I love Tarot conferences; I try to make them every year if I can. Back before the day I knew of these happenings (it seems like a century ago,…oh wait it was actually), I thought there were very few Tarot Card readers, thinking that this craft was something that was done a long time ago by gypsies and was a fading art form. Not so! When I first went to a conference, which was down in the Washington DC area, I was amazed that there were indeed card readers and that they came in all walks of life, from a Universalist preacher to pagans, computer geeks, math teachers, psychiatrists,…you get the picture. There was and still is a vibrant community of those who read for themselves, for spiritual enlightenment, and read Tarot as a profession. Some have written books on the subject of Tarot; its history and are world renown teachers on the subject. Not too shabby for something I thought was a very small group of hippies. But I would not have known about any of these people if I had not started to attend some of these conferences and that’s the point of this blog, to expose some of you who are on the fence about attending, to give you some idea of what goes on and no this is definitely not “what goes on in conferences, stays at conferences.” Even the after hour goofiness at the bar is all part of the experience.
Not all conferences are filled with after hour stories and shenanigans at the bar, some conferences (as was my very first one) were all about learning and sharing of information and just enjoying the interaction between new people. I came away from that one with a greater understanding of reading, found some techniques and exercises to take my reading to a different level. I had a great time!
My first conference where I flew cross-country came at an invitation to meet someone I met online by chatting and posting comments on Aeclectic Tarot. His user name was Umbrae. He was spouting out Tarot wisdom free of charge so to speak and his knowledge fascinated me. At his invitation, I decided to get on a plane and fly to San Fransisco and attend BATS (Bay Area Tarot Symposium). But more of this conference later. Suffice it to say that by meeting Umbrae (Dan Pelletier) in the flesh, I learned what it was like to be passionate about something,…that something being Tarot. Whenever I get bored or just plain lazy with my reading, I think back to that time of first meeting and I am exhilarated once again. He literally pointed the way for me and if I chose to do so, become a terrific Tarot reader and also a better person. I gained a jewel of a friend that day.
READER’S STUDIO is a Tarot conference that’s held on the east coast Queens, NY to be exact at the LeGuardia Marriott every year. I have been attending this one since I was invited by another great friend, Franniee who again I first met on Aeclectic Tarot. The Reader’s Studio is put on by Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone, who also run the Tarot School here on the east coast. www.tarotschool.com I had no idea there was such an animal as a tarot school until I found this conference. The idea of being taught in a class-like setting about Tarot intrigued me, so I felt the conference would be equally interesting. I was not wrong. You immediately have a sense of that “New York frame of mind” as soon as you get to the Marriott, combined with the expectancy of meeting old friends and making new ones while learning new techniques and ideas on Tarot. We are sat at round tables that we have staked a claim to, which if you are a bashful kind of laid back person, this might cause a little bit of angst, but then this is where you step up and ask if this seat is taken and you sit down and meet new people and make new friends.
It is well run and organized, featuring master classes of an hour and a half on various subjects from new ways of reading, to revisiting Rider/Waite/Smith with a new appreciation. I recall one lecture on using Tarot as a tool in psycho-analysis and psycho-therapy. Another on intuitive reading vs. memorization of meanings of the cards through a book. I must say that you are not required to attend every lecture going on, you can opt out and have a nap in your room, or a quiet reflection in a room provided by the conference, or sit in the bar if it’s open and have a drink or read Tarot as often happens. You can also visit the vendor tables on the perimeter of the main room. There you can pick up a new table-cloth or bag for a deck or even a new deck purchased from the Tarot Garden. Saturday night is a lovely dinner banquet, which folks are encouraged to dress up as their favorite Tarot card, something I have yet to do as they’re all my favorites. There are also night-time hour-long classes design for a quick look at something perhaps not Tarot related. I took one of these classes by Melissa, who was doing Lenormand, a completely different system of divination, named after its most celebrated reader, Mlle Lenormand. What once annoyed me because I couldn’t wrap my Tarot mind around it, became almost like child’s play once the magnificent Melissa showed us just how she reads and how we could too. The class was the highlight (for me) of that particular Reader’s Studio.
Another conference and one I mentioned earlier is BATS. http://dodivination.com/2012_sf_bats (Please note, this is for this years’ BATS, but keep this link handy as next year’s info will be out at some point). Bay Area Tarot Symposium is the oldest and consistently run Tarot conference going, located in the wonderfully eclectic city of San Fransisco. I must admit this conference I hold very dear to my heart as it is where I found myself and made such fantastic life-long friends. It is run by Thalassa, of Daughters of Divination. Started in 1991, BATS is a joyful celebration of life and Tarot and those who practice this art of divination. She has organized this format to feature some of the best and brightest stars of the Tarot community, Mary Greer being a regular (and never disappointing), I swear she has something terrific to say,…this time around with the true history of Tarot. Thalassa has the lecture times to roughly 45-50 minute time slots because there is just so much you can take in as well as so much your fanny can take constantly sitting. I have to agree with her justification, having been a school teacher and noticing when to wrap up my lesson when I see kids start to figit in their seats. This is a conference filled with joy for the love of Tarot and passion, learning and at times, whimsical fun. This year featured skits performed by Nancy Antenucci, Rhonda Lund and Dan Pelletier (yes, the one who is my jewel of a friend). I must also take a moment to mention that these people are all working Tarot readers, Dan also co-owns the Tarot Garden with Jeannette Roth. There was also a Saturday night cocktail party/social mixer, featuring an excellent jazz trio, playing popular standards and people got up and danced, schmoozed, networked and well got social. So take that Facebook, lol!!
This is a conference that to me is the very essence of what Tarot is about and that is it’s about everything. We laugh, love, sing, cry, embrace, tell jokes, perform, create, get grounded and well-rounded and passionate about what we love. There is never a dull moment, if you are sitting in the foyer of the hotel, you may be approached by a fellow tarotist, or someone who saw you working with a deck and asked if you could read for them. The friendships and love and respect you take away with you, not to mention being rejuvenated in your love for the Tarot outweighs a lot of the class time. Sitting up at the restaurant, regaling in stories of the Tarot or getting some free advice from Mary Greer or Thalassa or Dan is always a blessing. Next years conference will be moving to the lovely city of San Jose, CA. Alas for me, there are no direct flights from Newark to San Jose (at least as far as I can see) so I will have to find another carrier that does or has maybe one stop over.
All in all, going to conferences can be time-consuming and eat at your pocket financially, so you need to budget wisely. If you can only do one, then I would pick one that is closest to you, but if you can, hop on a plane and fly to the east or west coast. It’s a vacation and the people and memories you meet and make and keep with you are priceless and worth every penny spent. For me, “I Left My Heart in San Fransisco”, but found my true passion in life. “Do I know the way to San Jose?” You betcha I do and wouldn’t miss it, when there’s more to be discovered. Don’t forget the Big Apple and Reader’s Studio, a great way to say hello to spring and summer and if there is a small conference nearby as there will be at the end of October outside of Philadelphia, sign up and go for the day. Out of an eggcorn, mighty oaks grow. http://www.tarotpassages.com/conclave2012.htm