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The Readers Studio - April 2003

The Readers Studio 2003 was held the 24th through the 27th of April, and was a resounding success on all levels. It was a "first of its kind" event, in that it target advanced Tarot practitioners and serious Tarot students. Brainchild of Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone of The Tarot School, it was sponsored by Llewellyn Publications (represented by their highly accessible acquisitions editor, Barbara Moore).

From the moment that I heard about this project, I wanted to be a part of it. Where there is a will there is a way, so the 23rd of April found me spending the day in airports, on airplanes and in shuttle vans. What a relief to arrive at my destination, and find a lovely, comforting room waiting for me!

The hotel that Wald and Ruth Ann chose for this event, the La Guardia Courtyard Marriot, was for the most part quite accommodating. The location is near the airport, the rooms well appointed and the staff generally very accomodating. The restaurant had generally good service and very acceptable prices - and free breakfasts tended to make my attitude mellow.

The conference room was easily accessible, well appointed and a good size - not to big, not too small. It felt, for the most part, like a "kitchen table" atmosphere - consisting of multiple tables! The speakers were easy to hear and see, making note taking that much easier.

I had the very great honor of meeting many of the people that I have known for years as internet presences - including my room-mate, Winter Wren, Vice President of the American Board For Tarot Ceritfication (ABTC). I have a tendency to not people well on my own, and I knew no one else there, so it was wonderful to have Wren to share the weekend with.

Friday morning began with registration and the introduction of the presenters (Nina Lee Braden, Mary Greer and Rachel Pollack). Wald Amberstone of The Tarot School did the introductions and truly set the tone for the weekend - one of sharing and caring ... a true melding of the sacred and the profane. He spoke of the magick in Tarot - how as readers we need to place our will, as well as our own skills, behind our craft to create the magickal act of Tarot.

Each of the presenters was asked three questions (that they themselves had written) to help the participants at this event to get to know them better, For me this was a magickal time - I was listening to people speak that I had admired for many, many years.

Mary Greer was interviewed by Ruth Ann Amberstone. (Aside - we were all pleased and relieved to see that Ruth Ann, who had recently undergone hip surgery, was doing well enough to participate in this event.) Mary, whom I admire greatly, spoke of how the Tarot and its many levels of knowledge had held her interest for years. She spoke of her reasons for holding a preference for working with the Rider/Waite/Smith deck, with its Golden Dawn background, its ageless wisdom tradition and its many levels of correspondences. She also touched on Tarot history, and her feeling that it was up to each individual reader as to the importance that they placed on history in their personal Tarot path.

Nina Lee Braden was interviewed by Barbara Moore, acquisitions editor for Llewellyn Publications. Nina Lee spoke of Tarot readings per se as having structure, shape and form, as well as the part that symbolism plays in interpreting the Tarot. She spoke of a recent Geas that she had been presented with, which resulted in her writing a 22 stanza song entitled "Healing Tarot Song". (The full song can be found here: Healing Tarot Song by Nina Lee Braden.) And how her work with the Tarot has affected her life.

Rachel was interviewed by Wald Amberstone. Rachel discussed wisdom readings, coming from a background of spiritual orientation and seeing the Tarot as a way of opening doors - taking the spiritual to the personal level. She spoke of experiential spirituality (as opposed to church spirituality, which is more of walking a path that has already been set down), and of Tarot as a spiritual option.

Barbara Moore spoke briefly of the new level of Tarot publishing, of the needs of the intermediate to advanced Tarot student/practitioner, and of Llewellyn's support of the Tarot community.

Ruth Ann Amberstone spoke of the need for forming a foundation for the Tarot reading, and the use of various Tarot techniques.

Mary Greer was the presenter for our first session - Friday evening. She spoke of each person having wisdom within themselves, of each reader finding their individual reading style, and of clients needing to be in agreement with that style of reading. She spoke of therapeutic readings - deep readings done once or twice a year, also called deep divination or soul readings.

She spoke of facilitative reading, which places more emphasis on counseling and enabling the client, of being a "mid-wife of the soul". She saw this type of reading as assisting her clients through their own process of awareness.

She counseled us as readers to "know thyself" - to be consciously aware of what we are doing with the parameters of a reading. To watch for the emotional and psychological reactions in our clients - the change of voice, facial expression and body posture. Readings encompass the act of moving out of the mundane and ordinary into a special place where wisdom can be revealed.

She spoke of the labyrinth - the journey into ourselves. That t he cards point to where the energy is, and to what the patterns in our clients lives are. To be willing to put aside judgment, while still retaining an aura of discernment. To have our clients look at the symbolism within the cards, and connect that with the images that come to their minds. What in those symbols promotes the evolutionary feeling of inner growth?

She spoke of looking for snapshots - emotions that come up within our clients. To find out what images are being brought up in the mind of the client, and to relate this to the situations that they are in. Mary presented us with a very nice "all purpose" question: "What do I most need to look at in my life right now around my relationship/career/finances?"

She asked us to remember that emotion is energy in motion, and that this is what drives our readings. That this energy must be let out, or expressed in some manner. That we may be looking at repression, or at excessive expression. That emotion directs our attention, and that emotion is a survival mechanism.

The key to life is balancing emotional stress - emotion is a psychological response to a symbol, and that metaphor is the primary manner in which we communicate about the cards. That our clients are empowered when we guide them to seeing their options, and that in guiding them it is important to mirror back the clients own words.

As part of Mary's session we did readings in a group setting using the dialogue method, with emphasis on paying attention to the symbols within the cards. Speaking for my group - we did see things in a very different light. The method of dialoguing is not a comfortable one for me, but, as in all things, I was able to take a great deal away from this session that I can incorporate into my own personal style of reading.

Nina Lee started out Saturday on an interesting note: we were not allowed into the conference room until 30 minutes into what was meant to be her session. We were all standing around, waiting and chatting. Someone had the nerve to ask her what her worst Tarot experience had been - to which she promptly replied: "As a reader or as a client?" Well, Nina Lee is a wonderful Southern Lady - so we encouraged her to tell stories from both sides of Tarot. I have never laughed so hard in all of my life - she shared some wonderful experiences that truly pushed the envelope on Tarot!

When we were able to begin, Nina Lee discussed assumptions that are made in the field of Tarot. Regarding those attending the conference, some of the assumptions were:

* That the reader has their reading technique down pat.
* That the reader knows the meanings of the cards.
* That the reader uses a variety of spreads.
* That all readings are ethical and compassionate.
* That each attendee reads professionally or is a serious student of Tarot.
* That each attendee wanted to be a better reader.

Some of the assumptions of those attending the conference were:

* That we would learn useful tips.
* That we would be entertained.
* That the speakers would be knowledgeable.

Some of the assumptions that readers have were:

* That the client will behave in a civil manner.
* That the readers perception of the reading will be the same as that of the client.
* That people attending psychic fairs have no spiritual intent.
* That the clients know nothing about the cards.
* That the client wants/needs help.
* That clients want to change their lives for the better.

Because many of the conference participants are also authors, Nina Lee did a short version of authors assumptions:

* That someone will read their book.
* That there is an audience for their material.

From here, Nina Lee went into a discussion of finding your voice as a reader. We were asked to look at who we were - at what our strengths were and at what our weaknesses were. We discussed the thesis of a reading - The sum of what we are as readers, and our persona - how we carry out our individual thesis within a reading. The biggest point made here was to develop our own voice - not to imitate a reader that we find powerful or persuasive.

We discussed the structure of a reading - there being a beginning, a middle and an end. That we need to do something to connect with our clients, and to make a statement of what we hope to achieve in our readings. We discussed the ending of our readings - that they need to echo the tone of the introduction, and that they need to resonate with the activity of the reading. The client needs closure - they need to "know" when the reading is over. They need to have a plan of action that is based on their reading, and perhaps a small gift to take with them.

As the interactive portion or her session, Nina Lee had us work within groups to develop the following questions:

* Who am I as a reader?
* What is my thesis?
* What is my persona?
* How with my persona would I introduce a reading?

Again, speaking for the group that I worked with, we came to some very interesting personal understandings of our styles and how we accommodated them within our readings.

Nina Lee ended her session with a short foray into the world of symbolism. She defined symbols as specific words/ideas/objects that may stand for a person/thing/way of life/idea. She also brought up the concept of cultural vrs universal symbols.

In interpreting a symbol with our client (with, and not for!) we were encouraged to address the following:

* personal symbol/meaning
* Ask the client what the symbol means to them.
* non-Tarot cultural meaning
* The historical meaning of the symbol.
* The symbol in the context of Tarot in general.
* What the symbol means for the specific deck being used.

Our final presenter for the weekend was Rachel Pollack. Rachel started us out by discussing methods of interpretation - emphasizing that the issue is the answer, not the question. Three "givens" were set before us:

* That we can use the Tarot to go beyond gathering information into wisdom.
* That the Tarot gives us psychological insight.
* That the Tarot promotes personal growth.
Rachel shared with us a very special spread gifted to her by her friend Zoe. I cannot share the exact spread here, as I don't have permission to do so, but it is a very simple and very powerful way of looking at what action to take for any specific issue.

Rachel went on to discuss the concepts that ignorance is strength, and that ignoring knowledge is sickness. We need to know where, when and how we are ignorant, and that there are no ultimate answers to anything. She had us do a wonderful exercise in which we drew cards for our strengths, our weaknesses and a card for the resolution of the two. Needless to say, this was quite an illuminating exercise!

Back to the serious stuff! Rachel did a wonderful talk on PaRaDiSe (paradise), and its metaphysical connotations. She talked about the four levels of understand, the four elements and the four suits. Within the word PaRaDiSe, the following levels were defined:

* P = the physical or literal picture
* R = the intellectual
* D = the wider context - how this fits into the picture of our lives
* S = the mystical meaning
At the end of her session, Rachel presented an Easter Spread based on the meaning of the death of Christ and the meaning of the resurrection of Christ. Again - I cannot share the spread, as I do not have permission, but I can tell you that she gifted the conference participants with a powerful tool for looking at themselves.

On Sunday we reinterpreted the personal reading that we had done on the first day of the conference, as a way of seeing how we could apply the knowledge that we had been gifted with during the three conference sessions. I believe that all of us saw a significant change in our interpretations - the conference helped us to grow as individuals.

Barbara Moore spoke about some of the things that Llewellyn is hoping to do, shared some of her thoughts on Tarot, and encouraged both artists and authors to contact her with any questions they had or any projects they had in mind.

Wald Amberstone spoke about what the conference meant to him and Ruth Ann, and stated that the conference was going to continue on a yearly basis, with different speakers. Wald and Ruth Ann were very gracious, and gave time to two conference attendees who had special and timely information for us. I want to take this time to thank them for doing that - they are very knowledgeable, gracious people in their own right.

James Wells, a gifted Tarot reader, teacher and presenter from Toronto, Canada, spoke of the upcoming Toronto Tarot Symposium. Coming up July 18th through the 20th in Toronto, Canada. The Toronto Tarot Symposium Program Director is the reknown Tarotist James Wells, Symposium Manager is Amy Lee-Rosenberg. Presenters include Mary Greer, James Wells, Norma Cowie, Bev Haskins, Paul Hughs-Barlow, Crystal Sage, Amy Lee-Rosenberg, Tom Tadfor Little, Marcia Masino and Rachel Pollack. There will be a merchants fair and much more ... for more information, please go to: Toronto Tarot Symposium.

Jeffrey Elliot, a Tarot reader from Chicago who has been deeply involved in the Tarot world for some time now, spoke of a project that he is currently involved in called the Tarot Council. The aim of this project is to create the equivalent of a guild for Tarot practitioners. According to Jeffery, an internet site will be up by May 15th that will address this project. This is certainly something that we in the Tarot world would benefit from participation in. I look forward to hearing more about this concept, and seeing how it will evolve.

I give my thanks to Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone, to Llewellyn Publications and editor Barbara Moore, and to all of those who participated in this conference. This was my first Tarot conference, and I have to say that I am still in awe of the people that I was in awe of before I met them! To a person, they are caring, gifted people, very down to earth - and moving on a very special level of understanding within the Tarot world.

Kudo's to Llewellyn for the wonderful tote bags that they gifted all conference attendees with. I can speak for all of us when I say that I loved the decks - which consisted of the Quest Tarot (by Joseph Martin) and the I Tarocchi Dell'Alba Dorata, along with one of Llewellyn's beautiful Tarot bags. A nice gesture and most appreciated by all!

Here's to many more wonderful conferences!

April 2003
Bonnie Cehovet

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