Friday and Saturday are complete for the 2016 Northwest Tarot Symposium in Portland, Oregon (or if we’re being completely technical, in Clackamas, Oregon on the south outskirts of Portland).
This tarot conference is everything that a tarot conference should be—learning, epiphanies, sharing ideas and readings, getting to meet some of the tarot masters who wrote your favorite tarot books, tarot merchandise you might not be able to find in your small town, fellow tarot enthusiasts, and meeting new tarot buddies…
After a flight to the west coast and several days of visiting with family members in the area, I made my way to the hotel and conference center on Friday along with some of my knit merchandise (to sell in the vending area) and things got under way. I have two baskets of my knit products in the vending area—my fingerless gloves for tarot readers who read outside or get cold hands, and cotton-and-silk knit tarot bags that include a complimentary spread cloth. Jay DeForest kindly helped me get set up in the vending area. Thoughtfully, they have a community vending table overseen by the organizers so that I don’t have to attend to “selling” all weekend, but can participate at the symposium presentations and other activities during the conference.
I have to admit that despite my admiration that the Symposium organizers scheduled two presentation sessions on Friday afternoon, I was lured away by the nearby shopping plaza where I was trying to find a new backpack to replace the one I arrived with. After many years of service, my backpack’s zipper finally gave up the ghost, rendering the entire apparatus useless. In a different instance and circumstance, I’d be taking that old pack mule bag to a local seamstress to see what she could do to salvage it. But when you’ve got a million things to think about and a hectic schedule to make, and you’re in a foreign place traveling and trying to lug your sh*t around,… Well sometimes you have to make the best call and do what’s necessary. There was a Nordstrom Rack and a Target store in the shopping market across the road, and that’s where my new backpack was purchased.
But I was lured by “things,” consumerist products tantalizing my eyes, and I simply missed the scheduled times for the Friday presentations… C’est la vie.
Saturday got under way with more acuity and intent. The most anticipated presentation that I was looking forward to was that of Dr. Arthur Rosengarten, author of Tarot and Psychology: Spectrums of Possibilities. I made sure to read his book before this conference, and was anxious to hear what he had to elaborate upon.
Dr. Rosengarten let us know at the beginning of his presentation that he was really doing an extension of his New York City Reader’s Studio Conference presentation. He did, however, provide a synopsis of that earlier information. In that earlier forum he had laid out a proposal for a psychological approach to therapy (as opposed to a clinical approach) and later in the presentation argued that tarot is a “process therapy” as opposed to an outcome therapy.
I appreciate Dr. Rosengarten’s approach because he broaches divergent philosophies about the tarot—something that was a little bit disarming for some presentation attendees, I think. So many of the tarot enthusiasts here are really focused on how the “energy” and esotericism congress to inform readings. But taking a psychological approach from someone in the field who understands hypotheses and theorems and case studies—an academic responsible approach—forces us to think about the tarot in the real world. This was, in fact, one of the important ideas presented—that the scholastic field of psychology has contributed to the relevance and volubility of tarot. Abraham Maslow pointedly asked in his 1964 book, Religion, Values, and Peak Experiences, if scientific research was necessary. “Why don’t they put it to the test?” He asked.
One of my favorite observations from Rosengarten’s presentation was his reëvaluative perspective on whether the tarot was always accurate. “‘Relevant’ is probably a much better term,” he said, as in: “Tarot isn’t necessarily always accurate; but tarot is always relevant, or approaches relevant discussions.”
Next was a presentation by celebrated tarot master Mary K. Greer. This is the first tarot conference I’ve been at in which Mary Greer was attending and presenting. I was so pleased to be able to witness her wisdom and meet her. Her presentation was called “RITE: A Reading that is Interactive, Transformational, and Empowering.” In true humble fashion, Greer notified everyone in the room that if they had already had the opportunity to see her present previously at another conference, that they were likely to experience much of the same information, and that the two simultaneous presenters during the time period were really worth attending… She was somewhat disappointed she had been scheduled at the same time and was herself unable to hear her comrades’ wisdom.
I stuck in my seat…and I’m not sorry. Greer offered a rather simple method of working with a client and the cards—simple, but complex and insightful, that is. She recommended first simply describing the physical scene in a drawn card, without any imposition of feeling or emotion or metaphorical definition. Next, she instructed readers to do the same thing but in the first person, placing oneself within the card’s setting. Out of that simple exercise, one could pick up on key words, phrases, descriptors, or elements in the card that the querent had focused upon. This was part of the “art of asking questions,” questions that engage, and that search or find a central metaphor.
One shouldn’t get too attached to a client’s story too early, because so often it is something underlying the story that is the essence of the real issue (I discussed this concept in a previous blog entry as “the core question”). Likewise, the reader shouldn’t necessarily allow the querent to base observations on assumptions. This is why describing the card’s physical picture is an important facet. If the the querent feels that the figure represented is a “king,” what is it precisely in the picture that indicates to the querent that the figure is a monarch? Those references may also lead to engaging questions about the querent’s detail observations. The whole point, Greer admitted, was to help the querent or client bring his or her own wisdom to birth. Precisely!
Also, in this same presentation, I got to read for one of my favorite tarot bloggers, Lis from Little Fox Tarot! WHOooooOoOOWEEeee!!!! Not only did one of my favorite online personalities become one of my favorite real-live personalities, but Lis served as my partner for the practice exercises during Mary K. Greer’s presentation. And, I gotta tell ya… Using Greer’s recommended practice methodology, we both had AMAZING one card readings…MIND-BLOWING even!
And that’s really the best thing about tarot conferences, is meeting like-minded people, and new friends with whom we can garner even more insight and more Wisdom to inspire our readings and experiences with the tarot.
After lunch it was time for Katrina Wynne’s presentation: “Dreamwork and Tarot.” Katrina Wynne is another tarot idol of mine. She lives on the Oregon coast and is one of the gentlest, earthiest, most un-self-conscious people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Together with Gina Thies, Wynne is one of the cohosts of the podcast series Oracle Soup, which covers lots of great themes and topics for tarot enthusiasts.
Wynne’s presentation delved into science a bit also—in a discussion of the different types of brain wave activity that people experience: Beta, Alpha, Phaeta, and Delta waves. The last—Delta waves—seem to be the realm where psychic “phenomenon” and experiences are inspired. As Wynne pointed out, people who have experienced stroke, had a profound religious experience, and “anxious” people all tend to produce more Delta wave brain activity. Further, that these higher brain wave periods allow us to “unlock” the character structures with which we normally profile others in our Beta, or awake-alert, brain wave periods. The higher waves allow us more fluidity in our dreaming mode—or while doing something like reading our tarot cards.
As an exercise, Wynne attempted to inspire us to engage that fluidity, engaging emotions, actualizing dream states, communicating with what “resonates” with us in our reaction to the cards. This self-conscious barrier-breaking was a little beyond my comfort level for a room-filled, time-abbreviated workshop session. Expressing emotional response was apparently too embarrassing for me in that context. But Lis and I continued to have a discussion about the experience. And I totally get Wynne’s point—about how we represent ourselves in our dreams or dream states; recognizing the “I” as opposed to the “Not I” and possibly identifying that “other” as what the problem might be that a client brings to a tarot session. Insightful.
Last presentation session of the day—for me—belonged to Dr. Laura M. Strudwick, who is a certified SoulCollage® facilitator. SoulCollage® is a kind of art therapy rooted in Jungian depth psychology. But to me, it was just ART PLAYTIME. This was the perfect session with which to end the day.
Using Strudwick’s easy instructions, everyone in the workshop produced the most ASTOUNDING 8″ x 5″ collage masterpieces. And the meditative technique was synchronistically similar to previous exercises I had learned during the day. In other words, Strudwick invited us to choose a character in our visual masterpiece and witness the experience from inside the imagery using the prompt: “I am the one who…”
Most everyone used a tarot Major Arcana card as a basis for the exercise, and at the end of the class, we lined them up around the edge of a table in tarot-sequential order so that we could all make a little parade and view our masterpieces. I focused on the Hierophant (card V) since I had just meditated on it in the previous workshop session with Katrina Wynne. Here is my finished SoulCollage® card:
After a long day of presentations, I treated myself to an evening meal in the hotel restaurant, and then said my evening prayers for a restful night…gearing myself for another insightful day of learning tomorrow… Stay tuned…