January 24th, 2013
Dr. Christiane Northrup, Libra Mom
I’ve been familiar with Dr. Christiane Northrup’s trailblazing work on women’s bodies and health for almost 20 years, since her empowering book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom stirred a revolution in the wellness world. Since its publication in 1994, she’s gone on to sell over 3 million books in 20 languages, and Oprah and Dr. Oz keep her on speed-dial. But I had no idea Dr. Northrup was an astrology follower until I met her daughters, Kate and Annie, a couple years ago in New York City. “Oh yeah,” they told me. “Our mom is always doing people’s charts or reading Tarot cards.” How unusual…and awesome! One of the world’s most renowned physicians also giving credence to an ancient divination form. I knew I had to talk to her.
Since then, I’ve done a chart reading for Dr. Northrup, who (though she might not admit it) is quite fluent in chart interpretation herself. Yet, she was genuinely humble when we spoke (“speak to me as though I don’t know a thing,” she said), and an eager listener. When she speaks in public, she can casually reference her Venus in Scorpio or Aries north node, then drop a hardcore medical fact in the next breath. And somehow, it works. True to Libra form, she’s an enchanting conversationalist—which inspired us to include the audio of this interview (and future ones). And it’s clear that no matter how famous she’s become, her greatest passion is being a mom to her two incredible daughters. Wonderful stories about them make it into most of her lectures, too.
As a tribute to daughters everywhere, Dr. Northrup has just published her first children’s book, Beautiful Girl: Celebrating the Wonders of Your Body, gorgeously written and illustrated to encourage young girls to cherish the wonders of their bodies.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Dr. Northrup from her Portland, Maine headquarters about astrology, motherhood, metaphysics and more.
Prefer to listen? Hear the complete interview with Dr. Northrup here:
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Ophi: Today I am talking to Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of Mother Daughter Wisdom; Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom; and awesome doctor, Libra mother, and astrology lover. Anything else I left out of the many projects you’re working on?
Dr. Northrup: Well, tango dancer.
Ophi: Oh, yes! Of course. Proud tango dancer. So, thank you so much. I’m so excited to talk the stars with you. We’ve talked about your chart before, and I know you’re an astrology lover. So, how did you first get into astrology? How long have you been interested in it?
Dr. Northrup: I had my first reading when I was maybe 30. I had moved to Maine, and I was introduced to a woman named Ronette Stoddard. So, I went to her little house down in Kennebunk, Maine, and I remember being very transfixed by her. She said, “You have a grand trine, and people would love to have these.” And I knew nothing about it. So, I had my first reading with her.
She said to me at the time that so many doctors at our medical center came to see her, but no one ever dared to say anything. She said, “Someday I’m going to have a cocktail party, and I’m inviting all of you, so then you can all see who’s here, and you will be astounded.” To me the science of astrology is extraordinarily useful. So that was my first reading. Then I would get readings every year from a woman named Linda Ward, who called herself a Life Plan Consultant, using numerology, astrology, and the Kabbalah.
Ophi: Well, that’s a good business sense.
Dr. Northrup: Yes, and it was very, very helpful stuff. When I had particularly rocky places in my life, I can see that this usually corresponds with [challenging] aspects. Once you see those patterns, you say to yourself, “Alright, there’s more going on here than our intellects can figure out, and we are part of a bigger process.” I believe that astrology helps give the blueprint for your soul’s choices, so you don’t feel as though you are a complete victim of events outside of your control. They are outside of your conscious control, but I believe that they are things that have been soul choices. And if you go through life not understanding these big soul things then life is, in my opinion, far more difficult than it needs to be.
Ophi: I cannot agree more, and I love that you call astrology a science. I would imagine that you may have gotten some flack for being so open about it. Has that been true?
Dr. Northrup: Oh you know, I’ve been told repeatedly by my editors, “Could you please take this out?” Or, “Please don’t refer to astrology. It really turns people off.”
Ophi: What do you say to that in response?
Dr. Northrup: I can tone it down, but I have to say to myself, “Who is my real audience? Is it the Christian Right? Is it women who are deeply asleep or is it people who are looking for more?” And one of the things about illness—being around sick people, dying people, people giving birth—those are the people who are hitting bottom. They are realizing that maybe there are other ways to look at things that are healthy, and maybe the illness is part of a soul pattern to bring their attention to something bigger. All of the great leaders of all countries have used astrology.
Ophi: It’s ridiculous that medicine should be as the antithesis of astrology. For you, understanding the body and its magic and wisdom, how is that different than understanding the planets and these other patterns? Aren’t we all just microcosms?
Dr. Northrup: They’re the same. The sun is the center of our current solar system, and the heart is the center of the body. The heart is the fuel for the body; the sun is the fuel for the solar system. As above, so below.
Ophi: Oh I love that. Have you mapped every planet to a body part? I’m sure somebody has with medical astrology.
Dr. Northrup: Yeah, there’s a whole branch of medical astrology. But I’m not a medical astrologer. I do not use astrology in medicine. I’ve used it for my personal life and also for looking for big patterns. But as an OB/GYN, everyone knows that the menstrual cycle is ruled by the moon. That’s proven, and the tides are ruled by the moon. The flow of fluids in our body is ruled by the moon, and therefore, if the flow of fluids is irrefutably ruled by the moon, then we’re also affected by every other planet that’s out there. It would be ridiculously unscientific to think that we’re not.
Ophi: So, you’re a Libra with a Cancer rising and a Pisces moon. Since you know your chart, how do you see that coming together?
Dr. Northrup: I’m also very interested in the Mars and Venus position. So, I have Venus in Scorpio. That’s the tango dancer.
Ophi: Well, you know Venus is the ruler of Libra, so do you think that’s why you especially identify with Venus?
Dr. Northrup: No, I think it’s because I had a reading with Daniel Giamario who’s the leader of the Shamanic Astrology School, and he said the moon’s position is what we have numerous PhDs in. We’re really good at that. Pisces moon is Mother Teresa and selfless service melding into the ocean of suffering and compassion. And I’ve spent lifetimes and lifetimes there. Completely. Being compassionate, trying to be of service and alleviating the suffering of the world, that’s like breathing to me. So he said, “If I were you, I would let your Venus in Scorpio take over for the rest of your life.”
Ophi: So you can have a little more fun?
Dr. Northrup: Well, otherwise you’re getting a PhD in suffering and compassion, and you’ve already mastered that. And I also know you can’t get sad enough to help those who are sad, you can’t get sick enough to help those who are sick.
Ophi: You’ve said your mother is Venus in Aquarius, which is really different, right?
Dr. Northrup: Yes. [That’s why she’s a] mountain climber and [climbed Mt. Everest] base camp at the age of 84. So completely different, though she also has her moon in Pisces. She’s a Sagittarius Sun and Pisces rising.
Ophi: The rising sign is how you come across to others on the outside, or what your orientation [to life] is. But I’ve found that Pisces rising people actually have difficulty showing their emotions or their vulnerability. Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson both had Pisces rising.
Dr. Northrup: Yeah it’s kind of your storefront window, but to me it’s also your life project. It’s what you’re trying to master. So, in my case, Cancer [rising], I’ve mastered that: helping nurture young things to grow in a safe environment. I’m all about it. And my refrigerator is always full. I could make a dinner for five in two seconds at any time. I live alone, for heaven’s sakes, but I have to have enough food just in case.
Ophi: Exactly, because someone probably will be stopping by, and if they do….
Dr. Northrup: Exactly, yeah. And I have my North Node in Aries, but in the 10th house. So, it’s in Aries, but right in the house of Capricorn. So, I’m also extraordinarily practical. I notice that I have a little bit of disdain for too much fluff. If something’s really not practical , I’m not interested.
However, let me make the paradoxical relationship with that with tango, because you have to say to yourself, “What in the world does dancing tango do for anybody? How does that help grow corn for the third world?” Well, what happens in that when you are completely connected in any kind of artistic endeavor—but in tango particularly, because it is an improvisational dance in close embrace with another person who sometimes is a complete stranger—you dance one song, two people become one, the electromagnetic field of your heart expands dramatically. It’s like making love for three minutes and then you’re done.
Ophi: (laughs) Venus in Scorpio likes that.
Dr. Northrup: Likes that a lot. Then what happens is you’ve just changed the morphogenic field of the earth infinitesimally, but you have brought more love, caring, and sensuality into the Earth. Because at the end of the day, what is it that gets us up off our bums to do anything? It’s desire. It’s sensuality. It’s a feeling. When there is a war between thinking and feeling, feeling wins every time. We try to talk ourselves out of things, but the heart wins every time—even if has to have a heart attack to get your attention.
Ophi: So, let’s talk about your two amazing daughters. Kate, an Aries, has a Pisces rising and a Gemini Moon. And Ann who is a Sagittarius, like me, but I think she said she’s Leo moon and Aquarius rising? And your ex-husband, their father, is a Sagittarius. I always think it’s really interesting when you have a high density of one type of sign around you. You know here you are a Libra, an air sign, surrounded by all these passionate fire signs. Libra can be very measured, reasonable, and rational. Whereas with fire signs, the pause between emotion and action is so small. So, how is that for you? Do you feel you had a role to kind of balance them out in some way?
Dr. Northrup: Oh absolutely. I really was the mother of the home while the girls were growing up, with the Pisces moon and my “mother of the world” energy. I balanced it all out and kept it all flowing and going, the taproot into the earth.
Ophi: What were your daughters like as kids, and how was it for you becoming a mom?
Dr. Northrup: Well, Annie [Sagittarius] was fascinating as a child. She never took a nap, never slept, didn’t want to miss anything. You could just have this sense with her that she wasn’t going to miss a thing. She was always into theater and the arts.
Ophi: That Leo rising.
Dr. Northrup: Yes, that Leo rising, absolutely. Singing, lots of dance lessons, all that stuff. The girls would put on plays and musical performances and we’d set up stages all over the place. I’ve always been enormously grateful that my girls were not into team sports. I look at other people with kids, and I see that they go to 100 basketball games in a season. That would’ve been a recreation of my own childhood where we had to ski and we did just so many sports, and no one ever sat down to talk. It was always going, going, going—climb this, climb that, ski, golf….
Ophi: Was that from your Sag mom or your Scorpio dad?
Dr. Northrup: It was the Sag mom. We were constantly rushed, one thing to another. Never just sitting down. We’d get up Christmas morning, rush through the presents so they could get up to the ski slopes and get the first powder of the day. I used to wonder, “Doesn’t anyone around here ever just stop? How can I find one of those families in the movies where they sit around and have hot chocolate by the fire and talk on Christmas Day?
Ophi: Right. Right.
Dr. Northrup: So, we didn’t have that. [With my daughters], we had a lovely girl-centered thing going on here, and that was nice. Their dad was very sports oriented, and he used to go do stuff with my mother. They made hero trips together.
Ophi: And what do you love to do with them now?
Dr. Northrup: I like to come to New York and have a theater weekend. We’re all going to a wedding together of a friend out in Washington State. I love any kind of celebration. So, we had Thanksgiving and Christmas here this year. With everyone being an adult, these were perfect holidays for me. I made it known what I needed. In other words, I wasn’t going to be the person who provided all the food, and cleaned up everything, and a presented it all. And so they were the best holidays of my whole life. We also don’t do obligatory gift giving at the holidays, so therefore the gifts are your presence and a slide show that Kate always puts together.
As you know, Kate’s chart is so Gemini. Gemini, Gemini, Gemini. Very Gemini and a lot of 9th house [ruler of publishing, big ideas, travel] stuff. She’s just the old free electron, mercurial mind. It’s fun to watch her do her Glimpse TV and her web presence, and she used to do a business that we all own together called Team Northrup. Only she has her own version called the Freedom Family.
Watch Kate Northrup interview her mom on her web show, Glimpse TV.
Ophi: She’s writing a book on financial freedom now for Hay House, which is perfect timing with Jupiter going through her money house this year. Okay, so Annie is on a bit of new path now, right? She’s also a writer. Let’s talk a little bit about what she does.
Dr. Northrup: Annie’s got extraordinary language skills. So, she also has a bunch of things in the 9th house. She’s got Uranus there and Mercury, both in Scorpio. She can spot a typographical error at a mile. She’s an astounding copy editor and editor in general who can look at what you’ve written and then help you elevate it to the next level. So, she’s got a free space there of enormous language skills. So, she thinks that the most incredible thing to do in the world is plop yourself down in a foreign country and begin learning their language. She’s fearless when it comes to speaking with strangers. It used to terrify me as her mother.
Once, we did this family ski trip in Austria. We all go up to the top of the mountain, and in the Alps, it’s not just one ski area; they’re all connected to different towns. So we said, “Everyone take a buddy,” and Annie goes, “Well, I don’t want a buddy. I don’t need a buddy.” Then we all get to the next level, and Annie is nowhere to be found. I’m completely terrified. I think she’s fallen into a crevasse or God knows what. And I search and no one has seen her. What had happened was she did get off the trail and ended up in a whole other town, and she managed to get a bus back to [where we were staying]. And here I am, I’m frantic. I’ve cut my hand. I’m like a complete lunatic, and I show up at the lodge and there she is at the restaurant in the window, eating spaetzle.
Ophi: What a Sagittarius “citizen of the world,” huh?
Dr. Northrup: Yes, and she’s the kind of person. Wherever she goes, she finds people who take care of her. She gets fed and cl
othed. It’s astounding, actually.
Ophi: Did you ever find it was hard for you as a mom?
Dr. Northrup: Well, my kids just never acted out. I mean I never expected that they would, and they never did.We just didn’t have much that required discipline. But that’s because of how I was raised. My mother and dad just let us follow our hearts and do what we wanted. We just didn’t have to act out against parental authority, because they taught us early on to trust ourselves. And then they said things like “If you get into trouble, you call us anytime. We will be there, no questions asked.” We had a tremendous amount of freedom. So, when I got to college one, of the most astounding things to me was how many kids just acted out. It was like they were free for the first time in their lives, so they went crazy. And I thought they were all nuts, because I went on camping trips with my boyfriend in high school.
Ophi: The other thing that I find that Libra moms struggle with is separation. Was that ever true for you?
Dr. Northrup: Absolutely. When I was going through [my divorce], my mother was widowed at age 52. Annie and Kate at that time were just getting out of high school and going into college. So my heart was broken over the breakup of my marriage. Then when I went home [to see my mom], it became clear to me that I was now expected to archetypally fill the role of the oldest single daughter—which is to be my mother’s “date” for the rest of my life.
Ophi: Oh, God.
Dr. Northrup: So, every part of me said, “Nooooo!” And then at that point Kate was going off to a semester on the coast of Maine. And Annie had just entered college. So suddenly I went from a household of five to just me within six months. It was extraordinarily difficult to not have anyone here. I had to reinvent myself. That’s when I learned that you can not live through your children. It’s so tempting, and I think for centuries, this is what mother’s have done.
And in patriarchy, you get to be about age 50, and the message is “well you aren’t very useful. You’re not young and beautiful anymore, so this is the end for you.” So, now the only way to get in on any of the goodies is to hang around with your children. I knew that that was the kiss of death for them and for me. So, I had to do something else, which I have done.
Ophi: What are the other options?
Dr. Northrup: Well, the other options are: become depressed, whine, call your daughters and whine things like, “You never visit me. You don’t visit anymore. You don’t call. “ And I was just not going to be that mother.
Ophi: No. That would ensure that they don’t ever visit again. But there are so many moms that do that.
Dr. Northrup: There are so many, yes, but what happens is that they DO visit, because the pull of the mother is so strong. Kate interviewed me [on her show Glimpse TV], and I talked physiologically why that pull is so strong. Because your body was made in her body. Whether or not she was happy literally determined the amount of nutrients and oxygen you got through the placenta.
Ophi: Which is amazing, and I know you wrote about that a lot in your book Mother Daughter Wisdom, too.
Dr. Northrup: I did.
Ophi: I love that you write about the physiological and the neurological a little bit. It’s really a great book for anyone to read to really understand how we’re made. What do you think that moms really need to know the most about raising kids in general? As a doctor and from what you learned while putting that book together?
Dr. Northrup: I would say the most important thing is that a mother can know is that it is not EVER what she says. Ever, ever, ever. We are modeling everything. That includes have a fulfilling, HAPPY life with things that light you up, that you are passionate about—that do not necessarily include your kids. You have to model that you are a human being with needs and desires that are separate from those of your children. The biggest pitfall for motherhood is the martyr archetype. “I’ve done all this for you and how do you repay me?” Or when a woman gets pregnant her mother will say, “Now you will see how I suffered with you.”
Ophi: I think so many mothers give themselves that carte blanche of “Well, now it’s your turn!” It’s like “Arrrgh, stop!”
Dr. Northrup: Right! We need to change the conversation. I mean is motherhood hard? Yes. I will tell you everything I’ve ever done was easier than raising a child, going back to work, being in a surgical subspecialty…..piece of cake. I remember thinking when I got back to work after Kate was born, “Oh my God. This is so simple. I have a staff. Things are laid out here. No one is interrupting me. Boy, men have been pulling the wool over our eyes forever.” They’ve had the easy job. And the way we nurture children, the nuclear family with the mother home alone is ridiculously anti-evolutionary. It should never be happening. So, I’m for kids having as many mothers as they can possibly have. You know, spread it around, man.
Ophi: Amen to that.
Dr. Northrup: Yeah. When you see a mother who needs help in an airport, give her a hand. My god. Here’s the other thing I learned, when we see a father with a young child, this used to happen in the hospital…my husband is an Orthopedic surgeon and I’m an OB, so we’d often times meet in the hospital with the two kids. If he’d have the kids over in the Orthopedic ward, the nurses would gather around him, play with my children, everything. I’d go to the OB ward, my area, and the nurses would sneer at me, “Oh my God. Why can’t this woman get childcare? Why does she have to drag her kids in here?” Same kids. Same hospital.
Ophi: Oh yeah. The father is treated as the hero. And on that note, do you think that gender is changing at all?
Dr. Northrup: Oh yeah. It’s astounding. Again, when my mother was here, we went to the coffee shop for a latte, and she says, “I can not believe the number of young men with their children.” Including her grandsons, with her great-grandchildren. I mean they’re incredible with them. She said that men are with their children 100 times more than they were when she was raising us. It just didn’t happen. The men were not involved in childcare. They just plain weren’t.
Ophi: I don’t know how anybody survived without that.
Dr. Northrup: Back then women weren’t working either. I mean they were working in the home, and their job was to take care of the children. And they had a lot of community of other mothers in the neighborhood, and that has all changed now. Because most everyone is working at this point. We’re morphing. We’re morphing into other role models and other communities. I think it’s all exciting.
Ophi: Do you think that there’s anything that mothers of boys need to know now, and mothers of girls specifically?
Dr. Northrup: Mothers of girls: if they want the girls to be happy and healthy…you know I was going to say, wash out their mouths with soap. All of the body hatred that goes on with women—this gets passed right into the daughter.
Ophi: Ugh. I know.
Dr. Northrup: And with sons, the mother needs to know that like it or not, she is the number-one role model for the girl they are going to marry. She sets the tone. So what I find that’s exciting again to me is that there are two types of men. There are the men who love their mothers; those are the ones you want to marry. The ones who really don’t love their mothers …that mother he never liked is going to be superimposed on you like it or not.
Ophi: Is that related to neurological and physiological factors?
Dr. Northrup: Well, yes. You see, that’s where his body was formed. His mother’s attitudes, her emotions, and all of that, that constitutes life. That constitutes mother. So for a guy who did not have a great relationship with his mother, what he’ll try to do is continually try to recreate that relationship with the women in his life, and this is what I find really the most tragic. A man is trained to try to please his mother over and over. “Be a good boy, Johnny! Mommy likes you when you do….” So, that is deeply ingrained in boys. He will try for the rest of his life to please mommy, but unfortunately he will inevitably choose women he can not please. Because he is revisiting the old wound. Sometimes you’ll see this show up in the astrological chart.
Anyhow, men need to know that they’ve got to choose women who are happy. I guess I would say the same for girls. But the most important thing you can do as the role model of a girl is to model [qualities of] fulfillment, silliness, happiness, and success. The other thing that happens a lot, like it or not, is the health of the mother— whether she’s got high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer—the daughter will get the idea that this is her destiny. That my mother had this, so this is likely to happen to me. And what I would like everyone to know is that is utterly untrue, as long as you awaken to the pattern. So what I like to tell people about the whole mother/daughter legacy or even the whole mother/son legacy is examine what the legacy is and the parts of it. In my case, my mother was widowed at age 52 and never went out on a date or did anything with a man from that moment on. I was divorced at 52, so I repeated the pattern except for never being with a man from that moment on. I said, “This is not happening!”
Ophi: And a Sagittarius mom could probably be self-sufficient enough. “Well, I’m free. Marriage was confining anyway.” A Libra on the other hand….
Dr. Northrup: Yes, that’s just what she said. She said, “Well, I’ve washed enough socks.” And I thought, “Wow! So you’re just going to boil down marriage to ‘I’m going to be obligated to wash socks.’”
Ophi: Which for a Libra is a sacrilege, pretty much.
Dr. Northrup: Yeah. No kidding. So, what did she do? She went off and climbed the hundred highest peaks in New England, did the entire Appalachian train, bought an RV, travels like 5000 miles a year in a camper. Very Sag, you know.
Ophi: Very Sag, but not Libra. Which is really why we’re doing this website, too. People get the whole “chip off the old block, family values, follow in your parents and family footsteps” message. Our culture is so driven by that. I don’t know if you’d agree, but I think we’re souls coming back on a mission, and we don’t choose our families so we can be just like them. We choose them so that they catalyze the energies and forces in our chart that cause us to elevate ourselves karmically and energetically for the next round.
Dr. Northrup: I completely agree with you on that. You know that’s the hard stuff in life. You know we talk about the “frenemies” and the naysayers. You know, like you should get rid of the frenemies and the naysayers in your life. Well, guess what? They’re your family every time.
Dr. Northrup: Boy do they ever catalyze, force you to look at what are your values. I had to laugh. I was at a retreat and my mother was there. She had her camper with her. I had never looked at the back of her camper. So, I’m there at the back where the extra tire is, and I see that the camper says “Pleasureway.” And I thought, “This is it. This is her Pleasureway.” It is 180 degrees opposite of my Pleasureway.
Ophi: Oh my God.
Dr. Northrup: That’s ok. She gets her Pleasureway and I get mine, but I really had spent the first half of my life trying to belong, because that’s a Libra thing in a big way, to be part of the group, to stuff myself into that mold. And that’s what, frankly, menopause is all about. It’s finally, finally, finally individuating from your tribe in a way that you individuate but you don’t need to leave them behind. I mean we’re all really close, but I know that the days of my mother organizing a family gathering of taking a canoe down a raging stream in April—you know so that we could dump the canoe and then go 20 miles soaking wet and freezing—those days are done.
Ophi: So, what are your favorite mom resources, astrology resources, or parenting ones? Any final things you want people to know about?
Dr. Northrup: I would really like people to know that HOW we are born matters, and that the first formative years of our lives really matter. And just relax. The Baby Einstein, flash cards, the endless activities, violin lessons and voice lessons, and the child never having a childhood—you are doing your child such a disservice. When I look back, neither of my daughters would go to camp. I wanted them to go to camp. They wouldn’t do it. They wanted to be with us, with their mom and dad. So, we did family hikes, and we did all kinds of stuff together. We watched Cosby together on Thursday nights. They had a very solidly rooted to the earth childhood.
Another study showed that the parents aren’t nearly as important as the child’s friends. It said that the friends were the most important. My big argument with that is that the friends that your children have depends completely on where you live, who their parents hang out with, because kids don’t have a driver’s license for a while. So, live if at all possible where you WANT to actually be. The mother of all of us is the Earth. Let the children play outside barefoot whenever possible, swim in lakes and streams, and reconnect with the real Mother, which is the Earth herself.
Find the fabulous Northrup women’s work here:
Ann Moller: www.divaoftheword.com
Kate Northrup: katenorthrup.com