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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

UK Tarot Conference 2013

It seems like only a few months ago that I attended the 2012 UK Tarot Conference and here I am writing up a review of the 2013 conference! Amazing how fast time goes. This was my third London UK Tarot Conference. The first one in 2010, I knew no one, but at the TABI Conference in 2011 (I think it was!) I met Chloe of Inner Whispers, and since then I've got to know a few others at the conference as well who, if not well known to me, at least are friendly and familiar faces, and so every year the conference becomes not just informative, but also more comfortable and fun.

As I did in last year's post, I am going to run through the sessions summing up what I learned and experienced.

Lenormand Revolution by Carrie Paris
Carrie Paris is the creator of the Lenormand Revolution deck and the Magpie Oracle. I don't own either of these and won't be getting either of them, but it was still interesting to hear her talk. She spoke about something called 'collection oracles', which are created by collecting small items, assigning them personal meanings, and using them for divination. Traditionally, items such as bones, shells, stones and other trinkets have been used as oracles, which are cast and the pattern examined for meaning. I like the idea of a collection oracle, but even if I managed to put one together, I'd likely never use it. I am not one of these people who likes to 'divine with anything', from beer mats to acorns. I like my cards.

I did get to try out the Magpie Oracle, which is a set of silver-tone charms of the images of the Lenormand Oracle. You shake them up and throw them over a little mat and read from there. Some people really seem to get into that, but again, I would rather just use cards. I cast the charms and came up with these statements:

I will trust people's word. 

I will create new projects.

I will face the possibility of changing my set beliefs about things.

I will seek discipline. (Boo!)

I will reflect on my finances. (Hmm)

Tarot and Ancient Cartomancy Skills by Caitlin Matthews
This session was more in my comfort zone and more akin to my own use of cards. The method examined, using a Tarot de Marseille, lays the cards out in ranks or rows and examines their proximity to each other, or as Caitlin (pronounced 'Cash-LEEN') calls it, their juxtaposition.

'You must get out of the mindset of card positional meanings,' she said. 'Reading by juxtaposition is different. A card can be read more than once in a tableau, whereas in a traditional spread in common tarot style, the card has one set meaning and that's it.'

We learned that Eteilla read from right to left, and this is the traditional cartomancy, which many readers still use today. In fact, my Seven Method which I shared on Sunday is from that tradition. He would read one card upon the next, linking beyond the meaning of each card. He also included the spare card in the deck, which usually has the title of the deck printed on it. In some decks, the card is left blank, and is called the 'carte blanche'. Eteilla called it the 'Eteilla'.

For our first practice reading, we were asked to think of a question and cut the deck, then look at the cards at the bottom of each cut. My vague question in mind was 'weight loss', for which I turned up 6 of Pentacles + Lovers. I interpreted this to mean that I need to enlist support of friends and family, but the type of support they give must be carefully balanced.

We looked at a sample line of 5 (which Caitlin assured us had not been created by Sylvia Steinbach, as Carrie had suggested earlier, which I must admit had rather puzzled me, as it is quite an old technique). Caitlin reminded us that reading in this style is a very succinct way of reading that 'takes us out of the flowery psychological style that we see today' and is very direct.

We then examined a Tableau of 9 (which I call a Square of 9) and looked at the relationship of  'touching cards' (those cards that are directly touching the significator). I learned of a technique of reducing the number of cards in a reading using a technique called 'counting round', in which you start with the significator as card one, and counting from left to right, take out every third card and put them in a line. As I have poor spatial awareness, it took me several goes to finally understand how that works!

I would have liked that session to be longer, as I am intrigued by old cartomancy techniques.

Tarot Courts by Alison Cross
During lunch, Alison Cross gave a whirlwind 40-minute introduction to understanding tarot courts. She managed to work in elemental associations, keywords, and astrological references in that short time. It was rather like hitting the high points in a revision for an exam. As I am familiar with all this information, it was easy to follow, and I'm fairly certain that aren't many people at a tarot conference who are new to courts, though of course the conference is open to all, including those with no experience in the tarot.

One of the most useful and enjoyable aspects of the talk was Alison describing how each tarot court would behave at a party. She didn't work her way through all the courts, but starting with the pages, described how they would have gone into the backyard to build a tree house. The Page of Wands would be busy defending the tree house from anyone trying to take it over, the Page of Pentacles would be working out how much to charge people to get in, the Page of Cups would be crying because no one was playing with him, and the Page of Swords would have gone to get his mother to make people follow some rules and stop being so chaotic! Meanwhile in the house, the Knight of Pentacles would be busy fixing the Xbox, the Knight of Cups would be playing a guitar and singing a love song, the Knight of Swords would be sitting at the table debating the latest political situation and the Knight of Wands would be doing his best to get into someone's knickers.

Three Card Draw by Lyn OldsThis session proved most challenging for me. It involves drawing cards and then 'deconstructing' the images. You pull the images apart into their component parts and then reconstruct them in your own drawing. You can add elements or things can morph into something else. Lyn called it a 'light, entertaining way to experience the cards.'

We were asked to draw three cards with no question in mind, then try our hands at drawing a picture from them. I just started doodling things that caught my eye, and arranging them with no thought to where they should go and I ended up with this:

We were told that the question was: 'Who am I right now?' I examined my drawing for a long time, but I couldn't up with a meaning for it then and I still don't know. This technique did not grab me, but it seemed to be really exciting some of the people around me. I doubt it's something I will use, as I do prefer to just lay out the cards and read them. If nothing else, the exercise could help readers become aware of little details on their cards they might not have noticed. For some, it could really fire their creativity and give them an outlet for it.

Chloe at Inner Whispers did a reading for me in which she suggested that I should question 'dogmas around work and what work means' and 'open to subtle messages of hope'. These ideas came from the drawing she created for me in answer to my question: 'What should I be questioning that I don't realise I should be questioning?' (I asked this because I couldn't think of a question!) I did my own reading on these themes later, which I might post here in the future.

Conceptual Approach to the Images of Ciro Marchetti by Ciro Marchetti
Ciro gave a talk about how, as a commercial artist, he approached creating a tarot deck having no knowledge of or experience with the tarot. He talked at length about our associations with images and explained how advertisers use those natural associations to create a message. He used the same sort of techniques to create tarot images that deliver the emotional and symbolic meaning of each card as he came to understand through his careful research.

The session ended with a meditation, and that was that for another year! It's so nice to spend an entire day surrounded by people with as keen an interest in something as you yourself have, and to listen to the perspective and ideas of others on that subject. I wish there were more tarot conferences to go to!


  1. Yet more Lenormand controversy ;) Glad you had a good time :)

    1. I don't know too much about the controversy, Chloe has been filling me in. Apparently it can get quite bitter, which I find just silly. Maybe you can come to the next one! :)

  2. So fun to read your take on it - we have such different perspectives. For me, Caitlín's session didn't hold much new information (except that Eteilla read right to left), as it was basically all techniques I've already read about and used through the Lenormand books I have. Whereas I like finding out about new, creative ways of doing things, even if I probably won't use them often :)

    1. I tend to get enthusiastic about things when I see a clear connection and relevance to me, and I have less interest when I can see they are not useful for me. It's not that I dislike new creative ways of doing things, I just prefer learning and exploring more traditional techniques and scholarly lectures. I haven't read the Lenormand books because I only speak English and until recently, the Lenormand books have mostly not been in English. Plus, I am not that into Lenormand; it is not my preferred system, and so I am unlikely to ever read a book on it. So a workshop like that presents me with opportunity to learn. I'll always prefer notetaking to drawing. :)

    2. If you start reading the Lenormand books coming out in English, you may well become more of a fan because it is, at it's root, more connected to traditional cartomantic practices, like those Caitlín described. And yes, I can totally see you preferring notetaking to drawing! :D

  3. That must have been two wonderful days!

    1. It was lovely to visit London, learn about tarot and visit with tarot friends. :)

  4. Thanks for the writeup, Carla. I haven't the time nor money to go to the big conferences here in the States so it's informative to read your synopsis here.

    As you know, I am a thoughtful fan of Caitlin and her partner: that is, I am mindful that some of their work represents a popularization and possible hybridization of Celtic, British and Arthurian culture/lore, yet I recognize and appreciate very much the intellectual curiosity and effort that they pour into their work. I am never bored when I read a book or use a deck by them, and I am often challenged. Althoug may say they have jumped onto a few bandwagons of late, including, apparently, Lenormands, I say bette rthem than others, eh?

    I am gratified that you are keeping up this blog. It provides a rare moment of mental calm for me and teaches me a lot, as well.


    1. Hi Chiriku! Nice to see you here again. :) I am, as you put it, a 'thoughtful fan' of the Matthews, too. I am selective in what I buy, because they do produce a lot. (John Matthews jokingly remarked that they can't make a living unless they do at least four books a year.)

    2. Did he really? That's chuckleworthy and very likely true. I doff my hat to people who can make a living writing books and creating decks (with occasional guest appearances on TV) in this day and age...especially on niche topics that will never be mainstream bestseller fodder.

      I shan't be buying their steampunk-anything, but Lenormand stuff I'd consider. Like you it seems, I am not a Lenormand devotee and am open to hearing different views on the subject.

      What are you doing, if anything, for All Hallows/Samhain? Every year I set myself two "big" selfreading tasks: birthday and Halloween. I failed myself abysmally on my birthday (though I keep telling myself I'll get around to a rain check reading for it) but Halloween, my favorite occasion of the year, is imperative.

      No parties to read at this year so I might rustle up a reading exchange on AT.

    3. Usually at Halloween we have two traditions -- 31st Oct, we have a movie night of horror films and jack-o-lanterns, then on 1st Nov, we have our rituals and I may do a reading, but more likely some sort of scrying or spell work. Halloween/Samhain is also our favourite holiday. :)