School for the starry-eyed

It is a dark and stormy night in West London. A crescent moon bobs between the clouds and a diverse group of men and women gathers to discuss the alignment of the planets. Sally Staples joins them.

Astrology is a subject that bothers people. Even if they scoff at the whole idea, they may furtively scan their newspaper horoscope, haunted by a hunch that just maybe there is something in it after all.

Tonight a lawyer-turned-counsellor, a record producer, a New Zealand child-minder and a Rowan Atkinson lookalike are among the dozen men and women sitting round a table listening earnestly to tutor Kim Farley. She fits the bill as an astrologer - a tall, elegant woman with a cascade of curly hair, star-shaped earrings and an outfit in shades of burnt orange. Surely she must be a fire sign.

Kim is all warmth as her proteges step in from the cold, wet street. "Welcome back, my lovelies. Missed you all." It promises to be a somewhat stagey evening, but within minutes Kim has everyone's attention and is setting her students little tasks to help them to recap what they learnt in their last session.

As the evening progresses, she switches from a cosy and almost patronising approach to one of extraordinary fluency, rapidly dealing with a mass of seemingly complex theories and mathematical phenomena. She is indeed inspirational; it is not hard to see how some of the class's sceptics have been won over to the wonders of astrology.

Kim herself is not interested in persuading people to believe, but rather in expounding the theories and explaining interpretations.

"I started on a course just like this in 1989," she says. "I saw what it offered, and spent six years getting my diploma. Now I am a member of the Faculty of Astrological Studies. For me astrology is about what things mean - not predicting what is going to happen.

"I enjoy getting people to think about it. Yes, I do sometimes skim through newspaper horoscopes, but when you reduce a complex issue to a few lines it makes it all very banal. The skill of newspaper astrologers is in the writing, more than anything else; unfortunately, real astrologers don't make that sort of money."

The 20-week course, run by Kensington and Chelsea College for Adult Education, is open to complete beginners or those who have already dabbled in aspects of the planets and elements. The introduction deals with the astrological alphabet relating to planets, elements and what are called modes: cardinality, fixity and mutability.

Kim starts this evening's two-hour session by inviting everyone to imagine a circus, and then to relate different circus acts to each sign of the zodiac - based on knowledge gleaned about the signs from earlier sessions.

This is good fun, if a little basic. The untutored would guess that a fire-eater might correspond to the fire sign of Aries, or that Siamese twins could be represented by Gemini, but the more expert come up with intriguing options. The sign of Taurus was associated with elephants and other animal acts but also with meticulous financial business, and would therefore be most likely to represent the cashier or ticket collector, or even the financial backer of the circus. High-wire acts were associated with Libra, psychic mind-reading and snake-charming with Scorpio, sad clowns with Capricorn, and dog acts with Virgo. And so it went on.

The next exercise dealt with the 10 basic "planets": Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. This time Kim asked the class to imagine a brick wall and how the spirit of each planet might react to it. Well, that got them going. A random vox pop suggested that Venus would have a smooch under it, Mars might have a quick one up against it, and Pluto would be more into putting black-tinted mirrors on it.

Not that every reference was about sex. Saturn would build a scaffold around the wall, Neptune might dance to music beside it, and Mercury might play games against it.

When Kim switched the easy exercises to describing the 12 houses in astrology, the novice - such as me - was lost, but I could see how enraptured the rest of the class remained. They had all done their own chart and had studied the charts of some celebrities, including Judy Garland and Germaine Greer, to get a feeling of how to interpret a wide range of information offered by the circumstances, place and time of the subject's birth.

Dare Mason, a record producer, said that he had been sceptical, but was moved to give the course a go because he had met several astrologers and had been impressed with what they said. "I was just amazed at how accurate my chart was. What I am learning now is the complexity of interpretation."

Lindsay, an erstwhile lawyer from London who had changed her profession to counselling, said she used her knowledge of astrology to help assess her clients.

"I have consulted an astrologer more than once, and each time I was very impressed. This is the first course I've been on, and I've found it fascinating."

Kim Farley's 20-week course at the Kensington and Chelsea College costs between pounds 76 and pounds 92 (0171-573 5333). She also offers private consultations in London (0171-403 6215). Information on courses in other parts of the country can be obtained from the Faculty of Astrological Studies in Orpington, Kent (07000 790143).

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Voices
A recent rise in net migration has been considered bad news for the Government
voicesYet when we talk about it, the national media goes into a frenzy, says Nigel Farage
Life and Style
Miracle muffin: chemicals can keep a muffin looking good at least a month after it was bought
food + drinkThe alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Sport
Jonny Evans and Papiss Cisse come together
football
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Reach Volunteering: External HR Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree have recently been awa...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers