This is the article I had published in Tarosophist International issue 12 under the title ‘The Tarot Machine’, and I’ve been wanting to repost it here for quite some time. I originally wished to make it longer, so I hope to create a second part to it soon.

The issue has many great articles from great authors, so pick up a copy if you’re wanting something to add to your Tarot library!

If there was a machine named Tarot, what would be at the heart of it? Inside its engine belts and gears would spin ceaselessly in response to our curiosity, moving through fantastic patterns and dizzying algorithms, making undreamt connections to answer all our questions. But what would give wisdom to this mechanical oracle, how would it know the deck when it can neither see the cards or know the words?

Crawling inside you might get lost looking at all the unlikely relationships between element and number, shades of meaning being generated and forgotten as quickly as the questions that inspired them. But seeing the extravagant logic of the gears and switches you might get a question that you may as well ask whenever you buy a new deck off the shelf: What makes Tarot what it is, if it isn’t just a pack of cards?

To get to the essence of anything, it is helpful to strip away all our variables. In our machine, this would be to remove the decorations, any superfluous functions. For our deck of cards, this means taking away all the names and elaborate pictures we are so fond of and familiar with, leaving us with an essential deck. Several questions arise: What do we call the Suits, if we can’t name or draw them? Also, how do we tell apart our court cards if we can’t see or read which member of the court they are meant to be? Finally, what about the Fool in decks where he isn’t given a number? Read the rest of this entry »


Omega Tarot Conference

July 26, 2012

I sit in the Salt Lake City airport, waiting to leave for my connecting flight in Detroit. My final destination is the prestigious Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, to attend the 3rd Annual Omega Tarot Conference. I am excited and a little overwhelmed. Robert Place will be there, whose book on Tarot history and symbolism I thoroughly enjoyed, as well as many other famous Tarot names. Rachel Pollack has written a great post about it, posing a great question: What would you ask?

I will be ruminating on what I would ask. Whats your style? What decks your favorite? Want to trade readings? But more than questions for other readers, I am starting to understand what I am looking for in attending this conference: Community.

In the psychotherapeutic community there are many different approaches, but the binding aspiration between therapists is to heal and relieve suffering. I cannot call, accurately, what I do with Tarot fortune telling, so much as fortune wondering, fortune seeding, with a hope that together we can create a moment of healing and relief. I strive to stimulate insight, inspiration, and joy through my readings – and to my delight most readers I have met have had shared my passion for accompanying those they read for on just such a journey with care and compassion.

When I meet another reader, it is no question that our approaches are different. Rather than technicians with stringent procedures, Tarot is rather more an art, like painting or music. There are archetypal fortune tellers, reading with quick, specific (and often impressive) interpretations from their ornate and unusual decks. Spiritually inclined readers may focus on the spiritual journey of the querent, while someone more practically minded may focus upon immediate problems and solutions. Some readers reveal a lot just through the question itself, consulting with the querent lengthily upon the question, letting answers reveal themselves. More academic readers may explain symbols thoroughly and ask questions, while readings with storytellers may spin an engaging and hypnotic narrative.

This diversity makes Tarot exciting and constantly new for querents, but for readers it may feel isolating; that we share a medium but rarely a method. At a gathering like this, our community can sharpen itself to a point. To heal, and to grow. To connect, and to inspire – In one another, our querents, and ourselves. I’m very much looking forward to meeting and sharing with this community, learning from our differences and celebrating our common inspirations.

I Hope to see you there!

One of the highlights of my week are my Friday evenings, where I co-facilitate a Tarot study group. Our format is very free and open to all levels of experience, and as such we get a lot of new ways of seeing cards I’d never imagined before.

Going over the Death card with the group, a member who is going through the cards for the first time (So exciting!), made a good point. He said he was having trouble with the words on the cards. The first set of cards, we talked a lot about ‘being’ the figure in the card; How might it feel to be the High Priestess, or stand like the Magician? Some cards had names which didn’t fit the formula of a figure, but up through The Hanged Man, there was always clearly people to identify with in the cards.

“Am I supposed to be Death, like the Grim Reaper? Or be the idea of Death in general? How am I supposed to do that?” All are great exercises, but for someone just trying to get a handle on the card the differences in approach represented an interesting question, which he posited: “What are the Major arcana really for? Are they archetypes of people, are they supposed to represent qualities, or what? On the one hand I have this Emperor guy and the Magician, and on the other I have cards like Death and Strength. I’m not feeling any consistency here.”

Exploring the differences between the literal categories of the cards immediately seemed like an interesting idea. Death in particular fits more than one category; Death can be an event or a mythical figure, among many other options. The simplest approach is the definition: The action or fact of dying or being killed; the end of the life of a person or organism. So it is the process of dying, or the instance of the death itself.

But what cards have clear categories, and what happens when you try to express a card like the Magician with a quality, more like Strength? What words would you choose? Would you also alter the image, or leave it the same?

Read the rest of this entry »