On the last weekend in April, tarot people from many parts of our world converged in a hotel in NYC for one of my favourite yearly events, the Readers Studio. We lived, talked, thought, breathed, moved, and practically ate tarot for three solid days. Fabulous!
What a treat to spend time with friends and colleagues. There were three master classes (by James Wanless, Shawn Nacol, and yours truly), private readings, vendors (always dangerous in a good way!), evening breakout sessions, conversations over meals, and moments of great hilarity. All of these fed and continue to feed my card-loving soul.
THE FIRST PRESENTATION.
On Friday afternoon, I offered a workshop called Tarot to Navigate Life’s Challenges, a series of four templates, layouts, or processes to help us get through situations we don’t like and to mine some wisdom from them. I chose to present this topic because of my own challenges earlier this year. The workshop began with a partnered dialogue process based on the four parts of the Work That Reconnects (Joanna Macy et al) — gratitude, honouring pain, perceiving with new senses, and going forth to take action. The second activity asked people to discover via the tarot which of the five stages of grief as outlined by the late Elizabeth Kübler-Ross — denial, anger, bargaining, depression/isolation, or acceptance — they were at about an ending in their lives and how they might move through it as gracefully as possible. Next came a layout based on the Four-Fold Way (Angeles Arrien), asking how we can be present with a situation, tell our truth about it without blame or judgement, find heart and meaning in it, and be open to its outcome rather than attached to a particular one. Finally, participants did my Curveball Layout, a four-card spread designed to explore our life-denying and life-affirming choices in experiences that seem to hit us out of nowhere. From feedback I’ve received so far, people surprised themselves with how deeply they entered their explorations and how much insight they received.
THE SECOND PRESENTATION.
Saturday morning’s session took us for a journey into The Roots of Tarot with Shawn Nacol. This brilliant presentation was about using the four elements — in their original Greek sense of processes rather than things — as the basis for tarot readings. Each element has two qualities. Fire is hot and dry, Water is wet and cold, Air is hot and wet, and Earth is cold and dry. Whether applying these attributes to the suits, the court cards, or the Majors, this method is intended to provide a story of the energy at play. Shawn says that energy seeks transformation and is never static, so a tarot reading isn’t a flat snapshot, but rather a map of energy. Activities such as naming events, people, and goals according to their elemental qualities helped bring the concepts home for us. Other gems of wisdom from Shawn’s session include: read the cards for verbs because they’re active, look through the cards rather than at them, stay out of clichés and assumptions as much as possible, and prophecy is seeing what’s real in the present that others can’t yet see. Shawn, like the concepts he presented, is fluid, alive, a process in motion. From his presentation, I keep with me a great respect for ancient concepts as they can be applied in our own time.
THE THIRD PRESENTATION.
Saturday afternoon brought us into the presence of James Wanless , who guided us through his Whole Person Profile Reading, a layout that shows an individual hir spiritual, emotional, mental, physical/tangible, archetypal feminine, and archetypal masculine aspects of self. This spread is a wholistic map of who a person is in the moment. It’s also great for group assessment and for seeing where one is so one can choose where one would like to go (goal creation). We began by doing the layout for ourselves, picking 13 cards at random and arranging them according to which parts of the deck they came from — Wands (above the head), Swords (head/mind), Cups (heart), Pentacles (legs/feet), Masculine Majors (right arm), and Feminine Majors (left arm). Neutral Majors could be placed anywhere. My own spread had a lot of physical/tangible focus. Then we did the spread twice more, for the group at our table and for the whole room. It was interesting to note what was absent from the arrangement as well as what was part of it. This versatile way of laying out the tarot will be great for myself and for many clients — one-to-one, group, or corporate — as a tool for self-awareness and manifestation.
OTHER READERS STUDIO MOMENTS.
Three other scenarios come to mind. First, the people to whom I offered private tarot consultations. They brought their stories and open hearts to the table and we had very meaningful exchanges over the cards. This always touches me profoundly so that I, too, am changed by the sessions. Second, those of us who are members of the Gaian Tarot Circle gathered for lunch on the Saturday. We caught up with one another’s lives, toasted the well-being of a member who couldn’t be there for health-related reasons, and shared some laughs. Third, there was a showing of the first 10 minutes of a film called Tarology, a piece about Enrique Enriquez’s innovative work with the Tarot de Marseille, followed by a panel Q & A time. One phrase that Enrique spoke still rings in my mind: “The tarot should take us to silence.”
A deep bow and a big hug of gratitude go to Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone and to their more-than-able assistants for providing time and space for those of us who love the tarot to gather, learn, and grow as practitioners of our art and as human beings. Thank you!
OTHER PEOPLE’S EXPERIENCES.
On Facebook, I asked people what was most alive in them as a result of attending this year’s Readers Studio. Here are some of their responses:
Most alive for me is the happiness and comfort we felt with our Tarot Tribe members. Beyond the frenzy of new decks and books, the best part is the new friends. (Katrine Wynne)
Creating a sense of community is important – as Tarot readers can end up getting isolated from one another – also for Tarot readers – I feel it is important for us to read for each other and get feedback. Other professions use conferences for continuing education and tarot conferences can also can function in that capacity. (Kumar Thomas)
A renewed sense of how important our Tarot work is. (Maribeth Pittman)
Faith in my abilities, legitimacy, and goals. (Courtney Weber)
I feel powerful energy alive in me, with the skills and tools to direct it. (Ellen Lorenzi-Prince)
My authentic self.. the real me that I kept ‘quiet’ for so many years. At the R.S., I so enjoy being my genuine self that I have vowed to try to remain this WHOLE all the time now. (Judy Nathan)
The sense of camaraderie and community – there are so many folks I only see at RS and showing up this year was as if no time had gone by at all and we could all pick up where we left off last year. Friendships just keep getting deeper. And it feels so good to just laugh for several days! (Karen Karlovich)
Laughter, acceptance, tears, joy, more laughter, learning and growing — what more could you ask for? I came home with a renewed zeal for studying the cards. (CrowsFoxes)