Archive for August, 2011

Free Tarot Teleseminar on the 30th!

I’m excited to invite you to a

Free Preview Call on Tarot Counselling with James Wells
Tuesday, August 30th at 5:00PM Pacific, 8PM Eastern
Call in: (206) 701-8388

Pin Code: 528955#

Local numbers (including Canada, the UK and Australia):

To listen in on the web, visit: 
No password needed. 

P.S. If you haven’t had a chance yet to sign up for my video and the PDF of my three unique “Wellsian” spreads, it’s not too late.  The link is here:


P.P.S. Here’s a sample of some of the great comments folks are leaving on the page with the free video and PDF:

“James — indeed an inspiring presentation! Thank you. When the sky is busy, your work keeps my feet on the ground & my eyes open. This bundled gift of yours is a timely reminder of possibility when, like today, events press with uncomfortable boldness.”

“I enjoyed this video and the associated spread, and really liked your “Reality Check” spread also. Just the kind of direct wisdom I enjoy doing in a reading.”

“Thank you, James, for your very gentle approach to Tarot. I look forward to what you may be offering. You have the gift for making people feel very comfortable. Thank you!”

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Free Video and Tarot Spreads

If you haven’t yet seen the video and PDFs of three of my spreads, you can sign up right here!





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Contextual Tarot!

My friend Joanna Powell Colbert invited me to write a piece for her Gaian Soul blog, so I submitted a piece about a skill that I feel is beneficial to all of us tarot folks (and all folks who explore through various insight tools).  I hope you enjoy it.  Feel free to leave comments!

The link to the blog piece is   http://www.gaiansoul.com/2011/08/the-power-of-context-in-tarot/

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Why Tarot *Counselling*?

I’ll soon be offering a course called Tarot Counselling for Self and Others.  Why tarot “counselling” as opposed to tarot “reading”?

For me, tarot reading involves a lot of activity on my part and a lot of passivity on the client’s part.  There’s an implication in that terminology that I’ll read the cards at people as if reading a bed-time story to a child.  The cards are mixed, the reader lays them out in a favourite prescribed pattern/layout, and talks while questioner sits and listens, is entertained and informed (or not), and we part company.  “Reading” the cards for someone feels like stuffing people’s heads with a wad of information, then hoping it makes sense to them.  This style of working with tarot often, but not always, emphasises events and how and when they’ll happen.  The power is percieved, whether consciously or unconsciously, to lie within the reader and there’s an expectation that s/he is an all-seeing expert on every aspect of every person’s life.  This is not a model with which I am comfortable.

On the other hand, tarot counselling is interactive, co-created, and client-centred.  There’s an emphasis on the present moment and the options that lie therein.  The tarot practitioner employs the cards, skillfully crafted questions and layouts, and hir capacity to create safe, non-judgemental space to assist the client to have insights and make meaningful connections.  Counselling with the tarot involves as much listening as it does talking.  It involves the client as much as the cards.  A tarot counselling session (note that I don’t use the word “reading” in this context) serves the client’s personal evolution and the well-being of all of life around hir.  The power is placed in the questioner’s hands as s/he makes hir own decisions about how relevant the insights are and how to apply them.  The tarot counsellor acts as a sort of host and tourguide in the process.  I am very comfortable with this model of working with tarot.

If this is a counselling/guiding session rather than a “reading”, why bother with tarot cards at all?  For one thing, there’s less chance that the practitioner will take on the client’s projections and vice-versa.  The symbols and characters in the card pictures are the recipients of our projections in the neutral space between us.  Second, the surprise factor involved in a randomly chosen image can stimulate our creativity and imagination, taking us into territory we might not otherwise enter and suggest strategies that challenge us to stretch and grow.  Third, for many people, to take a life issue to a deck of cards feels playful at first.  They may think, “Oh well, it’s only a deck of cards.  I can go along with the game.  It’s not like I’m going to therapy or anything”, talk more openly with the tarot practitioner (I’ve heard things that even their therapists and families haven’t heard), and startle themselves into a helpful realisation.

Why does tarot counselling matter?  In these times of change, transition, and perpetual motion, it’s good to have an oasis, a process that encourages us to slow down to our natural human pace.  In those moments of reflection, the tarot’s symbols and concepts invite us into the presence of Self, of soul, and even of Spirit.  These wise and accepting aspects of ourselves and Life are always whispering guidance, but 21st century stresses block their voices.  Tarot counselling is a spacious hour or two for our Wisdomsource to be seen and heard with greater clarity.  In this time of what Joanna Macy and others call the Great Turning, a time when humanity can either self-destruct or evolve, it’s healthy to honour our Wisdomsource and to allow its messages to ripple into our personal situations and into our culture.

For me, tarot counselling is a profound vocation.  The cards and I have been acquainted since I was 12 years old.  My interactions with the tarot and with groups and individuals over the tarot have changed me for the better.  I love who I am.  I love our world more.  And I continue to discover, accept, and make more conscious choices about many aspects of my life.  What a joy!  This is why tarot used in a counselling manner matters to me.

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Omega Tarot Conference Report

Last weekend, I was honoured to be one of the presenters at the Omega Tarot Conference, a gathering at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York.  Five of us offered workshops, question and answer periods, a book signing, and informal tarot conversations at meals.  Mary Greer, Rachel Pollack, Marcus Katz, Ellen Lorenzi-Prince, and 44 attendees were my conference peers.

I travelled to the beautiful Hudson Valley by train and was met by Rachel and her friend and business manager Zoe Matoff.  The stones, trees, and waters of the region began to hold me beautifully right away.  On Wednesday and Thursday nights (and again on Sunday night), I stayed at the charmful BitterSweet Bed and Breakfast, built in 1780 and run by the warm and down-to-earth Edith Thomas.  Do stay there if you go to Rhinebeck.  Edith’s cheerful welcome and substantial breakfasts are a treat.

Thursday and part of Friday were devoted to the arrivals of Mary, Marcus, and Ellen and to some social and planning time.  Wine-tasting at Millbrook Vineyards and Winery and a tour of the quirky and wondrous Wing’s Castle were included.  A planning session over Thai lunch on Friday prepared the faculty for what was to come.

The theme of our gathering was TAROT: FATE AND FREE WILL.  It began on Friday evening with logistics and a calling in of the seven directions: east, south, west, north, above, below, and centre.  After a time of each presenter telling the assembly a bit about ourselves and our tarot work, we arranged the 44 folks in two circles, inner and outer, facing one another.  The outer circle remained stationary while the inner circle moved to the right from time to time so that folks would have a chance to encounter as many fellow participants as possible.  Each presenter suggested and led a brief interactive item.  My own were:

  • Hear your partner’s question.  Pull a card on their behalf.  Notice what you most want to say about the card in response to your partner’s question.  Say the opposite of that out loud.
  • Use the card image to create a question that begins with “how”.  Ask that question of your partner as a response to hir question.
  • Use the card image to complete this sentence that you will say aloud to your partner: “Your soul wishes that you would ______.”

It was a fun way to introduce people to one another, to break the ice socially and creatively, to begin activating the other-than-rational in all of us.

I’m going to give you a few notes from each presentation to give you a taste of what came forth and stood out for me.  Time and space dictate that I keep it to highlights.

Saturday Morning, Rachel Pollack.  The tarot is all decks that have ever been created and that are being created.  There is no one, absolute urtarot.  You can pick a card and put it on the table to represent what/who needs to be invoked to guide the reading.  Free will –> “Choose life!” (from the Torah).  Based on audience suggestions, Rachel put together a fate and free will tarot layout.  The questions in it are:

  1. What is given to me in this lifetime?
  2. What is given to me right now?
  3. What is my pattern?
  4. What do I need to know about free will?
  5. How can I best use free will?

Saturday Morning, Marcus Katz.  Four levels of a tarot card: literal, symbolic, extended/linked, and secret.  To avoid waffling about during a reading, go literal, then work “up” to the other levels.  The next step for a querent to take can often be determined by noticing the card in a layout and knowing which cards come next in sequence in the deck (e.g. if the 2 of Wands is what’s happening now, the next step is the 3 of Wands).  To design a spread, ask:

  1. Where is [feeling/experience]?
  2. Is it outside or inside?
  3. What shape/size does it have?
  4. And that’s like what?

This gives the reader/consultant a metaphor to work with.  From the metaphor, design a spread.  Also, it’s good for potential tarot readers to develop skills as well as methods.  Especially useful is the skill of looking at a card and summing it up in one word.  From this, one can sum up two or three cards in one word.

Saturday Afternoon, Mary Greer.  Mary asked us to write down ten milestones in our lives and rate them from 1 (completely out of my hands) to 5 (completely my choice).  Using simple math, we determined the year cards for each event/experience.  We then picked one event over which we had the least choice (I wrote down my parents’ divorce) and one over which we had the most choice (I wrote down the choice to work and live with circle process).  Using Mary’s way of calculating year cards, we determined what it was we are/were to learn from each experience and who the teachers of that lesson were/are.  Since my parents divorced in a Lovers year (Trump 6, called Ecstacy in the Medicine Woman Tarot that I used in this activity), I jotted down that I was to learn about coming together cooperatively.  My teachers for that were people who were a couple (my parents).  The year in which I began to work more actively with circle process was an Emperor year (Trump 4, called Command in the MWT).  This suggested to me that I began to learn about empowered leadership from teachers who were council chiefs, centred holders of council, the Centre or Hearth Itself.  What a beautiful and empowering process!

Saturday Afternoon, James Wells (me).  I began by speaking two contrasting sentences:

  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • I choose to create meaning from this experience.

Using the Gaian Tarot, we did a group reading around the questions “What is choice?”, “What are the costs of choice?”, and “What are the benefits of choice?”  Respectively, we got the 5 of Earth, Explorer of Air, and 10 of Fire.  People paired up and I led them through my four-card “Curveball Experience Layout”.  The first two cards are chosen consciously from one’s face-up tarot deck.  They represent the surprise experience itself and the feelings associated with the experience.  The last two cards are chosen at random from one’s face-down tarot deck.  They represent an unhealthy, life-denying choice that could emerge from the surprise/curveball experience and a healthy, life-affirming choice that could emerge from the same moment.  I concluded by leading people through a short process of creating doable constructive actions from their fourth card.

Saturday Evening, All Presenters.  This event was open to all people on campus.  Each of us talked about our work with tarot and what’s important to us at this time in this work.  We did a Q & A session, then short one-card readings for audience members.  A book signing concluded this session.  Nice to see that people are buying and using Tarot for Manifestation!

Sunday Morning, Ellen Lorenzi-Prince.  Ellen’s workshop focused on helping us connect with our Tarot Genius, the Original Self that was present at the dawn of creation that connects us with our tarot work.  Using a blend of consciously-selected cards and randomly-chosen ones, we discovered our tarot genius, how to deepen relationship with it, rituals to develop that relationship, and a phrase or chant that connects us with the genius’s energy.  Ellen guided two beautiful guided meditations/journeys that took us deep into our Selves.   I worked with the Gaian Tarot.  Its Priestess (Trump 2) and Teacher (Trump 5) cards became important for me in this process.  When it came time to stand in a circle to declare my name and my tarot genius, I was able to say with confidence, “My name is James, and my genius is Presence!” 

Sunday Morning, all Presenters.  Q & A session, a reading to synthesise our time together, and closing.  The reading that people did for themselves consisted of these questions:

  1. What is the most important thing I’ve learned here?
  2. What do I take away with me from this whole experience?
  3. How can I best use these in the world?

We thanked and released the seven directions and relaxed back into life. 

The Omega weekend conference was enriching.  I loved meeting new folks and reconnecting with some I already knew.  And I loved sharing tarot in the sacred, verdant Hudson Valley.  Thank you, Life!

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