Conned by the Tarot
In a few weeks, I’ll be going to the annual Tarot Reader’s Studio in New York. This is the world’s largest gathering of Tarot fanatics, and it’s a fun and exciting 3-day experience that I would recommend to anyone with more than a passing interest in the Tarot. And if you can’t make it to that, there are other events (smaller, but still valuable) that you might try as well.
When someone who has never gone to a Tarot event asks me what one is like, I find it hard to give him or her a description that does it justice since you really have to experience it yourself to know what it actually feels like. Nevertheless, I can give it a shot, so here goes.
First of all, a Tarot event usually includes a dazzling array of Tarot-related items for sale in its bazaar — things like Tarot decks, books, and bags, as well as sundry items like crystals, jewelry, and incense. True, you may be able to find these things at an occult bookstore near you, but the crowd of people milling around and talking about these items lends the experience a powerful energy that feels more like a pre-modern marketplace than a 21st century store.
Of course, a compelling feature of any Tarot event — and the one most often touted — is the assortment of workshops that provide an opportunity to learn from many Tarot “experts.” (I use quotes, because being an expert in the field of Tarot is a relative thing. We all have something to teach to others, and we all can learn something from other people.) These workshops cover a wide spectrum of topics, such as Tarot’s philosophical foundations, new and unusual ways of using Tarot cards, techniques for creating your own Tarot deck, new Tarot spreads, and in-depth exploration of the meanings of the cards. But lest you think all is heavy, heady, and deadly serious in Tarot workshops, let me assure you that there is generally a sense of joy, laughter, and play in them as well.
At this point, I must mention that most Tarot gatherings have learning experiences for every level of expertise. I have heard people say, “Oh, I don’t know enough yet about the Tarot to go to a conference.” For most Tarot events, however, if you have a Tarot deck, an open mind, and enthusiasm for the subject, then you will be able to enjoy the event and learn much from it.
Besides presenting workshops, Tarot writers and deck creators often attend conferences in order to debut their work, and many others are available to discuss their existing books or decks. For example, at the 1999 Los Angeles Tarot Symposium, Mary Greer presented a workshop on ways to use reversed cards, which previewed material that would show up a few years later in her wonderful book, “The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals.” Just meeting the people who have written your favorite Tarot books or created your favorite Tarot decks can be a thrilling experience, and usually such people generously make themselves accessible at Tarot events. But in addition, their presence at a Tarot event often presents a very special opportunity to discover behind-the-scenes insights into Tarot books and decks you are interested in.
However, while these aspects alone are worth the price of admission, there is another, perhaps more valuable aspect of Tarot events: finding a sense of community. They enable you to meet some wonderful “Tarotophiles” and to have fun discussing with them a subject about which you feel passionate, for people in the Tarot community share a common interest, speak a common language, and travel a common path. So Tarot events give you a chance to talk with other Tarotophiles — to hear other people’s Tarot stories, and to tell your stories as well. (It is quite validating to be able to have someone listen to your own adventures in an important area of your life.) There is a special synergy to the exchange of information, ideas, and enthusiasm that occurs at a Tarot event, and going to these events also celebrates and invigorates your passion for the Tarot. And of course, if you are a Tarot professional of any kind, a Tarot event is a great networking opportunity.
A long time ago, back when the Internet was a much newer place, I did an Internet search on the word “Tarot,” naively wondering if perhaps there might be a website or two on this subject. (Don’t laugh; remember this was long ago.) I found (to my delight) thousands of them instead, so I poked my virtual head inside to find a vast Internet party going on. Sifting through that many websites was no small task, though, so it was several months before I discovered that there are Tarot conventions, symposiums, and workshops out there too — real Tarot parties, by gosh! I even found a reference to one that was local for me: the Los Angeles Tarot Symposium (LATS). I immediately contacted the organizer, but unfortunately, I was a few weeks late for the most recent event. But now I knew it existed, so I made plans to attend the next LATS, and I have gone to every one since then. So be warned, they can be addictive!
Years ago, I used to write up reports on the Tarot events that I attended. Here are a few you can read to get a flavor for a Tarot event:
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There are other Tarot conferences out there. For example, about a week ago there was a small one in Toronto and I thought I’d share James Wells’s blog post about it here. If you know of an upcoming Tarot conference or Symposium, feel free to leave a comment about it.