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Archive for March, 2013

Treasures from the Toronto Tarot Symposium

On March 23, we held the Toronto Tarot Symposium.  It was a gathering of 24 tarot enthusiasts.  The six presentations were varied and appropriate for people of all levels of tarot experience. 

Marilyn Shannnon shared how to employ crystals and stones with the tarot in ways that enhance the information that comes to both reader and querent.  I offered a workshop on using the structure of the tarot to map out where you are in various parts of life, where you’d like to be, and how you might get there.  Shelley Carter presented a colourful slideshow that compared the cards of the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck with those of the various Marseille decks.  Monica Bodirsky came up with a tarot spread to help us explore the conditions of a past life and what we can learn from it in this lifetime.  Andrew McGregor’s session was on using tarot to predict and prepare for life’s contingencies (Plan A, Plan B, etc.).  Freda Crake guided us through a meditation in which we spent time in Malkuth, the tenth sephirah on the Qabalistic Tree of Life.

Participants were enthusiastic to discover these different ways that tarot can look, be used, and thought about.  The day concluded with a collaborative conversational process called World Café.  At the end, we harvested ideas to take forward to create tarot community, inspire more more events, make the tarot a richer part of our lives, and encourage learning.  Here’s what emerged, recorded by me in the form of open-ended questions:

  • What would creating and maintaining a skilled, deep, inclusive, and self-expanding clan of tarot people in Southern Ontario entail?
  • What small group experiences might be offered that contribute to the tarot clan’s sense of community?
  • What larger group experiences might be offered that contribute to the tarot clan’s sense of community?
  • What collaborative small and/or larger group tarot experiences might some or all of the presenters offer that contributes to that sense of community?
  • How might people’s basic tarot skills be sharpened?
  • How might we assist people to find themselves in the tarot, integrate it into their spiritual practice(s), and connect it to their archetypal journeys?  What role might other tools, processes, and modalities — e.g. dream exploration, astrology, numerology, non-tarot decks — play in this?
  • How might we offer a symposium that gives people longer sessions/presentations/workshops to deepen their understanding while keeping the symposium affordable, time-efficient, and enjoyable?  What might “deepening” actually mean or look like at such a gathering?
  • What space(s) would allow presenters and participants to communicate well, contribute to all feeling nurtured, and be easy to access?
  • How can we ensure that the experiences we offer include people of many levels of tarot experience while keeping a diverse range of people authentically engaged?
  • What do we who offer tarot experiences on a professional basis need?  How can we meet the needs/requests of tarot explorers while growing and thriving in ways that really feed *us*?
  • How can we balance our desire to present something innovative and creative with the needs of those who attend an event?  If we could do our most creative, innovative tarot presentations without censoring them, what would look like, and who would our true audience(s) be?
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Even More Good Books

Here are some words about three books I’ve been reading that have been helpful or meaningful to me in some way.  May they enrich your life, too.

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Motherpeace Tarot Guidebook (Karen Vogel).     This compact book, intended to accompany the Motherpeace tarot deck, is not only a succinct reference for the cards in that particular tarot pack, it also enriches my knowing of the cards in others.  Vogel offers good general commentary about using the tarot.  Two examples: “The cards are a useful tool for self-reflection.  They help to bring information from the deep intuitive and creative parts of ourselves and create a dialogue between our internal and external lives.” and “Fortunately the cards seem to have a way of giving useless or confused responses if we become too dependent on them.”  I’m also inspired by the author’s statement that her hard work in creating, publishing, and distributing the Motherpeace Tarot provided her with a livelihood that allowed her to move to the country and make art.  For me, this text is about tarot and much more.

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Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What Is Sacred (Mark Nepo).     This lovely text is made up of three sections: The Work of Being, The Work of Being Human, and The Work of Love.  Nepo’s stories — some his own, some others’ — teach us how to be present and compassionate Earthbeings.  Grounded spirituality is brought home to the reader through reflective pauses that the author provides.  These consist of meditations, journal questions, and table questions (conscious conversation starters) that help us apply our own life experiences to each topic.  Nepo is a poet as well as a spiritual teacher, so the prose speaks to more than the intellect.  Two excerpts:  “Simply and profoundly, things that matter are repeated as a way to bring our full attention to them, as a way to meet them.  Such naming through listening is the beginning of prayer.”  “How I love people.  I love how we root and bloom, how we twine around each other and reach for the light, how as far as we grow in the dark of the Earth is as far as we stand in the world.”  Such a generous publication for such uncertain times.

Arcana (Clara Blackwood).     This set of 22 poems is based on the Major Arcana of the tarot, particularly of four decks: Rider-Waite-Smith, Thoth, Marseille, and Arto.  Each poem is a page or less in length, yet rich with symbolism.  I can imagine myself not only reading these pieces for my own enjoyment, they would be appropriate for various kinds of ceremonies or meaningful occasions.  Here is Blackwood’s poem for the High Priestess:

Think her oblique, / like Temple pillars / subtly slanted upwards / or the north door concealed / in an old church.

She is the guardian of transparency – / keeper of worlds / we can’t talk about.

Over her a fine mesh / falls.  From certain angles / the diadem shines silver-bright.

She has eaten from the pomegranate, / danced with the Daughters of the Night.

And she is the one / who appears when your feet / stomp out the bonfire.

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No Emergency Readings!

Once in a while, someone will call or email me to request a tarot session right then or on that day, preferably within the hour.  Their partner/spouse has just walked out, their kid has been tossed out of university, they’ve just been diagnosed with a medical condition they weren’t expecting, their court case is coming up that afternoon, or their stocks have suddenly gone belly up.  “Can I see you right now for a reading?”  My firm and gentle answer is, “No.”

My “no” is a compassionate one.  Anyone who is in a flap will not benefit from a tarot consultation.  Panic and attachment to specific outcomes will render them unable to engage in the interactive process I use and unable to hear what their inner teacher needs to tell them via the cards.  In my practice, there is no such thing as an emergency tarot consultation.  To say “yes” would be a disservice.

A tarot consultation provides time and space to slow down and contemplate questions and symbols in a conscious manner.  It’s an opportunity to gain insight, discover options, wonder how one might evolve from a situation, and receive suggestions about what one might do or not do.  This type of reflection is not possible if both client and practitioner are frenzied.  Both parties will infuse the session with their most fearful and hopeful scenarios, often ignoring simple and helpful messages.

I often suggest that we can book a tarot consulation one to three weeks from the present time in order for them to calm down, gain perspective, come to at least some acceptance, and, in many cases, for the situation to at least partially resolve itself.  The time between making the appointment and the actual meeting allows both of our psyches to do their homework and helps us both to prepare more attentively.  When the client and I actually meet (or Skype or call), we can focus on what’s important for them to know and learn from whatever has occurred.  The person has a more fruitful tarot experience and I can be more present for them as we engage in our exploration. 

My “no emergency readings” policy is not meant to be a slam of the door, but rather is an act of kindness to the client, to myself, and to the process so that the best good of all is served through the delicious and sacred work of the tarot encounter.

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Images: The Tower and The Star from the Morgan-Greer Tarot.

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XIX Wants to Ask Us…

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What stories or experiences of rebirth inspire you?

What is repeating itself in a slightly altered form?

What in your life needs to be retained yet revitalised?

How can you renew and re-energise yourself?

Image: The Sun from The Healing Tarot by Jennifer Elizabeth Moore.

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