When I was in school, I was very interested in two career possibilities: art and the area of counselling. I couldn't settle into any one job in particular and I tried so many things. I did manual work, carpentry, furniture making, retail, catering ... I even worked in the circus, looking after elephants, for a season.
I picked up a sunsign book at the age of 15. I remember thinking, 'How can this book be talking to me so much about who I am?' I taught myself astrology; I learned how to calculate and read people's charts. It took me a long time to realise that I should be doing what I love.
The story of a person is in their chart. Because of your (astrological) placements, for example if you have Mars energy around you, some people will experience you as threatening, but you might consider yourself as shy. It's not that there's something wrong with you and you don't have the social skills – it might be that what you feel about yourself and what others experience is very different.
Trying to tell people what astrology is has been beyond me at times. Basically, your chart tells me of the character that you are in life. The point at which you were born tells me about what was set up for you. There's an element of decision-making that goes on before your birth. Your birth time is not an accident.
I write a (horoscopes) column for my local paper in West Cork. It took me a lot of working out how to move from being an astrologer to writing sunsigns (or starsigns). The way I describe horoscopes is like when it rains: it affects a huge number of the population, but it won't be a miserable day for everyone.
When my job comes up in conversation, I now tell people what I do with confidence. But I used to skirt around it. It took me a lot of time to own it and realise it was a proper job.
Most people are fascinated, but a lot of people say, 'okay, so tell me about myself'. They hold out their palm, and that's the most difficult thing; because for some people it's lumped in with the caravan at the fair where you go to gaze into a crystal ball. There's a cliche that astrologers are there to help people look for luck, love or money.
The amount of study involved in astrology is staggering. In the early days I spent seven or eight hours per evening with books piled up to my ears. You can become technically good at astrology, but if you're going to consult with people, you need a lot of empathy and understanding of human nature.
I really understand about people's pain, or how they might have gotten themselves into difficult circumstances. On the whole, people aren't interested in seeking guidance unless they're having a difficult time. I see a lot of people in a distressed state. Some people who approach me are just curious, or they just want to spend a little indulgent money on themselves. But it's rare that someone hasn't experienced a difficult time and isn't looking for guidance.
There's no real typical working day – I don't see clients 9-5 or anything. In the early morning I deal with my admin and sort out the structure of my day. I'll then see people later in the day; in advance of talking to them, I prepare their chart for a few hours.
Sometimes I do consultations by phone or Skype. I've recently been talking to people in New Zealand, the US and Egypt. People find me mainly through word of mouth, or on the internet.
To anyone interested in astrology as a career, my advice to them is to get practising. Get your friends' charts and learn how to calculate them. Don't do it as a professional unless you're prepared to do a lot of groundwork. There are several schools of astrology, mainly in the UK and US, and Bath Spa University in the UK has a Masters in Cultural Astrology.
Formal education is great, but you can't really beat experience ... and you have to be able to handle people as well. After all, you are dealing with some very sensitive issues as an astrologer, and how certain issues and decisions might affect people's lives.
In conversation with Tanya Sweeney
For more information, log onto katearbon.com