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:
- What is given to me in this lifetime?
- What is given to me right now?
- What is my pattern?
- What do I need to know about free will?
- 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:
- Where is [feeling/experience]?
- Is it outside or inside?
- What shape/size does it have?
- 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:
- What is the most important thing I’ve learned here?
- What do I take away with me from this whole experience?
- 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!