Storytelling with the Tarot

Thoth EmpressOn Wednesday, May 25th, to celebrate World Tarot Day, I led a workshop entitled ‘Demystifying the Tarot’ at a natural food store in Erin called Treehaven.  The small turnout caused a ‘rethink’ of the structure of this workshop. So, three Tarot peeps… me, a woman who had been part of our bi-monthly Tarot study group and another who I had met through the Guelph Occult Meetup group proceeded to spend 2 hours just talking Tarot. I must say, despite my initial disappointment at the turn out, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

We began by simply talking, about our favourite decks, cards we see often in our Tarot work, our past experience with the Tarot and how we work with it. The three of us asked each other questions. We moved to an unstructured comparative look at cards from different decks, looking at the differing symbols and meanings in front of us.

We then moved to a storytelling activity. I can’t give direct credit as to where I got the idea from but I won’t claim it as my own. I know Rachel Pollack does a significant amount of story-based work in the Tarot. Maybe I read it in one of her works. I was also inspired by the teacher-librarian at my school who had shared a storytelling deck with me that she was using in one of our classrooms.  Regardless, I’m sure it’s an adaptation of someone else’s idea.

To prepare for this workshop, I had previously divided the decks I brought into 3 sections: the pips, the courts and the majors.  I suggested we use these 3 piles to tell a story. We selected the Thoth deck and randomly drew our cast of characters from the courts, our theme from the majors and began developing a plot with the pips. It was a great process. At first, we laughed a little at a suggestion that the story might become risqué. We then began the process. The deck shared our sense of humour and offered up the Empress, home of abundance, fertility, and sensuality,  as our theme.

Thoth Queen of CupsWe continued the exercise by drawing the Queen of Cups as our protagonist (a supportive, but at times overemotional and menopausal mother), the Queen of Swords as a secondary character (her sharp-tongued adult daughter – although, upon reflection, maybe her equally sharp-tongued neighbour would have better suited the Queen but, for our purposes, the daughter worked fine) and then began constructing our story. Our starting plot points were the 6 of disks (success) and the 2 of swords (peace).  I believe, had our time not expired, we would have created quite the story; we appeared to be in fine form 🙂

Try the activity. Divide your deck into three sections (pips, courts, majors). Shuffle them well. Begin by drawing a card from each. Remember that your major card will remain the overarching theme of your story. Draw just one. You drew ‘The Fool’? Your story could develop into an adventure story. ‘The Chariot’? A fast-paced story a la ‘Fast and the Furious’.  ‘The Moon’? Could be a little twisted and scary, don’t you think?

You might find that, once you’ve drawn your characters, beginning your story with ‘Once upon a time, there was a …’ and then proceed to describe the character using your knowledge of the Tarot or the image presented on the card. Then make them go somewhere or do something by drawing cards from the pips.  The 6 of swords might take them on a journey over water, the ace of wands might be the sign of a new song idea or the 5 of pentacles might indicate a struggle to make ends meet.

The three of us decided that at some point, we would take this concept further. If you decide to as well, please feel free to post about here.

‘Demystifying the Tarot’ workshop in Erin

On Wednesday, May 25th, from 6:30 – 8:30, I will be leading a 2-hour workshop entitled ‘Demystifying the Tarot’ at Treehaven Natural Foods in downtown Erin. This introductory workshop will provide attendees with a brief overview of the ‘histories’ of the Tarot, its structure, its meanings and its uses.  Its intent is to shed a little light on this ‘mysterious’ little deck. The cost of the workshop is $15 which also includes light refreshments. The cost for the workshop is payable in advance at Treehaven or at the door. Space is limited so please R.S.V.P. at whitesagetarot@gmail.com,  by calling me at 519-217-7243 or by contacting Treehaven at 519-833-9006.

I will also be available for in-person Tarot consultations on Saturday, May 28th and Saturday, June 25th at Treehaven Natural Foods from 12:00 – 6:00 p.m.  To book your consultation in advance, please use the same contact information stated above.

In Honour of Mothers’ Day

Queen of Cups

It was a recent episode of Modern Family that got me thinking.

Mitchell serves his partner Cameron breakfast in bed and all is well until Cameron realizes that it’s Mothers’ Day. This upset Cameron because he feels that Mitchell is casting him in the role of woman. (As an interesting aside, of all three couples portrayed on Modern Family, it may be the same-sex Mitchell and Cameron who most closely represent the ‘Rockwell-esque’  ideal of the distinctive roles of the two-parent family).

What it made me think about is what and who exactly are we honouring on Mothers’ Day? I suspect the first intent is that we all honour our mother. That’s a given, since we all have one. We may not know her, we may not live with her, we may not talk to her much, but she is the reason we are here. There’s no way around that one (and Happy Mothers’ Day to mine, BTW :)).

But, on this day, (and we might not even realize it) we also honour ‘Mother’. We recognize the importance of the nurturer, the care-giver, the empathetic listener, the cuddler, the keeper of the den, the compassionate one, to name but a few roles that ‘Mother’ would take on.

This week’s ‘Modern Family’ episode reminded me that there is an important distinction between the two.  The episode ended with the acknowledgement that just because Cameron was ‘slightly mommer’ than Mitchell, didn’t make him any less of a man. I know as a half-time single Dad (albeit with significant support from my fiancée), there are many times where I take on a ‘Mom’ role.  But I never feel as if I relinquish my masculinity.  In fact, I believe that by embracing different aspects of the role of mother, regardless of our gender,  we honour the archetype. Actually, a little while ago, while sharing praise for one another as part of a Circle activity, one of the most powerful compliments I ever received from a friend was the following: “Peter, I honour the fact that you don’t always have to act like a man to assert that you are one.”  As a male whose spiritual practice equally celebrates Feminine and Masculine divinity and the importance of those archetypes in all of us, I was touched by the words.

So, this morning, I turned to the Tarot and chose a couple of ‘mothers’ from the deck.  I selected the Queen of Cups from my RWS deck as representative of the role of mother . She is the penultimate listener. She is nurturing and emotionally receptive. I also selected the Empress from the same deck as representative of the Archetype of Mother. The Empress is fertility, compassion and, for fear of sounding a little Freudian :), sensuality.

The RWS Empress

Take a moment and reflect when and where you or others around you play ‘Mom’? Was it while listening to a friend in need? Perhaps you’re a teacher and needed to show compassion to a struggling student? Or maybe you know someone who happily nurses a sick animals back to health?  Find a Tarot deck and select a card that best exemplifies the role played in this situation. If you feel the need, honour us by sharing.

Wishing a Happy Mothers’ Day blessing to all.

BIT and the Guelph Occult Society

Recently, I have joined up with a wonderful and eclectic group of people that meet once a month to discuss all things esoteric. Although I thoroughly enjoy all of the various discussions we have, I am very pleased that several of us are Tarot enthusiasts. There was discussion about exploring the Back in Time Tarot method at an upcoming meeting. Since both my son and my partner are celebrating birthday’s today, I have to miss the February meet-up. I thought I would provide my contribution to the discussion by exploring my recent experience with the Guelph Occult Society using Janet Boyer’s BIT.

Discovery of the group: Ace of Fire – Gaian Tarot: Of all the cards in the Gaian Tarot deck, this one expressed the most potential for me. It symbolizes the passion of a new opportunity and the readiness to send one’s energy out into the world. When I discovered this Meetup group, I was initially filled with creative potential, hoping that this group could be the start of something new.

Apprehension of meeting new people: 5 of Wands – RWS: When two or more people meet, there is always the potential for tension and conflict. When one ventures into a new situation, one often wonders: How will it go? Who will I get  along with? Who will I conflict with? What should I share about myself? What should I not? This five makes me think about wandering out into a new world, regardless of the potential for inner or outer conflict. It underlines the ‘you’ll never know until you try’ mentality.

Can I make it fit into my schedule: 10 of Wands – RWS: Let’s face it, the life of a school principal is hectic enough. And, like everybody else, I have family, friends, loved ones, hobbies and passions that are all deserving of my time. Is there a risk that this once-a-month commitment will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?  

Excited about ‘New’: Child of Water – Gaian Tarot: Despite the apprehension of meeting new people and the worries about a new time commitment, I find myself like the child in this card, ankle-deep by the shore, eyes fixed on safety yet preparing to explore new waters. Like the ebb and flow of the cool tides at my feet, it is exhilarating!

Community of people in celebration: Three of Cups – RWS: There is a celebratory nature to the 3 of Cups that I have difficulty overlooking. Three women raise their glasses in an unknown toast regardless of differences.  Here’s to the potential for new knowledge, new beginnings and new friendships.

Exploring the mysterious side of life – The Moon – RWS: Rachel Pollack states, in her book “Tarot Wisdomthat our society “has moved… from a solar to a lunar consciousness, from an emphasis on rationalism, clarity and masculine forcefulness to intuition, mystery and subtlety.” Based on the description of the intent of this group, I believe this adequately sums up what I’m looking to explore in our get-togethers.

Enjoying sharing my passion about the Tarot: 6 of Fire – Gaian Tarot: Perhaps because it is a little self-indulgent, I saved this one for the end. I am passionate about the Tarot. In the mainstream, this may be considered as ‘dancing to the beat of my own drummer.’  So be it. Like some, I used to hide my passion for the Tarot in a closed room. Now, I will happily discuss and share all things tarot with anyone open to the idea (and to more than a few people who are not) 🙂  There appears to be a large percentage of people, myself included, interested in learning about the Tarot. That makes this place a safe one to sing my song at the top of my lungs.

Have a wonderful meet-up (whether your there in person or spirit) and feel free to use a new experience as your own BIT exercise. And, if you do, please share!

Where’s the Love: A Valentine’s Day-inspired look at the Tarot

Two of Cups - Rider Waite
Two of Cups - Rider Waite

Where’s the love?

Like all other emotions, love has its place in the Tarot. The Lovers, card of choice and, perhaps obviously, card of love, would be a great starting point for a search for love in the Tarot. It is the card where passion and reason come together, where difficult choices need to be made and where the very concept of synergy lives.  

The Two of Cups, representing a covenant or a coming together of two, is another obvious place to find love in the Tarot. Interestingly enough – well… at least interesting for me 🙂 – many couples have their songs and will be listening to them during a romantic moment on Valentine’s Day.  My partner and I have our card… it’s the Two of Cups and it will be on display on the 14th. (We have our songs as well but perhaps I’ll save that for another Valentine’s Day blog.)

The Cups are the resident suit of our feelings. Many cards in that suit at least hint at Cupid’s emotional realm. The Ace is the seed of love’s potential, the Three is the celebration of a love of company and companionship and the Ten is one’s recognition of the presence of emotional abundance and fulfillment.  Our Queen of Cups, who possesses the never-dormant ear, is an endless source of compassion, is the Tarot’s version of the Kindergarten teacher 🙂 and is another place to find love.

Our other Cup courts are no strangers to love. Our Page is the personification of the Ace and the representation of being in the early stages of love. Our Knight is in the business of love ‘em and leave ‘em. Upon reflection, that might not be how one would define love but don’t tell that to the knight. When he’s in love’em mode, he’d tell you that he’s clearly residing in the realm of Eros, as would the beneficiary of his attention. Our King is the master of love. He is blessed with the ability to both love fully and to keep his love in check as opposed to wearing it for all to see.

The Lovers is not the only place in the Major Arcana where we find love. The Empress represents, among other things, a mother’s unconditional love. As the home of the outwardly Feminine principle, hers is a passionate love.  A little further along the path of the Fool’s Journey, Strength shows us the resultant action of the Empress’ unconditional love.  Looking for one example of this strength-based love in action? Try crossing a lioness when she has her cubs nearby.  I would also argue that we can easily find love in two of the last three majors: The Sun, where our overwhelming optimism and joy includes a love for all things; and the World, where, as the card of completeness, contains all things, love included.

Like it or not, Valentine’s Day is a day where, at least commercially (oops, my bias is showing), we are reminded that love indeed makes the world go ‘round and is a many splendid thing. And I’m sure I’ve just scratched the surface of the presence of love in the Tarot. Do tell… where’s the love for you in the Tarot?

Three of Earth and Hockley Valley

I found the Three of Earth here 🙂

On Saturday morning, I did what I so often do;  I drew a card from one of my decks. It was the Three of Earth from the Gaian Tarot deck. And, on Saturday morning, I did what I sometimes do; I forgot all about it.

I was hiking alone late that afternoon; halfway through a 6-kilometre hike through Hockley Valley. And I was struck by the beauty that surrounded me. It was as if I couldn’t take it all in. My head turned frantically, trying to look in ten places at once.  So I took out my X10 and started snapping.  I had a strong need to capture everything around me.  The trees were connected to the earth and sky.  The landscape was a never ending expanse of white. The Sun was just about to touch the western horizon. I was struck by the interconnectedness of everything around me. But more than that, I felt I was in the presence of true creation. A community of spirit had gathered together and had made something for me to enjoy. The labour of those who conceived this space had truly created something lasting.  At that moment, I thought of the morning card and smiled.

Here you are, Three of Earth.

Preparing for the New Year with the Tarot… again

I always chuckle a little when I look at my blog stats and see that the post entitled “Preparing for the New Year” is amongst the most popular on my site. It is short on substance and strong on promotion! So, if it’s popularity is due to the amazing offer present, and readers are disappointed to see that it has expired, let me re-iterate that the two-hour ‘New Years’ Spread’ deal is again available and runs until January 31st, 2001. That’s a two-hour 20-card focus on 2011 for $CAD 75!  For more info, visit the ever-popular “Preparing for the New Year with the Tarot” and contact me at whitesagetarot@gmail.com to book your reading in person, via the phone or via Skype.

If you’re looking to work solo and you find working with 20 cards a little daunting , this four-card spread is an excellent way to begin planning your New Years’ resolutions. I call it the ZPD spread, for reasons that will soon become apparent. It’s simple and can be done several times, each time providing specific dialogue and insight into a particular area of new learning for the New Year.

Prepare yourself as you would for any work you do with the Tarot (or, if you’d prefer to work with someone, call or email and book a consultation session, and we can work on it together). Lay the cards from one to four so that the layout in your workspace copies the following structure:

Card Position #1           Card Position #3          Card  Position #4

Card  Position #2

Position #1 – Lesson learned from previous year 

Position #3 – New learning for the upcoming year

Position #4 – New lesson from new learning

Position #2 – Lesson left behind

 Position 1 highlights old learning. This card will help you focus on what you’ve learned in 2010 and are bringing with you into 2011. Position 2 highlights learning left behind. This could be a lesson not yet learned, a missed opportunity or a lesson that you are not yet prepared to begin. Position 3 highlights an area of new learning to watch for in the upcoming year. Position 4 highlights the potential new lesson you might derive from this new learning. Position 4 lends itself well to multiple cards, thus allowing us to explore several options for our new learning. It should also relate back to position 3, since the lesson and the learning are fundamentally linked.  If we are to review the previous year and prepare for the upcoming one, then we need to carefully examine lessons learned, lessons discarded and potential new learning and lessons. 

As a school principal as well as a Tarotist, I found myself thinking about how we learn, deconstructing and reconstructing new knowledge. I relate the use of this spread to Vygotsky’s ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ (a quick ‘Google search of the term or its acronym (ZPD) will provide you with many potential resources), giving me a name for this spread.

ZPD is an educational theory first introduced over seventy years ago  by Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist.  Lately, it has seen a resurgence as educators embrace the idea that learning is as much a social construct as it is an intellectual exercise.  To paraphrase Vygotsky’s theory, there is a zone of potential learning between our cognitive ‘starting point’ and the point at which we become independent problem solvers in a particular area.  We reach the upper limit of this zone when we receive assistance and guidance from a competent ‘other’.  Again we move to the point of independence with the new skill where we can grow even further with skilled assistance.  In this case, we can use the Tarot as both coach and guide and use the ZPD spread as tool and use our own zone of proximal development while we explore the coming lessons of the New Year.

I am also reminded that at times,  as adults, the ZPD is an area where we are uncomfortable. It is a zone where we don’t like to be because we have yet to assimilate the required knowledge and skill to be self-sufficient.  It is in this zone where the phrases ‘I can’t’ and ‘I won’t’ reside. It is a zone where we would rather be saved than left to fend for ourselves. It is a zone in which we require support. And, it is the zone in which new learning takes place.

New learning is awkward. It can put us ill at ease. The ZPD spread helps us shape the landscape that we must travel to go from new learning to new understanding. This journey is crucial to the alteration of old knowledge.  In the end, the new learning leaves us better prepared for what lies ahead. What better way to get ready for the New Year. Vygotsky states that this zone is best traveled with a guide or coach. In our case, the Tarot takes on that role.

Feel free to share your experiences with the ZPD spread. I’d love to hear how you’re doing in your own zone.