Sunday, May 29, 2016

I'm sick of...

living a split life, with my tarot work running on one side, and my 'real' life - work, family, most of my friends - running parallel alongside it. These paths don't cross because I'm afraid of what will happen if ALL of me is out there for all to see.
And I'M SICK OF THIS!!! It's stressful. And limiting.

I had a jolt of an idea during the Readers Studio this year.
Holding back my tarot work from the world not only hurts ME, it makes impossible any good that I might be doing, any help I might offer. That never occurred to me before.

There's a spread I'm working on, which I call the Four Seasons spread. Unlike most layouts, the querent is not in charge of choosing what will be addressed. The cards choose what they want to talk about with you.

Here's a bit about how it works. (You don't have to read this next bit of blather if you don't feel like it.)
Note: the seasonal/suit pairings are from the companion book to the Victorian Fairy Tarot, and are different from the astrological ones used by many.

Shuffle your chosen deck thoroughly - this is all the mixing it's going to get.
Deal off the top until you reach a Major. This is what your spread is about. Try not to think too deeply and angst-ily about it; what word(s) jump into your head about this card? Go with that.
Continue dealing cards until you come to the first Sword. Place it at the top (Winter). Continue going through the deck, placing the first Wand that comes up (Spring) to the right, first Cups (Summer) at the bottom, first Pentacle (Autumn) to the left.
Now, from the part of your deck that remains, deal off 4 cards face down to the right of each season, beginning at the top and moving clockwise. Do the same on the left of each season. There will be two for each season - one that helps and one that hinders. It'll look like this:
I'll go through the how-to's of this spread in another post. For today, I just wanted you to see the big picture.

I did this for myself recently, using the Tarot of Delphi. It's new to me (and alas, already out of print), and I wanted to work with it.
Well...the deck picked Justice for our topic. Usually I would see this as justice for someone else, or me dealing justly with others. This time, it felt like it was about being fair to myself. Because I'm sick of worrying about what others think of me around this issue!

After working the whole spread over two days (it's 13 cards and there's a lot to think about) I closed my notebook with a satisfying thump and turned on the computer. Waiting in my inbox was this poem from The Writer's Almanac.

My thoughts as I read it are on the right in hot pink. This just put the seal of approval on my reading! Affirmation! Go ahead and lift off the roof - I'll be fine!

You were the one for skylights. I opposed
Cutting into the seasoned tongue-and-groove.....of my accustomed life
Of pitch pine. I liked it low and closed,.....for safety
Its claustrophobic, nest-up-in-the-roof
Effect. I liked the snuff-dry feeling,
The perfect, trunk-like fit of the old ceiling.
Under there, it was all hutch and hatch.
The blue slates kept the heat like midnight thatch.

But when the slates came off, extravagant.....ah! air, light
Sky entered and held surprise wide open......freedom, new things!
For days I felt like an inhabitant
Of that house where the man sick of the palsy.....sick of a disjointed life
Was lowered through the roof, had his sins forgiven,
Was healed, took up his bed and walked away......free!

"The Skylight" by Seamus Heaney from Opened Ground.
copyright Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999


Now what? I wonder. Sky's the limit? Maybe.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Testing, Testing: The Tarot of Prague (2016 reissue)

You know that I've just been to Prague, toured with Karen Mahony and Alex Ukolov, and received their newly reworked version of the Tarot of Prague while I was there. If there's a more magical way to acquire a new deck, I can't imagine what it might be!
Photo by (stolen from) Alex Ukolov of Baba Studio

Here, in the usual devil's advocate style, are the questions I'm posing to the Tarot of Prague.
1. I have been fortunate to visit your magical city and enjoy many of the sites on the cards. Will this deck read as well for people who've not been to Prague?
Queen of Wands
You will notice that, inscribed along the bottom of this card, are the words:
GOOD CHEER AND LET US BE JOYFUL. My hope is that readers will indeed embark upon a journey through this deck with joy, even though they may not have had the pleasure of being in our fair city.
As you can see from my card, the elements included, although specific to Prague, are a feast for the eye and the creative mind. Will you choose all or just one or two for your focus? My sheltering canopy? Our comical lion with his tongue out-sticking? Perhaps the scales which my babe enjoys holding (I hope she does not drop them and frighten away the lion!). 


2. Most of your cards contain multiple images. Might this be confusing?
Queen of Pentacles
It is possible that an initial sensory overload may occur. Be patient; let your mind settle. Our cards are meant to be savoured and mulled over. And may I say that we have been masterfully collaged; I presume that you've noticed this?
As my fellow regent has mentioned, a reader may decide to use some or all the images provided to bring a richness of layers to her/his work. I would love to say more, but it grows late and is past the time for this child of mine to be a-bed. (Where is that lazy nursemaid?) I've no doubt that the ram will be grateful to be relieved of his duties as royal plaything.
I leave you now to ponder who might be watching from the lighted windows behind me. 


3. I love the metallic overlays on these cards. Should I be noticing where they've been applied when I read with this deck?
The Star
That is a stellar idea! You may choose to steer your emphasis toward the light, or investigate the areas left with a matte finish. Can you see that on my card, my water vessels are the brightest elements? Followed closely by the script on the pillar in the background, and the water, with its pattern of stars. The woman filling her flask behind me and her jetting gargoyle are more muted, while I myself, the star of the Star card, have no sheen whatsoever. What might one make of that, I wonder? Perhaps nothing, but perhaps...
Note: there is NO WAY that my scanner can convey the beauty and sheen of these cards, and I'm so sorry! Their metallic overlays are at once subtle and breathtaking. Karen has a short video up on their site which almost conveys the look. I think you have to see these cards in person to understand what I'm talking about!


4. What would you like me to know about you?
Five of Wands
I am always ready with an opinion. When you look to me for ideas I will volunteer an abundance of them, never fear!
My fiery wands burn bright in the fray! And although my images may teem with diverse energies, when push comes to shove, we work as a team. 


Bonus peeks
These three cards didn't appear for the review above, but I wanted to show them to you anyway!



Sunday, May 15, 2016

Fears and Blessings from Readers Studio 2016

This was my fifth year at the Readers Studio.
I'm getting good at some things, like:
  • finding the Meditation Room on the first try
  • signing up early for a reading with one of my tarot heroes because their time slots fill up quickly
  • making sure I get enough cookies at Friday's buffet lunch
  • remembering to lower myself gently onto the blow-up furniture in the Readers Lounge
  • trying one new item from the hotel bar's menu
  • bringing a credit card because an auto club membership card isn't a satisfactory substitute, as far as the hotel is concerned. (C'mon, they're the same colour, for pete's sake!) And of course it was the year that the hotel ATM was out of order, and every jog to the ATM across the street was in the rain!
Unlike Gene Kelly, I was not doing this...














And then there's the list of fears that never fails to derail me. I know, they're all trivial in the grand scheme of things, but...

In no particular order:
1) No one will remember me from last year.
2) I'll be all alone at a table, because everyone else came with friends.
3) My partner for Friday morning's Foundation Reading will be a dud.
4) I'll say something into the microphone that will completely alienate everyone in the room.
5) I'll have absolutely nothing to contribute to a group discussion.
6) I won't be as popular as... (pick any name).

Numbers 1), 2), 3), and 5) have never happened, and probably never will.
Regarding 2), I move around, switching tables throughout the weekend, and sometimes the beginning of a new friendship is forged.
6) is always going to be true, and I know that, but it's a stubborn one.
As for 4), it might already have happened, and I'm still alive.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

by Robert M. Place

This year's main speakers addressed FEAR from three different angles.
First, Heatherleigh Navarre, owner of the Boston Tea Room in Ferndale, MI, opened up the FEAR can of worms on Friday afternoon with her topic Fear Less Tarot. We began by writing a quick list of our three tarot fears, and choosing one to focus on. We worked her "Face Your Fear" spread twice: first as a solo reading, and then with a partner to re-interpret our cards, which of course always yields new insights. My partner was someone new to me, and she was a delight.
I'm always surprised by how open we are about things hidden inside us, over the cards, with a complete stranger. When we walk into that Readers Studio conference room, we shed the outside world and don something new and trusting. There's a bit of magic in that.

Sasha Graham titled her Saturday morning presentation The Shadow Self, the Shadow Tarot Deck, and Crossing the 9th Gate. We partnered up for these, each choosing three cards that we love and three that we loathe. What I found particularly interesting was this twist:

  • Sasha had us look at each of the love cards to find the darkest/most negative part of it, and think about how we wield that against others, or ourselves.
  • We then looked at our three loathe cards to find the highest/most empowered essence of each of them, and pondered how we wield that for others or ourselves.

The mainstage speakers concluded on Saturday afternoon with Barbara Moore's Space Within and Without. It proved to be the perfect vehicle to close out our intense work on fear. We partnered up again (another person I'd never met before, another pleasure). Barbara crafted a spread which began, at card 1, with an area in our life that needed clearing, examined that for cards 2, 3, 4, and brought us out at the end with cards 5 & 6: changing the initial problem story into a new reality.
Bingo! From pain-in-the-butt fear-filled clutter to the freedom of space with only 6 cards.

In closing, we each wrote down a "blessing" for our partners, using the same 6 cards as prompts, and presented it to them in a little "ceremony" of our own devising. We were nearing the end of Barbara's session, so there was no time to worry about making it perfect. Whatever its format, each was thoughtfully crafted for us individually by our partner. Looking around the hall, I noticed that some were dramatic, others more low-key. All, I'm sure, were much appreciated!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

Since Readers Studio 2016 followed so closely (4 days) on the heels of my trip to Prague, I was still a bit Prague-y, and maybe a bit foggy as well, when I arrived in New York. Usually I jam piles of decks into my luggage (got to have lots of choices!) but this year I travelled light, and used my new Tarot of Prague almost exclusively while there. It was a great opportunity to put it to work - and work it did, very well!
I think that my partners enjoyed having the chance to see it too.

Prague is big on palindromes, like Dammit, I'm mad! Or Rats at a bar grab at a star. Except that theirs are in Czech or Latin, like this one from the back of the Tarot of Prague cards:
ROMATIBISUBITOMOTIBUSIBITAMOR. From the dim recesses of high school Latin, I recognize the words for suddenly and love. 

I know it's not a real palindrome, but FEAR backwards, with a bit of fiddling around and adding and subtracting letters (in other words, a lot of cheating), can become RELIEF. And that's what our three keynote speakers were all about. I came away grateful for the fear-busting tools they shared with us!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Four things that made the Magic Prague Tour MAGIC!

This was my second visit to Prague, so its magical properties were not a surprise. I was already in love with its antique splendour, and the sights-that-must-be-seen: Charles Bridge, the beach behind Kafka's Museum where the swans hang out, Prague Castle's vast complex, Rabbi Loew and his Golem,
the gargoyles saucily defying gravity from high on St. Vitus Cathedral,

the Strahov Monastery Library ceiling,

a forest of tile roofs and spires afire at sunset,

a shy peeper beside the Astrological Clock.

So what's so great about seeing all this again, but with a crowd of strangers, on someone else's schedule, and in someone else's choice of hotel?
I'll tell you!

1. Our guides
To walk through Prague again brought a smile to my face every day. Add to Prague herself the knowledge, personality and humour of our two guides and you have a magical mix. Eva and Tereza, of Praga Caput Regni, rounded us up every morning at 9:30 and off we strode through the cobbled streets, learning the inside scoop, seeing with new eyes, hearing the history and legends. The owner of Praha Caput Regni, Markéta, who came up with the idea for this magical tour, was sadly unavailable to walk around with us most days, but joined us for some key events. Her children even served us tea and goodies on our first evening at the Big Boot! 
Not only did Tereza and Eva feed us facts and fancies, they pulled cards from the Tarot of Prague whenever we came to a place or piece of art featured in one of the cards. They had done their tarot homework especially for us!

Here is Eva at the Golden Lane, the so-called "Street of the Alchemists" about which much fiction has been written, holding the Hermit. (Those are not the Hermit's legs below the card.)

And Tereza with the Seven of Pentacles from the Bohemian Gothic Tarot at the Bone Church in Kutná Hora. (I know, it's not the Tarot of Prague, but the Bohemian Gothic is full of images from this Ossuary, and I didn't get to it the last time I was in Prague.)


2. Our hotel
We completely filled up the House at the Big Boot, where the owners Jan, Jakub, and Thomas could
not possibly have done more to make us feel at home, pampered, and welcomed. I'm a tea-drinker moving through a mostly-coffee-driven world; imagine my delight when Jan greeted me with a freshly-made pot of tea! A POT, people, not a bag and cup of hottish water! Instant 5 stars, and I hadn't even seen the huge bouquet of fresh flowers in my room yet, nor sampled the sweet-tart plum jam and best-ever scrambled eggs at breakfast! No matter what time we rose or returned, there was a cheerful staff member there to make us hot chocolate, tea, coffee, or find us orange juice for our champagne (which, along with other beverages, was for sale at very reasonable prices from an honour-system fridge in the lobby). We had the run of the whole place, and at the end of each day's excursion, opening that door felt like coming home.


3. Guests on the tour
I have always cringed at the idea of going on a tour. All those people that I have nothing in common with and don't want to talk to, and will never want to see again - ever. Like the worst bits from that movie, My Life in Ruins.
So how did this tour work?
Splendidly! People came from Brazil, Australia, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, the UK, France, the US, and Canada (me). All of us were followers of Alex and Karen's work, and everyone used tarot in some way, so there was a good base line on which to build. And build we did! Congenial breakfasts, extra little sidebars and shopping excursions, much laughter and oohing and aahing, sharing of life stories, and general goodwill. I may even have begun a lasting friendship or two, and that's an unexpected blessing.


4. Our hosts
I'm a big fan of Baba Studio and the work that Karen Mahony and Alex Ukolov produce. If you read this blog, you already know that! To have the opportunity to spend time with them every day for a week - seeing their Prague, sharing meals with them, getting to know them a bit - was priceless.

These two put their whole hearts and creative minds into everything they do, and the results are staggeringly original, and breathtaking in their artistic scope. For me, climbing aboard the first-ever Magic Prague Tour was, as a friend said simply, "a no-brainer".

I appreciated Alex and Karen's generosity with their time and energy, their knowledge of Prague, and the varied products of Baba Studio. While we were there, the first boxes of the newly redone Tarot of Prague began arriving. We were, as Karen said, the "first people in the world to see this deck." Wow!
They prepared so many special events for us - for instance, a private marionette theatre show in our hotel, and a nighttime ceremony on Charles Bridge (where we got to wear one of Baba's velvet capes from a recent castle photo shoot of theirs!).
One night when we arrived back at the Big Boot, exhausted from trekking, full from another great dinner, Alex wondered who might enjoy being with Karen as she read from their newest jewel, the metallic overlayed Tarot of Prague. YES, PLEASE! So there we were, ranged around a table in the stone-walled cellar of our Renaissance hotel, drinking mint tea, and listening to the deck's creators talk about the meaning of each card, and where in Prague the images were taken. I could feel the presence of Prague's magical history in the room with us that night.

Here is our group thank-you card, presented to them at the farewell dinner on our last night of the tour. Our heartfelt gratitude was expressed on every inch and centimeter of that very long card!
         (Thanks to Jennifer Shepherd for this picture, which I chopped into three pieces to fit here!)


Thank you, Karen and Alex, for this unforgettable magical experience!

(Coming soon, a review of the new Tarot of Prague.)