Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Readers Studio 2015

I try to go to Readers Studio every year. I don’t always make it but I was fortunate to be there this year. Led by Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone, this gathering of Tarot readers is truly a team effort to produce. It is distinguished by its format of three main presenters, different every year, who challenge the attendees with new ways to look at tarot readings, new techniques and fresh ways to see old cards. In addition, for the last few years, an extra day has been added focusing on Tarot and Psychology to highlight the uses of Tarot in therapy.

Readers Studio starts a little earlier than that for me. For one thing, I sign up early and pay for tuition on the payment plan. So I’ve already signed up to attend next year as part of the nearly painless monthly payment plan. I attend several conferences a year. As much as I seek the funny and sunny side of cartomancy, I’m serious about Tarot and Lenormand.

No matter what style of deck suits you, Rider Waite Smith and its many clones and offshoots, Thoth, Marseilles-style, Minchiate or truly original beauties like the Mary-El Tarot, 78 cards (or so, per the Minchiate) come together in what can become a full course in Liberal Arts and more. Even the strictly fortune-telling oracle decks can bring up the waters from deep in the well of human experience. Whether you feel the “woo” factor in cartomancy or use the card images to start off important conversations, there is a world of fresh perspective we get participating in conferences like Readers Studio.

My first big treat this year was Robert Place’s talk at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Bob is serious about his Tarot too. He’s the author of The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination. I love his laser-beam concentration, his decks like Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery, The Alchemical Tarot and his collaboration with Rachel Pollack, the Burning Serpent Oracle among others. I also have a few of his wonderful pieces of sterling silver jewelry.

Too excited and too afraid I would somehow be late for the program, I arrived some three hours early with the firm intent to study the museum’s examples of Joshua Reynolds’ work, one of my personal questing beasts. I was waylaid immediately as I looked up from the ticket booth and my eye was snagged by the words Medieval and Byzantine. My cell phone camera and I wandered into another world. Time and space fell away. Before I knew it, it was time for Bob’s talk. I groused that the museum does so little to provide cots and showers to the people like me who would stay there night and day if it weren’t for a small thing like closing time, etc.

Bob’s spent enough time at the museum’s Print Room that he’s the “civilian” who gets special access to work with their tarot collection, a breath-taking trip through the history of cards starting with a set of woodcut prints of a deck that dates from approximately 1475-1500. Still stunned that I shared the same air as this beauty, I resisted the urge to touch knowing my hands could destroy this marvel and, reluctantly, followed directions about no photography. Then, deck after deck, Bob spoke of the techniques, geography, materials, context and after a while just pure lust for this eye-popping collection. At the end of the presentation, Bob asked me to stay and read cards for the museum employee who is the only person who can handle the cards. An honor and a treat, we both later agreed that team-reading was fun. We were shooed out of the museum at closing and found a diner a block away that served breakfast for dinner, just the thing to talk over Tarot, self-publishing, travel and future projects. And this was just the first day.

The next day was the longest of the week. The Tarot and Psychology day stretched into the evening and by the end of three meaty and challenging sessions I was pretty sure my jet lag was in full bloom and I was “Junger” than springtime. I had flashbacks to management training back in 1990 when I had an exercise in determining my highest values by bargaining them away in order to escape imaginary drug lords in South America. I had been traumatized by how easily I had let go of some truly noble values to save my skin but ultimately could not let go of either of the last two; my imaginary self is still on the tarmac in a forgotten jungle trading other people’s values for their tickets to safety. It’s quite a flashback.

Then, Readers Studio opened officially. Aside from the top-notch line-up of speakers—and they really were!—I was so happy to reconnect with my Tarot buddies from all over. For Tarot Psych Day, Nancy Antenucci and I sat at a table of old friends and new and quietly cut up by diagnosing the sound problems with the speakers’ microphone by drawing cards. Naturally, our predictions of the issue, its location, the personnel involved in the fix and the source of the problem happened to be right!

Speakers Ellen Lorenzi-Prince, Theresa Reed and Carrie Paris gave us new and fun things to think about when we consider reading. Carrie’s challenge in the four elements forced us to be concise about the cards we selected from each element. My 3 of Swords final entry was something I liked well enough to remember: Reason and the heart are delicate enemies and violent friends.

Rana George and Dame Edna
And yes, in my dedication to keeping the Fun in Dysfunctional, I transformed into Dame Edna Everage in the guise of the Empress, bellowing, “Hellooooooooo, Possums!” to her adoring, if snickering subjects. My favorite Dame Edna moment was coming up behind Wald the second time and having him tell me that he had not recognized me at first. Dame Edna’s Moment of Triumph!

The dinner show featured Dan Pelletier, Rhonda Lund and Nancy Antenucci and a knock-down-drag-out slow-motion fistfight staged between Death and the Tower that had everyone rolling. Back in civilian clothes, I joined the newest addition to Readers Studio, The Ravers Studio Nightclub with flashing lights, glo-sticks, some dedicated dancers and even a few lookie-Lous from a group of guys apparently selling tools. We all felt the beat.

Thanks to everyone who worked long hours to make this year a success, too many to name all, but all appreciated. I came home with a treasure trove of new decks, new friends, new ideas and a shared love of this wonderful Tarot Tribe.

Of course I’ll be going next year! Best wishes, Possums!

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