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Obituary – Jonathan Cainer, astrologer who struggled with personal tragedy

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Died: May 2, 2016

JONATHAN Cainer, who has died of a heart attack aged 58, was a hugely successful astrologer who, through his website, books, phonelines, television appearances, and columns in the Daily Mail, Daily Express and Daily Mirror, built up a considerable business with a turnover of £2m a year and a staff of 30.

In many ways, it was a surprising fate for Cainer to end up working for the Daily Mail, as his views were left-leaning and as a young man, he was drawn to a hippyish way of life. He was also part of the free festival movement and for a time ran a nightclub in LA.

It was while in America that he met the astrologer who changed his life. Charles John Quarto told him that he would end up spreading a cosmic message that millions would listen to and that he would be extremely successful. Cainer was sceptical at first but then stumbled on a book about astrology.

“Something drew me to the book,” he said. “I was in California; astrology was everywhere. I was broke but I reached into my pocket and found a $50 bill I’d forgotten about. I came back to England and let social security take care of me.”

By the 1980s, Cainer was writing an astrology column for the now defunct newspaper Today, but jumped ship to the Daily Mail in 1992. He then quit for the Express, in the process describing the Mail as a newspaper dedicated to the subtle propagation of bigotry – words he had to eat somewhat when he returned to the Mail four years later.

He was born in Surbiton, Surrey, to a bank worker father and a medical secretary mother, but his childhood was not happy. When he was 12, his mother left home with his two younger brothers and a day later his father moved his girlfriend into the family home. It was a traumatic experience for Cainer and may have contributed to him dropping out of school at 15 without any O levels.

For a while, he drifted, working as a petrol pump attendant, before moving to America where he worked with his brother decorating houses. He then managed a nightclub in LA and played bass guitar in a number of bands.

He returned to the UK where he began to study astrology in earnest, taking a diploma from the Faculty of Astrological Studies in London and then embarking on his newspaper career.

When faced with charges of charlatanism, Cainer always vehemently defended astrology as a source of comfort for people in difficult times. “For the past couple of hundred years,” he said, “astronomy and astrology have gone their separate ways and the world of science now looks down its nose at the world of astrology. But to insist that everything in life can or will be explained by science is potentially as preposterous as for an astrologer to turn round and say ‘I am a living deity who uses the ancient art of astrology to foresee everything that’s about to happen before it’s occurred’.”

Cainer also recognised that some people could take astrology too seriously and took a different approach to his writing after a reader who had read one of his predictions committed suicide. “In my column I’d said ‘If you’ve got something that’s big in your life go ahead and do it today’. And they did it. They killed themselves.”

Cainer said he struggled for some time to come to terms with what had happened but said knowing his column could have that effect, he always put his words through what he called a “top yourself” filter. “I look and ask myself whether what I write could be misinterpreted,” he said.

Cainer had other struggles in his life. In 1992, his wife Melanie died in a car crash, leaving him with seven children. In 2007, a psychic museum he established in York also closed down after four years.

But for the most part, Cainer’s career was a success, with his website alone valued at £50m. His nephew, Oscar, also an astrologer, has said that he intends to carry on in his uncle’s tradition. Cainer is survived by his wife Sue and his children.

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