we want out of life, and how we go about getting it. Being in strong connection with the moon means that we feel like it’s our job. I mean, it is our job. We have to experience the breadth of feeling but not cling to a single one. Cancers can have some issues with attachment. Who wouldn’t when being tossed around by the heart strings? This can show up as grudges, a bad experience, or a love.
The pathologizing of emotions is really intense in our culture and very subjective to the body they are in. I am, by all given means, “too much” and the moon really is the most. I feel too much, I think too much, I eat too much. I might be the Snooki of the astrology world. Lunar Dude sort of makes this explicit. Like, casually letting you know I’m kind of a “feeling” kind of dude and that makes me a lunatic sometimes. Thanks to the moon it’s no big deal because you are too sometimes.
Water Damage is kind of about that. I was watching the movie Heathers when I started thinking about being socially “messy”. I thought about trauma and how it made people “messy”. Then I had a question in my head about sociopaths and their messes. How self restraint or control isn’t necessarily an emotional disorder so much as impulse control issue. Veronica confronts Heather Duke about being a shitty friend, asking, “What is your damage?!”. I was like “YES Veronica! What is her damage?!”. It’s a great movie about attachment, memory and the performance of grief. We describe remembering as a “flood of memories”. What is in the wake of a flood? Damage. I think this is what I’ve been drawn to working with over my whole life.
4.) What are your other interests? How do you connect the dots between your other interests?
I’ve been a writer for a long time. I’ve written a few stories, a book or two, and a fist full of essays. I’m also a student of history and decolonial studies. I think my practice with this makes me a great astrologer. Being an astrologer makes me a great scholar and writer. A part of astrology is study and research in to the math and science of it all. The other half is spinning stories around what has risen up from the chart to create a narrative for the client. This balance of story and study is ancient and touches all lineages. Like I said before, astrology can be prescriptive, but with a decolonial attitude we can see astrology as a powerful force for validation and clarity.
5.) What is your current favorite time of the moonth? What do you do around that that makes it so?
The new moon! Lord!
The new moon brings a spirit of renewal, anticipation, and ambition. There are not enough reasons in the world to be hopeful. Nothing says hope like a new moon.
6.) What was your experience writing for the book, what do you hope that readers take away from this project?
I had a great time writing for the book. I enjoyed the challenge of brevity and thinking so far in to the future when the present seems so dubious. I hope that readers will explore the book as an opportunity to get to know themselves. Not only that but to take authority over themselves, how they feel, and how they express themselves. I think this book works to demystify the moon, spirit, and the cycles we live in. I hope it is ultimately a blessing of self empowerment and information.
7.) Name one thing that you are super jazzed on at the moment.
BLACK. SALT. COLLECTIVE.