Last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 200 + of us gathered in a hotel in Queens, New York to immerse ourselves in tarot. It was the Readers Studio, the conference hosted by Tarot School founders Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone that I attend every Spring. I believe that it’s important for tarot practitioners (actually practitioners of any kind) to stay fresh, so even though I’ve been working and living with the tarot for more than 31 years, it’s vital for me to be there. Besides, I get to hang out with a tribe that’s important to me.
This year’s three key presenters were Corrine Kenner, Barbara Moore, and Caitlín Matthews. As I experienced each workshop, I became aware of themes such as patterns, maps of knowing, and connecting with something larger than our own issues. Below are my thoughts about each session.
CORRINE KENNER, Tarot and Astrology. Corrine took us on a tour through good basic astrology and how we tarotists might employ it — the chart as both calendar and clock, the 12 houses, planets and signs, which Major Arcana cards correspond to which planets and signs, and how to use tarot to look at a person’s birth chart through the lens of the cards. I’m reminded here of the notion of resonance or correspondences, that some things naturally “ring” with others. I love how different maps of consciousness — in this case tarot and astrology — can deepen one another, even though each also stands on its own. There are a few times when clients and I have examined their astrological charts with the cards. Corrine’s well constructed and easy-to-follow workshop reminded me that I’d like to do more sessions like that. So, if you’d like to see your natal chart from another perspective, please let me know!
BARBARA MOORE, Tarot Spreads: Make Your Readings Even More Fabulous! Barbara guided us through the components that go into creating and using a good tarot layout. This is a topic dear to my heart because I most often create spreads for myself and clients based on what it is we really need to explore in the moment. For Barbara, and for me, a good layout helps to focus the consultation, shapes the responses we receive, and makes interpretation easier. As I reflect on Barbara’s workshop, I’m reminded that a tarot spread gives a client and me a rock solid contract about what we’re to explore together and it gives us both a clear map of our time together. Custom-created layouts help our imaginations, intuition, and Wisdom Source to tune in to what’s relevant. The layout I designed in this part of the conference is based on the Elder of Fire in Joanna Powell Colbert’s Gaian Tarot (I’ll publish it in another post).
CAITLÍN MATTHEWS, Hunting the Lady: Using the Significator Skillfully. The use of the significator, a card on the table to represent the client, has generally fallen out of favour these days. The old way of using a significator was to base it on the person’s physical appearance and/or star sign. I’ve never been fond of them myself, but Caitlín enlivened my interest in significators by bringing a fresh take on how one might employ them. Activities such as dealing the card into a specific number of piles and using the one containing the client’s representative card might seem quaint, but Caitlín’s use of this sort of method reminds me that such activities are rituals designed not only to pick certain cards, but to focus our intent and to invite us into the sacred space wherein dwells our wisdom. The last section of this workshop was an onstage ceremonial healing for a member of the audience. Different significators represented various parts of the querent’s soul. Using dialogue and prayerful sound, something shifted. This was profoundly moving and an energy-changing experience for many of us. The dabbing of tearful eyes at many tables was noticeable.
During the Introduction of Presenters, Caitlín said two things that absolutely pierced me to the core. First, she said that those of us on the edge of society — diviners, tarot consultants, shamans, et al — are where we are so that when those in the centre of it come running to the edge seeking help, we will be able to meet them and be of assistance. Wow! Caitlín’s insistence that we uphold the dignity of the oracle also touched me. I think of my decision several years ago to no longer do tarot readings at parties. In addition to the inconvenient schlepping involved, I am NOT the tarot equivalent of a balloon-twisting clown or D-List lounge singer. I am an ambassador of the sacred art and practice of tarot counselling, a guide, a server of souls, and a host of wisdom councils. I stand in solidarity with Caitlín to keep the dignity of the oracle intact.
Of course, there was the added dimension of social time with friends and colleagues. Meal times generated both creative depth and creative hilarity. The shopping was great; I have more decks and books now than before I left for the Readers Studio! I offered some private tarot consultations and a study group on Reading the Minor Arcana. The Readers Studio was again an opportunity to do what I love in a concentrated setting. Next year, the three key presenters will be James Wanless, Shawn Nacol, and me. Please join us in April of 2012 as we gather again in NYC.
Photo by Joanna Powell Colbert