Archive for April, 2008

Back home from Readers Studio

A carload of us — Bev, Lydia, Tammy, and yours truly — made the trek to Newark, NJ for the Readers Studio, a yearly event hosted by the incredible founders of the Tarot School, Wald and Ruth Ann Amberstone.  It’s action-packed, educational, and enjoyable.  Opening and closing sessions, three principle workshops, mini study groups, private consultations, shopping galore (tarot decks, books, jewellery, artwork, crystals, and more), and social time with folks who are astoundingly supportive and riotously funny.  I came away with knowledge, love, and more tarot decks and books.  Oh…and I purchased the original painting of the Star from Julie Cuccia-Watts’ Maat Tarot.  Yum!

I had the great privilege of being one of the Readers Studio’s key presenters.  My topic was “The Answer Is in the Question” (not exactly a surprise, is it?).  People responded to the information and activities with warmth and enthusiasm.  Thank you to all of you!  Here are a couple of the activities that we did:

1.  Turn your tarot deck face-up so you can see the images.  As you go through it, create three piles — positive (“I like these cards”), negative (“I don’t like these cards”), and neutral (“Hmm…so what?”).  Now write down two questions, one with a positive slant and the other with a negative slant (e.g. “What’s the best thing about…”, “What’s the worst thing about…”, “How might I best approach…”,  “How should I not approach…”, etc.).  Pick up your pile of positive cards and shuffle them.  Pull a card from the face-down cards and turn it over.  Use it to answer your “negative” question.  Pick up your pile of negative cards and shuffle them.  Pull a card from the face-down cards and turn it over.  Use it to answer your “positive” question.  This is to demonstrate that all tarot cards are neutral and that it’s our questions that tilt a card’s interpretation one way or the other.

2.  Spend time harvesting questions about a topic or issue that carries energy for you right now.  What in your life piques your curiosity?  Write it down.  Spend five to seven minutes writing down any and all questions that come to your mind about your topic.  In the workshop setting, each person walked around the room to encounter three or more people.  After introducing hirself to a person, s/he told the person hir topic and allowed the person to offer five questions that came to mind about the topic.  Then they switched roles.  The second person spoke hir issue aloud and the first person offered five questions.  After this exchange, participants went to a second person, then a third.  Some got four question-givers.  In a non-workshop setting, you might want to jot down your topic and your own brainstormed questions, then mention your topic to trusted friends to harvest five questions from each of them.  You can do this over the course of a day, a week, even a month.  Only when the process feels complete do you edit, refine, omit, add, and tweak the list until you have a list of questions that will be most valuable for your exploration, whether through tarot, your journal, therapy, or personal reflection.  Some people find that just the journey of collecting meaningful questions resolves something within them regarding their initial inquiry.

kevin quigley’s presentation taught me:

a) that I’m of a phlegmatic nature.  I apparently demonstrated these qualities on stage.

b) that my style of tarot consultation has a traceable pattern, all the way from greeting a person at the door to the conscious changes s/he makes in hir life as a result of the session.  Wow!

c) a great tarot layout to explore our style as tarot consultants.  Very appropriate!

Thalassa’s presentation taught me:

a) that I’m not very good at lying.  Whew!

b) that divination, being conscious, and being present in our bodies are wonderfully subversive acts.  If enough of us practise these, there’s hope for our species and for our planet.

c) a terrific tarot layout concerned with change.  It’s derived from the Wheel of Fortune, the Hanged One, Death, the Tower, and Judgement.  Good one!

Several people had consultations with me.  What a joy to witness the stories that they brought to me and that we investigated via the tarot.  It’s a humbling experience for me, and one that reminds me that I’m on the right track.  I applaud all of you who came to me for private sessions — your courage is amazing!  I know you’ll do well in your process of transformation.

My reunion with people too numerous to mention individually (I adore ALL of you!!!) touched me deeply.  There were moments of rib-aching laughter juxtaposed with moments of tenderness that brought tears to my eyes.  One dreads to think of the photos that will emerge from the conference.  Some of you might recognise these themes:

Superman, penguins, antennae, interpretive dance, schnaardvark with raisins, a waiter, the rat face, groupies, and the moo-goo-gai-pan chanting ritual.

On the trip home, we got a flat tire in New York State, just past the Pennsylvania border.  The car company in question had an international emergency number that didn’t work.  So Tammy’s mother, back in Canada, found local dealership numbers and got them to us by cellphone.  An angel in the form of Dan the road worker arrived, got the spare tire on for us, then led us to a garage where we got a proper new tire.  He wouldn’t take any money, telling us to do something good for someone else one day.  The guy at the garage heard that we were tarot practitioners and told us that his mom does automatic writing and is connected with Lily Dale.  Wow!  Interestingly, Tammy’s card for the day was the Tower (boom!) and we were having a long car chat about the Wheel of Fortune (Bev’s tire). 

What I most want to remember from this experience is the importance of loving support, whether through heart-melting silence, rich conversation, a song, uproarious laughter, or helpful counsel.  It was present on the trip down, during the gathering, and on the way home.  O Infinite Mystery, Great Goddess, thank you!

Next year’s presenters will be fantastic.  The lineup includes James Wanless, Geraldine Amaral, and Rachel Pollack.  Can’t wait!

More to come in future entries, but there’s a first report.  Here’s a photo of me on stage, courtesy of Beth Owl’s Daughter:

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Earth Day and a Gaian layout

Blessed Earth Day, everyone.  Some time ago, I designed a tarot layout to use with the stunning Gaian Tarot, a nature-honouring deck by my marvellous friend Joanna Powell Colbert (www.gaiantarot.com).  It contains four questions.  You can find the layout here:


Use the questions in any way you wish — for journal writing, council circle discussion, conversations with friends, or divination with tarot cards, runes, crone stones, medicine cards, i ching, or whatever connects you with Wisdom.  When you’ve heard Wisdom’s responses, what might you do for our beautiful, aching planet?

How might one celebrate Earth Day besides doing the above reading?  Go for a walk outside and take a deep, deep breath.  Admire a big, old tree.  Plant something in your garden.  Unplug appliances that aren’t used very often.  Donate money to help save a forest or an animal species.  Write a poem.  Jot down 10 things in nature for which you’re grateful.  Whatever is joyful and honours Life is a good celebration of Earth Day

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Reiki class and a good channeller

This weekend, I’m at Lakeside Retreats in Beamsville, ON (www.bevslakesideretreats.com) teaching a Chuden (Second Level) Reiki class.  What a great group!  They all seem committed to the healing of self and our world, for which I’m grateful.  They really seem to have clicked into the mental-emotional healing method very well.

Last night, I went with Bev (great friend and terrific hostess) and a couple of people from the class to Fonthill for an evening of channelling by a woman named Loni from the West Coast.  Over the years, I’ve found that many of these turn into preachy, long-winded “love and light blather”, which bores the liver and lights out of me.  Not this one!  The energies which came through Loni — the One and the Council of Nine of the Earth (I think) — guided us on journeys so that each person could find hir own wisdom to bring back to the group.  Each person who shared their journey experience had something valuable and insightful to offer to the group about healing the earth, a gift to share with the world, and the nature of the human mind.  It felt very council-like, very egalitarian.  It was almost as if the energies/entities guided us through Loni, yet also allowed their wisdom to flow through everyone.  Any entity who treats the human race in such a respectful manner has my respect in return.

I head back to Toronto this evening after teaching.  Must get ready for the trip to Newark, NJ.  I’m one of three key presenters at a tarot conference there, the Readers Studio put on by the Tarot School based in NYC (www.tarotschool.com).  It’s one of my favourite events every year, and I’m honoured to offer what I can to the assembly.  Looking forward to seeing many of you there!

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There are some cards that people in the general public don’t want to show up in their tarot consultations.  Cards such as Death, Devil, Tower, 10 of Swords, 5 of Pentacles, and so forth.  But, for me, there’s no such thing as a “good” card or a “bad” card.  A card is just a card and it depicts a neutral concept.  It’s our questions which slant a card’s potential meanings one way or the other. 

In my own experience, I’ve found that most fears, if not all of them, boil down to fear of death or dying.  We spend so many years building up this thing called the ego in order to function in the world, believing that it’s who we are at our core.  Then that perception of self gets challenged.  Someone says, “You’re not really a banker,” or “Your kids have all moved away.  You don’t have to baby them anymore,” or “You know you’re going to snuff it one day, right?”  Ground begins to feel a bit shaky.  A tarot card is turned over.  It’s Death.  It reminds us that nothing lasts in one form, that all things must transform, that decay is organic and natural.  Another card comes up, the Tower.  A bolt of revelation tears a building to its foundation, knocks the heck out of the walls.  Ground begins to feel a bit shakier.  Ego self begins to realise that it’s in danger.  So it freaks out, rebels, gets angry, mourns itself before it’s even gone.  And we get caught up in it.  We forget to check in with ourselves, with Life.  What’s really happening here and now?  I’m sitting in a chair, looking out at buds just forming on trees, noticing the ripples on the lake, hearing the hum of the computer.  All is well, here and now. 

Last night’s monthly tarot gathering was all about digging into those cards that people don’t like because they feel like a threat to all the ego structures they’ve built up.  Here are a couple of activities for us to try.  May they help to ground us in the here and now, to give us a reality check.

1.  This one can be done alone.  Go through your face-up tarot deck (i.e. you’re looking at the pictures) and set aside all cards that look or feel uncomfortable, unpleasant, scary, annoying, or problematic to you.  Lay out these “icky” cards so that you can see all of their images clearly.  Glance at them, get a feel for the whole assembly.  In your notebook/journal, write down the theme(s) that they all share, the common thread(s) that runs through them.  Distil each theme down to a single word.  Write down this word.  Set a timer for seven minutes and begin to write about your theme in a stream of consciousness style, no editing.  Keep your hand writing for the entire seven minutes, even if you only scribble down nonsense.  When the timer goes off, stop writing immediately.  Read what you’ve written.  What do the words on the page tell you about yourself in relation to the theme(s) brought out by the cards?  What, if anything, do you intend to do about it?

2 .  This one is to be done with a partner, because it’s a verbal dialogue.  For the sake of brevity, you’ll be Person A and your tarot buddy will be Person B.  Consciously choose the tarot card you like the least.  Now the dialogue begins.

Person B:  What is the name of your card?

Person A:  The name of my card is [name of card].

B:  If you got this card in a reading, what is the worst thing that it could possibly indicate will happen to you?

A:  It could mean … [tells story about worst-case scenario].

B:  Then what?

A: [more worst-case stuff…]

B:  Then what?

A:  [more worst-case stuff]

Etc. until it feels as if this line of questioning and responding can go no further.  Then the dialogue continues in this manner.

B:  What is the likelihood of this really happening to you?

A:  [provides an honest response].

If A. said that it was possible or likely, person B asks, “How might you deal with it?” or “What are you going to do about it?”, and person A responds honestly.  If A said that it’s not likely that this will happen or that it’s not real, Person B asks, “So what IS really happening now?” or “So, if that’s not likely to happen, what IS likely to happen?” or “What is the reality of your life right now?” and Person A responds honestly. 

A and B then switch roles.  As the scenario gets deeper and deeper, it tends to become ridiculously unrealistic.  Often, the person realises that s/he is starting to get into the territory of over-imagining something that’s not happening and is not likely to ever occur.  It helps to ask oneself, “Where in the spectrum of this card’s possibilities of meaning am I right here and now?”  Reality check!


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I love questions!

Earlier today, I was giving a tutorial to a woman who comes to me to sharpen specific tarot skills.  We always have enjoyable sessions and today was no different.  Today was about engaging the readee/querent more actively during the course of a tarot consultation instead of her/him just sitting there listening to pronouncments from the reader/consultant.  The largest body of what we came up with was a series of questions one can ask the client at the beginning of the session, during the body of the session, and at the end of the session.  Here are some that we came up with:


  • What would you like to accomplish in today’s tarot session?
  • What would be helpful for us to explore today?
  • What feelings have you been having that led you to the tarot today?
  • What is the most important thing (in your life) to know or learn about at this time?


  • What in this image really grabs your attention?
  • What’s happening in this card?
  • How does it feel?
  • What might this mean?
  • If this card were a story, what would it be telling you?
  • For me, this card can be about A, B, C, or D.  Given your own experience, which of these makes sense to you?
  • How might the things I’ve/we’ve said about this card relate to [spread position/question]?


  • How would you summarise everything we’ve talked about today?
  • What do you most want to remember from this consultation?
  • What one constructive thing can you do this week to help you remember the session?

In a wonderful moment of synchronicity, I encountered more questions at lunch-time.  I’m reading the newly revised edition of Christina Baldwin’s Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Practice, and today’s chapter just happened to be — you guessed it! — The Art of Questioning.  It contains delicious phrases such as:

  • Our spiritual lives are defined by the questions we raise and write about…
  • Through questioning we learn to hold our own course — to absorb life’s mysteries and keep moving through the territory questions release to our exploration.
  • The comfort that comes from questioning is this: even if there isn’t an answer, there is response.

Whether over tarot cards, in our journals, deep in the process of council, or simply in everyday conversation, questions open us up to more of who we can be, to more of what life can be.  So, dear readers, I leave you with this question today:

What is the burning question you need to ask right now?

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It’s hard to believe that Mary Greer’s third book, Tarot Mirrors: Reflections of Personal Meaning, first came out 20 years ago.  I’ve been revisiting Tarot Mirrors this week and remembering what a treasure trove of tarot counselling techniques it is.  Every serious tarot consultant would do well to read and do the activities in this text.  Especially helpful, for me, are the sections on the four different methods of working with a tarot card, four levels of meaning, the Breakthrough Process, the Dialectic Spread, clarifying one’s primary way(s) of working with the tarot, the emotional healing process, and the Star Spreads.  Perfect for anyone who uses, or wants to use, the tarot as an implement for insight, self-awareness, self-expression, and self-healing. 

By the way, it was Mary Greer who set up this blog for me.  She’s not only a stellar tarot practitioner, but also a generous, sweet, and supportive friend.  Long live Mary Greer!

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The Maat Tarot, by my friend Julie Cuccia-Watts, has been a huge hit with my clients this week.  Almost everyone who has come to me for tarot consultations since last Monday has chosen the Maat deck to use for their sessions.  There’s something about the artwork that just grabs people’s attention and speaks loudly during their appointments.  Some of the images are so “real life” that they’re captivating.  Others are deeply mythic, so they speak to that eternal part of us.  Something I’ve noticed is that the Maat Tarot brings up a lot of ancestral issues — energies and situations that people are carrying on behalf of those who have gone before them.  It’s almost shamanic.  And the deck’s concepts and illustrations always offer very healing suggestions for how to shed those ancestral burdens.  Hats off to Julie for such a work of beauty and healing!

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To interpret the Minor Arcana (the four sets of suit cards), it really helps me to have a system in place that combines a card’s suit, its value (number or court/person), and its orientation (upright or reversed). This gives me something concrete to fall back on, reflect on, and draw upon when interpreting a card for myself or a client. For example, I can muse to myself, “This is the Page of Cups, reversed. Reversed Cups can be about intuition, inner feelings, addiction, codependency, or my relationship with Spirit or self. Pages are about risk-taking, recommitting, going out on a limb, diving right in, or daring. So, this could be about taking intuitive risks, recommitting to a codendent relationship, going out on a limb in my relationship with Infinite Mystery, or diving into my innermost feelings.” Then, I simply look at the topic and question or spread position in order to help me narrow down the possibilities of meaning. I can think to myself, “OK, the topic is about my tarot practice and the spread position is ‘What’s the best thing I can do this month with regard to my tarot practice?’ So the most likely interpretation of the Page of Cups reversed in this context is ‘Take greater intuitive risks and/or dive into unorthodox hunches when reading the cards.” So the formula is Suit + Value + Orientation + Topic + Question/Position = Interpretation.

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