I wish I’d had this book when I was younger – much younger and even a bit recently younger.  A Lantern in the Dark is a guide for finding one’s way through the major astrological transits we experience, one after another, from our late 20s to about the age of 60.

Astrology works by synchronicity.  And even though I am personally past the age of the transits Daniella Blackwood writes about, it turns out that the week when I was reviewing this book, two new astrology clients asked for consultations. One is in her late 50s, approaching her 2nd Saturn return, and at a crossroads regarding her work.  The other is in her late 40s and has been going through what she describes as dark nights of the soul.  I’m recommending A Lantern in the Dark to both of them.  

A birth chart is a snap shot of how the Sun, Moon and planets were configured at the moment of birth. This map portends many possibilities for how someone’s life may unfold.  Bur that’s hardly the end of the story.  The planets keep moving and forming new geometric angles with planets in the natal chart.  These are the transits.  There are so-called mundane transits that are happening for everyone in the world at the same time (like this year’s conjunction of Jupiter and Neptune).  There are transits that occur only for certain groupings of people at any given time. Then there are what Danielle Blackwood calls bio-psychic transits.  These are transits that happen for everyone upon arriving at particular ages. (I like to call them developmental transits.)  They are bio-psychic in that they can be felt physically and psychically, and they become part of our biography.

The best known of the bio-psychic transits is the Saturn return. Saturn has a 29-year orbit around the Sun, returning to the degree it was at on someone’s birth between about ages 28-30 and again at about 58-60 (and again at about 88).  A Saturn return may be felt acutely for about two years. At the first Saturn return, someone might move away from their home town, get their first big job, go to grad school, get married or have a baby. This passage is about maturity and the end of youth.  There can be growing pains and hardships. Blackwood offers a lot of suggestions about how to self-soothe, including a ritual for how to cross an inner threshold. The second Saturn return happens at the cusp of turning 60.  Blackwood calls this passage “cultivating wisdom.” This is the entryway into elderhood.  

Our secular culture doesn’t do very well at offering rites of passage. It is one thing to be turning 30 and quite another to be entering one’s 60s.  Blackwood notes that “the Crone is often seen as a subject to be feared.”  Blackwood calls the second Saturn return a time to reassess your values, take extra good care of your health, become a mentor, and “embrace your inner witch.” She tells the story of Baba Yaga, the mythical Slavic forest wild woman, and recommends invoking her. Baba Yaga is fierce, wise, magical, and kind. Between the first Saturn return and the second, there are a series of bio-psychic transits. There’s transiting Pluto square natal Pluto between 36 and 48; the Neptune square between 39 and 43; the Uranus opposition between 41 and 45; and the Saturn opposition between 44 and 45.  Each of these passages has a distinct flavor and varies for each person depending on the signs and houses of the planets involved. All of these transits bring potential break-throughs and also potential disruptions, confusion and heart-break. These mid-life years can seem like one dark night of the soul after another. In A Lantern in the Dark, Blackwood offers specific “therapeutic” rituals for each passage. She ends her book abruptly with the transit of the second Saturn return.

Whew!  But wait.  There’s more.  

That’s my only qualm with this book. The bio-psychic transits don’t end when we hit 60. We continue to grow, and grow, and have ups, and downs.  We have an important transit of the closing Uranus square in our early 60s, followed by continuing squares and oppositions involving the outer planets, for as long as we’re lucky to live, and we’re living longer.

I hope Danielle Blackwood writes a sequel. We need good astrology and ritual work for the rites of passage that continue into elderhood.

~review by Sara R. Diamond

Author:  Danielle Blackwood
Llewellyn Publications, 2022
pp. 233, $18.99