Where are they now? - Sue Farebrother
Interview with Sue Farebrother first published in
Volume 13 Autumn 2017 of the Sophia Project News.
Sue Farebrother, MA, D.F.Astrol. S., graduated from the Cultural Astronomy and Astrology MA programme in 2007. Sue was drawn to astrology in 1980, at the same time that she was learning Tarot. In 1987, she completed a three year training in Psychosynthesis Psychotherapy from the Psychosynthesis and Education Trust in London, and in 1992 gained her diploma from the Faculty of Astrological Studies. In 1999 she joined the Faculty as a tutor and later served as a Faculty council member for six years. She now teaches advanced topics in astrology at the Faculty and has a private astrological and counselling practice, in which she combines astrology, the symbolism and meaning of the Tarot and Psychosynthesis.
Sue talked to Kate White about the impact of the MA on her life and work.
KW: Why did you do the MA?
SF: I was in the third intake of students for the MA, and dithered for a while about whether or not to do it - it was such a commitment to go to Bath from London. Fortunately, I had a friend in Bristol, and I stayed with her. There are many reasons I chose to do it: I was fascinated by the subject matter, what it was all about - research, history, spiritually, astrology's place in the wider realm of things. It covered all my areas of interest. I had a practical reason, too - I liked the idea of going to university and studying a subject that interested me. As a young person, I went to art college, as I couldn't decide what to do.
KW: What modules did you find most interesting?
SF: They were all interesting, I enjoyed everything. If I had to pick favourites - I liked Science and Scepticism, which was taught by Patrick Curry, and Stellar Religion, taught mainly by Patrick Curry and Nick Campion. And I enjoyed the Research module - taught by Nick - my project was a quantitative survey on people's sky beliefs; I interviewed all sorts of people - Christians, footballers, Muslims, everyone.
The research found that the majority of respondents (63%) thought they were typical of what they knew about the meaning of their sign. However, replies to a question as to whether they felt there was any truth in astrology, 46% said 'no' (with the ratio of men to women nearly 2:1) and 41% said 'maybe'. So the research left open the question 'is it that popular astrology is not conducive to fostering a feeling that there is truth in the subject, or is it that there is some other unknown factor that convinces people to some extent that their character traits match what they have read or heard about their sun sign, yet does not convince them that astrology has validity?'.
At the time I did the MA, the Sacred Geography module wasn't offered, but now that alumni are allowed to sit in on current modules, I recently audited this. I enjoyed it a lot. All the presenters had excellent material and I learnt about many interesting 'sacred spaces.' I did feel that now I know what this subject consists of, in many ways it was obvious to me - not that this detracts at all from what was presented. I could not have known about all those places and their special energy.
KW: How did the MA affect your attitude to astrology?
SF: The MA broadened my whole approach to what I'm doing; it put astrology into a much bigger context, especially with the history of astrology. It also made me more erudite in being to express the bigger picture of astrology and gave me a much broader perspective on what I was doing and its context in human learning and life in general. It's so enlightening, astrology, and it's part of our history.
KW: What did your dissertation focus on?
SF: The Exoteric and Esoteric in Astrology and Tarot in the 19th century. Was very pleased to receive a distinction for it!
KW: What doors have opened since doing the MA?
SF: The biggest door was that I went on to write my book, Astrology Decoded, for beginner astrologers. Unlike some of my fellow students, I knew I didn't want to go on and do a PhD, so I wrote a book instead, which was published in 2013. One of the things in the MA that was very good for me was it taught me to streamline my writing, to make it clear - I nearly failed my first essay due to my lack of academic experience as I never went to university before - so I learned to hone my writing over the course of the MA. The effect of the MA, in general, was expansive - I now do more lectures and talks, my client practice has increased, as has my astrology teaching.
KW: What books are you reading now?
SF: I'm not sure what drew me to it, perhaps it's because was I visiting a Quaker Friends House, but I've just started reading Rowan Williams' God With Us: The Meaning of the cross and resurrection - then and now. Rowan Williams was Archbishop of Canterbury from 2002 to 2012. I'm not Christian, but I am spiritual and love learning, I'm always interested in the deeper meanings of symbols and events.
KW: Any new projects in the pipeline?
SF: Over the past year I've been involved in setting up an online astrology school - The Academy of Astrology - with three other astrologers, which will teach online from beginners to advanced. We plan to start in September 2017, and I will be lead tutor in the first year (www.academyofastrology.co.uk), I'm also writing a new book which is a follow-on from Astrology Decoded, it explains the main systems of forecasting and other more advanced astrological techniques. This will keep me busy for a while! I've also just completed a life-coaching course with Wise Goose, run by Helen Sieroda - we trained together in Psychosynthesis, all those years ago. Otherwise, I intend to continue writing more books after the current one, and to continue as a tutor for the time being.
KW: Many thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Sue, and for your involvement with the Alumni Association of the MA. We wish you all the best with your new book and school!